Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Write, Therefore I Revise


V
ery interesting series of blog entries about revising fiction over on WRITE NOW, Steven R. Boyett's blog about writing and a zillion other things.  We writers spend hours and hours (and drafts) poring over our latest novel or short piece, trying to refine it and make the finished product come even close to that radiant vision that flashed through our imagination.

You edit for spelling, typos, grammar and style.  You edit for tone and the voice of each character.  You edit for pacing and crispness of dialog.  You omit needless words and prune "the fact that" as often as possible to appease the ghosts of messrs. Strunk and White.  You drive a stake through the undead heart of the passive voice.

You edit, and edit and edit.  Isaac Asimov once claimed in an interview that he never edited his multitude of stories and novels.  Just wrote them and, bam, done.  I tend to believe this was a bit of self-PR.  Or perhaps my memory is bad.  It’s hard to imagine someone able to do that.  Gort, maybe, or Kal-El.

Steven Boyett is an accomplished short story and novel author, well worth checking out.

God Lost a Hubcap

Highbrow Zombie Humor (Sort Of)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Vant To Read This New Anthology




B
ooks of the Dead press has released a terrific compendium of classic and hard-to-find vampire tales, Best New Vampire Tales.  It’s available on Smashwords for the e-reader and iPad crowd, and should be available soon in physical book form. I love the cover art.

This tome includes a stellar list of authors, including some folks (Matt Hults, Alan Smale and others) you should read if you’re not familiar with their work:

Bram Stoker Award Nominee, Michael Laimo
Bram Stoker Award Winner, David Niall Wilson
Authorlink New Author Award Winner, Tim Waggoner
Bram Stoker Award Winner, John Everson
International Horror Guild Nominee, Don Webb
British Fantasy Award, Science Fiction Award Nominee, Jay Caselberg
Speculative Literature Foundation award nominee, Colleen Anderson
Bram Stoker Award Nominee, Alan Smale
Arthur Ellis Award Winner, Nancy Kilpatrick

The complete TOC:

Michael Laimo - Banalica
James Newman - The New Racism
Steve Vernon - Moving Lines
Tim Waggoner - Preserver
John Everson - When Barrettes Brought Justice
Donn Webb - 13 Lines
John F.D. TAFF - Cold Calls
Barbara Roden - Endless Nights
John L. French - A New House
Fredrick Obermeyer - The Verbpire
William Meikle - Morning Sickness
Scott Harper - Flotsam
David Niall Wilson - A Candle Lit In Sunlight
David M. Fitzpatrick - Sabbatarian
Alan Smale - Bridges
Jay Caselberg - Window Across the Street
Rycke Foreman - A Sunset so Glorious
Matt Hults - Through the Valley of Death
Colleen Anderson - Lover’s Triangle
Nancy Kilpatrick - Farm Wife
Preview: Matt Hults - Husk
Preview: James Roy Daley - Terror Town

Wish I had a story in there, but I think I’ve only written a single vampire story ever, and it wasn’t the greatest.  But hat’s off to these fine writer for sure.  If you’ve enjoyed the stellar anthologies from Ellen Datlow or the eclectic mix of older releases like The Ultimate Dracula, you'll enjoy this collection.  As a bonus you get a preview of Hults's Husk and Roy's novel, Terror Town.

Best New Vampire Tales now on Smashwords! http://bit.ly/hcTqAt

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Becoming a Zombie for Your Art





W
hen things are rolling and the words are flowing, you don’t want to stop writing.  Even if you’ve been at the Mac for two hours and counting and you’ve missed all the drama on “The Bachelor” and you’ve provided zero encouragement to the poor bastards being tortured for our voyeuristic pleasure on “The Biggest Loser” (“Pull harder! That 737 has barely moved!”).

When you’re in the zone, you don’t want to stop.  Writing fiction is a terrific natural high (when things are going well), and you’ll have time to feel guilty later when you realize you’ve neglected your beautiful wife and your kiddos again – though ours have grown to be full-scale crazy humans.

Last night I sat down to finish the final scene of a new story while the iron is hot, and when I was done (and finished entering some edits), it was one in the a.m. on a weeknight.  Yikes.

But until that story draft or chapter is completed, you’re compelled to keep at it, because if you get lazy (“Pull harder, that semi has to go all the way up the hill!”) the images and voices in your head start to grow hazy and dissolve.  If you don’t keep pecking away, the whole terrific idea can fade, lose its jazz, maybe never to return.

