*Sings with bad Mick Jagger impression* ‘Summers here and the time is right for zombie’s in the streets booooyyys.’ Straight from the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, let’s give a big welcome and put the Summer of Zombie spotlight on…



What is your latest zombie release?

Day Zero (released March 14th, 2014)


 Give us a quick description of it (no spoilers).

Set at the outbreak of the wildfire rise of undead zombies, injured and discharged Marine sniper Sgt. John Walken finds himself trapped on a barricaded island community with no clear way to get home.

John is forced to take on one last mission. Using his military training, he must protect the island residents from hordes of invading zombies, aggressive human threats from the mainland, and unexplained deaths within the community.

And zomething unique about it.

Set in the first person narrative, the protagonist John Walken is also mute due to an injury sustained on mission. As he is trapped in the community trying to keep walkers outside the perimeters, John also encounters unexplained roamer undead on the island itself.

Where can we get it?




Chuck_Cropped_1Zombie author bio:

Charles Ingersoll is a Detroit area native who transplanted to New York City. A lover of comics, comic cons and cosplay, movies and television, the supernatural and all things undead; writing happened to be a lifelong passion that has become his next personal adventure.

He currently lives on Long Island, New York.

 *   *   *   *   *

The stench of rotting flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 33 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of June.

Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them! #SummerZombie

AND so you don’t miss any of the posts in June, here’s the complete list, updated daily:






Hey, it happens. You feel disappointed, talentless for a bit, and then you get blistering drunk and you move on, looking for another girlfriend (publisher) knowing you have the moves to do it. But sometimes there’s a girl (again, publisher) that’s VERY specific on what she want’s. She looks like fun so you give it a shot, putting together some twisted device, trying to fulfill her needs. But damn, she’s persnickety, and doesn’t let you in the door, not even a cool drink for your sweaty efforts. And this thing you made is so specific to her, you couldn’t give it away at a Flea Market. So here I am going to the whore that is self-publishing–it’s true, self-publishing always says yes cuz she has no discretion. Doesn’t matter if you’re a slopping stinking mess, she’ll spread her legs and say, “Come on, big boy”. And you have to pay her upfront.

And that’s what I’m doing here. This little zombie tale I submitted to an anthology that was very specific on plot device and theme, and was (sob) rejected. Having no where to go next, I’m giving this story to my friends to accept or reject according to their tastes, self-publishing it on my blog. It’s kind of odd, but it was a neat little challenge and I had fun with it. So here it is. I hope you like your meat raw…



I stare at the Necrometer not in disbelief, shock, or tears in my eyes, only numbness. I don’t feel a damn thing, except for my right cheek pulling up in a half grin. The LED display counts down in hours, minutes, seconds, and tenths of a second. It now reads–00:46:32–and counting. I ignore the flashing tenths; I really don’t need to see my life counting down in split-second increments.

I notice I’m scratching at the gauzed-wrapped wound on my upper arm and I stop. The bleeding has ceased, but it itches like hell and it’s starting to get warm. Black lines have crept out from beneath the bandage, working their way up my arm like poison rivers. I think of my Mom–passed long ago–chastising me when I was a kid.

“Stop clawing at it. You want it should get infected?”

I laugh. Too late, Ma.

Below the bite, wrapped around my wrist like a watch, the Necrometer ticks down the time left until I turn, racing to a zero line. I found it at an abandoned military tent hospital, sort of a M.A.S.H unit, just on the outskirts of town. Hundreds of them, individually wrapped in plastic, scattered from an overturned box across the canvas floor of the patient’s room tent. That’s when I started to notice the half-eaten bodies, and the whole, headshot ones, of soldiers and doctors and nurses wearing them on their wrists. The consumed one’s Necrometers all read, CLEAR, while the headshot–the turned–had flashing zeros across the board. When I got home and read the accompanying instructions, I couldn’t help but think how long it took to develop such technology and how the government had known about the zombie plague for much longer than they reported. Not that it matters now.

I’m sitting on my couch in my fortified home and I can’t take my eyes off the thing. It’s somewhat hypnotizing watching your life tick away.


I’ve lost eleven minutes since the zombie bit me. I just wanted to find a can of beans from the nearby, already heavily looted, grocery store. I had a hankering. Then this undead girl-child rushed out of the darkness of one of the aisles and bit the shit out of my arm so fast, I had no time to react. I threw her off, pulled my pistol, and blew her black brains all over an empty display for Heinz Ketchup. Shooting a kid in the head and I didn’t shed a tear; I don’t mourn the already dead.

A beeping alarm came from the Necrometer almost immediately, and when I looked, CLEAR flashed out and the countdown began at fifty-six minutes even. It flipped to 00:55:59 and I threw up.

This device accurately, so the one page manual said, counts the time left from bite to death and zombification. Not a bad idea. Gives one a time frame for getting their business together before the inevitable, I guess. More importantly, it removes any suspense for those around you. Not a problem for me. No loved ones left. And no bills to pay or funeral arrangements to be made. The whole world came crashing down almost overnight, and all those little things we thought meant so much went with it. Only base survival remained, and now I’ve lost even that. I should feel angry or depressed or something, but I think I’m just relieved.

My only companion jumps into my lap, gives me the soft eye, and chirps a meow. I run my hand down his back and his butt goes up along with his tail. He purrs.

“What am I going to do, Buddy?”

He has no response and does a turn to get settled in my lap. I tell him not to get comfortable and pick him up, stand from the couch and place him back on it. He lies down in my warm spot, and looks up at me with those soft eyes again. That hurts. The last kind creature I’m ever going to meet. Not like I have time to go out and find and make new friends.

The pistol on my hip digs into my side. I could do that. Scatter my brains on the wall and circumvent all this. God, or whoever is running this show, knows I’ve seen my share of brain-blown suicide. But it always seemed sort of pathetic and sad and very lonely. Like hell I’m going to go that way. Don’t know what I’m going to do, but it sure ain’t that.

Fresh air. That would be a start.

I go down into the basement where I sleep–it’s doubly fortified and I have an escape route through the outside basement door–and break out the small, high window and pull the bed over so the headboard sits beneath it to make it easy for Buddy to come and go. I slit open the two bags of cat food and knock them to the floor, letting the nuggets spill out. I’m sure once that runs out the exploding vermin population will keep him fat. And he’ll always have a home.

The basement door in the house I block open and return to the living room. Funny. Living room.

Buddys curled up, eyes closed, oblivious to what’s happening. I look at the Necrometer. 00:40:45. The old cliché crosses my mind: No time to waste! Forty minutes left of my life and I haven’t one meaningful thing to do. Hell, have I ever done anything meaningful in my whole life? Seemed like I was before the so-called Zombie Apocalypse. In fact, all the fine and good acts of humanity over thousands of years seem useless now, gone with one world spanning swipe of a jokester reaper’s blade. Gone not because humanity is dying–and coming back mindless and voracious–but because there’ll be no one left to remember.

Damn, another minute’s passed and I’m standing here remunerating. Now that is a waste.

I squat and pet his head. Never has his fur felt so soft. He rolls to his side and curls into a crescent moon.

“Adios, my friend. The place is all yours now.” His front paws flex and turn inward. I stand and walk away.

I remove the five crossbars to the back door, step outside and close the door behind me. The sun has fallen below the horizon and the coming twilight darkens the sky to the east. The fresh air I wanted is thick with disappointment. No wind and the heavy scent of decay surround me. I need to get out of town to get any relief. This is a relatively small town and I don’t live far from the wide-open prairie, but the walk would take at least thirty minutes just to pass the city limits, and that’s if I’m not accosted on the way. I need a car.

