About a year and a half ago, I decided to self-publish a couple of short stories. The impetus behind my decision is better explained here, but in a nutshell: I’d keep clawing my way up the ladder in the traditional publishing world, but I’d also throw some stuff out there without it because A) I wanted to see if I could generate a little hype and B) I was tired of writing and writing and NOT sharing what I wrote with people who’d appreciate it.
Now, I didn’t blow up or anything because of those stories. YOU’RE here and you know who I am (and I’m happy as shit to have you), but for every one of you, there’s a thousand people I’d like to reach whom I haven’t. Yet. Still, I consider that little pair of short stories I sent out there a success:
I sold a respectable number of copies, even for an eBook only format.
I expanded my tiny following so that it was less tiny.
I learned a LOT about eBooks and eBook sales.
I got to have those conversations I wanted with people about something I created.
I formed an alliance with a small press who would go on to help me publish ANOTHER set of stories.
And that’s what this post is about. This is the one where I thank Atlanta-based fledgling publishers Hallowed Waste for having the gumption to attach their name to my efforts. Granted, they benefit as much from me as I do from them, since technically my name is better known, but it’s always encouraging to have someone express a belief in your work, and it’s good to have the additional resources to draw from when you need.
Hallowed Waste only has two authors that I know of in its “stable”, me and a guy named Todd Wiley. But I believe they’re looking for more. They’re also looking for artists and illustrators who work for cheap or free - basically, if you’re good but relatively unknown, if you’re looking to expand your portfolio in a professional manner, and if you like to draw the sort of stuff they need (dark, esoteric, horror, sci fi), then shoot them an e-mail.
As a writer, if you’re looking to make a foray - the way I did - into eBook publishing, if you’re down with small, independent presses, and if you write the kind of things they’re looking for, ALSO hit them up. Start a conversation, find out what they’re up to and if you fit in. They’re looking to grow, and since I am too, it’s worked out for me.
It might work out for you, too.
Their e-mail and Twitter handle , plus their submission guidelines, are on their web site. In case the hyperlinks above didn’t work for you, here it is: www.hallowedwaste.com.
I read Paul Thigpen’s My Visit To Hell for a couple of reasons. One is a secret - and yeah, I’m gonna keep it a secret for a while; I can do that. The other reason is that I’ve been fascinated with Dante’s Inferno since my early Dungeons & Dragons days - and Thigpen’s novel promised to be a somewhat faithful retelling and/or update of the epic classic. Which it, thankfully, was.
I bought the trade paperback without knowing much about Thigpen. I didn’t know that he was a converted Catholic with an evangelical background (and I think he was still a Protestant evangelical when he first wrote My Visit To Hell). I also didn’t know that Hell was actually touted as a “Christian” novel.
I won’t say that I WOULDN’T have read the book had I known. I consider myself a Christian - a dismally bad one, but one nonetheless. Plus, I’m the kind of reader who believes that to become a better reader, thinker, and ultimately, writer, one needs to read expansively and inclusively. I mean, I TRIED to read Ulysses. On the other end of the scale, I TRIED to read R.A. Salvatore’s shitty-ass Drizzt Do’Urden fantasy novels.
I’ve certainly read “Christian” literature before - and not just C.S. Lewis’s brilliant work. Hell, I read Paul McHenry’s terrible, terrible, terrible Code Name: Antidote. You can ask some of my closest friends about that time in my life - you’ll love some of the answers.
Paul Thigpen’s novel is much more readable, interesting, and imaginative than CN:A, but it still got on my nerves to read a book like that. And by “like that”, I mean a book filled with less than savory characters who are in tense, less than pleasant situations, who still never, ever, never, ever say ONE swear word. Not one.
Not one “shit”. Not one “fuck”. Not one “asshole”. Not even a “bitch” or “cocksucker” or a “damn”. Unless you count “damned” as referring to the cursed individuals in Hell. And, of course, there’s the word Hell itself.
Other than that though, in Thigpen’s world, not even the nasty rapists and murderers who inhabit Hell are willing to say anything remotely blue. While I understand Thigpen’s audience and publisher, and their need to keep it “clean,” I found it ridiculous and incessantly annoying that - while people were running around naked, getting graphically blasted by fire and radiation, getting hacked to pieces by horrific demons and torturers, NOT ONE OF THEM EVER SAID A SWEAR WORD.
