Thursday, December 31, 2015

State of the Apocalypse: New Year's Eve 2015

A partial report, thank God.

In the interests of physical and psychic self-preservation, I have resolved to never again put off my grocery and liquor shopping until New Year’s Eve. The mellow vibe I’ve enjoyed since Christmas took a hard hit today.

Thanks to other resolutions adopted and prosecuted throughout this last quarter of 2015, however, I’ve rebounded. I’m going into 2016, not as from a starting gun, but roaring past the line at speed.

It looks idiotically, condescendingly simple as I type it out, but I learned this lesson the hard way: don’t put off until some arbitrary date to start doing something. Just get on that shit the minute you decide it’s something you need to do. If it’s something you needed to do yesterday, it needs to start now.

The view driving to the library today to dump off some books I’ve been dragging around forever, some since the 1970s and 1980s. I’m throwing out a lot of stuff in anticipation of a move back East I’m not so sure I want to do anymore, given all the unnatural warmth and rain they’ve had there, and all the wintry beauty we’ve had here this season. I’m done with this neighborhood, but Colorado itself will be hard to leave.

I end 2015 at page 230 of The Wrong Kind of Dead, Chapter 27. I might get a little further before I pop the cap from the sparkling wine in time for midnight and salute the fireworks blazing from the summit of Pikes Peak, but I’ll leave these numbers for posterity. I was so happy to finish Chapter 26, “In-Flight Horror Movies,” last night. It was a major crawl forward, as this 34-page monstrosity not only takes us through the Fun and Games part of the narrative, but introduces a sinister twist to the undead, while setting up all the pieces to be knocked down. That chapter had a lot riding on it. Now for the mean part. Then comes the Terrible Vengeance. Oh Lord, that’s gonna be a lollapalooza....

This Captain America mug I got for
Christmas holds a full pint of coffee.
There are no more excuses now.
It’s good to have something to look forward to. I’m especially looking forward to getting a solid zombie apocalypse adventure narrative put to bed. The DEAD SILENCER has been rolling on years past the normal sell-by dates for books. Still, it has yet to find a mass audience. 

Actions will be taken to remedy this.

There’s much more to talk about but the hour grows late. I will enjoy tonight’s revels while I can, because a more ascetic approach to living will be key to accomplishing my objectives to 2016.

So let me close the blog for this year with a hearty thanks to all who have stopped by to read my ramblings, my zombie fiction, and maybe bought one of my zombie books. I’ve got more to come, so here’s a heartfelt wish towards your peace and prosperity in 2016, so you can buy more. I won’t pretend I don’t have some self-interest in this.

Seriously, may 2016 be the year you made things change for the better. Many warm regards from my basement office to wherever you’re reading.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Chapter 1 of The WRONG KIND of DEAD: “Unbearable”

From the ALL-NEW, Yet-To-Be Proofed and Published FINAL BOOK of the SAGA of the DEAD SILENCER

Most people know to make quiet and back away upon discovering a mama bear with her cubs. I’m sure even the dead obeyed this essential instinct a few months ago, before the winter’s hard freezes immobilized them.

Like the bears, though, the bacteria animating the dead went into hibernation. When the thaw came, it awoke ravenous. The urgency to devour raw, living flesh shuts down all sense of self-preservation in the host cadavers’ brains. Roaring furiously, mama bear rears up on two legs and swats these humanoid beasts into spinning pieces. Still, they come, hooting jubilantly for their meat.

Round-the-clock exposure to the elements has weathered the corpse-flesh of every race, color, and creed into the same pale, jaundiced leather. Their clothing hangs in ribbons of blood-rotted cloth, the backs of their trousers and skirts eaten away by the toxic scat they pass after consuming living flesh. It looks like mama bear climbed with her two cubs to this rocky shelf to get away from these ghouls. Unfortunately, the walls around this shelf are 25 to 30 feet of vertical rock. They’re trapped. I’d need a rappel to get down to them from where I am.

But to get up to where the bears are from the base of this ridge, one would have to climb nearly 75 feet of steep, naked rock. The dead wouldn’t have attempted anything like this when they were last active. Judging by the slimy brown wetness on their hands, the successful climbers still had flesh left to wear off in getting here. The dry-boned ones can’t keep a grip. Much angry wailing follows as they flip and tumble down the slope, taking out many of their fellows on their way.

