Monday, May 30, 2016

“True, I could do without all these funeral home rejects stumbling around looking to bite my ass off.”

I always chuckle at the heroes in other writers’ zombie apocalypses when they have their, “We will take it back” moment. It’s even more ridiculous than the boilerplate “We will rebuild” line you get at the end of most disaster porn stories, because...well, let Mr. Derek Grace, the Dead Silencer himself, explain this through first-person narration:

“You’re not much of a people person, are you?”
I laugh. “The only real ‘people persons’ left are the dead. They sure like people, don’t they? Mmm-mm. Yum-yum, eat ‘em up.”
“That’s just mean.”
“We brought it on ourselves, Kim. Finally, the human race is the next best thing to extinct and I can’t say I mind it.”
“You know you don’t mean that. If people come together, they could take it all back.”
“You’d think so. We could hunt the smelly yellow and green people-eaters to extinction, like we’ve done so much else. People need motivation, though. The woolly mammoth, sabre-tooth tiger, all those had value as either food or skins. All you get from killing walkers is a toxic pile of rot. People would rather scurry around like rodents from trash pile to trash pile than to….”
I shake my head clear of the “profundity” of these drunk-stoned thoughts. I might as well be speaking in tongues. I top off my glass, hoping the alcohol will dull my buzzing, stinging nerves.
“You’re really angry, aren’t you?”
“True, I could do without all these funeral home rejects stumbling around looking to bite my ass off.” I look at the woman across the table from me, and I’m almost startled sober by the realization. “You’re the first survivor I’ve seen since I got back to Colorado. My God, I suppose they’re all gone….”

There’s good news and bad news on that score. The bad news is they’re not all gone. The good news is...they’re not all gone. Grace Among the Dead is a story of Love, Redemption, and a Monster Truck. We meet some bad guys right out the gate. But we also meet some good people worth saving. (I know some of you bitched about that in regards to the denizens of Bleeding Kansas. Hey, what can I tell ya? I’m not exactly a people person, either. Most of us aren’t, which is why we apocalypse in the first place.)

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


















They’re also available in Canada and the UK.

Yet Another Self-Absorbed Twit of a Writer Ruminates on Suicide and What It Means to Him

First installment. I expect there will be others.


You no longer see it as death
so much as the end of worry
the finale of fatigue,
the null of aches, chills & coughs

and glorious emancipation
from that most hateful tyranny 
of other people’s schedules

“It’s just so selfish!”
screeched my ex-
girlfriend when I mentioned
having these thoughts. “You
don’t even think about
how this will affect 
everyone else
around you!”

“Maybe I’m just
tired of worrying about 
everyone else around me,” 
I shouted back.
“Maybe I’d like to
do something for myself
for a change.”

Really, all I wanted to do
then was sleep. I’d been up
nights and nights and nights
and the days were getting more
and more awkward 
as if the very sunlight 
was disgusted with my
presence.

“You’re still here?” Mister Sun
seemed to say

“Get off my ass” I’d snap back.



from Nymphomagic Electroshock &
Other Middle-Aged Complaints
 (2016)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