I think the nastiest thing anyone was called was “bucko.” Even the demons kept it clean.
Were that the worst thing I could say about the novel, though, I think I could give it a glowing recommendation. After all, no swearing is a pretty minor nitpick, no matter how annoying it was.
And I WILL give it this limited praise: Even though the not-swearing thing was annoying, even though it distressed me to no end that Thigpen reveled in saying CUSS instead of CURSE or SWEAR (he’s a Southern writer, too, folks), and even though some passages were sophomoric and trite, the book entertained me. Occasionally, the scenery was inspired. For instance, the level of Hell for suicides was creepy and sad in perfect proportions.
This brings us, though, to the title of this post and my greatest criticism of Thigpen’s novel: in a book that could have been sooo interesting, and for Christian readers so inspirational, and for non-Christians so informational, Thigpen decided to dwell overly long on certain evangelical “hot topics” that would likely have stopped many people - those who don’t already believe as he does - from reading further.
Can you name two topics which evangelical or “devout” Christians tend to dwell on that turn people off - so much so that people who might otherwise be receptive to the POSSIBILITY of a divine “God” and an encompassing plan for the universe say, “Fuck that - you guys are a bunch of hateful-ass judgmental bitches,” and either dismiss or reject altogether the entire premise of Christianity or religion in general?
If you said ABORTION or HOMOSEXUALITY, then take the pie - it’s yours.
What the fuck is it with “Christians” who set aside the most crucial of all God’s commands - that YOU LOVE GOD, AND THEN TREAT OTHER PEOPLE AS YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE TREATED - in favor of bile and vitriol, and the condemnation of circumstances and lifestyles that they do not understand, or even care to try to understand? No wonder so many people reject religion - it’s hard to believe in a God who cares more about what you do with your own body than He does what you do to other people.
I finished Thigpen’s novel for three reasons: 1) because I’m a believer, I’m straight, and I’ve never been involved in making an abortion decision, so I was able to swallow my disgust at how much he dwelled on those topics 2) because I was curious, and 3) because I’m a completionist. Had I lacked any of those characteristics, I probably would have set My Visit To Hell aside and started on the stack of Hulk comics I have on my bedside table.
Lemme give you a bit of context. In Dante’s Inferno, and in Thigpen’s interpretation of it, Hell consists of ever-deepening circular levels, and the deeper you go, the more heinous the sin, until you reach the bottom where Satan himself is half-buried in ice, his upper half still able to reach and grab and chew. This lowest Hell, the Ninth Circle, is called Cocytus, and therein dwell the worst sinners imaginable - the traitors. In Inferno, we see Satan gnawing perpetually on the three worst traitors in Dante’s world: Brutus, Cassius, and of course, Judas Iscariot.
So, here you go: Circle Seven is the place for the violent - those who were violent to others (murderers and tyrants), those who were violent to themselves (suicides), and those who were violent against nature and God. Now, both Dante and Thigpen relegate gay people to this Circle - in fact, they’re placed in a deeper ring than both the murders and the suicides.
Let me ask you something. When you think of violence, do you think about gay people? Does Neil Patrick Harris make you shudder with terror at how he’s going to gut you with his codpiece? Do you think that the average gay guy deserves a place in Hell that’s DEEPER than Saddam Hussein’s? Than Ted Bundy’s?
Dante put what he called sodomites in that level of Hell because he lived in a medieval age and had a medieval mindset. Thigpen… well….
What Dante NEVER mentioned was abortion. But guess where Thigpen placed the parents of aborted fetuses? In Cocytus, just a little ways away from Satan himself. Even saying that abortion was murder, and putting the parents of aborted fetuses on the Seventh Circle wasn’t enough for Thigpen. Nope. Ninth Circle: traitors to family.
And it wasn’t that Thigpen offhandedly mentioned, “Yeah, that’s where the abortion parents are. Yeah, that’s where the gays are.” He DWELLED on it. Not exhaustively, but enough that you knew he was trying to make a point.
