Guest Post: Jay Wilburn #SummerofZombie

Summer of Zombie 2015

“LGBT and Zombie Stories”

by Jay Wilburn

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If you listen to certain opponents of equality in terms of gay rights, the apocalypse is on the way due to the advances of the LGBT community. I disagree, of course, and that is not what this post is about. In science fiction fandom circles due to dust ups around the Hugo awards and the personal politics of certain writers, the conservative and progressive leanings of various authors, stories, and genre writing in general have been brought into question. That’s not really what this post is about either.

Zombie stories cover what happens to the world after the structures of the modern world are suddenly and violently stripped away. They follow the survivors after the rest of the population is transformed into monsters. These survivors cover a cross section of the population and typically involves throwing together survivors from differing backgrounds that are often in opposition to one another. This includes different races, faiths, socio-economic backgrounds, skill levels, political leanings, and levels of personal character and morality. This should naturally and logically include LGBT characters as well.

There are some notable, but isolated examples of gay characters in zombie fiction. Brian Keene uses a gay male protagonist in Dead Sea. There is a scene where this issue is discussed quite directly during that novel. It errs on the side of preachy, I think, but Keene is a skillful writer and the book stands as a great, zombie story. He uses many characters from across the spectrum of demographics including other gay characters in his other works.

Robert Kirkman uses a gay male couple in a notable role in the later editions of The Walking Dead comics. In the comic version, there is also a gay relationship portrayed during the prison stretch of the story which is not included in the television show’s prison seasons. The television show included a prominent lesbian character with little reaction from the audience. When the gay male relationship was introduced in the series, there was a little bit of a negative reaction on social media that did not last long.

It is telling though. Despite a wide range of gay characters portrayed positively in dramas and comedies over many decades on television, there is still a reaction with some people. Female homosexuality in everything from mainstream porn to zombie fiction is more readily accepted than portrayals of male homosexuality. When the gay male sexuality is shown through acts of affection from touching to kissing to whatever, it is viewed as threatening to some people in a way that lesbianism is not. Silly straight males!

When I sent out my novel Dead Song Book 1: January from Milwaukee to Muscle Shoals, I had two beta readers that gave notes about the gay characters making them nervous. Something about having two gay males in a scene together made them afraid that “gay stuff” was going to happen. Their reactions are disappointing to me still, but it illustrated the importance of those characters being in a story. One gay male in a story they could look at as a token nod to diversity, but two gay males in a story is a threat. Maybe I can invent the “Wilburn Test” wherein a story passes the Wilburn Test when two gay characters are in a scene together without having sex … until later.

This speaks to a need to include the range of humanity in a way that tells our broad story as people. It can have a direct message or an implied one. The very inclusion of people from a broad range of demographics in a story sends a message. Whether that message is sent well or clumsily is the responsibility of the writer. Whether that story is worth reading or not is on the shoulders of the writer too.

Equality issues are on the forefront of American culture and media at the moment. These issues, of course, extend globally to countries that have moved to inclusive laws more quickly than the United States and to countries where being gay or being the wrong religion have the same deadly potential. It is a wonder to me that this fact does not draw people together more than it does, but humans are a bundle of contradictions. This is what makes life hard and fiction interesting.

One book I’ve read recently is My Razzle Dazzle: An Outsider’s True Story by Todd Peterson. It is a novelized biography and not genre, but it drove home to me how deeply intertwined the story of growing up gay in America is to the American story broadly. The struggles of gay Americans in youth through adulthood from finding identity, dealing with bullying, reacting to institutions that are closed to them or only partially opened, coming to terms with family, finding friends, and discovering destiny are all relevant ideas to all readers. These are stories that are heartwarming and heartrending. It is a portion of the American experience that has not been fully told and has not been fully heard by people outside of the immediate circles of experience. Including gay characters in any story isn’t just about meeting a quota or getting diversity points nor passing the all important Wilburn Test. It is seeking out the story that hasn’t been told yet and telling it well. Whether a writer is gay or not, the experiences of gay characters have a wide potential of telling what has not been told in stories before.

