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.

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