And by making that point, he distracted me from the other points he might have been trying to make. In doing so, he lost an opportunity. He could have given me a story that scared me so badly I had bad dreams - I mean, what’s more potentially frightening than a place of eternal torment and freaky shit? He COULD have given me - and think this was his intent - a story of redemption and salvation, one that pulled at my heart strings and made me exult at the main character’s rebirth and reawakening. But alas, Thigpen’s writing simply wasn’t powerful enough to overcome the things he threw in there that distracted me from his point, and he would have lost me had I not been determined to finish.
In the end, though I can’t say My Visit to Hell was in fact, a visit to Hell, it certainly wasn’t a cakewalk either.
I haven’t heard the latest statistics regarding this holiday season’s Kindle, iPad, and Nook sales, but I’d be willing to bet that the number of people who own such a device increased last week, perhaps exponentially. I know for a fact that my family is one iPad to the plus: Eli’s digging Angry Birds on the “big screen.”
OK. So, did YOU get a Kindle or an iPad or a Nook? Or even one of the more generic or esoteric e-readers available? Cool. That’s a nice one.
Now that you have that awesome device, may I suggest that you purchase and download some short stories by an up-and-coming writer who’s busting his chops and trying to make inroads via electronic-only publishing? Looking at my site this week, I realized that I had been being demure about selling my new stories (and my old ones, too). I hadn’t yet posted a single post with ALL of the point of sale links for the stories, nor had I said “HEY!!! BUY THEM!!!”
You should, though. I’ve been told they’re pretty good.
Last time, when I self-published some stories, you only got 8000 words. Sure, they were only .99 cents, but still. This time, a small press has picked me up, and as an added bonus for you, this time around you get 20,000 words for the same low price.
Did I mention that you might enjoy them? In fact, if you do buy them and enjoy them, I’d LOVE for you to go to the site where you bought them and write a review of them. And if you’re a press or a zine or somebody in publishing, and you like what you see, well, hey - you know where to find me.
Now, here’s where you can find my latest works of fiction:
Barnes & Noble (Nook)
iTunes/Apple (iPad, iPod)
Smashwords (RTF, Plain Text, HTML)
A very scary Halloween was the target with the latest bunch of stories by yours truly, and it happened. Allow me to present three stories that I hope will send a chill down your spine and make your hairs stand on end. As of right now, the Kindle and Smashwords versions are available. Links to the points of sale for both versions are below. If you want, just click away and you’ll be off to Amazon.com or Smashwords.com, where you can buy the bundle for a mere .99 cents.
Last time around I only gave you two stories, at roughly 8000 words total. This time around, when you buy you get THREE stories, clocking in at closer to 20,000 words. That’s almost a novella, and it’s still just .99 cents.
Although all three stories are technically horror, they’re all very different in tone and style. They have a few things in common besides their genre: each focuses at least in some degree on the relationship between two male “buddies”, each features precocious children (not unlike tiny Emys from The Littlest Goblin), and all of them have open-ended finales which ask you, the reader, to fill in the blanks using your imagination and the clues I’ve provided.
The first story is called The One That Got Away. It opens in my favorite bar, The East Point Corner Tavern, where Evan Craddock is drinking himself silly AGAIN, accompanied by his good friend Stan. Evan’s a divorcé with a four-year-old daughter and a whole shitload of baggage. His little girl’s at his mom’s so that he can go out drinking, and he’s making the most of it. He’s about to enjoy his next drink, when Stan grabs him by the arm and points out this gorgeous woman who’s just walked into the bar. Coincidentally, Evan knows the woman - she’s a long lost love from his college days - and she’s actually in the bar to find him. But her intentions are less than… altruistic.
According to history, Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809. But WAS he? In my retelling of history, called The Thrall of Fate, Poe is actually born in 2009, knowing already the ultimate fate of the famous writer who died in a gutter in 1849. A series of events sends Poe backwards in time, where he assumes the role of his namesake - although he’s determined not to suffer the same fate that the original Poe did.
In Killing The Messenger, someone’s trying to tell 10-year-old Chuck Ballantine something. But what’s the message? And why Chuck? And what’s the mysterious force which keeps intercepting the messengers over and over again? There are scenes and some heavy-handed allegory in Messenger which I’m sure will piss some people off. And you know what? I’m fine with that.
So there you go. Hopefully, I’ve intrigued you, and NOW you’re going to click on the links below, run off, and buy them.
Thanks and Happy Halloween!
