A Special Interview Featuring Joe Lansdale, Carrie Ryan, Jonathan Maberry, Gregory Lamberson and Shawn Chesser

Well tomorrow is the opening day for The Savage Dead, and that means my Zombie Masters Series is coming to an end…so I decided to go out with a bang!  Today I am bringing you a huge multi-author interview featuring a few of my favorite writers.


First off, we have Joe R. Lansdale, one of the most popular writers working today.  He was there at the beginning, when our modern idea of the Romereque zombie was just starting to see print, and he has continued to lead the way as the master and innovator of the genre.  But this is Joe R. Lansdale we’re talking about, so mentioning only his zombie fiction is sort of like saying Ray Bradbury wrote about rockets and leaving it at that.  He’s mastered crime fiction, the weird western, steampunk, science fiction, fantasy, and of course horror.  Like Bradbury, Lansdale is one of the finest short story craftsmen in modern American fiction.  And that’s not blowing smoke either.  Lansdale really is that good.  He’s won nearly every genre award out there, and has fashioned a body of work that looms large in every genre in which he’s worked.  I’m honored to have him here as part of this series.

I also got lucky when Carrie Ryan agreed to join me here for an interview.  On her website, Carrie describes herself this way:  Carrie was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. During her time in high school she was: vice president of her class, a cheerleader (no, seriously), captain of the field hockey team (one of only two teams in SC—her team was always state champs) and founder of the girls soccer team (she played on the boys team for a year until the school created the girls team, which, by the way, went from losing every game its first season to being ranked fourth in the state Carrie’s senior year!). She also wrote her first short story, Crab Shell Angels, for Mrs. Carter’s class on Southern Fiction.


On weekends she read. Everything from Sweet Valley High to Romance to Christopher Pike. As far as her parents know, she never threw a party while they were out of town (*cough*).

Deciding to try a different climate, Carrie went to Williams College (go Ephs!) home of the purple cows—no, seriously, that’s their mascot. She played field hockey and lacrosse for a year before becoming involved in student government and other nefarious organizations. She also spearheaded a project to renovate and re-open the local student pub. She was an avid mountain biker and a member of the Williams Cycling Team (their jerseys were white with purple cow spots—they were easy to pick out of the peloton).

During the various summers Carrie hiked the Wind River Wilderness Mountains with NOLS, worked as an intern at the Greenville County Coroner’s Office, worked on a Mayan archeological dig in El Peten, Guatemala, and taught SAT prep for The Princeton Review.

As it turns out, Massachusetts, while amazing, is cold much of the year. So after graduating and dabbling in an internet start-up (it was 2000, everyone was doing it) she moved to Middleburg, Virginia and worked at the Foxcroft School. That’s where she finished her first book and wrote her second. She tried to convince agents that they really wanted a sensual western historical romance, but they were quite adamant that they did not. So she decided to write chick lit. Unfortunately, most chick lit showcased exciting city life and Carrie’s life was pretty boring in the Virginia countryside. So she came up with the brilliant plan of going to law school and getting a job in a big city so she could have an exciting life to draw from.

And if that didn’t work out, at least she’d still have the legal career to fall back on. It was at Duke Law School where she met her fiancé JP, a speculative fiction writer who taught her all about true love. JP is the one who convinced Carrie to go to that first zombie movie, which for the life of her she can’t remember why—she must have still been trying to impress him because Carrie has disliked all horror movies since the Poltergeist incident of 1983. The remake of Dawn of the Dead fascinated Carrie and JP fanned the fires with more zombies movies and a timely gift of The Zombie Survival Guide (which he read out loud to her every night).

After graduating, they moved to Charlotte and embarked on a plan to get serious about writing. Carrie tried to write her chick lit but that market was dead and she liked young adult books so much better. After a few false starts, JP convinced Carrie to write what she loved and she started writing about zombies. There are so many movies about the days and weeks after a zombie apocalypse, but Carrie wanted to know what happened much later—generations later. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is her first published novel and she’s excited to be writing even more novels set in the same world.

That’s how Carrie describes herself; but me, I just call her awesome.

Next up we have my good friend, Jonathan Maberry.  Jonathan burst onto the writing scene with his Pine Deep Trilogy back in 2006 and hasn’t looked back since.  Like Lansdale, Maberry is a major threat in a number of formats, everything from short stories to novels to non-fiction to comic books, and Lansdale again, is a master of martial arts.  That last part is no exaggeration either.  Jonathan is an 8th degree black belt in jujutsu and a 5th degree in kenjutsu. In 2004 he was inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame.  Today he’s best known as the hardest working man in horror, having cranked out so many dazzling hits that I sometimes find myself wondering if he doesn’t have a whole basement full of clones working on stuff simultaneously.  I’ll guess we’ll never know, but at least we get to benefit from his tireless imagination.  At let’s face it, isn’t the world a better place with guys like Joe Ledger and Sam Hunter in it?


Described by Fangoria Magazine as “the sort of force that dark fantasy and horror are lucky to have,” my next guest is the one and only Gregory Lamberson.  Gifted with the art of storytelling, both on the page and in film, Lamberson is a two-time IPPY Gold Medal winner and three-time Bram Stoker Award finalist. Rave reviews of his work have appeared in Fangoria, Rue Morgue, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Booklist. All of his books are available in print and as e-books, and some are also available as audio books. In 2013, Medallion Press will publish Lamberson’s novel THE JULIAN YEAR, the first TREEbook, which will employ revolutionary time-triggered branching technology.

Lamberson’s novel PERSONAL DEMONS, winner of the IPPY Gold Medal for Horror, is the first volume in the action packed occult detective series “The Jake Helman Files,” published by Medallion Press. Other books in the series include the zombie novel DESPERATE SOULS, the new Cthulhu themed COSMIC FORCES(nominated for Superior Achievement in a Novel by the Horror Writers Association), and TORTURED SPIRITS, which is scheduled for October 2012. PERSONAL DEMONS, DESPERATE SOULS, and COSMIC FORCES are also available as audio books from Audible.com, and TORTURED SPIRITS will be as well.  So keep your eyes out for those, because everything Lamberson touches seems to turn to gold.


And last but not least I’m offering up Shawn Chesser for your reading enjoyment.  Shawn is the author of the Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse Series, a run that so far includes five of the best military zombie writing out there, including Trudge, Soldier On, In Harm’s Way, A Pound of Flesh, and Allegiance.


Through a combination of tight, well-structured plots and fully realized characters, Chesser has emerged as one of the top Indie writers in the business.  He currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two children. He studied writing at Harvard on the hill (PCC Sylvania) many years ago. Shawn is a big fan of the apocalyptic horror genre. Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy and George Romero are strong influences. When not writing, Shawn spends the rest of his time doting on his two children and doing whatever his wife says.  But his wife let him off the hook long enough to come play with us today, so let’s get started, shall we?



Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre?

Joe R. Lansdale:  I was attracted to this branch of monsters when I was a kid. The zombies then were not the eat your flesh kind. They strangled usually. My favorite old zombie film is I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE. Later, I saw NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD shortly after it came out, and that bent me seriously. I never really thought about writing zombie fiction, and I think it was an accident I wrote the first piece. I loved Westerns and horror, and an old movie titled CURSE OF THE UNDEAD had impressed me. It was a Western vampire movie, and these days it would seem tame. I had seen it a few times and just loved the whole idea of it. I decided I wanted to write a horror western, and I decided to combine the idea of zombies/ghouls/vampires/witchcraft and Lovecraftian  monsters. But it had a zombie vibe and is usually thought of as a zombie western. It’s amazing to me how much of an impact it has had on the field. I thought of it as a simple, pulp style, comic-book piece. I had great fun writing it, and also wrote a screenplay. It was optioned many times, and the film rights were finally bought by a French film company, Vertigo, and they never made it. So they have the rights, and it’s too bad they never filmed it, and they don’t have any interest in letting any one else have it. Or didn’t it. Maybe that’s changed now. I also wrote an off-beat science fiction western titled ON THE FAR SIDE OF THE CADIALLAC  DESERT WITH DEAD FOLKS.  It was originally a non-zombie science fiction tale with a modern western tone, but it died on me. And then I was asked to write a zombie story for Skipp and Spector’s BOOK OF THE DEAD, and I added the zombies in. They worked perfect. It’s still one of my favorite pieces. It’s a mixture of parody, pastiche, and at the time some original ideas  that have been co-opted by a lot of other writers and film makers. Besides those stories there have been others, including another story about my Western character with another take on the zombie theme, Deadman’s Road. I even wrote a kind of two people having trouble with their marriage, but it takes place in a zombiefied universe. And there are others. Christmas With The Dead, which my son adapted to a low budget film that’s a lot of fun. I don’t know exactly how many I’ve written about zombies. Seven or eight, I think. I don’t have plans to write others, as I’m kind of worn out on the whole zombie thing. But I never say never.

