Posts Tagged ‘Zombies’

Recently, Stitched Smile Publications put out a novel by the talented Pembroke Sinclair. The novel, Humanity’s Hope, is about seventeen year old Caleb, who survived the zombie apocalypse and his struggles there after. I had an opportunity to sit down with Pembroke and talk to her about writing, Humanity’s Hope and where her totally cool pen name came from. Please, sit back, grab a beverage and join me in my conversation with Pembroke Sinclair.

A.J.: Let’s just jump in here. Tell me, who is Pembroke Sinclair?

PS: Well, there are several answers I could give you. The funny “I’m an editor by day, zombie killer by night” response. Or the incredibly long response that explains why I started writing and how I came up with my pen name. Or I could tell you there is no Pembroke, only Zoul.

A.J.: I think I would like to hear the longer version. Why did you start writing?

PS: I’ve always been a writer. I remember as early as 3rd grade I wrote a story about a horse named Charlie that my teacher laminated. When we went back to Iowa every summer, my grandma had an electric typewriter that I would create stories on. None of those were laminated, and they should probably be completely forgotten. When I was in high school, I had a spiral notebook I wrote stories in, but I made sure it looked like I was taking notes. When I got to college, things got a little weird, and I had some professors who tore down my self-confidence and made it so I didn’t write for a very long time. I picked it up again after grad school while working at an environmental consulting firm. One of my friends convinced me it was worth trying again, so I started with a few short stories. I got addicted to getting published, but decided I didn’t like short stories, so I worked on novels.

A.J.: It never fails. Someone will tear down another person, and usually because they can, but I am glad you started writing again.

Since you bring up that tearing down and losing confidence, what was that like?

Pembroke SinclairPS: It was tough, especially considering I was taking a writing class and they were supposed to be helping me get better at writing.  Instead, they found every opportunity to inform me (and probably other students) that they would never amount to anything. One professor was a literary writer, and since I was a genre writer, she said she wouldn’t be able to fairly critique my writing. Isn’t good writing good writing no matter what genre? Either way, it cut deep.

Years later, I found out these professors (one in particular) had a habit of tearing down writers’ self-confidence—perhaps because they viewed us as competition. I don’t know. But it did give me a good view into what the publishing world would be like, and after getting over my initial hurt feelings, it helped me grow some thick skin.

I’m no longer angry at the professors for what they did. Was it mean spirited and ridiculous? Of course. But me still being angry won’t change anything. The only thing I can do is move forward and write.

A.J.: Pembroke, how did you move forward?

PS: Having encouragement from a friend really helped, and then getting some stories published really pushed that along. To be honest, getting a lot of rejections throughout my career helped, too, because I’m one of those people who loves to show others that I CAN do what you say I can’t, and I’ll prove it.

A.J.: You sound like me—I say the same thing. One thing I have learned is those who have been told can’t—or shouldn’t—do this business, are the ones who want it more and try the hardest.

PS: I think it’s because we think we have something to prove.  I absolutely question my ability to write every single day, but at the same time, I’m not going to let anyone tell me I shouldn’t be doing it.  That’s my choice, not theirs.

A.J.: You said you got addicted to publishing. Can you explain what you mean by that?

PS: If you’re an author, and you’ve ever received a slew of “NO’s” for your submissions, you know that it only takes one “YES!” to completely turn everything around. I love getting yeses—I think it goes back to my desire to prove I can and should be writing. And it’s just an amazing feeling to know my work is going to be available for people to read.

A.J.: I get that, completely. I, literally, received 100 rejections before my first acceptance, including one where the editor said I should never write another story again.

PS: I received a rejection for a YA story I wrote because a reviewer gave me a mediocre review on one of my middle grade books. I wasn’t even pitching anything to do with that particular story.

A.J.: You absolutely have to hate it when that happens.

PS: I was pissed. I did the thing you’re not supposed to do: I replied to the agent (I’m pretty sure it was an agent) and asked him what the hell he was talking about. He never responded.

A.J.: Oh my—I understand your anger, but you are right, never respond in that manner. In this day of social media, that is akin to literary suicide.

PS: I phrased it nicely, but that was the gist of it.

A.J.: Earlier, you mentioned possibly telling me where you got your pen name. Do you mind telling me now?

PS: When I was first setting out to get published, I knew I couldn’t use my real name because it’s pretty common and when you Google it, a country singer shows up. I needed a pen name so I could be found.

I was pregnant with my first child at the time, and we were looking for names for him. I thought, “Pembroke Sinclair Robinson. That kid would be destined to be a writer.” When I suggested it to my husband, his response was, “You want our kid to get beat up on the playground, don’t you?” My friend suggested I take it for myself, so I did.

Side note, Pembroke’s middle name is Alloicious.

A.J.: That is a great story—and your first child probably thanks you for not naming him that.

PS: He’s never really said …

A.J.: Let’s go back a little here. I want to touch on two things. First, why genre fiction.

PS: I’ve always been a huge fan of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I’m an English major, so I’ve read my fair share of literary—and I don’t think anything is wrong with literary—but I don’t enjoy writing it. I’ve tried, and it feels weird to me. I have a much easier time imagining myself in another world or surrounded by monsters, and I prefer to be in those worlds. Writing is an escape from reality for me, and I want to get as far away as I can.

A.J.: Before I go to the second part of this, what do you consider literary fiction?

PS: I would say literary fiction are the classics you read that are based in reality. The ones that focus on craft and language, such as Toni Morrison, Faulkner (although I would argue some of his stuff is fantasy), Hemingway, etc. Does that help?

No, wait, Faulkner is literary. I was thinking Vonnegut Jr.!

A.J.: It does help, but literary fiction is still considered, by many, to be real writing, where as genre fiction is considered for hacks. What do you feel is the difference? Or is there a difference?

PS: Oh, I’m fully aware of the distinctions between literary and genre and how literary is soooooo much better. I think the distinction comes from how people want to be labeled. If they want to seem “smarter” and more high brow, they will be “literary.” If they want to appeal to the masses, they’ll be genre. Personally, both can be incredibly intelligent and complicated (have you read Dune or the Foundation series?) and, conversely, both genres can have their crap. It’s all in what a person wants to read/write.

A.J.: Great thoughts in there, Pembroke. I agree. You seem to have some strong feelings on literary fiction—just as I do. I can totally appreciate that. Is that, maybe because of the way those who write literary fiction frown on those who write genre?

PS: Absolutely. And of course, it’s not all of them. There are always those authors who support and encourage other authors and those who are just poops–in all mediums of writing. Again, I’m an English major so I enjoy literary works. I just don’t like writing them.

A.J.: I don’t like writing them either.

Let’s switch gears. You recently had a book released. Humanity’s Hope. Can you tell me about this?

PS: I’m a huge zombie fan. I love zombies in all their mediums, and I really enjoy writing about how people survive the apocalypse—especially teens.

In most zombie stories, the heroes have no quarrels about filling the role of savior and fighting for what’s left of the world.  But when writing Humanity’s Hope, I wanted to look at a character who was reluctant about that role; who didn’t want to be in that position and who has a lot of issues with surviving when others have died.

While I truly believe there will be those people who fight hard to defeat an undead threat, I also believe there will be those who only survive.  But I don’t believe any of us will come out of the zombie apocalypse unscathed.

On top of that, I also wanted to give my main character something to set him even further apart from his fellow humans, so he’s immune from becoming a zombie.

A.J.: I’m not going to ask how he is immune—that is for you to reveal in your work. I will say I love the zombie sub-genre as well. But I also find that so many people have written the same things over and over and there is little variation. What sets Humanity’s Hope apart from other books?

PS: Of course the same things have been written over and over. The same can be said about films. That’s what works and makes money!

You know, I was typing how Hope is different from other stories, and it’s not really. There are certain elements that exist in stories, and they are portrayed through different characters and settings, but they are always there.

I guess I can say it’ s not the same because I have zombies that are different. Other than that, it’s a story about someone trying to come to terms with losing his friends and family and struggling through his day to day exist with PTSD while the living dead roam the earth.

A.J.: Fair enough. Do you mind sharing an excerpt with the readers at the end of this interview?

PS: Not at all.

A.J.: Awesome. Okay, if you have a few more minutes, I would like to ask a couple more questions. What do you enjoy most about writing and publishing?

PS: I enjoy being able to escape. I enjoy exploring the question of what it means to be human (I haven’t found an answer yet). I enjoy sharing my stories with others and seeing readers enjoy them.

A.J.: Okay, on the flip side, what do you dislike about writing and publishing?

PS: The length of time it takes me to get a story on the page. It would be so much easier if I could plug the computer into my head and THINK my story onto the page. When it comes to publishing, I wish there could be more camaraderie and support among authors. We’re all in this together. Let’s build each other up instead of tearing each other down. Not that everyone does this, but those that do need to stop.

A.J.: I absolutely agree, we are in this together. I’ve always viewed this as a family, even though there are some family members we want to just stay away.

Now, other than Humanity’s Hope, you have some other works out, correct?

PS: I do. Several fiction stories and nonfiction works.

I write the nonfiction under my real name. Just to make it nice and confusing.

A.J.: Okay, treat me like a writer just starting out. What would you tell me?

PS: Have fun. Publishing is full of rejection and others who want to see you fail, but if you write because you enjoy writing and have fun creating your stories, you’ve already shown the world you can be successful.

A.J.: I like that. I like that a lot. Sound advice.

Okay, before I let you go, is there anything else you would like to say to the readers?

