Tag Archives: The Zombie Feed

Dark Treats from the Midnight Asylum

I first heard about Mark Allan Gunnells through James Newman, a mutual friend and a writer I consider family. On the merits of that alone, I knew Gunnells’s work must be special.

So I contacted Mark, and we quickly became friends. He is a sweet and humble guy. More importantly, he has a lot of heart. The one common thread that weaves through all that I have read from him, is the empathy and humanity his characters possess.

That is not always an easy thing to get across in print. In his short story collection, Tales from the Midnight Shift, Vol. I, Gunnells gives us a fine and varied compilation of these types of characters. From the fantastically titled “God Doesn’t Follow You into the Bathroom” to the breathtakingly surreal “Jam.” He goes from serious and somber to silly at the drop of a hat.

I won’t go into details on every story here, but I will touch on a few that left a lasting impression.

The tome opens with “God Doesn’t Follow You into the Bathroom.” While slightly predictable there is enough freshness injected here to keep your attention. Sometimes confession does not gain you the absolution you hoped for. This is followed by my absolute favorite in the collection, “Jam.” A traffic jam is the setting for this bleak exercise in tension and fear and humans being. “The Gift Certificate” teaches a valuable lesson about possession. “The More Things Change” is astounding, a heart-wrenching painting on bullying. This is one of the best things in the collection.

Tales from the Midnight Shift, Vol. I was the first example of Mark’s craft I encountered. I have since delved deeper into his work and have yet to be dissappointed.

Despite its short stature of 67 pages, Asylum has a lot of substance.

At a glance, the premise—a group of misfits, standing tall to fight off the zombie apocalypse—doesn’t seem all that original. Mark peoples this story with an almost entirely gay cast, sets it in a gay club, and spatters it with plenty of gore and sex.

But where Asylum shines is with the deep textures given to the characters.

They are not mincing caricatures or flaming queens—well, maybe one is—but instead they are presented as the flawed human beings that we all are.

Once again, this proves to be Gunnells’s strong suit—painting pictures of people.

Just in time for this past Halloween, Mark gave us all this little gift—Dark Treats, a five story collection, with all tales revolving around the October holiday.

Opening with “Halloween Returns to Bradbury,” we get a riotous romp about how the devil has grown disgruntled with the commercialism of his holiday and returns to show us how it’s to be done. Some fantastic and ridiculous imagery ensues. “The Neighborhood that Halloween Forgot” is a slightly cliché tale of tolerance.

“My Last Halloween” is a sad little coming-of-age tale. “Treats” finds us in cheesy 80’s horror movie territory—silly monsters, rational logic, great fun! The collection ends on the somber “Family Plots,” which, while good, seems a bit cramped, begging to be worked into a longer work someday.

Mark Allan Gunnells is one to watch. His work is consistently entertaining and full of heart and soul.

Sometimes that’s what you need.

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Reviews, Short Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Best of 2011: Shock Totem Staff Picks

As we enter 2012, let’s take a quick look back at some of our favorite things (that we could actually remember) from 2011.

FAVORITE SMALL PRESS NOVEL/NOVELLA/NOVELETTE:

Ken’s Pick

Skullbelly, by Ronald Malfi

Mercedes’s Picks

Bear in a Muddy Tutu, by Cole Alpaugh


“Map of Seventeen,” by Christopher Barzak

John’s Pick

The Damned Highway, by Brian Keene and Nick Mamatas

Nick’s Pick

Animosity, by James Newman

FAVORITE ANTHOLOGY/COLLECTION:

Ken’s Pick

Full Dark, No Stars, by Stephen King

Sarah’s Pick

The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1, Edited by Jason Sizemore

FAVORITE MAINSTREAM NOVEL/NOVELLA/NOVELETTE:

Mercedes’s Pick

Mrs. Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

John’s Pick

There Is No Year, by Blake Butler

Nick’s Pick

11/22/63, by Stephen King

Sarah’s Picks

Tie between Treachery in Death and New York to Dallas, by J.D. Robb

FAVORITE MOVIE:

Ken’s Pick

Red State

Mercedes’s Pick

Hugo

John’s Pick

The Muppets

Sarah’s Pick

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

FAVORITE DISCOVERY:

Ken’s Pick

The brilliant work of Darrell Schweitzer

Mercedes’s Pick

Gemmy Butterfly Collection™

John’s Pick

The Memphis Morticians

Nick’s Pick

The Parlor Mob

Sarah’s Pick

Lie to Me

FAVORITE ALBUM:

Ken’s Pick

Dystopia, by Iced Earth

John’s Pick

Bad as Me, by Tom Waits

Nick’s Pick

Thirteen, by http://www.megadeth.com

Unfortunately, for various reasons, we couldn’t all give picks for certain categories. I didn’t read a single novel last year that actually came out in 2011, for instance. So no Novel pick from me. Sarah didn’t read any small-press novels/novellas/novelettes that came out in 2011, so no pick from her.

And the old gray matter just failed us on other things. Which of course means right after this goes live the answers will become clear…

Anyway, as you can see, we have varied tastes that extend well beyond horror. Check out some of our picks; you’ll probably discover something great.

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Three Questions with Maggie Slater & the Zombie Feeders

The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1 is the first anthology published through the new Apex Publications imprint, The Zombie Feed Books. It features zombie-fried fiction from seventeen authors, of which I am one. Recently, contributing author Maggie Slater offered up her blog for a series of three-question interviews with several of the anthology’s authors, so I am returning the favor.

Below you can read Maggie’s interview as well as those interviews hosted on her blog.

And if you’re interested, check out The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1. You can pick up your copy from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, or from The Zombie Feed directly. Get it on your Kindle or your Nook (or in any e-format from Smashwords) for just $2.99! Seventeen kick-ass zombie stories for $2.99! Can you dig on that?

1. The Writing Question: If you could sit down with one author, from any time in history to today, to get a writing lesson, who would it be?

I had three answers for this initially—Samuel R. Delany, Edith Wharton, and Roald Dahl. If I had to narrow it down, though, I’d pick Samuel R. Delany for several reasons. First, I’d love to just talk fiction with him—I’m about 90% through Dhalgren, and reading it as a writer is a little Twilight Zone-esque. All of Kid’s thinking and working and pondering the process and experience of creating a work of writing feels so intimately familiar, even as his process is different. I’ve also read Mr. Delany’s book About Writing which is hands-down the best book about the writing process I’ve ever read. It’s not an instructional manual, but almost a treatise on the creative endeavor. His discussions about the inner editor were very influential on me, and his emphasis on care when drafting, of really visualizing the scenes, works much better for me than the mantra “just write the first draft as fast as you can” which seems to work very well for others. His essays feel very close to a one-on-one discussion, as do the letters in which he’s critiquing a work sent to him, but it’d be great to get a few pointers in person!

So that’s one part. The other part is that whenever I read a novel by Samuel R. Delany, it reminds me of what writing can be. Not just in terms of style and poeticism, but in the sheer vividness of imagination, both in content and in execution. Reading his work always reminds me that I can push my own boundaries and play in realms that aren’t common in the books you’ll find on the bookstore shelves, that not all stories have to be told the same way. I can lock myself into tunnel vision pretty easily when it comes to “how you’re supposed to write”, so reading a good Delany novel can kick me out of that and set me on better paths.

2. The Horror Question: What used to scare you the most as a child?

Funny story: zombies, actually. Back in fifth grade, I went to a Halloween party a friend of mine was having, and they showed Night of the Living Dead Returns, which completely freaked me out. (I mean, it didn’t take much back then: I was terrified of ET, also.) Needless to say, after watching about thirty minutes of NotLDR, I left the room and couldn’t watch any more. For a month I didn’t sleep unless my mom was in the room, I closed my eyes whenever we passed any kind of structure that looked like a medical warehouse, and it seemed like ages until I could hear the word “paramedics” without feeling queasy.

That experience actually set me back probably five years: I actively avoided horror movies (or even not-so-scary PG-13s, like Jurassic Park) until I was about fifteen. Then I saw The Sixth Sense, and fell in love with it. I’d always loved ghost stories, but the film format always made me nervous. After that, and after realizing that I could watch certain spooky movies without getting horribly vivid nightmares afterwards, I started pushing my limits of tolerance bit by bit, until in college I finally watched Shaun of the Dead, and thus my fear of zombies was…well, not quite over—they’re still creepy as hell—but at least resurrected as a fondness, rather than abject terror!

