July 24, 2014

ZOMBIE FICTION CHARACTER TIPS

By

Steve Kuhn

 

What good is an amazing story without believable characters to drive it?


Readers need characters that make them feel something. That "something" can be envy, love, anger, annoyance, or any combination of emotions. Without that, your characters are just lifeless drones spewing dialogue across the page. That great exchange you spent three days mulling over, editing and rewriting can become a complete waste of time and effort if it is delivered by characters that the reader can't care about.

Invest in the Back-Story 

 

If you want your characters to feel real you have to treat them like real people. Everyone you meet has lived their lives and experienced things that mold and shape who they are by the time the two of you cross paths. Those experiences will determine if and why they are cocky, for example, or timid, or introverted/ extroverted... You get the point.


It's imperative that you take the time to invent a back-story for everyone in your written universe. How was their childhood? Did they go to school? If so, were they bullied, or were they a bully themselves? Were they abused emotionally, physically, or otherwise? Did they grow up in a privileged environment or poor on the streets? What types of things happened to them in their lives that made them who they are by the time they reach your story?

As an author, I find this part of the process to be the most fun and rewarding for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, it validates your character as a living, breathing entity within your mind. By the time that character has a back-story, they are a part of you. You can then think like them, act like them, and speak like them. A friend of yours can ask you a random question and you -should- be able to, by that point, answer for both yourself and that character.

Another thing I personally enjoy about it is that I have these secrets that no one knows about and I can reveal them as we go. In fact, most of the time, the majority of a character's back-story doesn't ever need to hit the page unless specifically warranted by your story. All that matters is that you have them existing within yourself and you're able to channel them appropriately.

The final note I want to add to this is that a properly fleshed out character can open future doors for your writing. If you find that your audience enjoys that character and wants more, you can find yourself writing prequels, stand-alones, etc. A good portion of that work will already be done, locked in your mind, and ready for the page.

Take Advantage of Appearances 

 

First impressions are the same both in text and in the real world. Sure, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but everyone is guilty of that in some way, at some point. Your character descriptions are directly linked to their back-story in that their outward appearance is a result of how your universe shaped their existence.


How they look physically and, to no lesser degree, how they dress should give your reader some insight to that past without giving them the whole story. Jeans and a tee shirt on a bearded man give an entirely different feel than a suit and tie on a clean-cut man.

I know what you’re thinking: "Duh! That's obvious!"

Well, it should be, but sadly there are many writers that make a mess of this by being too obvious or not obvious enough with their choices. In fact, sometimes it can be fun to purposely misdirect your audience through the outward appearance of a character. For example, why not dress a man in clothes that don't necessarily "fit" his character?

Your audience, as in real life, would be shocked to find that the guy with the neck tattoo and blue jeans, the one that everybody expects to be a zombie slaying badass, is really a theoretical physics major at M.I.T.  That tidbit can remain secret until you, the author, see fit to make that reveal. Your reveal can carry so much more weight with that one simple tweak, especially if the surrounding characters treat him similarly.

Also, don't forget that every scar tells a story, whether it be emotionally or physically. You could casually mention a small stitch mark over someone's eye then expand on her entire personality by simply telling the story of how she came to have that scar. Lots to think about!

Provide for Growth and Change 

 

At the end of your story, a well-created character should have changed drastically by the events that unfolded. I have never read a story in which a character remained the exact same person from beginning to end. Not one that I cared about, anyway. Sometimes, the growth isn't always that glaring, but often there is something major that changes about them from when you originally wrote that back-story in your head.


What did they learn? Were they good then became evil? Were they weak then became strong? Hated then became liked?

Characters should evolve at least a little with every interaction and conversation. You should strive to challenge their motivations and their fictional preconceptions that you laid out in their back-story and force them to face who they are by putting them in situations that are purposefully out of their comfort zone.

Their reactions to those situations will define whether your audience loves them or hates them. I can't see why anyone would feel connected to a timid girl running from zombies... but as soon as you force that timid girl to face her fears and smash in a skull with a shovel, BOOM, people are rooting for her.


Listen to Your Readers 

 

I encourage you to look more deeply into reader comments, both the positive and negative ones. With the explosive popularity of publishing stories as online serials, authors have a very powerful tool at their disposal these days. That tool is the instant feedback of their comments section. Sadly, many authors use these comments to feed their own egos and they often find themselves smiling as people praise the job they’re doing.


Watch closely how your audience reacts to specific characters and the things they do or say. Use them to your advantage. If you see them hating on one of your beloved characters, you might find yourself writing a redemption arc. If you notice them getting bored with the dialogue of a particular character, spice it up by putting them in more difficult predicaments.

I once noticed that a support character of mine had become so popular that he was, in essence, “stealing the show” and detracting from my overall vision… He’s dead now.

Just remember to always serve your story. Never inject a character into a scene just to give them lines. Never consciously write “filler”. Every line needs a reason to be there. Every character interaction needs to serve a purpose, whether it is to develop themselves or another character further. Only then will the success, failure, trials and tribulations, and yes, even the death of a character really hit home with your audience.

- Steve Kuhn Jr.

Author of the Dext of the Dead series published by Books of the Dead Press, and Run Lilly Run, 
an online zombie fiction serial.


Dext of the Dead Books 1-5 available as eBooks on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Coming soon in paperback to the same outlets.

Run Lilly Run currently available as an online serial at Kuhn's website


Visit:
Steve Kuhn on Facebook
Steve Kuhn on Twitter  or tweet @dextandcrew

July 1, 2014

Dear Minister- Advice From Sean T. Page, Minister of Zombies

 
Zombie Survival – A View from the UK 

Following the last post back in January, we’ve continued our work to support worried Britons as they prepare for inevitable arrival of the walking dead.  We’ve even had a few letters from our good cousins in the USA so we are happy to be able to include one of their queries in our postbag for this month. 

