Creepfest Blog Hop Day 10 – Meet Jack Wallen

Visit the Creepfest Blog Hop page for a complete listing of participating blogs and have fun!

Don’t forget to check at the bottom of this post for some crazy prizes you can win :)

1. Okay, about this zombie thing. What attracted you to write about the living dead?

I’ve always been a HUGE horror fan. Ever since I was a child. But ultimately the zombie fascination comes down to how the zombie can be used for such a powerful social, political, and emotional metaphor. This is especially true for the upcoming “meh” generation which really seems to have their heads so firmly planted in their smartphones, they are lost to everything around them.

But the impetus to write the I Zombie trilogy hit me hard one day when I asked myself the question: “What would it feel like to become a zombie?” I was so compelled by that question, I had to have an answer. I knew the only way to answer the question was to write the book myself. Thus was born I Zombie I.

2. What one thing scares you enough to wet your monkeypantz?

I’m one of those that isn’t scared by much. That’s a good thing, considering what I write (and that I write at night when the house is dark and quiet). The one thing that scares me enough to make me wet myself is obscurity. The idea that I (and everything I have worked so hard on) would fade away without anyone remembering, is that thing that makes me curl up inside of myself and wonder why someone hasn’t tightened down my straitjacket buckles.

3. Speaking of scary, sit on Santa’s lap and tell him your five fondest wishes for Christmas.

Well, Santa, here are my five wishes for Christmas: 1) I want my book sales to explode and my fans/readers to REALLY enjoy my work. 2) I want Clive Barker to finally get the Hellraiser reboot off the ground. 3) I want to walk into my day job, wearing a Vera Wang ball gown and heels, and hand the owners my letter of resignation. 4) I want my next two series (The Book of Jacob and Klockwerk Kabaret) to be met with wild abandon. 5) I want Rob Zombie to finally contact me to ask permission to film the I Zombie trilogy (Mr. Zombie, a heads up, the answer is an emphatic YES!)

4. Why do you think the horror genre is so popular with readers?

I don’t think the horror genre is popular as a whole. What I firmly believe is that horror has the most loyal fans of any genre. Why? Because for so long there was nothing for readers to sink their teeth into besides the old guard: King, Campell, Straub, Andrews, etc. Readers were desperate for something new and when they found that something new they were willing to cling to that author through thick and thin. And besides, people love to be frightened. They love to read a book, while tucked safely under the covers of their beds, that makes them wonder how or if they could survive. We are voyeurs by nature. We can’t help but look at the train wreck as we pass by. Being able to witness that train wreck, as it happens, knowing no one was hurt, is a huge attraction to human beings.

5. What is your writing process like and how many quarts of blood do you go through?

My writing process goes like this: I hand write my first draft in bed. Once that draft is done, I do the first rewrites as I transfer it to digital format. Once the first rewrites are done, I print that out and re-read, correcting issues and making sure the story is coherent. Once that is done, I send the story to beta readers and then on to editors.

As for blood? Well, let’s just say this: I am currently working on the third book in my Fringe Killer series. I wrote a kill scene and decided I wanted the discovery of the body to be when the reader discovered just what the killer did. But the more I thought about it, I realized I was cheating the reader from experiencing the blood bath from the killer’s perspective. So I went back and let the killer have her way with the victim. It was brutal.

6. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing writers today?

With the advent of the indie author scene, there is now an incredible amount of books out there. This is a GREAT time to be a writer and a reader. Problem is, how to you get your books seen when it sits in a pile that reaches the sky? You have to be clever in your marketing and, as far as I can tell, few of us authors are marketing professionals. We are artists, not business women and men. It’s the single biggest challenge we face and many fail. The most important thing to do is have patience and continue crafting. Eventually, if you do things right, your books will sell. If you lose patience you stand to make a mistake and lose major ground.

7. Not only do you write, but you also design book covers. What made you decide to take on book covers?

I knew what I wanted my covers to look like and no one was doing that kind of work. Yes, you can get some seriously wonderful covers if your books are of the Paranormal or YA genres, but so much of the horror covers were cliché and I didn’t want that. I had the skills and decided to put them to work. I think my horror covers really connect with the story. That’s very important to me, as I take the emotional kernel of a story and make it the core of the design for the cover.

8. You’re throwing a holiday party. What writers, either famous or not, would you invite and what would you serve?

My invite list would be pretty short: Clive Barker, Stephen King, Edward Lee, Max Barry, Neil Stephenson, Shea MacLeod, Heather Marie Adkins, M. Edward McNally, PJ Jones, Talia Jager, Alan Nayes, Lizzy Ford, Julia Crane, and Poppy Z. Brite.

9. Where is the safest place to wait out the Zombie Apocalypse?

With me. But honestly? There is no one safe place to wait it out. You’ll have to be on the move. Food and water could run out. Eventually enough noise will be made and the horde will find you. Moving about is the best option. But, if I did have to pick one singular location to wait it out, it would probably be the Center for Disease Control. Neither zombie or the infection that caused them will be getting into that building any time soon.

