A New Project Beckons

I’m back after an extended disappearance! I didn’t forget about you guys, but, no news is no news. Now, I have news, am making news and am ready to rock some socks.

Sanity Vacuum is done for the moment and awaiting edits, which leaves me with a void in my life. As we know, nature abhors a vacuum (haha) and thus, there is only one or two logical things to do, especially since day job style work is slow.

1. Fill it with zombies

Bedlam is getting moved off the back burner, and finding itself thrust back into the angry, violent recesses of my mind. The fourth part of the Zombie Bedtime Stories introduces new characters, new places, and new atrocities. There will be some familiar places, and names, because the whole series is interconnected and will lead up to the terrifying and ultimate series conclusion. I love the Zombie Bedtime Stories, and it will get its 12-15 story run.

2. Write a sequel

That’s right, I started the sequel to Sanity Vacuum today. The working title for the series is The ABACUS Protocol, and the title I’ve picked for the sequel is The Pandora Machine. There’s not a lot to tell here yet, but it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

Deadlocked (Zombie Bedtime Stories, #3) is now available! Sneak peek!

Now, an aside from blog hopping goodness–Deadlocked is here, and available on Smashwords and for the Kindle. Other platforms will be added, but that’s all in the hands of Smashwords.

As always, I’m posting a sample. Here is the prologue, and chapter 1!

 

Deadlocked

Deadlocked cover

Frank Leblanc watched in silence as his partner Haley walked to her house. He was a stone-faced man of about fifty years, slim and much taller than average. His light brown hair was flecked with grey, and deep frown lines ran through his face, while crow’s feet obscured his blue eyes. He seldom had reason to smile. The attack on Haley earlier that day had rattled him; the idea of being attacked by a friend in cold blood would disturb anyone; even on a good day. Since it was his birthday—his definition of a bad day—the assault had left him seething with anger. Haley was a good kid; she reminded him so much of his own daughter, Kelsey.

Kelsey. Several years had passed since she died, back in 2030. The doctors still didn’t know how to treat the rare genetic disease that had sent her down the path to a slow and painful death. He shook his head, forcing the memories from his mind. Kelsey was gone, and his wife had left him for another man: he was alone. Frank pulled away from the curb once he saw that Haley was safely inside. She was so like his Kelsey. They were both warmhearted and caring, empathetic to a fault. They were the polar opposite of him. He decided to deal with the problem the only way he knew how—work.

 

Chapter 1

 

Frank was pissed off. Some jerk had taken his assigned parking spot. He didn’t recognize the car, so he parked his beat up sedan—the pride of 2027—in the first available guest parking spot. He had contemplated trading it in for a fully-electric model, but he had reservations about being dependent on the strained local power grid. He’d enjoyed gloating when the early-adopters had become stranded during the nuclear crisis years ago. Even now, the memories of their sheepish smiles and sputtering disbelief made him chuckle. He slammed the car door shut, and hardened his face into its usual stony countenance. As he walked to the station, he noticed how full the parking lot was.

He strode in the front door, and allowed the door to slam shut. The station was deserted—reading tablets were scattered across tables and abandoned cups of coffee grew cold. He’d returned with the hope of finding an available person that he could partner with in order to get back to work and forget about the whole incident. Of course he’d have to deal with the annoyance of working with somebody he wasn’t used to, but it was better than no work at all.

“There you are, you old bastard.” Frank turned towards the voice, which was quiet and raspy. The man that stood there was his supervisor, and he delighted in antagonizing Frank. Gerald was a squat little man with greasy thinning blond hair and he was growing a terrible attempt at a goatee. They had been partners years ago, but their mutual disdain was all that remained of their formerly good working relationship.

“You were expecting the tooth fairy, maybe?” Frank said.

“You took long enough, Leblanc. I don’t remember you driving me home anytime I got hurt.” The bitterness seeped through Gerald’s voice. An on-the-job accident had relegated Gerald to clerical duties three years ago, and he remained resentful to this day.