It’s One Goodbye After Another in the Post-Apocalypse

This scene from Chapter 2 of Grace Among the Dead is all the more poignant for me at this point in A.D. 2016, as I also find myself saying goodbye to a house of long years, and the memories of better times:
It was Sunday afternoon when I pulled up at my house on the north side of Colorado Springs. The streets were clear, but it was as hot as it was bright, which meant the dead haunted the doorways, or wherever they could find shade. I saw one getting to her feet from behind a hedge as I passed, another staggering out from behind a tree. I might as well have been the ice cream truck playing a merry tune, bringing all the half-rotted kiddies from their yards.
I parked in the driveway outside of the garage. I killed the engine and pulled out my house keys. “It’s me,” I said, as loudly as I dared as I opened the front door.
I pulled the screen door shut behind me and locked it before closing the front door. “It’s me,” I said again. I could feel the emptiness of the house. Not even a cat. I went into the kitchen. 
There was an odor coming from the door leading into the garage. I drew a deep breath and held it before throwing open the door. I should have known; this was the only place they could take the trash out. A good thing they weren’t here too long. 
The pantry stood empty. Even the plastic trash bags were gone. On the stove was a thin, battered, red spiral notebook with “DAD” written in bold Sharpie marker across the front. The pages in front were torn out so that only Sybil’s three-page note and some blank paper in back were left.
The date at the top of the first page was Thursday, May 15. That was my second day of more-or-less consciousness in Natalia, Kansas, still shaking off the painkillers given me after my plane crash the previous Saturday. While I was getting myself together, it was already too late for Sybil and Jack.
I left the kitchen to make my last tour through the rooms where we’d spent the last seven years of our lives. The last…it was all I could do to keep from being overcome by the very sound of this word in my head. 
I took a book from my son’s room (he had a good picture book on firearms we’d given him for Christmas), then some other books from my downstairs office. I found one of our overnight bags on the floor in the hall, as if someone had dropped it in their haste to get out. I put the books inside, along with some clothes from my bedroom. I spared a moment to look at the unmade bed, and the yellowy outline a heavily sweating body left on the fitted sheet. 
Standing in the light of the picture window looking over the backyard, I read as much as I could of Sybil’s note. Later, I would have it all but memorized.

The note goes on to detail Sybil and Jack’s ordeal holding down the house before they took the opportunity to leave their undead-infested neighborhood for rural Pueblo County. In reviewing this chapter for rewriting/remastering for the eventual omnibus edition of my series, I was struck by how heartbreakingly dark the story got, especially in regards to what happened with Claire Grace, and what the children were forced to do with their pets.

For all the choppy-chop, shoot-’em-up hijinks, the zombie apocalypse is a dark and sad place. Ultimately, THE SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER is about redemption through action. But there must be loss. So much loss.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Why Thomas Wolfe and I Are Getting the Hell Out of Dodge

I wrote this shortly after a road trip I took to the Baltimore/ Washington DC area in 1987. It’s strange how the American Deep South creates some of the best artists and art, yet so many of us have to put it in the rear view mirror to make that art happen.


The scrub oaks on the rolling sand hills,
the pines greening the ancient sand dunes

fade into the bare white skeletons of 
trees I recognize as 
alien. The familiar flattens 

into the coastal plain of 
Northern states and those 
Northern states of mind 
where restless Southern boys,
aloof in strangeness, might

furiously reproduce 
the diseases of their souls
in the laboratory
of another world far more friendly
than where those viruses incubated.

a common ground to be
as uncommon as I like
as the aches I’ve 
carried with me become
the only familiarity
which threatens but soon 

will flounder and drown
in a depth of distance
my car easily conquers.



from Nymphomagic Electroshock &
Other Middle-Aged Complaints
 (2016)


Friday, May 20, 2016

“To prepare a face to meet the faces”

There will be time, there will be time 
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; 
There will be time to murder and create 

T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”



Here, our intrepid, soon-to-be-legendary zombie fighter realizes he’s not fighting people. These reanimated dead are human only in general appearance:
There’s no way Angie could have made a face like that when she was alive. Not on tequila, not on angel dust, not on a dare. Her teeth are dry like her eyes; they don’t glisten so much as glow with menace. This is a monster’s face. I realize now the worst wasn’t leaving her on the floor like a pair of dirty socks. It was letting this dutiful, sweet daughter of the paved-over prairies turn into this.
There will be a lot of dead-for-good bodies lying around like piles of dirty socks by the time this is all over. Read the full chapter with this passage here, or go ahead and get your copy of Bleeding Kansas in Kindle or paperback, and get your apocalypse on already.

“Like regular TV programming, this is all going away”

In which we find our hero cooking breakfast in a luxury hotel kitchen the morning after the first night of the living dead, awaiting the inevitable.