10. Tell us about your upcoming projects.

I have quite a lot in the works. First and foremost is the third book in the Fringe Killer series, Endgame. Following that I will be completing the second Shero book (Shero II: Zombies and Bridesmaids) and then it’s on to some seriously exciting projects. I have a new zombie series planned, called The Book of Jacob. If you’ve read the I Zombie trilogy, the name will be familiar. This series will take place some thirty years after the I Zombie series and will be a much darker, bleaker series.

After “The Book of Jacob, Verse I” is finished, I will embark on what might be my most exciting project to date. I am going to venture into more steamy more punky worlds in a series called “Klockwerk Kabaret”. I can’t tell you how excited I am about starting that series – mostly because it will be a complete departure from my usual fare. But I do promise it will be quite different than the average steampunk novel. It will include my usual dark take on the world as well as plenty of corsets!

For more information on my upcoming works (and other fabulous things), check out my blog on monkeypantz.net.

BIO

Jack Wallen has a goal — to become the Zombie King. He won’t do that by dining on the brains of helpless victims. Instead he will write and write until his fingers and mind are nothing but meat for the beasts. During that time Jack will produce works of zombie fiction that are both enjoyable and cringe-worthy.

Of course, being of the insane writer clan, Jack isn’t just happy with the penning of zombie fiction. Oh no, the nightmare does not end there. Like the late, great Freddy Mercury, Jack wants it all — so, he will continue writing his Fringe Killer series as well as his joyous celebration of all things diverse — Shero.

For his inspiration to begin reading and writing, Jack thanks the ever-incredible Clive Barker for penning in a genre with words of grace and horror.

LINKS

I Zombie I
Amazon
Smashwords
Paperback

My Zombie My
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Smashwords

A Blade Away
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Smashwords
Paperback

Gothica
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Smashwords
Paperback

Shero
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Smashwords
Paperback

Get Jack’d
Twitter: jlwallen
Facebook
Zombie Radio

Prizes!

Here’s the deal: At the end of the Blog Hop, on December 24th, I will give away twelve e-copies of “Athena’s Promise”, one for every day of Creepfest. But that’s not all! I will also give away one autographed print copy. WAIT! One more thing — I’m so excited about Creepfest, I will also give away one Amazon gift card in the amount of $20!

Since this is a sweepstakes and not a contest, entering is easy-peasy, and you can enter as many times as you like. Here’s how:

Leave a comment on any (or all) blog posts here during Creepfest.

Sign up for my Once in a Blue Moon Newsletter. (No spam, I swear.)

Like my Facebook Fan page.

Like “Athena’s Promise” on her Amazon page.

Tweet about this blog or AP and use the hashtag #AthenasPromise so I can track properly.

Mention this blog or AP on YOUR blog.

That’s it. You’ll get one entry apiece for each action – up to 17 entries if you do each of these things! Damn! I will tally the results from all twelve days and choose the winners via Random.org. Make sure you leave a comment that lets me know what you did and include a working email address so I can make an accurate count and contact you if you win.

Spread the word! The more the merrier :)

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Creepfest Blog Hop – Day 6 – This Is Thea Gregory

Visit the Creepfest Blog Hop page for a complete listing of participating blogs and have fun!

Don’t forget to check at the bottom of this post for some crazy prizes you can win :)

Thea writes zombie stories and science fiction. She was raised in rural Quebec, where her imagination was often her only friend, and this upbringing also engendered a fanatical love of reading and books.

Thea moved to the city at the tender age of 17 to study science, eventually majoring in physics, because physics is awesome. Her first love has always been science (fiction), and she maintains an unquenchable thirst for discovery and the unknown.

Hobbies: Reading, writing, cooking, gardening, yoga, cycling, gaming, anything Star Trek or Dune related, daydreaming, exploring, and trying new things.

Thea has two cats (Pip and Bonk), and one boyfriend (with two cats of his own), a former video game designer who moonlights as a cover artist.

1. Your premise for zombie stories as bedtime stories is very intriguing. What was your inspiration?

My inspiration came out of childhood for the first story. My mom used to tell me stories about people who comatose, but still able to hear/feel the world around them, but unable to interact. One day, I was pacing at home, and the idea that being a zombie could be a similar experience to being in that special kind of coma just clicked. I had other subsequent ideas for zombie stories after that, which I linked together to create the rest of the series. The overarching theme of the Zombie Bedtime Stories is that it’s about normal people in a bad situation—there are no super-prepared shotgun-chainsaw-machete wielding adrenaline junkies—just ordinary, scared people who want to escape with their lives.

2. You recently participated in the NaNo madness in November. How did that go, and what would you do differently?

NaNoWriMo went relatively well for me. I set the goal of finishing my 50000 words on the 25th, and I managed to do just that. The tough part for me was the face that I wasn’t in good health for that month, and the medication took a lot out of me when I needed to be at my most productive. Some days, I would sit at my screen for twelve hours trying to eke out my meager 2000 words, and on better days I would finish in two or three hours.
As for things I’d do differently, I think I’d make sure I was healthy this time, and do more character planning and outlining of the main plot.

3. Sit on Santa’s lap and tell him your five most desired wishes for Christmas.

I’m a Christmas baby, and I think at this point all I want for Christmas is a nice dinner at a steakhouse. Even a pub would be nice. It’s a little scrooge-like, but my dream is to spend Christmas in a country with no Christmas.

