Jack’s Apocalypse

“Say something, blast you!” Jack yelled at the mannequin. He knew he was losing it, but why should he always be the one to carry the conversation? “You cheap bit of plastic. We’re through.” He pushed her over onto the pile of clothes and walked away.

It hadn’t taken long after the apocalypse had been inconsiderate enough to leave him behind for him to start losing what used to be referred to as sanity. Now that he was the only one left the whole question of what was and wasn’t sane was up for grabs. Jack peeked back at the mannequin but she had her hand up in what clearly meant to be a rude gesture. Let her stew for a while.

Yap trotted after him growling at his ankles. In all the movies he’d watched the lone survivors were accompanied by loyal and intelligent dogs, big ones. Yap was an irascible little mutt who would have a hard time protecting him from a squirrel. The dog stopped and lifted his leg.

“Yap,” Jack said, “how many times have I told you. Don’t pee on the canned goods?” He walked over to the telephone. “Clean up on aisle four. Clean up on aisle four.” He waited but nobody came, so he went to the back of the store for the mop and bucket. He put on the blue vest and mopped up the puddle. Then he carefully hung up the vest and went back to his shopping.

“We don’t have much of a choice today, boy.” Jack pulled his can opener from its leash and opened a couple of tins. He put one on the floor for the dog and spooned the cold beans into his mouth. He hated beans, especially cold, but he hated moving even more. But the shelves were dangerously empty.

“Well, Yap,” he said, “It’s time we found another place to hang out.” The dog barked then trotted over to a shelf and lifted his leg. “OK, OK, I’ll pack the cart.”

Jack put the last of the tins of food in the shopping cart along with a tent and sleeping bag from camping supplies. The final item was the shotgun and box of shells. There were predators out there. This was going to be a big move. He’d cleaned out all the stores in this town. The next town was at least a week’s walk to the south. There would be stores there with shelves full of food. His mouth watered at the thought of eating something other than beans.

They started out in the early morning. Yap trotting along attached to a leash tied to the cart. The dog hated the leash, but it was safer to keep him close. Jack pushed the cart along the road and basked in the warmth of the sun. He let Yap ride in the cart when he got tired.

“Leave the leash alone,” Jack said tapping the dog on the nose. “I don’t want you chewing at it.”

They made good time and he found himself enjoying the walk. Other than the faint squeak of the wheels the only sounds he could hear were the birds and the squirrels.

Then Yap took off after a squirrel that crossed right in front of him and the leash broke.

“Come here you stupid dog! That squirrel will eat you alive.” The dog ignored him and ran around the base of the tree barking. Jack didn’t see the eagle until it swooped down and snatched Yap from the ground. Picking up the shotgun he shot at the eagle but it was long gone.

Jack wiped at the tears that poured down his face. Here he was Jack, Survivor of the Apocalypse, crying over a stupid little dog. He looked at the shotgun in his hand. Maybe it was time to just end it. He was no heroic survivor; he was just a freak. There was no reason he could think of why he was left behind.

He put the gun back in the cart.

“Sorry, Yap, but I’m just not ready to let go.” He untied the end of the leash from the cart; dropped it to the asphalt then started pushing the cart down the road.

The Drive Past Devil’s Butte

Little Joe squinted against the dust laden wind and counted cows, again. Dang, he hated counting past twenty. He could never keep track of whether it was the first or second time he was working through his fingers and toes.

“C’mon, get y’er butt in gear,” Hank yelled and galloped off on his horse; raising a new cloud of dust and making Little Joe lose count, again. He gave up and kicked his horse into a rough gallop. It felt like three legs were galloping and one was trotting. He clenched his teeth and held on. He could only imagine the reaction of the others if he fell off his horse.

Hank pulled up by a big man on a big horse – the Boss. Mex and Hezekiah were already there with their bandanas pulled up over their faces. Little Joe yanked his horse to a stop and tried to fix the rag that was supposed to keep the dust out of his lungs. He coughed and spat before he recalled that his bandana was over his mouth. Hank rolled his eyes.

“You must treat your horse better,” the Boss said. He frowned at Little Joe. “That horse may save your life someday, but only if it likes you.”

“Yes’r” Little Joe said. He figured if it came to him or the horse, the horse would let him die in an instant. He didn’t say anything. Hank said the Boss didn’t like back-chat and this was Little Joe’s first cattle drive.

“We’re late starting this year,” the Boss said, “So you’ll be taking the herd through the Gulch by Devil’s Butte. That will cut at least two days off the drive. With this drought, there isn’t much water for the herd in any case. Make sure you let them drink at any chance you get.”

“Devil’s Butte?” Mex said, “but what about…”

“I don’t want to hear any superstitious talk,” the Boss said, “I’m paying your wages and you’ll go where I tell you to go.”

Hank didn’t look happy, but then Little Joe couldn’t remember Hank ever looking happy, ‘cept maybe that one time after he come out of that cat house, though Little Joe didn’t recall seeing any cats.

The Boss rode away and Hank glared at Little Joe.

“Let’s get this drive goin’,” Hank said, “Mex, you’re on lead. Hez, you take the right, I’ll take left and Little Joe will chase stragglers. Make sure your guns are loaded and stay sharp. I heard there’s rustlers about.”

“Hank, you didn’t give me no bullets,” Little Joe said.