Interestingly, many of our communications from the New World come via ‘electronic mail’ which here at the Ministry we are now fully equipped to handle with our new microcomputer. In fact, we are just ‘emailing’ our bank details & pin numbers across to a very friendly gentleman from Nigeria who dropped us an ‘email’ out of the blue with an amazing opportunity. We’ll keep you posted on that one. 

For now, here is a selection from our postbag:


Dear Minister of Zombies,
I’ve just watched World War Z for the hundredth time & have a query about how to survive an outbreak as happened in the film.
I noted with interest that Brad Pitt’s hair was simply fantastic in most scenes. I don’t know if he conditions it or what but even during the action sequences, it was wavy vision of perfection.
What are your top tips for having perfect hair during a zombie apocalypse? Coconut & corpse shampoo? Bloody red streaks in the hair?
 --Vidal Sassoon Wannabe, London



Dear Wannabe,
You are a strange one aren’t you? All this talk of Brad Pitt’s hair is distracting you from the real issue. 

You must focus on core zombie survival training & not concern yourself with expensive shampoos or conditioners. You won’t have time to stay clean when the dead rise so get back to basics you beauty-obsessed nutcase. 

(By the way, our Hollywood contacts tell us that Brad Pitt’s hair has signed up to do another World War Z film & is also soon to take to the stage in the West Production of Chicago – worth keeping an eye out for tickets.)



Dear Minister of Zombies,
I live in the United States & I’ve gone more guns than I know what to do with. I got guns in the lounge. Guns in the bedroom. Guns in the bathroom. I can hardly get in the house now – too many guns.
So, I just wanted to say I feel for you all in the UK. You guys are going to be in a whole heap of trouble once the zombies arrive. Stay strong over there & if you can leave do. Just don’t all come to America – well, not all at once anyway.
--Gun-Freak, USA


Dear Gun-Freak USA,
Thanks for your electronic communication. We are happy that you have so many guns & thank you for the picture you also sent. Which is of guns. Lots of guns. It is true that we are up against here in the UK in terms of fire arms.
The Ministry of Zombies itself is licensed to hold a small cache of weapons which includes my Great-Grandfathers blunderbuss from World War One, a replica Samurai sword, a plastic Klingon bat’leth & a couple of sharpened sticks. We’re not kidding ourselves that we’ll be able to hold out for long with that lot.
However, remember that zombie survival is more than just fire arms. Don’t overlook your 90 day survival plan & always develop your survival skills. Guns aren’t the only solution but we are envious of your right to "bear arms."


Dear Minister of Zombies,
I think you do more harm than good with your boring posts.
Look, I’m happy to describe myself as a ‘karate man’. I’ve been training for over a decade now & reckon I could beat Chuck Norris if I caught him by surprise. Basically, I’m a hard nut & all your stuff just scares people who are unprepared.
Everyone should just take karate & be a karate man like me. From what I’ve seen zombies are slow anyway so it’ll be no problemo taking them all down.
--Hiyaaahh Karate Man,  Croydon


Dear Hiyaaahh Karate Man,
Firstly, our posts are not always boring. That one on the merging of Forms 455/HK/KLL (How to book a Ministry parking space) with Form 788/KL/JKK (The ordering of a new pencil) was an essential read for internal staff & received a lot of great feedback. 

Secondly, all martial arts are based on human opponents. They often make use of pressure points or locks. Many of the moves will not work on the undead & some of them will get you killed. 

Sure,  a flying kick will take down a lumbering zombie. If you catch a ghoul in a head lock, the creature will simply bite chomp down on your arm, taking a tasty chunk of flesh. We do not recommend hand to hand combat with the walking dead but if you have to, look to take them down & make your escape. 

You need to re-think your karate skills in a battle against the dead. By the way, we emailed Chuck Norris & he is happy to take you on – anytime.


Dear Minister of Zombies,
I’ve found a way to combine my hobby with my preparations for the zombie apocalypse ,but before I cover that I must congratulate you on that post about securing a Ministry parking space. Invaluable to me & my boyfriend & ordering pencils has never been easier.Anyhow, back onto my main point.
I enjoy comic books & plan to dress up as Catwoman the moment the walking dead appear. I will then prowl the streets protecting the innocent. I wanted my boyfriend to be Batman but he wants to be Spiderman. I’ve even made us matching utility belts.
--Trainee Catwoman


Dear Trainee Catwoman,
Spandex catsuits & zombies should not be mixed. An outfit like this would be madness during a zombie outbreak. It will offer you no bite protection at all & over the chaotic first weeks of the zombie war, will become a smelly & most impractical outfit.

Our advice is to forget the PVC & go for more robust army surplus gear. By all means, use the utility belt- but wear tough clothes like denim and a leather jacket. Leave the catsuit & whip at home.




That’s all for the postbag for this time. We get some strange queries here at the Ministry of Zombies but we try to answer every one!
If you have any questions, you can always email them in to: seantpage@ministryofzombies.com

May 28, 2014

Romero Says Zombies Do Not Crave Brains

I found this very interesting...

The following is an excerpt from a Vanity Fair interview of George Romero, first published in May of 2010. The title of the piece is George A. Romero: "Who Says Zombies Eat Brains?" Eric Spiznagel's questions are the bold print. Romero's answers are underneath.
 
Zombies have a weird fixation with eating human flesh and brains. What is it about being undead that makes somebody so ravenous?
First of all, why does everybody say that zombies eat brains?

Because… it’s true?
I’ve never had a zombie eat a brain! I don’t know where that comes from. Who says zombies eat brains?