“I didn’t want you in my car!” Frank spat out.

“Maybe if you bothered to get a girlfriend, you could have your own daughter to taxi around. Or, is there something else you want out of her?” Gerald said, smirking during the insinuation.

“Leave the kid out of this, Gerald. I assume you want to talk about work?” Frank said, hoping he wouldn’t need to work with the man ever again. He ignored the suggestive goading, but a part of him wanted to send Gerald thumping down a flight of stairs.

“Yeah. I need you to work the retirement homes. Everybody else needed to be sent out on emergency calls.”

“Do I get a partner?”

“Did you hear what I just said? We have nobody else; you’re on your own. I’ll send you the list, and we’re pulling out some old ambulances from storage. Take one when they arrive.” Gerald turned then and marched out of the room. Frank glared at the light reflecting off the shiny bald spot on the back of the man’s head as he left.

Frank sighed as he took a seat with a view of the glass doors, so he could see when his ambulance would arrive. He didn’t look forward to being relegated to ferrying old people to their tests and medical appointments. His anger at Gerald stewed inside him. What a presumptuous little pig! Frank thought. He had never told Gerald about Kelsey. He wouldn’t have understood, even when they had been partners. Frank knew it was best to suffer alone. Working with Haley was a painful mixture of therapeutic and depressing. In a way, it was like having his little girl back. Like Haley, Kelsey had also befriended the homeless and taken care of local children. Kelsey had always wanted to be a doctor, while Haley was saving to put herself through nursing school. He suspected they would have been great friends, if Kelsey hadn’t… it was always so hard to finish that thought. He remembered how pale Kelsey had become, skin translucent over a body that could barely move, before her hair fell out. Frank’s eyes were brimming with tears, so he stood up and paced around the room.

He hoped Haley would come back to work soon.

 

If you like it, here are the links:

Amazon

Smashwords

The grand prizes for both my Creepfest and Holiday Hop contests include a copy of Deadlocked, so get entering!

A New Bite-Sized Zombie Story, Zombie Pride, now free!

That’s right, I said free. My beloved cover artist came up with a suitably nice cover, and now, I’m showing it off to the world, for your reading pleasure.

My Bite-Sized Zombie Stories exist in the same universe as Zombie Bedtime Stories, but they do not follow the story chronology and do not carry on the plot. They’re essentially me killing nasty people with zombies for the amusement of all. The nasty people totally asked for it and deserved it, so no sympathetic characters were harmed in the making of these stories. However, sometimes, a sympathetic character will be mentioned. (Haley from Locked In was mentioned in The Zombie’s Bride, for instance. I wonder why she stopped answering her phone. Hmm.)

Check out the cover art:

Zombie Pride

Zombie Pride Cover

And now, for links:

Smashwords

Kindle Version (not free yet, that apparently takes a while. I won’t complain if anyone buys it, however.)

Of course, I plan on creating a YouTube video for Zombie Pride, which I will create when I’m over this stupid flu-type bug. I also plan on doing a reading of Locked Out chapter 1.

The next big thing – Zombie Bedtime Stories news

I’ve been thinking of my naming scheme. Back when the series was in its infancy the “Locked” theme made sense, but as I expanded the series and the ideas behind it, the limits to which I can effectively use the titles are strained. After Deadlocked, I have one more “Locked” title upcoming, but the rest are all changing. I think it gives me a bigger degree of freedom. The first three stories (The Locked Series) set the stage, and the rest of the stories build on them.

Want to know what the next three stories are?

#4: Bedlam (Formerly Lock and Load)

#5: Cabin Fever (formerly Locked Up)

#6: Inter Inferis (formerly Locked On)

Especially in the case of story #6, the Locked title wasn’t really appropriate to the story. Plus, the new ones sound way cooler.

In writing news: Deadlocked is coming along. I’m getting close to the end. For some reason, Locked Out practically wrote itself, and Deadlocked is much more challenging. I want it completed before NaNoWriMo starts, because I need to take that month off from ZBS, so I can work on something different.