“I don’t want you shooting me in the foot agin,” Hank said, “or worse shooting one of the cows. Just wave your gun around and try not to fall off your horse.”

“I don’t like going through the Gulch,” Mex said and crossed himself, “Why can’t we just take our usual route by the Cottonwood?”

“Two reasons,” Hank said, “because the Boss said so, and because I said so.”

“But the Devil…”

“Shut it, Mex,” Hank said, “I don’t want you scaring the kid.”

Mex looked like he was going to argue some more, but he just spat and rode off yelling at the cows. He remembered to pull his bandana down before spitting too.

Hez rode away to go round the herd.

“Where did you get that bandana?” Hank said to Little Joe, “It looks like it come off your sister’s dress.”

“Well, she said she didn’t need it no more,” Little Joe said. Hank looked like he wanted to hit him, so Little Joe turned his horse and headed to the back of the herd. He tried spitting like Mex, but still couldn’t get it right.

They pushed the herd out of the corral and up the hill toward the Gulch. Little Joe didn’t much like the sound of Devil’s Butte, but nobody asked him. The cows stayed pretty close to the herd so the only thing that Little Joe really had to deal with was the dust and the smell.

They stopped the night and blocked the herd into a small canyon beside Devil’s Butte. The setting sun made the shadows sharp and threatening. The path up to the Gulch looked even worse than the one they had just ridden. Little Joe walked around the campfire trying to work the cramps out of his butt.

“Don’t worry,” Mex said, “the beans’ll work that out for you.”

“Jus’ don’ sit upwind of da fire,” Hez said.

“Or downwind of Hez,” Mex said and threw a clump of clay at Hez. The clump disintegrated and at least half went into the beans. Neither of the others noticed. All Little Joe could see was their eyes and teeth. The trail dust made all of them the same almost black colour.

“Sit down and rest,” Hank said as he rode up. “You’ll be taking the first watch tonight.” He spat expertly into the fire.

The beans tasted like clay, but at least they filled his belly. It was full on night and the moon made shadows that were even more threatening than the setting sun. Little Joe sat on his horse and stared at the herd. He tried counting them again, but he kept coming up with different numbers. He was surrounded by the soft breath of sleeping cattle and the loud snores of the three men behind him.

Hank had begrudgingly given him one bullet.

“Don’t be shootin’ any cows,” he said, “You put a bullet in one of the Boss’s cows he’ll string you up as quick as any rustler.”

It watched from the middle of the herd. None of the beasts touched him, but neither did they shy away. It was one of them. They ate grass, but its appetite was different. The men joked and farted until one by one they fell asleep. All but the one on horseback. That one sat playing with his gun and looking back at the fire. It began to move through the herd toward its prey.

Little Joe tried to blink away the spots in his eyes. He counted the cows again. Then he saw the one with the horns. It had a kind of negative glow to it, like a candle that sucked in light instead of spreading it. It had a funny smell too, like the calf they’d found in the spring that was mostly eaten by the vultures.

The horse under him shifted nervously, then shied. Little Joe fell to the ground and his gun went off. The bullet blew through his horse’s head and the animal fell dead on top of him. Hank was going to kill him for sure. Little Joe tried to squirm out from under the dead horse, but he was trapped. He thought maybe his leg was busted. Then he stopped worrying about his leg. That strange cow was standing over him, it leaned its head down and breathed on Little Joe. Instead of the grassy smell of most cows, this one reeked of dead flesh. It opened its mouth and Little Joe saw that it had fangs. He only had time for one last thought before it crushed his skull and sucked his brains out.

He chose to regret that he’d never learn to spit.

The shot woke Hank and he jumped to straight to his feet. Then he had to bend down to pick up his gun that was under the saddle he used as a pillow. So Hank didn’t actually see the Devil Cow eat his cousin’s brain. What he saw was the biggest, nastiest looking cow he ever laid eyes on staring at him over the body of a horse with black liquid drooling from its mouth.

Mex and Hez must have woke as quick as he did because he heard Mex swearing in Mexican and English with some Latin prayers tossed in as garnish. Hank looked over to see Mex trying to load his gun with shaking hands. Hez wasn’t shaking. He pointed his gun at the cow and emptied all six shots into the beast. The cow didn’t bawl in pain though. It roared and bounded away up the rocks to the far end of the canyon.

“That’s the Devil Cow,” Mex said when he stopped swearing. “It’s the Devil’s own beast and it eats the brains of its victims before dragging their souls down to Hell.”

“Why it wan’ to go eatin’ Little Joe’s brains?” Hez said, “It ain’t like there was much there. The beast’ll be starvin’.”

Hank wanted to smack the man for speaking against his dead cousin, but he couldn’t get his hand to put his gun back in his holster, ‘sides he’d been thinking pretty much the same thing. Dang, he was going to have to wear a suit to the kid’s funeral. If the kid wasn’t already dead, Hank would’ve killed him himself.

“If the critter eats,” Hank said, “It can die. Load up your guns and we’ll stand watch. I’ll watch the cattle. Mex you and Hez watch behind us. Keep yer back to the fire so you can see proper.

They loaded up their rifles and filled their pockets with extra bullets. Now that he held a rifle, Hank was able to put his gun in the holster. He pulled the kid’s gun belt off him and put it on too. He felt better with two loaded guns and a loaded rifle. No Devil Cow was going to get the best of him.