I remember brains being a big zombie menu item in Return of the Living Dead back in the mid-80s, but I’m not sure if that’s where it started.
Whenever I sign autographs, they always ask me, “Write ‘Eat Brains’!” I don’t understand what that means. I’ve never had a zombie eat a brain. But it’s become this landmark thing.

Well, what about gorging on human flesh? Your zombies do that, right?
Definitely. (Laughs.)

 

Jule Says:

Folks, I don't CARE if you want your zombies to eat brains. That's just fine with me. But in my world, zombies eat flesh. Brains are only part of the menu. 

What do you think?

May 21, 2014

WHAT'S ANOTHER NAME FOR ZOMBIES?


WIN A FREE COPY OF
  Dead Meat
By Patrick and Chris Williams
  
Comment below with an answer to this question:
 What is the best alternative to the word "zombies" for describing the walking dead? Why?
The winner will be selected based on the quality and thoughtfulness of the answer.  Results will be announced on May 29, 2014. 

CONTEST CLOSES AT 
11:59 PM, MAY 28, 2014.

What's in a Name? by Patrick Williams


What’s in a Name?

Exploring the Use of the Word “Zombie”

By Patrick Williams


Deciding whether or not to use the term zombie in the novel Dead Meat was not difficult for my brother and co-author, Chris, and me; in fact, we knew that it would be best for the story if we avoided the term. The decision wasn’t initially made with hopes to strike a new vein of zombie-narrative ore but to address concerns we had regarding the reader’s constraints. We felt that if contemporary American culture is saturated in media relying on the Romeroesque zombie trope, we needed terminology that allowed us to invent our own antagonistic creatures, giving us the imaginative freedom to present a narrative based more on the characters’ interactions than on meeting the standards of current connotations of the zombie.
Zombie brings up a connotation that has been snowballing for decades. For example, when we initially use the word, Romero’s zombies may pop into our heads: the walking dead lurching towards their next victim, ready to devour the flesh of the living. Due to these films and others, our contemporary culture has a very clear understanding of a zombie, even if that understanding doesn’t completely align with the word’s formal definitions. Understanding the reader’s constraints is imperative to the writer’s craft since the reader must be able to suspend disbelief and maintain that suspension. For example, when we use the term zombie, we have to expect that the reader will bring his or her interpretation, most likely the current cultural definition, and carry that throughout the story, thus making it difficult to deviate from the cultural connotation. Not to mention, when a character establishes the label of zombie, the author then has to decide how much zombie knowledge is present in the narrative: Are the characters aware of the history or folklore regarding zombies? Are we focusing on the Romeroesque zombies, and if zombie lore is a prevalent in the story as it is in our current culture, why is it that so few people may recognize the issue or understand what’s happening? When the Pentagon and the CDC have taken up the topic in public, I think it’s safe to say that the cultural connotation of a zombie is pretty well-known across varying demographics, and that may pose a problem for some narratives and the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief. By avoiding the term, writers are able to explore the monstrous with more imaginative freedom, possibly creating even a new horror trope that goes beyond the readers’ connotations.
While some may not see this reframing technique as original, Dead Meat employs the zombie trope with a refreshing purpose: to help weave complex characters into one cohesive narrative presented through one person’s experiences. Dead Meat’s protagonist, Gavin, initially creates the label used throughout the book. Gavin, at the start of the story, lacks the grit to survive; he’s a bit meek, lost, indecisive, and lacking confidence. Having Gavin label the creatures bees, instead of zombies, allowed us to start his transition from victim to survivor: “Bees. Think of them like bees and maybe fighting them—killing them—will be easier. Killing a person is murder; killing a bee, well, that’s a measure of defense, a tool for population control. One by one, we’ll have to swat them dead. ‘Bees,’ I mutter. ‘Maybe I can stomach that.’” This excerpt shows how Gavin reframes the enemy in a sense to establish control so that he can defend himself and others from the creatures without guilt. In Dead Meat, the characters struggle to balance humanity, morality, and violence in order to survive. They are unsure of what they must battle, learning little about society’s collapse as they push through River’s Edge and into another town looking for Gavin’s family. Thus, by simply changing the term from zombies to bees, we were able to focus more on the story and characters and less on working in the cultural baggage that the word zombie can bring into the writing process.
            In the end, for Dead Meat, the story is about much more than zombies, or bees as we call them; the story focuses more on a grounded evaluation of how humanity and morality play vital roles in a post-apocalyptic setting. As Gavin says about midway through the book, “We say a bullet or a bite will kill us. We just forgot to add ourselves to the equation.” The characters, the humans, create more suspense and horror than the bees. To us, that makes for a great post-apocalyptic story.

May 14, 2014

Zombie Book List

Know a great zombie book?




Entries will be compiled and published on this blog. Entries will be accepted on this form through June 30, 2014

May 7, 2014

Alden Bell: Writing Zombie Fiction

 Alden Bell.. on Writing

I feel like most of what I've learned about writing I've learned in the trenches. 
Experience. 
Failure after failure.
But the most important thing I've learned is this:
Write for an audience of one--yourself--so that even if you're never published you'll still have one satisfied reader.

 Alden Bell... on Writing The Reapers

I wrote the first line of Reapers in my head, actually, while I was walking to Subway to get a ham sandwich for lunch.  I knew I had to start the book that day, and I had put it off all morning. 

So on my walk to Subway, I determined to compose a first line so that when I got back home and sat down at the computer, I would have a head start. 
I knew I wanted something big--some epic claim about the world or about humanity or about God, and I knew I wanted that line to reflect the personality of the protagonist I had in mind. 
I wondered what such a girl, whose name I had decided would be Temple, would think about God.