PS: Thank you for reading my work.  Without you, there’d be no reason to do what I do.

A.J.: One more thing: where can readers find you?

PS: You can find me on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

A.J.: Pembroke Sinclair, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to chat with me. It was nice to get to know you.

PS: Thank you!  I appreciate you taking the time also!

I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Pembroke Sinclair. Now, here is a sneak peak at Humanity’s Hope:

1906894769Caleb sprinted across the dirt road. His leg muscles burned. He was barely able to get his feet off the ground. The backpack slammed into his lower back with every step—the straps dug into his shoulders. As he approached the low wall, he slid into a crouch, turning so his back would contact the stones first. The pressure of the backpack pressed into his ribcage—squeezing the air out of his lungs. He pressed his lips together and let the stream flow out of his nose. He tried his best to keep it silent—a task that proved difficult with every pant. His lungs screamed for air. He wanted to draw in large, gasping breaths, but they would be too loud and attract unwanted attention. The undead were just on the other side of the wall, unaware of his presence, and he intended to keep it that way.

Caleb’s gaze drifted back to the road and fell on his sister, Nina, and Len, his chemistry partner from school. They ran toward him as fast as they could with their heavy backpacks that hunched them over. Or perhaps it was an attempt to make themselves smaller so they were less noticeable—Caleb couldn’t tell. They slid up to the wall on either side of Caleb and attempted to control their breathing.

This was a terrible place to hide—they all knew it. It was too open, too exposed, but there weren’t any other choices. The squat wall was right at the edge of a fallow field, across the dirt road they had been traversing in the hopes of finding civilization. They found the wall in a vast, rural landscape. The three of them were lucky there was something. They had come around a bend in the road and up a small hill, and there they were—zombies—shuffling aimlessly through the countryside. Caleb had to suppress his shocked gasp. They came out here because the urban areas had become too dangerous. There were too many zombies. The supplies had either been pillaged or were too difficult to get to. The country was supposed to be their hope, their salvation. So far, it wasn’t. The farmhouse was still ways away, about 50 yards. At least that was what Caleb assumed. He was horrible at judging distances. It didn’t matter anyway. With the zombies in front of them, the house was as accessible as another planet. But they couldn’t stay out in the open, either.

The look on Len’s face reflected the turmoil Caleb felt inside. His eyes were wide, his face red from exertion. His head was cocked to the side, his jaw muscles tight. The look asked: “What do we do now?” Caleb had no answer.

When they set out that morning to look for food, they had told themselves the zombies had been confined to the cities. Why? Because they had to believe something. They had to think there was still a chance.

Caleb lowered his gaze to the ground. There was no way to respond to Len’s silent question. They just had to wait it out—make their move when they got the opportunity. Caleb glanced over his shoulder at his sister. She slumped against the wall, her legs sprawled out in front of her, her chin resting on her chest. His stomach tightened as he took in her pose. She wasn’t going to be able to move quickly from that position. She needed to be ready. Yet, he felt for her. What was the point of being ready if it meant they had to keep running? His legs shook underneath him as he held his crouch. It would have been such a relief to plop onto his butt and take the weight off his legs. He could’ve placed his arms around Nina’s shoulders and pulled her close. They could have relaxed in their misery. Instead, he gently backhanded her arm. When she looked at him, he thrust his thumb into the air. With an eye roll and deliberate movements, Nina moved into a crouch, removing the gun from the back of her waistband.

Caleb focused on the weapon in his hands. It was there so often, it was like an appendage. He rarely noticed it anymore. But neither of the guns would do them much good; there weren’t enough bullets to take out the threat. Even if they fired their remaining rounds, all it would do was draw more zombies to their location.

Caleb turned his attention away from his gun and stretched up to look over the wall. As soon as his eyes broke the surface, he scanned the area before sinking back down. His heart pounded against his ribs, his throat tightened. An undead lumbered close to the wall—too close. One wrong move or sound and they were spotted. He licked his lips and felt the sweat slide down his spine. If they stayed quiet, the zombies would keep moving. They just had to wait it out.

A low, soft grumbling filled the air. At first, Caleb wasn’t convinced he’d heard it. It was so low, he could have imagined it. He had hoped he’d imagined it. But then Len wrapped his arms around his midsection and squeezed. The rumbling grew louder. It was hard to hide the sounds of hunger. Caleb’s eyes grew wide. He shifted his stance so he could explode onto his feet.

The rotted hand reached over the wall and swiped the air between Caleb and Len. There were no other options. All of them sprang to their feet. The crowd of rotting flesh was converging on their position. Caleb extended his arms and lined up his sights. The crack of the gun echoed loudly in the country air; the corpse slumped onto the wall. All three of them jumped over the wall and ran toward the house. The path took them directly toward the zombies; they had to be fast enough to get by them.

Caleb’s extremities tingled with adrenaline, his footsteps thumped rhythmically on the hard, dry ground. He sucked in long gasps of air, but his lungs still burned for oxygen. He caught glimpses of the other two out of the corner of his eyes. The undead drew nearer. Their arms outstretched, waiting to snag their prey. Caleb zig-zagged across the field. He ducked under a pair of arms, then shouldered a zombie out of the way. Its bones crunched against his shoulder, teeth gnashed close to his ear, driving him forward with more urgency. The house grew larger with every step he took. Almost there.

A short yip followed by a grunt sounded behind him. He risked a glance over his shoulder. Len stumbled then fell. Caleb’s heart leapt into his throat. He skidded to a stop, turning to help his friend. Caleb was about to step toward Len, but he was stopped in his tracks. The action caused him to lose his balance. His arms flailed through the air to keep Caleb from falling over. An incessant, strong tugging kept him from moving forward. He turned to see Nina jerking on his backpack. Her eyes were wide and glistening with tears. She bit her bottom lip and shook her head violently. Caleb glanced again at Len, who reached for Caleb, his mouth open in a silent plea, tears running down his cheeks. Caleb reached toward him. Len’s plea turned into a scream as a zombie bit into his calf. A dark ring of blood stained his jeans and grew larger. Another zombie latched onto the fingers of his extended hand. The crunch as it bit through his bones rattled in Caleb’s skull. He pulled his hand into his chest.

Caleb turned at that point. There was nothing more he could do. His sister grabbed his wrist, and they ran into the house. They took the stairs two at a time and headed into a bedroom on the right. After closing the door, they scanned the area, checking under the bed and in the closet. Clear. His sister collapsed face first onto the bed. From the way her body shook, Caleb could tell she was crying. He leaned back until his pack connected with the door. His legs gave out, and he slid to the floor. Pulling his knees to his chest, he wrapped his arms around his head and tried to disappear into himself.

And then there were two.

For the better part of the last seventeen months I’ve gotten to work with Lisa Vasquez, owner of Stitched Smile Publications, graphic designer and author. She’s witty and funny and believes in shenanigans. She is also hard working, dedicated and determined. I think this is why we get along, even though our personalities should clash.

Back in January, Lisa released her novel, The Unfleshed. Recently, I sat down to talk with Lisa about the new novel, among other things.

AJ: Before we get into the nitty gritty, tell us a little bit about Lisa Vasquez, the person.

LV: That’s the question I dread the most when doing interviews. I often put myself into separate boxes.

Lisa, the author, has been writing since she was in the 4th grade. My debut book, The Unsaintly, was released a few years ago and is my favorite work because it was my first published accomplishment. I just released my new novel, The Unfleshed this year and I’m currently working on my next novel as well as a few short stories.

Lisa, the book cover designer, has been doing covers for three years and it’s one of my favorite hobbies-turned-professions.

Lisa, the publisher, began her company in January of 2016 and is proud to say we have doubled our growth since then. We have amazing staff and authors. I love what the company stands for and how we support indie authors and help them learn to improve their craft and build their business.

AJ: That is a lot of Lisa! I would actually like to talk about Lisa, the author, for now. You said you started writing in the fourth grade? How did that come about?

LV: I had this teacher who was awesome. She engaged us and did all she could to spark a real love of reading. We did fun activities like completing stories when given the opening paragraph, doing stories from pictures (what’s going on here?) and then sometimes we did skits. I was in love with the whole process and in seeing what my fellow budding authors came up with.

So a shout out, if she ever sees it, to Mrs. Reese!

AJ: Do you remember the first story you wrote?

LV: Unfortunately, I don’t. I couldn’t even tell you what it was about.

AJ: Boy do I know that. I can’t recall the first story I wrote in school either, but that was because I hated writing back then. Now I wish I had been a better student.

Let’s talk The Unfleshed. What was the inspiration for this story?

51m6V9lTKQLLV: The Unfleshed was inspired by a few things. One of the important influences was Frankenstein (which led into Bride of Frankenstein). In the front of the book, I go into the story of how my father and I sat watching it after he had become ill with renal failure. They added him onto the transplant list and it suddenly became this dark blanket over our family.

Back then we had no internet so it was a time of reading thick medical books. We were pretty young at the time, I think I was about 13 (I’m the oldest).

My dad always used opportunities like this to talk to us about things. Comparing situations from movies or songs to real life scenarios. It was a cool way to open doors of discussion that might have been awkward or avoided otherwise. So we’re there and we’re watching, and he says, “Who would’ve thought when Mary Shelley wrote this, that one day taking body parts from people who died would give life to someone else? And that someday this wouldn’t be science fiction, but reality?” And it stayed with me every single day until today. It probably always will.