A Kindle would be nice, too, if not a touch materialistic. The rest would be miscellaneous kitchen stuff: a pasta machine, a pressure canner and a food processor.

4. Why do you think the horror genre is so popular with people?

I think horror is popular because it appeals to that dark place inside a person that likes being traumatized. The best stories are the ones that stay with you and hide under the bed at night, and horror has a way of working itself inside your mind. Even the most mundane everyday object can become an instrument of terror, and the possibility for near endless stories and unique monsters means that it’s very hard to burn out on.

5. You’re going to dinner with five literary figures who are they and who do you want to sit next to?

I’d say: Frank Herbert, William Shakespeare, George Orwell, Mary Shelley and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I’d want to sit next to Frank Herbert and George Orwell.

6. What would you say are the biggest challenges in publishing today?

I’d say the biggest challenge is the learning curve. Regardless of how you choose to get your material out into the world, you still need to do a ton of research. Even after you’ve chosen your path, you still have a lot more research and learning to do. I don’t see much of a way to circumvent this, but at least there is a vast online community of helpful writers and their blogs to assist newcomers.

7. If you could live in any fictional world, which one would you choose and why?

Most fictional worlds don’t appear to be great places to be a woman, which makes the decision pretty easy. I’d say the Star Trek universe is probably the friendliest—it’s full of cool technology, humans have “evolved” and you can do whatever you want in a perfect utopia. It’s not going to happen, but it sure would be sweet. Second place would be the Dr. Who universe; it seems dangerous, but cool.

8. What is it about zombies that you find so fascinating?

With zombies, I like that they look like us, but they’re not human. There’s some kind of existential terror when trying to understand what we have that they lack—a mind, empathy, compassion, a pulse—while realizing that they are very, very hungry. Any person can become a zombie, no matter how kind-hearted or otherwise domesticated.

9. What do you think is the biggest misconception about independent artists?

I think it’s the assumption that we are the lowest common denominator. It’s a problem that compounds obscurity with bad experiences and/or prejudice. It’s not an attitude that can be changed overnight, but we exist and we’re not going anywhere.

10. Tell us about your upcoming projects.

I have a few projects on the horizon.

• I intend to continue with the Zombie Bedtime Stories series, part three just came out, and I have about fifteen total short stories and novellas planned for that series. I’m going to begin writing part 4, Bedlam, next week.
• During NaNoWriMo, I wrote a science fiction novel entitled Sanity Vacuum. I’m in the process of editing it, and I am really happy with how the story turned out. There’s big potential to expand on it, which is something I’m looking to begin planning out in the new year, in parallel to the Zombie Bedtime Stories.
• Once the Zombie Bedtime Stories are finished (I estimate mid-late 2013), I have a few dark epic fantasy books I’d like to write, as well as a very twisted paranormal romance.

Catch up with Thea at her blog, Nerdy Gnome, and you can find part one of the Zombie Bedtime stories here!

Visit the Creepfest Blog Hop page for a complete listing of participating blogs and lots of free stuff!

Prizes!

Here’s the deal: At the end of the Blog Hop, on December 24th, I will give away twelve e-copies of “Athena’s Promise”, one for every day of Creepfest. But that’s not all! I will also give away one autographed print copy. WAIT! One more thing — I’m so excited about Creepfest, I will also give away one Amazon gift card in the amount of $20!

Since this is a sweepstakes and not a contest, entering is easy-peasy, and you can enter as many times as you like. Here’s how:

Leave a comment on any (or all) blog posts here during Creepfest.

Sign up for my Once in a Blue Moon Newsletter. (No spam, I swear.)

Like my Facebook Fan page.

Like “Athena’s Promise” on her Amazon page.

Tweet about this blog or AP and use the hashtag #AthenasPromise so I can track properly.

Mention this blog or AP on YOUR blog.

That’s it. You’ll get one entry apiece for each action – up to 17 entries if you do each of these things! Damn! I will tally the results from all twelve days and choose the winners via Random.org. Make sure you leave a comment that lets me know what you did and include a working email address so I can make an accurate count and contact you if you win.

Spread the word! The more the merrier :)

Share

Creepfest Blog Hop – Day 5 – Stant Litore, King of Zombies

Visit the Creepfest Blog Hop page for a complete listing of participating blogs and have fun!

Don’t forget to check at the bottom of this post for some crazy prizes you can win :)

Stant Litore writes about the restless dead, and the first volume in his series The Zombie Bible is now available at Amazon. It’s called Death Has Come Up into Our Windows and tells the story of a prophet imprisoned in a well in a dying city; each day, his gaolers toss one of the ravenous dead in after him. You should read it; the book will leave a mark on you. Stant lives in Colorado with his wife and two daughters, and stays out of certain parts of the mountains during the dark of the moon.