Mama bear rears up again, in a halting, staggering motion, and for a moment I fear she might fall over. The outline of her ribs shows through her fur. I’d ease over to the wooded ledge on my level of the ridge to see how many ghouls are still coming after this starved and cornered bear, but I don’t dare move. The first thing these monsters do when they find their feet is twist their heads to either side, sniffing the air. They smell us; I’m sure of it.

I’m fairly certain (I think) they can’t get up the walls around the shelf, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try. As berserker reckless as they are, there is also an eerie sense of purpose about these post-freeze dead. It’s not something I want to test.

Mama bear swats one gore-swollen tick of a man so hard his head flies from his body. Claws out, she slashes one former cubicle drone stem to stern. He falls in halves, one side, then another, about the growing pile-carpet of corpses.

The numbers are against her, though. At first it’s one, then two that manage to avoid mama bear’s swinging paws. Soon, half a dozen of them are staggering about the bodies and body parts in the clearing. While mama fights four deaders, two others are going after the cubs. Mama bear’s preoccupation allows one more to surmount the lip of the shelf, then three more after him.

Squealing piteously, the cubs charge up a narrow slope of scree to a rocky outcrop eight feet up from the floor of the shelf. For a moment both seem to be running in place as the scree rolls and slides beneath their paws. Only one finds the traction to get there before the other.

The second cub cries out as a woman in the rags of a floral print dress grabs it by its rear legs, adjusting her grip to bring its soft belly to her mouth. She falls backwards, a shock of fur poking from her mouth as a young man in a metal band shirt pulls the cub away. He grapples with the man whose shirt front and tie are rotted away from the multiple bibs of gore he’s slobbered there. The remaining knot of his tie resembles a dog collar. He grabs one leg and rips it away towards himself, making barking, laughing noises at the man in the remains of the T-shirt. 

I hear the bone snap in the cub’s leg, the cub shrieking, mama bear’s anguished roar as she sees and hears but can’t get away. A teenage girl in a dirty bra, the shreds of flannel pajama bottoms flapping about her legs like filthy pennants, clings to mama bear’s back, pulling her fur away with her teeth as the burly young thing in a muscle shirt circles behind, and the shirtless middle-aged man in soiled Bermuda shorts goes straight for her belly. 

Mama bear falls forward, crushing the man in the Bermuda shorts, but affording the remaining ghouls a chance to pile on her back. She attempts rolling over on top of these newcomers, but her strength is gone.

As is my tolerance for the sound of that little cub’s cries. I pull the crossbow from my shoulder harness and nock an arrow. I spend more time than I’d like getting my breathing under control. 

I want to take the cub out of its misery but its head thrashes in agony. I have a better shot at Barking Laughing Man. I’m nocking another arrow as he falls. Metal Band T-shirt is next. Now the cub, but a large woman in a soiled pink shift lumbers into my line of sight. The shaft thumps into her back. 

It may as well be the kiss of a gentle breeze as she falls hungrily upon the twitching and mewling cub. I aim for her head. It takes two more precious shafts to drop her sprawling atop the little bear, silencing its cries. Her generous mass requires the efforts of two men and another woman, as they wrestle her capacious carcass from the still-warm remains.

They’ll have her off in a minute. Mama bear is down, her face in the dirt. These hijacked remains of humans, people who once had names, jobs, and debt, with siblings, parents, children, and pets, sprawl across her body, rising and falling with her dying breaths. They cling with their rock-sharpened finger-bones exposed through their bloodied hands, burying their faces deep into her fur as they gnaw through to the pale flesh beneath.

At last, one of my arrows finds mama bear’s head. I drop three more ghouls, but that still leaves six to feast on her carcass. I don’t have many arrows left, and we’ve got to get home.

At least no more are climbing over the edge of the shelf. Even better, the ones already there have taken no notice of the arrows dropping their fellows. They are securely tucked into their respective meals. The fallen cub is already a cage of ribs open to the sky. A lanky young man tugs at the head. He nips at the face once, twice, then decides, what the hell, and curls up with the cub’s head between his knees. 

I feel her small hand slipping into mine. “Daddy?”