And then I realized, well, she would be pretty impressed by him--a nodding approval like you might give to a magician who pulls off a pretty neat trick before your eyes.

And there was my first line: "God is a slick god."

 

 Alden Bell... on Teaching

I actually prefer teaching high school to college.  While as a teacher you have to deal with a lot more disciplinary nonsense, the student-teacher relationships are a lot stronger.

In high school, you see those kids almost every day for at year or more, while in college you may only have the students for ten or fifteens sessions.

It's all business with college students, and they tend to flee the moment the class is over.  There's a lot more room in high school for the effects of personality in the classroom.  
Honestly, I love teaching in general--no matter who I'm teaching. 


April 30, 2014

MARRIAGE AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE

Marriage and the Zombie Apocalypse

  By 

Wick Welker




As the divorce rate in the United States increases at what some would consider an alarming rate, it’s natural to speculate on the root causes of matrimonial decline. A conservative person might argue that it is the corruption of traditional marriage; as we attempt to redefine marriage we dilute its meaning and become desensitized to its purpose. On the other hand, a more liberal-oriented person may state that the disintegration of marriage has more to do with lowered cultural standards that are being placed on fathers. It has become more socially acceptable for children to grow up in a fatherless home to be raised by mothers and grandmothers.

A myriad of other causes include financial stressors, pregnancy, differences in raising children, having children with special needs, cultural misconceptions, psychiatric illness, personality disorders, undue expectations about a spouse, infidelity, pornography and many other reasons. Although it may be even more of an exercise in futility to speculate what is the root cause of most divorces, most causes could probably be overcome, even in cases of infidelity, if the two partners in the marriage don’t become complacent. Complacency is the kiss of death in any marriage no matter what obstacles there may be.

In the fictional setting of a zombie apocalypse, the average married couple may find themselves in a complacent state before the zombie outbreak actually occurs. As in any other marriage, they have become used to their own routines, maybe even losing a little of the charm in their spouse that they found so alluring before they were married. There is always a reason (usually a good one) why two people even want to get married in the first place. It can be the monotony of the average dull day, multiplied by years, which can make a couple forget the feel of wanting to be married. This is how a couple may find themselves at the onset of a zombie outbreak.

If we further develop the idea that complacency can be a major cause of a marriage not working, we can assume that if two people can reignite the original feelings and desires that they had to begin with this could, in theory, reconcile the marriage. Many couples attempt this by going on vacation, maintaining a weekly “date night”, or just getting away from the kids. Rather than simply trying to recreate nostalgic feelings, there may be another approach.

The process of meeting someone, dating them for an appropriate amount of time, getting into fights, breaking up, getting back together and getting engaged is fraught with conflict. Conflict, in general, proves that getting married is worth it. It validates that, yes I do want to marry this person because I have been to hell and back with them and I still love them. Authentic conflict is vital to prove to yourself that you know the real person you’re going to marry. The zombie apocalypse, a time where the social constructs begins to crumble around a couple, provide the context and conflict where two people’s feelings can be validated towards one another once again.

As the married couple is thrust into the apocalyptic world where they suddenly can’t drive on the roads, can’t call each other, have no idea where their children are and don’t even know if each other is alive, they are shocked back into the emotional catharsis that they once knew. They think, “wait, what if I suddenly lose the closest person to me that I have in the world?”

The zombie apocalypse provides the setting and conflict for two people in marriage to realize their own complacency. The zombies themselves even help them understand the loss of humanity that can occur to a person and motivates them with the fear of losing their spouse to a terrifying limbo of being stuck in the realm of the undead.

The zombies become a reminder of the corruptible nature of the mortality of their spouse. A person, through the years of marriage, can take on the illusion of permanence in their spouse’s life. This permanence is a misconception that the zombie apocalypse can quickly tear down making a person realize the fragility of their physical marriage. The zombie apocalypse becomes the clarifying looking glass into the importance of marriage that was clouded by the monotony of every day life.

In my novel, Medora, I attempted to show the pressures that the average marriage would experience during the acute outbreak of a zombie virus. Keith and Ellen are portrayed as a young married couple with a grade-school daughter who become separated by the outbreak during a normal, mundane morning.

Keith and Ellen experience the fear of loss of one another, which becomes their motivation for the rest of the novel. In the morning before the outbreak, Keith doesn’t talk or even think about his wife. He becomes inundated with his routine tasks at work. However as Keith later stumbles around in New York subway tunnels running from a subway train that crashed into a mound of bodies, he becomes consumed with grief at the potential loss of his wife and daughter. As his work life has crumbled away in an instant, he is reminded of the only thing that ever really mattered.

When Keith finally becomes reunited with Ellen, he now sees her anew; in a way he hadn’t seen her since back when they were dating:

Turning around, he saw his wife looking up into his eyes. She stared at him, her eyes vibrant and calming. He wondered how she could be so shocking and beautiful after being beaten and burned half to death.

Not only does her physical appearance take on new depth to Keith, he also begins to appreciate the bravery and fortitude that she exhibits during the rest of the novel as they continue to search for their daughter. Keith is even reminded of their dating life before they were married and reflects on how lucky he was to have married Ellen. The reflection and renewed joy over his marriage wouldn’t have happened if he had had the same, boring workday that morning.

The lesson we can learn from how a marriage endures in a zombie apocalypse is that every marriage at anytime will experience conflict. A husband and wife scarcely need a horde of zombies chasing after them to realize that they do still indeed love each other.  Conflict is an inherit part of marriage and it becomes an opportunity for each spouse to get to know how each other responds and it also rekindles their passion for one another. As every marriage inevitably experiences conflict, the test of endurance is if each spouse shrivels from complacency or if they step forward with patience and bravery to remember why they married in the first place.