Science fiction.

Sneak peek: Chapter one of Locked Out

Locked Out will be coming to an internet near you Monday. So, why not show off chapter one, just to whet the appetite a little.

And now, I give you chapter one of Zombie Bedtime Stories, part two. I recommend reading Locked In first, but there are no real spoilers and the stories are pretty much interchangeable as far as series chronology goes. You might even recognize some people.

Locked Out Cover

Zombie Bedtime Stories: Locked Out

Doctor Anna Lewis sighed. Her blond hair was bound in a too-tight bun that made her scalp ache, and freckles sparkled on her pale skin below her hazel eyes. She was closer to forty than she’d like to admit, but she maintained the boundless, youthful energy needed to do her job. She administrated a small, underfunded and understaffed infectious disease research center had been ordered to take on an important, top priority project. She waited in her small, utilitarian office for the courier who would bring the samples and briefing. The morning sun peeked through the window behind her, illuminating the room and the specs of dust floating in the air. Anna was annoyed at the request and the strain it would put on her staff. She wondered if they would have to work double shifts and overtime. Anna didn’t know why they couldn’t handle the problem at the much newer facility in the capital. She’d heard there was a riot there, but it was doubtful that a riot would affect the efficiency of a world-class laboratory.

She busied herself with endless paperwork, signing off on purchases, reviewing grant applications and various proposals concerned with expanding the facility. She had been in charge of the facility for just under a year. It had been a significant career advancement for Anna not only because it was a prestigious posting, but because Anna was early into her career as a researcher. She attributed most of her success to the brain drain—many capable scientists had already left the country for greener pastures and bigger research grants. Willful ignorance and resentment towards the scientific community didn’t do much to encourage the remaining scientists to stay. She was anxious to find out what this mysterious new project was, and if her labs were up to the challenge.

The sound of a phone cut through her concentration. It was the receptionist’s extension.

“Hello Lucy, are they here?”

“Yes, Dr. Lewis. They’re setting up in the conference room,” the girl answered with a hint of tension in her voice. The formal language she used was strange and uncomfortable.

“I’m on my way, thanks Lucy.” She got up from the simple wooden desk and locked her computer. A bookshelf dominated the other side of the room—a relic from the past. Anna filled her bookshelf with obsolete text books. She liked to imagine what the golden age of Western science was like, and having a bookshelf laden with reference books seemed like a quintessential part of capturing the experience. For actual reference she used a body heat powered reader that could fold into her pocket. Some paintings decorated the walls, and notes were stuck to every available surface close to her desk. She checked her hair on the way out, making sure her tight blonde bun hadn’t frayed and straightened her black framed glasses. She regretted her decision to forego wearing make-up. Freckles stood out along the bridge of her nose. She snatched her notepad and pen from the bookshelf and headed for the conference room. Unfamiliar voices trickled down the hallway, and she heard the buzz and whine of hand-held radios.

Turning the corner, she missed a step as she took in the group of uniformed men. She recognized their green army uniforms, and was taken aback by the crates of equipment, sealed samples and the glare of sunlight that shone through the usually sealed outer doors. Lucy was overwhelmed by the volume of equipment and personnel coming in. Her attempts to keep up with the requisitions and signing off on new equipment were frantic and rushed. A few researchers had ventured out of their offices and simply watched the spectacle, mouths agape. A tall, solidly built man with a powerful jawline and a graying crew cut approached her and extended a hand. Deep lines ran down his face and crow’s feet framed his deep blue eyes.

“Doctor Lewis? I’m Major Cartwright. I apologize for commandeering your facility, but time is of the essence and I think you’ll agree about the urgency after I brief you.” The words were spoken with a trained confidence, but his rapid presentation belied his anxiety.

“You’re turning my facility upside-down, I hope it’s for a good cause,” she said, to keep the interaction cordial and maintain control over the situation. He motioned her into the conference room.

