Teaser: John Palisano #SummerofZombie

An excerpt from Dust of the Dead:

It’s been ten years since the dead came back to life. Things aren’t like they were in all the zombie books, movies, and TV shows. There weren’t really independent bands of rogues battling it out. Things never really got too traditionally post-apocalyptic in that way. Instead, it was more like the world went into lock down. The best way I can describe it is that we all had curfews, and it was like living in the bad part of the city, no matter where you went in the city. You had to be mindful. You had to keep a look out over your shoulder. One of the undead might spring out from behind a car or dumpster. But there weren’t hordes of them. Well, that’s not true. There were, but they were mostly gathered at cemeteries. And really? They pretty much stuck inside, and with their own. Most were too confused, or too stupid, to go much farther than from where they’d found themselves. That made them easy to take care of. That was what the Reclamation crews were for. Man, that was a bad job. Most of the time, their main gig was to go into cemeteries, dig up the newly reanimated dead, who were still stuck in their coffins, and put them out of their misery, for what everyone hoped, was the last time. Reclaim them as dead. That’s where I came in.

***

I remember driving around Burbank Boulevard, and everything seemed just as normal as ever. The world had changed, but life chugged along. People returned to being horrible, self-centered, and narcissistic. They were cutting each other off, trying to get ahead, rushing up to the next red light, and cutting everybody off they could. Humanity at its finest. Me-first-gimme-gimme, and that whole short-sided attitude. After all we were going through, all the selfish bastards kept on being selfish. Looking back? I’m not surprised, though. Thanks to the Reclamation Crews, the world had gone back to normal, other than an occasional Zom popping out. Those attacks were far and few between. They weren’t even considered attacks anymore. Not like when they first came back.

For the first two years, the undead were hungry. They were just as nasty as all the books and movies told us they were. They bit people; those people changed, then those bit more people. Everyone got scared. There was an out, though. What nobody expected was that when the undead aged,  their bodies turned hard, and they lost a lot of mobility. Their muscles toughened. Their skin dried. They were a lot like mummies. Most of them? They weren’t really able to live very long after they were reanimated. Some did, but they weren’t the danger they’d originally been. Those undead that lasted? We all stopped believing they were a threat after a while.

We were wrong.

There was a big press announcement from the White House. There was some big scientist that told the world that nature would soon take over. Undead people attracted all sorts of natural predators. Flies. Maggots. Birds. Crows. Wild dogs. Bears. She told us that their actual tissue wouldn’t survive more than a few weeks before they’d decompose into nothing. Even if they did last that long, she said, bacteria would break down the body and take them down.

All we had to do was wait.

We did.

She was wrong.

Flies wanted nothing to do with the undead. Neither did any wild animals. The undead flesh seemed resistant to bacteria and mold, all due to some strange evolutionary thread within them, those that should’ve known guessed. No one was quite sure of the precise details. The undead did, however, begin to dry out after a time, as predicted. Their skin, in most cases, became less pliable. The things dried out.

There were so many biological uncertainties. How could it physically be possible for the dead to reanimate? How could their bodies re-charge and process food again? Their circulatory systems seemed to work, although much more slowly than a normal person’s. They had significant brain function. Their hearts pumped. Several scientific teams captured undead specimens and studied them. The undead ate. They processed food, and it wasn’t just the brains of the living. That turned out not to be true. Most of them didn’t want to eat us, just kill us. Mortal jealousy. Many wanted to re-join us, and somehow rejoin their former lives.

Those who were well preserved, or recently deceased, fared much better. They often had memories of their lives, and the people and places they’d known. But they were different–think rabid animals. They were extremely dangerous, like dogs that’d been abused too much. They’d turn on loved ones foolish enough to harbor them. Things went south quickly. Uncle Bill would be sitting on the couch, quite, and drooling on himself, mumbling, and then little George would run past, and Uncle Bill would be on him, tearing the little boy to pieces.

Not pretty.

So that’s when the Reclamation Crew got started. It was work no one wanted. Families were never happy seeing us come. Rarely were we welcomed without hostility. They all held out hope there’d be some kind of cure, some day, some type of way to bring their loved ones back to the way they loved and remembered. But there wasn’t. They’d died, and there was some kind of abomination that was making them come back, extending their stay on this green planet just a little bit more than should be.

We aimed to fix that–send them back on their way to the great unknown. Reclaim them for the afterlife, as it was supposed to be.

DustOfTheDead cover fixed

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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!