Carrie Ryan:  When I first became obsessed with zombies, most of the stories I found focused on the actual zombie apocalypse itself, right when the world becomes irrevocably altered and humanity has to figure out how to adapt and survive (which I love!).  I was curious what it would be like if you’d not only been born and raised in a world with zombies, but if your parents and grandparents had too.

So I set my first novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, about 150 years after the zombie apocalypse when zombies are just a fact of life (though still threatening!).

 Since then I’ve written two sequels (that take place about 20-30 years later) and many short stories (that take place everywhere from right at the zombie apocalypse itself to just before the events in The Forest of Hands and Teeth).

One of the best aspects of zombies as a creature is that there’s really no canon and so every author is free to experiment.  For my world I decided to go with a mix of both fast and slow, non-sentient zombies.  To me, the scariest thing about zombies is that they seem like they should be so easy to kill: they’re mindless creatures who can’t work together or use tools.  And yet, they’re impossible to escape.  You can’t outrun the fast ones and with the slow ones, when you have to stop to sleep or eat or whatever, they keep moving which means eventually, they’ll always catch up.  Once you’re surrounded by sufficient masses, you’re pretty much hosed.  That’s the kind of desperate situation that I love to write about.

Jonathan Maberry:  I’ve been writing about my life-impaired fellow citizens for quite a while. I took my first swing at them in a nonfiction book, THE VAMPIRE SLAYERS’ FIELD GUIDE TO THE UNDEAD, which was published in 2000 under the pen name of Shane MacDougall. The book examined various kinds of monsters –folkloric and fictional—including various kinds of zombies. I discussed other aspects of the zombie phenomenon in a series of nonfiction books I wrote for Citadel Press: VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, THE CRYPTOPEDIA, THEY BITE and WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE.

Then in 2006-08 Pinnacle Books released my Pine Deep Trilogy (GHOST ROAD BLUES, DEAD MAN’S SONG and BAD MOON RISING), which was about various kinds of vampires preparing to make war on humanity. Some of the vampire subtypes closely resembled the Romero zombie. In 2008 I did a nonfiction book, ZOMBIE CSU: THE FORENSICS OF THE LIVING DEAD, in which I interviewed over 250 experts in various fields (from molecular biology to Homeland security) about how the real world might deal with a zombie plague.

Based on some of the research I did for Zombie CSU, I decided to write my first full zombie novel, PATIENT ZERO for Griffin. It was a techno-thriller with special ops against terrorists with a zombie plague. That book was the first of a series of thrillers featuring former Baltimore detective Joe Ledger; and though the other books dealt with non-zombie threats, I return to the zombie plague in CODE ZERO, the sixth book, due out in March 2014.

I’ve done one zombie comic so far, MARVEL ZOMBIES RETURN, and it was a fun collaboration with Seth Grahame-Smith (PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES), David Wellington (MONSTER ISLAND), and Fred Van Lente (COWBOYS AND ALIENS).

I’ve also written a four-book post-apocalyptic zombie series for teens: ROT & RUIN, DUST & DECAY, FLESH & BONE and FIRE & ASH (all from Simon & Schuster). That series is now being developed for film.

Griffin wanted me to do more zombie novels for adults so I did DEAD OF NIGHT for them in 2011; and I just turned in the sequel, FALL OF NIGHT, scheduled for next August. Legendary horror filmmaker Eric Red (NEAR DARK, THE HITCHER) is writing the screenplay for DEAD and plans to direct.

And I’ve done a slew of zombie short stories, some for adults, some for teens. Some of them have been gathered into an audio collection, HUNGRY TALES (Blackstone).

Gregory Lamberson:  Thanks for including me in the dream.  I’ve written four books which could be classified as zombie tales.  The first was Johnny Gruesome, about a heavy metal obsessed teen who’s murdered and returns from the grave to kill a lot of people; it’s as much a slasher story and an EC Comics story as a zombie deal.  Two of my five Jake Helman novels have pitted Jake against hordes of voodoo “zonbies,” and I was delighted to feature old school zombies instead of flesh eaters.  A variation, “aqua zonbies,” make an appearance in the fifth book in the series, Storm Demon, which Medallion Press publishes this October.  My novella Carnage Road is the only one I’ve written that sticks to the world George Romero and John Russo created, and it’s one of my favorites.  It’s about two bikers traveling across America during the zombie apocalypse, and it’s really about humanity.   This one was just optioned as a possible movie or TV series with me attached as co-writer, so with any luck I’ll be thinking of new ways to creatively kill the undead for a while.

My main concern is always the protagonist – Jake Helman, Boone and Walker in Carnage Road, and Tony Mace in my werewolf series The Frenzy Cycle.  If the reader doesn’t really care about your leads and what happens to them, they’re not going to give a damn about the threats they face.  In most of my books, I look for a way to spin traditional monsters and mythology.  Jake Helman has faced zonbies toting machetes and machineguns, a Lovecraftian beast with ties to Christian beliefs, and angels and demons who behave like gangsters, and my werewolves have a pretty unique mythology.  Carnage Road is really the only thing I’ve written where the monster follows the tropes of a given subgenre, but the heroes, who are really antiheroes, are where I departed from the norm.

Shawn Chesser:  My pleasure, Joe! You’ve probably heard other writers in the genre say they were inspired by Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Well, you can count me among them as well. My Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse universe is full of the same type of flesh eating zombies as in the movies I grew up watching. Except for the really young specimens and the newly turned, my living dead are fairly slow and tend to catch the living by surprise or by overwhelming them in large numbers—hordes and mega-hordes in my novels. Like Romero’s, some of my zombies possess snippets of memory, but in the STZA universe, don’t really utilize them to any kind of advantage… yet.

Joe McKinney:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

Joe R. Lansdale:  Humanity would win. You just wait them out. They rot. That’s the conclusion in CHRISTMAS WITH THE DEAD, the film version. If  humanity can gather and wait, it ends. Unless it’s in the air, then we have a new problem. Frankly, I don’t lose sleep over the zombie apocalypse.

Carrie Ryan:  If the zombie apocalypse started right now, I’d be screwed.  At the last place I lived I could have probably survived a bit (I even wrote a story based on that idea: What Once We Feared, but now I live in a one story house with thin windows and little food.  Plus I’m close to a city – if I made it out alive it would be because of sheer dumb luck.

I like to believe humanity would eventually win in a zombie apocalypse, but really it depends on what kind of zombies you’re dealing with.  If it’s disease based, there should statistically be an immune segment of the population.  If the zombies rot, eventually the large masses will “die” out (can you tell I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking through all of this?).   And in the end, my hope would be that at least some groups of humanity could find pockets of safety – I’ve always thought Curacao would be a great place to ride out the zombie apocalypse.

Jonathan Maberry:  If there was an outbreak of the zombie plague, I think we have a shot –as long as they’re slow shufflers and not the Olympic Zombie Spring Team. The fast-onset, fast-running zombies is a no-win scenario. Movies like 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead show that pretty well. But with the slow zombies –we can get in front of that. Cell phones would allow us to take pics and videos, send and share information, reach out to emergency services, warn our friends, and otherwise survive. Also, we’re sensitized to medical threats and we tend to respond faster now than we did, say, ten years ago. So, yeah, I think we’d survive.