She sank into a high-backed chair while the major fiddled with his laptop, connecting it to their often-difficult projector. There was a pile of adapters next to him. That projector was almost 20 years old, but she hadn’t been able to acquire the funding to replace it, or the rest of their decaying computer equipment. Her lead researchers, balding and white-haired Dr. Grant and the spindly Dr. Evans filed into the room, taking seats on the opposite side of the oval table. The old projector finally flickered on, revealing a paused slideshow.

“I imagine you’re wondering why we’ve taken over your labs. Well, we have a situation on our hands. If you’ve been listening to the news, no doubt you’ve heard about the riots in the capital.” He straightened, pressing a key on the keyboard. A grisly scene played on the screen. Hordes of bloody, battered forms fought with police and soldiers, shaking off any blows and injuries while continuing to advance. “Truth is, this is no political rally. These people are out of control, and we need to determine the cause. The capital has been shut down and is being evacuated, but the surrounding cities are beginning to report incidents of random, yet intense violence.” Major Cartwright stood silent as the disturbing scene looped endlessly on the wall. Anna stared and struggled to process the gruesome, visceral visuals.

“So why us? Where do we come into this?” Anna felt obligated to speak. She needed answers, to glean sense from that scene cut straight from a horror movie. “You have negotiators, police and guns. We research diseases and catalog new microbes.”

“Good question. The answer is, we can’t negotiate. Every single person we’ve managed to capture has been violent and completely uncommunicative.” The major’s brow furrowed as he drew in a deep breath. Dr. Grant fidgeted in his high-backed chair; audible squeaks broke the long pause. “What’s more, is that every time we’ve taken somebody into custody, we’ve lost control of the facility within twenty-four hours. This suggests to my superiors that this is more than a sudden wave of intense political indoctrination.”

Anna stood up and glared at the man. “So you’re saying we’re looking for an evil bug that makes people go crazy?” The idea was absurd. Anna knew there had to be some kind of logical explanation.

Major Cartwright pushed a button on his remote, and the video loop transitioned into a grotesque photograph. Limbs were strewn across the ground, flesh flayed from the bones. A torso contained by a green fully-intact Kevlar vest lay nearby, head still connected. The right side of the man’s throat was torn open, strips of skin pulled from his face, giving the appearance of a grotesque mask. Burned bodies littered the background.  Anna sank into her chair, and fought down the bile in her throat. Dr. Evans spun her chair to the garbage, and threw up. Dr. Grant sat, mute and transfixed. “What happened there?” the old man asked.

“This was the capital late yesterday afternoon, taken from an evacuation point at an elementary school. This man’s injuries were caused by unarmed civilians; some of them children,” he paused. “I will remind you that tearing off limbs is a feat of strength beyond the abilities of most people.”

“Why do the news reports say that there are riots going on, if this is the reality of the situation?” Something didn’t add up, and she wanted to know why.

“To prevent panic, we’ve limited information about the situation. We don’t have all the facts. We needed to clear out the downtown core in a hurry, but everyone in the suburbs are being asked to stay indoors. The phone lines are down and fires are breaking out. We don’t know what we’re up against.”

“Something doesn’t seem right about all of this. When did it start? Where’s the first case?”

“The first reported cases were two days ago. They were isolated incidents, random violent attacks. The subjects were very difficult to apprehended and control. From the few first responders we were able to interview, we learned the subjects were completely irrational and even attacked those close to them. They also appeared to be immune to non-lethal defense methods. One man claimed that he saw one of them get hit by a Taser with no reaction at all.” Major Grant flipped off the projector. Anna could still see the grisly image in the back of her mind. She realized that if it was biological, it would make her career. If it wasn’t, this would all be for nothing.

“We’ll go with that. So, what goodies did you bring for us?” Anna asked with an irreverent smile. Prim Dr. Evans shook her head in disapproval.

