Dead City Soon to be Released as Audio Book

Dead City Sell Sheet

Overturning Convention

Not too long ago, a wonderful writer named Janice Gable Bashman let me guest blog over at her site.  Talk about Flesh Eaters, she told me.  Tell us about the writing process.

Well, I took her up on that, and the article below was the result.  Enjoy!

Reprinted from Janice Gable Bashman’s The Writing Life.

Zombies are the monster world’s equivalent of a good pair of blue jeans: they go well with just about anything.  In recent years, they’ve gone up against everybody from the police and the military to superheroes, the cast of Star Wars, vampires and unicorns.  They’ve even taken on Jane Austen.

The living dead have worked their way into our hearts…one bite at a time.

So it’s not hyperbole to say that zombies are the hottest thing going.  Unfortunately, with that popularity has come a flood of mediocre works that at best read like carbon copies of each other.

This is perhaps an inevitable consequence of success.  Somebody does something great and the herd follows.  Soon, even the really great stories are lost in a sea of worthless drivel.  And that begs the question: In such a flooded market, how do you make something that is both genuinely and meaningfully unique?

For me, the answer has always been about character.  A really interesting character has a cascading influence throughout the story in which they find themselves, coloring our perception of everything from the setting to the plot’s central problem to our attitudes about the other characters in the novel.  The truly great characters even teach us something about ourselves.  And when we close the cover of a book, it is always the characters we miss the most.  They are the Scarecrow to our Dorothy.

But how does one go about creating a character capable of breathing life into a book about the shambling dead?  How does one do the unexpected?

I’m sure there is no end of answers to this question, but for me, the best characters are outsiders in their own world.  There are at odds, not only with the zombies who have invaded their world, but also in their daily lives.  And that’s the kind of person is was looking for when I came up with Eleanor Norton, the main character of my most recent zombie novel, Flesh Eaters.

Allow me to explain.

During my fifteen years as a disaster mitigation specialist and homicide detective for the San Antonio Police Department, I watched female officers treated as second class citizens, both by their fellow officers and by the public at large.  If the woman in question was pretty, or petite, many assumed she was too much of a girly girl to do a job that frequently demands raw physical strength and the ability to kick some bad guy’s ass.  But if she was tough, people called her mannish, or butch.  They assumed she was a lesbian.  They snickered behind her back and called her a bull dyke.

The situation was even worse for those who promoted.  Officers working for a female supervisor sometimes assumed she promoted because she couldn’t handle the street cop’s job.  Or worse, they spread rumors that she slept her way to the top.

Respect for the female cop is still hard to come by in what may be the last remaining boy’s club in the American workforce.

It’s sad, but it’s true.

I watched the women I worked with endure that inequity with mounting frustration and sometimes heartbreak, all the while struggling to live within the more traditional roles of lovers for their husbands and nurturing mothers for their children.

The cop in me felt for them.

I wanted to help them, champion them, if I could.

But the writer in me often reacts differently than the cop, and where the cop saw injustice, the writer saw a character simply ready to burst off the page.

Sergeant Eleanor Norton, executive officer of the Houston Police Department’s Emergency Operations Command and the main character of my novel Flesh Eaters, was the result.

Eleanor Norton is a twenty year veteran of the Houston Police Department.  She’s seen it all, and despite the fact that she’s lived with the usual prejudices, has still managed to maintain a loving relationship with her husband and managed to be a fairly good mother to her teenage daughter.

But when a series of hurricanes levels Houston and floods the ruins, stranding millions of survivors in seawater and giving rise to an army of the undead, Eleanor Norton finds herself struggling to hold her life and her family together.

Quite a few recent zombie novels have featured superhuman leading characters.  A few of them, most notably J.L. Bourne’s Day by Day Armageddon series and Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger novels, are amazingly well done.  There are even a few films, such as the Resident Evil franchise and Quentin Tarantino’s Planet Terror, that feature superhuman female leads.

When a superhuman character is done well, he or she can keep readers glued to the page.  We naturally project ourselves into that character’s circumstances, and their successes become our successes.  It’s a form of wish fulfillment.

But most zombie stories written in this vein fail to achieve any real sense of humanity.  The authors fail to show us the man behind the superhero.  Their characters don’t live and breathe.  They don’t share recognizable problems or dilemmas.  In short, they have no humanity.  And humanity is really the essential element to any zombie tale.  After all, what is a zombie but a body separated from the soul, that one ineffable thing that makes us human?  If a character lacks that soul, that uniqueness, he or she is no different than the zombies trying to break down the door.