The timer beeps over the fry vat. I pull up the basket, bang it to the side to knock the oil off, and hook it to drain. The snap-clicks as I shut off the fryer and the grill—I wish I had something less trite than “sounds like the slamming of coffin lids,” but it’s all I got.
I hear the TV outside in the bar. I look around the kitchen. The bright overhead lights. The fry vats and electric grills. Humming. Buzzing. Functioning.
Like regular TV programming, this is all going away. 
I doubt there was even an evening shift to relieve at the power plants this a.m. How about the water and sewage treatment plants? How many of those workers were straining against the yellow tape when the dead kicked out of their winding sheets and clambered out of the trenches on each other’s backs?
 I pull up a stool. I could sit outside at the bar but I need to take all this in without the distractions of Tanner, the TV, and whatever might be pawing at the front plate glass in the lobby.

I’ve got the full chapter in serial form here. There’s so much going on in Bleeding Kansas and its sequel, Grace Among the Dead, I can afford to print up entire chapters. As it is, the Kindle editions cost less than a happy hour beer, yet deliver hours of deliriously crunk entertainment.

We commence the collapse 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 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, May 16, 2016

#MondaysCats Jack and Puff on Watch at the Basement Window Well

It’s a fine Colorado spring morning, and when it’s warm enough, I open the window of my office. The Call Smell of the Wild comes through, attracting our two youngest household feline units, Puff and Halloween Jack.
What's that?

What?

That. Over there.

Whoa, hey, what?

Now what were we looking at over here?

Never mind.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

To Bukowski, About His Women

WARNING: A nasty poem about nasty people (except for Buk’s last wife, who suffered much and was great for Buk, just not my type). Filters off. So much edge, the very air lacerates.


More forgiving than Christ
is what I think when I read about
the crazies you shacked up with.

The Great Love of Your Life
was a fat sodden slut, a shrill waste
of skin and I wondered if you’d lost
your mind when you’d wondered
(with an indignation I first took for a joke)
why the children she’d abandoned
for her life of chronic black hole pathology
hadn’t bothered showing for her final  days
or even her funeral.

And yet the Critics damn you for a
misogynist! Christ, I could have barely
stood the New Agey Meher Baba devotee
turned Buddhist you ended up marrying, the one who
rubbed smelly useless oils into your tired flesh and
built furniture for you.

Granted, Bukowski was no walk on the beach himself,
but a misogynist? No, just a sometimes mean drunk.
Which is enough, but he’s still a better writer than you’ll
never be, which, let's face it, is why you’re really mad.
She at least took care of her investment, though, and now reaps its rewards while the critics fall back on the old lie that if people buy and read and like your work you can’t possibly have anything to say worth pondering.

And then there was the pretentious old hippie who bore your child
and then went away so she could
collect your support checks without giving you the love she claimed the rest of the world was due through her hideous “art” and damnable cliques of lazy, untalented nothings, barely fit for medical experiments.

You forgave her out loud in a poem she
never earned, though she (no doubt) still curses you for never really understanding, 
which really means not sending
what she felt was her due, that is,
every dime you ever made.

As for the silly sculptress who broke into your
house to break your typewriter, all because you
told her of your women after she’d cried to you
about how she didn’t know whose baby it was
after fucking innumerable guys—Jesus! 

She now regales interviewers with tales of Her Great
Love Affair (sleeping with you is all she was ever
good for in a too-long life) though she should
count herself grateful it wasn’t me, because I’d
have caught her, wrapped her skanky carcass
in duct tape, and crushed every last cell of her body 
with a hammer from the toes on up for violating 
my space, let alone wrecking the tools of my trade 
and stealing the sweat of my soul.

And then there was the stripper. And the pill
freak, who burst in to raid your refrigerator
before demanding money and leaving to do
God knows what, just not with you. And all the
others who stole your poems, your paintings,
your money: to call them whores is an insult
to honest businesswomen.