Every character and real human is made up of a wide range of aspects that form identity. Orientation is one. How they approach faith is another. Their general demographics, culture, and background represents others. Their family history shapes them. There are a wide range of other details that define a person. In some ways, a character being gay is just a fact in the way that characters being straight, or Lutheran, or Green Party, or from a family of six brothers, but single does not directly feed into the details of how they kill a zombie. Although, it might. In another way, just stating a character is gay, having them kiss someone of the same gender, and behave identical to how you would write them straight is a disservice to readers too.

Having the fact that a character is gay be their only defining characteristic is insulting to the orientation and the readers. Avoiding an exploration of that aspect of their orientation is a wasted opportunity of storytelling too. There is a unique experience in terms of dealing self-discovery, family interactions, second family in finding support after adolescence, and the experience of society that has great potential to flesh out a meaningful character that is different and yet universally relatable in the story. This matters for storytelling and it matters for the progress of the world in which we live.

Those that feel threatened by gay issues being in their face in media and society are missing an important point – probably many important points. LGBT characters being represented in zombie fiction in the same way that all humanity is meant to be represented is important to the depth of the story and to the experience of the readers. Marriage Equality struggles echo other civil rights issues from America’s history. The new conflicts are a familiar part of an ongoing American story. Zombie stories may seem like an odd or unimportant place to address this, but zombie stories have great untapped potential and all stories are written to tell something.

In The Dead Song Legend Dodecology, two of the main characters are gay. The story rests on their shoulders and we experience the unique world of the apocalyptic American landscape through their travels and growth. The story is also told through the music of unlikely survivors thrust together by the rough hands and rough times of the end of the world. Music changes and so do the people. In writing my characters with normal, human flaws in an extraordinary world, I took it as an important responsibility to represent the gay characters as realistically as I could. I wanted them to be multi-dimensional characters worthy of carrying a twelve book series. They are my two most important characters and they have a lot of story to tell for themselves as individuals and the entire Dead Song America that they will explore on foot and through music for as long as they are able to survive.

I think zombie writers need to take on the challenge of writing LGBT characters well in a world that includes all of humanity fighting to survive.

Check out the first book in the Dead Song dodecology and the soundtrack The Sound May Suffer for the story told through words, pictures, and music.

Check out The Dead Song Legend Dodecology Book 1: January from Milwaukee to Muscle Shoals

http://jaywilburn.com/cover-reveal-dead-song-legend-book-1-january-from-milwaukee-to-muscle-shoals/

Check out the five song sound track in The Sound May Suffer … Songs from the Dead Song Legend Book 1: January

http://jaywilburn.com/cover-reveal-ep-soundtrack-the-sound-may-suffer-songs-from-the-dead-song-legend-book-1/

Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in Conway, South Carolina near Myrtle Beach on the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. He was a teacher for sixteen years before leaving to become a full-time writer. He writes in many genre. His Dead Song series book 1 is available now along with the five song soundtrack The Sound May Suffer.

Dead song book 1 CD Cover Idea-001

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The stench of rotting flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2015, with 30+ 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!

#SummerofZombie is the hashtag for Twitter, too!

Guest Post: Eli Constant and B.V. Barr #SummerofZombie

The Potentially Lucrative Nature of the Well-trained Dog in Apocalyptic Scenarios

(OR- Sic Fido on the zombies!)

CONSTANT

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A lot of us have pets. We absolutely adore our Snuggles, our Milly-bird, our Judge the 3rd, and our Patches, the nearly wild, calico cat who often lurks in the shadows hunting the elusive vole. Animals are lovely family members and I can’t remember a time when I haven’t shared my home with a pet of some type. Those who are pet people understand how a furry baby can truly become like a child. We love them, we support them, and… we plan for them. Whether it is the matter of yearly vaccinations, well-researched boarding facilities, or the unpredictable ‘what-ifs’ of life, we plan for them. Because they’re important.