Wick Welker is a medical doctor currently training as an Anesthesiology resident in Seattle, Washington. 

His book, Medora, is his first zombie novel with the sequel to follow later this year.

April 23, 2014

Lynn McNamee Discusses Red Adept Publishing.

Here's an interesting  interview with Lynn McNamee, owner of Red Adept Publishing.  Red Adept is always seeking submissions of zombie fiction. Look for a profile of the publisher soon on the Zombie Authors Blog.

Follow Red Adept on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/RedAdeptPublishing
Follow Red Adept on Twitter https://twitter.com/RAPublishing


When and where did Red Adept begin?
Red Adept Publishing was created in 2011, with the commercial publishing addition in 2012, in a little corner of cyberspace generally associated with North Carolina, to fill a perceived need in both independent authors and those seeking a more traditional publishing route.
What is the guiding mission of Red Adept Publishing?
New authors can be intimidated by the spectrum of publishing options available to them: do they need an agent? Should they spam the Big 6 with unsolicited manuscripts? Should they just upload to Amazon themselves? Is editing really necessary?
We have answers, and we offer both routes: quality editing for independent authors and quality publishing for authors who want to work with a professional team dedicated to making their book the best it can be.
How many titles do you generally publish per year?
In our first year, we published 5 titles.
In our second year, that number jumped to 20, with a corresponding increase in staff.
If this trend is any indication, and we believe it is, Red Adept Publishing will continue to expand for the foreseeable future, offering a wide variety of titles and services to our clients.
Are you a Publishing Group or a Small Press?
Red Adept is a hybrid publishing company. We offer quality publishing services to authors whose manuscripts are selected during the acquisition process. We also have a wide range of editing options to independent authors who wish to seek publication via other routes.
What are your zombie titles?
At this time, we are pleased to offer an amazing zombie detective noir novel, Braineater Jones, by Stephen Kozniewski.
Do you have any upcoming zombie titles?
Why, do you have one you’d like to submit? Our acquisitions team awaits.
What else would you like to say about Red Adept?
Red Adept runs smoothly because each of its team members is self-motivated, works well in a team environment, and really knows his/her stuff. Though our skills often overlap, each individual possesses a slightly different skill set. Such a trained, diverse team allows for a highly efficient whole.
Closing thoughts?
The world will never have enough good books. You want quality entertainment at competitive prices, you come see us.





March 19, 2014

ZOMBIE AS ADDICT By Stephen Kozeniewski

Doctor Brainslove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Human Flesh


I think at this point even novices (or, to use the parlance of the interwebs, n00bz) are well aware that zombies are a metaphor. Except for the very hackiest of hacks, every modern writer uses the shambling dead as a critique of the mindlessness of X, Y, or Z aspect of modern society.

Some well-known examples? Night of the Living Dead: racism. Dead Alive: Oedipal impulses run amok. Land of the Dead: foreign aggression and neo-colonialism. The list goes on.



Recently, though, I’ve been re-thinking this tried-and-true bit of wisdom. While it’s true that zombies are used to critique various flotsam and jetsam of our culture, it occurred to me while writing my first novel, BRAINEATER JONES, that zombies as an entity could represent addiction.

In BRAINEATER the walking dead live in constant fear of giving in to their base impulses and becoming a mindless ghoul feasting on human flesh. The only way they can curb this desire is by consuming copious amounts of alcohol, thus trading one addiction for another. For me, this was mostly just an amusing way to make life difficult for my Prohibition-era characters, but in another way this was a subtle critique on trading addictions.

I worked as a clerk in a substance abuse clinic for several years, and while I’m in no way trained or an expert, I did learn a few things from daily experience with alcoholics and addicts. It’s fairly common for addicts to switch the object of their addiction through the course of their lives. For instance, marijuana is considered a “gateway drug” and a pot abuser can easily become addicted to something harder like crystal meth or crack cocaine. I’m not an expert in any way, shape, or form, but a social worker friend advised me that this is called cross-addiction.

An interesting side effect of this phenomenon is that some addicts while in recovery can become “addicted,” so to speak, to healthy things like religion or a twelve-step program. I’ve known people who became obsessed with AA and the counselors asked them to dial it back and think about the meaning of the twelve steps instead of just hurrying through them. Or, say, I’ve known recovering alcoholics who became hardcore Jesus freaks. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in a funny way it’s like trading one addiction for another.

“But,” at this point even the most patient of my readers is now protesting, “What does any of this have to do with ZOMBIES? This is a ZOMBIE blog! Talk about the ZOMBIES!”

Tut tut, gentle reader. I’m coming to that. Like I was saying, in writing BRAINEATER I was trying to use zombies as a metaphor for addicts, specifically those who cross addictions. (The irony that they were trading an unhealthy addiction for the dead – human flesh – for an unhealthy addiction for the living – alcohol – was intentional.) But it also occurred to me that zombies as a species could be a metaphor for addiction.

Vampires, for instance, are generally understood to be a folkloric manifestation of sexual taboos. Werewolves represent barbarism, the inner beast. Zombies, though, are usually considered a blank slate on which to project our fears about mindless consumerism, bigotry, conformism, or some other cause du jour.

However, when I scratch the surface of a zombie, see past the cool gory body that it’s okay to ruthlessly despatch with a chainsaw, I see a possible representation of addiction made manifest. The zombie has no ego or superego, no impulse control. It is pure id. It is “I want” made solid.

What it wants – human flesh – is dangerous to others around it. Crack addicts often sell everything they own and will even resort to stealing from their families all in pursuit of that next fix. Alcoholics are masterclass liars and over time will inevitably harm their loved ones when using.