“They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”
For the uninitiated, that’s a quote from the beginning of Night of the Living Dead. But I’m not talking about zombies coming to get you, or coming to get Barbara either. I’m gonna let Robert Kirkman and Max Brooks bring the zombies to the masses for the time being.
What’s coming from me to get you is three scary stories, soon to be available on your closest haunted Kindle, Nook, iPad, or computer. They have a few things in common - like the simple fact that they’re all horror stories - but otherwise they’re all very different. I announced them a few weeks ago, in the hopes that the finished products would be available by Halloween, and, well, I’m on track. Unless something unexpected like a zombie holocaust occurs between now and then, I’ll be able to tell you next Monday to go get them.
Just as with The Giant/The Littlest Goblin package I got published last May, they’re only .99 cents and only available as an eBook. This time, though, you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck: there’s THREE stories, and they’re generally longer than the first two.
Without revealing too much, here’s a little bit about each of the new stories.
The One That Got Away is a bit of horror/comedy - something along the lines of Stephen King’s first Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt. I got the idea several years ago when I heard that a girl I’d hooked up with a couple of times in college had died really young from some rare and vicious cancer. I know, I know - that’s not funny - and neither is the ultimate ending of the story. But as I wrote the initial scenes (which coincidentally take place in my favorite bar The East Point Corner Tavern), I had my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. The main character, Evan, and his best bud, Stan… well, they’re a couple of idiots. You gotta love them, but it’s hard not to chuckle at their alcohol-fueled antics.
I’ve mentioned The Thrall of Fate before. It’s an ode I wrote in 2009 to commemorate the birthday of one of my literary heroes - Edgar Allan Poe. Poe himself is the main character of the story - but he’s a very different Edgar Allan than the one who died in a gutter in 1849 of some strange and terrifying malady. I had to take some liberty with the details of Poe’s early life, so consider this an alternate history piece, with a twist and a finale I sincerely hope Poe himself would approve of.
I wrote Killing The Messenger with the sole intention of creating a monster from an unexpected source. And I don’t mean like the shit monster Kevin Smith created in Dogma or the meat monster from David Wong’s John Dies at The End.
You know, though, as I think about it, Messenger actually has TWO antagonists - one the monster I created, and the other, an amorphous, mysterious other. This other entity is responsible for doing what the title suggests, over an over again. But the visceral effect of my “monster” may be the thing you’re more likely to take away from the story. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Anyway, Killing The Messenger was also partially inspired by the lyrics to a strange song by a musician named Jude, who had a few small hits back in the 90s. On his album No One Is Really Beautiful, there’s this song called ‘George’, and the beginning goes like this:
“George died in the fifth grade/no one ever knew why
He was out selling lemonade/on the Fourth of July, and he died
Sister Claire said that he was/an angel on Earth/She stood there and she told us
She had clearly rehearsed/Every verse/Of the lies that tie you down”
That’s it. I’ll leave you with that. That ought to keep you until Monday, I think.
On Monday, they’re coming to get you.
I told you this would happen.
OK. I told some of you. Others of you might have guessed based on discussions you’ve had with me regarding how the sales on my original two stories were doing: they haven’t made me a millionaire (and indeed, that is not my goal), but they’ve been encouraging enough for me to do it again. That is, to have MORE stories published on eBook and eReader formats, so that I can share even more of my work with even more people.
To that end, consider this the first formal announcement regarding THREE MORE forthcoming stories.
Now, here’s a bit of irony: I don’t consider myself a genre writer. I don’t set out when I write to write a horror story or a science fiction story or a fantasy story. I don’t say to myself, “Will - you should right a story about a school of wizards or a story about sparkly vampires.” I usually set out with some point I want to make, some germ of an idea - a bit of morality, a bit of commentary about life, death, and the human condition. Sometimes, I find those ideas easier to express in a particular genre. More often, that’s actually not the case, and one day maybe you’ll see more of my non-genre work.
Still, as I look over my stories lately - the one’s I want to see published, to share with people right now, I’m drawn to the genre pieces. And so it is that, once again, I’ll be sharing genre pieces with you.
Last time, I gave you a fantasy piece and a science fiction piece. This time, I’ll be giving you three horror stories.