Four years without a female touch (as you
stated at the beginning of Women) made
you all too tolerant of users and abusers and
other malfunctioning life-support systems for
vaginas, and they dismiss you for a womanizer?

I swear I wonder if
these assholes and I are even reading
the same books.

Sordid Tales of My Sort-Of Career: “A Writer Is Always Writing”

...or. as Ionesco put it, thinking about writing. And then writing. Never forget that last part.

For most of my life I’ve doubted I could ever truly consider myself a writer. Writers write books, and for decades I’d yet to assemble so much as a collection of short stories. I’d tried, sure, but despite the size of the box pictured below, it would be far too slender a volume to be considered a proper book. You really need to be a story-a-day kind of person like Ray Bradbury to succeed at this. I simply didn’t write enough. Just enough to fill a file box with the multiple tweaked editions of those stories and the rejection letters they brought home.

These are multiple copies of stories kept along with their rejection letters. They vary wildly in tone and theme and genre. And, frankly, they’re not that good.

I can put forth a case that the short story market was already over in 1992 and 1993 when I was sending out something every week. Because it was. I was wasting postage and time for that alone. But, looking back, I see the usual crude morality tales written by a starry-eyed fuckwit who thinks he’s going to save the world with his cleverly (to his mind) arranged words.

While perhaps not as turgid and talky as most creatures of writing programs—oh, who am I kidding? My stuff wasn’t that good. “Better than most” doesn’t cut it, even it is true, and that’s up for debate.

For the longest time, my sole publishing credit was a 1990 appearance in a horror comic anthology Taboo #4. I shared the table of contents with the likes of Alan Moore and Moebius...but it was only because the book’s editor liked the artist who illustrated my script, the artist had something to prove, namely that he could get himself published with even one of my stories...and I’m not beaming with pride about that thing, either. I got paid, though. It was the one and only time I’d get paid for writing fiction until 2013, when my novel Bleeding Kansas got picked up by Severed Press.

“So far away and so long ago
But a dream goes on forever.”
Or, in my case, 23 years.
In 1994 I wrote articles for $25 a pop on city council meetings and surf contests for the Imperial Beach (CA) Times in 1994. It was nothing to get excited about, and once I left for Japan later that year, I was done getting paid for writing in the 20th century, and the first decade of the 21st after that.

I had bylines in a sporadically produced lefty giveaway paper based in South Carolina called Point. It felt good getting published over the Internet all the way from where I was living in Japan—it was heady stuff for 1997—but that lasted only as long as the magazine did, and Point folded in 2000.


I’d post links to the pages, but, frankly, I’m embarrassed. The columns aren’t that good, and, besides, I don’t do politics anymore. At all. From any side. Leave me out of it.

My safe space, February 2014. It’s a lot more stripped down now, but that’s another story.



So much for me being a writer. I was just another guy who had been published in some out-of-the-way places. Big deal. For years I felt a half-step removed from the plain-faced girl who gets a poem published in a church newsletter and won’t shut up about it, because it’s all she’ll ever do with her sad, empty life.

I wasn’t a writer. Still, I kept writing. I’ve got a big, formless blob of an unfinished novel that I slaved over for nine years before James Robert Smith pulled me away to collaborate on a zombie novel, and thank God for that. 

My inability to keep a deadline got me fired from the project. Which I took more or less in stride, because, after all, Bob’s the writer. He’s got one novel optioned for film, and a book of short stories so damn big it’s partitioned into sections for themes. Me, well, it’s obvious I just dabble. Look at my credits. What credits? Exactly.

This isn’t even all of my big, formless blob. I didn’t bother printing the last 500 or so pages of front-back galleys I’d written before shelving Cringe City.


I laughed to see I’d actually written something with this title. It’s actually a poignant story that will make a fine novella should I decide to come back to it. It wasn’t a complete waste of nine years.




I abandoned my nebulous mess of a novel for the Wonder Boys foolishness it was. Still, I was writing. Every now and then I have to do one of these major shred-and-purge jobs on the printed drafts piling up my closet, and I come across weird crap I forgot writing. Terrible stuff, most of it.