That’s a hundred times more frightening to a writer than the next rejection slip.

Thankfully, though she rightfully grumbles, my wife supports me and lets me get away with the occasional murder (of our free time together).  Kids are the same, though they don’t always like me hogging the Mac.  Here’s hoping that you have the same support system.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What Does a (Living Dead) Book Publisher Look For?


Y
ou can probably guess the answer -- a terrific story, characters that readers will grow to care about, and a good sense of pace.  Strong, spare writing and unpredictable plot twists are nice attributes, too.

Whether you’re new to the profession or a veteran fiction writer, your toolkit had better include determination, a thick hide, and the humility to absorb criticism and rejection with a positive attitude.  Check your ego at the coat closet (and tip the hat girl a few bucks).  Most of all have fun and give every story your all.  If conjuring up new tales is torture, you need a different hobby.

The great fiction editors work their asses off and pour their passion into every project.  They’re not content to treat their books and anthology projects like hack-work.  Each one is like a child.

Follow this link to editor/writer James Roy Daley’s blog about what editors seek in professional writers -- and what drives them nuts.  Some solid advice here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

One Door Closes, and Another Opens



T
his afternoon while working on my novel, I received a rejection email from Asimov’s Science Fiction for a story (“The Cristóbal Effect”).  Certainly not the first I’ve received from the kind Sheila Williams, and I will not relent in my mission to sell her a story.  All roads lead to the Tower.  While I was preparing that story for submission to another science fiction magazine (you have to snailmail a hardcopy manuscript to this one), I received another email from bestselling writer-slash-editor-slash-screenwriter-slash-filmmaker John Skipp.  John was kind enough to extend an invitation to submit a story for consideration in an upcoming anthology of new and reprinted fiction he is editing for a themed October 2011 publication.

If you write fiction as a career or at night after your day-job, like me, you must maintain a positive attitude and work ethic.  You are going to receive your share of rejections (no matter how many professional sales you've racked up), but. . .another opportunity will avail itself.

If you’ve read Skipp’s recently released Werewolves and Shape Shifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within and last year’s successful Zombies: Encounters With The Hungry Dead, both published by Black Dog & Leventhal ( http://bit.ly/gNy5aQ and http://bit.ly/h8mqQE ), the new anthology promises to be an amazing collection, and I was thrilled to be even given the opportunity to submit a story.  The book will undoubtedly be chockfull of superb talent.  I’m excited!

But like the last themed anthology I wrote a story for, I wondered, as I read the detailed guidelines, can I come up with an idea exciting enough to fire up the engines?  Within thirty minutes I had my “what-if” idea, main protagonist, working title and a story arc.  The little guys in the basement who kick up ideas are at DEFCON 1 alert these days, and I am very, very grateful for that.  The deadline to submit a story for this book is tight, but I’ve already started.  I’ve got an even shot if I work hard, and that is all a writer can ever ask for -- the opportunity to contribute.  The rest is up to me.

If you aren’t familiar with the work of John Skipp, get your hands on a copy of Spore (his latest novel co-written with Cody Goodfellow).  You can even order a signed slipcase special edition for a very reasonable price ( http://bit.ly/gXOyPO ).  Skipp’s classic novel of ecological horror, written with Craig Spector, The Bridge, was also recently re-released (I re-read it and it is well worth the dough), along with The Light at the End ( http://amzn.to/dIm42u and http://amzn.to/gwNnYu ).

The multi-author novel I mentioned a couple of weeks ago with Books of the Dead Press is gearing up, so my writing plate, happily, if overflowing. 

More news on this project as things unfold.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Don't Ignore Quality Independent Book Publishers




W
riting the next great novella or novel-length tale of the zombie apocalypse?  Apex Books’s micro press, The Zombie Feed, is looking for manuscript samples for publication.  New guidelines and payment details are via the link below.

TZF is testing the digital publishing waters like a lot of other web-enabled start-ups vs. the traditional NYC publishing machine.  In the 1990s a favorite over-used dot.com expression was “paradigm shift.”  Back then, paradigms were shifting like the San Andreas Fault.  I wanted to print and sell bumper stickers that read: I BRAKE FOR PARADIGM SHIFTS.

