Tag archive: Vampires

Zombies and the New York Times

What do zombies and the New York Times Book Review have in common?  Until recently, I’d have said absolutely nothing.  Why would one of the most prestigious book reviews in the English speaking world start talking about zombies?

But last week my wife fired up her Kindle, went to her subscription to the NYT Book Review and was astounded to see an article titled, “Zombie Resurrection,” by Terrence Rafferty.  Apparently zombies have gotten so big that even the New York Times can’t ignore them, and vampires are just so last year.

But while Rafferty makes a few good points, his leap that the rise in the popularity of zombies is a reflection of society’s anxiety with the “planet’s dwindling resources” is off the mark.  In fact, his statement is one of the reasons zombies are popular.

I’m too young to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, but I do remember the late seventies and early eighties, when everyone from my teachers to politicians to media pundits stated with great certainty that we were on the brink of nuclear obliteration.  I remember our school showing a particularly gruesome BBC drama called Threads, which followed a couple of families through a nuclear holocaust and the collapse of society afterward.  It ended with rape and the birth of a deformed child.  Now that was horror.  I was shaken to my core and wondered why my parents weren’t moving us out of the city.

How does a kid deal with this extremely gloomy prediction of the future?  Why I delved into post-apocalyptic fiction, of course, which was very popular back then, and it was oddly reassuring: I’d be the one emerging from the bomb shelter, fighting the mutants and surviving.  Post-apocalyptic fiction was actually less pessimistic than the TV news because it showed that there would be an “after,” and indeed invented the concept that something as final as the apocalypse was in fact not the end of humans, but a fall of civilization more like the end of the Roman Empire.  New governments would form, but it would be chaos and dark ages for a while.

Anyone watching TV news these days must be feeling about as frightened and depressed as I was as a kid in the late seventies.  The Center for Disease Control in the last few years has issued terrifying pandemic warnings about SARs, the Bird Flu and Swine Flu, apocalypses that were about to take place and didn’t, however they might just reappear next fall.

The world is burning up and sea levels are drastically rising according to environmentalists; the economy has crashed and burned forever according to just about everyone.  Society is on the cusp of great disaster, no matter where you look.  Gold keeps hitting record highs while the stock market reels.

So how does an avid fiction reader react to all this doom and gloom? Why they read about the zombie apocalypse, of course.  Suddenly so many problems are solved.  The debt crisis goes away and so does your credit card balance.  Global warming is not a problem anymore since you can’t even find gas for your car.  The pandemic prophesies of the CDC turn out to be correct, but it’s one manageable disease: just don’t get bit by a zombie and you’re good.

Better yet, you get to do something about all the trouble.  You can shoot as many zombies as you want without guilt and without fear of incarceration.  Life becomes an exciting, first-person shooter game.

Rafferty of the NYT is right about the zombie craze being a reflection of our fears, but he’s missing that point that he and his fellow media pundits are responsible for that fear with their endlessly pessimistic predictions of the future.

Since the end of the world is coming anyway, people want to read about what happens after the presses of the NYT stop running.  It’s actually a very interesting world.

And you get to shoot zombies.

Zombies are from Mars, Vampires are from Venus

It was standing room only, the audience excited and eager to to ask questions.  I actually just described two events at the Polaris convention.

The first was the Charlaine Harris lecture.  She’s done fantastically well with her vampire novels, which were adapted into a series called True Blood.  The second was the panel I moderated: The Nature of the Modern Zombie.

But here’s the big difference: Charlaine’s vampire-oriented panel had far more women in the audience than men.  Our zombie panel crowd was more men than women, and some of them were very young men.  In fact, I’d say the median age of the attendees was probably close to twenty-years old if you cut out about three or four convention veterans from the data set.

This reflects a fundamental trend in the two genres.  Since Dracula, there’s been a lot of romance in vampire novels, and Meyer’s Twilight put the pedal to the metal on the vampire-human romance.  There are a lot of knock-offs that went with this theme.  It’s about undying (literally) love.

But zombies are about war.  Whether it’s a first person shooter game, or the Walking Dead, zombies are getting mowed down with machine guns, beaten with clubs and shot with arrows.  There is absolutely nothing romantic about the fight.

The good zombie movies and shows do spend a lot of time studying human social interaction under extreme pressure, but their subjects are making battlefield decisions.  Should they kill the loved one who got bit?  Should they make a run down that street or through that warehouse?  Who should they select as the alpha male to lead them to safety?

The message I take here is that Vampire Road is really more for the zombie crowd than the vampire crowd.  While there are romances between humans, there are no vampire-human romances.  Vampire Road is a novel of war, of humans under extreme pressure.  It is the story of a desperate fight to save family and home, to somehow survive an overwhelming siege.

So Vampire Road won’t be for the Twilight crowd or even the Amanda Hocking crowd.  I’d love to write for them because they’re a lucrative market, but it just isn’t me, and I suspect that those avid readers would sense my insincerity and the novel would sell poorly.

