Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Eat Spider-Man’s Brains Like a Proper Zombie

...with his  head on a stick, at that. It’s like a state fair treat for the living dead.

This image was found somewhere on Pinterest by a friend of a Facebook friend who didn’t credit it. Consider this a review of a work of culinary Halloween art, which I’m rating as Mighty Fine. Much love and respect to the creator of this.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Birthday Week Festivities Begin Today

Autumn is kicking through one cold front at a time. The Halloween decorations are going up, and my birthday is at the end of the week. So, as of today, I’m declaring the start of Birthday Week, banishing as much negativity as I’m empowered to banish, ignoring the rest, and pushing forward to what’s next.

I know some men take the attitude of, “Whaddya, five years old?” when it comes to celebrating birthdays in adult life, but the older I get, the more impressed I am that I managed to pull off another year. Another year, another novel written and published, another one in the works. One child fully adult and moved out, another set to graduate high school in May, and I know he’s not sticking around if he can help it. He’s even made a point of telling me it’s nothing personal, he just wants his own thing going on. I love him for that. I may not have money or a big house, but at least I didn’t raise a couple of basement-dwelling slobs. No, that’s my job.

I remind his mother she’ll only be washing his stinking football togs for only five more weeks for the rest of her life. There are smells and sounds and people and things going away, and check us out. We’re here to bear witness. As my favorite line from an American playwright goes, “Attention must be paid.” Or not— hey, you do what you want—but as long as I’m still standing, it will.

Meanwhile, who likes gory and violent zombie apocalypse stories? I have a couple of books. They’re part of a series, but you won’t get lost if you pick up one before the other. The best birthday present for me would be to sell 100,000 of either one, or both of these over the next couple of months or so, if not right away. Indeed, it would solve all my problems.

Book 1 has ONE exploding head on its cover.
Book 2 has TWO exploding heads.
See the pattern here?

Bleeding Kansas is available in Kindle and paperback in the US, as well as the UK and Canada.

Grace Among the Dead—US zombie aficionados go here, UK here, and Canada here. Help an unemployable old duffer out while enjoying the carnage.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Happy 148th Birthday, H.G. Wells!

We celebrate H.G. Wells because he was the first prominent writer to employ the power of speculative fiction to comment on Big Concepts, from class schisms (The Time Machine) to colonizing primitive societies (The War of the Worlds). In the meantime, Wells invented the notion of time machines and the Alien Invasion subgenre. All of that in two books.

Wells wrote so much more, from the animal-human hybrid horrors of The Island of Doctor Moreau, to The Invisible Man, to a two-volume Outline of History. For all this, Wells will always be dear to my heart for the giant horse-sized rats that attacked the horse-drawn carriage in The Food of the Gods

The story concerned a substance that, when ingested, caused the subjects to become giant-sized. I guess it was a parable on growth for growth’s sake or whatever, I dunno. All my Famous Monsters of Filmland-reading, horror-movie-loving 6th-grade mind picked up on was the giant rats ripping the throats out of the horses, and the passengers in the coach barely getting away with their lives. 

I drew and colored this scene for my book report and got a D for my troubles. My overly made-up and poisonously perfumed teacher Mrs. McGill said it was because I’d folded lined notebook paper for my make-believe book jacket instead of construction paper. I remembered no restrictions on media, and said so. I was abruptly ordered back to my chair. Anyway, Happy Birthday, H.G. Wells. 

That sixth grader went on to exploding skulls with .50-cal Desert Eagles when not throwing teenage arsonists to mobs of flesh-eating undead in Bleeding Kansas, then crushing those undead like fat, juicy bugs beneath the tires of a monster truck and setting them on fire in Grace Among the Dead. They’re downloading his e-books in Canada and the UK. I’m even translated into German. As for Mrs. McGill, she was fired the next year for losing her composure in front of a particularly rowdy class. What a world, huh?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Iggy Pop's Corniest Moment

...came somewhere along the overstuffed and uneven 1993American Caesar album with this track, “The Highway Song.” The song itself is somewhat overstuffed and uneven. It starts with these two lines:

          I’ve been walking down this road,
         Where it leads, I don’t know

...which ranks with “Woke up this morning” as the most overused lines in any song, of any genre, anywhere. Yet this opener is immediately redeemed by

          I’ve been walking down this highway
         With the bad food flying by me.