The smell was the first thing he noticed. It was as if the kid were already rotting. Hank stole a glance to check on the kid and swore when he noticed the kid was gone. He turned right around to try to see him. The Devil Cow came out of the herd just as Hank spotted his cousin sitting on a rock. The kid looked pretty good for someone missing half his head. Hank heard something and spun in time to shoot the Devil Cow with his rifle. The bullet knocked a fair sized steak off the beast, but it didn’t seem to notice. Hank was about halfway through emptying his revolvers into the Devil Cow when he felt the bullet burn through his back, his heart and out his chest.

He didn’t have any time for final thoughts before the Cow ate his brain.

It revelled in the fear of its prey. The bullets were a minor annoyance. Its flesh was only something it put on to feed.

Mex didn’t know if he filled his pants before or after he shot Hank in the back. The odour floated up from his soggy drawers as he emptied his gun into the Devil Cow. He tried to pray to Mary the Mother of God for help as he fumbled his bullets into his gun, but he couldn’t remember the words. The Ave Maria came out half prayer, half curse. He shouted both at the Devil Cow as it walked through the campfire to bare its fangs and eat his soul.

The last one was gone. The Devil cow didn’t care. Contained in the mind of one of its victims was the vision of a town waiting the arrival of the herd. The mind remembered the smell of the slaughter house and the rumbling fear of the cattle. It sounded like a wonderful place.

The Boss looked at the still twitching body of Hezekiah on the scaffold. He didn’t believe a word of the man’s ravings about Devil Cows and the walking dead. It was obvious he was in league with rustlers and everyone knew the penalty for rustling. As he turned to go talk to the bank about the small matter of the money he owed on his missing cattle he saw Hank, Mex and Little Joe riding in. They looked terrible, but they were pushing his cattle ahead of them. He wouldn’t need to beg at the bank after all.

“You’re late,” he said to his cowboys when they pulled up. “The slaughter is just about finished.”

“No,” Little Joe said, “It’s just beginning.” He leaned over and broke open the Boss’s head with his gun and scooped out the brains. His horse trampled the corpse into the dust as it bared its fangs and trotted eagerly into town.

It led its herd to the slaughter and it was glorious. Such fear, such pain! The Devil Cow drank it all in, but it was all too short. The last human fell beneath the hooves of the cattle. The Devil Cow pulled away from its minions and left them rotting along with its prey.

Clouds covered the sun and rain began to splatter onto red mud as one sleek cow meandered up into the hills. It seemed to absorb what little light there was until it faded and blended with the night.

A Cure for Writer’s Block

This is a story I wrote some time back in response to a challenge about – you guessed it – writer’s block. It did middling well, but I like the idea behind it.

A Cure for Writer’s Block:

A sure fire method for getting past writer's block. If it doesn't drive you insane.

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Of course, being a lazy dog, it lay there and ignored the whole undignified scenario. The brown fox, really more of a reddish colour, rolled her eyes…

“What a complete waste of time,” Matthew Q. Stanhaus said. (The Q. didn’t stand for anything, but his agent had told Matt that he should have an initial. It added class. What it didn’t add was the ability to come up with a second story to match the first surprise runaway bestseller.)

“This isn’t going to work”

“Sure it will,” Bill said. “Free form writing always gets the juices flowing. All my authors get stuck, and this is how I get them going again. Give it time.”

“I haven’t got time,” Matt rubbed his eyes. “I need to have this first draft in to my editor tomorrow. “

“Then you had better get started.” Bill showed no mercy. He sat back with his coffee and waved at the keyboard. Matt grunted and started banging on the keys again.

“I am the quickest, baddest brown fox ever to run circles around any dog, lazy or no. In my corner of the jungle no one lays a hand on me. I don’t care if you are Cujo or a taco dog; you ain’t comin’ close to this fox….”

“That’s even lamer than the first one. All we need is someone singing about bluebirds to make it complete.” Bill didn’t respond other than by wiggling his fingers in typing motions. Matt howled in frustration and turned back to the keyboard.

These hounds weren’t lazy. They were all bark and growl and teeth. They had my scent and were in full cry. I needed to be better than quick if I wasn’t going to end up as their sacrificial fox. I ran and dodged through the concrete and steel that made up my jungle. I could hear them on my trail. Tires squealed and men shouted at each other. An occasional silenced shot buzzed past my ear. I was getting tired, and these dogs weren’t going to give up. They were getting paid to bring me down, and the people paying them didn’t care whether it was alive or dead….

Matt leaned back and groaned as his vertebrae crackled and popped.

“It’s trite.” He said. “The editor will probably laugh and throw it away.”

“Let me worry about the editor.” Bill made more finger wiggling motions.

Matt muttered an obscenity, not quite under his breath, and returned to the computer.

Renard Brown staggered through the bayou. He could hear the hounds baying in the distance. A helicopter pounded almost overhead. He had no idea why he was here. One minute he was resting in his cell, the next guards were hustling him into a chopper.

“Shot while trying to escape.” The guard they called the Bear had grinned evilly at him.

“I’m not trying to escape,” Renard said, struggling against the guards holding his arms.

“You will.” The Bear laughed as he pushed Renard out of the chopper….”

Matt sat back and stared at the screen.