I’d rather write something I truly enjoy reading myself and sell to a smaller, enthusiastic audience.

Why I’m Moderating a Zombie Panel

I like being on panels, so when I got an e-mail from the SF convention Polaris looking for volunteer panelists, I took a look through the line up to see if anything fit my areas of expertise.  Unfortunately my obvious choice, the vampire panel, was full.  With New York Times bestselling author Charlene Harris on the panel, I’ll certainly be happy to attend as a member of the audience.

Then I noticed a fascinating panel, the Nature of the Modern Zombie, and put my name up for it.  I liked Night of the Living Dead, and I was a big fan of Resident Evil Apocalypse, partly because they shot it in my home town and they blew up city hall–well, CGI blew it up anyway.

But I’m also interested to hear what some of the other panelists have to say about how our world has changed since Ramero’s classic debuted back in 68.  Back then the army and toxic chemicals were the underlying villains.  Certainly the mad cap 1984 sequel, Return of the Living Dead, pinned the blame squarely on the army.

But now the preferred underlying cause of zombification seems to be disease, just like the rippers in Vampire Road.  This infectious source of evil has become so prevalent in fiction that I have to wonder just how deeply AIDS, SARS, Bird Flu and other fears of global pandemic have seeped into all aspects of our society.

Perhaps its because people can brush aside the predictions of asteroids, the end of the Mayan calendar and other apocalyptic forecasts as just too unreal to worry about, but disease is truly real, close and plausible.  We know we can sick.  We know we can die of cancer.  We see it happening to people all around us.

Maybe that’s why zombies and vampires have made a big comeback, mostly as depictions of our neighbors run amok with a debilitating disease.  See Zombieland for the mad cow, bad meat version.

I also wonder if all the prognostications of doom that come from pastors, scientists, politicians and activists might have people feeling like just getting on with the apocalypse so that we can all stop worrying.

Of course in all these zombie/vampire/massive population die-off stories, we’re the survivors.  At least, that’s my preference.

A Moment in the Smashwords Sun

I’ve waded through the Smashwords Style Guide and come out the other side, humbled and wiser.  I’ve learned more about Microsoft Word than I ever wanted to know.  But at last I’ve loaded up Vampire Road to Smashwords, and I’ve got my hour in the sunshine that is the  New Releases page.

Next task is marketing, but for an indie e-pubbed author the fun never ends.  I also want to put it up to Barnes and Noble through Pubit, and by the fall Kobo intends to have a version of self-pubbing as well.

The good news is that now I know how to format my MS document as I write it, so that I don’t have to go through the excruciating cleaning process with my next novel.  This cleaning of Vampire Road’s formatting was required to enable the Smashwords Meatgrinder program to digest my words and spit out multiple e-book formats.

I’m still waiting with fingers crossed to find out if I qualify for their “Premium Catalog,” which is proof of my prowess with Microsoft Word formatting.  It also gets me into the ibook store and the Sony Reader store, which was the whole point of publishing through Smashwords.

For all you indie authors out there, I’m going to finish the guide that will take your manuscript to Kindle.  It’s far easier and the biggest e-book market.  I’ll write up my notes about Smashwords later next week.

Tomorrow: the clickable table of contents.

I’m Selling in the UK

I was checking my sales report on Amazon to see if my efforts at  Bloody Words had produced a bump, but what caught my attention was a new report button for sales in the Kindle UK store (and another for the Kindle DE store in Germany)

Just for fun I gave it a click and discovered that I’ve actually started a trickle of sales in the UK.  Even one of my short stories sold on that side of the pond.

Why is this so exciting?  I don’t know anyone in the UK.  These sales are a tribute to cover art (thanks M. Custode) and good openings to the stories–because that’s the only way people in the UK can judge them.  Amazon allows readers to read the first several pages for free.

My efforts at Bloody Words did cause a little bump in sales for Summer of Bridges, my coming-of-age anthology of short stories that first appeared in Storyteller Magazine.

But here’s the really weird thing: Vampire Road, the young adult, violent, vampire novel has seen an even bigger jump in sales over the weekend.  I didn’t push Vampire Road at Bloody Words because this is a convention of mystery readers–many of them with grown children–who would have little interest in a YA novel.  I’d be doing them a disservice to try and sell it to them.  I pushed Summer of Bridges because the Sioux Rock Falls stories are light-hearted Canadiana, and one of them is a mystery.

So what demographic started buying Vampire Road over the weekend?  I guess the obvious answer is younger people who like vampire novels.  It’ll be interesting to see where sales go once I really get marketing.

If you were wondering: no sales in Germany so far.

Side Note: For the authors out there who are waiting for a blog on how to format and put up e-books, it’s in the draft stage.  It’ll be up this week.

 

Vampire Road Launched

Amazon just gets faster everyday.  Vampire Road is already available in the e-book store.

Warning: Don’t expect to find sexy, conflicted vampires in love.  This is a man’s novel.  Okay, women who like to read about women kicking butt will like it too.

Enjoy.