AJ: Parental lessons, especially given in this manner, always seem to stick the most. Having read The Unfleshed, I really want to know where Angus Wulfe came from.

LV: Angus came from a dark place. All my characters come from my head but this was me vs me. I tackled some heavy issues I won’t go into publicly. He also came from my love of Thomas Harris’ character, Hannibal Lecter. Somehow, this vile human was loved as much as he was hated. I wanted to be able to expose that in this story. The psychology of how we can empathize, even with monsters.

AJ: You put Angus through a hellacious childhood that we only get to see a glimpse of. I know this is part of character building, but at any point did you look at young Angus as a little boy and wonder, ‘why the heck am I doing this to him?’

LV: No, because that is reality. In order for the reader to relate, I have to make it real.

AJ: Oh absolutely. I have to ask this since you brought up Frankenstein: when The Unfleshed was published, did you scream, “It’s Alive! It’s Alive!”?

LV: Damn right! haha!

AJ: Hahahahahaha. Did you enjoy the … umm … how do I put this … the scenes where Angus inflicted his doctorly will on his patients?

LV: Actually, I did. I have to admit there was a tiny, evil giggle during those scenes. I might have some issues. That’s between us, though.

AJ: Us and all the readers out there. My favorite character in the book was actually a secondary character. Marshall. Tell me a little about him and where he came from.

LV: Oh yes, poor Marshall. Marshall is the balance in the story. No one is “all bad” and no one is “all good” in life. Some may come close, but to me, I feel like life puts us in situations and really tests our moral compass. If Angus hadn’t gone through his childhood, he might be Marshall, and vice versa. I like having a complex but balanced story that explores human nature. Marshall is “the conscience” in the story.

AJ: Marshall reminded me of Renfield from Dracula, but a little more tragic.

LV: He does kind of remind me of him in a way.

AJ: How long did you work on The Unfleshed?

LV: Hmm … well I wrote The Unfleshed as a short story back in early 2000. It was much different then. I changed it around because I wanted to change up the “zombie” craze a little. I mean technically, Frankenstein could be a zombie! I liked the idea of it and ran with it. Instead of zombies walking around, we had Frankensteins. It took a year to rewrite and about a year to polish it up.

AJ: A lot of The Unfleshed is steeped in history and in the medical field. Is that a direct relation to what went on with your father during your childhood?

LV: It did, but it didn’t seem realistic to have like … say a baker bringing people back to life. It had to be something believable. Since it’s set back in the 1300’s, there wasn’t education like there is today. When you were old enough to walk, you were old enough to work. But having the experience of my dad being sick and having an education in the sciences, it directly influenced the story.

AJ: Speaking of the setting, why did you set it back in the 1300s?

LV: Well it was the time of the plague for one. And secondly, I love time pieces. I love anything medieval or historical. They’re very interesting times.

AJ: Speaking of historical, you have another book titled, Unsaintly, that is somewhat historical as well. Tell us a little about this one.

LV: Unsaintly is a book about good and evil and everything in between. It’s spiritual, fantastical, and horror altogether.

AJ: Now, that one took you a little longer to write than The Unfleshed, right?

LV: Unsaintly took me ten years to write! Haha, so yes, a little longer

AJ: Ten years? Wow, that is a long time.

LV: Most of it was self doubt. The other part consisted of research and computer crashes

AJ: Computer crashes suck. So, Lisa, tell me, if you can, what do you want the readers to come away with from The Unfleshed?

LV: I’d like them to love the characters and enjoy the story. I hope they understand the complexities of the characters while getting a good old fashioned horror story. And finally, I hope I gave readers who enjoy the classics (Frankenstein, Dracula, etc.) something special.

AJ: Fair enough. Before I let you go, tell me what does the future hold for Lisa Vasquez, writer?

LV: More writing. As long as there is a story to be told I’ll be letting the demons out. I have a female assassin who’s getting antsy to be heard. She’s been in there longer than Unsaintly. And my Viking Werewolves are pacing their cages.

AJ: Very nice, Lisa. Very nice. I’m going to let you go now, but do you mind telling the readers where they can find you and your work?

LV: Sure!

Twitter: unsaintly

Instagram: unsaintly

Lisa Vasquez on Facebook

Unsaintly Website

And of course  Stitched Smile Publications Website

You can find The Unfleshed on Amazon here.

Dear Faithful Readers,

I want to tell you about Hank Walker, the main character of Dredging Up Memories. He’s an everyday average guy who ended up in the not so everyday average zombie apocalypse. He, like anyone dealing with the end of the world as he knew it, struggled to cope with the loss of loved ones and of humanity as a whole. He dealt with the loneliness in the best way he could. Maybe that was the wrong way, but it also may have been the way a lot of folks would have dealt with it. Who knows?

When I created the character of Hank Walker, I wanted to put him in situations that would test his mental fortitude. I wanted to break him and see how he came out on the other side of that. There were things I put him through that bothered me, especially as I got to know Hank and see his personality develop.

Sometimes when we write characters, we have to hurt them in order to make them believable. We have to hurt them in order to make you, the reader, feel something in your heart of hearts and your mind of minds. But by doing that, we also hurt ourselves, we break our hearts. As a writer, I know I have done my job, if I feel the pain of the story as I am writing it.

I’ve been told on several occasions that Dredging Up Memories is like The Walking Dead with more emotion. I take that as a huge compliment.

I can’t go into too much of the actual storyline without giving a ton away. However, I would love to give you part of the story, here in this post. Enjoy:

51xtx8nzwslA middle-aged man groaned as we neared each other. I screamed back at him before taking the top of his head off with the machete. The pistol took out several more, just click and boom and down they went.

I spun and saw another rotter moving toward me. His glasses were still on his face though hanging cock-eyed, just on the tip of his nose. His hair was short, a few cowlicks kicked off the edges. He was thin, and all I could think was Paul Marcum taking a bite out of Lee, essentially ending my oldest brother’s existence. The man looked similar to him.

I backpedaled to the truck, climbed in the bed, and shoved aside part of the tin can alarm system. There were other guns back there, plenty of ammunition, but all I wanted was a vantage point.

The other dead approached, flies swarming around them, their stench filling the air, making my stomach churn. Even after these few months, that smell still makes me want to heave. I plucked them off one by one until only the Paul Marcum lookalike was standing at the tailgate. He was missing three fingers on one hand, and up close, he was a lot worse off than I originally thought. Skin had peeled away from his face, exposing facial muscles as tough as jerky.

“How you doin’, Paul?”

He looked at me, gave a moan, and stretched out his arms.  

“Okay, so you’re not Paul—at least you weren’t in another life. But today… Today, you’re Paul Marcum, and you killed my brother.”

I brought the heel of my boot down on the bridge of his nose. He stumbled backward, let out what sounded like a howl. He was in pain, and I was happy to put him through more of it. I jumped from the truck, landed a few feet from him. A quick whip of the machete on one arm and it separated from his body.

“You think that hurt?” I yelled as he groaned. “You haven’t felt anything yet.”

I circled around him, rage having consumed me entirely. The blade found the other arm. The snap of bone and the rush of fetid blood spilled from a new wound as the arm fell away. Another pain-filled howl left the Marcum lookalike. I pulled the pistol from my waistband and took two shots at his legs—two wasted bullets that I’ll never get back, but at that time…at that time, wounding an innocent man who unfortunately looked like another one was all I cared about. The rotter fell to the ground, lay there with no hands to pull himself along, his legs useless.

With the toe of my boot, I rolled him onto his back. His teeth clattered together as he gnashed at me. His filmed-over eyes held anger in them.

“You’re mad at me? Is that how it is, Paul? You kill my brother, and you’re mad at me?” I laughed. Maybe the wheels had finally come off the car, and my mind had taken the short road to insanity. I don’t know, but at that moment—that frozen, horrible moment in time—I didn’t care about the pain the dead must have been in, the fear that must have been sitting in their undead veins. The only thing that mattered was revenge. Plain and simple. And revenge I would have.

I brought the blade down on the dead man’s chest, yanked it out, and swung it down again. Over and over, I bashed the body of the poor man as black blood spilled from each wound, and dead tissues tore free, bones broke. After several minutes, I finally stopped, my arms aching, my breathing heavy and harsh in my ears. The zombie still stirred, his mouth still opening and closing, his eyes still focused on what could have been a meal.

And the anger was gone from me, all of it unleashed on that poor dead man. I shook from adrenaline and sudden guilt. A hand went to my mouth, and I dropped the machete to the ground. I took several steps back until my back hit the tailgate. The man still moved, still made little groans and moans, and his head turned from side to side like he was saying no no no no over and over again.

I pulled out my pistol, walked the short distance to the mutilated body, and pulled the trigger. The man’s head ruptured, and he stilled. Hands shaking, I got into the truck, closed the door, and locked it. I could feel Humphrey’s eyes on me, sense his disappointment.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered as I stared out the windshield at the carnage around me. The dead were truly dead, their bodies lying where I felled them.

I hope you enjoyed this snippet from Dredging Up Memories. If so, consider bee-bopping over to Amazon and getting a copy. I would truly appreciate it. If you have already read it, would you mind leaving a review if you haven’t done so? That helps me out more than you probably know.

With that said, I leave you all and hope you have a wonderful morning, afternoon and evening.

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

A.J.

13106731_10209260504770741_700376366_o-2.jpgSometimes I get so busy doing other things and writing other things that I often forget that I need to focus on things that are happening right now or have already happened. Like my newest book, Dredging Up Memories.