The neighborhood greets me in silence. A couple of houses down, a zombie sits on a covered porch in a rocking chair, her white eyes to the clouds above and rocking haltingly back and forth through a cloud of flies. She doesn’t notice me and I walk away and turn the corner toward the main highway.

I’m starting to sweat like a sumo wrestler in a whorehouse, and though the evening is warm, I feel a chill. Tightness spreads across my forehead and begins to ache. At the dead stoplight, I turn south and tread the sidewalk that parallels the highway. Shuffling shadows move amongst the abandoned, akimbo cars. I start to step out into the road to get away from the houses and possible ambush, when a shambler appears from behind a tree right in front of me.

I freeze as it stops and turns to me. Its face has been eaten away, leaving only a grinning skull framed by torn, black skin. Its bulging eyes look like Ping-Pong balls. It takes a limping step towards me, dragging a dangling foot. I slide back a step, pull my pistol out, and point it at its head. I may be dying but I’m not about to be eaten.

But something’s different. It’s not locked on me. There’s no ravenous growling moan. No reaching arms and clutching fingers. It angles to my right, past my raised gun, and shambles by me so close I could spit in its hanging ear. I turn, my gun arm dropping, and watch, confused, as it goes on about its undead business.

I turn around and spot one leisurely sitting on the ground, back against a burned out mini-van. Gun slightly raised, I walk to it and stop at its feet. It’s a woman, whole, with blue and black mottled skin. She holds a naked baby doll to her chest, upside down, gnawing at its plastic toes. I fake a cough. No reaction. I kick her foot. She moans something like a “huh?” and looks up at me briefly before her eyes wander and she returns to her foot nibbling.


I press my fingers to my wrist and feel my rapid heartbeat. I’m not even dead yet and they know. Maybe I’m already dead, my mind and heart going on from sheer momentum, and I’m just a delusional corpse. I’m now officially a Pledge to the Fraternity of the Undead.

I toss my pistol away and walk down the middle of the highway feeling safer than I have in weeks.

An untouched car in a driveway attracts my eye. Taped to the inside back window, a temporary car tag. Except for the thick dust, the bright red Prius looks brand new. Tires look good. In the back compartment are a suitcase, some blankets, and two five-gallon plastic gasoline containers. Someone was ready to escape and didn’t quite make it.

I look at the gasoline again. I grab the luggage rack on the roof and rock the car. Waves of the dark liquid undulate near the top of the containers. An idea pops into my head, unconsidered and uninvited. I hope the car starts, because now at least I have a destination in mind and an end to the Third Act of my life.

I move to the driver’s side. A dried, dark red slash of arterial blood bisects the window on the inside. An unmoving figure sits in the passenger seat. I open the door and a miasma of rotted flesh slaps me in the face. Stepping back and covering my nose, I lean down to take a look inside. A body is slumped to the right, dressed in a brightly flowered print dress, stripped with blood. Her flip-flops are loose on the floorboard. The flesh of her left arm, shoulder, neck, and head, eaten away, and a breast is missing, leaving bared ribs.

Looking at me stupidly with his dulled eyes, a boy–maybe twelve or thirteen at his death–sits buckled in the passenger seat. From chin to chest, he’s covered in cracked dried blood, almost obscuring his Transformers t-shirt. He moans as if he’s glad to see a friendly face.

The keys are dangling from the ignition, not even pushed all the way in. A plastic glittered fob hangs from the ring, declaring: World’s Greatest Mom.

I grab the corpse by the ankles and pull it out. The bag of bones lands on the concrete with a rattle. The boy looks puzzled and a little concerned. I lay her to rest among some blue flowering hydrangeas and return to the car and plop in the seat. When I turn the key, the control panel lights up and the open door alarm goes off. Zombie boy moans, slaps at my arm, and looks around in undead panic.

“Settle down, kid.” I kick out the flip-flops, close the door, and with a couple of turns of the pistons, the engine fires up.

“Praise Odin,” I say. I look at zombie boy and he’s staring at me, his bloody mouth agape, as if I’m some kind of undead wizard. I slap him in the chest with the back of my hand. He sways in his seat.

“Let’s go for a little ride. Whatdya say?”

I lay down all the window buttons to invite an exchange of air and drop the gear stick to reverse. Something sloshes in the back seat. I brake and look. An ice chest within reach. I flip open its top and find bottled water and several cans of grape soda floating atop water. I grab a couple and toss one into the zombie boy’s lap. He picks it up with both hands and stares at it.

“I’m guessing that was your favorite.”

I back out and head south, out of town, meandering around abandoned cars and reaching, hitchhiker undead. At the last stoplight, I stop and check the Necrometer. 00:29:29. Plenty of time. I pop the top of the grape soda, and reach over and open zombie boy’s can. He moans as it fizzes out over his hands. I tap our cans together.


Holding the brake, I rev the engine high and smoke the tires, then screech out of town in a cloud of rubber. I guzzle what is the best damn grape soda I ever drank in my life.

A half a mile and we pass the city limits and the high plains open up; rolling hills to the horizon covered in short grass and dotted with candelabra cactus and future tumbleweeds. An occasional stone bluff breaks out of the sand like a shattered bone from broken skin. Clear against the sky some six miles away is my destination: a vertical sided mesa with a gentle sloping hill for a hat.

The highway is clear and I kick the speed up to eighty, passing a lone car on the side of a road and an overturned reefer truck. Its spilled guts of rotted meat is scattered across a hill slope. Numerous Black Vultures and a couple of ragged coyotes are having supper. I give them a triple toot of the horn. They don’t even look up.

The wind is beating against me and my head is starting to feel squeezed in a vice. The sweating has stopped, replaced by a deep core chill, despite the heat of the ending day. I look at zombie boy and he’s holding his soda can out of the window, watching the windblast suck the purple delight out and spray behind us. The can slips from his hand and disappears. He groans, sounding disappointed, then begins to hand surf. He may be dead, but there’s still some kid left in him.

A glance at the Necrometer and see I have twenty-five minutes of life. From beneath the bandage, the angry red lines of infection have spread to my hand and my shoulder like rabid growing, twisting vines. My whole arm feels numb.

“Ever hear of a bucket list, kid?” I look over at the boy and he’s still watching his hand float up and down. He may not understand, but it feels good to have someone there to listen. “You know, it’s one of those things people make when they get the bad news they’re dying. Cancer or something or other. The got like, six months, a year, three years, to live. Whatever. It’s at that moment or soon after, they decide to live, really live. They’ve been living their lives at some job that feeds the wife and kids, habit prone, stuck there for years, stuck with the same wife, or husband, for that matter. Don’t wanna be sexist. But it all, rich or not, just didn’t do it for them, you know what I mean? They feel like life has passed them by.

“So they make this list of all the things they’ve always wanted to do and set out to accomplish each one, marking it off like it’s a shopping list. Has to be some disappointment there. Some things just won’t be accomplished. Like climb Mt. Everest or some shit like that. Either too sick, or it costs too much, or just not enough time. So they settle for the doable, you know? Maybe go see Everest. Or Paris. The Great Wall. Parachute. Rob a bank. Or get laid by a trio of high-end hookers. Or punch their dick of a boss in the face. Any number of crazy things. They have this idea in their head that this will make their life finally complete. Happiness at last.

“But I always wondered if that worked. If they don’t go to their deathbed still feeling, you know…unfulfilled. That would really suck in a major way. Discovering that those things you always wanted to do, but couldn’t, or wouldn’t before, were like anything else in life. A momentary thrill, a passing happiness, that doesn’t add up to anything. Makes for great memories when you’re alive, but you can’t take memories to your grave.”

I look at the kid. He has is arm back inside and he’s looking out the windshield, watching the darkening world race at him. His head is turned a bit my way and I get the feeling he’s listening to me rant.

