When the first Dying Days book came out all those many, many years ago (April 2011) I had no idea it would become a success. The series literally kept me going financially when I was still having doubts about doing this writing thing full-time. I just wanted to write another zombie story. After writing Highway To Hell I knew there was more story to tell in this world.
About halfway through Dying Days I knew there was going to be a backstory for Darlene Bobich but I had no idea if this would be a series or a standalone until I came to the end.
Looking back, I could’ve easily kept the story going and added another 20k to it. But I wanted a series because I suddenly had ideas for all of these characters and more.
The problem with being a total pantser (instead of an outliner or whatever the cool way of saying it is) was the fact I asked for a second cover with no real understanding on building this as a brand or a series potential readers might immediately recognize as one big story.
All with different cover ideas (besides zombies, obviously) and not with any understanding of branding or making it easy for a potential reader to figure out the order of the series. For those who care, here is actually the DYING DAYS ORDER to make it a bit easier, although you don’t have to read it in this exact order if you don’t want. If you only ever read the main Dying Days series you’re still good, but the other side stories are damn cool. Trust me. Not biased.
I finally saw the light… well, actually my wife did first. She noticed at conventions how the smart authors branded their series so it was easy to see how many books were in each series and they were all part of the same series. Similar covers, same fonts, basic ideas to make the reader know there was more than one book. As a kid I was a huge fan of series, especially fantasy. I have over 150 of the Forgotten Realms books in paperback still, and they all have a different cover but a setup that lets you know they are all in the same series and world.
Dying Days covers have been updated (the main series, anyway) and I can tell you now… there will be 9 books. When the 9th book is released will it be the last? Not really sure yet. I still have 3 books to write. Jack Wallen did the covers based on my idea and I could not be happier.
I’m also seeing a big increase in sales and especially page reads in the Kindle Unlimited program with the series, which is what the goal was.
Other authors have done the same thing, which is so much easier when you self-publish a series. You get bored with a cover and you get another one. I never thought it would do much for my sales but it definitely has. I’m also finding loyal fans wanting to purchase the old, out of print covers now, too. Something I never thought would happen.
What book series out there did you read because they changed or updated the covers and why? I’d really like to know.
As part of the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour, I’m over at Jay Wilburn’s world famous website with a teaser for my latest zombie book!
Do you have a favorite zombie book or three, the stories that hooked you as a reader or perhaps made you want to write zombie fiction?
I do and since this post is about me and not you, I’ll list my top five Zombie stories that got me started on this crazy career path. These are the stories that influenced me and also showed me (and hopefully everyone else) how you could write a different zombie story and not just use the Romero tropes and settings to do the same thing over and over. This list is far from exhaustive. Hell, I could list ten times as many zombie books I loved but these are the ones that still have a hold on me, some after many years.
Let’s dig in… shall we?
5. WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks reads like a nonfiction, dry case study for after the zombpoc. And it is brilliant. Forget the movie. Read the book and see another take on zombie fiction and another way I saw you could do something different.
4. BONESHAKER by Cherie Priest was another influence. It’s an awesome steampunk novel with zombies and showed me another way to make zombies relevant without dominating the story. To me it’s always about the characters dealing with the zombies and not the other way around.
3. Adam-Troy Castro wrote a short story, “Dead Like Me,” which I read in the zombie collection THE LIVING DEAD. Despite the many, many solid stories in the anthology this is still the one that I think about. I’ve talked to other authors and they often cite it as an influence as well. Seriously, you need to read it. The perfect zombie story to me.
2. Joe McKinney was an author I knew nothing about. I was going through the local Barnes & Noble looking for a new book to read and came upon DEAD CITY and had to have it. I’m glad I did because it kicked off a bunch of really solid books by Joe and I always look forward to the next one, be it zombie or horror.