So I saw the trend toward superhuman zombie killers, and started looking for a different angle.  I saw what had become a convention, and I looked for the type of character that would turn that convention on its ear.  A cop assigned to the Emergency Operations Command was a natural choice for my character’s occupation, given my own background and the circumstances of the novel, but a male officer might have easily been lost in the background.  He had a good chance of becoming another soulless superhuman character.

So, in the hopes of doing something unique, I turned back to the frustration and heartbreak I remembered from the female officers with whom I’d worked, and put a woman in the role of Emergency Operations Commander.  Suddenly, I had a character with a built in history, someone with a unique set of struggles.

A stranger in her own land.

Going for the unexpected, overturning the conventions of a given genre, can make all the difference in a story.  It can, and usually does, separate a work from the rest of the pack.

But a great character has at least one more major advantage.  Looking for the unique perspective, and staying true to the character voice that drives that perspective, can force the writer to engage their craft in ways they haven’t done before.  Every page forces the writer to focus on character development, and when the character develops, most of the time the writer does too.

And if a story doesn’t make you grow as a writer, chances are it’s not worth telling.

Publishing News – Quarantined to be Rereleased

Quite a few readers have asked me what’s going on with my second book, Quarantined.  Well, here’s the scoop.

My contract with Lachesis Publishing ran out on April 1st, and I’ve decided not to renew with them.  Lachesis is a good outfit, run by some wonderful people, but they’ve had some real difficulties dealing with distributors here in the U.S.  That’s made availability a problem, to the point that nearly all sales of the book over the last three years have come from Amazon.  Getting the title into the brick and mortar stores has been nearly impossible.

So, after some difficult decision making, I’ve decided to reposition the book with Permuted Press.  They will be doing an inexpensive ebook version that can be read on both the Kindle and the Nook, plus a trade paperback edition that I’m really looking forward to, as it will include a few technical revisions to bring the fight against the San Antonio Flu up to date.

Rollout will occur in two parts, with the ebook version appearing first.  Hopefully, the ebook version will be available within a few weeks.  The trade paperback edition is still waiting on new cover art and should be coming out sometime this summer.

I’ll have full details and exact release dates soon.  In the meantime, I’m told that the few remaining new copies of Quarantined are running for over a $100, with used copies going for over $50.

2011 Thriller Awards Nominees Announced

2011 Thriller Awards Nominees

ITW is proud to announce the finalists for the 2011 Thriller Awards!

Best Hard Cover Novel:

Michael Connelly – THE REVERSAL (Little Brown)
Jeffery Deaver – EDGE: A NOVEL (Simon & Schuster)
Brian Freeman – THE BURYING PLACE (Minatour)
Mo Hayder – SKIN (Grove)
John Sanford – BAD BLOOD (Putnam)

Best Paperback Original:

Robert Gregory Browne – DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN (St. Martin’s)
Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens – YOU CAN’T STOP ME (Pinnacle)
J.T. Ellison – THE COLD ROOM (Mira)
Shane Gericke – TORN APART (Pinnacle)
John Trace – THE VENICE CONSPIRACY (Hachette Digital)

Best First Novel:

Carla Buckley – THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE (Random House)
Paul Doiron – THE POACHER’S SON (Minatour)
Reece Hirsch – THE INSIDER (Berkley)
Thomas Kaufman – DRINK THE TEA (Minatour)
Chevy Stevens – STILL MISSING (St. Martin’s)

Best Short Story:

Mike Carey – “Second Wind” (THE NEW DEAD, St. Martin’s)
Michael Connelly – “Blue on Black” (Strand Magazine)
Richard Helms – “The God for Vengeance Cry” (Dell Magazine)
Harley Jane Kozak – “Madeeda” (Crimes By Midnight)
Nicolas Kaufman – “Chasing the Dragon” (ChiZine Magazine)
Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins – Long Time Dead (Strand Magazine)

Congratulations to all the finalists!

2011 Thriller Awards Winners to be announced at ThrillerFest VI July 9, 2011,
Grand Hyatt, NYC.

Special thanks to:

Allen Wyler, VP Awards
Julie Korzenko, Awards Committee Chair
Liz Wolfe, Awards Coordinator
And the 2011 Thriller Awards Judges

Calendar of Events for the 2011 World Horror Convention

Well, it’s almost here…

The 2011 World Horror Convention will be in Austin from April 28, 2011 to May 1, 2011.  You’ve probably seen a few announcements here at Old Major’s Dream about this one, as I’ll be managing the Dealer’s Room as well as participating in the events.  But this is probably the biggest announcement yet…the calendar of events.  That’s right.  Want to know what’s going to be happening over the weekend?  Your answers are right here.