I wonder what he sees through those cloud-covered eyes. Despite the decay and all, those eyes are the most disturbing thing about zombies. It’s been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but I think it’s the other way round. The eyes are windows for the soul, a physical conduit for an ethereal, eternal being to see this world. A window to look out. When someone dies normally, their eyes may cloud over a little, and sometimes not, never full white, like the soul lingers to gauge the world past death. But I think with this disease, when death and reanimation occurs, the soul flees in such terror, it throws the window closed, leaving behind nothing but depthless white. And when you look into the eyes of the undead, it’s a vacuum, a sucking of your own soul, the dead trying to refill the void within. It’s damn unsettling.

I look back to the road just in time to catch my turn; a property line dirt road that goes east and then turns south, leading to the mesa. The east mesa face glows dull red in the remaining light, its backside now in dark eclipse. The washboard road shakes the car and threatens to throw us in the ditch. I slow down as much as I dare.

“I guess all I’m saying is that life isn’t about making memories cause those are just lost. Whatever happiness can be attained is right here, right now. You gotta look at what you got right in front of you and know that life is good, cause the alternative, well–“

I look at the kid. I can barely see his features, and for a moment, I can imagine him whole and talkative or teenage angst quiet, ate up with video games, loving movies, arguing with his mom, worrying about girls and the repellant zit on his nose, and wishing the world would get off his back long enough to catch a breath.

You know. It ain’t any better, is it?” I swear I hear him sigh.

I turn south and flip the headlights to high beam. A dark figure moves at the side of the road, caught and struggling to free itself from a barbwire fence. I can’t tell if it’s a deer or a wandering zombie. It’s behind us now, eating our dust.

The mesa is passing on my left, rising about five hundred feet from the sand of its eroded self. An oil pump stands like a sucking insect at its base, dead and frozen. I can barely see the road cut out to get to the top that wraps steeply a quarter ways around it. Before the owner chained the place off, teenagers used to park atop the mesa to drink and make out. They called it Lover’s Drop for a legend dating to the fifties when two young lovers that lived on opposite sides of the tracks (of course) leapt to their deaths, forlorn over their parents keeping them apart. Forbidden love and suicide. A rock ‘n roll teenage tragedy song if I ever heard one. When a drunk and foolish kid fell off Lover’s Drop back in the eighties and became a paraplegic, the county thought once was enough and forced the landowner to close off access.

I smile as I near the entrance, prepared to drive through the chain, and see it lying on the ground across the cattle guard. A pair of bolt cutters leans against the right gate pole. The bullet hole riddled sign that hung in the middle, lies face up, reflecting bright red in my headlights. KEEP OUT PRIVATE PROPERTY VIOLATERS WILL BE PERSECUTED, it shouts. I wonder if the spelling was purposeful.

Another glance at the meter. 00:14:29. Time sure flies when you’re living it. The pain in my head flares from my eyes to the bottom of my neck. My heart is beating so hard, I think of the alien chest-burster from that movie.

I drive forward across the cattle guard. It rumbles the car like a deep drum. The rutted trail is grass-grown but easy to follow and I find the mesa road up the side without problem. About halfway up, we come across a long dead, rotted carcass of a cow. A rut the width of a tire runs across its crushed skull. I follow it, missing the rut, hearing the crunch of what was left of the skull. Zombie boy gives a staccato moan that sounds vaguely like a giggle.

At the top of the mesa, I drive through the tall grass to the east side, where the kids used to park to watch the cold rising of the moon. Very little grass here, mostly hard dirt and rock; a lover’s parking lot. The headlights illuminate another car at the far end, facing the east and thick with dust. It’s a pink Caddie and as big as a battleship. Not a teenager’s kind of car.

I stop, leaving the lights on the Caddie, and throw it in park. I open the car door and set a leg out. The kid is looking at the lit dome light likes it’s a miracle.

“I have to check it out. You don’t go anywhere.”

I step out and every joint in my body aches. Like the desert, the temperature drops quickly on the high plains and the cool light wind is a welcome relief. As I limp to the Caddie, I notice two things: the large letters across the back window that read, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and the water hose stuck in the rolled up back window. It winds back to the rear of the car where it’s secured inside the exhaust pipe with a giant lump of duct tape.

I open the passenger door, and instead of the scent of rot, I’m greeted with the smell of dried death and the oily scent of long gone exhaust fumes. Inside is an elderly couple, clutched together in a lover’s last embrace. His right hand embraces her shoulder and her head rests on his chest at an unnatural angle. Their hair is shock white, his combed and slicked back, hers is done up, nice and poofy, old lady style. He’s wearing a suit and tie and she’s in her best blue, church goin’ dress. They’re both extra wrinkled, dried out, almost mummified. Both her hands surround his other hand, lying atop her leg.

It’s touching and horrifically sad all at once. No lover’s drop for them, just an eternal nap in each other’s arms.

My chest heaves and I feel like I’m about to lose it, about to fall to my knees, weeping. I swallow and choke it down deep. I haven’t the time to cry anymore.

On the dash is a pack of those extra-long and slender lady cigarettes, made to make a woman look sophisticated as she gets cancer. On top of them is a Zippo lighter encased in a pink Mary Kay embossed holder. I lean in–the sweet scent of her perfume still lingers–take the smokes and lighter and stick them in my back pocket. The old man makes a single coughing sound, expelling dust and tomb breath. His significant other’s head begins to lift, sounding of pulled leather and hissing muscle against loose skin. I close the door and walk back to the car.

I get in and the kid grunts a welcome to me from the darkness.

In my best Bogart impression, I say, “It’s just you and me now, kid.”

I turn the car to the cliff and drive up to the edge, lining it up, and then drop it in reverse and carefully back the car straight up the hill. Stopping before I hit the top, I set the parking brake, put it in neutral, and kill the engine. I leave on the lights, get out, and strip off my shirt as I walk to the back. I toss my shirt to the ground and open the hatchback.

Five gallons of gasoline is not light, and feeling weaker, I almost drop it on my foot when I drag the container out. I sit it on the ground, unscrew the lid and toss it away. When the shirt is soaked with fuel, I sit the can back to the ground and walk to the gas fill, open it, and stuff the shirt in the pipe. The rest of the gas I pour on the hanging part, letting it run down the side of the car until I get a nice puddle on the ground. I splash a good amount on the back half of the roof and then run a line from the puddle to the outside of the driver’s door.

Startled by a loud, high-pitched tone, I jerk and my heart thumps in my head. I look at the Necrometer. It’s flashing a red 00:04:57. The five-minute alarm.

I toss the partially empty container in the back on its side, unscrew the top off from the other gas can, and close the hatchback. Walking upwind from the car and the gas fumes, I stand at the peak of the hill, and face the last of the dying light. I pull the cigarettes and lighter from my back pocket, take out a smoke, and toss the pack.

The stale smoke burns my throat and lungs but I don’t cough. I strip off my jeans, underwear, socks, tossing them all to the wind and dark. I smoke, feeling the rush of the nicotine, and the cool breeze across my naked body. I am dying and never so alive.

The cigarette is dry and burns fast, but damn, it’s good. My legs are really starting to tingle now, going numb, and I hobble back to the passenger side of the car and open the door. In the reflection of the lights, I see the kid give me a dumbfounded look–as if he has any other–and I reach in, unbuckle his seatbelt, and step back.

“Come on out. You don’t have to do this with me.”

He looks at me, and his features change enough that I swear his face just turned sad. He groans and grabs the door handle and slams the door. Damn obstinate teenagers.

“Yeah. Okay. I understand.”

Back in the driver’s seat, I press the foot brake, and release the emergency brake. I turn off the headlights and we sit in the dark, silent. I’m twirling the lighter in my hand. My body has gone numb and I feel no more pain. I try to think back of the goods things I’ve done in my life, but my brain is misfiring, and all I can recall is that stupid cat I left behind, free now, free to climb trees and chase mice and birds and stray kitty pussy. He’s going to do just fine.

