A View of the End of Los Angeles: Wallace Gets a Clue

May 19, 2017 1 comment

When Rob Wallace steps out of his house to pick up the morning paper one morning, this is the view he expects to see. Unfortunately, what he gets is totally different. From Dead in L.A.:

It wasn’t until Los Angeles itself became an infection vector in the fall that Wallace finally began paying attention. The studios were closing down, and even Norton’s production company was going on hiatus—Norton himself had suddenly disappeared for parts unknown without so much as a goodbye. But in Rancho Palos Verdes, it was easy to think nothing untoward was going on. Life was pretty much as it had always been in the Southland, and this far away from the city, change wasn’t readily apparent. But when Wallace emerged from the house one morning to pick up the newspaper—it wasn’t there—he looked out over the front lawn of the house across the street. The Pacific Ocean could be seen, blue and regal as always, framed by a great sweeping view of the Los Angeles coastline. Plumes of smoke rose into the air from several points, in Playa del Rey, Santa Monica, and even out toward the colony of Malibu. A line of Army Black Hawk helicopters thudded across the sky in a staggered formation. More worrisome, morning sunlight glinted off the flat canopies of their Apache escorts. Wallace recognized both helicopter types from working alongside Army National Guard during his time with the USBP. As he stood there, taking in the vista, he heard sirens from somewhere inside his own neighborhood. Not just a few. But many.

What the fuck?

It lands on May 30, folks!

“Remastering”, AKA Rewriting

May 16, 2017 3 comments

About two years ago or so, I released a co-authored work that frankly sucked balls. It was so bad that I unpublished it, deleted all references where it where I could, and downed many a bottle of Patrón silver in an attempt to purge the exercise from my mind. (The most fitting dénouement–being unable to remove it from my Amazon Author page. Damn me, cursed for all eternity!) To be honest, I’d created the basic storyline–man searches for son in zombie-filled Los Angeles–and after providing my co-writer with a copy of Left with the Dead and the sage advice to “make it like this,” I thought I was done.

Yeah, I was done all right: like “done in.” What was produced was such a steaming pile that I couldn’t save it in the short amount of time that I had to work on it. Golly, does James Patterson ever have this problem? But at least those folks who bought the paperback edition have something handy should emergency bowel issues arise. Hey, who said paper was dead?

This is hardly the way I open a post when hawking my latest ware, so bear with me a bit. Every now and then, a person can succumb to the most basic of deficiencies, most notably laziness and greed, so some mea culpa is probably prescribed. And laziness and greed are where my prior ill-fated partnership took me, pairing up with an author who, while talented, didn’t have the chops for what he was being tasked to do. I should have seen it, and should have stepped out of it right away. But, alas! Sometimes, stupid is as stupid does.

So flash forward a couple of years. Every now and then, I would pull this work out of the dustbin and do some body and fender work on it. Replacing a panel here, banging out a dent there, fabricating a whole new clip and fascia. What I began with was a quasi-comical story about a bumbling moron who, almost by magic, manages to find his son in the ruins of L.A. With some deliberate afterthought and the application of what meager writerly skill I possess, I managed to reimagine the work into what it always should have been: a tense story about a man slowly unraveling almost as quickly as the city around him as he searches for his kid. Along the way, he helps those he can, and turns his back on those he can’t. It’s sometimes callous, but for him, it’s all about his son. Like the stenches that pursue him existing only to feed, he lives only to find his boy.

As the father of a severely special needs kid, I at least can relate to that. And that’s the thing: I could never, ever, relate to the previously-described character in my titular co-author’s work.

I lined this up with the same timeline as The Last Town series, which also takes place (albeit partially) in Los Angeles. While there is no real-time interaction between the characters in this work and that one, they do actually lay eyes on each other. As Reese, Bates, and the others are fleeing the Hollywood Bowl, Wallace is skulking northward through Redondo Beach. And while the survivors of LAPD’s Hollywood Station make their way to eventual safety, Wallace has to contend with a metropolis that is filling with more and more ghouls every day.