Survival would bring with it a retaliatory attitude and deep paranoia, so having survived we might be in a medically-based version of Big Brother.

Gregory Lamberson:  Joe, I am not prepared.  I don’t own any weapons, and my cupboards are bare by the end of the week.  I know from watching cable TV that there are others out there who are prepared, but frankly, those are the last people I want to see surviving over the rest of us.  Or maybe they deserve to make it for keeping their feathers numbered in case of just such an emergency.  I’m an atheist, but the zombie apocalypse just might change my views on religion, and if a deity decides it’s time for us to go, the least we could do is follow his or her wishes, right?

Shawn Chesser:  I’m prepared for the worst. However, I try to hope for the best. I guess that’s a yes. Humanity certainly has a way of overcoming most adversity… so yes to that as well, unless they’re the fast 28 Days Later buggers. I can’t say with a degree of certainty that we’d be able to survive the turbocharged, rage virus infected type of creatures, so let’s put an asterisk next to the last yes.

Joe McKinney:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

Joe R. Lansdale:  My favorite is NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, the original. It was such a game changer, and it scared the hell  out of me. It still creeps me. I also like both DAWN’S OF THE DEAD, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Though it’s low budget, I find CHRISTMAS WITH THE DEAD a strange zombie film, not such much a horror film, but an odd and unique sort of film, made on a shoe-string. But there’s a prejudice in that. It’s my story, my son’s script, my friend Lee Lankford directed, and my daughter did part of the music in the film. But I do think the way it’s approached is what makes it unique.  I also like ZOMBIE with Richard Johnson, an Italian film. It’s scummy and fly specked and really creepy; has a real feel of disease about it.

Carrie Ryan:  I have to give a nod to the remake of Dawn of the Dead because it was really my first introduction into zombies and started my obsession.  But I also love the original Night of the Living Dead.  Mostly because when I first watched it, I hated it.  I was enraged with the characters and their inability to work together – they made such stupid decisions and by the end I thought they all pretty much deserved to die.  But then I heard George Romero speak and he explained that his intent with the movie was to point out that we as humanity have failed to work together to solve large and serious world problems like hunger, poverty, etc. 

That was a huge eye opener to me and suddenly I saw the movie in an entirely different light.  We were supposed to be that frustrated with the characters — that was the point. It was the first time I realized that a storyteller could want you to dislike a character and I loved that.

Jonathan Maberry:  I often have multiple favorites, with individual works held in esteem because they touch a certain nerve or speak to me in a specific way. That said, here are some favorites:

Favorite zombie novel is DEAD CITY by Joe McKinney. It’s a ‘get off your ass and get it done’ book. The hero is a cop and he survives because he uses that skill set. Too often a professional is presented as clumsy, stupid or ineffective. In Dead City we see a law enforcement professional who survives because of his training, even when everything else is falling apart. The author doesn’t waste half of the book having the character stand around and philosophize in situations where action is what’s required. And the action in the book is nonstop.

Favorite zombie anthology: BOOK OF THE DEAD, edited by John Skipp and Craig Specter. This book was released in 1989 and is pretty much the foundation upon which all zombie literature has been built. Skipp and Specter brought together Richard Laymon, Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Steve Resnic Tem, Les Daniels, Douglas E. Winter, Joe Lansdale, Robert McCammon and other serious heavy hitters in a batch of stories that is as timely and readable now as they were upon publication. The editors are often criminally overlooked when people talk about zombie pop culture. They planted the seeds in the minds of many, many writers.

Favorite zombie movie: the unrated director’s cut of Zack Snyder’s DAWN OF THE DEAD. I love slow zombies on TV and in books, but I like the higher-energy thrills of the fast ones on film. And, the cast is superb, the soundtrack is killer, the effects terrific, and the pace breakneck.

Favorite zombie TV: It’s a dead heat between THE WALKING DEAD, which is brilliant and so much fun, and DEAD SET, the BBC miniseries about the zombie outbreak happening during the filming of the TV show Big Brother. Funny, bloody, scary and so well-written.

Favorite zombie comic: Robert Kirkman’s THE WALKING DEAD runs neck-and-neck with the first of the Marvel Zombie stories, back when they were part of the Ultimates universe.

Favorite zombie short story: “What Maisie Knew” by David Liss. Elegant and disgusting –two words that seldom fit into the same description, but they work here. David is best know for his Edgar Award-winning historical mysteries, so when he did this story he came right out of left field and blindsided folks.

Gregory Lamberson:  For decades my favorite zombie flick was Dawn of the Dead, but now Shaun of the Dead equals perfection on my scale.  Besides, I can watch Shaun with my whole family; my daughter is too young for the stronger stuff, and zombies really disturb my wife.  As far as novels go, I have two favorites: Dead City, which has a fantastic pace and a really good depiction of how the apocalypse all goes down, and The Sinister Mr. Corpse by Jeff Strand, which is as funny as you would expect.  I forgot who wrote Dead City.

Shawn Chesser: The remake of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead really grabbed me when it came out. The credit sequence at the beginning when Johnny Cash sings ‘When the man comes around’ is priceless. I could watch that all day. Ving Rhames also did a great job of portraying a LE member trying to cope with a seemingly impossible band of survivors. Now I’m not sucking up here, but your Apocalypse of the Dead was one of the first eBooks I ever downloaded and read on my first iPhone. I’m a helicopter and aviation buff so you had me hooked with the first couple of paragraphs. Hopefully, one day I’ll hone my prose to maybe approach something close to your caliber of writing. Congrats to all of your success! OK that was sucking up. I was a fan of the Zompoc before I started writing about it… so I’m allowed that…aren’t I? Another book that resonated with me early on is Stephen King’s ‘The Stand.’ I loved the whole good versus evil scenario. I really got into the characters and enjoyed the vivid, yet bleak, depopulated landscape King describes so well. Another post-apocalyptic favorite of mine is Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road,’ his descriptive style of writing had me feeling cold and hungry during the entire read.

Joe McKinney:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

Joe R. Lansdale:  ZOMBIE, the Italian film is full of them. And there’s kill scenes that the zombies provide, like the one where they pull the character’s eye in a sharp fragment of lumber.

Carrie Ryan:  Oooh, that’s a tough one! There are so many! I’m definitely a fan of the lawnmower scene from Dead Alive.  But I think a scene that’s always stuck with me is when they have to kill the mom in Shaun of the Dead.  Especially because so much of that movie is hilarious, that particular scene becomes such an emotional gut punch.

Jonathan Maberry:  My fav is Bub’s revenge on Captain Rhodes for the murder of Dr. Logan. It was the first time I rooted for a zombie. And I’d like to think that Bub is still out there, wandering the wastelands and maybe evolving into something new and interesting.

Gregory Lamberson: I think machete head in Dawn of the Dead is the most iconic, but I thought Romero came up with some great ones in Survival of the Dead, which I love dearly and deserves to be seen by as many people who tune in to The Walking Dead every week.

Shawn Chesser: The newborn Z in the Dawn of the Dead remake is one that really sticks out in my mind. Even though you don’t actually get to see the baby being put down, the fade to black followed by the echoing gunfire paints the picture. I have a few scenes scattered throughout my series where kids kill, and also are killed themselves—both by zombies and humans—and as a result, I have received a couple of good natured tongue lashings.   

Joe McKinney:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past.  Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

Joe R. Lansdale:  I think it’s the idea of our culture eroding, changing. I think we go through these periods, and then we find that we have changed with it, or at least the next generation in line has. And then it’s their turn. I think boiling this complex, technological world down to something simple is part of it. People would like for it to be simple, and on some level the idea of the whole thing collapsing, even with zombies, is appealing to some; same impulse for the goobers who run around in the woods in camo- pants hoping the government would collapse. If it did we’d all last about fifteen minutes, and for those who might last, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun as a movie, and you might not be the hero of the event.