I hear a rush of wind, but it’s not from outside, but in my head. It feels like it’s turning and tossing my thoughts around like so much wind-blown garbage caught in a corner.

I speak and my voice is a gurgling whisper from far away.

“You know, kid, what I was saying back there, I think it all comes down to this…there’s only one thing, one single item on that bucket list and you get it the day you were born. It’s this life, this one precious fucking life, and you better live it because it’s all you got. Live it or you might as well be already dead.”

The meter starts beeping, high pitched and urgent. One minute warning.

I flip open the lighter and place my thumb atop the flint wheel. A flash of light from out the windshield and I look up just in time to catch a green streak of light arcing across the night sky. It flashes and fades out as the meteor breaks apart. I start to laugh, a gut-pulling hoot, like I haven’t in what seems years. And I realize that’s all I wanted, just to laugh again. That makes me laugh even harder.

I spark the flint and the flame comes to life, looking dim in my fading sight. Dropped out the window, there’s a whoosh, and the car becomes a candle on top of Lover’s Drop. The mesa lights up around us, except for the black fall-off two hundred feet down the hill. I take my weakening foot off the brake and we begin to roll towards the cliff.

I’m still laughing when the Necrometer’s beep turns into a continuous screech and the wheels go silent as we go airborne and a black hunger swallows me whole.

Copyright 2014 by Timothy Baker

Fire-Writing: Get It Right


I was a professional firefighter for twenty-four years. And like anyone that has worked in a specific profession and seen it depicted in film or book, you sometimes cringe knowing it gets more things wrong than right, and throwing a red flag, calling a Bullshit penalty. I’ve seen fire and the fighting of it in film or book done so badly–defying physics and reality with such uncaring stupidity–it lifts me so completely out of my suspension of disbelief that it near ruins the whole story for me. Now you may say that it’s a pet peeve of mine born out of my very specific experience and that I should just go with the flow, but it’s my belief that none firefighter readers are smarter than that, and have seen a structure fire or two or experienced one directly, that when they read or see a film depicting weird fire their subconscious knows it’s wrong and they immediately see “Hollywood” or the ignorant writer. Fire is a scary thing, and fighting it, or being in close proximity, is way more deadly than shown in fiction. Just doing a little research could bring the intensiveness of reality into a story and make for much greater suspense.

That being said, about a year ago a wonderful writer friend of mine was working on a story scene involving a structure fire and she asked me to look over the chapter to give her advice. (She also suggested I write a primer for writers on fire, but I just haven’t gotten around to it). I did so and wrote a detailed overview of what she wrote, which is what you will read (I hope) below. Though it is specific to her scene, it holds many general facts that I believe will do a lot of writers good to enhance their blazing scene and story when depicting a fire.

By the way, she did very well. 🙂


housefireTHE FIRE ITSELF (hmm sounds like a good title): Ok, Fire Behavior (yes, it has a behavior, a rather sociopathic one). Having no previous knowledge of the burning building, here is what I understand from what you described…Two story building (wood house? apartment building?), no other structures nearby but with trees around it, and the fire started on the first floor. I assume the latter one because you describe fire in the main hall of the first floor. If the fire had start on the second floor and hadn’t been burning that long, say 5 to 10 minutes (is it in town or the outskirts?) the first floor would likely not be involved as fully as you describe. Since it is, the fire started first floor and moved up to the second. Heat, smoke, and fire follow the least path of resistance when spreading, spreading faster up in a widening V-Pattern, traveling down at a much slower rate. Remember that rule. All that is hinging on the assumption it wasn’t arson. Then we have a whole different scenario.

Your character looks through the door window and sees flames. That’s good. Your fire has vented (has moved to the exterior) itself on the second story (the higher the better) going out the windows, I’m presuming. When a fire vents, it causes a chimney effect, pulling all available air, including smoke, up through the structure to be released at the venting point. Therefore, the first floor is being cleared of smoke from the upward pull, making the fire clearly visible. If the venting hadn’t happened, the smoke would be trapped and building incredibly fast, filling every space as it builds down (remember before mentioned rule, with this addition: smoke rises, and mushrooms out, building down if trapped). Such conditions make the fire hard to see, most of the time impossible unless you’re very close to it and that’s a scary and deadly place to be!

THE FIRE SCENE DURING AND AFTER: Because there can be a wide range of behavior for firefighters, I can’t say what you described is wrong, or rather, not possible. Training across the nation is standardized and federally imposed, but because of lack of training on a department from budget cuts, or lack of experience, (Professional firefighters and rural volunteers can fight fire differently), sheer stupidity, or crazy bravado, firefighter behavior can vary. All I can say about the firefighters you describe is what a bunch of dumbasses! Anytime firefighters make an initial entry into a burning building with fire clearly visible, whether to recon or fight the fire, they don’t go in without a fully charged hose line with them to protect themselves if anything. The two guys going in are idiots not doing so. The firefighters spraying the side of the house aren’t doing much good with that! The damn fire is inside! And if those two that stick a hose in a window they would be endangering the two inside by possibly pushing fire, heat, and steam onto them! Time for live fire training for the crew. Professionally, what they would be doing, the two going inside would take a hose (ya don’t go to war without a weapon) with them to assess and possibly attack the fire at its seat (where it began) for an interior attack. And the two outside, would pull another line (if available) to cover any structures too close to the fully involved building (the tree attack was logical), or spreading around the building looking for escaped occupants, or those they can rescue with a ladder and any power they can turn off or gas meters to shut down.

One small thing, that conversation between the firefighters would more likely be a radio transmission from the officer of the crew (and initially in charge of the scene) to dispatch and all responding units as to conditions. I suggest adding, in reference to the lack of access to possible victims, “second floor fully involved”.

Because of the level of involvement of the building, the firefighters would be going into a defensive mode (rescue, protect structures nearby, and limit spread) instead of offensive (rescue, interior attack). Fully engulfed means it’s a goner. Any possible live victims inside to rescue changes things somewhat, and makes firefighters more aggressive.

THE AFTERMATH: You did a good job there, the quiet and the breeze. There is often popping noises as wood or warm objects cool down and retract. Because of the amount of water usually poured onto a fire of this extent, the dripping of water is everywhere. The air is thick with humidity and very close. Makes for one creepy scene. One cool atmospheric thing to think about is air temperature…if its cold outside, there will be steam rising about where things were hottest, making a light fog inside that usually rises.

interior w flashlightssmall


A few more things:

Movies and TV are the worst at depicting fire. Structure fires produce a LOT of dense multicolored smoke. A clean fire is what happens on your stove or heater when all the fuel is being consumed.

A free burning interior fire puts off large amounts of toxic smoke in an atmosphere that can be around 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. One breath can drop a person like a bullet to the brain. So showing someone, a firefighter or civilian, running into a burning structure and into a blazing room  without protective gear and breathing apparatus to rescue someone is…Total. Bullshit.

Here’s just a taste of reality taken from a firefighters POV…

A naturally caused fire (a fallen candle, electrical, etc) does not jump around to multiple spots burning here or there. It spreads exponentially from one spot, becoming one complete consuming monster. I loved the television series, Rescue Me, mostly for the humor and the pretty close depiction of firefighters and how they interact. But when they had fire scenes, and they walked down halls or through rooms without their masks on, walking past this little fire and that little fire (and without putting them out; one does not want the enemy coming up from behind and blocking your exit) till they opened the door to the BIG fire, well, I could only do a facepalm. Arsonists will sometimes set multiple fires in a structure, producing fires in various places, and that’s about the only time a firefighter will see that.