Nick Mamatas and Martel Sardina worked incredibly hard to put this program together, and it shows.  My hats off to both of them.

So, here it is, the program of events:

Nate Southard and Lee Thomas
Co-Chairs, World Horror Con 2011

SPECIAL NOTE: Guests of Honor will be performing readings as part of their Q&A sessions.

All programming is final.

THURSDAY, APRIL 28

OPENING CEREMONIES

6:30 PM – Phoenix Central

What Do Editors Want?

8:00 PM Thursday April 28 – Phoenix Central

Jonathan Oliver, R.J. Cavender (M), Roy Robbins, Andrew Fuller, Liz Gorinsky

Editors don’t want to send out endless numbers of form rejection slips, but they do.  Nor do they want to dig through piles of unsolicited submissions, though sometimes they must.  Do editors really just want “a good story” after all?  Come grill a few editors from publishing companies and magazines, and find out!

Reading – Benjamin Kane Etheridge

8:00 PM Thursday April 28 – Robertson

Reading –  Joel Sutherland

8:30 PM Thursday April 28 – Robertson

What The Hell Happened in the 2000s?

9:00 PM Thursday April 28 – Phoenix Central

Monica O’Rourke, C. Mellick III, Brett Savory, F. Paul Wilson, Vincent Chong, John Everson (M), Gene O’Neill

Horror boomed in the 1980s, and busted in the 1990s. How will the years 2000-2010 be remembered? Did the Internet save the day, or did ebooks ruin everything? Has horror become a subgenre of romance?  Are those signed/limited editions actually going to be worth anything some day? Our panelists have lived through the 2000s, and they have stories to share.

Reading – Jesse Bullington

9:00 PM Thursday April 28 – Robertson

Reading – Molly Tanzer

9:30 PM Thursday April 28 – Robertson

How Much Money Do We Make?

10:00 PM Thursday April 28 – Phoenix Central

Victoria Blake, Del Howison (M), Brian Keene, Rose O’Keefe, Yvonne Navarro,

Not a lot, probably. Talking about money is the last taboo, and horror is nothing but the genre of taboo breaking. Come hear from authors, publishers, booksellers, and more about that most vital of professional questions—“Are you rich yet?”

Reading – Sylvia Shults

10:00 PM Thursday April 28 – Robertson

Reading – Norman Prentiss

10:30 PM Thursday April 28 – Robertson

 

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FRIDAY, APRIL 29

Pitch Workshop/Editor Meet-and-Greet

10:00 AM Friday, April 29 – Dover’s Banquet Room

Reading – Yvonne Navarro

10:00 AM Friday April 29 – Robertson

Reading – Weston Ochse

10:30 AM Friday April 29 – Robertson

Why Write Short Stories?

11:00 AM Friday, April 29 – Phoenix Central

Joe Hill, Suzanne Church, Orrin Grey, Claude Lalumière, Molly Tanzer (M), Brad Sinor

Eighty years ago, the pulp magazines had millions of readers, and paid one to five cents a word for short fiction. Today, the magazines have thousands of readers at best and…still pay one to five cents a word. Why bother writing what almost nobody reads and what the marketplace has declared is worth virtually nothing?

Reading – Livia Llewellyn

11:00 AM Friday April 29 – Robertson

Reading –  Simon Stranzas

11:30 AM Friday April 29 – Robertson

Reading – Broad Universe   Broad Universe is an international organization dedicated to promoting, encouraging, honoring, and celebrating women writers and editors in science fiction, fantasy, horror and other speculative genres.  Readings by: April Grey (M), Leadie Jo Flowers, Jessica Reisman, and Camille Alexa.

12:00 PM Friday April 29 – Robertson

Reading –  Broad Universe

12:30 PM Friday April 29 – Robertson

Brian Keene Seminar

1:00 – 5:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Boardroom

Requires pre-registration.  SOLD OUT!

Reading – Dark Arts Books Author Showcase Featuring Gary McMahon and S.G. Browne

1:00 – 2:00 PM,  Friday April 29 – Robertson

Join host John Everson as Dark Arts Books presents readings from their latest anthology, SWALLOWED BY THE CRACKS.