How I finally became a novelist in my 50s is a multi-post story and podcast all to itself. Suffice it to say I started getting serious writing the novel that would become Bleeding Kansas, and began releasing it in installments on this blog, like I’m doing now with The Wrong Kind of Dead. James Robert Smith dropped a dime on me to an editor at Severed Press, and I was off to the races. The next thing I know, those morbid imaginings I thrashed out in a sunless corner of my small basement room are being translated into German.  

So if you take one thing away from all of this, it’s simply keep going. You are what you do. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Be realistic about your skills and abilities and what you’ve actually done so far—honestly, that’s what I was doing above. Never confuse a realistic assessment with “negativity.” If you’re throwing a pity-party, though, I’m calling the cops.

You’re a writer. Yippi-yi-ki-yay. Try not to make a big deal out of it, because it isn’t. It’s just something you do.



Here’s a twist—Write Hard, LIVE Free. Just a thought.



Sunday, May 08, 2016

Elegy for a Century Barely Begun

What I miss most
is the sense
of something
Better
“These things are gone forever
Over a long time ago
Oh yeah.”
coming

a new song
a new dance 

a whole national
mood 
to love
or fashionably
Scorn

Lord pity these children
who look forward 
to nothing
but the next
Summer Christmas
Blockbuster Event

of stale
fart jokes
& obscure culture 
references
to make 
mom & dad
feel clever 

& remind 
the rest of us
there’s nothing new
but the remake
of

the toys in the
Happy Meal™
the joyless
Sex the
senseless Toil 

only
a few more
Shopping seasons
Left
until

Saturday, May 07, 2016

People-Watching in the Post-Apocalypse

From the sticky red pages of BLEEDING KANSAS:


I rather like this passage from Chapter 16. A quiet little think piece, with zombies, as you’ll see only in this genre. Seriously, can you see this happening with vampires or werewolves or ghosts? Bigfoot? Kaiju?

I see them as they pass the privacy hedge between me and the house next door. The sun fails behind them, as if their passing drains the very light from the world. Men in suits, men in denim and wife-beaters. Children in pajamas, mothers in their gowns. 
And then there are the ones who didn’t obviously die of the Flu first…I’d never thought about what Tanner meant by that, what had him so shaken up as we leveled off in the plane. Now I know. I cannot unsee them. The ones whose heads hang to one side because the meat around the collarbone is so damned convenient. The defensive wounds on the arms. Where huge chunks of flesh were torn right through their clothing, fabric embedded about the edges of their wounds, by jaws driven with the force of senseless rigor mortis and rage-purposed hunger. Those children in their pajamas…blood-black-stiff pajamas…shit….
The first rows sport glistening new blood-bibs, the chin-to-crotch remains of Natalia’s high-end slacker community. In Emory Kerch’s Hard Workin’ New World, the party really is over. It’s dripping down the front of a homeschooling mom in her shift, staining the power tie of that sales rep. 
That same tie is crimped from where someone had grabbed it in an attempt to steer those hungry, meat-clotted teeth away from her own face. Or his face. You can guess who those are stumbling up a couple of rows behind. They’re damned hard to look at, with the skin pulled away, the muscle exposed beneath their eyes, around their mouths. I wonder if they died right away from the shock or they had to bleed out first. 
Their collective moaning forms a low hum, like an epic cloud of flesh-eating flies. They reach the rear of the Cadillac, close enough to touch. The arms of the ones in front go up, they pick up speed. And just as they’re about to touch, the kid lets his foot off the brake. The horde lets loose a collective groan in frustration. The kid releases a thoom! in response.
I get up to go to the window on the other side of the room. The driver stops before each house. Kerch is letting us know he’s not making exceptions for anyone. 
Well, good for him, I think, taking another gulp from the growler bottle. All governments rule by terror. Kerch’s terror just happens to be more terrifying than most.
Gore porn among the living dead, and a thought on social control. All within 500 words. Later on, there will be sex, before we come to murder with our coffee and fresh laundry in the morning.