I look down at nine-year-old A.J. “Yes?” She took to calling me Daddy around Christmas. She tugs at my arm and nods at the bear on the rocky outcrop. I’m about to open my mouth in a doomed attempt to convince her I can’t afford the arrows when I see something that makes me pull the girl to me, my hand over her mouth to stifle her scream. 

The dead who are not already snorting and gulping down every bloody gobbet of flesh from mama bear and the dead cub are closing in on the cub on the rocky outcrop. It’s how they’re doing it that causes the hair on my arms to stand on end. Three groups of two each carry the mangled remains of their fallen between them. The first couple throws the body at the foot of the wall beneath the ledge. The other two couples follow suit. 

It’s a ladder of corpses to the frightened baby bear on the ledge. A solution to a problem conceived and executed with cooperation among presumably mindless dead things. The three men and two women stand aside as the alpha of their group, a tall man in the rags of a suit, puts his foot upon the bodies, and lifts himself stiffly up, his long, yellow fingers extended towards the cub.

The cub leaps off the ledge, its hind paws tearing into the face of the alpha. The cub manages to land without hurting itself, but the dead are turning to catch it. The cub bounds over the corpse-littered floor of the shelf, straight for the ledge. A.J. cries out into my hand as it leaps over the edge into space.

Forgetting my previous avoidance of the ledge alongside our terrace, A.J. and I grab hold of the trees along the edge in time to see the cub hit the slope one-quarter of the way down. It bounces and splays in midair before landing in the writhing pile of corpses and corpse-parts at the foot of the ridge.

The stench is eye-watering. Over one hundred bodies and parts of bodies wriggle helplessly at the foot of the slope. The widening streaks of thick, brown corpse gravy oozing down the rock have joined to make one vast, slippery sheet of old, dead blood, dislodging the later climbers. What was merely difficult is now impossible, and these latecomers join the mass of broken bodies groaning at the foot of the ridge. 

I squeeze A.J.’s shoulders, and we begin creeping away. With the bears dead, and no more ghouls coming onto over ledge, the only noises from the rock shelf below us are slurping, smacking, and moans of mindless pleasure as the new lords of the food chain take their meat. Baby bear is thoroughly skeletonized. This could get nasty once mama bear’s carcass is stripped, which looks like any minute now. 

The foul sounds follow us up the slope. 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 to find us. We’ve got to do that with six newborns and another mother ready to pop. Ready or not.

But where?

“When are we leaving?” says A.J, jogging alongside of me.

“I need to talk to your mother first,” I say.

“We have to go,” she says, sounding far older than her years. 

“Be sure to tell your mother what you saw, too.” Agnes will raise hell at me for having A.J. anywhere near the dead, but it should help emphasize the urgency of our situation. 

“Brother Christopher would have saved those bears,” says A.J.

“Only if he’d had everyone with him working at once. Even then, there was no way the bears were getting off of that shelf. I’m sorry, but they were just too late. They should have run along with the first two waves.”

I’m talking about the stampedes across the mountain a couple of weeks back. Rabbits, squirrels, deer, mountain lions, and bears—even dogs and cats, swarms of rats and mice, foxes and coyotes—charged through our yards and kept us inside for two days at a time. Christopher and his men tried culling what they thought would be easy meat from the charging herds. Not a chance. You were as liable to be trampled as anything. Or attacked, as happened to Justin with that one big dog of the pack that nearly took his arm off. Everything, everyone is hungry and scared.

The tears brim in A.J.’s eyes. “You still coulda—”

We freeze at the sound of engines. Not the kind we own. A.J. follows me up the rise overlooking the road below. Where I left the golf cart out in plain sight.

“All right, warrior princess, time to put on your cloak of invisibility.” I look around. Bless her, she didn’t wait for me to tell her to do that voodoo she does so well. This leaves just me to face the one, two—aw, hell, who am I kidding? I can’t tell how many vehicles they are.

If they stop here by the golf cart, and all I have is a crossbow and a 9mm against God knows what…well, A.J. should be able to find her way home. 

Whether she still has a home when she gets there is another matter.

NEXT EPISODE: Chapter 2, “Uphill”

For the price of a happy hour drink, you can enjoy many delirious hours among the delightful hellscapes of my first two SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER books, available in Kindle and paperback from Severed Press. We commence the crash of civilization in Bleeding Kansas, wherein our intrepid hero Derek Grace must survive a plane crash, combat with the undead at the local Wal-Mart, an exploding fire truck, a female hardbody assassin, and lots of hungry walking dead people-things.
Book 1 has ONE exploding head
on its cover.