Well, that’s enough from me now in that subject. I hope it was enlightening to my writer friends out there. If you like and want to know more, just post a question and I’ll try to answer it. Or if your writing a scene involving fire or firefighters and want my advice, I’ll be more than happy to take a look at it and burn it to ashes!


Baby Steps and Growing Pains: Learning to Write Good…I Mean…Well

baby-writingI’m a baby writer. I don’t write about newborns, I mean, what’s to write unless they’re the Omen? Nor am I a literal baby, needing attention, selfish, cry a lot, need to be held and pampered, suckling breasts and belching milk, pissin’ and poopin’ in their pantalones baby. I’ve always been that way. What I am, is a fledgling writer, learning the craft of writing one story at a time (standing, then walking and falling, at times running faster than I’m able), eyes wide to the wonders and terrors of publishing, questioning everything I do, wanting to go everywhere at once. Starting a new career as a relative toddler in a field is hard on a guy in his (cough) mid-fifties.  But there is one consolation. Who hasn’t said they would love to be young again, knowing what they know now? As I said, I’m essentially a baby writer, but with an adult mind (I know some ladies that would disagree) and I no longer believe I know it all, and my shit does stink. I do seek and listen to advice with a proper skeptical mind as I’m not the blind follower of superstars as I did when I was young. I prefer standing on the shoulders of those that have gone before then try to prove my badassery, and learn lessons already learned, by running blind through the minefields where others have already tread.  I also have a keen eyes for bullshit.

Saying that, in the past 3 years, since I’ve started taking writing seriously, I’ve learned how to learn, my craft taking leaps and bounds, never thinking for a minute that I am there. It is painful, the rejections after the hard work, the realizations that sometimes (most of the time really) my writing is less than…um…pristine, for lack of a better word. No. A better word would be shit. But I don’t let that knock me down. I shake my fist at my mind and my computer and say, “I’ll show you…you…baby writer! Growup and get a job!”

Okay, I’m going to give you a little taste of what I see as progress from three years ago to today.

First is an excerpt from my first attempt at a novel (unpublished, the cover is a mockup), written at high speed for the 2010 National Novel Writing Month competition. It is called…

ImageHELLBUG (excerpt)

It was as it had been left some one hundred and thirty years ago, when Charles Tabor’s  heart stopped and he drew his last breath and left a young girl to scream her way to death. The dry air  in the room had left them mummified; Charles in a perpetual grin of pain, the girls mouth agape her lips pulled wide from her teeth in an eternal scream, her blonde hair barely clinging to her skull. All was the same except for the large chunk of stone that lay near the far wall.

     “This is one hell of a find, I’m telling ya. How old is this? How long you think they’ve been here?” John was excited. In all his years of caving never had he stumbled across something like this.

     Chris stumbled in too with Lisa and Patrick just behind. Patrick and Chris exclaimed following wo’s as Lisa swipe something imaginary from her rear. “I know you had a good view of my ass, but no reason to cheer,” she said her eyes on Patrick. But his eyes were up, scanning the vast carved room.

     “Wow, what is this place?”

     “It appears to be some kind of ritual room,” said Mal. She was walking around the altar, her head beam light on the mummified girl. “Possibly Satanic.”

     There was a collective gasp from the men. “Really?” said Lisa. “And how do you no this, Miss Know-It-All?”

     Mal turned her head, illuminating the pentagram and the symbols, and the five mounds of melted wax. “And of course, this body is a clue. Don’t you think, Lisa?” Lisa’s eyes widened at the arcane sight, then she shrugged. “Anybody could see that.”

     John was crouching over the remains of the fallen back body. He touched the silk shirt on its emaciated arms and it fell apart at the touch. “Careful,” Mal said, as he checked the bulge in the vest pocket. The cloth pulled easily away and crumbled from his fingers. He picked up the shining gold watch and gripped in his palm. It’s short hand pointed straight too twelve with its long hand barely at two minutes past. He turned the spring winding knob atop it and slapped his palm against it. Its second hand didn’t move. “Damn.”

     The two boys and Lisa stepped into the circle to get a closer look. Chris stopped, holding his hands up as it feeling for something invisible.     

     “Did you feel that?”

     Patrick looked a him, clutching at nothing on his face. “Yeh, what was that. Felt like a big spider web.” Mal and John traded a look; that had felt it too, a tingle across their bodies as the had crossed the circles perimeter.

     Lisa was taking off her harness. “God, is it hot in here or what?” she said, dropping the harness to the floor. She un-zipped the top of her tight synthetic caving shirt. Two lights converged on her double mooned cleavage, then just as readily left. Lisa giggled and shook her hair back.

     Patrick turned and step past Chris, the back of his hand patting Chris’s stomach. “You could’ve fooled me,” he leaned in and whispered. “Dude,her nipples are rock hard.” Chris nodded, his eyes shifting to Lisa and looking away, trying hard to not let his head lamp give him away again.

     The three walked around the altar. This is where that musty smell had emanated, the heavy smell of the dusty dead swirled around them. Chris made the observation that the bodies looked untouched by vermin, their corpses intact and biteless. There was not a roach in the room, or spider for that matter. The room was as lifeless as the granite.

Besides the bad punctuation, passive voice, repeated words, which is easily corrected, is the POV. As you can see, it’s all over the map, from Omnipotent to bopping around the characters like a mad rabbit. This is from early on in the book, and it only gets worse, replicating and splitting like horny mad rabbits as it gets deeper into the narrative. I didn’t see it then, and it took an editor to point it out. And I noticed on my own, it has no singular voice to give it life, making it jump off the page.

So I spanked myself for thinking I was such hot-shit right out of the gate, took it as a lesson, and trunked HellBug for the time being. I realized I had taken on too big of a beast, and needed to focus my narrative and work on the craft. So I took on short stories, a much smaller and easier beast to handle, but no less a challenge.

There’s a reason that creative writing instructors have their students compose their first stories in first person; it focuses the point-of-view to a single person and takes you directly into a characters head. I worked on first person narrative, simplifying my writing, trying to make me disappear and let the character shine. It paid off. My first story accepted and published was for an awesome collection of stories and writers called, Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous (Angelic Knight Press). Told first-person, I was starting to feel a stride…

ImageThe Long Death of Day (excerpt)

     “It’s beautiful,” she said.

     Her name is Selena and she is the love of my life. We laid together on a hillside in the cool grass, her body warm against me, and head on my shoulder. The comet’s tail fanned out across the sky like a great white wind-blown horse tail. Though traveling at immense speed, it seemed frozen in the sky just for us. For thousands of other lovers, too, I suppose. I pulled her tight against me and whispered something weak, as lovers do, comparing her beauty to the stars and how it didn’t compare. I believed it then. Still do. Her face, before the darkness and death’s arrival in the sky stole her radiance, is the only beautiful image that remains for me now. I hold it to save me from the swallowing maw of insanity. It’s all I have left.

     She patted my chest and called me a silly sweet man. Like most women I’ve known, she never believed herself to be attractive. Sometimes she chided me for saying it or sighed and shook her head, thinking I lied to get in her pants. It wasn’t a lie and I had no agenda. To me, Selena was beautiful; that smile and those eyes made my heart thump harder every time she gifted me with them. And her heart, her soul, touched me and kept my cynical spirit from turning darker and brought out a love in me that I had no idea existed. But that night she accepted my compliment graciously and, I hope, believed it just a little.

Focused and starting to have a heart; I think I’m starting to get something right.