Teaser: John O’Brien #SummerofZombie

A New World: Reckoning excerpt

Reckoning front cover XL2

On the edge of the pipes between the two hallway corners, I lie on my side with my suppressed Beretta in my hand, listening for the sound of the guard returning. It takes a while but, even though I don’t hear the door he went through opening, I do hear his footsteps echoing off the walls. I hear the beep of the keypad next to the door and the lock clicks. Disregarding my pounding heartbeat, I roll off the conduits.

The guard swings the door open as I hit the ground just behind him. He starts to turn at the sound but I shove him through the door before he gets the chance. He stumbles inside with a yelp and I follow hard on his heels. I instantly take in the surroundings; a wall of monitors opposite the door with a bank of equipment in racks to the left. Sitting in front of the monitors are two additional guards who turn at the sound of their comrade. Without hesitation, I lift my handgun and fire.

I send two rounds into each of the guards whose surprise is short-lived. One guard crashes backward into the controls from two rounds impacting his cheek and nose. He then topples to the ground leaving a red smear across the control board. The second is spun around in his chair as two projectiles slam into his neck and mouth, spraying blood into the air. He falls heavily to the floor beside his overturned chair.

Rounding on the third guard, who is recovering from his stumble and starting to reach for his own handgun, I fire point blank into his forehead. His head rocks sharply backward and stops. It then moves slowly forward as if he doesn’t know that he’s already dead and is trying to right it. He then slumps to his knees and falls face forward. The door behind me closes with a click.

The second guard, hit in the throat and mouth is gurgling, air bubbles forming from the holes in his throat and mouth. Noting that these guards aren’t wearing armored vests, I walk over and pump two rounds into his chest. His shirt flutters upward from the striking bullets and his wheezing/gurgling ceases.

I look overhead at the door to see if they have a camera installed inside and I’m glad to see that there isn’t one. There are dozens of monitors filling the wall above a control panel. Most are from the fence line but others show the interior. I see the ones of the hallway I just crept through playing through their loopbacks. They don’t look any different than the others with regards to quality and look natural. One monitor shows a room with several guards sitting around a table playing cards. I assume those are the ones who responded to the doors and cameras. Another monitor shows a location that looks like a control room for a space launch center with manned consoles and several large screens to the front. I continue to look but, other than the ones mentioned, I don’t see anyone moving around. Unfortunately, after looking over all of the feeds, I don’t see any depicting a barracks or where the majority of the security personnel are staying.

All of the monitors have locations imbedded into the video feed which makes it rather convenient. Studying the controls, I find that it’s rather intuitive. I’ll place the fence monitors into playback mode when the others arrive. If there is an alternate security room, they shouldn’t notice anything out of the ordinary unless they look at the small time stamp in the lower corner. The possibility of a secondary security room is the reason I placed the loopback over the room I’m currently occupying.

“I’m in. Land and send the teams,” I send to Robert.

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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!

Teaser: Jake Bible #SummerofZombie

Z-Burbia Teaser-

Zburbia_ebook_cover

You know what? For a smart guy, I’m pretty fucking stupid. I’m not a big believer in the afterlife or heaven or God or anything like that. But one thing I do believe in is karma. I’ve just experienced it too much to ignore it. My whole life has been one long chain of spiritual cause and effect events. I should know better than to jinx myself by saying, “At least I’m still moving.”

The truck sputters, sputters, lurches, and dies. I try to turn the ignition as the truck slowly comes to a stop, but it does nothing. I crank and crank and crank, hearing the battery get weaker and weaker.

“What the fuck?” I say. “What’s wrong now, you piece of shit? Huh? You need a binky? Baby need its fucking binky?”

I look at the dashboard and slap my forehead.

No, baby needs to be fed.

“Out. Of. Fucking. Gas,” I say, “or diesel. Whatever.”

I can see the mini-herd (mega-horde?) behind me, maybe ten yards back and getting closer. I take inventory of my weapons: The Bitch. I count again and come up with the same number. One. Nothing I can do about that.

“Better roll ‘em up, kids,” I snicker with nervous laughter as I roll the windows up tight. I lock the doors for good measure. Not that a Z could open the doors, they can’t work latches, but it makes me feel better.

Dead hands begin to slap against the sides of the truck, and pretty soon I feel the weight of them pressing in. Their bodies, their constant shambling movement, slowly rock the dump truck from side to side. Not a lot. Not like kids jumping on the bumper of a car, but enough that I know there’s trouble in River City. That starts with T and rhymes with Z, and stands for, uh, well, Zs.