I love how I went over the top with this book, like describing one of those dark-as-fuck 1970s movies as it ran frame by frame in my head. It's a feeling I'm striving to get back into as I finish writing The Wrong Kind of Dead. Stay turned, uh, tuned. Read my other stuff while you wait.
They're coming to get you, Barbara. They're coming for all of us.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Chapter 18.2 of The WRONG KIND of DEAD: “Fear the Reapers” Part 2

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

Multiple streaks of white race into the tall ridges over the town where the residents once lived. As the flames from gas mains and the thermite bombs bloom and burst, more rocks comes tumbling down to smother them. Fire still manages to erupt from the rubble, one yellow-orange finger at a time.

“We had teams competing here,” says Col. Grinnell. “One to set the fires, the others to try and put them out. In the end, we buried 30,000 rotters and blocked the road up to Pikes Peak. The most delicious irony of all is that this will be all-natural, gluten-free land in a decade or two. You’ll never know there was a town here. Oh, you better believe I’m proud to have headed this project.”

“What would your wife think?” says Agnes.

“I’d wondered why you were so quiet. You didn’t strike me as the traditional type who lets her husband do all the talking.”
“I’m not. I just really hate talking to you people.”

Col. Grinnell laughs. “I can’t say I blame you, Mrs. Grace. As it is, my lovely wife, Dot, will never know what happened here. Like your current husband, I, too, have lost my wife to the Final Flu.”

“I’m sorry to hear that—right?”

“Dot’s abhorrent taste in weekend shopping destinations aside, she was the mother of my children, the keeper of hearth and home while I skipped about the planet incinerating people for fun and profit. In 34 years of marriage, all she ever asked of me when I was stateside was to work the outdoor grill and take out the trash.” The colonel’s smile is tight, joyless. “Damn near every man I’ve met in the service, commissioned and otherwise, had some kind of gold-digging, cheating-whore drama going on with their women. Dot was the real deal. One in a million.”

“I take it you were deployed when she passed,” I say.

“It was just a cold, right? Some crud going around. Everyone else had it, how bad could it be? The next thing I know, I’ve got an unscheduled top priority landing. The people in my unit who were sick were gathered up and shipped out quick in one flight. The rest of us got thoroughly checked out by a crew in hazmat suits before they disappeared into the night. Mr. Grace, I’m commander of one of the more elite intelligence support units and I don’t know what the howling fuck is going on. That’s one big mushroom cloud of a red flag, you think?”

“How many days was it between the onset of the Flu and when your people were airlifted out?”

“Let’s cut right to it. The powers that be knew what was up with this so-called Mayday Malaise. My people weren’t sick two days before they cleared them out. It was earlier in some places, later in others. One universal across all the services was that the sick were collected and taken away.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know. They were never seen again.”

“Shit.”

“No sooner do their wheels leave the ground, when we get orders. By ‘we,’ I mean us fortunate few. We would report to flights going to destinations listed only as ‘classified.’”

“What happened to the others?”

“Left behind to fight or fall when the mobs of eaters went on the move. The ones who survived that first weekend got the privilege of doing some more surviving in an outpost somewhere else. A lot more made it than I thought would.”

“Shit.”

“I realize now I had as much freedom as they did. Anyway, it’s a tale as old as humanity, isn’t it? The story of the man caught miles behind enemy lines when the shit hits the fan, who battles all manner of bad craziness only to find his family gone. Or worse.”

“You say not everyone got the orders. Didn’t you lose a third of your people, along with the rest of the population? It seems to me the people in charge need all the manpower they could get.”

“They didn’t need everyone, Mr. Grace. Just people of a certain...pedigree.” Col. Grinnell lifts an eyebrow. “Thank you, by the way, for showing such focus of inquiry in the face of me telling you how my wife died while I was far away and couldn’t help her. I reach out to you with that, and you’re not having it.”