1. What sparked your obsession / interest in writing about zombies?

Zombies look at your face and they see nothing. They don’t see a person. They don’t see a soul. They see food. I don’t think there’s anything more terrifying, or more resonant with the issues of injustice and lack of compassion in our world. To what extent do you see a human soul when you look into another’s face? I mean to what extent, really? Or do you see an object to maneuver around, or a being who can serve your purposes, whether for business or pleasure, who can (metaphorically) fill the hungers you have – the hunger for approval, or for affirmation, your hunger for a parent or your hunger for a child, your hunger for sex or your hunger for competition? To what extent are the acquaintances and coworkers in your life … food? That’s a question Father Polycarp asks in my second book,What Our Eyes Have Witnessed, and it is a question that an encounter with the ravenous dead demands of us. Faced with the ultimate incarnation of hunger, we have to deal with our own hunger. We have to rethink what other people actually are to us, and what it means to live and what it means to die, and what part justice or ethics has in that.

2. Sit on Santa’s lap and tell us your top five wishes for Christmas.

An excellent year of health for my wife and children. The opportunity to hunt for a house. Good sales and good readers. More awareness among my community of the poverty in the community, and of the growing issue of underground slavery and human trafficking right here in our own town. Four is all I can think of; I’m a cheap date.

3. As an indie artist, what would you say are your biggest challenges?

I suppose there are two. The first is honesty. It’s not challenging so much at this moment, but I could see it getting there. The problem is like this. When you are an indie without the surrounding apparatus of a publishing firm, it can be tempting to cut corners on your own work, to rush things, to make decisions that have a short-term payoff but will cause you trouble down the road. This is the case as long as you aren’t accountable to anyone else. In my case I’m with a small indie press, and I have one of the best editors I know. I sought him out. And I am committed to being honest with myself about what I need to work on in my art. My editor is both encouraging and ruthless.

The other challenge is credibility. Because of the ease of e-publishing on a budget, there are a lot of indie writers who are publishing work that a professional editor would tell them is a draft (don’t get me wrong, though; some of the best books I’ve read this year were both indie and polished). This has the effect of keeping many readers leery of indie publishing. I decided early that the marketing plan for my series would place a premium on setting the foundation for credibility first, before moving aggressively after sales.

4. Did you always want to be a writer? What set you on this path of storytelling?

Always. Before I could write, I drew pictures on paper. Telling stories is in my blood, and if I stop for a week, I become the most cranky, cantankerous person you can imagine. Some things you can’t hold in any more than a flower can stop from blooming at the touch of the sun.

5. What is your writing process like? Pantser or plotter and why?

It’s both. In a very basic sense, the outlines for my current stories are suggested by the biblical tales I’m retelling, but that’s too simple an answer. I usually start with a scene that is very dramatic to me – though in fact it might be a very quiet scene — say, a loving moment between a couple. But, for me, it’s a scene full of drama and human life. That’s usually where I discover my characters.

Then I start writing a character arc – a few scenes where my characters make significant choices. That becomes my outline; it grows organically. By then I’ve an idea of what’s happening with this plot and at least a little idea of who’s in the story and what their lives and their choices are about, and then I just start to tell the story. And about two thirds the way through it, I learn eight things about my characters I didn’t know before, and I learn what thematic questions this story is demanding of its readers, and then I just keep rewriting it until I have it right.

But the key is to learn early on what choices these characters have to make, and why those choices are important to them and to the world they live in. That’s an exciting process of discovery and a tremendous wrecker of outlines, if I were so foolish as to start with an outline. But once you know what five scenes are the defining choices for one of your main characters, you know what your outline looks like. Everything else that’s going to happen in your story is made necessary by those moments of choice.

6. Give us a list of five things you think would be the most useful in the Zombie Apocalypse.

A machete, a greenhouse in an inaccessible location, access to clean water, a good supply of toothpaste, and a good book, at least one. That last is to keep you sane.

7. What writers have inspired you?

So many. Neil Gaiman, Gene Wolfe, and C J Cherryh come readily to mind.

8. What is the one thing about the publishing industry that irritates you the most?

Nothing that I can think of. I’m currently an independent not because of any longstanding issues with the industry – I have none – but because I like to be at the helm, and because I get a thrill out of the process of publishing and marketing. I get energy from it and a bit of an adrenaline high, the kind that comes with facing almost insurmountable odds and still producing something beautiful.

9. Tell us about your upcoming projects.

For the next year or two, I am pretty wrapped up in The Zombie Bible. Today the first volume, Death Has Come Up into Our Windows, has hit #8 in the Amazon bestseller list for horror, and the second, What Our Eyes Have Witnessed , has just been released for Kindle and Nook. But there are a lot more stories waiting to be told. You can get a brief preview here . You will see zombies in the Old Testament and the New, and you’ll see men, women, and children making difficult choices in difficult times, and fighting to live lives that are about more than just surviving.

Don’t forget to visit the Creepfest Blog Hop page for a complete listing of participating blogs and tons of free swag!

Prizes!

Here’s the deal: At the end of the Blog Hop, on December 24th, I will give away twelve e-copies of “Athena’s Promise”, one for every day of Creepfest. But that’s not all! I will also give away one autographed print copy. WAIT! One more thing — I’m so excited about Creepfest, I will also give away one Amazon gift card in the amount of $20!

Since this is a sweepstakes and not a contest, entering is easy-peasy, and you can enter as many times as you like. Here’s how:

Leave a comment on any (or all) blog posts here during Creepfest.

Sign up for my Once in a Blue Moon Newsletter. (No spam, I swear.)