I love that flying food image. I love this song, even if it does sound a lot like the kind of thing that plays as the credits roll for the kind of movie your wife or girlfriend made you watch with her.

Look, it’s Iggy Pop. He gets the Iggy pass. You need a good, driving anthem to get you through the day, who else are you going to trust?

*Iggy gets another pass here, as American Caesar was a victim of its time. As compact discs became ubiquitous in the early 1990s, recording artists were encouraged to put more songs on their albums, as the discs could accommodate far more songs than vinyl. That resulted in a lot of albums you got sick of hearing long before they were over. Even the better ones, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 1991 breakout album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, suffered for this.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Shout-Out to Canadian Fans of Horror and Zombies

Sometime over the past week a rogue crew of Canadians bought Bleeding Kansas. At least that’s the news I got from Amazon.ca. Visiting the site for the first time today, I saw I had a 1-star review that’s been sitting there since February, shortly after the second edition came out. 

As for what bothered the reviewer...hell, I have no idea. 

Has this been discouraging sales all along?

I am this reviewer’s sole 1-star smackdown out of 53 reviews. The reviewer generally gives 2-stars to whatever he or she doesn’t like, including one book that had paragraphs and pages missing. I’d like to know what provoked this reviewer to delete Bleeding Kansas from his Kindle library. Seems a rather extreme reaction. I’ve read plenty of stinkers on my Kindle for PC, but I’ve never thought to delete them, let alone go out of my way to sink some poor stranger’s career with a dismissive review.

Of course, this could very well be an honest, visceral reaction to a book that did not follow the usual zombie apocalypse formula. To distill what I explained to our comrades in severed zombie arms in the UK, the SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER series has several very distinguishing features, to wit:

* I am not obsessed with hardware and weaponry. Let’s just kill these things and try and get out of here alive, all right?

* My hero, Derek Grace, is not former military. He’s just an ordinary guy trying to figure this nightmare out as he goes along.

* Yet I have no brief with guns or the military. My big idea was, if I was going to devote all this time and effort writing a proper zombie apocalypse series, it was going to be something different. 

Which, as I said, may have been what caused this person to react. People have these expectations of the way they think things should be, and react negatively when those expectations are disappointed. Hey, me, too. I’m not judging. I’m just trying to figure this out.

For all that, though, I wonder if the following bullet points aren’t even worse

* I write like someone who has read books. Good books, that is, not the usual color-by-numbers stuff of the kind you read from a lot of self-published authors. This can inspire reflexive hatred in people who resented the hard stuff their teachers made them read in school.

* Severed Press in Australia bought Bleeding Kansas while I was still serializing it here on this blog, before I’d even finished it. Another publishing house, Luzifer-Verlag, has translated Bleeding Kansas into German and is set to do the same with Grace Among the Dead

I’ve got fans who actually work in publishing houses who think my work will sell. Which I guess makes me elitist, or something like that. I don’t know these people personally. I wish I could afford to visit Australia and Germany. 

(Apropos of nothing, I did spend a full week in Canada driving from Anchorage to Seattle in 2003. Wish I could afford to do that again.) 

So here are the Amazon.ca links. Read the sample chapters. If it’s not for you, I understand. If it is, I implore you to write your own review. Not just for me, but for other authors you’ve read and liked. I’m not the only one the drive-by haters are gunning down for the sake of their mean-girl authors’ cliques.

To the crew up north who recently bought Bleeding Kansas, feel free to email me at l.roy.aiken at the Google mail-thing and tell me what you think. Here’s hoping you enjoy the carnage. It gets even crazier in the sequel.

Book 1 has ONE exploding head on its cover.
Book 2 has TWO exploding heads.
See the pattern here?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

To Lovers of Horror and Zombies in the UK

So, this is me, and I’ve written a couple of zombie apocalypse novels set in the good ol’ United States of ‘Murica. So?

All I can say is check out the first chapters on the Amazon pages. I write English like someone who has a read a few books himself, and knows what they’re supposed to look like. It’s American English, but better than you get from most Americans. 