“That doesn’t make any sense. Why go through all the fuss of the chopper and dogs if they were going to kill him anyway?”

“I don’t know.” Said Bill. “You’re the writer. So write.”

Renard Brown was quick, but he was also smart. Even the fastest fox needed to go to ground once in a while. He needed to wait for that dog to get lazy again. He sat in his prison cell, pretending to read, while the guards walked by looking for some excuse to enforce the rules. There were a lot of rules…

“No, no, no.” Moaned the author. “That won’t work.” He cracked his back again, and looked at his agent. Bill was carefully not looking up.

#@$#@((*%(*@#$ Thought Fox Brown as he looked over his shoulder again. He had worked very hard to get arrested. Right now jail was the safest place for him. It wasn’t that Lupe didn’t have people on the inside, but they were lazy. They were up to a shiv in the lunchroom, or a bit of violence in the showers, but Lupe intended to keep him alive until he led her to what she wanted. So she had her pet D.A. cut him loose. If it was just money, Fox would have given it up a long time ago. He swore again as he spotted a couple of her hounds on his tail. It was time to get the jump on these dogs…

Smiling, Bill fell asleep to the music of rattling keys and the sotto voce muttering of Matthew Q. Stanhaus.

 

Coming up in 2017 and a Christmas story.

I have lots of things planned for 2017. A young adult dystopian novel coming out late winter, a fantasy novel to be released late spring and a thriller set in the northern winter, ironically being released during the summer. Somewhere in there I’m releasing a small book of poems and mushroom pictures.

While you wait for all these goodies, here’s a Christmas story for you:

Unbelief

The carollers were off key again. Hank took a swig from the bottle in an effort to drown the exuberant caterwauling coming from next door. He glanced at the label Laphroig it said, twelve years aged in oak casks. It didn’t matter Hank had stopped tasting anything after the first bottle. It was his father’s booze anyway, or at least it had been before tonight. Now it was Hank’s.

Marge would be furious. She would say that he should have kept his father’s scotch collection as a souvenir and sipped careful drams on special occasions. Marge wasn’t here either. The love that had burned so hot twenty years ago had slowly dissipated until all that was left was a cool regard and a reluctance to spend money on divorce lawyers. Marge had gone to her sister’s right after the funeral. Candace did have cancer. She needed her older sister’s help to manage her house and four kids. Candace’s husband had no qualms about paying divorce lawyers.

Hank could hear the carollers laughing and talking as they walked past the front door. They wouldn’t stop at this door. Hank’s father hadn’t believed in Christmas. To be truthful, Hank’s father hadn’t believed in much of anything except his own correctness. That he was right in every argument was as much an article of faith with him as transubstantiation was for the Pope. Hank swallowed the last of the Laphroig and carefully dropped the bottle in the blue recycling bin. Hank had brought it from home. His father didn’t believe in recycling either.

Hank staggered out of the kitchen and just managed to catch himself on the doorjamb. He was drunk. Hank hadn’t been drunk since…. well he couldn’t actually remember the last time he got drunk. Seeing all those bottles of scotch, it seemed a reasonable response to the old fart’s death. He manoeuvred himself over to the couch and half sat, half fell onto it.

His father wouldn’t have got drunk on scotch. He was too full of life to waste it getting drunk. He would have walked ramrod straight out to the top of the line Mercedes Benz he drove and started it up. He would have revved the big eight cylinder engine to hear the roar and feel the power in the steering wheel. Then he would have driven away at speeds that made lesser men pale. (He didn’t believe in speed limits.) He would have raced in and out of traffic keeping up a running commentary on the shortcomings of the other drivers, until he hit that tiny patch of black ice. The law of physics didn’t care whether Hank’s father believed in them or not. The bridge abutment cut the car in half. It pretty much cut his father in half too.

Hank lay on the couch and felt tears leaking from his eyes. For all the old man’s faults, Hank would miss him. They had never celebrated Christmas, not all of his wife and family’s pleadings would change his mind, but he wasn’t a miser. At each graduation of Hank’s children the old man had quietly handed his grandchildren a check that would pay their tuition for university. When Hank’s youngest had spent it on carpenter’s tools instead, Hank had expected an explosion. Instead the old man hired his granddaughter to work on the house.

Hank’s tears flowed harder and sobs wracked his body. He was alone in the world. Marge had her life taking care of the kids and her large family. The kids were all independent. They tolerated their mother’s meddling, but Hank didn’t know how to talk to them any more. His father was the last person Hank could pretend needed him. The alcohol that brought out his tears carried him into a merciful sleep.

Hank woke to the sound of singing at the door. He pushed himself to his feet and listened. This wasn’t the raucous carolling from earlier. It was a single, pure voice. Hank could hear each word clearly, but understood none of them. Maybe it was Latin. He looked at the clock on the mantle. Two o’clock in the morning. Who sings Latin at two in the morning? Who sings Latin at all?

Hank through the door open and looked in astonishment at a young child who stood singing with his eyes closed. Hank half expected an angel chorus to leap out, or maybe a camera man. He recognized the tune of one the Christmas carols they sang at Marge’s church. The boy finished the tune and smiled at Hank.

“Merry Christmas,” he said.

“Merry Christmas,” Hank said, “What are you doing here?”

“Singing.”

“It’s two in the morning. Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

“Yup,” the boy said, “but I felt like singing. Mom said this was a sad house. I thought I could cheer it up.”