But publishing really is undergoing a huge shift in how books come to the market and how much authors earn.  My thoughts as I learn more:

Assuming you have talent and a cracking good story to tell, your chances of being published are better today than in the past quarter century.  The “Print On Demand” manufacturing model (POD), consumer adoption of web-enabled bookselling (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, etc.), and growing number of quality independent publishers mean that you don’t necessarily have to be the one-in-a-million lottery winner at a major NYC publisher.


Time, Shelf Life and Money

With independent publishers, the time it takes for your book to move from manuscript to the printed page is dramatically reduced.  The timeline to see your accepted novel arrive in a bookstore is 1.5 years or longer at most NYC publishers.

Possessing an agent is not necessary to sell your novel.  At all major legacy publishing houses an agent is required, because major imprints no longer want to expend capital and manpower to read slush.   But if an agent shops your novel they will stop to read it.

What about the imagined prestige, and huge distribution machine of the NYC publishing house?  Well….  Sure, you always dreamed of seeing your novel as a handsome jacketed hardback from Simon & Schuster or Harper Collins.  Who wouldn’t?  But many independent publishers create beautiful, professional editions (Cemetery Dance, Apex, Books of the Dead Press, Subterranean, etc.).  And these days, new hardbacks and paperbacks produced by NYC publishers don’t stay on shelves very long at all.  A new novel may be here and gone, “out-of-print,” in a very short period of time.

But if you sell your novel to a quality independent publisher, your book may never go out of print.  Interested readers can buy it online for months and perhaps years to come.  That is a huge change over the legacy model!

And then there is the money.  Many first-time novelists are thrilled when their book is purchased by the NYC publisher, but the pay is very low.  That novel you took six months or a year (or longer) to craft pays $2,500-$3,000 advance against royalties.  No adjustments for the past 15 years of inflation.  And you get paid in installments as it creeps toward publication.  And odds are you’ll never see any royalties. And despite it vanishing from shelves almost immediately after it arrives, if your first two or three books don’t earn out, the publisher may drop you (it’s happened to friends).

Many reputable micro and independent publishers pay very small advances, but the writer earns a better share of royalties for every book sold.  And if you’re not kicking back 15 to 25% or more to an agent or packager, you might end up earning the equivalent of the NYC advance or more.  You will receive X% of royalties on physical books ordered and ~40% of all electronic sales (Kindle, Smashwords, etc.).  And those dollars come straight to you, not via quarterly royalty statements from the finance department of a major publisher.

I’m doing a lot of reading and research, but so far, this is what I’m finding.  If you write fiction it truly is a Brave New World.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

We Love The Bomb, You Betcha


“Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed.  But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops.”

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Brains...And Bingo?




O
ne of the things I’ve always loved about zombie stories is the diversity of settings.  How people cope with the Ultimate Monster.  It’s not always screaming and running, or barricading the windows and doors.

In 1989 I was a writer/editor for a modest gambling magazine (I would eventually graduate to managing editor and oversee production of two fishing titles and Golf Illustrated).  Before the Lotto and proliferation of full-size casinos in the Tulsa area, there was only the Creek Nation Bingo Hall on Riverside Avenue.  It was suggested that I go there and write a story for the magazine about the modern face of bingo -- see firsthand what transpires inside a mammoth bingo hall on a Wednesday at, say, 2 p.m.

I arrived with my trusty reporter’s notebook and my Canon, ready to gather details and gauge the quickened pulse of high-stakes bingo.  Men and women of all ages lined the long tables, using colored ink daubers to blot away at half a dozen bingo cards.  Except they weren’t cards, but pink grids printed on long sheets of paper.  There were many patterns to complete to win progressively larger jackpots (“The Kite or “Crazy T”).  The Creek Indian caller drew Ping-Pong balls from a Plexiglas hopper and the players all stared feverishly down at their playing sheets, muttering and daubing away, while stuffing themselves with deep-fried burritos, ice cream and soft drinks.

At some point I looked around and asked myself, “If they were all zombies would it change anything?” 

The answer was No.

The next day on my lunch break, I started writing “Night of the Living Dead Bingo Women.”  A couple of lunch breaks later the story was completed, a black-humored little vignette.  I made photocopies of horror markets at the library from the latest Writer’s Digest Market hardback (no World Wide Web yet, friends), and sent it off to a small-press magazine called Thin Ice.