Like my Facebook Fan page.

Like “Athena’s Promise” on her Amazon page.

Tweet about this blog or AP and use the hashtag #AthenasPromise so I can track properly.

Mention this blog or AP on YOUR blog.

That’s it. You’ll get one entry apiece for each action – up to 17 entries if you do each of these things! Damn! I will tally the results from all twelve days and choose the winners via Random.org. Make sure you leave a comment that lets me know what you did and include a working email address so I can make an accurate count and contact you if you win.

Spread the word! The more the merrier :)

Share

Creepfest Blog Hop – Day 2 – Rollin’ in the Deep

Visit the Creepfest Blog Hop page for a complete listing of participating blogs and have fun!

Don’t forget to check at the bottom of this post for some crazy prizes you can win :)

I thought I’d start off the Creepfest Blog Hop with something special just for you. This story was written especially for Joshua Guess’s Living With the Dead Universe, and until today, has only been seen in LWtD: Year One.

At the time, Adele’s hit, “Rolling in the Deep” was playing everywhere and I love the song. I researched the phrase and found different meanings to it — in the urban dictionary, it means having someone’s back, or letting people know you are not one to fuck with. “Rolling in the deep” also conjures an image of a small ship battling the deep, dark ocean in a storm.

So, here’s little Pete’s story. He might be a kid, but he’s rolling in the deep.

Rollin’ in the Deep

I’m watchin’ them from the tree stand. They can’t climb trees too good, so I think I’m purty safe up here. It’s a might chilly when the wind comes a’whippin, though the winter season is still a few weeks off, I reckon. I nicked some of that stuff Dr. Evan was makin’ in the clinic, and sprayed it all over my jacket like Daddy taught me when he was trying to make me a man by taking me out huntin’. I’m kerful to stay upwind anyways, and I got a purty good sightline even through the leaves. Only then it was about deer huntin’, and now it’s about makin’ sure the zombies don’t get me.

At least, not ’til I’m ready.

People think they’re gross and ugly, but they ain’t, not really. Look at ’em. They’re strong. They don’t seem to worry too much about nothin’. The colder weather might slow ’em down a lick, but they’s pretty lively, mostly. They don’t smell no worse than the stuff Daddy used to hunt with. And they smell a sight better than my uncle Joe Bob, come to think of it. Some of them act like they’s right smart. A lot smarter than a lot of people I know, anyways.

When we was huntin’, Daddy’d hand me a brown bottle. “You spray it all over, Pete,” and the stink of deer piss made me like to gag. I held it in, though, ’cause if I gagged or threw up all that would get me was a beatin’. This zombie stuff stinks way worse, but there ain’t no one around to call me a sissy boy or punch me if I gag. I hold it in anyway.

The zombies ate my daddy. I can’t say this really bothered me overmuch. Momma pitched a fit, and Uncle Joe Bob was pretty mad, but it wasn’t like the world was gonna miss him much. I know I didn’t. I figgered the zombies did me a favor and I owed ’em one. At least I wouldn’t get beat no more ’cause I wasn’t being man enough for him. I wouldn’t have to hear about being a “sissy boy” and sent out to sleep in the barn on account I wasn’t fit ta be with “normal” folk.

At least, that’s what I thought when the zombie tore into Daddy’s neck and ripped out his throat. I forgot about Uncle Joe Bob.

After Daddy done got ate, Uncle Joe Bob said we had to get on our knees and thank the Baby Jesus we was still alive. I was grateful and all, but three hours on your knees is a lot of thanking. He listened to the radio and said we were gonna have to move to somewhere safer. Momma said, “We ain’t gonna cotton to no folk lessen’ they’s good God-fearin’ people.”

Uncle Joe Bob said, “Woman, shut yore mouf. It ain’t like they’s a lot to choose from enymore.” Momma jest clutched her Bible and shut her mouth. Daddy knew how to handle the women-folk and Uncle Joe Bob was no different.

I didn’t much care one way ta’ the other, to be honest. Warn’t like they was gonna ask for my opinion, anyways. Nobody much listens to a kid, specially a kid like me. Not ’til we got to the compound, and even then, people don’t pay much attention to the kid of a buncha hillbillies.

See? Lookit that one over there. See ‘im? He’s one of the smart ones. They called them “smarties” at the compound. See how he’s herdin’ a group of the zombies together? Like he’s got a plan. He ain’t fallin’ apart like a lot of ’em do, neither. And he moves faster than the rest, even in the colder weather. I find that downright innerestin’, don’t you?

At first, bein’ at the compound was a lot better than jest bein’ with Momma and Uncle Joe Bob. The people of the compound had it secure purty good, workin’ on a big wall with plenty of supplies and stuff. You could tell they been workin’ hard and pullin’ together. I don’t mind hard work, it was a sight better than where we was, and a lot safer. There was food and ammo and nice people. Mostly.