Carrie Ryan:  What I love about zombies is that as a metaphor, they can be used to mean so many things!  Look at George Romero who used them to criticize consumerism and our inability to work together to solve large problems.  Danny Boyle used zombies to chronicle fear and/or mistrust of scientific experiments in 28 Days Later.  In Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies, the zombies are essentially emotionless shells.

Personally, I love zombies as representative of a fear of life unlived or unexamined.  When we refer to someone as a zombie at work or school, we mean that they’re just going through the motions.  There’s no thought or passion or even purposeful intent in their actions.  At least in my own writings, zombies exist for existence’s sake.  All they do is occupy space: they don’t think or love or feel or care or plan.  How is that different from a lot of the living who wake up and go through the motions of life without conscious thought?  Without questioning?

They say that whenever the economy crashes, the popularity of zombies increases.  There’s a part of me that wonders if that’s because people are suddenly shaken out of their comfort zones.  They can’t just continue as they had before and are forced to re-examine their lives and their priorities.  They’re forced to figure out what separates them from someone who just occupies space.   I think zombies remind us that we’re still alive and we should treasure that.

Jonathan Maberry:  There are so many reasons why zombie fiction and movies work and except for the shallow few, mostly it’s because it pushes some emotional, psychological or cultural buttons. Subtext has become the text in zombie pop culture. That said, the things about the genre that appeals most to me are the debates over issues like the definition of what makes us human, the value of human life, the right to survive, and exploring the line between the needs of immediate survival and the preservation of civilized societal values.

For example, in my ROT & RUIN novels he older brother of the protagonist teaches his younger brother that zombies were once people. They had lives, dreams, loves, families, expectations. All of that was stolen from them by a plague. They each died afraid and in pain. They are victims of a disease. Even though we have to fight the zombie, and kill it to survive, we can’t at any time disrespect it or what it was. To do that is to perpetuate a process of dehumanization.

Gregory Lamberson:  Zombies are popular because they’re reflections of ourselves.  Romero and Russo hit on the perfect formula, and every good zombie story someone creates, in awhatever medium, tells us something about ourselves, and that’s why such seemingly limited characters are actually limitless.  Bub listening to a Walkman or thumbing through a Stephen King novel says it all.  Zombies are obsessed with the same things we are (other than human flesh), and seeing continue our daily pastimes conveys the same sort of revealing satire as watching the apes in Planet of the Apes behave like humans.  These images tell us we build our lives around some pretty silly materialism and habits.  Because zombies are us, the idea of being eaten by them is a lot more frightening than being eaten by dinosaurs, sharks, or Martians.

Shawn Chesser:  I think we are all facing a new type of world filled with a lot of uncertainty. In a way some of us are already living in a post-apocalyptic world; one where war is an ongoing occurence and everyday life has been turned upside down. Earth is becoming incredibly crowded and our resources are in danger of being stretched very thin or even running out eventually. Then, we are bombarded on a daily basis with news of the next… near-miss asteroid fly-by, coronal mass ejection from the sun, bird, or bee die off, etc… Maybe the masses find some comfort in reading and watching post-apocalyptic entertainment because it’s a way absorbing information that they may have to fall back on later. At any rate, like I said earlier, I’ll prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. Thanks for presenting me with the opportunity to babble away at you, Joe.

Roger Ma

I’m excited to bring you today’s guest on my countdown to the release of my upcoming zombie novel, The Savage Dead, because Roger Ma is a total badass.  I mean a real life badass.  As in he could tie you into a pretzel before you knew how truly screwed you really were.  What’s more, he’s turned his rather considerable real life fighting skills into one of the most valuable zombie books ever published, The Zombie Combat Manual.  Roger Ma specializes in hand-to-hand combat against the undead. He is the author of The Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Living Dead. His new book, The Vampire Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Bloodthirsty Undead, focuses on surviving an attack from a hunting succubus. He is the founder of the Zombie Combat Club and the Vampire Combat Club, organizations that focus on battling the undead without the aid of a firearm. He was recently featured as a zombie expert on the History Channel documentary “Zombies: A Living History.” He currently trains in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

I first met Roger in Long Island back in 2011.  We were on a zombie panel together (along with Jonathan Maberry, Scott Kenemore, and S.G. Browne) and it was probably the best zombie panel on which I’ve ever served.  Just look at us!


(The panel, left to right:  Joe McKinney, Jonathan Maberry, S.G. Browne, Roger Ma, Scott Kenemore.)

Check out what Roger has to say about zombies, and then go check out the Zombie Combat Club online.  It’s a great site.

But first, meet Roger Ma, zombie ass kicker extraordinaire!


Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre? 

Roger Ma:  Thanks for having me, Joe!  When it comes to the genre, I’m very much a traditionalist, in the sense that I adhere very closely to the Romero canon – shambling, formerly human creatures that want to devour your flesh, not just your “brains.”  When it came to writing about the living dead, I wanted to combine my love of the martial arts and hand-to-hand combat with zombies.  Living in New York City, I was never much of a “gun guy.”  And what do they tell you to do when you encounter a zombie?  “Shoot them in the head.”  So I thought, “Well, what if I don’t have a firearm?  What if you run out of ammunition?  What if I need to keep silent?”  That’s how The Zombie Combat Manual was born.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

RM:  It depends.  As far as humanity winning, it depends on how quickly everyone, state, federal, and local governments, recognize the situation and address it immediately.  If we do that, we’ve got a good chance.  If we don’t, we don’t.  As far as myself, it also depends.  I’m in fairly good cardiovascular shape, specifically out of my fear of needing to trek miles on foot in order to escape a threat, undead or otherwise.  However, I also live in one of the largest metropolitans in the world, so if this start here, it will be hell on earth trying to get out, literally.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

RM:  My favorite zombie media are the ones that introduced me into the genre.  For movies, it was Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead.”  My father took me to see it in the theaters when it was released.  I was 8 years old.  I haven’t been the same since.   Ever since then, at least several times a year, I’ll dream that I’m in a mall that’s teeming with zombies.  It’s a dream that I both love and loathe.  For zombie books, again, the book that introduced me to the literary zombie genre was John Skipp’s short story anthology “Book of the Dead.”  I remember seeing it in Forbidden Planet in Greenwich Village as a kid, and thought “people actually write stories about zombies, too?”  In fact, chatting about it with you makes me want to pick it up and read it again.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

RM:  Wow, just one?  That’s really tough.  If I were to pick just one, I would probably have to revert back to “Dawn.”  The scene where the zombie is climbing over the crates to get at Stephen as he fills the helicopter with fuel, and the rotor blades slice off the top of the zombie’s head.  I remember seeing that in the theater and going mental.  What’s great about it also is that Stephen doesn’t have to do a thing – the undead leads itself to its own demise.  Smart and energy efficient.   That’s one of the points I try to stress in my book and when I talk to people about the best “zombie weapons.”  The best weapons are those that require you to exert zero energy while still accomplishing the task at hand.  Sure, you can crush a bunch of zombie skulls with a crowbar or impale their brains with a katana, but how long before your energy levels give out, and then what do you do?  Wouldn’t it be better to have them walk off a building’s ledge trying to get at you?  People sometimes forget about practicality and want to go in beast mode.   That works until you gas out, which we all will do against an opponent that doesn’t tire.

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past.  Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

RM:  The zombie genre is one of the most malleable when it comes to subtext, we all know that.  It can represent consumerism and hive mentality, like in Romero’s work, and it can also represent one of many different fears.   Fear of death, disease, aging, plague, anarchy, that’s pretty obvious.   What’s not so obvious is what we represent in the undead scenario.  It’s my belief that if there’s one thing that we as a society are feeling now more than ever, it’s a lack of control.  I know that there are times when I myself feel like I’m barely able to process everything that’s going on around me, and that I’m holding things together by bare threads.  There’s also this feeling that whatever we do, however well we study, plan, and prepare, we are at the mercy of powerful forces that have a grip over society, be it financial, governmental or cultural, and that its sheer luck that we continue to plod along unscathed.  “There but the grace of God…” and all that. 