But my question is, now that I’ve spent one third of my life caring and enjoying the company of pets, what pet out there would be an asset rather than a liability during a dangerous, life-threatening scenario? Obviously it is man’s (or woman’s) best friend the dog; I mean, dogs are loyal, loving, and they’re good at protecting their families.  Of course, the communicable nature of a Z infection to nonhuman animals is impossible to predict (seeing as we haven’t yet been plunged into a Z-poc) and a Z-poc could very well begin with some Zoonotic illness (a special class of dog-to-human communicable diseases) given to us from our friendly, neighborhood stray (mutated Rabies, anyone?). But for the purposes of this paper, let’s rule out Zombies by Zoonotic Illness and we just won’t worry about our furry buddies contracting the Z virus. So, it’s really not ridiculous to believe that, sometimes, a well-trained dog might just be the answer to your survival.

As Marilyn Monroe said “Dogs never bite me. Just Humans.” 

Trust your four-legged friend!

Personally, I gravitate toward giant breed dogs. My family had a large black Dane named Hannibal when I was quite young, he was protective and intense-looking. Then my husband and I fostered a duo of Danes- Blu and Izzy. They were also large and intense-looking, but they were the biggest, most useless (and loving) babies on the planet. And the thing about Danes is they’ve been overbreed to the point that congenital defects often prevent them from experiencing the full length of, their already short, life span. This is quite prevalent in many large breed dogs. Our Saint Bernard, the most lovely creature on the planet, developed aggressive lymphoma at four years old and died shortly thereafter. Bernards were working-class dogs once upon a time, scaling mountains and putting in an honest day’s work. Great animals, but where during the big Z disaster are you going to find a vet to address the many issues that this breed can experience? Overbreeding. Another issue with large breed dogs? -Their nutritional needs. A giant or large breed eats WAY more than a smaller breed dog. That’s just a fact. You’re more likely to support the needs of a 10 pound furball than a 150 pound beast. However a ten pound Pug, cute as he might be, is more like luggage than a helpful co-pilot, so a middle of the road has to be found between the giant dogs I adore and the tiny teacup classes that are all but useless- unless zombies can die from ankle biting, that is.

While writing our book, Z Children: Awakening, my coauthor and I talked extensively about animals at the end of the world- dogs specifically. We spoke of how they’d be everywhere, running amok, forgotten by owners, etc. And then we spoke of how the correct breed of dog, well-trained and attached to a person or family, could contribute to survival.

My coauthor, with his extensive experience in the Military/Government and training with Special Operations personnel, has been privy to the training of service dogs- specifically German Shepherds (used almost exclusively in the beginning) and now, Belgian Malinois, which are used commonly for their compact size- an advantage over their brethren the Shepard. Size is so important because these dogs are trained to jump into combat with their handlers, get in and out of combat vehicles, and live out of their handler’s pack. The smaller the dog, the easier the transport, maintain and move with  and the trade-off from Shepherd to Malinois presents very little difference in capability and size. Both are highly trainable, highly response to commands, and highly efficient in a fight.

A Belgian Malinois grows anywhere from 56 to 70 cm and 25-34 kg (the females being slighter with a narrower, more feminine build). Sure, you could find a smaller dog that eats less and is trainable, but Malinois and Shepherds (as written above) have been proven, field tested and are reliable (and honestly, they’re food consumption would be manageable and they’re intelligent enough to forage when necessary). Many breeds in the herding family share qualities with the Malinoi/Shepherds, but, in my opinion, if you’re choosing a reliable gun, you go with something that has been trusted and proven in the field- like B.V. Barr talks about in his paper on gear during the apocalypse. If I have to trust my life to an animal- I’m going to go for the dog that the military and service branches trust without reservation.

So, how will having a well-trained dog better your chances of survival? Let’s step through this logically:

Animals, on the whole, sense things differently than we do. If you have a dog in your family, I bet you’ve seen his or hers hair stand on end, jump to attention on the back of their necks. This is a warning system- something is nearby that your dog doesn’t care for. You’d be wise to heed that warning. The worse mistake a handler or owner of a working dog can make is to think they are smarter than their animal. Listen to your friend! On the matter of sensing things- dogs have been used for many, many years for search and rescue. More than likely, you’ll stumble upon more than one person who needs a helping hand (if you’re willing to provide that helping hand and have not taken on an ‘every man for himself’ mentality).