Let’s talk about this book for a second. Dredging Up Memories is the story of Hank Walker and his downward spiral into depression during the zombie apocalypse.

Zombie apocalypse? Seriously?

Yes, seriously. Before you go and judge a book by its zombies, let me put a few fears to rest:

  • The zombie apocalypse thing has been done to death! Yes, it has, but this isn’t the typical zombie story. The dead don’t play the biggest role in this book. A stuffed animal does.
  • There is no hope in zombie stories. Well, you might be right there, but how do you know if you don’t read the book?
  • Zombie stories are all about zombies rending people from limb to limb. Yes, most are, but not Dredging Up Memories.
  • There is nothing new you can do with the overdone genre. I disagree. I believe Dredging Up Memories is original. Again, the main theme is Hank Walker’s descent into depression, not the gnashing of teeth.
  • Brains. Okay, I have to bark at this for a second. Have you ever seen a zombie in any movie actually try to get to a person’s brain? No. You see them tearing into their stomachs and faces and arms and legs and necks, but you never see them actually going for brains. Besides, how would they get to it?

Here’s the thing about Dredging Up Memories: it’s human. It’s real. It has a certain mood to it that is not like other zombie stories. It doesn’t focus solely on the swarming dead and their insatiable hunger for flesh.

It is, in my opinion, a breath of fresh air from all of the action only, blood and gore zombie stories that are all pretty much the same with the exception of location and character names. It is different.

If you don’t mind I would love to share a couple of reviews with you.

The first one:

Honestly, I don’t like reading zombie books.  This book however, was SO much more than your typical “zombies attack” story. This book was about the main character, Hank Walker, and his journey to survive.  It’s not just about a bunch of zombies eating people. This story is well written, with just the right amount of detail.  The story has emotions, in the characters and emotions that you yourself will feel.  I also like that there are actual towns mentioned in the book that are familiar to residents of South Carolina.  It’s easy to feel like you are there, in the town with Hank.  For me, Dredging Up Memories was a book that once I started reading, I didn’t want to stop.  I just had to know what was going to happen next.  For me, I despise reading a book all the way through just to finish with a terrible ending.  I know books don’t always have the ending that we want, but it still needs to finish well.  This book I’m happy to say has a complete ending.  I won’t spoil it for you and say it was happy or sad, just complete and well finished, and I’m happy with that.  I like that this story can be a stand alone book, but I’m excited that A.J. is planning to continue Hank Walkers journey.  I definitely look forward to reading more works by the incredible author A.J. Brown.

The second one:

This book is an immersive experience. There is plenty of action, but it really puts you into the mind of a survivor. It goes heavily into the headspace and emotions of navigating a world decimated by monsters.

Those are just two of the reviews that have been written for Dredging Up Memories.

The World Smelled CleanHere is something else: Humphrey.

Who is Humphrey? Well, he is a teddy bear dressed in a bunny pajama outfit. Yes, he is a stuffed toy, but he plays a huge part in this story. How can you not want to find out how a stuffed bear becomes a central figure in a zombie apocalypse story?

So, are you interested in reading it yet? I hope so. I believe you will not be disappointed.

Come on. You know you want it. Go get Dredging Up Memories here.

And until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

Sometimes you discover a writer that not many folks know about. Sometimes that writer is a breath of fresh air, so much so that, even though you want to shout their names to the universe, you still kind of want to be selfish, and keep their words all to yourself. Sometimes you just have to say, ‘Hey, check this out.’

But what do you do when that writer is actually two? What do you do when they are brothers? Do you compare them to the Brothers Grimm? You can, but really, what fairness is that for a comparison? It would be like saying, ‘you have a lot to live up to.’

Today, I want to introduce you to the Brothers Dunne, Justin and Robert. They hail from Australia and you, more than likely, have never heard of them. If you have, then consider yourself fortunate. If you haven’t, prepare to. With a combined voice that comes across as just one united style, this duo could go a long, long way.

Oh, and I hear they like needles, so they’re in the right place. Welcome to the Donor Center, Justin and Robert Dunne.

For the first few questions I’ll let you guys fight it out on:

Which one of you is the dominant voice in the writing?

RD: Justin is definitely the dominant voice in the writing. We tried writing separately, but you could really tell the difference between writing styles. Some bits I would write and Justin would tweak them into his “words” or when Justin wrote, I would just add in small bits to add my flavor.

JD: I spend more time playing with the words. Sometimes it works well, other times Rob disagrees. He keeps me honest. I look at it like making a movie, with roles for director and producer. We both want the same thing, we both put in ideas, but only one of us can hold the camera.

Which one of you is more creative?

RD: I wouldn’t say either one of us is more creative. I would say I have more ideas but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Say I have ten ideas, only three of them might be any good. Justin might only give five ideas, but 3 of them are good.

JD: I look at being creative as a muscle you can work out. The more you use it, the stronger and easier it becomes. It doesn’t have to be with writing a story. Rob strengthens his creative muscle designing beer labels. Do you even create, bro?

Which one of you cooks better? (Yeah, totally unrelated)

RD: Hands down it’s me that cooks better! (ask Justin about chicken and corn) He does make a mean mushroom risotto though. While we are on the subject I like to tell people that there are usually two types of twins – the smart and funny one and the sporty good looking one. Well I am the smart and funny and athletic and good looking one… and he is Justin J

JD: Rob’s answer to this question has offended me…because the truth hurts.

Which one of you is older?

RD: Mum didn’t get it quite right the first time so she had me 13 minutes later and I think she got it spot on. I have been a twin my whole life!

JD: I sometimes regret not enjoying those 13 minutes more while I had the chance.

Which one of you started writing first?

RD: I think we both started writing first J. I can only speak for myself here, but I have always done small bits of creative writing, I even wrote a few songs in my day. Which is strange considering I hated Enlish Studies at school and actually flunked out. JusBug (call him JusBug, he loves it) started writing the short stories first and it was his idea to combine to make a series of short stories that eventually evolved into a small novel.

JD: Don’t call me JusBug. Nope. I was writing first. 13 minutes before Rob…also, I did pretty good in English at school.

Justin, I met you a while back through the Tales of the Zombie Wars website. I’ve been fortunate enough to read your first published stories and I have seen you grow in confidence. Being that you are fairly new to the publishing world, what factors can you look at as confidence builders?

JD: Nothing is better than honest feedback from strangers. It’s all well and good your mum telling you your awesome, but…she has to. I have a fear of being arrogant, so for me confidence and arrogance walk a fine line. I just to try to learn, and have fun as I go. If I am happy with the end product and happy that it is of a level that I would enjoy reading, I am confident enough to put my work out there. Did that sound arrogant?

No, JusBug…I mean, Justin, it didn’t sound arrogant at all.

My brothers and I are completely different when it comes to hobbies and passions. Collaborating with them to write a story hasn’t really happened (except the one time my baby brother asked me to write a story based on an idea he had). What is it like collaborating with each other on a story or project?

RD: It’s easy. We don’t really worry about each other’s feelings too much so if we don’t think something is working we let the other one know (politely of course) With technology the way it is now, it’s as simple as emailing each other the progress and doing it in our own time. When inspiration strikes! I’ll often see something in my day-to-day that might give me an idea and text Justin while I remember. Little things like that make it easy to collaborate.

JD: This is how it goes. We work on a bit. Rob’s idea or mine, but I’ll spend time trying to craft the words. Rob will turn around and say, nope, yuck, don’t make sense. Not to all of it, but parts that he doesn’t like. I won’t say anything, but will have arguments loaded and ready to go. Then I take a step back, actually listen to what he has said…and normally agree. I don’t agree just because he said so, I agree because sometimes I take the easy road out. He points out the direction we should take. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. The structures and nuances take a lot of work, and sometimes more work is needed.

Do you guys write separate stories or do you collaborate on all of them?

RD: We write separately all the time, but I like to get JusBug’s input to see what he thinks and I think Justin likes it when I give him feedback, too. Either way, I like giving him feedback. The story is the important thing at the end of the day, and if you can find someone that can help you make it the best version it can possibly be then I think that’s a good thing.

JD: Yeah, what he said. I have written quite a few stories all by myself, but Rob is always the first to read them.

Do you guys keep some of your ideas to yourselves or do you bounce them off of one another for additional insight?

RD: I bounce most of mine. Sometimes they are stupid and I don’t realize they are stupid until I hear the words coming out of my mouth, but I’m always bouncing.

JD: Half of the fun is in the bounce.

You both have stories in the zombie anthology: The Gathering Horde. Did you both intentionally write stories for this anthology or did it just kind of happen that you both got in?

RD: Zombies On A Plane was a (very) re worked concept that we/Justin changed for the anthology. It was originally a mother and daughter. The Woes of Albert Cross was a story that more spewed out of me. I wrote it in one sitting and only gave it a quick edit before submitting it. I didn’t think it was going to make the cut to be honest and was ecstatic to know it made it in. If you read those two stories, I’m sure you will see the difference in our writing styles.

JD: I also co-wrote another story in that anthology. I do enjoy a co-write, (wink wink) because I enjoy the conversation about writing almost as much as I enjoy the craft of it. I was asked by Jeff Clare, a magician of a man, if I would like to expand an idea we had already played with.

You both wrote The Nothing Man, an as yet released series of stories. Tell me about TNM, what inspired it and what each of you put into it.