The slapping gets louder. Then the moans, the groans. And that wet sound that happens when their flesh gets stuck on something and rips right off the bone. I hate that sound. That sound is the worst.

I can see them in the mirror, getting closer to the cab, their mouths hanging open, congealed bloody drool dripping from their lips and chins. Those that have lips and chins, at least. Some don’t even have lower jaws and the viscous fluids just drop from their palates. Flaps of flesh hang in random strips from faces, necks, shoulders, arms, breasts, and bellies.

Hey, a cheerleader! I can’t wait to tell Stella I saw an undead cheerleader. She’s always hated cheerleaders. Like I hate clowns. Well, maybe not exactly like I hate clowns.

The slapping! Ugh, I want it just to stop. I try to keep the Stella train of thought going, try to think of the kids, home, the neighborhood. I even try to envision what the next HOA meeting will be like. “Hey, guys! Guess what? We have more neighbors! And they aren’t really into the HOA covenants. In fact, they aren’t into letting us live! Whatcha think of that, huh? Huh? Guys?”

The face that appears at my window is scorched from the scalp down to the eye sockets. It looks like someone set its hair on fire, but the thing got lucky and dunked itself in a toilet or something. Really weird. Then I have to wonder, looking at the burn pattern, if that isn’t what happened. And the way the skin looks, I then have to wonder if the poor soul was alive when the burning and the dunking happened.

“Go away please,” I mouth. I don’t say it out loud. Voices, living real voices, tend to get them wound up, stir that hunger and shit.

The face is pushed aside as more and more Zs get to the window. Scorch Scalp decides to move to the front of the truck and climb on. Hmmm, it’s actually climbing onto the hood. That shows some athleticism. Maybe he died when a hazing went wrong? “Welcome to the lacrosse team! Now we burn your hair off! Oh, shit, and you’re coming back from the dead? Eeeeeeek!”

Ah, man, Scorch Scalp isn’t wearing pants. Or underwear. Don’t puke, don’t puke.

It sees me and pushes right up against the windshield. Scorch Scalp hisses, showing his teeth…and the meat stuck in them. He’s fed recently. Like really recently. Jesus. Do you think that makes them stronger? More agile? Like a flesh battery recharge? Fuck, I hope not.

Slap! Slap! SLAPSLAPSLAPSLAP!

“Stop it!” I cry, then clamp my hand over my mouth. What the fuck was I thinking? Why? Why did I do that?

The Zs like it, though. It seems to energize them, give them new hope that they can crack this cab like a walnut and pick the tasty nut meat (me) out and have a tasty treat. The slapping is now banging. The windows don’t look as strong as they did just seconds ago. And look! Scorch Scalp has a buddy! Oh, two buddies? Sure there’s room, why not. Three? Four? Five, six, seven? Fuck…

Slapping to banging to…cracking?

Shit, the passenger window is breaking. I stare at the spider cracks that are slowly spreading as hand after undead hand slams against the safety glass. Safety glass? Not feeling so safe, thank you! The cracks spread more, not so slow. Not slow at all. Pretty fast, actually. Huh. I think this shit is going to-

“FUCK!” I scream as the glass crumbles inward. I kick and kick and kick at the hands that reach for me. I jam The Bitch at the hands, stabbing, gouging, and trying to shred them. “Stay back! Fuck off! Fuck you! FUCK YOU!”

The hands keep reaching, but there are so many of them attached to so many bodies that they clog the window. They can’t get bodies in. And bodies are where the teeth are. Okay, okay, this could be fine.

CRACK!

I slowly turn my head and see the split in the windshield. The Putrescent Seven will not have a problem getting through that window when the glass goes. Not going to get clogged there.

A hand grabs my foot and I scream. I don’t yell like a man or below in a deep voice. I scream in a high-pitched way only dogs can hear. I’d say I scream like a little girl, but that would be an insult to the marvelous screaming ability that little girls have. My scream can only be described as a supersonic attempt at shattering every piece of glass in the world.

Speaking of shattering glass… There goes the driver’s side window and here come the Z hands. Not to be confused with jazz hands. Those are kinda fun. Who doesn’t love a little song and dance in the apocalypse?

Aaaaaaaaaah! The hands that grab my head are wet! Slimy wet! Like a dog bone left out in the rain after a day of gnawing. Not jazz hands! NOT JAZZ HANDS! Skin sloughs off in my hair as I jerk away. Oh, but I can’t jerk too far since there are those supersonic scream inducing hands on the other side of the cab. So I settle in the middle, turning from side to side, smashing what I can with The Bitch. Soon the cab is covered with the oozing drippings of a thousand spike wounds. I keep bashing and smashing with The Bitch, but I’m not really helping my cause. I’m just creating more of a mess. The Zs don’t give a shit if I prick their fingers with my mighty spikes.