- I always say I’m a horror author because of Dean Koontz but a zombie author because of Brian Keene. His novel THE RISING was the first zombie fiction I ever read and I’m glad I started with the top guy. When people say ‘The Rising’ you know who wrote it and the significance, too. It’s like saying ‘The Stand’ or ‘Gone With The Wind’… there doesn’t ever need to be another book titled The Rising as far as I’m concerned. This one is perfect.
Don’t agree with my list? Think you can do better? I really don’t care, to be honest… we all have an opinion. Seriously… what are some of the zombie books that influenced you as a reader and/or writer?
This year’s Summer of Zombie blog tour is being run by Jay Wilburn. We’ll see if he screws it up. Until then…
Here’s the handy dandy link to follow along through all of the posts. I’ll reblog a bunch of them on this site, too.
All good things must come to an end…
Another June and another #SummerofZombie in the books. I had fun and I hope you did, too…
Every year my goal is to introduce more zombie readers to new authors, or maybe they’ll learn something new about the one’s they love.
I know, for me, it is a chance to learn about my fellow authors and forge a few new bonds for the future. There is nothing better than helping another author build their readership as well as have a good sales month because of my help. I truly believe in Karma, which is why this past month has been a blast and an amazing sales month for me.
I’ll definitely do this again next June, and for those of you who can’t wait…
#WinterofZombie will once again be here all of November 2015.
If you’re a zombie author who hasn’t been featured on these tours the last few years, don’t hit me up just yet… but follow this blog because around the beginning of September I will put the call out again. I always like to mix old and new authors into the tours, and November might just be the biggest yet.
I also want to thank everyone for making Darlene Bobich: Zombie Killer a top free zombie book, as well… I’ll be keeping it for free for the next few weeks, so grab a copy now if you haven’t already. It is available on most platforms so there’s no excuse.
Until November and #WinterofZombie… keep supporting each other!
The Best Vehicles for the Zombie Apocalypse
There are a few criteria that we have to establish before we can delve into the list. There are some assumptions, things that tend to transcend many zombie novels by many different authors:
- Electricity and other utilities eventually fail
- The dead leave vehicles, places, homes and buildings semi-intact for scavenging
- Industrial production ceases in all cases
- Nature reclaims development (except for the guy who is still apparently mowing the grass in that popular TV zombie apocalypse show)
If electricity has failed a few thing obvious and not so obvious have to be accounted for. Firstly plug in electric vehicles are an obvious no-go. Secondly, fuel pumps at gas stations no longer work. All manner of things are available to scavenge, except I exclude grocery stores as they are typically rushed for the possibility of a weather event, much less a full TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) event. The lack of industry producing new goods means no new vehicles, no new parts, and no new tires, nothing (once again excluding that popular TV show where the characters get new model year vehicles each season). Nature reclaiming the city means that roads and infrastructure will eventually fail, either through long term exposure or through catastrophe means like mudslides, earthquakes and flooding.
With those things in mind we have to consider the shelf life of modern unleaded gasoline, especially with the addition of ethanol in the fuel. The more refined the fuel, the shorter the shelf life of the fuel. Untreated unleaded gasoline used to be OK to store for up to a few years in an airtight environment (the red gas cans are considered open storage and fuel breaks down faster), until the addition of ethanol, which breaks down faster and also destroys fuel system components in motors if left to sit. Unleaded fuel treated with commercially available fuel stabilizers can last longer, but with the ethanol treated fuels it only extends the shelf life to a year or two. Diesel fuel lasts longer. If we could have cars powered by heavy fuel oil, like what large shipping vessels use, then we could get even more of a shelf life. To toss in more variables into this situation, the more advanced or complicated the fuel system, the higher performance the motor, the more sensitive it is to fuel that has started to go bad.
My believed 1973 SuperBeetle is a good example of this. With the stock 1600cc motor and stock single barrel carburetor it was nearly run on urine mixed with baking soda (that’s a joke, not really), but with the high performance motor I have now, running dual Weber 2-barrel downdraft carburetors, the smallest amount of contamination will cause the motor to run poorly or not run at all.