“Colonel, I mean no disrespect—”

“I know you don’t,” he says. “Hell, I admire your focus. Still, they know you love your family as much as mine, and you have a lot more of them to lose than I do. They’ve only got the one with me. My daughter ran out of the house when she came upon her mother eating her grown brother on the floor of the kitchen. I almost lost her, too, but they very sensibly found her and picked her up. Good for them.”

“Jesus!”

“Oh, let’s not bring Him into it. Besides, we’re coming upon the whole point of you two being up here. You need to understand the impact of the decision you made to come with us. By the way, do you see Woodland Park over there?”

I push myself up from the deck to stand and look out the portside windows. Another mass of flame writhes and pulses in perfect color coordination with the sun behind the Front Range. “I guess the scavengers in this area are just going to have to do without for the next 100 miles or so.”

“More than that,” says Col. Grinnell. “If there’s so much as a 7-Eleven by the side of the road, we’re taking it out. All the way to Cripple Creek, as far as this operation goes.”

“Why so hard on the scavengers? Even we weren’t quite at the point where we were making our own toilet paper.”

“The official answer is, ‘We do not leave bait for a food source that the dead will be attracted to.’” Grinnell clicks a button. “Mr. and Mrs. Grace, I now bring you the Main Event. Let there be no question regarding the nature of whom you’re dealing with here.”

It’s a night-vision view of a camp with a large bonfire in the middle. Motorcycles are parked in a radiant about the fire, along with a few trucks.

“Scuzz?” I say. 

“Oh, no,” says Agnes. “For God’s sake, you’re not—”

The missile flies right into the heart of the bonfire and detonates in a bright creamed spinach-colored blaze. As the camera lens recovers from the flash, only dark spots among other flaming dark spots remain in view.

“While I get to do whatever I want regarding the obliteration of infrastructure targets, there’s a separate group concerned only with anti-personnel. These drone operators have people standing over them enforcing one general order—if they’re not one of us, they’re a target. No one living or dead walks away from this. Now, Mr. Grace, imagine you sitting up here by yourself watching your family, your whole camp getting blown up.”

“But why?” I say. “How are free-range humans interfering with anything the Redoubt is doing?”

“Mr. Grace, the meetings where these things are decided are above my pay grade. Suffice it to say the powers that be don’t like anyone on the outside that they don’t control.” A beeping comes from his laptop. “Oh, one more thing,” the colonel says. “Look at this. You know what that is, right?”

It’s the Summit House on top of Pikes Peak. Claire and I used to stand on our back patio and watch the fireworks show they did every New Year’s Eve. We’d talked about riding the cog rail train up and renewing our vows there on our next milestone anniversary.

Three missiles slam into the building, with a bunker-buster shot just under the rim of the summit to make the whole mess jump into the air. You’d think Pikes Peak was a volcano, and it erupted.

“I like to imagine some dumbass climbing all the way up the Barr Trail, or following the cog railway or whatever, thinking he’s going to find a roof to put over his head and maybe an old bag of potato chips at 14,000 feet.” Col. Grinnell chuckles. “You know at least one starving, desperate fool is going to get this surprise.”

“Hooray for the Air Force,” says Agnes. “To think you sick fucks have the nerve to call me ‘dark.’”

“Don’t pin this one on the Air Force,” says Col. Grinnell, sharply. “As of Bad Friday, the Fall, whatever the hell they’re calling it, there was no more Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard. Just another bunch of survivors. The difference is these poor fools are still hanging onto uniforms and command structure under a civilian leadership that doesn’t even remotely resemble our old more-or-less constitutional government.”

Col. Grinnell extends his hand. “This is where I send you back to your seats. I won’t see you after this. I’ve got briefings, debriefings, and all sorts of happy horseshit, just like my old job.”

“Thanks for everything,” I say, shaking the colonel’s hand. “I mean it.”

The colonel smiles. “I know we understand one another.” He glances over at Agnes. “Mrs. Grace does, too, which is precisely why she’s fit to paint the instrument panels in my blood. 