The zombie enables us, to a certain extent, to take that control back.  To be the hero.  Very few other genres, particular in horror, enable you to do that.  You’re not going to go toe-to-toe with an Ancient One, alien, or a spectre.  You can with the zombie, and that is incredibly empowering.  It’s like that old joke about the two guys who encounter a bear in the woods.  You don’t need to be faster than the bear; you just need to be faster than the other guy. 

Check out Roger Ma’s books here, and while you’re there, don’t forget to pre-order your copy of The Savage Dead.

JournalStone Publishing Announces the “Double Down” Book Series

Do you remember the old Ace Doubles?  I had a ton of them growing up.  Their distinctive white and blue spines and tete-beche formatting were instantly recognizable, and the works themselves the very model of everything that was cool about classic space opera science fiction.

Well, JournalStone Publishing is bringing the concept back…and I get to be a part of it!

Today, JournalStone Publishing founder and Editor-in-Chief Christopher C. Payne made public the launch of JournalStone’s Double Down series.  These books will feature a short novel from an already established author paired with another short novel from a talented up and coming writer.  I’m going to be working with my good friend, Sanford Allen.  (You can learn more about Sanford here.)  Sanford and I belong to a writing group called Drafthouse, and over the years I have watched Sanford’s style develop and his voice become stronger and clearer.  Part rocker, part reporter, part poet of the weird, Sanford tells one hell of a good yarn, and he has a passion for music that rings through every word he writes.  When JournalStone approached me with the concept, and asked me if I had a talented undiscovered writer I’d be willing to work with, I immediately thought of Sanford.  I’m a huge fan of his stuff, and I think the rest of the world will be too after they see the novel he’s going to be publishing.

Our book will be coming out in the Summer of 2013, but there will be others in this ongoing series.  Right now, JournalStone has signed six teams, and more will follow in the next few months.  For now, here’s the lineup:

Gene O’Neill and Chris Mars

Gord Rollo and Rena Mason

Lisa Morton and Eric Guignard

Joe McKinney and Sanford Allen

Harry Shannon and Brett Talley

Jonathan Maberry and a writer yet to be determined

JournalStone Publishing is a small press company focusing on Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, but they are large on quality and have a high level of commitment to putting out the best fiction available.  President and Editor-in-Chief Christopher C. Payne has led JS on a rapid climb to public recognition and respect within the professional writing community.  In fact, they were recently featured on the April issue of Publishers Weekly.  I’m excited to be working with them, and even more excited to be working with Sanford on what I think is going to be one of the best series in last two decades.  You can learn more about JournalStone here.



The Horror Writers Association (HWA) is proud to announce Jonathan Maberry as a Guest of Honor for the Bram Stoker Awards™ Weekend 2013, to be held in New Orleans from 13-16 June 2013.

Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times best-selling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and Marvel Comics writer. His novels include Assassin’s Code, Flesh & Bone, Ghost Road Blues, Rot & Ruin, Dust & Decay, Patient Zero, The Wolfman and many others. His Non-fiction books include Ultimate Jujutsu, The Cryptopedia, Zombie CSU, Wanted Undead Or Alive and others. He’s the editor/co-author of V-Wars, a vampire-themed anthology; and was a featured expert on The History Channel special Zombies: A Living History. Since 1978 he’s sold more than 1200 magazine feature articles, 3000 columns, two plays, greeting cards, song lyrics, and poetry. His comics include Captain America: Hail Hydra, Doomwar, Marvel Zombies Return and Marvel Universe vs. The Avengers. He teaches the Experimental Writing for Teens class, is the founder of the Writers Coffeehouse, and co-founder of The Liars Club. Jonathan lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with his wife, Sara and their dog, Rosie. You can find him on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook or at his author website:www.jonathanmaberry.com.

HWA President Rocky Wood said, “Jonathan is proof positive that a talented, hard-working writer can achieve both sales and critical break-through even in the difficult publishing environment writers have been facing over recent years. Since moving into the horror genre and winning the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel for 2006, he has published at a rate that would challenge even Stephen King! He has built a strong following in the booming Young Adult market as well as the adult horror and thriller genres, has proven to be a very effective marketer of his own work and a strong supporter of the HWA, paying back to the genre. I expect those attending the Bram Stoker Awards Weekend will learn a lot from Jonathan about cross genre writing, planning a writer’s work day, and marketing; and that they will be infected by his all-round enthusiasm for our profession and life in general.”

Jonathan joins already announced Guests – Ramsey Campbell, John Joseph Adams and Jeff Strand. Further Guests will be announced shortly.

John Joseph Adams Announces Nightmare Magazine Kickstarter

I just learned that John Joseph Adams, one of the best editors working in genre fiction today, is starting a new horror magazine called Nightmare.  That in and of itself would be wonderful news, but he’s doing it in conjunction with Creeping Hemlock Press, which is owned and operated by RJ and Julia Sevin, the husband and wife team who published my zombie novella THE CROSSING and who will be publishing my collected zombie stories, DATING IN DEAD WORLD, later this year.  For me, this is the perfect storm of editorial smarts and publishing savvy, and I’m thrilled to support them in their kickstarter campaign to get the magazine off the ground.

There are far too few professional horror magazines out there these days, and this promises to be one of the best ever.  The Nightmare Magazine kickstarter pitch is below.  Please take a look, and if you to see some quality horror fiction in the next few years, I hope you’ll help out too.

About the Kickstarter

Nightmare Magazine is a monthly magazine of horror and dark fantasy short fiction which  will be published both online and in ebook format. This Kickstarter is  intended to help fund the first issue and to get the magazine off the  ground.

Not familiar with Kickstarter? Essentially, you pledge any amount to support a project, and then choose one of the rewards in the right  column. You only get charged if the project reaches its fundraising  goal. Here’s the FAQ page.

About Nightmare

In Nightmare‘s pages, you will find all kinds of  horror fiction, from zombie stories and haunted house tales, to visceral psychological horror. No subject is  off-limits, and we will be encouraging our writers to take chances with  their  fiction and push the envelope.

Edited by bestselling anthologist John Joseph Adams, every month Nightmare will bring you a mix of originals and reprints, and featuring a variety of  authors—from the bestsellers and award-winners you already know to the  best new voices you haven’t heard of yet. When you read Nightmare, it is our hope that you’ll see where horror comes from, where it is now, and where it’s going.

Nightmarewill also include nonfiction, fiction  podcasts, and Q&As with our authors that go  behind-the-scenes of their stories. Our planned publication schedule  each month will include two pieces of original fiction and two fiction  reprints,  along with a feature interview and an artist gallery showcasing our  cover artist. We will publish ebook issues on the first of every month,  which will be available for sale in ePub format via our website and also available in other formats such as Kindle and Nook. We will also offer  subscriptions to our ebook edition in a variety of formats. Each issue’s contents will be serialized on our website  throughout the month, with new features publishing on the first four  Wednesdays of every month.

About Issue #1

As described above Nightmare will typically feature two original stories and two reprints in every issue. For our debut issue, however, we will be bringing you four all-new, never before published horror stories. Issue #1 will feature stories by the following authors:

Laird Barron is the author of several books, including the short story collections The Imago Sequence and Occultation, and the novel The Croning. His work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Inferno, Lovecraft Unbound, Sci Fiction, Supernatural Noir, The Book of Cthluhu, Creatures, The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, and Best Horror of the Year. He is a three-time winner of the Shirley Jackson Award, and a  three-time finalist for the Stoker Award. His work has also been  nominated for the Crawford, World Fantasy, International Horror Guild,  and Locus awards.

Sarah Langan is the author of the novels The Keeper and The Missing, and her most recent novel, Audrey’s Door, won the 2009 Stoker for best  novel. Her short fiction has appeared in the magazines Cemetery Dance,  Phantom, and Chiaroscuro, and in the anthologies Brave New Worlds, Darkness on the Edge, and Unspeakable Horror. She is currently working on a post-apocalyptic  young adult series called Kids and two adult novels: Empty Houses, which was inspired by The Twilight Zone, and My Father’s Ghost, which was  inspired by Hamlet. Her work has been translated into ten languages and  optioned by the Weinstein Company for film. It has also garnered three  Bram Stoker Awards, an American Library Association Award, two Dark  Scribe Awards, a New York Times Book Review editor’s pick, and a Publishers Weekly favorite book of the year selection.

Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and Marvel Comics writer.  He’s the author of many novels including Assassin’s Code, Flesh & Bone Dead of Night, Patient Zero and Rot& Ruin; and the editor of V-Wars: A Chronicle of the Vampire Wars.  His nonfiction books on topics ranging from martial arts to zombie pop-culture. Since 1978 he has sold more than 1200 magazine feature articles, 3000 columns, two plays, greeting cards, song lyrics, poetry, and textbooks. Jonathan continues to teach the celebrated Experimental Writing for Teens class, which he created. He founded the Writers Coffeehouse and co-founded The Liars Club; and is a frequent speaker at schools and libraries, as well as a keynote speaker and guest of honor at major writers and genre conferences.

Genevieve Valentine is the author of the novel, Mechanique: a Tale of the Circus Tresaulti. Her short fiction has appeared in or is forthcoming from magazines such as Lightspeed, Fantasy Magazine, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, and Escape Pod, and in many anthologies, including Armored, Under the Moons of Mars, Running with the Pack, The Living Dead 2, The Way of the Wizard, Federations, Teeth, and The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, among others. Her writing has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, the Nebula Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award.

A Commitment to Diversity

We believe that the horror/fantasy community’s diversity is its greatest strength, and we wish that  viewpoint to be reflected in our story content and our submission  queues. Accordingly, we will welcome and encourage submissions from writers both experienced and new, as well as from writers of every race, religion, nationality, gender, and  sexual orientation.

A Note to Writers

If the Kickstarter  is funded, we will open to submissions shortly afterward. Please do not  submit or query before the Kickstarter concludes.

About the Publishers

Nightmare will be a joint venture between John Joseph Adams (who is also editing the magazine) and Creeping Hemlock Press.

About John Joseph Adams: John Joseph Adams—called “the reigning king of the anthology world” by  Barnes & Noble—is the bestselling editor of many anthologies,  such as Armored, Under the Moons of Mars: New Adventures on Barsoom, Brave New  Worlds, Wastelands, The Living Dead, The Living Dead 2, By Blood We  Live, Federations, The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Way of the Wizard. Forthcoming work includes Other Worlds Than These (July 2012), Epic (November 2012), The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination (January 2013), and Robot Uprisings (2013). He is a four-time finalist for the Hugo Award and a  three-time finalist for the World Fantasy Award. He is also the editor  and publisher of Lightspeed Magazine, and is the co-host of Wired’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. Learn more at www.johnjosephadams.com.

About Creeping Hemlock Press: Creeping Hemlock Press was founded in Gretna, Louisiana by the  husband-and-wife creative duo R.J. and Julia Sevin (seh-VAN). As  sometime writers, oftentime readers, they found themselves frustrated  with the scarcity of generous-paying, atmospheric and bizarre short  story anthologies. They took matters into their own hands in late 2004  when they began to accept submissions for their own anthology. Many  months, one baby, two hurricanes, and one soggy home later, Corpse Blossoms was born to critical success and a nomination for the Horror Writers  Association’s Bram Stoker award. As their post-Katrina wanderings  carried them to Texas and back, the Sevins published many fine editions  from such authors at Tom Piccirilli, Adam-Troy Castro, Tim Lebbon, and  Lawrence Block. In 2011, they unveiled Print Is Dead, an imprint devoted to zombie fiction and endorsed by none other than George A. Romero.  After nearly a decade in the business, they’re just getting started.  Learn more at www.creepinghemlock.com.

About the Funding

All of the money raised by this project will go into issue #1 and otherwise launching Nightmare Magazine. This includes webhosting, web design, paying authors professional rates for their work (at least 5 cents per word), and promotion. Anything raised above and beyond our stated goal will go toward the production of future issues of Nightmare.

About the Reward Tiers

We’ve priced our reward tiers so that if you contribute to our Kickstarter,  you’re basically placing a pre-order. When we launch, individual issues  will cost $3, and a one-year subscription will cost $25, and so on. Assuming the Kickstarter is funded, we will launch the magazine on October 1, 2012, and rewards will be delivered at that time.

Pledge $3 or more

You receive a ebook copy of the first issue of NIGHTMARE in ePub or  Mobi format, compatible with all major eBook readers (Kindle, iBooks,  Sony, Nook).

Pledge $25 or more

You receive a one-year ebook subscription to NIGHTMARE in ePub or Mobi format.

Pledge $50 or more

You receive a two-year ebook subscription to NIGHTMARE in ePub or Mobi format.

Pledge $75 or more

You receive a three-year ebook subscription to NIGHTMARE in ePub or Mobi format.

Pledge $100 or more

You receive a one-year ebook subscription to NIGHTMARE in ePub or  Mobi format. You also receive a special, limited edition print version  of  issue #1, which will be printed only once as a reward for  Kickstarter backers. Note: If you reside outside the United States,  please pledge an additional $15 for this reward to cover added shipping  costs.

Pledge $500 or more

You receive a two-year ebook subscription to NIGHTMARE in ePub or  Mobi format. You also receive a special, limited edition print version  of issue #1, which will be printed only once as a reward for Kickstarter backers, SIGNED by all of the contributors. Note: If you reside outside the United States, please pledge an additional $15 for this reward to  cover added shipping costs.

Pledge $500 or more

You receive a LIFETIME ebook subscription to NIGHTMARE in ePub or  Mobi format (i.e., the subscription will last as long as either you or  NIGHTMARE does!).

Pledge $500 or more

You receive a two-year ebook subscription to NIGHTMARE in ePub or  Mobi format. You also receive a LIFETIME subscription to Creeping  Hemlock/Print is Dead trade paperbacks (i.e., you will receive a copy of every new book Creeping Hemlock/Print is Dead releases in trade  paperback), and a copy of every in-print title from Creeping Hemlock  Press. (For a list of in-print titles: http://www.creepinghemlock.com/toptier.html.)

Pledge $1,000 or more

You receive a LIFETIME subscription NIGHTMARE in ePub or Mobi format, plus a LIFETIME subscription to Creeping Hemlock/Print is Dead trade  paperbacks (i.e., you will receive a copy of every new book Creeping  Hemlock/Print is Dead releases in trade paperback), and a copy of every  in-print title from Creeping Hemlock Press. (For a list of in-print  titles: http://www.creepinghemlock.com/toptier.html.)

Rage Against the Night – An Anthology to Benefit Rocky Wood

Rage Against the Night – An Anthology to Benefit Rocky Wood


Under the onslaught of supernatural evil, the acts of good people can seem insignificant, but a courageous few stand apart. These brave men and women stand up to the darkness, stare it right in the eye, and give it the finger. These are the stories of those who rage against the night, stories of triumph, sacrifice, and bravery in the face of overwhelming evil.


Rocky Wood – Bram Stoker Award™-winning author, Stephen King scholar, and president of the Horror Writers Association – is one of the bravest men I know.  Diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Rocky has nonetheless set out to redefine the Horror Writers Association as the inclusive voice of the horror community.  From his home inAustralia, Rocky travels the world, attending many conventions each year, in order to foster that sense of community among writers, publishers, agents and other industry professionals.


I call him the bravest man I know because he towers above the obstacles in his way, not only the ALS, which is a mountain of an obstacle in and of itself, but also the headstrong egos and maddening politics that always seem to plague groups of creative people.  He is a model of teamwork, relentless energy, and above all, vision.  In just a few short years he has created a legacy in the HWA that will define the organization for decades to come.  Positive change and a spirit of renewed enthusiasm follow him everywhere.  For all those reasons, I am in awe of him, and for all those reasons, I am honored to call him my friend.


So, imagine my surprise – and pleasure! – when Shane Jiraiya Cummings contacted me about donating a story for an anthology to help Rocky Wood with some of his medical expenses.  I couldn’t say yes fast enough!  “What’s the theme?” I asked.  “How soon do you need it?”