RD: The Nothing Man has evolved from very humble beginnings. Without giving too much away it was originally an idea for a graphic novel, but it turns out we can’t draw. Then it was supposed to be a series of short stories all with a common theme and then it became its own monster that we don’t think people will have seen before. To begin with we used to joke about writing a whole book, something with an actual front and back cover, something we could show our Mum and give to the kids when they are older. Now that it’s happening it is a very proud time. We have only written for fun and at our own pace and not a lot of people have read the story so it will be good to hear what people think.

JD: I had a short story I was working on and Rob didn’t know about. It was missing something. Rob came to me with a paragraph, the gist of which spurred on the character, The Nothing Man. The theme of the paragraph was, What is Nothing? I put The Nothing Man into my short story. That was the first in the series. We discussed him as if he were a comic book character, and tried to theme the stories to have that sort of painted feel.

The style of TNM and the stories in The Gathering Horde are very distinct. Is that style collaborated on or is it more one of your voices and the other brother adapted to it?

RD: I write as if I’m picturing it in a movie. I try get into the characters minds and describe their surroundings and feelings in a way I think they would see and feel things. So it depends on who the character is as to what the writing style is, but again, most of TNM is JusBug’s unique style because you could tell the difference between our writing.

JD: He called me JusBug again…Have you ever made yourself smile because of a conversation you have had in your head, with yourself? I try to narrate like an honest train of thought process. With TNM we created individual characters and tried to write like the thoughts in their heads…that make sense?

Absolutely.

JD: I have tried different styles, but nothing is easier for me, than writing thoughts. They are already there. It’s wrapping them around interesting story ideas that work, aren’t predictable, or boring and don’t leave too many unanswered questions that makes writing, the craft, fun for me.

Portions of TNM originally appeared on the website, Tales of the Zombie Wars. However, I hear that the entire storyline has been picked up by All Things Zombie Publications. How did that come about?

JD: Basically, I thought we were finished. It has taken about two years and lots of wine bottles to get to where we are now. I asked some friends about publishers, word got back to the people at ATZ and they showed some interest so I asked them if they would like a look. They picked it up. Tales of the Zombie Wars have been so good to us. They gave honest, good feedback early on and I can guarantee, without their support and the feedback from the readers there, Tales of The Nothing Man, (yes, ‘Tales’ is in honour of the site) would not be nearly where it is today…which is in editing. Also, there is way more to the story than what appeared on the site. Probably shouldn’t be such a long answer when I started with the word, basically…

Can we expect non-zombie themed stories from one or both of the Brothers Dunne?

RD: I don’t know if I could go away from the zombie theme, or at least horror. I love this genre because it can make a good story great. Zombies in writing are kind of like bacon. Everything is better with bacon. Seriously though, with the horror theme you can see people stripped down to their bare bones, comment on sociological and religious beliefs and then add the horror of something that doesn’t care about your social role, your religious beliefs, your race, sexual preference or any of the things we all seem to worry about day to day.

JD: I will never say never. But here are my thoughts. Even though there are so many books in the zombie genre, I really do think there is room for more. It has that aesthetic appeal where you can tell a story of a rich man on a plane, a beggar in the streets or a drug dealer in the Bronx and then add zombies. Mystery Zombie. Crime Zombie. Funny Zombie. Romantic Zombie…ok, maybe not romantic zombie. Every time I write something, it always ends up with zombies in it.

We mentioned earlier that ATZ Publications has picked up TNM. When can we expect a release for this title?

RD: It’s in the editing stage at the moment and we are working over the next month to finish the cover art so it should be ready for release…. Actually I still don’t really know. Couple of months? Jus, do you know? Did I mention this was our first book?

JD: We are taking our time. You only get to release your first book once, and we want it to be the best version it can be. So…we don’t really know.

I want a funny story about you two from your childhood.

RD: There are a lot of funny stories, too many to just pick one. So I’ll let Jus answer thisJ. All the ones I could think of were life threatening. From running away from king brown snakes, being in a tree that falls down and unknowingly swimming in a creek with river snakes and crocks.

JD: In our childhood they all involve near death and dangerous animals. In adulthood they all involve near death and alcohol.

How can folks get in touch with you two?

JD: At our facebook page, www.facebook.com/brothersdunne or via email, thenothingmantales@gmail.com

I think you have enough blood from the both of us, but before we go I’d really like to take the opportunity to say thank you. You have given guidance and encouragement from the beginning. It is an honour to call you a mate. Until we meet again, my friend. Always wanted to say that.

Thank you, guys, for coming by. There’s orange juice and cookies at the exit.

Let me say this: I have been very fortunate to get to know Justin over the last couple of years or so, and Robert over the last few months. I’ve read everything that Justin has let me read and I truly enjoy their style of horror and humor and the humanity to which their stories are told. The story, Boys In Times of War quickly became one of my favorite stories–not just zombie stories, but stories overall–with its look into life during the apocalypse as children. The gut wrench of one of the scenes is so powerful I found myself holding my breath.

I don’t think the Dunne Brothers are good storytellers. I know they are. With that said, here’s a little teaser to The Nothing Man:

The fire is already visible, flames dance above trees and thick black smoke chokes the skyline, blocking the sun. It’s only early evening but I have to flick the headlights on to see. Like little demons playing hopscotch, the flames hop and skip from here to there, with us ultimately in their path. In no time at all we skid to a halt at the western gates of the property. The Nothing Man is off the bike and at the gate, but he struggles, fumbling with the lock. He doesn’t seem to care if we live or die. I look back over my shoulder and wish that I hadn’t. A wall of fire reaching up to the heavens is rushing down from the hills. Flames first lick, then swallow, turning everything in their path to black. The devil has sent its angry pet here to devour everything and it makes its presence known with a bellicose deafening roar. The heat is so intense I can’t tell if I’m sweating or melting.

Rooted to the ground the trees have no escape, they crack and shriek and pop. The wind howls, thunder still booms. The fire roars and here in front of us a small herd of four or five Clickers …Click…

Impending doom in the form of a raging inferno threatens our existence, but still they hunger.

Anger boils in my stomach. I get off the bike and easily knock the useless stranger out of the way. Death threatens from every possible angle. Sweat drips in my eyes. My hands shake with fear and the metal locks are extremely hot to the touch. The pressure of the situation asks me to rise and so I do. Forcing my mind to calm, I manage to quickly undo the lock on the gate and push it open, knocking down two Clickers. Back on the bike we take off again. I throw a leg out to knock a third Clicker down and maneuverer to dodge the scrambling others.

Scorching flames now racing alongside us, pushed on by the winds faster than the top speed of my old quad bike. I risk a quick glance off the beaten path to look behind us. Framed by a horizon of bright red flames an undead creature arcs it back, drops open its jaw, lolls its cracked tongue out and shambles down the rocky path after us. Moments later a bigger, crueller, less forgiving beast attacks it. Like a small shark getting swallowed by a bigger shark, the fire consumes the Clicker. Skin melts off its hands but still it claws its boney fingers at us. What meat is left on it sizzles and blackens until it cannot walk and tumbles down the path. Still a flaming mess, it opens its mouth, begging us to let it feed on us until, pop, its head explodes.

#

The Dunne Brothers gave you the links to contact them up above, but I want to add one that they didn’t give. If you would like to read a little bit of their work, including Boys In Times of War, follow this link:

http://www.talesofworldwarz.com/stories/?s=Justin+Dunne

As always, until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another.

Zombies. They’re the in crowd, the monsters everyone is talking about right now. They kill indiscriminately. One bite, even just a pinch of the teeth, and you’re as good as dead, well undead. With that in mind, let’s bring in Greg Ferrel, the author of the Humanity’s Hope series.

Let me get straight to the point: Why zombies?

Zombies rock. They are the epitome of an unstoppable enemy that wants nothing more than to kill you. Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers they don’t scare me as much. They are one being, a serious threat, yes, but still just one being. They always seem to have a weakness you can exploit to survive. Zombies have one, too, but they are legion. Shoot one in the head four more come running, shambling, crawling or whatever and they wont stop until you run out of gas and become dinner. They have always been my favorite of the movie monsters, and as far back as I can remember I had a plan for the coming apocalypse more thought out then I had my plan if it didn’t happen.

Tell us about Humanity’s Hope, the series.

Humanity’s Hope came from my belief that it would be possible with the right people and the right mindset that you could survive the apocalypse and have hope again.

It starts out as a group of close friends who have built a safe haven in a neighborhood in Tallahassee, Florida, that one of them lived in when the outbreak happened fifteen months earlier. They have a wall built protecting them inside from the slabs, which is their name for the zombies, or even other humans who would want to take from them. They have weapons scavenged from overun military convoys and many other places. They have limited electricity from solar panels on one of the houses and ample food supplies. Life is looking good for them and they are survivng well.

All hell breaks loose on them though shortly afterwards. They face two impending threats from the north and the south and the camp comes under attack.

As the smoke clears there is loss and confusion as the survivors deal with the aftermath. A revelation from one of the residents reveals a much more sinister world that threatens their survival. But there is also hope as one of them goes through a change after being bitten.

While the people in Tallahassee are trying to survive another group of people scattered all around the world are attempting to reconnect with each other. These people have lived a very secretive yet powerful life and want nothing more than to regain their lofty position controlling the events of the world. Is there more to them then just their lofty position and what is their ultimate goal?

Hutch is a man on two missions. The first is to kill slabs and he is good at it. One at a time is too slow and he is not a patient man. With a twenty year carer as a Navy SEAL recently behind him he has the know how to cause massive damage to the slab population. His second mission is his secret. Follow him as he travels across the country doing what only he can do the way he does it.