Back and forth, back and forth; smash and bash; spike and drip.

CRACK!

The windshield. The fucking windshield! Aren’t dump trucks supposed to have windshields made of like super glass? Indestructible glass that can stop a boulder at sixty miles an hour? I mean, dump trucks are around nothing but construction work. Can’t they stop falling girders and shit?

CRACK!

Apparently not.

CRACK!

Oh shit, oh fuck, oh shit, oh fuck…oh shit.

The windshield is buckling under the weight of the Zs on the hood and I can see more climbing up and joining them. Great.

All I can do is close my eyes and pray I hear gunshots. Come on, Stuart. You were running pretty fast. You have to have gotten to the gate by now. But then, there was that dark stain on his back. Oh, shit, did he fucking keel over and die before getting to the gate? Did a Z catch him in his weakened state? Oh, shit. Please let there be gunshots. Please, I have never wanted to hear the sound of gunpowder igniting so much in my life.

But as I hear the windshield start to give, the sucking sound of the seal giving way around the frame, the crackcrackcrack of the glass crumpling under the weight of the Zs, all I can think about, besides the fact I’ll never see my family again (which I really try not to think about), is that I’m going to fucking die wearing bright pink yoga pants and a purple shirt with a mother fucking glittery butterfly.

Fuck!

JakeNewAuthor

*   *   *   *   *

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!

Teaser: Jessica Robinson #SummerofZombie

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CHAPTER 1:

THE OBSESSION BEGINS

Zombie films serve as a great lens to examine concerns society has about modern science. Let’s face it, when it comes to horror movies, science has a bad reputation. Blind ambition, experimental serums, and genetic experiments are often blamed for the giant monster terrorizing the city or the reason aliens are taking human prisoners or the cause of the dead rising from the grave to consume living flesh.

Using film, literature, and interviews with experts, this book examines how zombies portray real-world fears such as epidemics, mind control, what may or may not exist in space, the repercussions of playing God, and the science behind the fears.

Science has made it possible for us to live the way we do; it has given us numerous advances in all fields of life from medicine to agriculture to entertainment. Yet, with all of these advantages, there are a multitude of disadvantages that could prove to be detrimental to humans and society. Weapon technology used in wars is one of these major disadvantages, but anything that is beneficial to humanity, including medicine, has the potential to harm us. My goal is to explore how zombies become a metaphor for our fears of science and what could happen if science gets out of hand.

Throughout this book, I examine the fictional world of zombies and the real world of science. Often, I refer to “truths” about zombies, but since they don’t really exist, these are “truths” that exist within the context of zombie films and books.

I was in junior high the first time I ever saw Night of the Living Dead (1968). It was one of several movies my dad had on VHS, and it sat on the shelf in a closet with row upon row of other VHS tapes. I remember being scared, but not cover-my-eyes-I’m-going-to-scream-my-lungs-out scared. I didn’t jump, but there was this uneasiness that settled over me. I was afraid to look out my bedroom window at night for fear that the same lifeless eyes the creatures in the film had would be looking right back at me. I glanced over my shoulder while walking down the street to make sure a slow-moving corpse wasn’t following me. For a while, I avoided cemeteries.

The next night, I had a friend come over to stay the night and I exposed her to the film. Again, it didn’t scare us in the make-you-jump-out-of-your-skin way, but as she sat on the floor tightly hugging a pillow, I knew she had experienced the same creepiness I had the night before. It was a feeling neither of us could put into words. Despite the unease, I enjoyed the feeling and wanted to explore it further.

My next adventure into the zombie world was Return of the Living Dead (1985). In my naiveté, I assumed this was the sequel to the amazing movie I had just watched. I was confused when the same sense of dread didn’t fill me. The film wasn’t creepy at all; it was funny. (At the time, the term “campy” wasn’t in my vocabulary, but it definitely describes this film.) Despite not being the sequel to Night of the Living Dead, I still enjoyed the film, and to this day, I remember laughing at the partial dog corpse that comes alive and falls off the shelf barking—in fact, it was that part specifically that made me watch the film over and over.

After those two films, I don’t remember any from my childhood affecting me in an equally profound way. But they paved the way for my interest in films, books, and TV shows about the undead. They started my obsession with walking corpses that attack and consume the living in gory, horrific fashion. And I’m not the only one. Millions of people share my passion.