With a few notable exceptions (such as the fat guy in a Speedo zombie from Dawn of the Dead) zombies are depicted as gaunt, even desiccated, perhaps with the flesh sloughing off of them. It’s not unlike the generic depiction of an addict, so far lost in his or her own addiction that he forgets to even eat.

The good news, of course, is that for real alcoholics and addicts help is available 24/7. Our poor zombie friends, however, will carry the monkey of craving warm flesh on their backs forever.

***


Steve Kozeniewski is the author of two zombie novels. 

He recommends either or both to scratch that gnawing itch you feel for horror literature. 
BRAINEATER JONES
THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO

March 12, 2014

Diana Rowland Discusses Dealing

Diana Rowland is the author of the White Trash Zombie series, including My Life as a White Trash Zombie, Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues, and White Trash Zombie Apocalypse.



Where, when, and for how long did you work as a blackjack dealer?
I worked at the Copa Casino in Gulfport, MS for about five years. I started out dealing blackjack and roulette, and later learned craps (though I never dealt that game enough to get very good at it.) After about a year and a half I was promoted to what was called a “dual rate” which meant I could be scheduled as either dealer or a pit manager (pit boss), and after another year or so, I moved up to full time pit boss. About a year before I left the casino industry I switched from graveyard shift (2am to 10am) to swing shift (6pm to 2am) and had to go back to being dual rate, but by that time I was already looking for a way out of the casino industry.
Were you specifically trained in how to interact (or not interact) with customers?
Generally speaking, yes. Most dealers go to a gaming school to learn how to deal the games, and part of that process includes some of how to deal with customers, what to do with belligerent or unruly players, and hints and tricks for how to get good tips (since the majority of a dealer’s income comes from tips.) Also, whenever a new dealer is hired on at a casino, the more experienced dealers will give advice of that nature as well, since in most casinos the tips are pooled. In other words, it made sense for *everyone* to earn as many tips as possible!
What did you enjoy most about the job?
I enjoyed seeing a wide cross section of humanity. Most people tend to be fairly sheltered, and seldom have to interact with people outside of their own social strata or culture. I was certainly quite sheltered in that respect, and the entire experience in the casino was very eye opening in many ways. I also enjoyed the whole subculture of being a night shift worker, living a parallel but separate life from most of humanity. But most of all I really liked being >good< at what I was doing—fast and accurate. Oh, and the money and benefits rocked as well. ;-)
What was your most irritating experience on the job?
My most irritating experience was the superstitions. It blew me away when my bosses would throw salt under tables where someone was winning big, or drop pennies, or change out dealers because so-and-so was “running hot.”

Why did you stop dealing?
I stopped because I grew oh so very tired of watching people destroy their lives. There are many people who can go and enjoy an evening at a casino and control themselves and their spending, but there are FAR more who truly cannot stop, even when they’re winning. It’s an addiction, and I lost count of the number of people who would come and cash their paychecks and then lose >every penny<. The bleak expression of someone who’s staring at the table as they realize they’ve lost the money to pay the rent, buy food, care for their children, is one that I’ll never forget. After a few hundred of those I decided that I needed to get into a business that I could be proud of, one where I wasn’t a legal drug dealer, and one where I could look at myself in the mirror in the morning. Basically, I decided to salvage what little soul I had left.

And that is why I took a 60% pay cut and became a cop. :-)




March 5, 2014

Start Publishing Seeks Zombie Fiction

START Publishing 

is now accepting submissions

 
Start Publishing has already released several zombie titles:  
The Living Dead by John Joseph Adams
 The Living Dead 2 by John Joseph Adams
 The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer
 The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten by Harrison Gealler
 The Panama Laugh by Thomas Roche


About Start Publishing

Start Publishing is seeking to grow- and that includes adding new titles. According to Start Publishing President Jarred Weisfeld,
"Our overall mission it to have a mini major where we will be in all genres.  For example Salvo is a thriller imprint while Night Shade is a Science Fiction and Fantasy Imprint.  We recently started Start Science Fiction which has acquired over 50 titles in its first three months,  We are actively looking to acquire and to grow.  Both through company acquisitions and title acquisitions."
Start Publishing is located in Manhattan.  

President Jarred Weisfeld oversees the imprints and marketing while also focusing on new company acquisitions.  In this role, he has acquired the entire eBook catalog of  Nightshade Press titles and over 1200 additional titles for Start Publishing. Mr. Weisfeld is also the CEO of Objective Entertainment, a literary agency  handles over 250 authors.

Weisfeld is interested in receiving submissions from authors of zombie fiction.

Prospective authors should send submissions to
submissions@start-media.com

February 26, 2014

Culex Pipiens and Incessant Hunger

Culex Pipiens is offering  a companion story exclusive to the zombie fiction blog. The story intersects with another of Culex's works. Read them both to discover how they come together. 


by
Culex Pipiens



The infected are everywhere and your only chance for survival is to run. How long can you run before dropping? What then? Find out in this short story prequel to "Incessant Hunger."





Who is Culex Pipiens?

Culex Pipiens is the pen name of  the author of  the zombie fiction stories: Incessant Hunger, Rabid Zombies,  and Sample 28. Each of these stories has its own unique flavor and approach.



Read the companion

Incessant Hunger asks the questions:
"When society is gone and the support systems no longer provide, will what is left  of the human raced decline into scavenging raiders in an attempt to satisfy the hunger pains?  How far will some people go? What are they thinking?"




Find more zombie fiction at Culex Pipiens' website




February 19, 2014

Unsettled Settings by Catt Dahman

Unsettled Settings

By

Catt Dahman


Z is for Zombie is a very emotional series for me. With nine books (so far) published via Severed Press, I was able to explore characters, situations and some interesting places. I found myself discovering great settings for my characters to engage with one another and with, of course, zombies, or “shamblers” as we call them. I found that the settings truly drove the action and consequences in my book.