Also, unlike many of my fellow American zombie writers, I’m not obsessed with hardware and weapons. My philosophy is, if you pick up a power drill to pierce the skull and scramble the brains of a deader, do you care how many revolutions per second the drill bit spins? You will not have to hack through entire paragraphs on the grains and stopping power of the rounds employed by the police-issue Fartknocker .666 in comparison with the [author’s fave firearm here], which the hero would prefer, since he put it to such good use in [insert contemporary warzone here].

My hero, Derek Grace, is NOT former military. My hero doesn’t draw on his memories of his time in Iraqistan to know what to do. He has to figure things out on the go. It’s his rage against the pre-apocalypse world that drives him, and the sheer terror inspired by what the world has become. If Derek Grace’s panga blade swings sharp and true it’s because he’s afraid to stop. His fear works for him, however—as a middle-aged professional shut out of the New Economy, with his family on the brink of homelessness, Grace knew fear everyday. That is my hero’s edge. 

What did you say?
With that said, I intend no disrespect to firearms enthusiasts or the military. I would love to afford a couple of quality handguns and do some time on the range with my son. I just wanted to do something different from everything else I’d been reading in this genre. For all I know, making my hero non-military and leaving out the Guns and Ammo porn is a fatal error with an American audience.

How about you?

As I said, go check out the sample pages. Bleeding Kansas and Grace Among the Dead are straight-up action and adventure tales in a world ruled by the living dead. These books are not self-published. Both Severed Press and Luzifer-Verlag publish my work, the latter providing German translation for that market. 

So what else? Well, these are brutal, ugly tales, with lots of undead mayhem and a few shenanigans on the part of the living, too. You like horror? You like zombies? You like a hero who isn’t a former Special Forces superhero with an arsenal of who cares what? 

Have I got an apocalypse for you: 

Book 1 has ONE exploding headon its cover.
Book 2 has TWO exploding heads.
See the pattern here?

Saturday, September 06, 2014

First Saturday in September

Talking about the weather...bashing the Millennial bashers...a funny highway cleanup sponsor...the leaves are not the only things a-changing.... 

I’ve lived in Colorado Springs for seven years, and my observation of the seasonal transition is that is stays hot as hell’s anteroom throughout June and July before cooling to tolerable levels in August. By mid-September, the fronts start rolling in. Most of the time these fronts don’t even have clouds associated with them, but they serve to drop the temperatures ten degrees at a time until winter sets in.

This time around, the summer never got terribly hot, not as bad as some summers in which even the basement became unbearable. Remarkably, our warmest day of 91 degrees was just before that first front rolled through on Wednesday, with September all of three days old.
Our very capable local meteorologists had predicted this days in advance, so I was able to get up to Frontier Park behind my house to glimpse the face of the thing that killed Summer 2014 dead.

This monster not only knocked the temperatures back 20 to 30 degrees, it dropped some rain on us in the bargain. I’m aware I haven’t lived here long enough to know what “normal” weather is like, and that the state is only now emerging from a long and exceptionally severe drought. Still, it seems strange to wake up and drive through chill fog on a Saturday morning this early in September. Not that I’ll ever mind a bit of moisture in this parched and flammable-as-old-newspaper state.
She’s comin’ on fast.

Ready or not, Fall 2014 ignites before our eyes.

The tree by my mailbox, on the way back from Frontier Park. Wednesday, 3 September, and the leaves are beginning to turn.


I had to get up early to drive my daughter in to her photography gig. She’ll photograph sports teams in Woodland Park until noon, then go straight to work at the big-box home improvement store near her apartment on the north side of Colorado Springs, where they pay her all of $9.75 an hour for her full-time cashier’s position. 

She’s really happy for this, and not just because she makes a full dollar more per hour than the other cashiers. Getting a full-time position in this store is like winning the lottery. People work in this place for years and are never asked to come on board as full-timers, with a guarantee of solid hours, and use-’em-or-lose-’em sick-day bennies. It turns out some key people quit, or were fired, and my young adult daughter was in the right place at the right time.

Which is all to say, if anyone ever in my presence starts in on this “Millennials are lazy and worthless” spiel, so help me God...thankfully, this idiocy seems confined to the Internet, which most Millennials are too busy to interact with besides social media, if even that. It’s root hog or die in the Neverending Recession. Most of the people my daughter knows work more than one job. The pay is always sub-subsistence, and they need the hours.