I’m told it reads even better in German. This edition from Luzifer Verlag also sports a hellacious one-of-a-kind cover courtesy of ace artist Michael Schubert:
You can buy this German version stateside here.
You know you wanna.

Book 2, Grace Among the Dead, steps up the game with a tale of love and redemption, the living dead, and a flame-throwing monster truck. We’ve got an arc going from decadence to...respectability?...for our hero. As close as it gets, anyway. You should savor this big book o’ hell while it lasts, because things are about to go completely to shit.
Book 2 has TWO exploding heads.
See the pattern here?

They’re also available in Canada and the UK.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas 2015 After-Action Report

Notes on a foreshortened season.

The singing angle summons the decorations
from their perches. My wife is in a hurry to
de-Christmas the house so she can get back
to the business of prepping it for sale.
I’m not at all religious but I know a miracle when I’m feeling it. The miracle is all the things I finally got straightened out in my head this Christmas. I’ve even made—and am so far keeping—resolutions. They’re beautifully elegant in their simplicity and how each one supports the other.

First, I have resolved to use the tablet I got for Christmas for my Internet trash reading, and do that trash reading outside of my office. The principle behind this is the same as in modifying one’s behavior to combat insomnia, by using the bed exclusively for sleeping or sex. One should not read or watch TV in bed if one ever hopes to establish a proper sleep schedule. Likewise, I shouldn’t be using this chair in front of this desk in my office if I’m not writing. 

It’s not the delayed writing I’m concerned about, either. It gets to where I’m simply existing in this chair, and life is short. There are people who are forced to live in their chairs who wish they could get up. I need to indulge this luxury while my bones still support me.

Second, I am de-cluttering everything. On Christmas Eve, I began reviewing and deleting links on my Chrome bar. I not only found and tossed some ghost sites, I said goodbye to a few that I would actually look at from time to time. Most were sites indulging in the Great Issues Complaints of the Day. I am no longer interested in such things. The negativity doesn’t help my writing, nor does it improve my health. Knowledge of the latest skulduggery by bad actors conveys no benefit to me whatsoever. 

I already know to avoid bad actors. Out, out it all goes.
These are good actors, staging for their final boxing in Colorado.

The result of this change was immediate. I’m not tempted to go to those old websites because I don’t want to upset the calmness of spirit I enjoy. 

The de-cluttering continues in terms of my losing weight (this has been going on since October), shedding and shredding old papers, and discarding items I’ve held onto for no reason beyond neurotic hoarder’s instinct. It’s much like throwing weight overboard an aircraft in order to gain altitude. 
You guys stay.

Chapters were closed this year. New ones were opened. 2015 marked our first Christmas with our adult children, and it was very good. We all understood next year would be different. We don’t know when or how, but we may miss a couple of Christmases together from here on out, for whatever reason. Which is as it should be. They’re getting their own things going on. We should be moving on, too.

I really don’t want to leave Colorado but we can’t stay here. All our friends are back east. Still, to leave our children...our grown children, but still...I have that much more to sort out in my heart and head. I’ll work it out along the way. Like everything else.

A curiously symbolic thing happened just last night. My son had returned from his girlfriend’s house. He was in the mood to sit up and talk about things, so I offered him a beer. He reached for the bottle opener I’ve had for ten years or so, and it broke in his hand.

I’d forgotten how long I’d had this old novelty bottle opener. My son told me with how amused his sister and he were as they heard me use this to pry off a cap, then fume for a minute while tinny noises of Homer Simpson enjoying a beer played out. They were small children then. They laughed even harder as the battery began dying and Homer Simpson’s voice slowed into a prolonged growling before ceasing altogether.

We’d had this novelty bottle opener for over ten years. It had opened thousands and thousands of beers for me. It broke opening my son’s beer. He felt bad about it. I thought it apropos. I took a photo for posterity. Then I tossed it. RIP, Homer Simpson novelty bottle opener.

RIP, so many people and things this year. “And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

For those who have read this far, I hope you have had a Merry Christmas. Here’s a wish for an energized and productive New Year to all of good heart.