Shane’s idea was a collection of stories showcasing good triumphing over evil.  He said it was the perfect testament to Rocky, and I agreed on the spot.


The story I sent Shane was “The Gunner’s Love Song,” one of my earliest.  In it, a young man comes home toEast Texasshortly after World War II to find his cousin, who has a heavy speech impediment and a reputation for being a little slow, suddenly villainized by their town because of his romance with a woman rumored to be a werewolf.


Fans of Manly Wade Wellman will undoubtedly see my influences shining through in this story; and believe me, I had a hard time resisting the urge to go back through the tale and “clean it up a bit,” to sort of buff out the obvious Wellman touches.  But I resisted because “The Gunner’s Love Song” has something special to it.  It has a lot of Wellman, to be sure, but it has a lot of me, too.  In fact, it was the first time I remember feeling my own voice surging through in the fiction.  The story is genuine.  It’s a little raw, perhaps, but it’s me, and I see in this story the elements that would take hold and grow in my later fiction: themes like a sense of optimism that’s been tested and tempered by trial and the importance of good guardianship.


In short, the story worked for me, and when I sent it to Shane, he agreed.


Apparently he really agreed, for he chose it as the lead-off story in a collection that features an amazing roster of creative talent.  Check out this table of contents:


The Gunner’s Love Song—Joe McKinney

Keeping Watch—Nate Kenyon

Like Part of the Family—Jonathan Maberry

The Edge of Seventeen—Alexandra Sokoloff

The View from the Top—Bev Vincent

Afterward, There Will Be a Hallway—Gary A. Braunbeck

Following Marla—John R. Little

Magic Numbers—Gene O’Neill

Tail the Barney—Stephen M. Irwin

The Nightmare Dimension—David Conyers

Roadside Memorials—Joseph Nassise

Dat Tay Vao—F. Paul Wilson

Constitution—Scott Nicholson

Mr. Aickman’s Air Rifle—Peter Straub

Agatha’s Ghost—Ramsey Campbell

Blue Heeler—Weston Ochse

Sarah’s Visions—Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

More Than Words—David Niall Wilson

Chillers—Lisa Morton

Changed—Nancy Holder

Dead Air—Gary Kemble

Two Fish to Feed the Masses—Daniel G. Keohane

Fenstad’s End—Sarah Langan

Fair Extension—Stephen King

Rocky Wood, Skeleton Killer—Jeff Strand


You can pick up the print edition here (Amazon) and here (Barnes & Noble), the Kindle edition here, the Nook edition here, and the Smashwords edition here.


And to you, Rocky – you’re the best, my friend!

Bram Stoker Awards On the Web!

I just received the following press release from HWA president Rocky Wood. If you can’t make it to the 2012 World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City you can still catch the presentation ceremony for the Bram Stoker Awards on Saturday night. It’ll be like the Oscars, sort of, except, you know, without all the beautiful people.

For immediate release Contact Lisa Morton, HWA Stoker Event Organizer
March 22, 2012 vp@horror.org

Bram Stoker Awards™ to be webcast live on March 31, 2012

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) is proud to announce that it will again webcast the Bram Stoker Awards™ presentation live in 2012. The Banquet is being held in Salt Lake City and the event will begin live on the internet at 9 p.m. (Mountain Daylight Savings Time) on March 31. The ceremony will take about 1 ½ hours to complete.

The webcast will be presented at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bramstokerawards2012.

This year the Bram Stoker Awards celebrate 25 years as the leading writing Awards in the horror and dark fantasy genre: http://www.stokers2012.org/ . The Bram Stoker Awards Banquet is sponsored by Samhain Publishing.

Among the nominees are those for the Vampire Novel of the Century (a special Award to mark the centenary of the death of Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula) – they include Richard Matheson for I Am Legend, Stephen King for Salem’s Lot and Anne Rice for Interview with the Vampire. This Award is sponsored by Jeremy Wagner.

Lifetime Achievement Awards will also be conferred on iconic horror writers Joe R Lansdale and Rick Hautala, both of whom will be in attendance to accept the Award. And this year’s presenters include Robert McCammon (Swan Song), one of the HWA’s Special Guests.

Bram Stoker Awards for Poetry, Non-Fiction, Fiction Collection, Anthology, Screenplay, Short Fiction, Long Fiction, Young Adult Novel, Graphic Novel, First Novel and Novel will be presented. Among the nominees in these categories are Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Mike Mignola, Jonathan Maberry and Joe Hill. Episodes of The Walking Dead, American Horror Story and True Blood are nominated in the Screenplay category. A full list of the nominees appears at:

More information about the Bram Stoker Awards may be found here:http://www.horror.org/stokers.htm .

The HWA is the leading writer’s organization for horror and dark fantasy and has nearly 800 members worldwide. More information here: http://www.horror.org .
Media enquiries to Lisa Morton via vp@horror.org.

HWA Announces the 2011 Bram Stoker Award Nominees!

I just received the following press release from the Horror Writers Association.  I am absolutely over the moon to learn that my novel, Flesh Eaters, was nominated in the Best Novel category!  There are so many great writers and works on this year’s list that I’m a little overwhelmed with the company.  My heartfelt congratulations to all the nominees.

Now, to cross my fingers and wait for the announcement in Salt Lake City…

From the Horror Writers Association:

For immediate release

February 18, 2012

Contact Lisa Morton, HWA Bram Stoker Awards Event Organizer    lisa@lisamorton.com

Horror Writers Association announces 2011 Bram Stoker Award™ Nominees Each year, the Horror Writers Association presents the Bram Stoker Awards™ for Superior Achievement in the field of horror writing, named in honor of Bram Stoker, author of the seminal horror work Dracula. Since 1987, the approximately 700 members of the HWA have recommended, nominated and voted on the greatest works of horror and dark fantasy of the previous calendar year, making the Bram Stoker Awards the most prestigious award in the field of horror literature.

For the first time in 2011, half the nominees were chosen by juries. The awards are presented in eleven categories: Novel, First Novel, Young Adult Novel, Graphic Novel, Long Fiction, Short Fiction, Screenplay, Fiction Collection, Anthology, Non-fiction, and Poetry Collection. The organization’s Active and Lifetime members will select the winners from this list of nominees; and the Awards will be presented at a gala banquet on Saturday evening, March 31, at the World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah.

This year’s nominees in each category are:


A Matrix Of Angels by Christopher Conlon (Creative Guy Publishing)

Cosmic Forces by Greg Lamberson (Medallion Press)

Floating Staircase by Ronald Malfi (Medallion Press / Thunderstorm Books)

Flesh Eaters by Joe McKinney (Pinnacle Books)

Not Fade Away by Gene O’Neill (Bad Moon Books)

The German by Lee Thomas (Lethe Press)


Isis Unbound by Allyson Bird (Dark Regions Press)

Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs (Night Shade Books)

The Lamplighters by Frazer Lee (Samhain Horror)

The Panama Laugh by Thomas Roche (Night Shade Books)

That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley (JournalStone)


Ghosts of Coronado Bay, A Maya Blair Mystery by J. G. Faherty (JournalStone)

The Screaming Season by Nancy Holder (Razorbill)

Rotters by Daniel Kraus (Delacorte Books for Young Readers)

Dust and Decay by Jonathan Maberry (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Candlewick / Walker)

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel (Simon & Schuster / David Fickling Books)


Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol (First Second)

Locke & Key Volume 4 by Joe Hill (IDW Publishing)

Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen (Dark Horse)

Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine by Jonathan Maberry (Marvel)

Baltimore Volume I: The Plague Ships by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden (Dark Horse)

Neonomicon by Alan Moore (Avatar Press)


7 Brains by Michael Louis Calvillo (Burning Effigy Press)

“Roots and All” by Brian Hodge (A Book of Horrors)

“The Colliers’ Venus (1893)” by Caitlin R. Kiernan (Naked City: New Tales of Urban Fantasy)

Ursa Major by John R. Little (Bad Moon Books)

Rusting Chickens by Gene O’Neill (Dark Regions Press)