“Sad,” Hank said, “Yes, it is sad.”

“Why?”

“My father was buried yesterday,” Hank said, “He didn’t believe in Christmas.”

“That is sad,” the boy agreed, though Hank wasn’t sure whether he meant the death or the lack of Christmas. The boy started another song and Hank stood listening as it washed anger he didn’t even know he felt away. The tears started again, but Hank didn’t care. He remembered how his father came to all his school concerts and games. He remembered the great booming laugh. The unbelief only became hard and uncomfortable when Hank’s mother died. She had believed in a great many things, but mostly in her husband. Without her love, his father had become uncompromising. Hank realized his tears were as much for his father’s pain as his own. He thought of his father at the grave side saying ‘Well that’s it then,’ and just walking away.

The boy’s song finished and he beamed at Hank again.

“Thank you,” Hank said.

“Merry Christmas!” the boy shouted than ran away through the snow. Hank looked to be sure he left footprints behind.

“Well that’s it then,” Hank said and closed the door. He walked through the house letting it tell him stories. At first they were of the unbending man that was Hank’s father, but gradually they took him further back to when his mother and father would read to each other from books with long and boring titles. Hank didn’t remember what they said, but he remembered the passion his parents’ voices held. He remembered arguments too. His mother and father often shouted at each other trying to make the other see. The only time Hank remembered seeing his father cry was after one argument when his mother had walked out in mid-sentence. When she returned later, his father had held her tightly and cried unashamedly.

His father did believe in something. He dialled his sister in law’s number that Marge had given him before she left.

“Hello?” Marge sounded barely awake.

“Hello,” Hank said.

“What time is it?”

“About four.”

“What do you want?”

“I just needed to talk to you,” Hank said.

“Alright then,” He heard Marge settle herself more comfortably.

“How’s Candace?”

“She had a rough day,” Marge said, “I made her unplug the phone in her room. She needs her sleep.”

“How are you?”

“I don’t know,” Marge sighed, “I’m scared to death that I’ll lose my sister, but I can’t let her see.”

“Dad was scared of losing Mom, but he showed it.”

“I always thought he never recovered after her death.”

“No, he didn’t,” Hank sighed, “Maybe you should let Candace know you don’t want to lose her. It is easy to let people drift away because we assume they know.”

There was such a long silence that Hank wondered if Marge had fallen asleep.

“Are you coming home today?” she said finally.

“I thought I would come by Candace’s and give you a break.”

“That would be nice.”

“See you later.”

“Later then.” Hank heard the click of the phone hanging up. He hung up the phone then went to find his bed. He decided that he believed in Marge. He lay in bed trying to find the words he would use to explain. Just as he was falling to sleep he whispered.

“Thanks, Dad.”

The Cursed Seed by Geralyn Wichers

I had the good fortune to meet Geralyn at Central Canada Comic Con, also known as C4. She had with her a few copies of her yet to be officially released book. Now it’s out and I’d like to introduce you to it.


final-coverJack doesn’t know how he resurrected after the gruesome construction accident that killed him. But while his loved ones age and pass away, he remains unchanged, indestructible. With his wife of thirty years dying of cancer, Jack is consumed by the desire to end his life.

A mysterious society of immortals holds the answers, but others would kill for that knowledge. An ancient feud over the power of life and death, an enigmatic murder, a paranoia-stricken history professor. Will these give Jack the keys to following his beloved into the grave? Or will someone else get him first?

Links:

Amazon Kindle: http://mybook.to/cursedkindle

Amazon (Print): http://mybook.to/cursedseed

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/678670

author-3Geralyn Wichers is a writer who moonlights as a manufacturing operator at a large factory. When she’s not wearing a respirator and handling hazardous chemicals, Geralyn is either writing about the impending zombie apocalypse, or training to survive it by running long distances.

Geralyn is a marathoner, a foodie, and a coffee addict. She wrote We are the Living, an apocalyptic story of love and hope in the midst of destruction, and Sons of Earth, the story of a clone finding his humanity in a dystopian near-future. Geralyn just released urban fantasy novel Cursed Seed, the first of the Society of Immortals trilogy

You can connect with Geralyn at her website, geralynwichers.com, or on Twitter: @geralynwichers or Instagram: @geralynwichers

Author Interview

Congratulations on publishing Cursed Seed. How do you feel about publishing this book? Does it feel different from the previous books you’ve put out?

Thanks! Yeah, this book does feel a little bit different then other’s I’ve published. I think that’s mostly because, as this is the first time I’ve gone through a publisher, this book has been much more of a group effort than the previous two.

Tell us more about yourself. What else have you published?

This is my third published work. I published a love story called We are the Living, set in zombie-riddled, post-apocalyptic Italy. I didn’t set out to write a love story in that case. What began as an adventure story turned into a story about loving someone with mental illness, that just happened to have zombies, guerrilla warfare, and a miracle-healing priest in it.

Sons of Earth was my second novel. Dominic is a “manufactured person” or a clone. He was bred to be a fighting machine, but didn’t meet specifications. Knowing he’d be exterminated, he escaped the cloning facility. Years later, he comes back as a scientist, hoping to overthrow the company from within. This story was inspired by the manufacturing plant I work in… though I’d like to think it isn’t quite the blood-sucking monstrosity that Caspian Genetics is in the story.