The right dog breed, trained and attached to a person or family, will have one, and only one, instinct when they’re person (or family) faces danger (not to say that there aren’t dogs who are just inherently scaredy-cats). They will go on the defensive, putting their bodies between owner/handler and the threat. They very well might be the thing that stops a zombie from advancing, keeping that threat from getting close enough to you to warrant a resort to close-combat weapons- especially when you need to be quiet and a gun is an impractical and possibly dangerous choice. Close combat increases risks, especially for those untested.

A dog will also- and not to sound silly- provide companionship, emotionally and physically. At the end of the world, maybe that end coming in the form of a zombie apocalypse, sometimes people will find themselves isolated from loved ones and unable to maintain social contact. Isolation can wreak havoc on a person’s psyche, especially a person who has not gone through training to combat the effects of isolation. If your emotional climate is compromised, your ability to recognize and respond to danger will also be compromised.

With how important we feel a dog could be during a crisis, it makes sense that my coauthor and I designed a dog and a handler to fit into the storyline.

Ranger, a Belgian Malinois of course, will become a very central character in the Z Children world. His relationship with the Drifter (JW) is symbiotic; they feed off of one another intuitively, to the point where commands are unnecessary to direct Ranger to do what he’s trained to do, what is necessary. The Drifter, for his part, thinks of Ranger as a part of himself. They’re both scarred physically from an IED, both medically discharged from service, and, in many ways, Ranger is the reason why the Drifter can keep his PTSD in check- well, Ranger & a dose of Ativan here and there.

So, next time you find yourself on the fence about adopting that Shepherd mutt, that Malonois mix, or maybe even that loyal, tough Rottie at the back of the pound, think about how that animal can help you when shit hits the fan- after you’ve helped him or her secure a loving, forever home with lots of motivational treats for training.

Z Children 1 Cover eBook

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The stench of rotting flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2015, with 30+ 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!

#SummerofZombie is the hashtag for Twitter, too!

Guest Post: Leah Rhyne #SummerofZombie

Jennas War 333x500

Zombies. We’re here because we love them, right? You wouldn’t check out an event called the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour if you weren’t.

Me? I’ve loved them for a long time. I don’t remember the first time I saw Night of the Living Dead, but I don’t remember ever having not seen it, either. I grew up on horror movies, staying up late with my dad or my older brother, so I’ve seen ‘em all (or at least I’ve seen all the ones that came out before I had my daughter and suddenly couldn’t stomach watching horror movies in which bad things happen to little girls…which is pretty much all the contemporary ones…though I’ll watch World War Z any day…though the first 30 minutes make me cry every time….and I do mean every time…but I digress….).

But seriously. World War Z. The Walking Dead. Warm Bodies. Zombieland. We can’t get enough of zombie stuff, can we?

There are all sorts of theories about why we love zombies, of course. Sociologists and psychologists all have their theories, as do movie and literary critics. They mostly say it’s because we’re all becoming zombies, with our smart phones and our ear buds. With our texting and our emailing. We’re losing the ability to interact with other humans on a face-to-face basis.

There’s some truth to this, I’m sure. I do see a lot of it in myself. I’m a better emailer than I am a phone talker, and please, don’t ask me to set up a face-to-face meeting!

But mostly I call bullshit on those theories.

Because of course I have my own.

I think: we don’t love zombie flicks and lit because we’re afraid we’re turning into zombies. No. I think we love them because we, in the United States especially, are living in a world that’s remarkably safe for maybe the first time in history, and really? It’s exhausting to be so safe.

Hear me out here. Around the world, people live in squalor, in the midst of wars and tragedies and genocides. We see images daily of people living at the very limits of human existence. Closer to home, we hear stories of our parents and grandparents surviving their own difficult times. World War II. Vietnam. The Cuban Missile Crisis.