“Which reminds me—I didn’t allow any of those media shits on board, but they’re going to want their pound of flesh when we land. Try to make a good, regal entrance on the way down the ramp. Give them one minute and no more, because you’re going to want to get to your hotel, wash up, and get to sleep. You’ve got orientation and processing and God knows what else tomorrow.”

Grinnell nods to the sergeant standing inside the hatch. “Wait,” I say. “Will Sybil and Jack be there when we land?”

“Do they know you’re coming?”

“Well, yes. I don’t think they know what time we’re flying in, though.”

“I can’t help you with that. You’ll have to talk to Dr. Hearn when you see him.”

“All right, then. Thanks.” The sergeant leads us out. 

We thread our way through the maze of compartments until we come by the personnel area. I stop us outside the hatch. “Mrs. Grace and I need a moment before going back to our people.”

“Understood, sir,” says the sergeant. “I was wondering if you could pass something on to Brother Christopher for me.”

“I was wondering when I’d meet his fans. So what is it?”

“That Sgt. Morris and his wife Christa think he should be in charge of your group.”

“He is in charge, Sergeant,” I say. “I just make faces for the camera. I’ll pass it on, though.”

“Thank you, sir.” He turns and disappears through the opposite hatch.

Agnes looks very small with her back to the bulkhead. “Good Lord, Derek, what have we gotten ourselves into?”

I take her into my arms. “Well, just remember, I tried to keep you out of it. Sweet how that worked out, huh?”

“That’s not the least bit funny, asshole.”

I squeeze Agnes to me, kiss the top of her head. “I told you I was lucky in Kansas. We got lucky here. We’re not piles of ash or gnawed-over bones. We’re all right.”

“But what—?”

“All we have to do is meet our luck halfway. Like we’ve always done. Nothing complicated.” I look up to the overhead bulkhead for a camera. I think we’re all right, but you never know. “Except for that goddamned poker face thing.”

Agnes snorts into my shirt. I can’t tell if she’s laughing or sobbing when she says, “You and I are so dead.”

“Like hell we are. Not by a long shot.”

Agnes wipes at her eyes. “Okay, then. So what do we tell everybody out there?”

“That we witnessed the sterilization of the Pikes Peak region. We’ve completed a 360-degree tour of the area and are headed to Wyoming. We’ll land anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, depending on exactly where we’re going. Media will be waiting. We need to get straight to the hotel, though, because we have a busy day tomorrow.”

“Good God,” says Agnes. “I have to repeat the question, don’t I? What have we gotten ourselves into?”

“Let’s go sit down. You want me to tell everybody, or can you handle this?”

Agnes straightens. “I’ve got this. You stand there and look handsome and resolute.”

“Poker face and all.”

“Yes. Poker face.”

We duck through the hatch. Elyssa, Brother Christopher, Ethan—everyone looks up at us expectantly. Even the babies, severely distressed by Lt. Hansen’s rib-crushing turn, go quiet as we enter the compartment.

Agnes releases my arm to take Damon from Elyssa. Standing close beside me, our son fidgeting into her shoulder, she briefs our family. Brother Christopher and Ethan bow their heads as Agnes describes the fiery obliteration of the place where they all grew up and went to school.

Then she tells them what to expect when we land, and in what order we should step down the ramp for maximum effect for the cameras. She explains how we will decline questions, and proceed immediately to the hotel. We’ll wash up, go to bed, and rest up for whatever’s next.

Everybody perks up at the idea of washing up and sleeping at a hotel. Hell, me, too. After a day like today, losing our homes and damn near losing our lives, a long, hot shower would be a dream come true.


AND THAT’S IT until I finish what’s left of the book. Enter the word “zombies” in the search engine block in the upper left hand part of the blog page for more lurid mayhem among the living dead.


For the price of a happy hour drink you can enjoy many delirious hours slashing and shooting your way through 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 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.

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