With no spare parts being made new, we need to look for vehicles that are common enough that parts would be available in the store rooms of local parts stores or readily available in junk yards. With all the vehicles, buildings and stores left intact after the start of the apocalypse, readily available parts from popular vehicles, or parts that are easily adaptable would be an added bonus. That would also necessitate that the vehicle is easy enough to repair that electronic equipment isn’t needed to diagnose and repair any issues, since any vehicle regardless as to how reliable, will eventually break.
Nature reclaiming the roads, cities and infrastructure, we need a vehicle that can survive off road use, as well as unique situations, like driving on rail beds or over rubble. On the surface that would relate to many of us as “we need a big truck” but the larger the vehicle, the more weight it has to move, the more fuel it requires, the larger the motor, the heavier duty the equipment, all of that makes for vehicles that sometimes aren’t able to survive long durations without significant maintenance. Even the large military trucks that can nearly climb a vertical wall need significant maintenance and fail with regularity; they fail often enough that the logistical tail of a mechanized combat force is fairly long. However, a 4-wheel drive vehicle with a reasonable amount of ground clearance, but still using tires that would be commonly found in tire stores and other vehicles would be required. If the vehicle uses an odd tire size, that makes it hard to locate. Hard to locate tires means your vehicle is now inoperable if you damage a tire.
For inspiration I look to two vehicle communities for inspiration:
- People who make a lifestyle of driving all around the world, on the highways, dirt roads and no-roads of the world to seek adventure and new experiences. They often drive their vehicles through the second item on this list, which overcomes many of the same issues as listed above.
- Developing countries.
When you see news reports of fighting in a developing country, what vehicle do you see the fighters driving and using? Often fitted with some sort of large mounted weapon? A Toyota Hilux. What is a favorite vehicle of Overlanders and exploration expeditions? A Toyota Land Cruiser.
- The Toyota Hilux. If you live in the US you might not be familiar with the vehicle, outside of the US the truck is as ubiquitous as mosquitos, they are everywhere. If you watch the old Top Gear show on BBC with Jeremy Clarkson, you might remember they tried to kill one once, and couldn’t. The fifth generation Hilux is my favorite. They were produced from 1988-1997, available in 2-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive and came with a 2.8L or 2.4L diesel motor that simply cannot be killed. You won’t win any races, you won’t pull a 50,000lbs trailer with it, but you will be able to drive nearly anywhere, carry gear in the bed of the truck and drive a vehicle that is quite literally impossible to kill. Diesel engine? An abundance of common parts found in parts stores, junk yards or adaptable parts from other vehicles? Check. 4-wheel drive? Check. Common tire sizes? Check. So within the United States this truck really isn’t the same as elsewhere due to the lack of a diesel engine, which is unfortunate.
- The Toyota Land Cruiser. This is a vehicle that you are probably familiar with if you live in the US. Beginning with the J40, which started production in 1960 and continuing through the 200 series which is still in production today; diesel motors have been available and popular options, except in later years when V8 gasoline engines were much more popular. If you live in the US you run into a problem, though. The diesel motors weren’t options available in the US since before 1990. Even still, the J60 series (1980-1989) are still readily found driving around on the roads of the US today.
- Honorable Mention for US Residents: Diesel trucks from Ford, Chevy/GM and Dodge. All of the manufactures have had diesel motors available for their trucks for some time, as popular as the trucks have been since the 1960s parts found in parts stores and junk yards are readily available. Parts from other models and makes are readily adaptable, like Dana axles; however, the newer diesel motors suffer from the same failings as the newer gasoline motors. The more complicated, the more electronics, the more advanced the motor, the more sensitive it is with bad fuel. When your life depends on the reliability of your vehicle, sensitivity to fuel quality isn’t a good thing. Part of the problem also returns to the American need to make everything “bigger and better” so a modified lifted truck may not be the best choice, stock means stock parts. Stock parts means easy to find replacements.
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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!