But we, of the middle class of the United States in the 21st Century, live in the First World, surrounded by First World problems. With a few notable exceptions (school shootings, bombings, and terrible things do happen, but these are the exceptions, not the norm), our world is secure. We’re not hungry. We’re not afraid. We’re not tested.

We don’t have to think to survive. We don’t have to kill to live. If we’re hungry? We drive to the grocery store.

In short, we’re mush.

And, I think, we secretly hate it. At least in a way. Because while it’s fantastic to be safe, to be secure, we have no need for adrenaline. We have no testing of boundaries, no pushing of limits.

And thus, we escape to Zombieland. We escape to a place where people have to work to survive, where it’s kill or be killed. We are voyeurs into a space where your every decision could lead straight to your death.

We get our adrenaline rush through fiction, and we love it, because it’s fake. It’s still within the confines of our security. It’s a way to live out our fantasies in the safety of our middle class living rooms.

Of course we love zombies, but it’s not because we’re afraid of becoming them.

It’s because we want to see if we think we’d survive!

Me? I like to think I’d be like Ana in Dawn of the Dead (still my favorite zombie flick ever). I’d survive, more by luck than by any particular skill, at least until I had time to figure out the brave new world.

But really, that doesn’t work for me anymore. I’ve got a kid. Everything I’d do would be to save her, because at seven, she’s still too little to save herself. I don’t want her turning into Sophia from The Walking Dead, getting stuffed into a barn after she’s turned into a zombie. I also can’t see her as Lizzie, murdering her sister and then staring at the flowers.

Better she be a Carl, a killer with a gun.

Better to be a killer in a kill-or-be-killed world, right?

Right. Or at least, I think so. And I do think about these things while escaping into zombie worlds. I get to think about them, to wonder, and then I get to turn them off and go play outside in the sunshine.

We love our zombies because it’s fun to imagine…what if?

But seriously, friends. Let’s hope we never have to find out….and until then, let’s have some keep on reading and watching all this awesome zombie stuff, okay?

Author Image Leah Rhyne

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The stench of rotting flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2015, with 30+ 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!

#SummerofZombie is the hashtag for Twitter, too!

Guest Post: Armand Rosamilia #SummerofZombie

Dying Days 5

Dying Days 5 is finally here! During last year’s #SummerofZombie blog tour I released Dying Days 4, and the year before was Dying Days 3… first year of Summer of Zombie in June was Dying Days 2. I’m starting to see a pattern.

The fifth installment of the main Dying Days zombie series!

Darlene and John have been scattered… can they fight through miles of undead to find one another? Will The Lich Lord destroy what is left of this post apocalyptic world? Will the Main Street compound survive another day?

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Armand Rosamilia

Guest Post: Jaime Johnesee #SummerofZombie

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There are as many types of zombies as there are zombie authors. I’ve spoken before about the lore and history of the zombie in the Americas. I’d like to talk to you about a movie that spurred my love for zombies. A movie that I saw because I had read a “true” story of a real zombie named Clairvius Narcisse. After reading his account of being poisoned, and used as a slave, I decided to look into the story more. I tracked down articles from every newspaper and magazine that had covered the story. As I dug I found that a movie had been made based on Narcisse’s experiences. This is the movie I want to talk about today.

It was not based on Clairvius himself, but the general “facts” of his case. I found a friend whose parents had a copy of the movie, The Serpent and the Rainbow, and I watched it. I was fascinated, just as fascinated as I had been with Romero’s NOTLD.

The idea that you could be trapped in your own mind and forced to carry out the will of others creeped me right the hell out. It also intrigued me. I had some serious questions like, was the Tetrodotoxin even necessary to the formula? Could someone be hypnotized long term into being a zombie? How exactly did the whole thing work?

So I continued to dig and to read, and watch, anything I could come across about zombies. I read fiction and nonfiction alike. I dug into Narcisse’s story and I found that I wanted to believe. I thought it was creepy but somehow cool. Yes, I admit freely now that I thought of how cool it would be to have my own zombie to cater to my every whim.