Then came my second story published, but this time it’s in third person. When writing it, I knew I had to  carry that feeling of first person in the narrative, but taking a step away, looking at the character, instead of through the character, and retaining his voice, his view of the world. To accomplish that, I wrote the first draft in first person to keep me from drifting, then switched it to third person in the second draft. I think it worked out. The following excerpt is from my story contained in the zombie erotica anthology, Fifty Shades of Decay (Angelic Knight Press)…

Reveal.50Shades (2)Love Stinks (excerpt)

Now dead and struggling to eat him, Stellar was all his.

After breaking into the secured house and a bit of a tussle, Edwin had Stell spread-eagle on a St. Andrews cross, arms directly overhead with her wrists leather cuffed to a cross-beam. Oven mitts, with a stitched SEXY on one and CHEF on the other, covered her hands and had been duct taped to stay on—getting scratched by those long ragged nails would not be good. The usually vibrant red hair had turned to rusty iron and lay on her shoulders like al dente noodles. Her porcelain white skin had turned a steel hot summer sky, giving her a jewel-like quality. Those trademark 36D breasts stood round and perfect, as natural as God’s fruit, with gray tinged, tight aureoles set-placing her forever erect, inch long nipples. Edwin had found her wearing only a pink G-string and left the lingerie on for now, preserving some of her dignity. Not a mark marred her, not a cut, bite, or bruise; the empty bottle of Thorazine and Jack Daniels in the dictator-size bed testified to her way out.

Stell bucked against the constraints, her moaning and growling muted by the red ball gag. She stretched her neck out, still trying to get a mouthful of him. Unable to resist, Edwin pulled the small red satin crotch-swatch out; Brazil waxed and smooth as the satin, her bared blue vulva disappeared between her legs. The thought of those lips lubed and wrapped around his erection caused his cock to turn and stretch in its slumber.

Edwin felt surprise at the combination of disgust and his swelling penis, at the thought of sex with the undead. He was not into necrophilia, no way, no how. Technically, the total submission of the dead-as-a-rock is what turns on necrophiles, and Stell was anything but that— dead, but kicking and scratching and very bitey. Who was he to demand she change for him? Edwin loved her unreservedly and his need to be intimate with her was too great. Edwin could overlook a small thing like a heartbeat.

Another step closer away.

Feeling more aware and confident in what I was doing, I decided to tackle the big beast again; the novel format, with multiple characters. A short story idea had been rolling around in my head for some time, taking the zombie apocalypse out of the usual urban American/Euro setting and slapping it smack down in the middle of the boonies of Tibet. Then I saw that it could be a bigger story, a novel size one. How would a Buddhist Monk and a young Tibetan boy view the undead, and what would be their version of survival?

680302_490607197626294_94479491_oHungry Ghosts (excerpt; unpublished)

(The boy, Chodren’s POV)

The twilight was fading, and their faces glowed yellow and flickered with the light of the fire. The breeze carried fire-bug like embers up and away, disappearing to set in the sky as stars. To the east, a full moon rose just above the horizon. Chodren looked into its large face.

“He’s coming soon, isn’t he, Dorje?”

The monk looked to the horizon and nodded his head.

Cheung yawned. “Who?”

The boy crossed his arms, feeling a chill despite the warmth of the fire and looked at the Cheung. “The Medicine King, of course.”

Cheung chuckled with a slight roll of his eyes. “Oh. That.”

“Do you think, Dorje,” Chodren said, turning his eyes to the monk. “Do you think he will heal them? Maybe Tenzin, too.”

Dorje looked into the bowl and paused with a finger-full of rice halfway to his lips. He seemed to be far away, thinking of something else. Sad for his master, Chodren thought.


“Perhaps. I do not know. It is a small hope,” he said and continued eating.

Cheung snorted. “What a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. Kid, that star that you think is some magical ancient guy, isn’t. Hell, it isn’t even a star it’s a damn planet. Venus. Been there long before man came along and it’s never done anything more than blink at us.”

Chodren frowned at that, not knowing what to think. Cheung knew things he did not, but even so, his words seemed cruel. Cheung sat up, pointing at Dorje and Gu-Lang with his cigarette.

“I heard you praying in there, the old man too. Praying to whom? For what? A miracle? Fuck, there isn’t no miracles and what happened proves it. All your prayers and prostrating and belly gazing didn’t do a damn thing, did it? The old man died and became one of those things and you had to take him out.”

Silent, Dorje ate. Gu-Lang glared at Cheung, her eyes becoming cruel slits as she blew out a cloud of smoke.

“Had to face reality, huh? Had to do what you had to do because there wasn’t a god around to help out. That’s fucking reality, boys and girls. There’s only us and sometimes we got to do cruel things to live. All there is to it. Chairman Mao knew that. That’s why we’re here, China and the army, to show you ignorant people the truth. What a waste.” Cheung shook his head. “What did you have to do, huh? Something pretty nasty I bet. Poor stupid old man, spends his whole life checking out the workings of his navel only to end up a monster with a knife buried in his skull and brain. What a waste. I say he deserved it.”

Gu-Lang’s cigarette flicked from her fingers and flew like an angry meteor, striking Cheung in the face and exploding in bright embers. He flinched and cried out, and she was on him. She jerked him to his feet by his collar and rushed him backwards, slamming against the wall. Plaster crumbled as his head smacked. Dorje’s knife pressed against his throat as she held him helpless with her forearm.

“Fuck! You could have blinded me!”

Chodren stood, fear and confusion enveloping his face. “Stop!”

Cheung blinked in Gu-Lang’s close and angry face. The knife pressed into his neck. He blew ashes from his mouth and grinned.

“Yeah. Stop, bitch. Or do you think you can cut my throat before I pump three bullets in your gut?” His pistol out and pressed into her stomach, Gu-Lang showed no concern.

Chodren looked to Dorje for help, but his eyes were on the fire as he ate bite by methodical bite.

“Do something, Dorje, they’re going to kill each other.”

Dorje swallowed the last morsel then wiped the bowl clean with the cloth, and hid it back into his shirt. His tongue ran around his teeth and he smacked his lips. A sigh and he looked to the rising moon. Their shouts had carried, causing a rise of dead moans to echo back, sounding like mountain ghosts. Thuds came for the entryway door.

The monk said, “Do you think she will die by your gun before she cuts your head off? I have a feeling this is something she’s done before. And she seems very determined to me.”

Everyone is going crazy, thought Chodren. The image of them killing each other and leaving him alone to fend for himself made his heart thump and breath quicken. He looked back to the clinched pair. Gu-Lang had not given an inch; instead, she held the knife tighter against the smiling soldier as her bracing arm came down and gripped the gun.

“Easy now,” Cheung said, his smile faltering. His finger slipped into the trigger well.

She lifted it to her head, with Cheung keeping his hold, and pressed the barrel onto her temple. Now she grinned, opening her eyes wide.

Cheung looked worried. “What the fuck are you doing you crazy bitch?”

Dorje spoke, his eyes still on the moon. “She is trying to tell you that if you’re going to kill her, you had better do it once. Otherwise, she’s going to kill you, living or dead.” Dorje looked at him as if he were looking at a tree. “Look into her eyes. Determination can overcome many things.”

Unable to keep it in any longer, Chodren spoke, the words flying out of him.

“All of you are acting crazy. You can’t be like this, fighting like wild dogs. What will happen to us? What will happen to me? Please stop. I don’t want to see you become like my…sister…or my…mother. I can’t fight them alone. I don’t want to be alone.” Anger clinched his face and he picked up a thick branch from the fire, glowing and aflame at the end. “If you don’t stop right now, I’ll beat you on your butts and teach you not to act like animals!”

All three were staring at him now; Dorje expressionless, Gu-Lang’s eyes wide and tinged with reproach, and Cheung sneering in relieved surprise.

“Jeez kid, don’t blow a gasket,” Cheung said and flicked the safety on. He looked back at Gu-Lang and raised his eyebrows. She released her grip on the pistol, moved the knife away from his throat, and stepped back, but not before giving him a warning shove. Cheung returned the pistol to the holster.