Oh, and I forgot to mention: my firstborn works until closing tonight. When she’s done with her Saturday she’ll have worked from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Lazy Millennials? More like lazy op-ed writers who couldn’t be bothered to raise their own spoiled-stupid children right.


On a lighter note, I saw along the way that a medical marijuana dispensary on Fillmore Avenue had adopted a stretch of I-25. Good for them. I laughed to see the green MMJ cross on the highway sign. It’s not a place you expect to see such things.

If marijuana was finally destigmatized, let alone legalized, one could imagine the store logos with the green crosses on the same signs that announce food and lodging. Now you know you can stop and pick up some pre-rolls before checking into the Super 8.

I’ve been going nuts on Twitter the last couple of days. I’ve followed, and been followed in return, by a lot of fine horror sites and horror aficionados. 

She’s setting up shop early this year.
“Autumn” Copyright © 2014 by Matt Dixon
I have a theory, based on nothing but drunken musings, that I should be able to sell at least 100,000 copies of either one of my books. The zombie-loving reading audience can support that, if not far more. I simply need to reach some people. I need to network. I need to “provide value,” i.e., reply to other’s tweets, or even simply retweet.

In following all these people in turn, it’s jarring to see the few outlaw journalists I follow writing about Ukraine and other stuff in my feed, which, frankly, concerns me not in the least. I have a house and family to save. I’m going to have to say goodbye to some old friends. Nothing personal. Just business. I already know the world is a cruel hellscape, and the bad guys are winning because the good guys are dumb, weak, and trusting. 

If I’m going to try and sell zombie horror books I need to immerse myself in horror. Real world horror is simply depressing, and there generally isn’t anything you can do about it. In fantasy horror, we at least get to play with the controls, and maybe learn a little about why we’re all such sick little things.

In any event, I need to change things up. 

It’s Saturday night. Back to work.

Friday, September 05, 2014

A Stupid Facebook Tagging Game That Demonstrates a Strategy for Better Writing

I had to laugh when James Robert Smith brought this game to my attention via my Facebook news feed. He noted that, because people get irritated with being tagged in posts on Facebook, he wasn’t tagging anyone, despite one of the conditions being that seven people have to be tagged in his post. Anyone who saw his post could play, though.

“Game” is probably the wrong word for this—there’s no winning or losing—but seven is the predominant number. We’ll call it a shtick. A Shtick of Seven, for Writers: Go to page 7 of your work-in-progress, go to line 7 and reprint the next seven lines for your audience. Tag seven people, pass it on. It’s a semi-cute way of humblebragging that you are a Writer With a Work in Progress, while promoting said work.

This might get pedantic. Here’s a photo of Julie Newmar
in a polka-dot bikini.
I couldn’t tag seven people if I wanted to (and I don’t) because I know all of two writers with works in progress, and one of those is the aforementioned Mr. Smith, and the other is someone I met online just a month ago. As an impecunious genre writer who never misses a chance to humblebrag while promoting his work, in progress or otherwise, however, I played the shtick. There’s a lesson here, so bear with me. The following is my current edit of page 7, lines 7 -14, of The Wrong Kind of Dead:
Baby bear is thoroughly skeletonized. I expect it to get nasty after mama bear’s meat starts running out, which looks like any minute now.
The foul sounds follow us up the slope, and it’s a long walk into the trees before we can no longer hear them. There’s got to be some place far, far away where the people aren’t. Where the dead people would have to roam far from the beaten path to find us. We’ve got to do that with six newborns and another mother ready to pop. Ready or not.

This is an edit, because I can’t stand to see the expression “six newborn infants” on my screen. “Six newborns” says it all.

I wasn’t aware of this redundancy until I pulled these lines out and put them on my Facebook page. In their current state of repair, these seven lines almost make a fine logline. They demonstrate the extent of the menace (the zoms attacked and ate bears, for God’s sake) with a difficult logistical problem (six newborns! babies in peril!) for added flavor.

By now, I hope you get that you can make a game from this. You can win, so long as you apply yourself to the primary lesson: that any random group of lines from your novel or story or article should tell a story that suggests the larger story.