Guest of Honor Q&A – Brett Alexander Savory/Sandra Kasturi  (interviewed by Colleen Anderson)

1:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Phoenix Central

The Horror of Workshops, Classes, and MFA Programs

1:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Dezavala

Sarah Langan, Livia Llewellyn, Lee Thomas (M), Sheldon S. Higdon

Edgar Allan Poe never took a creative writing class, but today’s aspirants have many choices—Borderlands’ Boot Camp, Clarion, MFA programs, local writers’ groups, and more. Are academics still biased against horror? Heck, are science fiction and mystery writers still biased against horror? Can one even write the stuff without getting into trouble with sensitive classmates? Learn how to avoid a nightmare workshop.

Book Launch – EDGE Books

2:00 – 4:00 PM, Friday, April 29 – Convention Suite

Join hosts Michael Kelly and Jaym Gates for the multi-author book launch of “Chilling Tales”, “Rigor Amortis”, and “Those Who Fight Monsters”. Plus get a special sneak peek of EDGE’s Fall Horror line up, including “EVOLVE Two: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead”, and “Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes.”

New Blood

2:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Phoenix Central

Rio Youers, John Horner Jacobs, John Rector, Jesse Bullington (M), Guido Henkel, Norman Prentiss

“Horror is dead”—everyone knows that. Except for these new novelists. What does the next generation of horror writer have to say about breaking in and making a career in the horror field?

What Happens To Your Book After It Sells?

2:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Dezavala

Yanni Kuznia (M), Mel Odom, Louis Greenberg, Matt Moore, Del Howison

Selling a book isn’t the last step; in many ways it’s the first. Hear what editors, copy-editors, designers, publicists, and booksellers have planned for you, and how best to work with the professionals that could make, or perhaps even break, your career.

Guest of Honor Q&A – Joe Hill  (interviewed by Bev Vincent)

3:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Phoenix Central

 

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

3:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Dezavala

Sandra Kasturi (M), Steve Niles, Ben Kane Ethridge, John Mantooth, Weston Ocshe

Elmore Leonard’s rules for writing begin with an absolute: “Never open a book with weather.” But the weather can be important for setting mood, establishing location, and in some stories can even be a major part of the plot. How is weather best handled in fiction, and what clichés must be avoided? Must it always rain at a funeral?

Artists Are People Too!

4:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Phoenix Central

Scott Edelman, Russell Dickerson (M), Vincent Chong, Steve Niles, GAK

Thanks to the Internet, a right-click of the mouse lets anyone copy an artist’s work right off the Web. It’s not unusual for someone to look at a piece and declare, “My kid could paint that!” or to assume that art’s easy—just be creative once in a while and then the money flows in. We’ve heard from writers about their rights; now it’s time to hear from artists.

Frightening Small Children

4:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Dezavala

Jordan Hamessley (M), Joel A. Sutherland, Lynne Hansen, Dottie Enderle

It sounds easy, but it’s not, if only because parents and teachers are lurking behind every corner, ready to ruin the fun. How do authors approach writing horror for children and middle-grade readers, and what’s hot in this section of the market today?

Reading – Rio Youers

4:00 PM Friday April 29 – Robertson

Reading –  Peter Straub

4:30 PM Friday April 29 – Robertson

Guest of Honor Q&A – Vincent Chong  (interviewed by Gak)

5:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Phoenix Central

 

The Horror of the Academy

5:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Dezavala

SJ Chambers (M), Stephen Graham Jones, Helen Marshall, Chesya Burke, John Langan, Matt Cardin

The Gothic is a major part of literary history, but that doesn’t mean you can write a term paper about last week’s horror paperback and get away with it. What’s the state of literary criticism’s relationship with horror today, and what’s the best way for horror-loving students and scholars to navigate the academy?

Reading – John Everson

5:00 PM Friday April 29 – Robertson

Reading – Joe Lansdale

5:30 PM Friday April 29 – Robertson

BREAK

Guest of Honor Q&A – Jack Ketchum  (interviewed by Wrath James White)

7:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Phoenix Central

Why Horror Movies Are Terrible

7:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Dezavala

Brad Keene, Thomas Sipos, Joe Hill, SG Browne, Gemma, Files (M), Mark Wheaton

It’s not even a question—most horror movies are terrible, with stories that would be rejected from the smallest zine, acting to embarrass late-night Creature Feature hosts, and YouTube-ready cinematography. But WHY? Is it truly difficult to make an effective horror film, or are the producers and audience just so indiscriminate that quality isn’t worth the bother?