Now, although they’re all from one genre, these stories are all very different. One’s funny, one’s deeply literary, and one’s well… strange. As the publication date draws nearer, I’ll give you more details. For now, I’ll just tease you with the picture of Edgar Allan Poe up above, and let you know that he’s a main character in one of the stories. I wrote that story a couple of years ago to sort of celebrate Poe’s 200th birthday. It’s taken a couple of years to get it published.
I’m told by initial readers that the story is kick ass. Here’s hoping that you’ll like it, too.
I got back from Austin on Sunday.
For five days or so, I’d been there for the World Horror Convention. Now, before it starts to sound like I’m bitching about wasting my time, let me give you some perspective: First, I had fooled myself into thinking that there would be more movie-related and esoteric stuff there - things to look at, things to touch and listen to. Turns out, the convention was predominantly for horror writers. “Awesome, Will,” you say, ” Aren’t you trying to sell an agent or an editor on your horror novel?” Well, yeah. And that particular part of the following story is the happier part. But I really, really, really wanted to drink beer in Austin and watch horror movies all night. And maybe see some cool costumes. Now, I cannot fault the WHC for these omissions - it’s entirely my fault for not doing more research into what it’s all about - but even as I can’t fault them, I can’t help but be disappointed. Feh. I’ll know next time.
Second, I have come to mostly despise “writers’ conferences”. Except for the potential exposure to agents and editors, and the occasional appearance of a writer I absolutely love (in this case it was Peter Straub), I find most writers’ conferences to be an exercise in jockeying for attention and the repetition of a lot of stuff that I already know. (I may not act on this knowledge, sometimes to my detriment, but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard 99% of it before. I don’t need another workshop on setting my scene or building my tension. Thanks.)
I need to note before I piss them off that the Aspen Summer Words Retreat last year proved to be an exception to this rule. I had a great time there, and I learned more than I have in a long time.
But again, I didn’t really want to go to yet another writers’ conference, even if it was for horror fiction specifically. Hell, for reasons I choose not to disclose in this public forum, I gotta say that the fact that it was a conference for horror fiction actually made it even less attractive.
So yeah, I felt like I was wasting a lot of time. It didn’t help that I’d just published a small short story collection on Kindle, and was trying to get it published on Nook and iPad as well, when all my efforts got interrupted. I didn’t have a laptop with me, so I left home unsure if the formatting on Kindle looked good, unable to finish getting the other HTML versions done, and incapable of adequately marketing and selling any of the versions. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should be doing in that regard, and mostly helpless to do it.
It also didn’t help that 6th and 7th Street in Austin were kind of far from the hotel. That’s where most of the bars and music venues are in the city, and they were a $20 cab ride away. So if I wanted to go downtown to hang out, I had to make a day trip of it. I did go down there - Thursday and Friday nights - but it would have been nice to be able to flit back and forth at my leisure. My best buddy Jay’s moving to Austin, so next time I’m there I’m staying at the Hilton, where he works.
Still, I was there for five days, and if you know me, then you know that I made the best of it. I always do. First, I got to see my old friend Deb Pagell. She moved to Austin about 4 or 5 years ago, and it was good to see her. While I was hanging with her and her cool, cool friends, I got to try a local IPA from Live Oak Brewing. It… was… awesome. I can imagine that it would become fairly average if it was bottled and shipped to Georgia. But in Austin, just around the corner from where it was brewed, it was so fresh and hoppy and delicious that I fell instantly in love.
I also got a chance to run over to Great Hall Games, a gaming store on North Lamar that made me miss the good old days in Atlanta when The Atlanta Game Factory and The War Room were open. Sure, I play games a lot despite not having a physical gaming store to visit, but there’s just something so enticing about playing in a place like that, surrounded by games. Great Hall Games also had an impressive array of loose bits - cubes, pawns, “meeples”, chips, cards - that you could buy to replace missing parts from your games. Or, if you’re like me and you fancy maybe designing a game or two, well, you can put together a nice set without having to “borrow” bits from your existing games. Loose bits = great idea. They sell them on their web site.