So pick a number, any number, between one and the last page of whatever you’ve got. Go to line 7. Or lines, 8,9, or 10, or take it straight from the top of the page. I think seven lines is the optimum; you shouldn’t go for more than nine lines at a time, and no fewer than five. Copy and paste those lines to a blank page in another file. Read them to yourself.

Read those lines in italic. Read them in bold. Read them in another screwball font altogether. However you look at them, those lines should read clean. Like the most compelling ad copy in a magazine. It sets a scene and the stakes, and all the questions you’re left with lead to “What happens next?”

I’m talking any one piece of your novel, if you’ve got a notion. There shouldn’t be one word wasted. “Newborn infants” is stupid and wastes time when “newborns” (or even “infants”) will do the job by itself.

If you’re a writer looking to smarten up his or her product, I can only tell you. Play the game, and show yourself.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

A Sonic Chronicler of the Apocalypse Rides Again

I don’t have much of a “bucket list” because there’s not all that much that excites me. For instance, I don’t need to throw myself out of an airplane to feel more alive when a cold draft ale will suffice. But seeing Robert Fripp and King Crimson perform—this is something that must be done. 

Photo of Robert Fripp taken at a solo show
at the Winter Garden in NYC, Dec. 2010.
Swiped from, of all places, a site called
Brooklyn Vegan. Hey, the guy knows his music.
This seemingly flies in the face of my general disdain for watching old rock stars on tour, but these aren’t your normal rock stars. This is prog, baby. It’s about long pieces of music and the hell-for-leather musicianship that makes those pieces soar or sink. Fans of King Crimson get a laugh from Robert Fripp being described as “one of the guitarists.” Yes, he’s one — among a senior varsity squad he approved himself. Only Frank Zappa was as exacting of his musicians, and I think it’s one of the great tragedies of all time that Zappa and Fripp never collaborated on a project.

This is Robert Fripp introducing the YouTube channel he’s starting for Discipline Global Mobile (DGM), his own recording and publishing company started decades before it became cool. (Think Frank Zappa and Barking Pumpkin Records; the parallels do go on.) It’s something he just got going this week, a channel that promises to be the home of all things King Crimson”:

To better understand why I get excited by this music, I offer this 1994 performance of “Red,” the title track to a 1974 album that makes for a fine soundtrack to whatever apocalypse you’re running. The menace becomes the mood:

I edited the first act of Bleeding Kansas to “Larks Tongues in Aspic, Part 1.” Seriously, follow this link, listen to the piece, and tell me you cant hear civilization fall to the undead (or something) before your very ears. If this is something youre into, Mr. Robert Fripp has a YouTube channel for you

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Another Night in the Life of THE WRONG KIND of DEAD

At first it was going to be another Summer Wrap-Up post in time for Labor Day. Instead, here’s this morning’s Facebook entry about last night’s work on The Wrong Kind of Dead, Book 3 in my SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER:

They say one should never go to bed mad. Well, I didn’t—I went to bed unable to keep my eyes open a minute longer, as is my custom — but I did it in the middle of my hero getting verbally dressed down by his wife. So now I gotta wake up and finish this. The zombies I’m killing at the end of this chapter are going to die extra hard for this one. The hell of it is, Mrs. Grace is right—Mr. Grace needs to get his head out of his ass, out of the past, and into a very deadly and messed-up present. The Evil has never been more evil than what we’re fighting in this book. How evil? Hell, the zombies have to step up their game just to keep up!

It's a lesson I need to take to heart, myself. Forget all of that background noise. Or else the Gobble-uns'll git you Ef You Don't Watch Out!

This brings me to the obligatory plug for the first two books in the SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER, novels of post-apocalypse adventure that are neither Guns and Ammo porn nor weepy soap opera. Check out Book 1, Bleeding Kansas, in Kindle and paperback. When you’re done with that, go straight to Grace Among the Dead, also in Kindle and paperback. These are brutal tales, brutally written, and both picked up by Luzifer-Verlag for German translation. Check out what the Germans stomach so much better than your fellow Americans.

Book 1 has ONE exploding head
on its cover.
Book 2 has TWO exploding heads.
See the pattern here?