Reading – Simon Clark

7:00 PM Friday April 29 – Robertson

Reading – John Llewellyn Probert

7:30 PM Friday April 29 – Robertson

THE WHC CARNIVAL and Damnation Books–Book Launch

8:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Multiple Spaces

The traditional Art Show Reception has gotten Austin-ized with a multi-event carnival, taking place throughout the hotel! In addition to the Art Show Reception, we’re offering Drinks, Nibbles, Movies, Live Art Show, Cthulu Revival Meeting (you read that right), and the…

Damnation Books–Book Launch

8:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Convention Suite

Come meet some of the folks inside Damnation Books. The publishers and a few editors will be in the house, as well as some of Damnation Books’ authors. Join us to relax, listen to a few readings while enjoying refreshments. Prizes throughout the night.

Reading – Brian Keene

10:00 PM Friday April 29 – Robertson

Reading – Mary SanGiovanni

10:30 PM Friday April 29 – Robertson

Chizine Party

10:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Convention Suite

Books! Babes! Booze! CZP co-publishers Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi—with authors Gemma Files, David Nickle, Claude Lalumière, and more—will treat you to a dazzling night of books and booze (you’re on your own for the babes) to celebrate our new Spring titles. Join us!

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SATURDAY, APRIL 30

 

Vampire Mega-Panel

10:00 AM – 11:30 AM Saturday, April 30 – Phoenix Central

David Wellington, Nate Southard (M), Marcus Pelegrimas, Joe Garden, Colleen Anderson, Steve Niles,

Scary. Sexy. Grotesque. Dreamy. Vampires are the unquestioned champs of horror monsters, and they are everywhere. This extended panel will look at all things vampire as they continue to dominate the dark side.

Reading – Juan Perez

10:00 AM Saturday April 30  – Dezavala

Reading – Gary Clark

10:30 AM Saturday April 30  – Dezavala

Reading – Suzanne Church

10:00 AM Saturday April 30  – Robertson

Reading – Angel Leigh McCoy

10:30 AM Saturday April 30  – Robertson

I’ll Kill You With My Bare Hands! (Well, Maybe a Gun…)

11:00 AM Saturday, April 30 – Dezavala

Brian Keene, Joe Lansdale (M), Wrath James White, Hank Schwaeble, Lincoln Crisler, Sandra Wickham, Adam Coates

Violence is easy, but writing violence is difficult.  Hear from martial artists, gun aficionados, and combat veterans on how to get the blood, guts, and fistfights correct.

Reading – Scott Edelman

11:00 AM Saturday April 30  – Robertson

Reading – Rain Graves

11:30 AM Saturday April 30  – Robertson

BREAK

 

Reading – Hank Schwaeble

12:00 PM Saturday April 30  – Robertson

Reading – Monica O’Rourke

12:30 PM Saturday April 30  – Robertson

Horror Without Stephen King

1:00 PM Saturday, April 30 – Phoenix Central

Jack Ketchum, Lawrence Person (M), Del Howison, William Nolan, Rocky Wood, Bev Vincent

Stephen King is the undisputed grandmaster of modern horror. But what if he had never lived, or went right to publishing literary fiction without ever writing a single scary story. What would the field look like today without the man from Maine? Would there even be a horror genre as we know it?

The End of Good Advice

1:00 PM Saturday, April 30 – Dezavala

Mikal Trimm, Ian Rogers (M), Vanessa Fewings, Peter Straub, Gord Rollo, Wayne Allen Sallee

In the old days, there were a few solid ways to build a career—get some attention with short stories, or get an agent and sell a novel to New York. But good advice often has an expiration date, especially in the rapidly changing publishing field of the Internet era. What good old advice still works, and what new advice do the old pros not even know?

Reading – Wrath James White

1:00 PM Saturday April 30  – Robertson

Reading – John Langan

1:30 PM Saturday April 30  – Robertson

Book Launch – Bad Moon Books

2:00 – 4:00 PM, Saturday, April 29 – Robertson

Book launch for two new titles from Bad Moon Books. Joe McKinney’s tale of killer ants gone bad, The Red Empire; and Gene O’Neill’s haunting tale of a man’s struggle against forces he cannot comprehend, Not Fade Away. Don’t miss meeting these two fabulous authors and grabbing these great new titles.

The Future of the Book

2:00 PM Saturday, April 30 – Phoenix Central

Jeff Burk, Kim Glichrist, Nicholas Kaufmann (M), Robert Fleck, Joe Hill, Fred Venturini

Ebooks make up ten percent of the trade marketplace, and that number is only going to grow. One of the most successful new writers around self-publishes novels through Kindle, and sells hundreds of thousands of copies each month. People read on their phones and MP3 players even as bookstore chains close hundreds of stores. What will books, and book deals, look like in ten years? Hell, what will they look like next week!