Cursed Seed deals with mortality and immortality and our desire to choose our own lives. What motivated you to write the story?

For starters, I don’t write didactically. I don’t set out to preach a message with my work. I do, however, explore ideas when I write stories and so deep themes start popping unplanned. I think this is the true purpose of fiction, to give us scenarios to explore ideas and their applications.

If there is a “point” to Cursed Seed, I think it has less to do with mortality and immortality, and more to do with grieving, and finding the strength to move on despite the past. Jack, Alexander and Alannah are all grieving the loss of a loved one and it is coloring all of their decisions. I guess I can’t say too much about that without spoilers, though.

What are your favorite kinds of stories to read and write?

I have no idea! I like history, and biographies, and some dystopian novels, and some fantasy novels… but can I say any of them are my favourite? Nope. I guess my mind doesn’t work that way.

I love to write characters, and generally miserable ones. I really don’t know why.

Since we had the chance to meet at Comic Con, if you were going be a geek about a movie or series, what would it be?

Well, I’ve read the Harry Potter series 2 1/2 times in like 2 years. I guess that makes me a geek about them? I’m also a huge fan of the Chronicles of Narnia books.

What is your writing space like?

Currently, I’m writing from my kitchen counter beside the dirty dishes. 🙂 I don’t have an office, so generally I’m lounging in my easy chair with my feet up. I also really like to take my laptop to a coffee shop. The noise is soothing.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m revising the sequel to Cursed Seed, tentatively titled Trial by Water. Practically anything I say about it will be spoilers, I guess. It picks up where the last book left off, and also adds a thread in pre WWI England, where Alexander and company investigate the mysterious death of an immortal and Zoran’s claims that his unborn child is guaranteed to be immortal also. Giovanni Ardovinni, a background character in Cursed Seed, is tempted to make a deal with Zoran to immortalize his lover, John Burke, and his choices begin to reverberate into the present day.

What question would you ask yourself? Answer that question.

Should I rent Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr. version) this weekend?

Yes. I believe I should.

Oh wait, was it supposed to be writing related?

The Enemy Within by Scott Burn

Every once in a while I like to give a boost to a writer by featuring them on my blog.

Scott Burn has released his first YA novel, but this isn’t the first thing he’s written by a long shot. He agreed to write a bit about getting your screenplay noticed.

Check out his new book too.

the-enemy-within-coverTHE ENEMY WITHIN:
Seventeen-year-old Max suffers agonizing apocalyptic visions. He soon discovers the visions weren’t just in his head. There are others who have shared those same thoughts. Like him, they are something more than human. When a covert military group begins hunting them down, Max doesn’t know which side to trust. But in the end, his choice will decide the fate of both species.
Buy the The Enemy Within from Amazon.

SO YOU WROTE A SCREENPLAY
 
Awesome! Nobody cares.
Now let me take a step back – every agent, manager and producer I know is desperate for good material. They would love to have that near perfect script that will become the next mega-hit or Oscar winner. They are also convinced that your script isn’t it. And the truth is, they are right 99% of the time.
I’m by no means a big writer. I’ve sold and optioned several projects at different studios. I’ve been hired to rewrite other people’s projects, and I’m fortunate enough to make my living solely as a writer. But I’ve never had a film made – the movie gods just have not smiled yet. Or another way to think of it – something was missing from the model.
And what is the model? That is the big question. One studio exec told me he’d much rather have a script with a big idea and a great ending than a script with a mediocre idea where every page was flawlessly written. What makes for that big idea, it’s something that an exec can go into his bosses office and say, “It’s about a group of astronauts that land on a planet and discover their own dead bodies…” His boss immediately gets the idea – he can see the movie in his head and boom, off to the races. That was one I sold years ago with my old writing partner based on a Richard Matheson short story.
While there are all kinds of paths to getting to that stage, the system of Hollywood is designed to keep you as far from that path as possible. Let me start with the challenges then we’ll get into solutions. I had lunch with my agent not too long ago.  He shared with me how countless writers and directors were on him to make something magical happen with their projects. But the reality of Hollywood is fewer films are getting made, many are remakes or based on pre-existing material (book, TV show, game, etc)… The last thing any manager or agent want to do is take on a another mouth to feed when he doesn’t have something he thinks he can sell.
That’s the key – as much as we all love movies, if you don’t have anything they can sell (and my focus here is strictly on Hollywood, not the indie world), then they will pass you by without a second glance. So what are the steps to getting in?
1. Come up with an idea that you’re excited by and people love when you describe it in 30 seconds. If it takes you 5 minutes to try and explain it, move on. Picture the movie poster. If you can’t see it with a cool tag line, don’t bother.
2. Write the first draft. Don’t stop, don’t slow down. Try to write at the same time each day so you get in a rhythm. Most importantly, don’t go back and edit. Just finish.
3. It’s great that you finished your first draft. Now here’s the hard thing to accept – it’s awful. Don’t worry. Everyone’s first draft is awful. Now go back in and rewrite again and again until it’s as great as you can make it. Then don’t give it to friends and family – give it to nasty, bitter writers who will tear it apart. That’s good – you want that, painful as it is, because until that script has been seen by the brutal side, its still your first draft. Now pull up your big boy/big girl pants and do it all again.
4. Once you’ve gotten it to a point where every page glimmers, now comes the hard part. Ultimately there’s a saying in Hollywood – a great script finds a home. But that only happens after banging down every door you possibly can. That means reaching out with query letters to every worthwhile agent and manager in Hollywood or NY. Most won’t respond. Of those that do, most will say no. But if the idea is great enough, you might slip through the cracks. And then… they’ll have notes.
Leave no stone unturned: you have a friend who knew someone in the mailroom at CAA? Reach out. Your plumber’s brother is an assistant at Industry Entertainment? Reach out. But, and I can’t stress this hard enough, don’t reach out until that script is as perfect as you can make it. That’s not days or weeks, it’s months and sometimes years. And when the rejections come, don’t be deterred. “Onward” is your new slogan. Nothing may happen with that script in the end. I would be surprised if it did. That’s OK, now take that approach and do it again with your next project. And then again. Most people I know who break through do so somewhere around their 6th or 7th script. In other words, years. Writing screenplays is a craft and it’s one that needs to be studied to have any chance.
And remember this – many wanna-be writers disparage Hollywood movies, usually while complaining that their project is so much better. Don’t mock the hand that you want to feed you. If other projects are succeeding, look at why, try to understand what made them work such that tens or even hundreds of millions are spent on them. Then create your own…