I am a native of North East Texas, so I write about it. I know other authors from Texas, Joe McKinney, Rhiannon Frater, and Bowie Ibarra. They are friends of mine and I respect them tremendously; however, I did growl at them as I wrote because I thought to myself, “Now, Austin is Bowie’s, so I can’t go there….” I did that more than a dozen times, being vigilant not to go into their universes. I am sure Bowie would share some of Austin, but no, I couldn’t trespass.

One of the most useful settings is Hopetown. Originally, it was Popetown, named after the owner who was a zealot and fraud; I was able to actually look the “place” because it was based on a “compound” of a famous person who lives outside of Fort Worth. (I claimed Fort Worth in my universe.) Fenced for fortification, Hopetown offers a river, lake, cafeteria, dorms, a big house, barns, and a media center, so everyone is able to gather in a safe place, spread out, and have a normal life. Hopetown becomes the place everyone wants to join.

Hopetown contains numerous basements and sub-basements for supplies, and in the midst of the underground, there is a little gang, left from the crazies who lived as a cult. For entertainment, the gang makes a sort of “gauntlet. In the middle of dealing with undead who hunger for flesh, a group must deal with other things in the basement: snakes in a pit, tumbling boulders, and the shock of finding that the cult buried secrets in the basement.

This was a lot of fun because I set up the gauntlet and my team to clear it, but they had to fairly and realistically survive the traps (the gang) I set. Imagine my irritation when I found that it was harder than I imagined to survive the basement. There was no cheating allowed. They had to come up with imaginative ways to stay alive and help one another, forming tight bonds. Seriously, I was greatly pissed off at some of my characters who were inadequate in the basements.

Another place people gather for safety is a zoo. Some of the people help the animals that are left and appreciate them, and elephants are great for helping move logs and paraphernalia. Some of my characters set up life there at the zoo, behind the rock walls and fences. It’s a good place until there is an accident, and the ocean exhibit is shattered, sending not only the shamblers into a room with survivors, but some ravenous sharks as well. I enjoyed this because when I see the sea exhibits and look through the glass at swimming sharks, I always wonder “what if the glass breaks?” I always wonder things like that.

A house in Jefferson, Texas figures throughout the series and it is based on my family’s farm there. Jefferson is a popular tourist attraction because of all the historical homes, riverboat rides, and reenactments. I had a wonderful opportunity to juxtapose modern day life (with zombies) against the old-time charm when life was humbler. In my series, with no cars, no electricity, no running water, and a need for older crafts, I was able to show how when everything was stripped away, it was as if characters went back in time.

What was extra fun is that the bayou is very natural. It used to be a place for steamboat trade and now is smaller, but there’s moss, big cypress trees, vines, snakes and alligators. That was a great locale because I spent many weekends in Jefferson. At times, an alligator would come up to our land and try to get a dog or there would be a puma screaming from the woods. Chilling memories.

Port Arthur, Texas is the place my survivors all finally go to; it’s a protected island where they have cabins and livestock, and live like old timey settlers. For my characters, Port Arthur is a true safe haven for many years. I can’t say it remains safe because I am kind of a cruel “god” with my proceedings.

And I wrote the requisite mall scene but in my own way. I follow the George Romero Rules , but being able to explore the mall situation was a challenge. Again, I wrote myself (my characters) into somewhat of a threatening place and then I had to get the people to safety in fair ways. I do this a lot. I write the situation and give myself limitations and constraints and then have to figure out how to overcome them. It’s like making a puzzle for myself that I must solve and really, it is not easy. I never want to have a magical rescue or “oops, I forgot I have a gun in my pants as well as 30 grenades”. I am fair and if someone can’t get away from the zombies, then, there is nothing I can do but let them be eaten. It’s a tough job.

I have scenes at Stephen F. Austin University, in towns in Arkansas, at an airplane crash sight, and of course at the hospital, as all zombie authors should. My beginnings are in the hospital and a neighborhood in Texarkana, Texas, which is a small city (70,000 pop.) on the Texas/Arkansas border. It’s where I lived most of my life. I changed a few places but Texarkana is the first, and most important setting because that is where everything begins. Long ago, a friend gave me some blue prints of a hospital in Texarkana, and with modifications, I used those religiously, making some scenes a difficult challenge for me.

I could have had an imaginary world entirely, but because I used the exact highways and towns as they are, I provide myself with, yes, a test, but also an emotional and cerebral attachment to the places. When readers tell me they found themselves emotional about certain events in the series, I know what they mean; I found my journeys equally as emotional. I close with number nine. Nine books seemed to sum up the story I had to tell, but guess what? Readers have asked for a tenth and after some thought, Severed Press and I decided that a tenth (at least) will be written.

It’s time for another visit to North East Texas.

I hope some friends come along.





catt dahman is the author of  the Z is for Zombie series,  published by Severed Press.
The series includes  nine books so far.  catt dahman:
"...has been writing for more than 30 years, has taught in public schools, private schools, and college. Her degrees are from A & M. A native of Texas, she has lived all over the US, but is currently back in the Fort Worth, Texas area where she lives with her husband, son, 4 cats, 1 dog and a ferret."
Visit her website at Catt D.com.



February 12, 2014

George Cook Discusses the Dead War Series


The Premise


The title of my series is The Dead War Series. The story takes place in the year 2053. Even with all of our technological might the Earth falls to the dead because of a lack of unity.

Will mankind be able to work together to save what is left of humanity?

The source is a virus known as the Beserker Virus created by the military to turn enemy soldiers against each other. Unfortunately, once it is actually released, the virus mutates with horrifying results.