Genre Mash-Ups

2:00 PM Saturday, April 30 – Dezavala

Sarah Langan, Cathy Clamp, (M), Sandra Kasturi, C. Cameron Pierce, Robert Boyczuk, Paul Tremblay

Horror is a genre of tone and emotional response, and as such it can be found virtually anywhere: in literary fiction, romance, crime, science fiction, and even experimental fiction. Find out how best to get the peanut butter in your chocolate  (chocolate in your peanut butter?) with some of the field’s favorite genrebenders.

Guest of Honor Q&A – Sarah Langan  (interviewed by David Wellington).

3:00 PM Saturday, April 30 – Phoenix Central

 

Commonwealth Horror

3:00 PM Saturday, April 30 – Dezavala

Simon Stranzas, Brett Savory, Allyson Bird, Gary McMahon (m), Simon Clark

Does horror from the nations of the Commonwealth of Nations—Great Britain, Canada, Australia, etc. —read differently from horror from the US, or other parts of the world? Is there such a thing as a Commonwealth aesthetic, and if so, what is it? Do the non-Anglophone members of the Commonwealth such as Cyprus or Jamaica have a commonwealth aesthetic?

 

How To Break In To Comics

4:00 PM Saturday, April 30 – Phoenix Central

Steve Niles, Joe Hill, Brian Keene, Joe Lansdale, James Chambers

Comics are fun! Comics are colorful! Comics are…gross? The rise of an adult audience for comics means that horror is back in all its four-panel glory, but what does it take to write for the comics industry? Do you need art skills, or an artist of your own? Can a beginner get a crack at established characters? No cliffhangers here, we’ll just tell you!

Reading – William Ollie

4:00 PM Saturday April 30  – Dezavala

Reading – Claude Lalumière

4:00 PM Saturday April 30  – Robertson

Reading – Wayne Allen Sallee

4:30 PM Saturday April 30  – Robertson

Guest of Honor Q&A – Steve Niles  (interviewed by Scott Edelman).

5:00 PM Saturday, April 30 – Phoenix Central

 

Things We Used To Care About

5:00 PM Saturday, April 30 – Dezavala

Brian Keene (M), Chad Savage, Lois Gresh, Kelly Laymon, Rain Graves, Chad Hensley

Splatterpunk versus quiet horror! Dare you publish a story on the Internet?? Which email newsletter should I read first? Will role-playing games save the genre?  And how’s about all those great new small presses that are being founded every month? On this panel we talk about the old controversies and contentious issues that history has solved for us.

Reading – Jeff Strand

5:00 PM Saturday April 30  – Robertson

Reading – F. Paul Wilson

5:30 PM Saturday April 30  – Robertson

MASS SIGNING!

7:30 – 10:00 PM Saturday, April 30 – Phoenix Central

Cutting Block Press Party

10:00 PM Saturday, April 30 – Convention Suite

Cutting Block Press celebrates the pre-launch of the sequel to the highly acclaimed long fiction anthology Tattered Souls.  While Tattered Souls 2 will be coming out this summer, there will be a number of copies available for this pre-release, and several authors/editors including Chief Editor Frank J. Hutton will be in attendance.  Please enjoy a variety of refreshments including beer, margaritas, wine, and specialty ice teas, and rumor has it there will be a surprise pizza run late night.

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SUNDAY, MAY 1

Zombies Mega-Panel

10:00 AM – 11:30 AM Sunday, May 1 – Dezavala

Joe McKinney (M), RJ Sevin, Julia Sevin, Nathan Robert Brown, John Skipp

Fast ones. Slow ones. Sharp as tacks. Dumb as stumps. Zombies have gnawed their way into the cultural consciousness, and their ranks continue to swell. Discuss all things Zombie with a panel of authors and editors, and find out where this popular trend is headed.

Technology and Art

10:00 AM Sunday, May 1 – Dezavala

Chad Savage, Vincent Chong, John Picacio

How are digital technology, new materials, and even the ease of multimedia creation changing horror art? What’s next for the field, and how horror art is created and distributed.

Reading – Scott A. Johnson

10:00 AM Sunday, May 1  – Robertson

Reading – Sheldon Higdon

10:30 AM Sunday, May 1  – Robertson

Which Religion is the Correct One?

11:00 AM Sunday, May 1 – Dezavala

Don Webb, Matt Cardin (M), Scott A Johnson

We’re not letting our panelists out till they decide.