The stories of these groups will become intertwined and a much more secret history of the world will be revealed as the series moves on. History is written by the survivors not the dead, what we know may not be the truth.

If you had to convince someone to pick up the Humanity’s Hope series instead of another book (or series), what would you say?

Humanity’s Hope is not just another zombie survival book. It is an adventure as you follow not just one group of people but at times up to four differnet groups of people in various locations of the world. The story will span 3000 years as the origin of the zombie plague goes back farther than we could ever imagine. Before it is over you will find out that the zombies aren’t the only monster the survivors will have to deal with but they might end up with a few on their side too.

It is also a more positive look at the apocalypse and I prove that you don’t have to go over the top with the language or violence to get your point across about what is going on. Even though there is some language in it I have had a few parents feel very comfortable letting their teenagers read it saying it’s nothing worse than they hear on network television.

It is a page turning, fast paced ride that many readers have written to me complaining that the book ruined any chance of getting a good nights sleep. They couldn’t put it down until long after they had planned on reading for the night.

Greg, what do you believe is the most important part of telling a story?

Make the reader want to turn the page. Keep it interesting and keep it moving. Some readers might want you to spend two pages describing the mole on the side of someones face, but I think most of them want to get a good story full of fun interesting characters. I love a good story where the action keeps coming at you to the point where you find yourself breathing faster and faster not even realizing you are doing it. But not at the expense of quality action. I feel it needs to have a reason for happening though, a gunfight or fistfight that has no impact on the outcome of the story is stupid it needs to carry through either changing the character or the outcome of the story.

Including Humanity’s Hope, what stories does Greg Ferrel have for us in the future?

I have just released my first non monster book on January 5th called Nothing Ever Happens Here. It is a coming of age story of two boys having the night of their lives, good and bad, as they try to get to a party to meet up with some girls they like. They face off against nudists, bullies, cops, witches, shotguns and so much more. The great part is that all the events are based on real life experiences I had growing up. It is something very different than my first two books and is being received very well by reviewers.

I plan on wrapping up the last three books as well as two or three short story books in the Humanity’s Hope series in 2015. As soon as I wrap those up I will be jumping right into my next series which will be a fantasy series I am keeping under wraps until I can get to work on it.

I have to ask this question because I think you and I are of the same mindset. You have a saying: “I’m not an author, I’m a storyteller.” I say the exact same thing. In your mind, what is the difference between an author and a storyteller?

I view the difference of the two are similar to the way you classify baseball players. You can play for years in the minors but wont be taken seriously about your skill until you make it to the big leagues. Then you are a professional ball player, a Major Leaguer. For me I feel like I am just a storyteller until I am taken seriously by my peers up top in the publishing world in New York. I do feel like I will one day accept that title of author even though at heart I will always be a storyteller.

Here is a brief excerpt from Humanity’s Hope : Camp H:

It has been three days since Hutch had arrived in Hilton Head, South Carolina; and he has been on a recon watch since arriving. Not because of slabs, though. This time it is because of a human, he thinks. He came here to see the famed PGA golf course Harbor Bay, and he has arrived. But instead of finding a grossly-overgrown golf course; he, instead, finds that it is in incredible shape almost pristine. That doesn’t make sense, and he is on watch waiting to see who is taking care of it.

He had a hellacious time getting here as almost every bridge to the area was either destroyed or impassable. The only bridge to Harbor Bay was completely destroyed and under water from end to end. So he had to abandon his vehicle on the other side of the river and swim across, bringing as much weaponry as he could with him, which wasn’t much. Since arriving, he has not seen a single slab in the area or any human for that matter; but he has found several dead corpses lying around that indicates someone cleaned house here. And then he found the golf course and has been waiting for any sign of its keeper.

Out of the corner of his eye, Hutch catches the first sign of movement since he arrived; and it catches him a little off guard. In a small golf cart, with a set of golf clubs on the back, sits one lone old man.   He is dressed as you would expect someone heading out to play golf for the day to be dressed. He wears long black-and-white plaid pants with a bright yellow polo shirt and a straw hat keeping the sun out of his eyes. He watches as the lone man cuts his cart across the backyard of one of the houses bordering the fairway of the first hole and parks at the tee box and then approaches it with a club and ball in hand.

Hutch continues watching all this from his hiding spot on the third floor of another house bordering the golf course. He thinks at first that maybe he is imagining this scene before his eyes. And then thinks it again as he watches the little old man, who can’t be more than five feet tall and weigh about a hundred and ten pounds, hit his first drive and watches it go about 325 yards straight down the fairway. Hutch, with his physical shape, would love to one day be able to hit a drive that far, and he is impressed. However, none of this thinking is helping his confusion on what is going on around here.

Hutch watches the little old man scoot from hole to hole; and by the time he rounds out of sight heading to the fifth hole, Hutch has his score at two under par already. With him out of sight and no other human spotted, he thinks maybe it is time to approach the old man and see if he can get some answers. So he grabs one lone rifle and heads downstairs and out the back door to find him.

As Hutch opens the back door, he is startled by the sight of the golf cart he was just watching sitting on the back patio of the house. He turns to see where its occupant is and finds himself staring straight down the barrel of a .357 magnum with the old man looking down its barrel back at him.

“Can I help you, sonny?” The old man asks.

Okay, zombie lovers, let’s show Mr. Greg Ferrell some love. Feel free to leave comments at the end of this post.  Thank you, Greg, for coming in and spending a little time with us, here at Type AJ Negative.

You can find out about all of his books at www.humanityshope.com

You can also follow him at humanityshope series on Facebook.

 

Welcome to The Pinch. What’s The Pinch? Oh, it’s simple. You know when you go to the doctor and end up getting a shot? You know how that nurse (who just loves her job so much she could be a serial killer in any psychotic movie) who smiles at you and says, ‘We’re going to give you a little shot. It won’t hurt much…’ I always wonder who the ‘we’ is here?

The nurse then goes on to say, ‘It’ll only be a little pinch.’

First off, she’s lying. Don’t believe her. I’ve never been given a shot that felt like any pinch I’ve ever had. Second off, she’s enjoying herself. While you’re sucking in all the oxygen in the room, she’s smiling away. Little evil serial killer wanna-be.

Okay, I’ve gotten a little sidetracked. The Pinch is an interview series. They are four or five short, quick questions (though the interviewee doesn’t have to give short answers), just enough to tease you folks out in Reader Land. It’s also my way of introducing you to writers you (may or) may not know.

Our first Pinch is a young lady by the name of Claire C. Riley. I just recently found out about her through a Facebook group (yes, a trusty Facebook group—isn’t that how everyone meets these days?). Without going into further unpleasantries, why don’t we just get started?

Limerence, The Obsession Series, is along the lines of a romantic horror involving vampires. This is something we’ve seen before in another series that shall go unnamed within these dark halls. For those readers who have been ruined on vampires because of that other series, how does Limerence differ from it?

Limerence was my debut novel and the second in the series came out in October, with the third and final installment set for release in 2015. How does it vary from the film that shall not be named? Pretty much everything about it is different, haha. I tried to take vampires back to the more old school route of Bram Stoker where vampires were dark and dangerous. I also tried to turn things on their head. In most books and film adaptations the woman wants to be a vampire, however in Limerence it’s the very opposite. So, there’s blood, and lust and danger and crazy-assed vampires!

You write about zombies as well. Why?

– I love reading about apocalyptic worlds, and some twisted part of me actually believes that zombies could possibly come about one day. Or something similar anyway. Plus for that reason, zombies are a big fear of mine, and I think it’s good to write about things that scare you. Facing your fears head on so to speak.

Tell us a little about Odium The Dead Saga.

Odium is set several years after the outbreak, and our main protagonist, Nina, lives in a walled city protected from the Deaders out in the world. However, the city has become less than a happy place and people are forced to either starve or sell themselves to survive. Nina has had enough, and when a young girl is being kicked out of the city for stealing, she decides to go with her.

Nina, however, is not a fighter. She can’t use a gun or a sword; she has no survival skills whatsoever. She’s just an everyday woman determined to survive in a world overrun by the dead.

She’s feisty and snarky, she’s inappropriate and says what she thinks. Some say bitch, but I say that it’s just her defense mechanism. It’s better to have no friends so she can’t lose any one. Along their road for survival, they meet other survivors that are surviving the best way they can.

I also have out – Odium Origins A Dead Saga Novella part One and Two. These are accompaniments to the Odium novels and tell the back-story on some of the more important characters from each book. I LOVE writing these books and letting the readers know the TRUE story behind each character. And let me tell you, they are not what you expect them to be.

I love this line from your website: She writes characters that are realistic and kills them without mercy. Do you sometimes have a hard time killing off a character you love or do you really kill them without mercy?

– I genuinely kill them without mercy! Haha, I’m cruel like that. However, do I regret killing some of them off afterwards? Yes, a lot of the time. In fact, some of them still haunt me

Another blurb from your website that I like is the description of your writing: Claire C Riley’s work is best described as the modernization of classic, old-school horror. Is there an old-school classic that you haven’t tackled that you would like to?

– There’s a lot that I want to tackle in the future to be honest, it’s finding the time that I have the problem with. My fans are greedy voracious, and I love them for it, but it’s hard to keep them fed all the time with new tales! I have quite a few anthology contributions under my belt namely, Let’s Scare Cancer to Death (a charity anthology) State of Horror: Illinois and Fading Hope: Humanity Unbound.