A few weeks later, I received my first acceptance letter, penned on a cocktail napkin by Kathleen Jurgens, the editor.  (It was her birthday and she was celebrating.)   She liked my little story, and would publish it.  They paid in copies and purchased no real rights, but I was excited.  Someone thought I could write.

Not long after, I came across The Book of The Dead edited by splatterpunk bestselling writers John Skipp and Craig Spector (The Light at the End, The Cleanup, The Bridge).  The anthology contained amazing zombie stories by Stephen King, Steven R. Boyett, Joe Lansdale and other major talents, all set in the world created by George Romero.  About a year later I found out that they planned to publish a second collection called Still Dead: Book of the Dead 2.  After corresponding with Kathleen, I sent off “Bingo Women” and one evening John Skipp called me at home.  I about peed myself.  They loved the story and were buying it.  My first sale to a professional market.  When the book came out in a Mark Zeising slipcase hardback and Bantam Falcon paperback I found that I was sandwiched between such outsized talents as Dan Simmons, Elizabeth Massie, Mort Castle and others.
 
All these years later, “Night of the Living Dead Bingo Women” is seeing print again later this year in Best New Zombie Tales Volume 3 from writer/editor James Roy Daley.  Once again I'm in excellent company.  

Here’s hoping the story that convinced me to keep writing makes new readers smile!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

3-D Musical Puppets. . .with Zombies


C
heck out this story on The Zombie Feed site from Apex Books: John Skipp, bestselling writer-slash-editor who along with Craig Spector kicked off the wave of new quality undead fiction in the ‘90s and won a Bram Stoker award for Mondo Zombie in 2006, is raising small donations to stage and produce an unusual short film, “Rose.”

What’s he thinking? Try:

3D…
Zombie…
Puppet…
Musical….

If you’re shaking your head right now, thinking, no way….you best think twice.






Tuesday, January 11, 2011

About to Embark on a Novel

C
ompleting the rough outline for a novel, a fusion of contemporary techno-horror and suspense, using some of the backstory from a recent 7k word short story sale.  It promises to be fun and very fast-paced, in the style of Michael Crichton and James Patterson.

Main characters and story arc -- events over five days -- are pretty much there, and I need to get started very quickly to take advantage of an “open reading” period being extended to writers-without-agents by Angry Robot books later this spring.  Not to mention several other potential book publishers.

More on this project to come.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Yet Another (Undead) Writing Project


S
o besides the SF, horror and zombie stories I have circulating out there looking for a home, I've been invited to participate in a fun book project for Spring/Summer of this year along with several other authors.  Selected authors will contribute chapters to a larger, unified story arc.

The project involves a fun homage to a cult classic SF / '70s grindhouse flick, and involves a zombie apocalypse.  As a kid growing up, I saw a lot of these movies (Dad was addicted to SF and horror): “The Omega Man,” “Planet of the Apes” (we saw all of the “Apes” pictures as budgets and quality plummeted), “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things,” “The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant,” and “Sssssss.”  Mom was not always amused.

When this project gets more formally announced and underway I will provide more details, but suffice it to say I'm excited to be involved!  It's going to be a blast to write!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Story Acceptance!

I was happy to learn that a new story has been accepted for inclusion in an upcoming anthology of undead fiction from writer/editor Jason Sizemore and the folks at Apex Books / The Zombie Feed imprint.  The story is "Lifeboat," and concerns a father and son (and other characters) who depart on a Caribbean cruise as a biomechanical plague infects the world.

My family is addicted to cruising (we prefer Royal Caribbean) and I wondered how crew and passengers would fare if lucky/unlucky enough to find themselves at sea on one of the new mega-ships when zombies take over -- a different take on survivors of an apocalypse living in a domed city or bunker.  How long would the food and water last?  Could order and cooperation be preserved?  Fuel?  Where do you sail to after the lights go out?  What about the threat of piracy?

As soon as I hear more about the publication date I will let everyone know!  Zombie novels and short stories continue to ride a wave of popularity rivaled only by (ugh) sparkly vampires canoodling under a full moon.  The Walking Dead on AMC cable was a huge hit this past year (it is adapted from a graphic novel).

The table of contents and list of other authors selected are on the link below.  I also encourage you to visit the Zombie Feed main site for media news of all things Zombie.  If this anthology sells they will continue the series -- here's hoping it is a success.