The major smiled for the first time, revealing straight, white teeth. His sharp blue eyes locked with hers. “Right to the fun stuff? I can deal with that. We’ve brought samples straight from the front lines, and some refrigeration units for said samples. I hope you weren’t attached to your cafeteria, my technicians are overhauling it as we speak.”

“My lunch was in there. What kind of samples are we talking about?” she suspected she knew the answer, but wanted to be sure.

The smile melted from Major Cartwright’s face, his jaw settled into a practiced hardness. “Bodies.”

 

You’ll get the rest on September 5, 2011.

The Zombie’s Bride – Now on Smashwords!

I got around to cleaning up The Zombie’s Bride, and uploaded it to Smashwords. I’m very fortunate to have a creative and dedicated cover artist. Like my covers? He’s willing to take on work.

Let’s have a look at the picture, both because I really like it, and I want a picture in here.

The Zombie's Bride cover

Isn’t it great?

So, I know you want to read it, you know you want to read it. So read it. It’s free!

I have a few more of these cooking, all featuring protagonists who deserve a zombie apocalypse on their doorstep.

The Zombie’s Bride – Comedic Zombie Flash Fiction

Today I decided to hammer out that flash fiction I’ve been dreaming of. I’m into the idea of having unlikable people getting eaten by zombies because of their own faults. This flash story exists in the same universe as Zombie Bedtime Stories (a very familiar character from Locked In is mentioned!), but are self-contained and no foreknowledge of the series is needed to enjoy them.

In other news, Locked Out (ZBS2) has been sent off for editing at my super secret editing factory (thanks Mom), and Deadlocked (ZBS3) has been outlined and writing will commence shortly.

And now, for my first installment of Bite Sized Zombies: The Zombie’s Bride:

Content warning: Foul language and gore.

Edit 08/19/2011: I have a version free on Smashwords and Kindle (this one isn’t free, it will be once they auto-price match to Smashwords. I can’t set it to be free directly or I would have!). It is much cleaner than the below version (I cleaned up a lot of the typos and goofs). Check it out if it’s easier for you.

Julia pursed her lips as she stared into the mirror. She couldn’t get her earrings to hang right. She couldn’t believe after how much she’d spent on them that they couldn’t even point down properly. She pouted and turned to her maid of honor, Sarah “Oh my God these earrings are going to ruin my whole wedding!” she said. Julia had spent weeks and more money than her credit cards would allow on this, and it had to be perfect! She had even joined a gym and worked hard so she could squeeze into the largest size her dream wedding gown would come in.

Sarah rolled her eyes. “Everything is going to ruin your wedding. First the cake, then you needed to lose fifty pounds, then the bridesmaids not wanting to wear those hideous blue and turquoise horizontal striped dresses. Get over it already! Ugh.” Sarah was awkward – tall and skinny.

“I want to be the most beautiful girl at my own wedding, is that so much to fucking ask?” Julia snorted, her wide, flat nose flared.

“I want to be able to show people those pictures!”

“Then find a man who will spend more than one night with you and get married you dumb slut.” Julia looked forward to not having to spend as much time with Sarah. She only put up with her because she made her look graceful, and because her first choice had vanished from the face of the Earth.

“You are such a fat cow. I bet he cheats on you within a year.” Sarah stuck out her tongue. Julia lamented having to replace Haley as her maid of honor, but she stopped answering her phone at the last minute. At least her dress fit Sarah. While she hated Haley for being a too-good perfect girl who had the audacity to be good looking and have a handsome boyfriend, at least Haley never called her fat.

“God you are such a bitch, I think -” she began, cut off by her ringing phone. She answered it while Sarah rolled her eyes like a petulance child. “What?” It was her fiancé. He told her there had been a fight at his bachelor party, and he and his friends had been attacked by a crazed person on the street.

“What the fuck is wrong with you! You know it’s bad luck for us to be together or even talk before the wedding! You’re ruining this for me! You’re ruining our marriage and our relationship and how could you be so fucking stupid?” Julia screamed into the phone. She watched as Sarah giggled. Of course she wouldn’t understand real love.