I rewatched the movie countless times. Every time finding more I had missed the first time around. I sat in front of the glowing television enraptured by the whole concept. A magical powder that can make anyone obey made my ten year old heart beat with glee. Imagine what you could do with such a powder?

Okay so I might have been bent more towards evil as a kid than I’d thought, but the fact remains, The Serpent and the Rainbow is one of my favorite zombie movies. I think it’s the realism of it linking with a newspaper story about how Clairvius was zombified. It lent credence to itself somehow.

As I grew older I realized most of it was bullshit. My skeptical nature took over and viewed Narcisse as a liar and yet, somehow, I still loved The Serpent and the Rainbow. Even if it was a bit overdramatized from what had actually occurred, it was brilliant.

Romero created the hungry flesh munchers we know today and he started an entire subgenre of monsters. Without realizing what he had done he reshaped the way the world thought of zombies. In just forty years he erased the voodoo zombie from our memories and replaced it with the fresh, new, far more terrifying undead.

I love all types of zombie dearly, but the voodoo based Haitian zombies are nearest and dearest to me because of Clairvius Narcisse. Reading his story as a child led to me shambling after zombies the rest of my life. Go figure. Have a great day, folks, and remember to beware of dust in the wind.

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The stench of rotting flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2015, with 30+ 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!

#SummerofZombie is the hashtag for Twitter, too!

Guest Post: Mark Tufo #SummerofZombie

mark1 copy

I am honored to once again be a part of Armand’s Summer of Zombie Blog Tour. I’m honestly quite amazed he keeps inviting me back, I’m kind of a pain in the ass and rarely take anything seriously. With that being said part of the tour is supplying blog posts so I turned the question over to my readers and asked them what they would like to know about me. Below is one of the folks suggestions that I chose.

Sean Moriarty How much the support of your many many fans means to you and how it influences you.

Ah fans how I love thee so, let me count the ways! It was one fan many moons ago that kept me from pulling the plug on the whole author experiment. I’d put out the first Zombie Fallout book, I’d just come off a forced vacation from my previous job (laid off) and we could not even begin to contemplate laying down money for editing it just wasn’t in the budget, we were beyond broke. When we first released the book it honestly wasn’t with any intention of people buying it, it was more like ‘Wow how cool is that I have a book on Amazon!’ Yay me!

Then lo and behold about a year later folks did start buying it. Got a couple of good reviews then I started getting hammered into the ground because of the editing. It was brutal, people who hadn’t even read the book would throw their opinions in. I was like ‘eff this who the hell needs this kind of stress’. One night I was feeling pretty down, I was literally about to head up the stairs and tell my wife to take the book down I just didn’t want any more part of it. I then get the little notification saying I’ve got an email, I open it up. It’s from a reader, Rich Baker as a matter of fact. I didn’t know him then but the basic contents of the email were, screw the haters you tell a great story just keep rolling with it.

He kept me from hitting the purge button so I can’t imagine a reader having a bigger impact than that, he literally saved my career. Of course we’ve thankfully had a small army of professionals go over ZF1 and clean it up so what you’ve read since is much better than the original story. Now going forward as more readers have hopped onto the ZF train I feel like we’ve become one huge family, I know that sounds all touchy feely, but come on, you know if you’ve ever reached out to me, I do my best to get back to you as quickly as I can and I am always sincere in my appreciation of all you’ve done for my family and myself.

You guys are everything to me, without your support I’m just some weird guy with a long goatee who taps away at a keyboard. You guys always help when I ask, I’ve gotten story ideas from you, we commiserate together when a character dies or won’t, you know who I’m talking about. I see the criticism with certain storylines and obviously I can’t make everyone happy but when I see a trend I can and will alter a story hoping to give readers more of what they want. So basically I cannot even begin to express how much you guys influence me, probably more than you know. And to each and every one of you, thank  you. You still can’t have Henry though.

ZF1 (1)

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The stench of rotting flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2015, with 30+ 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!

#SummerofZombie is the hashtag for Twitter, too!