Story Ideas That Editors DON'T Want To See

This list of cliche, threadbare plotlines probably applies to every online and print publisher of SF fiction.  But if you're new to writing speculative fiction, and you haven't been reading it for years, this is very good list from the editors of Strange Horizons to consult before sitting down to write your next tale.  Or sending out that trunk story you wrote in 1986.


Strange Horizons is a quality online SF / DH / DF market that's been around for a decade, and they recently upped their per-word rate to 7 cents.  Niall Harrison is the editor-in-chief.


It's a good list.  A thorough list.  You get an idea of what their slush readers have to endure (and why it's called "slush").  Yes, we've seen published (even established) writers get away with a few of these now and then, but in general this is very solid advice. The Strange Horizons staff also published a list of worn-out, hackneyed horror storylines.

SF plot list:
http://www.strangehorizons.com/guidelines/fiction-common.shtml

Horror plot list:
http://www.strangehorizons.com/guidelines/fiction-common-horror.shtml

Be sure to check out their blog:
http://www.strangehorizons.com/blog/2011/01/and_so_it_begins.shtml

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sometimes Fiction and Life are Tied For Strange

When a new zombie anthology opened for submissions 
late last year, I wrote a story I hoped would fit the bill and sent it off to the editor (keeping fingers crossed).  The story takes place in a remote area of Laos/Vietnam, and the climax takes place deep inside a gigantic cavern system larger than any currently known.


Today, Yahoo News runs a National Geo story about a husband and wife team who have discovered a massive cavern system along the Laos border near the Annamite Mountains below Hang Son Doong large enough to house a city block of NYC skyscrapers.  It has thin clouds, its own jungle and a river system.  


No end to the cavern is visible.  


I wonder what else might be lurking down there, hmmm?


http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110103/ts_yblog_thelookout/explorers-discover-spectacular-caves-in-vietnam;_ylt=AliBnuGhumfPGsxy4_Lsnjms0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNxYTJwZTZnBGFzc2V0A3libG9nX3RoZWxvb2tvdXQvMjAxMTAxMDMvZXhwbG9yZXJzLWRpc2NvdmVyLXNwZWN0YWN1bGFyLWNhdmVzLWluLXZpZXRuYW0EcG9zAzUEc2VjA3luX21vc3RfcG9wdWxhcgRzbGsDZXhwbG9yZXJzZGlz


So that's way cool, but kind of freaky.  


I published a story in the late Algis Budrys's Tomorrow SF about a Midwestern couple who buy an old mansion and begin expensive restorations, only to discover it's haunted, only to discover that the basement isn't inhabited by ghosts but the semi-human descendants of trapped miners from the 1880s.



Then in 2005 my family and I watched the British horror film, "The Descent."  Set in the Appalachian Mountains, a band of women cavedivers encounter semi-human creatures living deep underground.  (Not enough story similarities to go Harlan Ellison on anyone, wink wink.)


Creepy.  But....I love it!!

Angry Robot Calls for SF / Horror / Fantasy Novels


Like nearly all mass-market book publishers, Angry Robot (Harper Collins) only accepts novel proposals from literary agents. But they've announced that during the month of March, 2011, they will read unsolicited genre manuscripts -- SF, Horror and Fantasy -- from unagented writers.  Novel-length only, no novellas.
If this pilot talent search is successful, Angry Robot will consider further "Open Door Months" for later in 2011.  Hopefully, other larger imprints will give this sort of thing a go.
Ralan's market site describes payment as "industry standard advances and royalties."
See their complete submissions guidelines:



10 Rules for Writing

I'm re-posting a good little blog article by Sherwood Smith on writing from the SF Signal news site.  Basic but pretty complete and applies to any genre or literary aspiration.  This goes back to Lansdale's tenant of "put ass to chair" and write something you're passionate about.  No matter how cool or sexy the "idea," if it doesn't resonate in your cerebrum and gut, it's probably not going to gel.


http://blog.bookviewcafe.com/2011/01/02/ten-rules-for-writing/

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Connections" Wins BOOKS of the DEAD PRESS Reader's Poll





A few months back, editor James Roy Daley posted a contest for readers of his anthology Best New Zombie Tales Volume 1 to select their favorite story.  "Connections" won.  


Thanks to Roy and all who read and enjoyed the story, and took the time to vote!