The hotel I stayed in, though too far away from downtown, was still great. The food and service was excellent, the room comfortable and big. The thing that really sold me though was that all the inner rooms had glass paneled double doors which opened onto a cloistered walkway, which in turn overlooked a spiffy courtyard and a swimming pool. The first night I was there, before the convention crowd actually arrived, I hung out on the walkway reading a book, drinking whiskey, smoking a good cigar, and feeling the spring breezes blow. What a great night - and then I got to go to sleep without an alarm clock to wake me up.
Finally, I did mention that there was some happiness involving my meetings with the editors and agents who attended the convention. I don’t want to get my hopes up or jinx myself, so I’m not going to go into great details here - just suffice it to say that those particular experiences made my day, and might make going to the World Horror Convention next year truly worthwhile.
I’ll keep you posted on that.
I’m really excited by all the cool conventions and workshops and cruises I’m going on all spring and summer long, starting this weekend. Typically, when I’m about to attend this sort of shit, I always promise that I’m gonna Tweet the whole time and I’m gonna do a write-up of this or that whenever I get back, and then I NEVER Tweet it, and I only do a write-up about half the time.
That said, I DO plug these things quite a bit, both before and after - just not quite to the extent that I imagine I will, usually because I’m so immersed and having so much fun. I certainly hope that those involved - those who have monetary gain tied up in these cons and retreats - appreciate the free press I’m giving them. I hope they benefit from it. I guess if that they don’t benefit from the free press, then there’s no tangible reason for them to appreciate it, other than appreciating my fruitless, often noisy, mostly altruistic efforts.
So what’s happening in the near future? Well, in the months of April and May, which are otherwise filled with more birthdays and anniversaries than I can count, there’s this weekend’s Classic City Brewfest, the World Horror Convention at the end of the month, and next month’s East Atlanta Beer Festival.
Classic City Brewfest. I’m leaving this Saturday afternoon for Athens, GA with two of my best friends, Jay and Eddie. Jay’s an events manager at the Hilton Atlanta, and Eddie is one of the owners of the Ale Yeah! Craft Beer Market in Decatur. I think they’re awesome company for an excursion like this, and not just because of what they do for a living. They love beer as much as I do (maybe more), they’re fun, and like me, they attended UGA many, many, many years ago. While we’re there, we’ll likely have a few with my friend Matt Simpson, The Beer Sommelier. And hopefully, next week I’ll return to this site with a rundown of all the best beers we encountered at the Brewfest. And maybe with a raunchy tale or two to tell as well. Although not about Eddie, Matt, or me - we’re married. So I guess that just leaves Jay.
The World Horror Convention. I have no idea what to expect from this. All I know is that I LOVE horror movies and horror stories, and that I love Austin, Texas. So when I saw that there was a convention in Austin that covered all things horror, I just HAD to go. I tried to get my friends Darrell and Stephanie to go with me, but they fell through, and I’d like to take this opportunity to point out to them that I think they’re missing out…. I have nothing scheduled for my weekend there, although I did enter the Black Static short story contest, and I’m probably going to sign up to pitch The Talented Boys (it’s a horror novel after all) to someone. Otherwise, I’m winging it - meeting creepy people, watching horror movies, and drinking a shit ton of beer on Sixth Street.
East Atlanta Beer Festival. Not much to say on this one. Yet. Jay and I have gone to it several years running and always had a grand time. This year, Jay might not be able to go, but I think my friend Michael will go with me. And maybe Rob’ll grow a pair and stop bailing at the last minute. The EAB web site says tickets will go on sale early in April, but as of this writing, I’ve seen no movement in that direction. When they DO go one sale, I shall purchase some. VIP, baby - the only way to go.
I hope I don’t pidgeonhole myself into being a “zombie book” reviewer, although that seems to be the kind of book nowadays that makes me want to sit down and TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT. Take my negative review of this insipid little (best-selling) nugget here for instance. It just seems that, although I read everything from sci fi to the Booker Short List, from George R.R. Martin to Herman Melville, I only want to share tales of unholy mobs of flesh-eating terror with you.
Oh, what the hell. I can think of worse things to get pidgeonholed for. And the two books I’m about to tell you about absolutely deserve the attention I’m giving them - they deserve, in fact, far more attention than the book I mentioned above.