I love them all, but the Fading Hope anthology is one of my very favourites because it talks about a subject that I haven’t covered before – monsters! Like, real old school monsters. And in this anthology there is no hope whatsoever. It was a great collaboration of authors such as Jack Wallen, Rebecca Besser, Eli Constant, and several more, and each of us wrote completely unique and hopeless stories. It’s brilliant and really goes out of everyone’s comfort zones.

Thank you, Claire, for your time and answers. Keep the band-aid on for at least 24 hours to prevent any bacteria and infection. Or risk getting infected and becoming a zombie.

The following are excerpts from two of Claire’s books. Enjoy:

From Limerence II

The dining room is quiet at this time of the day. It is neither lunch nor teatime; however, I know that there will be food prepared. There is always food prepared. I take my glass from the stand and move along the counter until I reach Mad Donny, the chef here. He smiles warmly at me, as he always smiles.

“Mia, how are you today?”

“I’m good.” I mirror his smile as I look at the selection. “Hungry.”

“Of course—aren’t you always? What would you like? Something sweet? Something spicy, perhaps?” He licks his lips greedily and rubs his hands together. Donny is always hungry, though he should have learnt to control his thirst by now. He is far older than Evan, and me, and even older than most of the other vampires around here. His eyes gleam at me with an insanity that he does not try to control; it’s what makes Donny Donny. I don’t know how he does this every day; the smell alone would send me over the edge, but he seems to relish in it. Perhaps his pleasure from it is because of his constant overindulgence.

“Sweet, please, Donny,” I say and hand him my glass. Sweet is always my preference, especially after an unfortunate April Fool’s Donny played on everyone, which involved hot chillies and blood. The poor human never tasted the same afterwards.

He turns to the selection of humans behind him and, reaching for a youngish man, he pulls the seal from his wrist and holds it over my glass. The man’s eyes are glassy and hollow as he stares ahead of him at nothing. His lips are bluish and dry, and his skin pasty.

My stomach grumbles as the glass begins to fill, and I urge him to hurry, my fangs unsheathing in expectancy.

Down, boys. Not this time.

Donny reseals the wound and turns back to me with my now full glass of sweet B negative.

“Thanks.” I smile wider this time and hurry to a table by the window. I want to sit and enjoy the sun on my face whilst I drink. It’s cold out, but the sun still rises each day in retaliation of the coming winter.

The first sip is always the best. That first millisecond when the blood touches your taste buds is as if every one of my senses are being caressed by the hand of God. Every stroke, every touch awakens my very soul, devouring my body from the inside out—though without doubt, not by any God I know of.

© Copyright Claire C. Riley

From Odium The Dead Saga

“Let’s go.” JD moves off round the corner, and we follow him as one and without argument.

There are stains smeared along the walls, handprints and the words help us written in dried blood. I shudder and look at Duncan. He lowers his gaze away from me and away from the words, knowing only too well that he caused this. He could have saved some of these people if he wouldn’t have been such a coward. Instead he locked them all inside and sentenced them to death.

There are the remains of a body or two on the floor, but not enough of either of them remain to be reanimated, and so JD kicks the bloody bones to the side and out of our way. We can hear more growling coming from behind a closed door; we seemed to have riled them all up, by the sounds of it.

“That’s the medic’s room,” Duncan whispers.

I want to shout out no shit, Sherlock! since there’s a big red cross on the door, but JD turns the handle before I can get my words out. I swallow them down and ready myself as the door opens inwards and reveals to us the five zombies within.

They head straight for us with long, hungry growls, as if mamma didn’t give them their last meal before bedtime. Sludge hangs from their jaws and a cold blankness fills their eyes. Their lips peel back to reveal blackened and broken teeth and they push and shove to get past each other and to their meal. Us. I shiver and swallow down the stomach acid that has worked its way up my esophagus and into my mouth.

“I got this.” Crunch steps forward, and with her two knives, she decapitates the first two zombies with relative ease (if there can be such a thing when killing the living dead). JD follows her in, and when a zombie lunges for him, he deals with it with a quick swoop of his scythe down its middle. From skull to stomach it splits, and everything left inside tumbles into a pile on the floor along with its body.

Crunch laughs as she circles another, kicking it away with her foot until it falls on its back. She stands above it, placing a foot on its chest, and drives her blade through its face slowly and with a maniacal glee that sends shivers down my spine. There is something like contentment in her expression as she pulls the blade back out, gunk spewing out of the hole left by her knife.

The last deader has reached the doorway, and Duncan takes aim with his gun.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers as he pulls the trigger and the zombie hits the floor.

©Copyright Claire C. Riley

Intrigued? Good. You can follow the links below to her website, Facebook, twitter, Google+ and Amazon author pages. Check her out, and thanks for stopping by.

Claire C. Riley’s Website

Claire C. Riley Facebook

Claire C. Riley Amazon Author Page

Twitter

Google+

 

Today, The Wife, The Boy, The Girl, and I went to the Columbia Zombie Run at the Columbia River Park. At first we were a little disappointed. There was no one running and there were no zombies chasing. We walked…and walked…and walked. Still no people running from the walking dead. We saw some folks dressed as zombies, but they were just strolling along. This was supposed to be a zombie run. I wanted to see the dead chasing the living, maybe even to the point of the zombies running like they did in Zombieland.

Well, we didn’t really get to see much of that in the three or so hours we were there. However, they did have a zombie makeover booth, and The Girl was zombiefied:

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The Girl made a pretty cool looking zombie. They could have done a little more to make her appear more realistic, but The Boy was having nothing to do with the peeling skin and dripping blood.

While we walked the route, hoping to see the dead roaming about, one of the zombies walked up and gave me a knuckle bump. Yeah, a knuckle bump. Then she and the two Zs they were with posed for a picture:

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This dude scared the crap out of The Boy:

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The best thing about this event was the zombies and the women doing the makeup. They were awesome and extremely nice. They explained all the makeup they were using and even gave The Girl all sorts of options as to how gruesome she wanted to be.

Oh, and there was a little girl there dressed up as a zombie Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. All in all, it was a day right up my alley.

On the way out we passed the vendor booth for Scratch N Spin, a local music/comic shop. There were plenty of Walking Dead books and memorabilia there. I stopped and the lady womanning the booth gave me a free copy of The Walking Dead comic, which was cool in and of itself. But then we started talking about comics and the local music scene. She mentioned Scratch N Spin and did her promotional thing, which is what she was supposed to do, right?

Here’s the thing about these little festival-type events: Sometimes you meet some neat folks, and sometimes those neat folks point you in a direction or offer some advice that makes you say, ‘I never thought of that.’ This lady, her name was Becka, mentioned her brother, Eric, the owner of Scratch N Spin, at one time had a small press. Though he was no longer in the business of publishing books, she said I should talk to him.

So I did.

The Wife and I went to Scratch N Spin and to meet him. Turns out Becka had mentioned us to him before we got there.

Eric and I had a discussion, and he gave me a few ideas, all of them things I can do that won’t break the bank. Things I never thought of. I left the Scratch N Spin with a renewed enthusiasm for this business we call writing. It is something that has been missing for a long, long while.

I’ve made notes tonight, based on the conversation we had. You see, Eric explained to me a fundamental truth: you have to really work your way up in your region before you can work your way up anywhere else. He said it’s like being in a band. Little known bands tend to tour their local bars, pubs, festivals and other venues they can find. They create a circuit, and for the most part, they play within that circuit, developing fans and a following. Then, as the following grows, they expand to other regions, basically building their name, their brand. It’s a lot of work, but consistency is the key. Being consistent in where they play and making sure they play well for the crowds that show up for their concerts/gigs.

Writers, bands, artists want to be recognized, and not just locally. We get stars in our eyes when we think that someone across the world might see, read or hear our work. Sometimes we forget to take care of our own backyard. We want the entire world before building credibility. And there, my friends, is another key to it all: credibility.

Think about your favorite author or band or television/movie star. Why do you like them? They entertained you in some way or other and they became credible in your mind. They earned that credibility and they earned your time, money and love. More than likely, though, it didn’t happen overnight. It took some time, some consistency.

It’s time to earn some credibility.

###

Okay, I’ve said before that I don’t like asking folks to sell my books for me. Still, I’m not going to do that. But if you’ve read one of my two books, would you mind leaving a review on Amazon? It would help me and I would greatly—did I say GREATLY?—appreciate it.

###

Words from my latest WIP:

They pulled onto the exit ramp and Cole brought the car to a stop at the sign. He turned right onto the two-lane road. There wasn’t much to see for about a mile. Just trees and grass and litter on the ground. Then they came to the store. It, like the road they traveled, wasn’t much to see. A white building with a white door. The parking lot was dirt and gravel, and the building itself was butted up against the trees. There was a beat-up gray Bondo bucket of a truck sitting out front.

In the reflection of the glass, Sheila could see Cole smiling. His eyes dazzled the way they used to back when… She shook her head and looked away.

Cole pulled up to the side of the store, bypassing the front. He parked, turned the engine off and started to get out. The door was open and one foot on the ground before he looked back to her. “You coming?”

This time she didn’t let her reflection do the looking. She turned to him, frowned and gave a quick shake of her head. “No.”

Cole swallowed hard, nodded, and then shrugged. He closed the door behind him, not gently, but with a hard slam. Sheila’s shoulders jumped. She watched as he walked away, his head down, not held high like it used to. In that moment, Sheila’s heart cracked a little.