‘Cept for that creepy preacher man. He’d be churchin’ every Sunday, jest like things were normal-like, and Momma’d drag me along even though I had no taste fer it. I had to listen to hours of how the zombies were God’s punishment ’cause we’s a sinful folk, and Preacher John would point out people livin’ on the compound that were still bein’ sinful, living together without God’s blessin’ and fornicatin’, women with more than one man and fornicatin’, men with men and fornicatin’. Seemed to me he was worried overmuch with fornicatin’. Momma and Uncle Joe Bob went along with all of it, like I didn’t know about their own fornicatin’. I wonder what the preacher woulda thought about that, although he had his own thang goin’ on, sure did.

After the churchin’, Uncle Joe Bob would git all worked up, like Daddy used to git. That’s when I’d really have to watch kerful. You know, strut around and agree with everythang he said. Pretend I thunk the way he did about the pit of sinfulness we landed in, and how everybody here but us was headed for the Devil’s house and taking us with ’em because they’s was the cause of the zombies in the first place. Momma’d chime right in. Didn’t really much care, to tell you the truth, until Uncle Joe Bob started in on Patrick.

Patrick was special. He was always lookin’ out fer me, took time to talk to me while I was workin’on the wall and actually paid attention to what I said. I used to like Patrick a lot. Mebbe that’s why Uncle Joe Bob was really on his case. “What you hanging around that faggot for, boy?” he’d yell at me. “What’s wrong with you? Don’chu you know that’s why the zombies are here? Preacher John even says so!”

“I ain’t hangin’ around him,” I’d say. “I’m jest workin’ like I’m s’posed to.”

“Well, you watch yerself, boy. I swear, I see a zombie comin’ fer me or a queer boy, I’d shoot the queer boy first, no questions axed. Even if’n they was related.” Then he’d squint his eyes at me like I was under one of them fancy microscopes Dr. Evan used. Momma’d stand there and nod her head, eyes bright and hands clutching her everlastin’ Bible.

“’Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither male prostitutes nor homosexuals will inherit the kingdom of God’,” she cooed, caressing the covers of that danged book. “That’s what it says in Corinthians, that’s what Preacher John says. These people here are walkin’ on dangerous ground, and I ain’t aimin’ to go to hell or get et by the zombies ’cause they can’t control they’s urges.”

I didn’t bother to say they was a lot more people in that passage of Corinthians, like idolaters, adulterers and fornicators, not to mention thieves. I warn’t gonna point out Uncle Joe Bob and Momma had a little of their own fornicatin’ goin’ on, neither. And after I saw what went on after churchin’ in the preacher’s house I jest concentrated on not gaggin’ when any of ’em started shootin’ off they mouths.

I almost tole Patrick about it, but I guess I’m glad I didn’t, the way things turned out. I thought Patrick liked me too, but he really didn’t. He got hisself a girlfriend, and he didn’t have much time fer me after that. Yeah, it kinda hurt my feelins. I thought he was different.

I started spending more time in the clinic, sweeping floors and cleaning up. Miss Juanita and Dr. Evan were nice people. I learned me a lot of stuff, ‘specially bout the zombies. I tole Momma and Uncle Joe Bob about the bacteria thang, and Momma threw one o’ her hissy fits and wanted me to quit working there.

“I ain’t gonna have my only son tainted and turned into a zombie!” she yelled. “I ain’t gonna git et in the night by my own flesh and blood! Sweet Jesus, deliver us!”

But Uncle Joe Bob talked it over with Preacher John and they tole her to shut it and me to keep my eyes open. I swear, Uncle Joe Bob wouldn’t so much as take a dump without Preacher John’s say-so.

It was Preacher John’s idear to mark people’s houses. You know, the ones fornicatin’ and stuff. O’course, when we got caught and that little girl died, I felt awful even if Uncle Joe Bob said it was a sign. Of what, I don’t know. Lindsey never did nothin’ to nobody as far as I knew. The compound people were pretty mad. They ran ole’ Preacher John right outta here and left him nekkid in the cold wilderness. But I knew that ornery ole’ cuss’d be back. Them religious folk, they got a way of sticking around.

Momma and Uncle Joe Bob got a whippin’ and had to work extra hard for a bit, but they never did give me up. Hoo doggy, they was madder than a wet hen. Uncle Joe Bob said, “Who do they think they is, enyway? They ain’t got no right whippin’ people, it warn’t our fault that girl got et.” He rubbed his butt, scratched his crotch, and kept on goin’, Momma bobbin’ her head like it was attached by a string to Uncle Joe Bob’s right hand. “Preacher John said that was probably a sign o’ her momma and daddy’s sinnin’, and they had it comin’. We’s gittin outta here, Lily Mae.” Momma jest nodded and nodded.

“But I don’t want to leave, Uncle,” I started to say, but he smacked me across the face so hard I tasted blood.

“Don’t you smart off to me, boy! You ain’t stayin’ here with this bunch of faggots and fornicators! ‘Lessen you want to be one of them yerself. Is that what you want?” To my way of thinkin’, this bunch of faggots and fornicators were a sight better than what I was dealin’ with, but it ain’t like I had a choice. “You owe us, boy, don’t you never fergit that. You shoulda been whipped right along with the rest of us. I say we go, and yer goin’ with us.” He was right, I knowed it.