World Horror Society Board Meeting

11:00 AM – 1:00 PM Sunday, May 1 – Convention Suite

Comments?  Questions?  Ask the members of the World Horror Society until noon, at which point the meeting closes to the public.

Reading – Dark Region Press Author Showcase – Joe Morey (M)

11:00 AM to closing  Sunday, May 1  – Robertson

Join host Joe Morey for readings from DRP’s recent publications.

Closing Ceremonies

1:00 PM Sunday May 1 – Pre-Function Area

Zombies and Their Haunts

Here’s an article I wrote for Tor.com on the connection between zombies and the apocalyptic landscapes in which they frequently appear.

Enjoy!

For as long as I can remember I’ve thrilled at the sight of abandoned buildings. Something about those dark, empty windows, the vacant doorways, the sepulchral quiet of an empty train station or hotel lobby, spoke of discontinuity, and of trauma. There was a vacancy in those wrecks that evoked loss and heartache and the memory of dreams that have fallen by the wayside. They were a sort of negative space in the landscape, symbols of our world’s mortality.

And then zombies came along, and I fell in love with them for many of the same reasons.

But here’s the thing.

It took me a while—as a writer I mean—to figure out that abandoned buildings, and even abandoned cities, don’t just appear because a horde of zombies happen to show up. Sure, most everybody gets eaten, and so you end up with a lot of buildings and very few people, but it goes a little deeper than that. Zombies and abandoned buildings, it seems to me, are actually two sides of the same coin. Aside from the obvious similarity—that they are both miserable wrecks somehow still on their feet—both are symbols of a world that is at odds with itself and looking for new direction. And in that way, zombies merge symbolically with the abandoned buildings they haunt in ways that other monsters never really achieve with the settings of their stories.

But just because the zombie and the abandoned building are intimately related symbols doesn’t mean that they function in exactly the same way.

Consider the abandoned building first.

When a building dies, it becomes an empty hull, and yet it does not fall. At least not right away. Its hollow rooms become as silent as the grave; but, when you enter it, its desolate inner spaces somehow still hum with the collected sediment of the life that once thrived there.

When we look at graffiti scrawled across fine Italian marble tiles, or a filthy doll face up in a crumbling warehouse parking lot, or weeds growing up between the desks in a ruined schoolhouse, we’re not just seeing destruction. We’re also seeing what once was, and what could be again. In other words, we’re seeing past, present and future all at the same time.

The operative force at work here is memory. Within the mind, memory links past, present and future. But in our post-apocalyptic landscapes, our minds need a mnemonic aid… and that aid is the abandoned building. The moldering wreck before us forces us to consciously engage in the process of temporal continuity, rather than simply stumble through it blindly.

Put another way, we become an awful lot like Wordsworth daydreaming over the ruins of Tintern Abbey. Like Wordsworth, we’re witnessing destruction, but pondering renovation, because we are by nature a creative species that needs to reshape the world in order to live in it. That is our biological imperative.

And so, in the end, the abandoned building becomes a symbol of creative courage.

But now consider the abandoned building’s corollary, the zombie.

Zombies are, really, single serving versions of the apocalypse. Apocalyptic stories deal with the end of the world. Generally speaking, they give us a glimpse of the world before catastrophe, which becomes an imperfect Eden of sorts. They then spin off into terrifying scenarios for the end of the world. And finally, we see the survivors living on, existing solely on the strength of their own wills. There are variations within the formula, of course, but those are the nuts and bolts of it.

When we look at the zombie, we get the same thing—but in microcosm. We see the living person prior to death, and this equates to the world before the apocalypse—or the ghost of what the abandoned building used to be, for that matter. We see the living person’s death, and this equates to the cataclysmic event that precipitates the apocalypse—or the moldering wreck of an abandoned building, if you like. And finally, we see the shambling corpse wandering the wasteland in search of prey, and this equates to the post apocalyptic world that is feeding off its own death.

It is in this final note that the symbolic functions of the abandoned building and the zombie diverge. As I’ve mentioned, the abandoned building, so long as it stands, calls to our creative instincts to rebuild. But the zombie, so long as it stands, speaks only to our ultimate mortality.

And so, the ruined hotel or office park becomes our mind’s cathedral, the spiritual and creative sanctuary of our memory, while the zombie becomes the devil that drives us into it.

I see a satisfying sense of symmetry there.

Holiday of the Dead

Holiday of the Dead features my zombie story, “The Day the Music Died.”  This one comes in at more than 500 pages, making it one of the biggest anthologies I’ve seen in a while.  Check this one out if you can.