###

I leave you now with the word of the day. It is from my son: Deliciosity. It means delicious. As in, “This pizza is so deliciosity.”

Yes, my son makes up words the way Mike Tyson does.

Thank you for reading, and until we meet again, my friends…

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Back in October I participated in this thing called The Coffin Hop. It’s the first time I have participated in something like this and it was fun, yet time consuming. I think the time consuming part swallowed me and spat me out at the end. The premise is writers and artists in the horror genre signed up and then from October 24th through Halloween those same folks visited the blogs doing the Coffin Hop. There were give aways and stories and great things to read. Better yet, there were friends to be made.

One of those friends is a young lady who writes a zombie series and runs a website dedicated to the zombie sub-genre. She is a pleasant woman who has an insatiable desire to write, to tell stories, and like the rest of us, she’s putting herself out there for the world to love and criticize. Such is the life of a writer.

Her name? Julianne Snow, and she graciously agreed to an interview with Herbie and me. Granted, she doesn’t care much for needles, so Herbie had to leave them home, much to his dismay.

Now, if you don’t mind, follow us if you will into the world of Julianne Snow.

HH: Who is Julianne Snow?

JS: As I sit here trying to think about what to say, I’m struck by how hard of a question that actually is. How do I want to the world to perceive me? Does that world actually perceive me in that way? Should I embellish bits and pieces to make myself sound more interesting or am I interesting enough all on my own?

You asked, so you’re going to get the most honest version. I am a thirty-something year old (Oh God! Where did my 20s go??) author striving to make my world a better place each and every day. I write horror, so generally my day is not as bad as those of my characters. Am I classically trained in the art of prose? Heck no, but I do have two degrees and I have written tonnes of academic papers and two theses, so I think I have the basics covered.

I am Canadian, extremely proud of our spelling of specific words, and trained in all of the correct usages for the phrase ‘eh?’. I have travelled, though not extensively, and found myself to be open and willing to experience new and wondrous things.

I have a distinct love for Zombies, which originated at age six with a viewing of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. That grainy, black and white masterpiece solidified so many things in my young mind; a love for horror and that of the Undead. I absorb (read: watch, read, craft, write, etc.) anything Zombie related and I am currently working on my first Zombie cross-stitching project – it’s a hand reaching out of the dirt –and plan to create more embroidered masterpieces (because deep down, I know it will be a masterpiece).

I am the creator and author of Days with the Undead, which started off as an online serial, but I have added more to the story and have begun to release the sagas as a series of books. Days with the Undead: Book One is currently available with Book Two coming out in the spring of 2013.

I have also penned a number of shorter stories which can be found in various anthologies from Open Casket Press and Sirens Call Publications with a few more awaiting deliberations. You can even find some of them on either of the two blogs I maintain, but you may have to go digging for them a little bit.

So to sum it all up into a few words, I’m a Canadian Horror Author with a penchant for the Undead. I suppose I could have given you that version to start with, but how much fun would that have been?

HH: I’m a fan of zombies as well and have been working on a series for the last couple of years. Having said that, what do you find is the hardest part of creating a series and maintaining it, especially one based in the world of zombies when so many stories and movies are currently out involving the not-so-loveable shamblers?

JS: At the moment, I am no longer posting aspects of the Days with the Undead saga online, but the hardest part of it was finding the time to develop a story and then put it all together for posting. My posting schedule was such that I was writing and posting a new segment each and every day or every couple of days. Getting the word count was not difficult; I never concerned myself with that aspect. The problem was more in finding the time to sit down and develop the story in a direction that could sustain the saga for additional days after that.

When you write a book, you have an idea of where the story is going and if not, you can always go back and flesh out the bits that need to be there to make the rest of the story follow a logical and continuous path. When you’re posting something online, you’re working within such a short deadline: you need to write and edit before you can post. It was hectic, but I loved it.

I’m never short of ideas, even within the Zombie genre, but I do find it hard to come up with story arcs that have never been encountered before. I think I have a few, but it’s hard to say for certain because I have not read or watched every Zombie related piece out there – close to it, but certainly not all. I found it easier to create my characters and the general conflict, letting everything develop from that point.

HH: Though you love zombies, they aren’t the only things you write about, right?

JS: Good heavens, no! I definitely write in other genres of horror as well. At the moment, I have three non-Zombie related stories in anthologies with a few more in different stages of the decision process. I’m a regular contributor to an online dark and edgy literary magazine entitled The Sirens Call and I’m currently working on a number of stories for different projects as well, so there will be plenty more from me in the future if you’re not a fan of the Zombie sub-genre (though I have no idea why you wouldn’t be…).

Heck, I’ve even had my first acceptance for a romance themed anthology. Sometimes the muse hits you in the right way and the call is something you need to answer. I enjoy writing and while horror and Zombies may be my first loves, they are certainly not my only ones.

HH: The Sirens Call? Can you tell me about that?

JS: The Sirens Call is the dark and edgy literary bimonthly online magazine that is put together by Sirens Call Publications. Generally, each issue is themed and authors, artists, and photographers are invited to submit any work that fits that month’s theme. They’ve actually just released December’s issue, which is themed ‘frozen’ and they’re giving it away for free! It’s a wonderful project to be a part of and I love the mix of talented authors from different genres that make up each issue.

HH: For free? Would you mind sharing the link with all of those in Type AJ Negative land?

JS: Absolutely! You can find the link by visiting the Sirens Call Publications website.

HH: Can you tell me about the writing process for you? Are you one that outlines or do you fly by the seat of your pants?

JS: The process of writing for me is something very organic. Usually it starts with an idea or a line of dialogue and the story builds in my mind before I have the opportunity to sit down and write it. Submission calls are also very inspirational to me – sometimes I write stories without the inspiration of a call, but if I’m going to submit to an anthology or magazine, I let the words of the call guide me in the right direction. I think it’s extremely important and helps your chance of acceptance if you pay attention to what the publisher is ultimately looking for.

As for being a planner or a pantser, I’m a pantser during approximately ninety percent of the stories I write. The other ten percent of the stories are planned down to most of the details. Don’t get me wrong, the stories I write by the seat of my pants do have to hit on certain aspects for the story to progress, so there is a small amount of planning but it’s extremely minimal. In fact, most of the time, I have no idea how I’m going to join elements of the story together until my fingers start to fly over the keys.

HH: That’s interesting. For the most part I fly by the seat of my pants as well, but for me I never write specifically for an anthology or a particular publication. I used to, but I found many topics limiting and my stories like to stretch their legs.

Being a writer, I like to say my stories have to ‘breathe’ in order to live and there are various things I do during writing to try and make them come alive. Are there any particular things you focus on when writing a story to make them as believable as possible?

JS: I think having characters that are relatable adds a significant level of believability to any story that I write. Without the connection between character and reader, the story is going to be an extremely hard sell. Even if your character is a villain, adding an aspect or two of vulnerability can help to make them a little more palatable in the loosest definition of the word. No one wants to like the villain, but sometimes when you’ve created the perfectly flawed character, the readers cannot stop themselves from liking them just a little bit. Let’s face it, sometimes good people do bad things…

Generally I concentrate on one central main character and tell the story from their point of view. Other points of view are necessary in some cases, and I concentrate on each one as I bring them together into a cohesive whole. A misplaced perspective can destroy a great tale and I work hard to make each one that I present authentic.

I also find that writing what I know is the easiest way to keep things straight. Each of my stories contains a small aspect of myself that I can rely on to draw inspiration from and help me to keep the different story lines organized and complete.

And then there are those other times that I just write with abandon and see what comes out at the end. Those are certainly some interesting stories…

HH: Do you ever see yourself in your stories?

JS: I see parts of myself, but I’m never a complete character. At times, the similarities are akin to a situation that I have dealt with or a particular quirk that I have. In others, certain traits are amalgamated along with others into a character to the point that readers would have no idea that a part of myself was even included. I believe that many authors put bits and pieces of themselves into their work, whether it’s subconsciously done or completely transparent. It makes for a better read, in my humble opinion.

HH: I agree that putting parts of ourselves into our work makes the stories much better and less one-dimensional. A couple more questions and we’ll wrap up. Who is your favorite character that you’ve created and why?

JS: Such a hard and unfair question! They’re all my favourites! After thinking for a moment and coming to terms with the thought of singling out one of my creations, I’m going to choose Julie. In so many ways, she’s exactly like me (name aside and all of that). We share some of the same history and she is the ultimate embodiment of survivalism. That’s something that I really relate to in more ways than one.

HH: We have our favorites, though we’re supposed to love them all the same, right?

JS: In a way that’s true. Our characters are ‘people’ that we end up spending inordinate amounts of time with – we craft them into who we want them to be and do our best to help our readers form the right opinions and emotions concerning them. It’s hard to pick a favourite.

HH: Julianne, where can we find you? Facebook? A blog? Amazon?

JS: Oh I can be found in lots of places! I’m on Facebook with both a personal page and a fan page, on Twitter. I can also be found on Goodreads, Google+, and my Amazon Author Page. I blog in numerous places: WordPress – Days with the Undead and The Flipside of Julianne; Tumblr – The Randomnes of Julianne. I think that’s everywhere you can find me.

HH: Julianne, thank you for hanging out with us today. We hope your future is bright with many words and publications and zombies.

To the readers out in Type AJ Negative land, drop a comment in the section below and/or visit Julianne at any of the links provided above. Thank you for reading, and until we meet again, my friends…