       I wish you a hopeful Christmas,
       I wish you a brave New Year,
       All anguish, pain and sadness
       Leave your heart and let your road be clear.

                                                           —Greg Lake
                            “I Believe in Father Christmas”


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My Final White Christmas?

Growing up in the humid jungle of South Carolina (bless my heart), I ached to experience a Christmas like I saw on TV and in the movies, where it always—always—snowed. Well, I’ve done that, three times in Anchorage, and maybe seven times here in Colorado Springs. Looks like I’m doing it again this year, this time with feeling. 

The forecasts for Christmas Week 2015, where I’m living now, and in the Greenville, SC, area where my wife and I are planning to move. Let’s hope this is just a really bad year for the South, as they actually do entertain temperatures approximating winter sometimes. Ideal Christmas weather conditions as I recall them growing up were 40 degrees F and raining. (Images Copyright © 2015 their respective ABC TV affiliate stations.)

As it well may be for the last time ever, I’m delighted to see a prolonged White Christmas this year. However, I’m also looking forward to spending Christmas 2016 (among other days) with my people back east—and most certainly not looking forward to the freeze-and-thaw cycles Colorado will endure until Memorial Day. If, while growing up in South Carolina, you’d told me the day would come that I would leave a gorgeous, magical land of White Christmases and legal marijuana to return to that unhappy place I would have turned my back and walked away, refusing to answer that insult with a proper punch to the face. Oh, the times, they’ve been a-changin’. 

George Clayton Johnson, RIP

You don’t know this guy. But you saw what he did.

UPDATE, 26 DEC 2015: I learned yesterday evening that I was proceeding from one of several erroneous reports of George Clayton Johnson’s death. Johnson’s son announced his father’s passing on Christmas Day. Lesson learned: check the sources. If the death notice isn’t from the family, it’s likely a hoax, or, as I suppose in this case, a matter of writing the obituary and carelessly printing it before the subject in question has passed away. 

Remember that episode of The Twilight Zone in which Jack Klugman played a game of pool with a deadly serious Jonathan Winters? George Clayton Johnson wrote that, and seven other episodes, including that one in which a very young Robert Redford played Death masquerading as a wounded police officer. Johnson is primarily remembered for his Twilight Zone work, but his story about a shape-shifting, last-of-its-kind salt vampire, “The Man Trap,” was the first episode of Star Trek ever televised, which I expect we’ll hear more about as that air date nears its 50th anniversary on 8 September 2016.

As Monsters of the Week go, the Salt Vampire
was pretty goddamned terrifying. Especially if
you’re nine years old and seeing it for the first time.
With respect to Johnson, most of Star Trek’s production people, including actor Leonard Nimoy, were against airing “The Man Trap” first, because they considered it a standard-issue Monster of the Week story. NBC, however, wanted something just like that to draw in viewers. I get the impression Johnson himself wasn’t terribly proud of the script himself, as he never talked about it much. I believe, as Nimoy did (it was in an interview with him in which I learned this story), that Star Trek’s success as a series would have been far more immediate if they had aired the shows by their shooting schedule and presented “The Corbomite Maneuver” first. It would have made for a much more spectacular series premiere.

Trust me, I’ve not quite scratched the surface
of GCJ’s career. Check out the somewhat
breathless, albeit more comprehensive obituary
where this photo comes from
All that said, any writer worth his salt, myself included, wishes he had one-tenth of one percent of George Clayton Johnson’s résumé, which included far more than Star Trek and The Twilight Zone. (The original story—his first sale—that became the basis for the original Rat Pack Ocean’s 11 film, for one. Co-writing the novel that became the movie Logan’s Run, for two. There’s more.) George Clayton Johnson was one of those unsung heroes of TV and film who wrote a bunch of stories you remember seeing, but unless you’re a writer, or into classic 1960s TV fandom, you never caught his name. He lived a full, long life, did lots of neat stuff, and, as of 25 December 2015, he’s gone. As the Great Bukowski asked, not so rhetorically, “Where are the replacements?” I don’t know about you, but this current crop of narrow-minded, “politically correct” pamphleteers posing as writers ain’t doing shit for me.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Meditation: Father Bukowski Speaks of Hells Left Behind

For the longest time, like a good, well-trained citizen of these United States, I used to consider myself a failure for not having a career. In my half-century-plus of existence, I’ve never worked anywhere longer than three years, if that long.