Zombies have overrun society. They are in books (some have even invaded the classics: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; The War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies; and Alice in Zombieland), movies, video games, and on TV. The Hartford Marathon Foundation has set up a zombie chase to benefit the Ron Foley Foundation. The Anchorage Running Club held a Zombie Half Marathon and a Kids Zombie 2.5k. (The list goes on and to find an event near you, Google “zombie marathons.”) There are companies that set up “real” zombie hunts to test your skills and your nerves. Anderson Farms in Erie, Colorado, held a zombie paintball hunt as part of their Halloween festivities. Shoot Extreme has developed zombie hunts for exclusive clientele to test their skills in a dark, zombie-infested shoot house. Apparently, you are also required to rescue refugees. Rotting flesh and walking corpses have gathered on the streets to raise awareness and money for charities. There is hardly a facet of life that zombies haven’t permeated.

The popularity of zombies has grown exponentially in the last decade. Novels dealing with the undead have been published in droves, even spurring the creation of independent zombie-specific publishers such as Permuted Press (established 2004). According to TV by the Numbers, weekly ratings ending on March 30, 2014, revealed that The Walking Dead was ranked number one for cable-viewed shows with 15.678 million viewers. World War Z, the zombie film starring Brad Pitt and based on a book with the same title by Max Brooks, grossed $540,007,876 worldwide. People are fascinated with zombies, and so am I. They ask the fundamental question: What does it mean to be human?

This question has always interested me—as it has countless others—as I attempt and struggle to define myself and find meaning in the world. If zombie films have shown me anything in the way of an answer to that question, it’s that zombies are filled with hate, driven by primal instinct, and are ready to consume anything to fulfill their desires. And so are the humans trying to survive in the post-apocalyptic world. The audience watching zombie films is forced to ask: Who is the real monster? The line between zombies and humans is ultra-thin.

I explore these same notions and attempt to answer these questions in my works of fiction, while other authors have explored them in critiques of the zombie genre. There are vast amounts of essays and books that look at how zombies are metaphors for religion, gender, classism, and race, among other social issues. Books such as Race, Oppression and the Zombie: Essays on Cross-Cultural Appropriations of the Caribbean Tradition, edited by Christopher M. Moreman and Cory James Rushton; “We’re All Infected”: Essays on AMC’s The Walking Dead and the Fate of the Human, edited by Dawn Keetley; and “Gospel of the Living Dead”: George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth by Kim Paffenroth explore various facets of humanity and how zombies represent our most heinous qualities. And they all make valid points. These are all issues or concerns that plague our society and could be changed to make life better for everyone. I wanted to add my voice and opinion to those fantastic commentaries, but I could never figure out what I wanted to say that hadn’t been discussed before. That idea eluded me for a long time.

Inspiration planted a seed the first time I read The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. I was completely awed and amazed at how he legitimized zombies. The book is written in a practical and straight-forward fashion and explains ways to survive and kill zombies, including what types of weapons work best, how to fortify shelter, and ways to find food. The advice could be applied to real-world situations like natural disasters or terrorist invasions. Even though he was dealing with fictitious characters, it felt to me that he had given them a cause—a virus—and concrete explanations for their actions as well as ways to fight them. Most films give an explanation as to how zombies are created, but it seems ancillary to the carnage and destruction or how the survivors are affected by the undead hordes. In The Zombie Survival Guide, the science takes center stage. The virus that creates the undead is explained in detail and in such a way that the symptoms could actually occur in the real world. It makes zombies seem plausible, real, genuine.

Inspiration sprouted further after I watched World War Z—a film based on another book by Max Brooks, which I had also read, it just hadn’t struck the same chord as the film. Again, the scientific approach of finding the cause of zombies intrigued me. In the film, the main character, Gerry, is tasked with finding “Patient Zero,” who is the first person to become infected with the zombie disease, so that science can attempt to understand what caused the dead to rise and perhaps devise a way to destroy it. Along the way, Gerry finds a lot of answers about the undead and eventually helps science develop a way to combat them. Suddenly, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.

I had a professor in college who told me that every film has a message, but if you really want to know what society is afraid of, watch horror. Zombie films portray a lot of social fears, including those mentioned earlier involving religion, gender, classism, and race, but what I wanted to focus on was science. The majority of zombie films I have watched in my life involved science or a scientist in some way—usually in an unflattering role.

Jessica Robinson 2 BW

*   *   *   *   *

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!