First, there’s Bob Fingerman’s post-apocalytic horror-comedy, Pariah. Set in the months immediately following the annihilation of New York City by the undead, Pariah follows a group of survivors who’ve holed up in an Upper East Side apartment complex. They’ve been there for months, unable to get to the grocery store that’s just across York Avenue, because of the hordes of zombies which tenaciously swarm the streets below them. They’re simultaneously starving to death and going just a little crazy, until a woman named Mona walks up - literally walks up - with the zombies recoiling away from her in utter disgust. That’s right - there’s something that disgusts even zombies, and Mona’s it.
Fingerman’s story uses a number of zombie conventions, but rather than seeming redundant - a rehash of familiar zombie tales - it comes across as fresh and evocative. It takes talent and a true passion for the zombie genre to get a story as familar as this one right, and Fingerman nails it. Pariah is dark, violent, sometimes disturbing, and often hilarious - a well-told survival narrative that’s worth checking out.
It’s the “Really Good” from the title of this post.
John Adjivde Lindqvist’s Handling The Undead is the “GREAT” from the title of this post.
You probably know Lindqvist’s work already - he’s the writer of both the novel and the screenplay Let The Right One In, a Swedish vampire film remade adequately enough in America as Let Me In. If you haven’t seen the Swedish version of the film, look for it - especially if you can find the subtitled version (the English-language dubbing kind of detracts from the original Swedish).
What Lindqvist did for vampires, he now does for zombies, although it’s quite possible that his unconventional take on the zombie genre might be even more original than his spin on the vampire legend.
Here’s what I can give you of Handling The Undead’s plot.
In Stockholm, something strange and awful is happening: electrical appliances won’t turn off and everybody’s got a splitting headache. Then, suddenly, it stops. Everything’s normal. Except that the recently dead - those who’ve died in the past two months or so - have all come back to life. The incident is limited to just Stockholm, and the undead only number about 1200 people, and that’s all I think I can comfortably tell you, because not knowing what’s going on is a driving force behind the power of the novel. There’s a mystery here that you, as the reader, must uncover.
Here’s what I will tell you: Rarely do books affect me the way Handling The Undead did, and certainly no book in the horror genre. The moment I read the last page, though, I closed my eyes and began bawling like baby in need of a diaper change. I couldn’t stop for several long, uncomfortable, yet cathartic minutes.
There will be those who no doubt won’t be as affected as I was because of their beliefs. Atheists will have to accept certain theological premises, and if they can’t, they won’t get it. Ironically, neither will some religious adherents, who’ll have to accept a certain “looseness” in their dogma regarding exactly what happens after someone dies.
But for those of us who believe there just might be something “after” and also accept that we can’t genuinely know exactly what that something is, Handling The Undead can be transforming.
And as a parent, even more so. I was a wreck for days after I finished it. All I wanted to do was be with my children.
That’s a horror novel, everyone, that made me feel that way.
Specifically, a zombie novel.
I gotta post something, right? I gotta keep fresh material coming at you or else you’ll go elsewhere for your thrice weekly dose of “cussin’” and poetry and drunken diatribes. So here’s a post - and this one’s just a sort of update on something really cool that’s happening in Kenyon world.
You don’t know this (well, some of you do), but I’ve written 2 novels and 2 pieces of 2 more. One novel - King of Karma - though it has good parts in it, is on the whole unpublishable - a learning experience from years back. Another novel - San Guillermo - is complete, but it’s part of a growing narrative that I’ll work on, I promise, once I publish a “standalone”. You guys are reading and listening to one of the unfinished novels - A War Between States, which by the way I should have another installent of next week.
Which brings us to the unfinished work with the working title Hood. Right now, I’m exactly 6 chapters away from finishing Hood, and so you gotta understand: finishing that book, which has taken me 4 years to write (having kids slowed me down, plus I sort of got “lost” in it for a while), is PRIORITY NUMBER ONE. I like what I’m doing with this site, but if I don’t finish this novel - whether I get it published or not - I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write a novel again. And that would be a blow to me as a writer.
So bear with me. There’s still a lot of material out there for me to present to you - it’s just gonna come in dribs and drabs over the next 2 or 3 weeks while I burn up the final pages of this book.
And if you wanna read the book after it’s finished, that can be arranged.
Oh, and if you’re an agent or publisher and you’re interested in an “Urban Horror Fantasy” and you like what you see at this site and think my style might translate well to that sort of thing, drop me a line.