But then I think back on those places where I worked, and it saddens me that people could be so soul-dead as to not mind coming into those same places every day, dealing with those same awful people every day, watching the seasons change through the same plate-glass window year after year. 

Watching each other grow old, talking about days until retirement like you’re all waiting to get out of prison—a prison you campaigned to get into, and worked like a fool draft horse stay in, because you’re no one if you’re not wearing someone’s brand of striped pajamas. If you do not belong—as in, you are not owned by someone who commands your time for 30 or more hours a week, why, that’s just the worst.

All love and respect to those out there making the wheels go round in the cubicle farms and whatnot, but the idea of still working at any one of the places where I used to work back in the day fills this basement-dwelling horror writer with cold, nauseous dread. Father Bukowski wasn’t cut out for that madness, and neither am I.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

All Horror Is Local: Tunnels of Blood

I got this image from the Facebook page of Wonderful World of Horror. One immediately wonders if, a) this is a photo of the actual tunnel described in the caption, and, b) how much traffic passes through it daily.

Of especial interest to my morbid imagination is how it might go for a murderer about to do the deed in such a place already infested with the confused, albeit reflexively vengeful spirits of murdered children. An idea to explore for later...I’m looking forward to branching out with my monsters once I finish writing my SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER

Meanwhile, I note that my city of Colorado Springs has several haunted tunnels up on Gold Camp Road going up into the hills, with curiously similar tales of stopped cars that won’t start again and children’s laughter, etc. Both of my children have spent time there as part of the local teen rite-of-passage. I’m told it’s an eerie, unsettling experience.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Thoughts I Had About Writing While in the Shower and Trying Not to Think Too Hard About My Work in Progress

Elaborating on what Father Bukowski has spoken to us in regards to how this dirty, valiant game is played.

  • If you are going to be a writer—a Real Writer™, not some hapless wannabe thirsting for validation from your loser’s writer’s group— you have to enjoy your own company.
  • Not only must you enjoy your own company, you must trust yourself. You must learn to trust yourself more than you trust other people. This isn’t as obvious or as easy as it sounds. Why else are we so anxious for upvotes and Likes in social media if we don’t trust ourselves to feel good about ourselves?
  • For best results on your work in progress, you must become that asshole so secure in his vision that other people hate you for it—and the fact you won’t even do them the courtesy of returning their hatred (you don’t see them; they are outside your Mission) should make them hate you even more.
  • All that said, never, ever forget the Prime Directive: to provide your reader with a satisfying, and ultimately entertaining experience. If you’re writing to send a Message, hie thee to seminary school. Or thumb out a Tweet. 
  • You should already know narrative structure and how stories work, and you damn sure better know how to tell a joke.
  • Invest yourself. If you don’t care for your characters and their suffering throughout the trials you visit upon them, no one else will, either. Also, as the Dark God responsible for making your protagonist’s life a living hell, you owe it to your creations that their miseries make sense within the terms of the world you’ve created.

Okay, that covers it. All the writing advice anyone could ever use. God knows how the hell people build entire blogs over multiple posts daily for years and years saying the same shit I just said above, over and over again.

If you’ve come this far, here’s a photo of a note I made to myself years ago while I was bashing out the early drafts of Bleeding Kansas. It’s solid advice, even if I did end up settling for a plane crash instead.

Okay, break’s over. Let’s get back to work.

My Twitter Milestone, and Other News

State of the Apocalypse, Mid-December Monday 2015

I finally feel secure in having over 1,000 Twitter followers now that some of the spammy accounts I haven’t followed back have dropped off. I still need to curate my list for accounts that have proven to be stealth-spammers, but this is looking good. The great bulk of them are authors and horror fans and people who simply like to read, and that’s as it should be. I’m a long way from October 2014 when I had all of 36 followers, and decided to get serious with the platform. 

I didn’t pay one red cent for these people. Save for the few spammy ones I’ve missed, these are all real authors, real fans, real people, and I’m damned proud to (sort of) know them.