scot-picA little bit about Scott: He’s a former lawyer turned writer. Scott currently has several sci-fi and action-adventure screenplays in development at various major studios, including Gold Circle, Summit/Lionsgate Entertainment, and MGM/Splendid Entertainment, and his comic book series AGON was published by Zenescope Entertainment.

THE ENEMY WITHIN is his first YA science fiction novel.

The Gods Above is out!

gods-above-cover-smallThe Gods Above is my re-imagining of the zombie story, follow Pranthi and her camera as the world changes around her.  You can read an excerpt here. Gary Buettner has posted a review on his page Book Autopsy:

Zombie stories seem to have a weird relationship with, well, other zombie stories. As deeply infected as our pop culture is with the shambling undead, fictional worlds are a lot more fickle in their undead.

In TV’s THE WALKING DEAD, for example, zombie movies don’t seem to exist at all. When the dead walk, it is an unprecedented horror. In Alex McGilvery’s upcoming THE GODS ABOVE (2016), zombies thrive in popular culture and the novel opens with fun and festive “zombie walk” that quickly spirals into a too-real horror.

you can read the rest here.

The Gods Above

  • [ebook_store ebook_id="419"]

New book of short stories. Tales of Light and Dark

I’ve released a new book, a collection of stories written over the last few years with a fantasy/fairy tale feel them. Some of humorous and some very dark, much like the original fairy tales collected before ‘happily ever after’ was a thing.

 

Tales of Light and Dark Alex McGilvery

After the Fever

fever-cover

This story came out of a challenge to write about the upside of a really bad thing.


John ‘Wolfie” Mulholland scrambled away from the latest wave of zombies. They grabbed and pulled at him with their splintered fingers. Mrs. Dougherty was in the front row. She used to give him milk and cookies and listen while he ranted about the latest atrocity from school. Now she was trying to tear him apart. He kicked her knee and she fell to the ground. He felt sorry for her, but not sorry enough to die at her hands.

It just wasn’t fair! John’s rage brought him to his feet and he pushed the shambling neighbours away and made a break for freedom. His flight brought him to the edge of an escarpment where the fence had been crushed by a fallen tree. John ran up the trunk and leapt out into space. The escarpment was a two hundred foot bank of dirt and rock looming over the Humber River. It was possible to ride the loose dirt safely to the bottom. John had done it last year on a dare. His feet struck dirt and started a small landslide. He skipped and jumped to avoid the outcroppings of solid rock and splashed alive into the river. Then the first zombie landed beside him, head first, then it rained zombies. John dove under the water and swam out into the current and let it carry him away.

Still warm enough that John felt no immediate need to get out of the water; he let the river carry him away from the horrible life he already missed. Swine flu induced encephalitis was what the authorities called it – zombie flu. It disinhibited the infected by destroying their upper brain function. There were no survivors, except John who, apparently, was immune.

He finally climbed out of the water and stripped off his wet clothes. His foster parents would have beat him for it. He didn’t care anymore. John used his hands to strip the water out of the fur that covered his body, relieved to be rid of clothes that didn’t fit quite right.

The streetlights were coming on in patches so he started looking for safe shelter for the night. That’s when he heard the screams.

His feet reacted before his brain could carrying him around a corner to where a mob of zombies had cornered a young boy. John yelled in rage and slammed into the group pushing them off the youngster. Zombies growled and mumbled, but they didn’t scream. The kid was also immune.

Some of the crowd turned on John and he found himself fighting for his life. John kicked knees, punched throats and whatever else he could manage. But it wasn’t going to be enough, there were too many of them.

Then a shotgun roared and the mob twitched as pellets tore through it. Again and again the gun blasted until the zombies ran off leaving John gasping on the pavement. The kid put the gun down and came over to him.

“I didn’t think there was anyone else alive,” John thought his voice sounded odd through the ringing in his ears. “Thanks for the help,” he said, “I thought I was a goner.”

“I left the gun in my bag. They caught me by surprise and I didn’t have time to get it.” The gun was slung over the kid’s shoulder. “I won’t make that mistake again, but we need to get somewhere safe.