Launch! Sort of, Kinda

Okay, it was supposed to launch on May 15th.  It was supposed to launch yesterday.  But at last, Vampire Road has launched.  Kind of.  After edits, (thanks Fogel) proof reads and figuring out how to make a clickable table of contents, (thanks Susan) Vampire Road has finally launched.

Except Amazon needs a couple of days to digest it.  No worries.  I’ve got the anthology of Sioux Rock Falls stories to put up, and I’ve got about three tons of marketing to do before I fly out to Bloody Words in Victoria–where I have to hand out an award and participate in a panel.

Not to mention Barry Eilser has rocked the publishing world again, but I’ll save that for tomorrow.

Coming Soon to a Kindle Near You

My post-apocalyptic vampire novel, Vampire Road, will launch Monday, May 30th.  It will only be available for the Kindle platform via Amazon at first, but all other formats will follow.

Warning: if you want to read about sexy vampires in love, stay away.  If you want to read about conflicted vampires who suffer bouts of guilt about their serial killer lifestyle, this is not the book for you.

If you want a fast-paced exciting read, this is your novel.  It’s about brave people fighting to survive against all odds.  Unfortunately, they spend almost as much time fighting each other as they do fighting their real enemy, but that’s what human beings do when stressed to the breaking point.

Stay tuned to find out how you can win a free download.

My Editor has My Other Baby

Fogel and I have been debating how e-books will affect freelance editors.  I’m guessing that people who want to indie e-publish will be swamping freelancers’ in-boxes with edit requests.  Fogel argues that freelance cover artists will get a lot of business, but freelance editors won’t.  She says:

“Most self-published e-books will fall into the same categories paper books do. There’ll be the professional writers who rerelease books that are out of print, and haven’t the rights to the original cover, or hated it. Then there’ll be the rank amateurs who have no business calling themselves writers and self-publish because no legitimate publisher will take them on. The former don’t need editors because the book’s finished; the latter won’t use them because they think they can write, but know they can’t draw.”

I’m sure some indie authors will fall into the Howett category, writers who simply can’t believe they need a substantive editor let alone a copy editor.  But Joe Konrath keeps pointing out that indie writers need two things: a good editor and a good cover artist.  I’m not the only indie author reading his blog.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve gone through the editing process so many times with my short stories, but I can’t imagine publishing without an editor.  So I’ve sent Fogel my other baby, the vampire novel, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that she won’t totally gut my heart out.

The good news is that she’s already read the first two chapters and written back that there are “no show-stoppers.”  From Fogel that’s high praise.

Fogel’s launched a website, but don’t hire her if you’re looking for the sort of praise you’d expect from a mother, cause you won’t be getting it.  You’ll be getting the unvarnished truth.  She doesn’t care about your feelings.  It’s why I chose her for my editor.

My Dirty Little Secret

I wrote a vampire novel.  There’s nothing like it to let your creativity flow.  You’re unencumbered by reality and free to concentrate on characters.  Unlike any other kind of fiction, the vampire novel immediately brings up all of the fundamental moral problems that face mortal humans.

What would you do to live forever?  Would you become a serial killer?

How will you face the end of your life: fighting or surrendering?

Do you believe in heaven and hell, reincarnation, a greater universe than what we see?  Are you secular, agnostic or atheist?  What would you do if incontrovertible proof of an alternate reality walked up and said, “I vant to suck your blood.”  Preferably stated with a Romanian accent.

Oh yeah, and since Bram Stoker, vampires have always been about sex.  What’s not to like?

But a writer with a vampire novel is invariably branded as a loser chasing a tired cliché–unless they get the wild success of Stephen King, Anne Rice or Stephenie Meyer.  Each of these writers produced wildly different flavors for that same soup–all tasty and all unique.

So what’s a writer to do with a vampire novel?

I’ve been warned by many pros over the years that your first novel is your brand, and forever after you must write in that field.  One agent compared it to a retail store: if you arrive one day for coffee and donuts but the next day the store is a sit-down gourmet restaurant–well the coffee crowd won’t be coming back, and the gourmet crowd probably won’t ever go because they thought it was a donut shop.

So my dilemma?  I’ve got my literary novel, In a Country Burning, about a lost young man caught up in Afghanistan’s war against Soviet occupation.  I even traveled with the mujahideen in Afghanistan in 1988 to research it–truly putting my life on the line for this novel.

But it’s my first, and despite endless rewrites, tweaks and effort, The Fogel has slammed it, stating that I need to look at the fundamental plot.  Not just an edit but a sit down and do-this-all-over from scratch deal.

But my vampire novel has a strong plot and unique story.  It’s tight, probably because I wrote it for fun–probably because I didn’t risk my life for it.

So do I send it to The Fogel?  Do I break all conventions and open up my store with a vampire novel and hope that the literary crowd will read In a Country Burning, my true passion, when it finally comes together?

Will my brand be forever tainted?

Or am I the brand.  This blog is about breaking all the traditional publishing rules.