Twitter has helped keep my blog visits and book sales going years after most people’s books and brand fade. It’s no secret how this works, and I’m not charging you for the advice, so you’ll probably ignore me when I tell you that you must give Twitter love to get Twitter love. Which is fine. It’s not a matter of less competition for me—my preferred mindset is abundance mentality; these people are colleagues, not competitors—it’s that if you’re so damn dense that you cannot comprehend the most fundamental principle of the universe, that What Goes Around Comes Around, we don’t need you on the team. 

This guy.
At this point I need to shout-out to my unwitting mentor, @BleedingCritic of Bleeding Critic was there at the beginning when I elected to quit goofing around and get invested. It’s been inspirational watching the man behind the mask build his site with thoughtful, comprehensive reviews of horror films, along with original spoken-word content, and Skyped-in testimonials of favorite moments in horror films from fans. Me, I’ll be happy to finish writing this next book. This guy, he could make himself famous with his mad Photoshop skills alone. Yet he does so much more, and all for straight-up love of horror cinema, from the soundtracks to the cinematography to the part that made you hide your face in the throw pillow. You can’t fake that. If you’re a fan of horror cinema, you owe yourself a look at Bleeding Critic’s site.
I need to do another Skype review just for this. He’s got another version of this image with the clown  mask on the boy’s head second-from-right. Bleeding Critic’s Photoshop-fu is unbeatable.

In other news, I did manage to write a full page beyond what happened to that unfortunate soldier at the cold dead hands of Abby Cadaver yesterday, and I’m within striking distance of finishing that chapter. I’ve got so much further to go, but for the first time in maybe six months, I don’t feel like I’m spinning my wheels. (Fun fact: I don’t get writer’s block. I get goddamn son-of-a-whoring pissshit stuck. It’s not a metaphorical wall I can’t get around; it’s virtual mud I can’t get traction in.)

My partner in pixelated fiction, James Robert Smith, finally finished his COALITION trilogy and is working on exciting new stuff. And I’m finally over 1,000 Twitter followers. It’s a good life if you don’t weaken.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Horror Writer Looks at Christmas and Finds...Horror

I like my Christmas nice and Christmassy, so I’m not into the Krampus krap that seems to be all the rage among the horror community this time of year. By that same principle, I’d rather not mix Christmas with horror at all. Nothing personal, it’s just me. I simply prefer at least six weeks out of the year when peace on Earth and good will towards Men still mean something.

I only mention this to provide context for the magnitude of my consternation, as I’ve once again suffered an example of how being an author who writes about reanimated corpses that eat people can mess you up regardless. For instance, I saw this on my Twitter feed tonight...

Yeah, given the sick narrative I’ve been laying down recently, I can’t say I’m surprised. I should probably take a break for the holidays. But when you’re finally rolling after a long hard slog of sluggish seasons, you don’t want to stop. Besides, I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. It’s time to wrap this thing up, and put a sweet bow on it while I’m at it.

State of the Apocalypse: A Lunch Date with Abby Cadaver

This is exactly where I am with The Wrong Kind of Dead as of 3:39 p.m., GMT -7, on 13 December 2015. What follows from pp. 217-218 of my work-in-progress is NSFW, NSFL, not safe for anything. If you puke, don’t say I didn’t warn you. This is flat nasty:

The camera follows Abby as she jerks and pulls the big man alongside of her. Once she gets to a spot near the bridge over the creek, with the trees in the background, she halts, and slaps the man hard across his face. He stops his whimpering long enough for Abby to grasp his naked buttocks and pull him to her. She silences whatever else might follow with her lips on his.
Judging by his build, this soldier invested many hours in the weights room. All that strength and power he worked so hard for proves useless against the monster animating the firm, feminine form of whoever’s child this used to be. By the bulging of his eyes and cheeks, she’s working her cold white tongue inside his mouth. He squirms helplessly as one hand grips his gluteals, the other claws around the back of his head.
Abby pulls back, her face alight as if she just found love, before burying her face into the pectoralis major above his left nipple. The naked man screams as Abby gnaws and pulls a chunk of muscle-meat with her teeth, throwing her head back to gulp at the blood while masticating the tissue. The hot red blood stands out starkly against her cold ivory flesh. Her legs wrap around one of his and her hips grind and pump as she plunges her face into the soldier’s chest for a second helping.
“Can you just tell me the takeaway here?” I say. “Other than there are some dead skanks out there who get sexually aroused eating hunky boys?”

