Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Retrofitting THE WRONG KIND OF DEAD: Now with More Flaming Zombie Action!

“What matters most is how well you
walk through the fire.” - Charles Bukowski
It began when I recalled that I’d forgotten to have Agnes put her glasses on before driving her monster truck through zombie-infested Colorado Springs. I was at page 205 of my latest novel by this point. I knew if I didn’t go back and fix this, I’d forget, and look plenty stupid later. Editors these days don’t catch things like that anymore; even with the small presses your book is largely a DIY operation. Whatever you need done right, you need to do yourself. Maxwell Perkins is long gone. It’s past time we came to terms with that and accepted responsibility for catching our own errors in continuity and narrative flow.

In the course of rewinding through the scenes, it occurred to me that my heroes got through town a little too easily, given the situation of zombies being herded into the metro area from the countryside. So I wrote the following scene. Keep in mind Agnes, wife of first-person narrator Derek Grace, drives a 15-foot tall monster truck equipped with a flame thrower. They have a convoy of SUVs and trucks behind them full of families with babies.

Hijinks ensue. All of this was written within the last 12 hours. Let’s see how good I am today.

Agnes spits flame to either side of the truck as she ascends the ramp to the Interstate. The biggest mobs of dead are stumbling up the northbound lanes from the south, so Agnes crosses the median to drive against the pedestrian traffic in the southbound lanes. The hungry walkers in the northbound lanes stagger into the overgrown median to follow. A few fall comically over the knee-high wire fence buried in the tall grass. For a moment all you can see are their arms flailing above the brush.

They find their feet, though. They push themselves upright, they throw one leg out front, then the other. Many fall yet again as the thick grasses catch them by the ankles. They’re slowed, but not by much. The sounds and smells of food compel them; they must have us. As more and more of their fellows follow across the median, the fence shall be trampled flush with the dirt soon enough. 

Agnes throws more fire to either side while waiting for the trucks and SUVs to catch up. We move a little faster once Elyssa’s SUV clears the median, but we don’t want too much of a gap between vehicles. Even aflame, the former men and women of Colorado Springs advance upon us, and Agnes and I have to draw our pistols to knock them back.

The sound of our engines causes the dead to ooze towards us from beneath the shade of the Bijou Street overpass. They don’t pause a single step as Agnes rains flame upon them, but rouse themselves to move even faster as the flesh blisters and pops from their bones. “There’s no way they’re getting past these bridges by going under them,” says Agnes. “Derek, can you wave Elyssa over to follow us up the ramp? A.J. message everyone as fast as you can what they have to do. There’s no way I can clear these things out before we’re swarmed.”

I unbuckle from the harness and grab the back of the cockpit cage. I wave at Elyssa, and try to get the attention of the Smileys driving behind Elyssa’s SUV. Elyssa, bless her, knows exactly what I mean when I point up the ramp, and Ethan stands up in the moon roof to wave at the vehicles behind them. Agnes takes us rapidly up the exit ramp, and the rest follow without hesitation. The shooters at the rear of our convoy are going to be busy, as the surge of hunger-driven bodies reaches that end. Thank God this exit ramp is built up along a concrete block wall and not earthworks. The dead can’t cut across to get at us as we ascend.

Ethan and Tom take out a few aggressive pedestrians as we cross Bijou Street and descend the acceleration ramp back to the Interstate, but it’s not as bad as it could be. The mob oozes like sickly molasses from underneath the overpass on this side, a lethal mass of grasping hands and gnashing teeth almost ready to meet us at the bottom of the ramp. It’s as if all of downtown packed itself underneath that wide overpass.

Of course, there are plenty of others who don’t seem to mind the daylight at all. They walk with their faces pointed to the sun, even as they stagger towards the smell of human steak tartare on the hoof. Those are the ones our moon roof shooters busy themselves with as Agnes pours fat volleys of fire on the bilious mob along the retaining wall of the acceleration ramp. “Goddamn it,” she says, “I don’t remember this many people living here back in the day.”

“Good old Colorado Springs,” I say. “Boomtown of the Living Dead.”

Agnes stops at the bottom of the ramp and reverses over these ravenous former citizens while I wave Elyssa and the rest of our group ahead. What was merely a deadly cannibal mob is now a flaming cannibal mob. These former cubicle workers, shift managers, programmers, waitresses, and office assistants were ugly enough without their skin crisping like so much meat left too long on the grill. Then comes the part when the rancid fluids steaming within their skulls causes their heads to explode. No one wants that stuff on them.