I’m still watchin’ that smartie, watchin’ what he’s doin’. He’s got a group of zombies gathered over there, see ’em? They’s jest standing there, I know they don’t talk. At least, I don’t think they do, but that smartie’s got something going on. I wonder what he’s doin’ with ’em. He’s walkin’ ’round in a circle, ’round and ’round. Every once in a while he reaches out and touches one and they shudder. I wonder if it has somethin’ to do with that bacteria thang Dr. Evans was talkin’ ’bout. The wind’s changin’, I kin hear the leaves rustlin’ and the smell is purty rank, but I think I’m still okay up here.

Anyways, I was right about Preacher John. It warn’t too long before he was back. Tole you he was ornery. Even the zombies didn’t want to et him, and I don’t blame ’em. He and Uncle Joe Bob huddled together for a coupla days, whisperin’ and I jest knew they was up to no good. I tried to warn Patrick, but he didn’t have no time fer me no more, and it wasn’t like I had friends to tell. They’s nice people at the compound, don’t git me wrong, but livin’ with Uncle Joe Bob and Momma didn’t make me very popular. It’s like nobody wanted nothin’ to do with me.

Any chance I had of gittin’ along without Uncle Joe Bob and Momma was killed right along with Preacher John when he held up that little kid in front of him when we was tryin’ to git some stuff from the armory. Somebody had the guts to take the shot, and down ole’ Preacher went. The compound people were danged mad about the whole thang, but what can you ‘spect from a man like Preacher John?

There was a lotta harsh words thrown ’round, sure was. Oh, Uncle Joe Bob blamed it all on the preacher, but he was hell-bent on gittin’ outta there. He was locked up for a spell when we tried to git some vittles from the storage, and I guess the people from the compound decided we all should git on with the goin’ if we wanted to so bad. I didn’t want to leave, and I’m thinking none of the other kids did neither, but we warn’t never gonna be one of them and we all knowed it. So even though they gave us a choice, it warn’t much of one.

That smartie is still circling around his buddies. He stops for a time at the ones he’s touched and I could swear they’s talking. One by one the rest kinda jest wander off. I guess they ain’t innerested in what he’s sayin’. Dr. Evan said somethin’ once about how they’s changin’, gitting smarter and passin’ that along to the others. I guess they ain’t all cut out fer it. Makes me wonder.

Leaving the compound was hard, but it warn’t nothing compared to what I had to deal with once we was outta there. Uncle Joe Bob ain’t dumb when it comes to survivin’, that’s fer sure, but he leaves a heap ta be desired when it comes to people skills. They’s all holed up about five miles from here, but after a couple of weeks of getting’ beat fer no reason and watchin’ him have his way with all the women-folk whether they wanted it or not (and most of ’em didn’t) I’d had enough.

That’s why I’m in this tree stand and watchin’. There’s no way I can take on Uncle Joe Bob by myself. I’m jest a kid. But look at them thar zombies. They’s strong, and they never give up. I ain’t stupid. I bet I could be a smartie.

And a smartie zombie’s a sight smarter than Uncle Joe Bob.

***

Prizes!

Here’s the deal: At the end of the Blog Hop, on December 24th, I will give away twelve e-copies of “Athena’s Promise”, one for every day of Creepfest. But that’s not all! I will also give away one autographed print copy. WAIT! One more thing — I’m so excited about Creepfest, I will also give away one Amazon gift card in the amount of $20!

Since this is a sweepstakes and not a contest, entering is easy-peasy, and you can enter as many times as you like. Here’s how:

Leave a comment on any (or all) blog posts here during Creepfest.

Sign up for my Once in a Blue Moon Newsletter. (No spam, I swear.)

Like my Facebook Fan page.

Like “Athena’s Promise” on her Amazon page.

Tweet about this blog or AP and use the hashtag #AthenasPromise so I can track properly.

Mention this blog or AP on YOUR blog.

That’s it. You’ll get one entry apiece for each action – up to 17 entries if you do each of these things! Damn! I will tally the results from all twelve days and choose the winners via Random.org. Make sure you leave a comment that lets me know what you did and include a working email address so I can make an accurate count and contact you if you win.

Spread the word! The more the merrier :)

Visit the Creepfest Blog Hop page for a complete listing of participating blogs and have fun!

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Fabulous Friday Fiction – Monsters Unmasked

Monsters Unmasked by Lori Whitwam

In the early days of the global zombie pandemic, Ellen Hale learns a brutal lesson. Sometimes the shambling animated corpses aren’t the worst thing that can happen to you. Sometimes the monsters are human, hiding their thirst for violence behind deceptively benign masks.

If zombie fiction isn’t your thing, that’s fine. Because this novella by Lori Whitwam is much more than that. Monsters Unmasked explores human nature in the face of a cataclysmic event where every facet of human life has been tipped upside down. Exposing both the darker side of human nature and offering a thread of hope, Monsters Unmasked begs the question — what would happen in a zombie apocalypse? Or any apocalypse, for that matter. How would you, your neighbors, your friends react? The people you think you know…do you really know them?

Ellen’s story is one of deep despair and emotional chaos as she fights to regain some of what she’s lost. In the aftermath of captivity, amidst the constant threat of zombie attacks, she must find a way out of the darkness and set foot on the brighter path of hope.