In the first book, the lead character was a Hollywood stuntman. That was interesting; I know some stunt folks, and they’re pretty interesting men and women. But the character in the old book was nothing like them; no courage, no forethought, no ability to look at a gag and know it wasn’t going to work. In this work, Wallace is also involved in “the business”–he’s working on an incubating TV series for Gary Norton, a dramatic representation of Wallace’s time with the US Border Patrol–but that’s about it. More importantly, as a former USBP official, Wallace has some skills. Not the same type as, say, Dave Gartrell in The Gathering Dead, but enough to make his survival in the zompoc at least more credible. He doesn’t depend on luck and happenstance to get out of bad situations; he pulls himself through them, by his bootstraps if necessary. That was something in the original that made my clench my teeth in near anger; the original hero was so unworthy of surviving that it had me screaming into my hands.

So I changed that shit.

If you can manage it, look for Dead in L.A. at the end of the month. Hopefully, it’s about 40,000 times better than its ill-fated forerunner.

 

And if not? You know who to blame. No co-author to hide behind this time…it’s all on me. (Though if you want to blame WJ Lundy or Craig DiLouie, I’m all for it. Actually, no…blame Shawn Chesser. The guy doesn’t even drink, so how trustworthy is he, really?)

 

Cover Art: PLAGUE CITY

Just a quick drive by to show of some cover work by Jeroen ten Berge and Nicklas Gustaffson. Have some other work to get out before this one drops, but it’s on its way!

Upcoming: PLAGUE CITY

April 28, 2017 3 comments

Apparently, news of Stephen Knight’s death was greatly exaggerated.

Meandering its way across my eventual release spectrum like a slowly replicating virus is a work called Plague City, a novel about a very nasty bug that rips through New York City and the world just before Christmas. In the Big Apple alone, millions die a slow and lingering death, trapped in their homes, on the street, in the packed hospitals. A few people are immune, and one of those is Hank Elliot, commander of NYPD’s Precinct 19. After helplessly watching his own family meet their demise, Elliot decides he now has a new mission in life: to save the remaining survivors in NYC from the growing band of criminals that are hunting them down and killing them for sport, for slavery, or even for food. This is a work I’d started years ago, and finally returned to while wrestling with the growing monster that is These Dead Lands: Desolation and the audio book of its predecessor, These Dead Lands: Immolation. By the time it’s released, it’ll stand in at about 120,000 words, or around 300 pages.

But! I need help. I need a suitable death for the book’s villain, a thuggish criminal overlord named Pollard. This is where you folks come in…give me something awesome, and I’ll write it, credit you with it, and give you a role as one of the survivors who help Elliot do the final deed. And you’ll get a code for a free download of the Charges audio book. See, you won’t get nothin’ for somethin’! Leave your most treasured death in the comments, here or on Facebook.

Oh, before I forget. Cover art by Nicklas Gustafsson, cover design by the indefatigable Jereon ten Berge.

Changes…

April 24, 2017 5 comments

As always, change is unavoidable.

One of the truisms perpetuated by the despised traditional publishing industry is that once you’re “branded”—i.e., once you’re known for a certain product lines—breaking out into other products is difficult, in not outright impossible. I’d always thought that was a load of crap, but after several years of plugging away and finding that some of my richer fare doesn’t sell very well…hmm, maybe those “taste makers” in the traditional industry might be onto something.

Yeah, just one thing, so let’s not all get excited. Apparently, every dog really does have his day and a broken clock is right every twelve hours.

This observation isn’t particularly new to me. I have some great product out there under the name Stephen Knight that doesn’t sell at all, like White Tiger and Charges. Both generally have good reviews, but after three or four people buy them, that’s it. I’ve been trying to breathe new life into Charges with a fully immersive audio book, and while that seems to be coming along nicely, it’s also a brand-new release—I need more time to evaluate how successful this very expensive addition to the product line will pan out.

And Stephen Knight is known primarily as a zombie apocalypse guy. It was never meant to be that way, of course—The Gathering Dead was done on a lark. It was just going to be a one-shot deal, done for fun, without a great deal of deliberation behind it. Instead, it spawned a franchise. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. There are worse things a guy can do than provide some high-octane zompoc adventure every now and then. And Earthfall was the single best standalone work I’ve released, so that’s a bright ray of sunshine all by itself. If I released one of those every year, I’d buy the Playboy empire and restore it to its former glory.