BOOKS of the DEAD PRESS: Reader's Poll Winner ~ SIMON McCAFFERY!http://t.co/FLh50Mu

Bombers, Blue Potatoes and Glowing Alien Donuts

One of the first SF writers I met when I moved to Tulsa in '89 was Warren Brown (married to writer Lana Brown). He was the genial president of the Oklahoma Science Fiction Writers group, and had sold stories to OMNI, F&SF, Amazing Stories and anthologies.  Over several years we heard chapters from his SF coming-of-age novel, What Happened In Fool The Eye.  Set in the years leading up to the Vietnam war, Fool The Eye appeared as an e-book, but then disappeared from availability.


Now it is again available from Smashwords and Barnes&Noble.




The war in Viet Nam is a looming shadow as young Andy Anderson contemplates his place in life. When he meets intelligent and captivating Reeseanne McAuley and her physicist father, they begin to suspect that the eccentric Hagar Bixly, self-proclaimed guardian of the nearby woods, is involved in a mystery from beyond Earth that could alter their lives forever.


This is the kind of SF novel you rarely come across these days, filled with wonderful characters and tightly written, evocative of the sort of wonderful, imaginative novels with heart written in the 50s and 1960s -- think Clifford D. Simak (Way Station, The Werewolf Principle, City, Mastodonia).


Warning. There are no space opera cat-people armed with energy weapons.  No knockoff Starship Troopers in Halo gear.


But there are wonders galore, unforgettable characters, humor -- and a B-25 bomber.


Check it out.


http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/21609


http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=BOOK&WRD=what+happened+in+fool+the+eye&page=index&prod=univ&choice=book&query=What+Happened+in+Fool+the+Eye&flag=False&hgg=y&hgg=Y&ugrp=1





New Zombie fiction from The Zombie Feed (Apex Books)



Asylum, a new novella by Mark Allan Gunnells published by Apex’s Zombie Feed Press imprint, succeeds for two primary reasons.  It adheres to the classic, tried-and-true George Romero formula of a diverse group of people trapped inside a makeshift fortress, surrounded by the shambling hungry undead, forced to cooperate in a fight for mental and physical survival. Second, the characters trapped within are well drawn, and as we learn more about them we care about them (for the most part).

When I began publishing fiction in the early ‘90s, horror reigned supreme and hot new writers of the splatterpunk movement were pushing the dark boundaries of the genre ever outward, including wild new takes on Romero’s nightmarish, ultimate war of attrition.  But some works by otherwise talented writers -- recall several of the titles published by the popular Dell Abyss imprint -- featured bleak novels populated by utterly reprehensible characters that Satan himself would be incapable of caring for.

Thankfully, Gunnells has steered clear of those pitfalls.  And though I’ve written about both kinds, I like slow-moving zombies the best.  Don’t you?  They’re plodders, uncoordinated and relatively easy to kill, but -- they creep up on you.  And in the end, there are just too many of them, Barbara.

Curtis is a twenty-year-old college student who picks a bad night to reluctantly visit his first gay club with his reckless, sex-crazed best friend, Jimmy. A night of revelry turns to nightmare as the living dead arrive and attack Jimmy’s latest conquest outside of the club. Curtis and Jimmy retreat inside the Asylum dance club, and the siege against sanity and survival begins.  The small band of survivors includes a colorful but realistic bunch -- a drag queen, grizzled war veteran bartender, humorous gay couple, and a disc jockey who unravels. Gunnells’s characters are not stereotypes, and I particularly enjoyed Gil the bartender, who has an older man’s longer perspective on gays fighting to find acceptance and their place in American society while enduring decades of persecution.

Of course, Curtis and the others must survive their personal fears and demons as well as the hordes of undead searching for a way inside the club, and this adds nice dimension to an otherwise familiar setup.  Things predictably break down, but the pacing is suspenseful and the dialog is crisp -- a native of South Carolina who still lives in his small hometown, Gunnells has published numerous short stories in mainly small-press publications, and he’s paid his journeyman dues.  In the young protagonist, Curtis, he has undoubtedly drawn from his own experiences with small-town prejudice.  There are some gruesome, hard-edged scenes reminiscent of Joe Lansdale and Edward Bryant’s work in the genre, but this is another tale in the annals of the great zombie apocalypse, viewed from a different social lens, right?  Enjoy.

Asylum is available in electronic and print versions from Amazon and Smashwords.