Chodren tossed his stick back into the fire. “Now sit down and act like grown-ups and be nice.” His legs were shaking as he plopped his butt back to the ground, relieved. They did, keeping a wary eye on each other. Gu-Lang returned the blade to its wooden sheath and handed it to Dorje, who looked again to the moon, now higher in its nightly arc, and below it, peeking just above a distant peak, a bright winking light.

“The Medicine King has arrived,” Dorje said.


(The monk, Dorje’s POV)

Dorje sat back and rolled up his window. “We are in a fold of the mountain. Not far ahead after we take this turn we will be on the outside, in open space for a good distance.”

Cheung looked at him. “Really? And how will that help us? Make it easier to plunge off a cliff?”

“Certainly,” Dorje said matter-of-factly, “that is a possibility. But I do not see how that would help, except to send us sooner to our next lives. Are you prepared for that?”

Cheung looked dumb-founded. “What the hell are you talking about?”

Another shrug from Dorje and he said, “I know that radio waves are easily blocked by hills and mountains, and that perhaps, when we exit this chasm and reach the sky side, we may more easily transmit and receive radio signals.”

Cheung huffed in disbelief. Dorje smiled. “You are surprised. Do not let appearances fool you. We monks do not spend all our day in prayer, as Tenzin can attest. Actually, science was my favorite subject.”

Tenzin stopped his song and chuckled. “Oh yes. So many questions from you, such a wonderful doubter, his teachers would run out of answers.” Even in the dark, Dorje could see the dotted reflections of sweat beading on his friend’s forehead.

“A monk and a man of science, huh?” Cheung said.

Dorje pushed the scan button on the CB and watched the line of red LED lights race back and forth. The radio went silent.

“The path of the Buddha does not conflict with science,” Dorje replied.

Tossing the microphone in Dorje’s lap, Cheung sat back with a smug grin. “So, monk-of-science, what do you think is happening?”

“It is difficult to say.”

“What? The words are too big? Or is it some Buddhist shit about demons and possession? Go ahead, you can’t scare me.”

The thought of the boundaries of the spiritual realms breaking down and the hungry ghosts, crossed Dorje’s mind. It had been the first thing he considered, but now it seemed too simple, too childish. Such an event would be cataclysmic, involving the crossing over of billions of separate beings from multiple worlds. This seemed too finite and localized. Besides, how could one being know the answer and of what good would it do?

Dorje sighed and looked toward the boy, making sure he still slept. “Perhaps it is a virus or bacteria causing the madness. Or some sort of mass hysteria.”

“A virus?” Cheung said. “So fast? Why aren’t we going crazy? And why here and why now?”

“All good questions. It could be in the water. Or the air. That would account for the instant contamination of so many.” Dorje recalled the lack of pulse in the neck of the thing in the village square. “And we could already be infected and the right condition has yet to manifest to trigger the sickness for us.”

“But why here in the middle of nowhere?”

Gu-Lang looked in the rear-view mirror at the soldier. She glanced at Dorje with narrow eyes and gave a pinched pull at her shoulder. Dorje looked at her questioningly, then nodded when he got the inference. He did not like the idea, but governments had done such evil to its people before; secret experiments in isolated locales. The thought sickened him. To express it now to this boy, this soldier of China, would not be prudent.

I’m learning, I think. You tell me.


The two books above can be found on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions. Just click on the pics and you’ll be taken there.  They can also be found in other ebook formats at Smashwords…

Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous

Fifty Shades of Decay

My Writing Journey (So Far): What NaNoWriMo Taught Me


If my writing excursion was a journey for adventure and I had to tell you where I was at this moment, I would say that I just passed the City Limit sign. The comfort of home is still close behind and I could easily say, screw this, and turn around. But, being the fool that I am, and one that likes to explore the dark unknown, I don’t think I will. So, I’m tightening my shoelaces, hefting my computer up my back, and setting my toes for the horizon and the dark high peak that sits there, so distant.

This journey started in September of 2011 when my old dear friend and writer, Dennis McDonald, told me of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and threw down the gauntlet. We were to compete, not against each other but together, to create a 50K novel in thirty-one days. Before this, I was in limbo; my first wife of 25 years had died ten years before, had retired from a 24 year stint in the fire department,  and I had failed, miserably, in a second marriage. I had no direction, little to do of interest, and just generally felt a bit lost. But I had always been a creative type. I’m a musician (had a great little rock band for a summer), produced near a hundred television shows on a Cable Access station (producing , co-writing, and playing a TV horror host, and even wrote, produced, and directed a horror film there) and at the time I had no creative outlet. So I told my friend, “You’re on.” I had an idea that I had rolling in my head for some time and this seemed like a good reason to pull it out. In the 31 days, I sweated and toiled and bled every day to crap this idea onto the page, and on the last day of the competition I had 50,500 words down. Ten days later I completed the manuscript at 65K. And damn, that felt good. I had just written my first novel.

I spent the next few months cleaning it up, letting a couple of friends read it, and proudly I sent my baby, entitled Hellbug, off to a professional editor.  And that’s when reality slapped me upside the head. Hellbug, I discovered from this honest and forthright editor, was a schizophrenic mess of changing points of view, wandering plot, with too many characters, creating a defused read. I was an “amateur”, with my book needing a complete rewrite. Though the critique hit me hard in the negative aspects, I was told I had a strong writing ability and lots of promise, which was kind of like getting a dollop of whip cream and a cherry on top of my pile of shit. Gee thanks, I thought at the time.

But he was right, and I had to face that. I was an amateur, a baby learning to walk. Sure, I could go a few steps, but I was wobbly, unable to get from Point A to Point B without falling on my face or my ass. I had to strengthen my legs, and learn to walk flat land and then some hills before I ever could face the mountain of a novel. I was going to take this as a big lesson, lick my wounds, heal the bruises, and dust off my ass to try again, but this time, with open eyes. I had to hone the craft of writing, so I decided to work small, taking the suggestions of the editor, and write short stories and work to get published. And it worked. After six months of rejections, I had a short story accepted and published in Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous  alongside some very prominent horror and fantasy writers. Then another published (Fifty Shades of Decay), and now a third recently accepted. I could do this.

My point is this: NaNoWriMo taught me a lot. It set my mind free. I had attempted writing fiction before, but it was difficult to get fifty words down in a day. I would obsess over every word and line, wanting to get them perfect the first time. And I would give up. This writing thing was just too damn hard! How did anyone get anything done?!  My imagination felt jailed, yearning for escape, blocked by invisible prison guards. My dreams in sleep had always fascinated me (I’m the only person I know that enjoys their nightmares, sitting above them as the terror unfolds, thinking, “This is so cool, let’s see where this goes). Not just the content, but how my mind could just make such stuff up and spit it at me with such ease.  I wanted to learn to do that while awake, but had no idea how. NaNoWriMo, under its heady demand, opened that floodgate. I wrote without editing what I just wrote, let the story take hold, and let my dream-mind do the work. Instead of being obsessive about the words, I became a conduit for the story, letting my fingers take care of the words. I realized, once one knows how to write a decent sentence, you stop worrying about it, and really start creating. Granted, what I did create was a mess. What I took from that was I needed to plan, to be able to see the big picture, to create a focus beforehand with walls to keep me from wandering, and then I could set my imagination to run free within those boundaries. Doing so, I was in no way compromising myself, but learning the craft, so whatever art that is there, can blossom.  I can now write 1000K in a couple of hours. The work of writing is still hard as hell, but has become much easier.