Based on a world created by the talented and brilliant Joshua Guess, Monsters Unmasked is a stand-alone work that meshes seamlessly into the compelling universe he’s created. Not only am I a huge fan of Living With the Dead in particular, I am a huge fan of quality in general, and this is quality work. Lori Whitwam provides another look into a fascinating world in which nothing is what it seems; survival may require more than you bargain for and this novella constantly challenges you to wonder what you would do in the place of the survivors.

Like Joshua’s work before her, Lori’s novella is not your usual self-publishing fare. Like Joshua’s work, Lori’s compelling and memorable story is worthy of standing on the shelves of every brick and mortar book store, side-by-side with traditionally published products. Both Guess and Whitwam show the publishing world that there are quality self-published works out there definitely deserving of the support and accolades of not only the self-publishing community, but the publishing community as a whole.

Ellen’s tale will stay with you a long time after you finish the last page. Thought-provoking, dark and yet hopeful, don’t miss this read.

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Fabulous Fiction Friday – “Living With the Dead”

*Please note: after this entry was posted, I received word that Josh has run into technical difficulties with Amazon because of their revamping of their digital platform, therefore “Living With the Dead” had to be re-published. It should be available soon, and I will update the links for purchase as soon as that happens. In the meantime, you can find it on the Nook or still keep up with him on his Living With the Dead blog. Thanks for your patience — it’s definitely worth the wait, I promise.*

*ADDENDUM*

Good news! All of Josh’s data has been reinstated and the links are good to go. YAY!

I have very eclectic reading tastes, and I’m quite picky. Part of this is because I’ve been reading for almost 50 years. Yes, you heard that correctly. I know I’m giving away my age here, but I’ve been reading voraciously since the age of three, and when you’ve read that many books, friends and neighbors, you become real picky about what you read.

Part of the reason I’m such a book snob is because I don’t have a whole lot of time, and although I’m a really fast reader, I have a lot of stuffs to do. When a book isn’t worth it, it really irritates me. To be frank, it pisses me off. Not to mention the economic impact, which further stokes the Irritation Fires. If I’m not happy with the story, and I don’t think I’ve spent my time or my money well, I’m really annoyed.

I downloaded “Living With the Dead” for the Kindle on a recommendation from a Very Good Friend. I resisted reading it because I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. She told me it was a “zombie” book, and although I enjoyed “World War Z” by Max Brooks and I’m totally hooked by “The Walking Dead” on AMC, I’m not really a zombie reader. Plus, it’s written in a blog format, and I have found that can be a boring way to read a book.

I was more than pleasantly surprised by Joshua Guess’s book. From the very first “entry”, I was HOOKED. Once I started, I couldn’t wait to read the next one, and the next one, and so on until it was 2am and I finished the entire thing in one sitting. It. Is. Fab.

The story starts with an ordinary geek in Kentucky watching the news and noticing reports of a disturbance in Ohio. Right away he sees the seeds of a Zombie Apocalypse, and springs into action. He starts right away preparing for the worst, trying to warn his family and friends, laying in supplies and shoring up his defenses. He blogs every day, documenting exactly what he’s doing and the important preparations he’s making — but more than that, Josh documents how he’s feeling and the emotional, physical and spiritual toll the entire experience is taking on him and everyone around him.

Most zombie fiction I’ve read (and I admit, it’s not a lot) seem to focus on the brain-eating, rotting horror that are zombies and the military or defensive actions that the characters are taking. “Living With the Dead” is unique to me in that it involves the lives and the emotions of not only dealing with the undead intent on eating the living, but with the complicated and difficult decisions the remaining survivors have to make in the wake of destruction of society as they have always known it. Since the blog was (and still continues to be) written in “real time”, you can follow the day-to-day changes in the characters and sympathize with what they’re up against. You question whether or not you could make these decisions yourself, how you would deal with the apocalypse, what you would do in their stead.

You won’t agree with everything that’s done. You won’t like everything that happens. You won’t like all the people you meet — you may not even like the narrator. But that’s what makes all of this seem so terrifyingly real. When I finished the last page of the first six months (you can either follow along in “real time” on the blog or wait for a compilation of the entire year, due out in March) I was afraid to watch the news — because the situation seemed just that real.

(On a side note, there’s some really great information on what to do to prepare for a Zombie Apocalypse. I took notes, you know, just in case.)

Another thing I’ve noticed about zombies is although the basic precepts stay the same (they die, they reanimate, can only be killed forever through some kind of brain trauma, they eat the living, they never…ever…stop) different writers add a little something different to their zombies. Guess has added some horrifying and frightening aspects to his zombies that really freaked me, and yet still made sense in his zombie-world. The suspension of disbelief is easy because Guess’s world is logical even in the midst of madness.

The price is right, and the story is worth every penny and then some. This ranks up there as one of my top reads for 2011, and I can’t wait for the next installment in March.

You can find “Living With the Dead” for the Kindle here, or you can follow along for free on the Living With the Dead blog. Joshua has a compilation planned for March with the entire year, plus extra bonuses. You can find him on Facebook and on Goodreads. He is currently at work on several projects, including a “campy vampy” novel. He has recently released his novel, Bound to Silence, also on Amazon.

While you’re on Amazon, check out Not Nice and Other Understatements – A Journal of Flash Fiction!

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