I’ve got to shovel the snow from the driveway while thinking of Dr. Hearn’s reply to Derek Grace. The living dead have evolved throughout the SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER but there’s nothing magical to them. They don’t use telepathy; they don’t sprint. They have developed hierarchy, however. The elite practice discipline to improve themselves while their lieutenants enforce unit cohesion among the rank and file. They communicate via body language and chemical signals, like ants. 

Although they don’t talk, the upper caste dead have distinct personalities. If you think Abby Cadaver here is a pip, wait until you meet the Emperor of Ice Cream.  

As the living dead’s preferred food source has managed to make itself scarce in every sense of the word, they have determined an ecologically lethal way to flush it out. The Emperor’s plan is so brilliant Derek Grace and the best minds among the surviving humans might not be able to stop his millions-strong hordes of flesh-eating corpses. The numbers are against them as it is.

To quote Tommy Lee Jones’ character in No Country for Old Men, if this ain’t a mess, it’ll do ‘til the mess gets here. I’ve got a lot to sort out. Good thing I have a driveway full of wet, heavy snow. It’ll be good to get this head full of monsters out into the sunshine for a change. Too much time in the basement makes me strange.

Meanwhile, here are the first two books building to this final flesh orgy of macabre apocalyptic mayhem. My saga starts off very basic, then gets subtly weirder as it goes along. These books are 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.

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.

Sunday Sermonette: “What is terrible is not death”

PROFANITY WARNING if such things bother you, and that’s okay. Father Bukowski was a salty dog. And as we read in the Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 9, verse 50: “Salt is good: but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.”

The Truth here is worth pondering. However, as you nod your head, thinking, Hey, I know people like that, take a step back. Take a breath, and ask yourself: Am I maybe one of these people myself? We’re not always as cool as we like to think we are.

And now the lesson is yours.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

State of the Apocalypse: In the Pale December Light

There’s an undercurrent of melancholy to this season for us. This may well be our last Christmas with the four of us together as a family—at least until such time as we can afford to fly them home for the holidays. Let’s hope this last zombie book I’m working on puts me over the top.

Yes, my last zombie book, The Wrong Kind of Dead, Book 3 and the all-stops-pulled finale to the SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER. I’ve had to ask myself if the reason I seem to be dragging on it is I because I’ll miss writing this thing that’s been a part of my life for four years already. I expect that’s one reason. 

All things must pass, as the dead man sang. Our children are grown, and it’s right and proper that they want to do their own thing in the state they did the great remainder of their growing up in. People with much more money than me wish they had my problems with my children. 

Just as people wish they had a third book they were finishing, I suppose. I shouldn’t be such a mope, but I am. Maybe it’s the failing winter light that’s getting to me. That, and all these things I’ll miss seeing as I walk through my neighborhood greenbelt and along the wide sidewalks.

As noted in a previous post, which featured a photo of those same trees in their autumnal glory, I won’t be here to see them bud again. Not if all goes according to plan. Which it has to. When we moved to this north Colorado Springs neighborhood in 2007, there were two rental houses on our street. Now every other house is a rental. The nice young couples with children have moved to better kept neighborhoods. The families we’re seeing now...the best thing I can say is I’ve seen worse. 

We’re not worried about selling our house, as houses on our side of town are being snapped up by people who work in Denver, but can’t afford to live there. Property values are going up even as the roads and sidewalks—untouched by city repair crews in the nearly nine years we’ve lived here—crumble. For our part, aside from being in the proximity of extended friends and family, the cost of living is far less in South Carolina. It makes no sense for us to stick around and watch the place go even further into rental drama hell.

So I’ve got to resist my aversion to uprooting myself and moving it all 1,750 miles east. Not only are the times a-changin’, most of them have long changed already. If I find it so hard to leave because, “But this is where I raised my children!”—again, those children are grown and gone. And the neighborhood doesn’t look the same, anyway. Coming to visit would only bring them down after a while.

I might as well be clinging to air here. They’re only memories. Memories are portable.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end,” as another song goes. I should look forward to starting a new book, a new story, somewhere else. It will be so good to spend Christmas among friends and family. No more desert island Christmases. This change must happen.

Still, it’s so hard to leave sights like these behind. It’s a bittersweet season this year.

Our tree in the living room window.

What the tree sees. Note the Christmas tree in the neighbor’s window at lower right.