It’s never a bad thing to add a zombie fighting scene in a book about the zombie apocalypse, right? I’m looking forward to getting back to the narrative and working towards that epic conclusion to my epic series. While you’re waiting on me, I’ve got the first two books for you here, available in Kindle and paperback, in Canada and the UK:

Thing 1.
Derek Grace leaves his sick wife in Colorado Springs for a job interview in Kansas City. But in a few short days the early summer cold becomes the Final Flu, and as infrastructure breaks down, Grace finds himself miles from home, trapped between anxious police and National Guard, and all those Final Flu victims arising from their mass graves to attack the living. The long-unemployed Grace soon discovers a new skill set that serves him well in the New Weird Order. He’s a long way from home, and the risen dead aren’t the only ones in his way.

Only the strong will survive BLEEDING KANSAS.

Thing 2.
Returning too late from his Kansas adventure to save his wife and teenage children, Derek Grace loses himself in booze, books, pills, and the occasional killing spree among the undead. But then a stowaway and her fatal secret flush the Dead Silencer from hiding and back into a busy post-apocalypse in progress, where he must decide whether life is worth living when he’s already lost everything that matters.

In the heart of darkest horror, you will find GRACE AMONG THE DEAD.

Follow me on Twitter for the occasional link to a book excerpt. Im always good for a free taste before hooking you on the hard stuff.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

13 Days Until Halloween

Let’s hope this kid’s teeth haven’t come in yet.
This young mother and child are here to sound the Two Week Warning that Halloween is around the leaf-blown, metaphorical corner. Get decorated, get stoked, get that treat bowl filled! 

I’m yelling at myself as much as I am anyone. Writing the the final chapters of an epic zombie series does tend to take up metaphysical RAM. I’ve been happy enough to watch the slow, one-week-off-schedule turning of the leaves. I might run a sweetly maudlin photo essay later featuring all of these trees I won’t be around to see bud again—that is, if all goes according to plan, and we sell the house and move.

Meanwhile, it’s a fine October afternoon. You only get 31 of these in a year. Let’s enjoy this while it lasts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Crazy Eyes with Mystery Meat

Dating has always had its “dodgy” side, as our British cousins might describe it. Case in point, this young beauty below, replete with Crazy Eyes™ (sclera visible about the iris) and the butchered remains of what we hope is a cow, and not the ex-boyfriend who wouldn’t return her calls.
“He was bad, a little spoiled...we should cook him up before he gets worse. Tee-hee.”

On the other hand, she looks good in a swimsuit. And, hey—steaks! Fire up the grill. She already knows where you live; you might as well see this through all the way.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Pre-Dawn Musings Over a Creepy Lithograph

So I’m up at 4:30 this morning looking at this little jewel from the Morbid Anatomy Museum Facebook page and thinking, “Even the Devil has chores to attend to.” Which sounds like it would make a great folk saying, except that I can’t help wondering why he doesn’t have a guy to do this watering for him. 
“The Tree of Death: The Sinner” - lithograph ca. 1845 by Nathaniel Currier,
published by Currier and Ives, New York. 

It stands to reason that the First of the Fallen, the Prince of the Air, the Father of Lies, etc., should rate having a staff, who, in turn, would have people underneath them to handle these things. But then we wouldn’t have this neat little Halloween Sunday School lesson to look at, so never mind. Pick up that can and get watering, Old Scratch, and try to ignore the fact that the generic skeleton with an ax looks more badass than you.

In case you missed it, this piece is by Nathaniel Currier, of Currier and Ives fame. Apparently they did more than build the popular U.S. media iconography of Christmas. Of course, Christmas only comes once a year, and you have to eat year round, so here we are, with the Devil himself watering a Tree of Death. Happy October! 

Lurkers of the Abandoned Lands: More from THE WRONG KIND OF DEAD

This is what I’ve been noodling on since last weekend. How’s this for hot off the pixelated presses?

THE SETUP: Derek and Agnes Grace are flying with Dr. Hearn on his specially equipped jet to survey an area where an especially large horde of Infected/ Undead/walkers/rotters maybe lurking...and stalking. Dr. Hearn has video footage he’s showing Derek Grace by way of letting him know just how messed up things are in the vast countryside outside of the Redoubts, where humanity’s elites carry on with all the comforts, as if the zombie apocalypse never happened:

“Click the button on the video I called up. This was five days ago, in the area we’re about to fly over. We got this much footage from Sgt. Kinney’s body camera before all electronic tethers were cut, including GPS signals to the soldier’s phones. We’d wondered if the Infected had taken and smashed the phones. After Col. Grinnell’s actions yesterday, I’ve got a better idea as to what might have happened. Whatever the cause of that, though, our problem remains…oh, here we are.”

The view on the middle screen opens amid a vast, rolling waste of fallow cornfields. “What the hell are they even doing out there?”

“There was an Unsponsored Refugee Camp that vanished Lost Colony style a few days before this. Everyone gone, along with the food, but no luggage taken. There was some sign of struggle, but no blood. The tracks exited at a radiant all around the encampment, so there was no one trail to follow. Maybe we were supposed to think they went to all points in the compass, but there were so many footprints, far more than could be accounted for given the population of the camp.”

“Heh. Agnes called it.”