And yes, I started another novel, pausing only to write the last two accepted short stories. I had to jump back on that big horse again and attempt to teach it who’s the boss. But this time, with more focus, sharpened writing, and a sense of purpose. The first draft of Hungry Ghosts, a zombie apocalypse novel set in Tibet, is now in the hands of trusted beta readers, secluded from my eyes for the next four weeks, and is going to go through the furnace and hammering of a samurai sword. And yes, oh editor, (if you’re reading this, you know who you are) you’re going to see me again.

Hellbug is now in a drawer, and sometimes I hear its clawing and buzzing. Yes, yes, my little friend. Be patient. I will bring you out to play again. You’re just too cool of an idea to keep hidden away in the dark. But not now. Stay in your cocoon a little longer. Grow some proper wings, and I will teach you to fly. Freedom will come. But not now, my little evil buddy, not now.

Hellbug mock cover

My imagined cover for Hellbug


Working on a zombie/erotica short story–because I was asked to, ok?– and amazed at how I can take my mind to such warped places. Having fun writing it (wouldn’t do it otherwise) but questions keep coming to mind; should I be doing this? Will I lose friends over it? Am I writing porno? (the answer is yes to that). Will I be ostracized by the community? Will I care? Can an ostrich live in a commune? Where did that question come from? Will my main character tolerate the mess, despite how pleasurable it is? And more importantly:  Should I use a pseudonym?

The Next BIG Thing…

Image(Friend and fellow Fading Light author, Jake Elliot , graciously passed these interview questions on to me and asked to join him as one of the stops on a small tour of up and coming writers. Thanks Jake, you honor me.)

Somewhere just below the horizon of the publishing world, awaits the Next Big Thing. Kinda like an attention deprived Godzilla ready to rock your world, smashing the conventions of your mind. Or maybe Baby Godzilla huffing hair singeing smoke rings. But hey, size doesn’t matter (so I’ve been told), as long as it blows our socks off, right? But still, we know it’s coming, we want it bad, and we need to be ready for its arrival with hints, innuendo, excerpts, and teasers!

Well, myself and my ever creative writer friends always have something up our mind sleeves, shaking them out onto the keyboard,  working on new projects awaiting  the light of day, hoping that this one is OUR  Big Thing. Below are questions and answers detailing my current project, then links to some writer friends of mine pulling back the curtain for a peek at the stories they are working on at this moment! One of us could be producing the NEXT BIG THING!

Ten questions on my Next Big Thing(?)…

Hands of Hell
Wat Rong Khun Temple


What is your working title of your book?   

Right now, it’s The Hungry Ghosts.  In Buddhist mythology, hungry ghosts are hideous creatures in Hell that are filled with a terrible hunger, but having throats to thin to swallow anything, they can never quench it. Seemed right for a zombie story.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

An image in my head of a zombie meditating in full lotus position. (the picture below I  found only recently)

What genre does your book fall under?


Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Sammo Hung comes to mind for the lead; that would be interesting.   But off hand I can’t come up with any Tibetan/Chinese actors.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

On a sacred mountain in Tibet, a peaceful village is suddenly ravaged by the undead,  and a hermit monk with a ten year-old boy struggle to survive in their escape to an abandoned  hermitage.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will be shopping it out to publishers that  have open submissions for novellas…for now.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’ve been working on the first draft for a  month and a half now and about three-quarters done.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I seriously don’t know. It’ll have plenty of the requisite gore and zombie action, but the spiritual journey aspect I haven’t come across in a zombie story before.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

All the zombie movies and literature I have been exposed to happen in the America’s or Europe, and usually in an urban setting with like characters with modern points of view. Seeing that this is a world wide event, I began to wonder what more isolated peoples, with different world views and cultures, how they would react to it. What about eskimos? Aborigines? Muslims? Munchins?! So, being a student of Buddhism, I set my story in the mountains of Tibet. How would people steeped in the Bon and Buddhist religion, that view death and dying in a radically different way than the west, react and think? And the fictional fact that zombies can still retain some vestige of their previous life, could a zombie reach enlightenment? There’s just a million other stories from other parts of the world to tell in the zombie setting that wouldn’t deal with the usual cast of characters; that’s what got me thinking.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, there will be Kung Fu action at no extra cost!

OKAY OKAY, here’s a little excerpt from my in progress novella, The Hungry Ghosts...

Until the cold eye turned upon him, the boy had not moved.

The thing lurched toward him, making a gurgling growl. Chodren sucked air and began to turn over to run. He looked up and froze again; three feet above him from the tall ferns and grass, emerged the large head of a leopard. Its black fur shone in the sun, pulling out the circled spots hidden below. Its green eyes flicked across Chodren then narrowed on the approaching monster.

For Chodren this was not just a big cat; it was a spiritual being. In tales he had heard of them flying; of highly attained monks shape shifting into them; they were protectors and vengeful enemies. He had never seen one up close, and only heard the one of the mountain, in far-away echos in the night. And this moment, Chodren saw a god come to punish him for his wrong doing. The boys breath stopped again of his own accord, his body frozen in awaiting death, the undead thing momentarily forgotten. A close groan and the scent of rot pulled the boys eyes away. It was nearly on him, ignoring the cat.

The cat’s head lowered in a crouch as its paw inched over the ledge with extending curled claws. It opened its mouth, unveiling fangs, and hissed. A shadow briefly covered the sky above Chodren as the cat left its perch in a silent leap…

Am I there yet?

More Next Big Things…

Prolific and a Celtic Myth master, Brian N. Young will fill your need for the mythical and magical.

Author of the Demon Squad Series, the Blood War Trilogy, and the horrific, Prey,  Tim Marquitz knows how to spin an action filled horrific fantasy.

And Alex Katrin  for vivid madness.

Then the horror minded Dennis McDonald, author of Ebon Moon and 13 Nightmares.

And watch out for Eric A. Jackson, author of the wild thriller, Blind Eye to the Rearview.

Take my apocalypse…please. (Part 2)

ImageApocalyptic stories are kind of like Jelly Bellys; many flavors, common and gourmet. And possibly that’s one of the reasons we writers are drawn to them because our imaginations can really fly in a menagerie world of horrors: zombies, mutants, crazed biker gangs, cannibals, deep space monsters, deep earth beasties, all the natural disasters one can think of, and on and on. What ever scares you, we have the monsters to fit the bill.

Now, let me say this: I believe nightmares are healthy, at least, the occasional ones. We’ve all had them (and if you have Night Terrors, or nightly nightmares that disturb your sleep, please see your doctor) and we have much in common in our shared dream symbolism. We are all practicing, when nightmares occur, resolving some issue or facing some fear in a safe place. Children do this more frequently in their sleep, adults less so, and as adults we turn to movies and books to help us face our fears, once again, in a safe place, practicing for the day when such events may arrive in real life. Certainly, apocalypse is possible and it’s okay to face the fear of such in a movie or book. It brings into question how we would face the event, and it’s telling to our own particular psychology when we pick a certain character in the tale that we identify with the most. And that is the point of world-end stories: it’s not the monster or the event that is important, they’re just the mechanism, nor is it the fear of death that scares us most (that is the foundation of ALL horror). Apocalyptic tales are about the SURVIVORS, and how their individual word views are challenged, and whether they will work in the aftermath. The horror is not the possibility of death, but the fall of everything we know, the shattering of certainty and delusions, and how our beliefs before the fall, may be a load of fecal matter.

George Romero’s zombie epic is exactly about that, so is Mad Max and Road Warrior, as is The Road, and to some degree (and with a large degree of spectacular silliness), the modern disaster movies, Deep Impact and 2012 and their ilk. The best world-end stories raises questions and offer few answers. They challenge on an internal level, and ask us, “Just who are you, really?”

And that brings me to the apocalypse movie, The Book of Eli…

Part 3 and the end of this rambling, coming soon.