“The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” by Peter Straub (Conjunctions: 56)


“Her Husband’s Hands” by Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed Magazine, October 2011)

“Herman Wouk Is Still Alive” by Stephen King (The Atlantic Magazine, May 2011)

“Graffiti Sonata” by Gene O’Neill (Dark Discoveries #18)

“X is for Xyx” by John Palisano (M is for Monster)

“Home” by George Saunders (The New Yorker Magazine, June 13, 2011)

“All You Can Do Is Breathe” by Kaaron Warren (Blood and Other Cravings)


True Blood, episode #44: “Spellbound” by Alan Ball (HBO)

The Walking Dead, episode #13: “Pretty Much Dead Already” by Scott M. Gimple (AMC)

The Walking Dead, episode #9: “Save the Last One” by Scott M. Gimple (AMC)

Priest by Cory Goodman (Screen Gems)

The Adjustment Bureau by George Nolfi (Universal Pictures)

American Horror Story, episode #12: “Afterbirth” by Jessica Sharzer (20th Century Fox Television)


Voices: Tales of Horror by Lawrence C. Connolly (Fantasist Enterprises)

Red Gloves by Christopher Fowler (PS Publishing)

Two Worlds and In Between: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan (Volume One) by Caitlin R. Kiernan (Subterranean)

Monsters of L.A. by Lisa Morton (Bad Moon Books)

The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates (Mysterious Press)

Multiplex Fandango by Weston Ochse (Dark Regions Press)


NEHW Presents: Epitaphs edited by Tracy L. Carbone (NEHW)

Ghosts By Gaslight edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers (Harper Voyager)

Blood And Other Cravings edited by Ellen Datlow (Tor Books)

Supernatural Noir edited by Ellen Datlow (Dark Horse)

Tattered Souls 2 edited by Frank J. Hutton (Cutting Block Press)

Demons: Encounters with the Devil and his Minions, Fallen Angels and the Possessed edited by John Skipp (Black Dog and Leventhal)


Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne (Pelican Publishing)

Reflections in a Glass Darkly: Essays on J. Sheridan Le Fanu edited by Gary William Crawford, Jim Rockhill and Brian J. Showers (Hippocampus Press)

Starve Better by Nick Mamatas (Apex Publications)

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies by Matt Mogk (Gallery Books)

The Gothic Imagination by John C. Tibbetts (Palgrave Macmillan)

Stephen King: A Literary Companion by Rocky Wood (McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers)


How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison (Necon Ebooks)

At Louche Ends: Poetry for the Decadent, the Damned & the Absinthe-Minded by Maria Alexander (Burning Effigy Press)

Surrealities by Bruce Boston (Dark Regions Press)

Shroud of Night by G. O. Clark (Dark Regions Press)

The Mad Hattery by Marge Simon (Elektrik Milk Bath Press)

Unearthly Delights by Marge Simon (Sam’s Dot)


More information on the Horror Writers Association is at www.horror.org.

More information on the 25th Anniversary presentation of the Bram Stoker Awards is at http://www.stokers2012.org.

Publishing News: Dating in Dead World

I just got word from John Joseph Adams, editor of The Living Dead, Wastelands, Federations, and the new speculative fiction magazine Lightspeed, that his new zombie anthology, The Living Dead 2 will be landing in stores this September.

Here’s the table of contents:

Introduction — John Joseph Adams
Alone, Together — Robert Kirkman
Danger Word — Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due
Zombieville — Paula Stiles
The Anteroom — Adam-Troy Castro
When the Zombies Win — Karina Sumner-Smith
Mouja — Matt London
Category Five — Marc Paoletti
Living with the Dead — Molly Brown
Twenty-Three Snapshots of San Francisco — Seth Lindberg
The Mexican Bus — Walter Greatshell
The Other Side — Jamie Lackey
Where the Heart Was — David J. Schow
Good People — David Wellington
Lost Canyon of the Dead — Brian Keene
Pirates vs. Zombies — Amelia Beamer
The Crocodiles — Steven Popkes
The Skull-Faced City — David Barr Kirtley
Obedience — Brenna Yovanoff
Steve and Fred — Max Brooks
The Rapeworm — Charlie Finlay
Everglades — Mira Grant
We Now Pause For Station Identification — Gary Braunbeck
Reluctance — Cherie Priest
Arlene Schabowski Of The Undead — Mark McLaughlin & Kyra M. Schon
Zombie Gigolo — S. G. Browne
Rural Dead — Bret Hammond
The Summer Place — Bob Fingerman
The Wrong Grave — Kelly Link
The Human Race — Scott Edelman
Who We Used to Be — David Moody
Therapeutic Intervention — Rory Harper
He Said, Laughing — Simon R. Green
Last Stand — Kelley Armstrong
The Thought War — Paul McAuley
Dating in Dead World — Joe McKinney
Flotsam & Jetsam — Carrie Ryan
Thin Them Out — Kim Paffenroth, Julia Sevin & RJ Sevin
Zombie Season — Catherine MacLeod
Tameshigiri — Steven Gould
Zero Tolerance — Jonathan Maberry
And the Next, and the Next — Genevieve Valentine
The Price of a Slice — John Skipp & Cody Goodfellow
Are You Trying to Tell Me This is Heaven? — Sarah Langan

This promises to be a huge anthology, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. My story, “Dating in Dead World,” is a sequel to my Dead City series. The main character is Andrew Hudson, the baby Eddie Hudson spent a night of hell trying to rescue in Dead City.

It’s been almost twenty years since Hurricane Mardell swept through Houston, flooding the city and giving birth to a virus that turns the living into the walking dead. The world has been overrun by zombies and left in ruin. But there are still groups of people left alive, and they are carving out an existence in the wasteland.

Some of the survivors have moved into protective compounds, but Andrew Hudson wasn’t lucky enough to grow up in one of those. He was raised as a street urchin out in the ruins of San Antonio, where he makes a living as a special courier between the strongholds of the dead world’s warlords. During one of those runs he had the good fortune to meet the daughter of the area’s most powerful warlord, and he won her heart.

Now, they’re going on their first date. How hard could that be, right? Kids have been dating forever. Well, when taking your date out involves high speed pursuits through zombie-infested ruins and being used as pawns in an underhanded power grab scheme, nothing is as easy as it seems.

“Dating in Dead World” was written right about the same time that Kensington Publishing came asking me to do another zombie book. I had made a few readers mad with the ending to Dead City, and I wanted to address the criticism before I went on with the rest of the series.

The first person narrator of Dead City is a police officer named Eddie Hudson. The thing to remember about Eddie Hudson is that he is not a reliable reporter. Most people get that wrong about him. He’s deeply fractured by the events he recounts in the novel, and the optimism he expresses at the end of the story is…well, let’s just say he’s not telling you everything. He’s telling you about the world he wants to believe in, not the world as it really is. “Dating in the Dead World” came from that issue. And because “Dating in the Dead World” was written to refute Eddie Hudson’s optimism, the logical lead for the story was Eddie’s son, Andrew Hudson. So this story really becomes as much a conversation between father and son as it does a commentary on the Dead City series itself.

John Joseph Adams asked me where “Dating in Dead World” came from – not just the idea for the story, but the personal background of the story. I think the answer hinges on personal accountability. I don’t respect a person who can’t accept responsibility for his or her actions. That’s something I learned from my dad, and something I’ll always be thankful for.

He gave me some important advice on personal responsibility. Right before I left for my first date, he gave me the only bit of parental sex education I ever received. “Remember this,” he said. “You will be held personally accountable for everything that happens to that girl from the moment she leaves her front door to the moment she walks back in it. Conduct yourself accordingly.”

It wasn’t until after I’d written “Dating in the Dead World” that I realized I was channeling that advice. I guess it took.

This Year’s Bram Stoker Award Roll Call

The inimitable Lisa Morton, writer and HWA powerhouse, has put together a great webpage for this year’s Bram Stoker Award nominees, including a short biography for each. Check it out here.

And if you happen to be the only person on the planet who has yet to see the list of nominated works, check out the full list here.

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