Unfortunately for Knight? I’m bored shitless writing about zombies.

After The Last Town and even These Dead Lands: Immolation, I feel that I’m really just writing the same thing over and over and over again. While I do my best to people the stories with different characters, the story line is almost identical: zombies, fear, build, defend, collapse, retreat. Purists complain when you introduce new elements, even though what they complain about is the province of motion picture zombies, not literary. Thank God I have Earthfall 2 on the rack, because otherwise I’d be spending more time browsing vintage collectible tequilas online than I would be writing.

And it comes down to this: I want to write other stuff.

Enter Stephen Moore and Stephen Garrett.

Moore is my real surname; Knight is the professional alias I boosted from my father, as astute followers might have divined by now. Garrett is a family name from my mother’s side of the ancestral tree. For the longest time, I eschewed using my real name, as I a) don’t have an ego that needs to be fed with that kind of exposure, and b) I’m not sure I want to surrender my usual real-life anonymity in meatspace. (And also, Moore just isn’t as cool a moniker as Knight.) But Moore will be the guy who writes the police procedurals and techno-thrillers, and the odd dramatic work that parallels those worlds but doesn’t cross over into them, such as the still-nascent Hackett series. Moore’s first foray, aside from rebranding White Tiger with a new cover to kick things off, will be a police procedural about NYPD Detective Nick Avvento. Been wanting to do this one for years, and I have some great characters and a blood-chilling story line to go with it. There’s also some potential to release an upcoming work, Tribes, under this name; it’s a techno-thriller adventure story that was originally slotted for Knight, but I might change it up.

Garrett will be the hard, clanking science fiction guy. This is my native territory, writing stories about exploration, faraway places, bug-eyed aliens, and the thrill of adventure splashed across a canvas as wide as the universe itself. I’ve touched on it in past works under Knight, but only just barely. I’m itching to get into this. I have a huge series planned here, called The Reaches. Also some more free-booting military SF stuff which I have done, though it’s a bit dated and will need to be refreshed. Most of these are in my Continuum of Conflict story line which I’ve not revealed previously, and will be more “consumer-friendly” than The Reaches. Consider CoC will be more like the works of Robert Heinlein, while TR will be more like those by David Brin.

But it’s far from curtains for Knight. I—he?—still has to finish the next edition of The Retreat, and of course These Dead Lands will need to be completed. Then there’s the final installments of The Gathering Dead series, with the prequel Whispers of the Dead and the finale, Echoes of the Dead. And Earthfall 2, of course, along with the continuation of the Charges trilogy. So that’s like eight books, right there.

Does this sound confusing? It probably does, but it’s out of necessity, not preference. I’ve spent a lot of time getting Stephen Knight established; spinning off into new names doesn’t exactly thrill me.

Hopefully some of you will come along for the ride. I’ll keep you updated here as things begin to manifest themselves, but for the short term, don’t be alarmed.

CHARGES Audio Book Released

All I can say is… finally! This took a long time to get the audio book production of Charges completed, and I hope y’all will enjoy listening to it. It’s an “immersive” audio book, with SFX and an original score by my boy in England, Pip Shepherd. Narrated by a man who serendipitously was a colleague of my late father, Lee Alan. Turns out Lee replaced my dad at WXYZ radio in the early sixties, after my dad left Detroit to return to Texas (he’d fled his great gig in Dallas because he was regrettably linked to Jack Ruby, and had struck out north to gain some distance from all the goings-on in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination). It was odd talking to Lee about my dad’s time in Detroit, as I was only a mere babe and have no recollection of that time. But Lee gave this production his all!

You can find the audio book over at Audible, and of course, on Amazon.

The Last Town #6: Surviving the Dead Released!

March 31, 2017 5 comments

Now available: The Last Town 6: Surviving the Dead, debuting on Amazon as you read this. Bon apetit!