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Final Cover for The Last Town: A Novel of the Zombie Apocalypse

Probably the fastest commissioned custom cover art and finishing work I’ve ever had. Working off Dorothy Hwee’s art, Jeroen ten Berge did another customary fantastic job. He told me he had been planning to take the day off, but found my request too good to pass up. It’s vendors like these which make a guy’s life easier, I tell you!

I’ll advance the release date due to this rather stunning work, but more on that later.

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Artwork for The Last Town: A Novel of the Zombie Apocalypse

July 25, 2017 2 comments

Just got the finished artwork from artist Dorothy Hwee a short while ago. This is the low-res version, but certainly suitable for show. Additional graphics to be supplied by the inimitable Jeroen ten Berge, though he might not know that yet, as he’s probably still lying on his back with his eyes closed in New Zealand. 🙂 Looks like this one might have an early release, if things continue on this path.

You can preorder this title at: The Last Town: A Novel of the Zombie Apocalypse.

Cover in Progress: THE LAST TOWN

For the complete release of The Last Town: A Novel of the Zombie Apocalypse, a new cover is slowly being incubated. Interested parties should note that while there is some new material included in this release, it is not materially that much different from the serial. That is all.

DEAD IN L.A. Released

June 15, 2017 1 comment

For those who might be interested, Dead in L.A. has shambled out of the shadows on Amazon. You can find it here:

This one’s a standalone in The Gathering Dead universe, though there is some light interplay with The Last Town. The next release in this cycle will be Whispers of the Dead, a prequel that will chronicle the emergence of the zompoc, and feature McDaniels and Gartrell as they spool up and jump out to extract Wolf Safire from New York City. I’m forecasting that one will be released in December 2017, provided I can get the editorial slot locked up. 🙂

 

DEAD IN L.A.: The Barricade

They happened upon a roadblock a few streets away from the car dealership they had targeted. Bodies and body parts were everywhere, along with the stench of rotting flesh and spoiled blood. Wallace realized they had just happened across a fortified position that had been overrun. Sand bags, razor wire, even military Humvees and civilian sanitation trucks had been arranged to block off access to the entire block. Tattered scraps of paper, plastic wrap, MRE bags, and torn clothing were caught in the razor wire’s cruel embrace, fluttering vaguely in the low, dry breeze. The smell was horrible, and carrion birds gorged themselves on the remains as black clouds of flies hovered over the carnage.

“Oh, God,” Darien said. She sounded like she was going to be sick.

“Keep it together,” Wallace said. He slowly spun, taking a three hundred and sixty degree view of the intersection they stood before. Nothing moved amidst the buildings. More bodies lay in the street, their limbs at odd angles. It took Wallace a moment to understand they had been run down when the remaining defenders evacuated the roadblock. As he watched, one of the bodies squirmed, its bones pulverized by whatever vehicle had crushed it. At the moment, it wasn’t a threat.

But he knew better than to believe they were safe.

“Okay, we have to go through there,” he said, pointing to the roadblock.

Darien looked properly mortified at the prospect. “What? Why?”

“One, where we want to go is on the other side. Two, there may be things we can use in there.”

“Jesus… like what?”

“Firearms. Ammunition. Supplies. Maybe even an operational vehicle.” Wallace took a deep breath and started forward. “Watch yourself. Some of these things might not be dead, and try not to cut yourself on any of the wire or anything like that. A cut could get infected.”

“I’m not going in there,” Darien said.

“Suit yourself,” Wallace pressed on, stepping around several bodies. All of them had succumbed to head shots, which had taken them out of the fight instantly. For Wallace, that was confirmation of something he’d already figured out for himself: it took head shots to stop the dead. Other bodies were literally riddled by bullets, but it was the ones that he struck a skull that had finished them off. Even more corpses appeared to have been blown apart, perhaps by hand grenades or other munitions. He was horrified to see some of these remains were still mobile, and as he picked his way across the kill zone, he even saw a decapitated head, eyes following him as he passed, mouth opening and closing. It was disgusting.

Mounds of corpses had crushed the razor wire fences flat beneath their weight. Again, some of these moved, but they were pinned down by the inanimate bodies on top of them. Wallace took his time navigating around the piles. Not only could a zombie reach out and grab him, but he didn’t want to be cut.