“I’m sorry?”

“I’d speculated that the Redoubts maintained refugee camps to outsource labor intensive projects to. Agnes envisioned a rotting corn field in the middle of Nebraska. Nice to see the Redoubts think enough of their scut labor to send armed patrols out looking for them when they go off the reservation.”

“I sent the search teams out,” Dr. Hearn says. “One for each point of the compass. I had a feeling something was going on with the Infected. Since the thaw we’ve observed behaviors that are… troubling.”

“Dead people organizing around a leader, carrying out tasks?”

“I take it you’ve seen a project manager, then,” says Dr. Hearn. “Trust me, Mr. Grace, you have no idea. Watch.”

The voices of the other men are barely audible over the sounds of desiccated corn stalks crackling beneath their feet “I know they’re around here,” says the sergeant. “Christ almighty, it smells like we just walked up one’s asshole.”

“It’s not like they got anywhere to hide out here,” says a voice off camera.

“They’re lurking somewhere. Everyone stay—”

The sergeant cuts himself short as a barking “Ah!” is heard. I can’t tell the direction from the microphone but judging by how the men are looking this way and that, the barks are coming from points all around.

The percussive barks become drawn out wails, and the voices about them rise in eerie harmony. The men form a circle, their backs to one another.  The view from Sergeant Kinney’s body cam shows endless rolling fields of brown and gray leaves of unharvested corn —endless rolling fields that burst upwards, leaves flying, dirt raining from the rags hanging about the bilious yellow bodies writhing upwards to their feet. As soon as they find their balance they stumble forward, moaning that ghastly tone….

“Anyone see a way through where they are?” the sergeant shouts over the singing dead.



“Fuck no.”

“Oh God….”

“All right, all right,” says Sgt. Kinney. “On my signal we’ll give them three rounds, then move twenty paces down where we came from. Don’t waste a shot.”

“Sergeant, there ain’t no goddamn way—”


They fire their rounds, one, two, three. The sergeant is an excellent shot. It hardly matters. I have the seat-scooching sight of all those dirty faces and black, gnashing teeth, those hands and grasping fingers reaching for…for the camera, dear God, why am I watching this? After a full automatic discharge of remaining rounds, Sgt. Kinney’s weapon is pulled away from him. The image is jostled, darkened as the hands and fingers grasp at him and…

“Set the controls for the Uncanny Valley!”’s not what you think. No, it’s actually worse. How could it possibly be worse? I’ve yet to write that part. Hell, I’m dreading writing that part, it’s that goddamned bad. Stomach-dropping, blood freezing horrors are in the forecast for me this October weekend.

Meanwhile, I have actual, finished works for you to read while you’re waiting on me to get over my squicked-out heebie-jeebies. I link to excerpts from all my stuff from Twitter, so give me a follow there if you haven’t already. 

State of the Apocalypse, Early October 2015

Last weekend I broke what would have been a three-year streak, having turned another year older without a new book lumbering zombie-like among the zombie horde that is the zombie adventure book market. The Wrong Kind of Dead is taking much longer than I anticipated. It will not be published in time for Halloween. I’ll be lucky to finish the thing by Halloween.

We’ll see what happens in a few weeks. I’m 200 pages in, and just past the narrative midpoint. The difficulty is in nailing down the details of the cascading events that brings Derek Grace to his Darkest Hour. The details of the Final Boss (better known as the “climax” to older and old-school readers) have still to be worked out.

World-building isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be. As much as I enjoy the idea of describing population losses and the ecological impact of flesh-eating corpses on the biosphere, I find the time and effort expended on exploring different scenarios to be a page-stopper. I’m one cranky motherfucker when I’m not cranking out pages. It is always better to be writing one’s novel than to be thinking about it, and when the end result of so much brainstorming is one page a week or less, it’s time to rethink what I’m doing with my time.
My wife found me this sweet incense burner for my birthday. Smokin’ Sam is an old lazy-bones.

On the bright side—and there is one—The Wrong Kind of Dead is my most complex book yet. My concept of Robert Heinlein and Harlan Ellison walking into a bar to brainstorm the zombie apocalypse is paying off like one of those jackpot machines that vomits an endless stream of money all over your shoes. Yeah, a great problem to have, while you’re losing your shit wondering how you’re going to get all this money safely back into your room, and then to the bank.

Still, it’s a great problem to have. I’ve just got to get busy collecting all the shiny coins. That’s all.
“Just make sure your readers don’t look like me by the time you get finished with your masterpiece, Papa Douchinway. Not that looking like me is entirely a bad thing....”

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for some Adventures in Zombie World to read, I’ve got a couple of books for you. Just puttin’ that out there. Thanks to all for your patience. I didn’t mean to get so into this zombie writing thing...just thought I’d fart these things out and, I had to get involved with the characters and their world and give a shit about their conflict...then I saw themes to exploit... well. Back to work, then.