“Well, I thought you might want to know. We need to go to the hospital and -” He said as  he stammered into the phone.

“You are not postponing our wedding after I have worked this hard! You’re not going to ruin this again, I don’t care, you will be there or I will never forgive you!” Julia slammed down the phone. “Can you believe that dick? He wanted to postpone the ceremony because his friend got bitten by a crazy woman.”

Sarah only laughed.

~

The next morning she woke up feeling bloated from all the chocolate she’d eaten to comfort herself. Wedging herself into her dress was an insurmountable challenge. Eventually, she crammed herself into the tight gown and waited while her hair, makeup and other grooming was done to perfection. Even her earrings hung right. She waited for her father to arrive with his Cadillac to take them to the scenic lake they’d reserved for the ceremony. She waited. He arrived on time.

“How could you not be early, Dad? You’re going to ruin it all!” she said, annoyed at how inconsiderate he was.

“Sorry, darling. I know it’s your special day” He said, his voice quiet and thoughtful. He checked the time, and she realized his timing was perfect.

“Oh I’m sorry, Daddy. You know how much I love you, right?”

“Of course I do sweetie.” He returned to driving, and watched the road in silence.

They came up to the lakeside resort. Balloons floated from the fence posts along the way. Julia wasn’t impressed. She remembered asking for foil balloons, not little kid birthday balloons! They turned the corner, and she screamed. “This place is a mess! It’s all ruined!” The decorations had been ripped down, picnic tables and chairs were overturned and the windows of the lodge were broken. “Oh my God Daddy, what happened?”

“I don’t know sweetie. Stay in the car, I’m going to make some calls.” He brought the car to idle by the road and took out his phone. Julia sat and stared out the window. A figure moved, and caught her eye. It was John, her fiancé. He was wearing a white tuxedo, and faced the water. Enraged, she unlocked the door and stepped outside. “Darling, no!” her father said.

“It’s okay Daddy, I see John and I am going to get an explanation for this right now!” She hurried out the door and slammed it shut, jamming her long white dress in the door. “Oh fuck not my dress!” Julia cried as she opened the door and pulled the dress out. A long black grease stain marred the dress’ white silk. She marched towards the lake. Rage emanated from her pores. This was all John’s fault! “John you dumb fucker! You ruined my special day! How could you let it get like this!”

John turned to face her. His face was pale, and blood was smeared all over his face. His beautiful white tuxedo was coated in drying blood, already turning brown. “Oh my God, I told you we are not having a stupid theme wedding. And we have to return that tux! What were you thinking?”

There was no reply, only a loud, inhuman scream. He ran towards her, mouth agape. She took a step back and fell prone onto her back. She rolled from side to side, trying to get traction to right herself. Her dress tore. “You bastard you made me ruin my dress!” Julia screamed as she threw her hands in front of her face.

He crashed into her, mouth wide and teeth bared. He smelled of blood. Chunks of meat were stuck between his teeth. “Daddy help me!” she yelled. Pain overwhelmed her and John tore into her chest just below her collarbone. She tried to push his head away, but her efforts proved futile. He was too strong. She could see the best man running towards them along the beach, like a knight ready to save her. “Help me Sean!”

Sean looked at her and screamed as John ripped another chunk of flesh from her chest. Sean didn’t stop; he pounced on her like an animal. “No! Stop!” she said as she wheezed another breath. The corset wasn’t letting her breathe! She heard her father calling to her in the distance. Sean tore a chunk of flesh from her throat. A spray of blood soaked the sand and her white dress. Her arms went weak.

John leaned in and tore the flesh from her round cheeks. Tears streamed down her face and mixed with the flows of blood from her wounds. She was so dizzy and tired. The mouthfuls of flesh they hewed from her didn’t hurt anymore. The betrayal did.

Before everything went black, her last thoughts were about how John ruined her special day.