John faded in and out until the kid dragged him into a house.

John heard a shower running. “Good, there’s still hot water, but it won’t last long. We’d better share.” John stood under the hot water. He closed his eyes as it washed away both gore and despair.

Gentle hands scrubbed his back with soap. John sighed and leaned against the wall.

“Let’s switch.”

John squeezed to the side and opened his eyes to see his companion. The first thing he saw was that his rescuer was no boy. She was at least his age. The second thing was the soft red fur that covered her whole body. She put soap in his hand.

“Scrub.”

John carefully washed all the blood out of that miraculous fur.

“My name’s Peke,” she said, “Short for pekinese.”

“Wolfie,” he said.

“Hmmm,” she said running her finger through his wet brown fur. “Suits you.”

She stepped out of the shower and dried off. Wolfie followed her. She walked past the clothes in the hall and curled up on the sofa. John lounged in a chair across from her.

“It’s called Robson’s Syndrome. It’s rare, only a handful of cases in North America.” She stroked her side. “It causes the fur, and for some reason immunity to the zombie flu.

“Now what?” he asked.

“We wait a few weeks for the fever to pass, then we go and look for survivors. It will take a while but we’ll rebuild. We might even learn something.”

“And what are we supposed to do while we wait?”

She smiled and stuck her tongue out at him. “I am sure we’ll be able to think of something.”

Well,  once you get past the whole end of the world thing, this was turning out to be a pretty good day.

Aggie and the Robot

Aggie walked to the brow of the hill that overlooked the city. Aggie had never been to the city, but she loved to watch the traffic bustle in and out. Airplanes circled overhead waiting their turn to land, the dull roar of their engines muffled almost to silence by the distance. One day she had watched so long that she had seen the lights come on one by one until it was lit up like a fairy kingdom.

Today she arrived at the hill to find an enormous metal man leaning against the edge of the cliff. He was watching the city.

“Excuse me,” she said politely, “you are blocking my view.”

With a great grinding and clanging noise the metal man turned to face her.

“Who are you?” he demanded in a voice that was so deep that Aggie could feel it in her teeth.

“I’m Aggie,” she said, “I live with my mom and dad over there.” She waved her arm vaguely over her shoulder.

“You should go home,” rumbled the iron man. “This is no place for little girls.”

“This is my place,” Aggie said, “And you are rude.”

“Rude?”

“I told you my name. You are supposed to say ‘Pleased to meet you Aggie my name is…'” she paused, “What is your name?”

“Name?” said the metal man, “I have no name. I am a robot.”

“What is a robot?” asked Aggie.

“A robot is….” the metal giant paused. “I am a robot.”

“Where are you from?”

“From? I am from nowhere. I was built over there from metal and glass.” The giant man pointed into the mountains.

“Why?”

“Why?” rumbled the robot, “To destroy the city.”

“The city?” cried Aggie. “Why would you want to destroy the city? It’s wonderful.”

“My master hates the people in the city. He says they are evil and selfish.”

“But even if they are selfish, they don’t deserve to be destroyed.”

“My master wants them destroyed. So he built me to destroy them.”

“But you can’t destroy the city.”

“It is what I am made to do,” said the robot. “I must do what my master made me for.”

“But it’s wrong.”

“I don’t know wrong. I only know obedience.”

Aggie walked to the edge of the hill and looked out over the city. She felt tears forcing their way out of her eyes. The cars and planes blurred. She thought of all those buildings broken and burning; people hurt and crying.

“No!” she shouted at the robot. “You can’t do it. Your master is wrong.”

The robot bent down further with more clanking. She could smell oil and electricity.

“I am not built to know what is wrong. I am built to obey. I cannot disobey.”

“I disobey my dad sometimes.”

“Your dad didn’t build you well.”

“Dad didn’t build me,” laughed Aggie, “I was born.”

“What is born?”

“I’m not sure. I asked my dad once and he just turned red.”

The robot shook his head.

“Whether born or made, we must do as we are told.” He turned again to look across to the city. The sun glinted on windows and winked from airplanes. A breeze blew the faintest sounds of activity to the hill.

“We start out doing as we are told, because we don’t know anything,” Aggie stepped up to the edge of the cliff. “But the more we learn, the more we need to choose for ourselves.”

Aggie heard the metal grind as the robot nodded his head.

“Come with me,” he said and held out his hand. Fearfully, she stepped onto his hand. He curled his fingers to protect her. “We will go and learn.”

Aggie was sure that his footsteps shook the earth, but she couldn’t feel them away up in the air cradled in the metal fist of the robot.

“I am listening to them,” said the robot after a while. “They are laughing because some geese are crossing the highway and traffic is stopped.” He walked on.

“They have seen us,” he rumbled. “But they won’t attack because they see you. They won’t hurt a little girl even to save themselves.” They arrived at the edge of the city. Police cars and fire trucks were lined up across their path. Planes circled overhead.

“It is time,” the robot said, “I must obey.”

“But you can’t.”

“Then you must stop me.”

The whole city watched what happened next. How a little girl stood in front of the colossus with tear streaked face and pushed on the robot”s foot. Miraculously it tottered, then fell backward with a great crash and lay still.

“He could not choose to disobey,” Aggie told them, “but he could choose to fail.”