Behind him, he heard Darien following his path. She coughed and retched, but once she had started moving, she didn’t stop. Wallace didn’t turn to look back at her. She would either figure it out by herself, or she wouldn’t. He felt he was running out of time to find Matthew, and that was all he cared about right now.

He made it to the roadblock itself. There, he found the ravaged bodies of several soldiers and police officers that had been overwhelmed by the dead. The bodies were essentially picked clean, their uniforms torn and shredded. Bare bone gleamed in the sunlight, and masses of maggots writhed across the remains. Flies were everywhere, and the stench was almost overpowering. Wallace had to fight not to vomit.

He saw the butt of a rifle sticking out beneath a shredded carcass. Steeling himself, he reached down, grabbed it, and pulled it toward him. The weapon came free, and he shook it to dislodge some pulpy white maggots that writhed on its blue-black surface. It was a military-issue M4 rifle. It took him only a moment to see that the barrel was shot out, ruptured on one side, so he dropped back to the ground. He turned and scanned the ground, looking for another. Expended cartridges were everywhere. A flock of crows exploded into the air, and Wallace turned toward them, pulling his pistol from its holster. It was Darien, who had deviated around the mounds of the dead and managed to find a way past the razor wire barriers on the other side of the street. She had a frozen, pinched expression on her face.

“God, this is so horrible,” she said, and her voice sounded small and tiny, even in the silence.

In response, a corpse groaned beneath one of the piles in the razor wire. A slashed and torn hand flailed about, seeking casting about, hoping to somehow be able to latch onto her. Darien stared at it, eyes wide in horror. Wallace snapped his fingers loudly, getting her attention. He waved her over, then put a finger to his lips. Be quiet. She nodded and slowly walked toward him, eyes sharp as she looked before taking each step.

Wallace found another rifle, still clutched in the hands of a disemboweled soldier. It was empty, but the barrel was in good shape. He pulled two full magazines from the soldier’s vest and slid one into the rifle. He hit the bolt release, and the carrier group snapped forward with a metallic click. As far as he could tell, the weapon was good to go. It would need to be cleaned, but that was something he would attend to later. He moved the firing selector to the SAFE position and slung it over his shoulder. After some more searching, he found more weapons. Only one of them seemed to be in operational condition; the others were either terribly fouled and wouldn’t work in the short term, or their barrels had been shot out from firing magazine after magazine on full auto. He also found a SAW, but its stock had been shattered. He had no personal experience with that weapon, but he figured the rifles would be more useful. While a weapon capable of maintaining a high rate of fire seemed attractive, he was currently surrounded by evidence that it didn’t mean crap.

As soon as Darien caught up to him, he handed her one of the rifles. “You know how to use this?” he whispered.

She shook her head, eyes wide. Whether it was in response to the stinking carnage or because he’d just handed her a military rifle, he didn’t know. She automatically started to put her finger on the trigger, and he stopped her with a shake of his head.

“Don’t touch the trigger unless you need to shoot something,” he said. “Just hold onto it for a while, I’ll show you how to use it later.”

She nodded and looked at him soundlessly, holding the rifle without a clue. Wallace smiled inwardly, then went back to his search.

He found more magazines and spare boxes of 5.56-millimeter ball ammunition. He managed to liberate two relatively unsoiled tactical vests and one rucksack, along with several MREs. Many of the soldiers had CamelBak hydration systems, basically bladders full of water they wore on their backs. All the ones Wallace found were either torn open or covered with so much gore and filth that he wouldn’t risk drinking out of one.

He found a dead policeman who still wore a gun belt, but there was no sign of his pistol. He frowned and looked around the half-eaten body, but the firearm was nowhere to be found.

“Wallace.” Darien’s voice was a tight hiss.

Wallace turned and looked at her. She had sunken into a semi-crouch and looked up at him fearfully. He heard the tinkle of metal as something bumbled into what remained of the razor wire perimeter, and the feeding carrion birds there lifted off in a storm of fluttering wings. As they rose into the air, Wallace looked toward the forward edge of the blockade. A dozen or so pale, pallid faces turned upward, eyes following the flocks of birds as they headed for the rooftops of surrounding buildings. A small zombie horde had almost walked up on them without making a sound.

Wallace motioned for Darien to follow. While the zombies were still distracted by the birds, they pushed further into the blockade and slipped around one of the sanitation trucks to make their escape.

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 PatrĂłn silver in an attempt to purge the exercise from my mind. (The most fitting dĂ©nouement–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?)