The Characters

There is, of course, Richards. He is the hero of the story. He is a former police officer now special forces soldier haunted by having to kill his parents at the start of the zombie apocalypse. He has a strong sense of duty and will do whatever it takes to accomplish his mission.

A second character would be Duncan, an Irish mercenary. His reasons for helping to spread the virus are hidden and not revealed until book two. Like Richards he has no problem doing whatever or killing whomever to complete his mission.

Lastly, there is Delice. She's a young child who could be mankind's only hope of surviving the zombie apocalypse.

The Settings

The story takes place in the now decimated city of Newark NJ in the year 2053.

The setting in the second book is what is currently known as University Hospital in Newark. The many doors and rooms in a hospital add to the fear factor as you never know what is behind each door or corner.

One of the great setting is the Prudential Arena better known as The Rock. It's where the US army has staged its command and where two of the stories main battles occur.

An Excerpt

...Richards lowered his pistol and began to creep away from the area. He turned a corner right smack into an oncoming Gray. The dead had soulless black eyes. No pupils, no whites of the eyes, just black orbs.

The thing shrieked as it reached out at Richards. Richards instinctively kicked the thing back and fired just once. The blue bead of laser light slammed into the Grays forehead and blew out the back of the things head in a blue burst of light, blood, and black bile.

Richards rolled forward and then spun around onto one knee. The other two Grays he had seen earlier were almost on top of him now. Richards fired twice silencing both with head shots. He got to his feet and ran. He could hear moaning sounds all around him now.

About the Author

I am former military ( US Army ). I am married with one child and for the last 5 years I have served on my local board of education. For the last three years I have been president of the board. I was re-elected to my seat on Nov 5, 2013 and elected president again in January 2014.

My blog is thedeadwarseries.com. My blog features information on me and my books, but it also has other news and videos for zombie lovers. I do reviews on zombie movies and feature other zombie books besides my own. I think that's the best way for indie authors to help each other by sharing our books with like minded readers.

I would really like to thank the fans and readers who first read the book. They caught a lot of mistakes but more importantly one or two continuity issues. I want to say thank you to those who have supported me and The Dead War Series. Your support is greatly appreciated.

If you like the genres of horror, action/adventure, and science fiction you will enjoy The Dead War Series.

February 5, 2014

Spirituality in Zombie Fiction by Paul Loh

Zombie Fiction and Spirituality 



Being faced with your own mortality is a shocking wake up call for many people. For some, it happens when they've survived cancer, a heart attack or had a near-death experience from drowning, electrocution or some other life-threatening experience. 


Facing Mortality


Rarely will death stare you in the face as cruelly, grippingly, or literally as in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.

Many people might find themselves completely re-evaluating their priorities. Of course, mere survival would be a challenge, but toward what end? What is there to live for? One might begin to wonder if there was ever any real purpose to their lives.

Now might be the first time that question has occurred to them. At this time, they can choose to truly live for the first time in their lives or just give up the fight.

Atonement


Some might come to the conclusion that it is their friends and/or family which are the most important to them. Some, having lost all friends and family are forced to make do with whatever vestiges of humanity are left. In my book, 'The Greater Number', the character Mbu is traveling with a schizophrenic old lady who believes that he is an alien who is going to bring her to his space ship so that she could see the heavens.

He recalls an incident from his youth in which he had made fun of a little boy who believed that he could catch 600 sharks with a twig with a piece of string tied to it. Months later, that boy died of an inoperable brain tumor. Looking back on the incident, Mbu says:
"Yeah. He was eight years old. I wish I could go back and let him live his whole life believing he can catch sharks with a twig. I think about that whenever I pass by the lake."
Because of this regret from his past, Mbu decides to go on letting the old lady believe that she's going to fly in a space ship. In a later scene, she is mistaken for a zombie and has her head blown off.

Mbu is glad that she has finally gotten her wish and was able to go "see the heavens."


Religious Contemplation



So many people will try to figure out exactly what is important in their lives. In my short story, "Eventide Battalion," there is a group of people who have escaped the zombies to live on an island. After years, they found that there was only one piece of clean paper left.

Instead of fighting for it, they put in on an altar as a shrine. They go to this altar to meditate on what they would write on it.Survivors in this story can only contemplate what they would write. Since it is the last piece of paper, it becomes a spiritual object. They worship The Last Piece Of Paper On Earth. This is the only religion on the island.

I suppose, it would be similar to wondering what you would want your last words to be or what would be carved on your headstone. In other words, what is your legacy? What would you like people to remember you for? What will be left behind once you're gone?


Personal Transformation



A few people might have been thieves, gangsters or even murderers before the apocalypse. Their new circumstances might make them choose to be a benefit to humanity now. In my book, The Nocent Part 2: Advent of the Scathing, the character Daniel Reese was formerly known as the Good Friday Killer. He was a serial killer who murdered one victim every Good Friday.

One night, he was at the lake and something happened which made him completely turn his outlook on life around. About this change of heart, he says,
"I tell you, it takes a lot of darkness to blind you, but only a little light to help you see."
At the end of the book, he then goes on to sacrifice his life in order to save the life of another of the characters. He went from taking lives to saving them.


Embracing Life


One of my favorite scenes in a zombie movie was at the end of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead when the main character is surrounded by a crowd of zombies. He's about to shoot himself through the roof of his mouth when something clicks into place within him.

He suddenly chooses to live and turns the gun instead on the oncoming horde. He offs as many as he can so that he can make his way to a nearby helicopter and fly away to safety.

This is what I love about zombie stories. They make you think. They make you feel. 

When faced with your own mortality, what will you choose to do with your life?