The HWA Announces the 2010 Speciality Awards

I just got the following from the HWA’s Internet Mailer.  Congratulations are in order for all the winners.  These folks have really made a difference in their profession, and I hope they feel as proud for themselves as I am thankful for them.

HWA 2010 SPECIALTY PRESS AWARD GOES TO

DARK REGIONS PRESS

Dark Regions Press, of Colusa , California , will receive the Horror Writers Association’s Specialty Press Award for 2010. The award will be presented during the gala Bram Stoker Awards Banquet to be held this year in Long Island as part of the Stoker Awards weekend, June 16–19.

The annual Specialty Press Award recognizes a publisher outside the mainstream New York City publishing community that specializes in dark-themed fiction. Winners are typically “small presses” specializing in limited editions, small print runs, or the work of new and relatively unknown authors. The winner of the award is determined by a majority vote of the HWA Board of Trustees.

Joe Morey’s Dark Regions Press emphasizes horror and publishes novels, novellas, single-author collections, and poetry. They publish finely-bound limited editions and trade editions, and their authors have included Michael A. Arnzen, Bruce Boston, Angeline Hawkes, Charlee Jacob, Scott Nicholson, Stephen Mark Rainey, Tony Richards, Gord Rollo, Steven Savile, Harry Shannon, David B. Silva, Marge Simon, Jeff Strand, and David Niall Wilson, among many others.

Dark Regions was started by Morey in 1985, and their books have since won numerous awards. They’ve also published several periodicals, including Dark Regions magazine.

Past winners of the Specialty Press Award include Tartarus Press, Delirium Books, Earthling Publications, PS Publishing, and Bloodletting Press. Cemetery Dance won the first Specialty Press Award in 1997.

For more information about Dark Regions Press, visit the company website at http://www.darkregions.com.

************************************************************************************

ANGEL LEIGH MCCOY AWARDED

2010 SILVER HAMMER AWARD

The Board of Trustees of the Horror Writers Association is pleased to announce that the 2010 Silver Hammer Award is being awarded to Angel Leigh McCoy. The Hammer Award is given periodically to an HWA volunteer who has done a truly significant amount of work for our organization, often unsung and behind the scenes. It was instituted in 1996 and is decided by a vote of HWA’s Board of Trustees.

The award is so named because it represents the careful, steady, continuous work of building HWA’s “house”—the many institutional systems that keep the organization functioning on a day-to-day basis. The award itself is a chrome-plated hammer with an engraved plaque on the handle. The chrome hammer is also a satisfying allusion to The Beatles’ song, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” a miniature horror story in itself.

Angel McCoy currently oversees HWA’s Dark Whispers blog, which promotes members’ books to hundreds of librarians, booksellers, and readers; under Angel’s management, the blog has been redesigned to include a Twitter feed, making it even more popular and timely. Angel also built and oversees HWA’s Wiki, on which members can promote their accomplishments and their books, and she works behind the scenes with HWA’s web team to ensure that the organization’s massive website is as up-to-date and streamlined as possible.

Past winners of the Silver Hammer Award include Lawrence Watt-Evans, Sèphera Girón, Kathy Ptacek, Robert Weinberg, and Douglas Winter. 

************************************************************************************

MICHAEL COLANGELO AWARDED

2010 RICHARD LAYMON AWARD

The Richard Laymon President’s Award for Service was instituted in 2000 and is named in honor of Richard Laymon, who died in 2000 while serving as HWA’s president. As its name implies, it is given by HWA’s sitting president.

The award is presented to a volunteer who has served HWA in an especially exemplary manner and has shown extraordinary dedication to the organization.

HWA’s current President Rocky Wood has chosen Michael Colangelo to receive the 2010 Richard Laymon Award. Michael serves as HWA’s Membership Chairman, overseeing applications of both new members and of upgrades for current members. “Michael Colangelo soldiers away every week working almost invisibly to keep the turnstiles to the park that is HWA open,” President Wood said in regard to his choice for the 2010 Award. “Dealing with new member applications and verifying membership levels for those new members is far from glamorous but also absolutely vital, and Michael completes the task with a suitably diplomatic hand. For that, I as president and our entire membership show our respect by bestowing the Richard Laymon Award.”

Past winners of the Richard Laymon Award include Kathy Ptacek, Judi Rohrig, Lee Thomas, Lisa Morton, Stephen Dorato, Christopher Fulbright, Mark Worthen, John R. Little, and Vince A. Liaguno.

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