3. The Oddball Question: If you could be friends with one fictional character, who would it be and what kind of venue would you meet at?

Oh, hands down (and this is rather like using one of my three wishes to wish for more wishes): Nero Wolfe. We’d meet at the brownstone, of course, on West 35th Street in New York City, and have a delightful meal (perhaps game hens) prepared by his brilliant chef, Fritz. Of course, Archie Goodwin would have to be there too, and (don’t tell my husband) I’d definitely let him take me dancing once in a while, just to keep my footwork sharp, of course. I certainly wouldn’t protest if Saul and Orrie and Fred joined us, and if Jackie Jaquette or Lily Rowan wanted to stop by, I wouldn’t mind at all! Then, after dinner, Wolfe would show me his most recent breed of orchid, and we’d discuss potting material, plant genetics, and books, of course. It’d be the perfect evening!

Maggie Slater writes in Maine, where she lives with her husband and two old, cranky cats. She has seen her work published in a variety of venues, such as Dark Futures: Tales of SF Dystopia, The Zombie Feed Anthology Vol. 1, and most recently in Leading Edge Magazine. She currently moonlights as an assistant editor for Apex Publications. For more information about her and her current writing projects, visit her blog at maggiedot.wordpress.com.

And if you’re interested in the rest of the Three Questions interviews…

Kristin Dearborn | Andrew Porter | Danger_Slater | Daniel I. Russell | Monica Valentinelli | Simon McCaffery | BJ Burrow | Ray Wallace | K. Allen Wood | Brandon Alspaugh

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The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1

I love me a good zombie tale. Dawn of the Dead is my favorite movie of all time, Romero is a god to me, and my first book is about those meandering, rotting corpses. So when I was sent The Zombie Feed, the new compilation put out by Apex Publications and edited by Jason Sizemore, for review, I was more than pumped to dive right in.

Inside this volume are 17 tales of zombies in all of their various forms. At first I expected a grouping of run-of-the-mill apocalyptic, undead stories. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered how different the collection is, with how many various directions the authors took what very often are clichéd tropes and plot devices.

In order to adequately break down this fantastic collection, let’s look at The Zombie Feed story by story.

Not Dead by BJ Burrow: A woman wakes up on her deathbed, questioning if she’s still alive. A touching story of the nature of faith and what really defines humanity.

Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs by Monica Valentinelli: An original, if somewhat clunky, take on the origins of the outbreak and the privileged nature of the wealthy. It could’ve been spectacular given the original premise the author came up with, but it falls flat. A little too “Ah, gotcha!” for my taste.

Cold Comfort by Nathaniel Tapley: What is this? A zombie tale without a true zombie? A fantastic story dealing with the undead that only exist in the narrator’s head, as a Russian mortician whose wife is cheating on him communes with his recently-departed patients. Ironically enough, in this particular tale it isn’t the dead who should be considered zombies.

The Final December Day by Lee Thompson: This one follows more along the lines of a traditional zombie tale. A lone cop, searching for his long-lost partner on his last day on Earth, runs across a young photographer. An interesting take on the apocalypse where the zombies are simply drug-addicted, insane humans, and aliens roam the earth. I enjoyed the message, but it fell a little short. This is one short story that begged to be longer.

Broken Bough by Daniel I. Russell: A particularly heartbreaking tale of the end of the world, told from the point of view of a young family of three struggling with the ultimate decision. Truly sad, it makes you wonder what you might do should the unthinkable happen. Would you be able to take the actions necessary? Haunting.

The Sickness Unto Death by Brandon Alspaugh: A somewhat convoluted tale of the recently departed rising up, remembering their pasts and able to act as human, though they’re no longer living. A bit confusing, and written in a way that I think might seem like the author is trying to “put one over” on the reader. I’m all for an original, inventive story, but this one seemed too clever for its own good.

A Shepherd in the Valley by Maggie Slater: Now this one was creepy. A man, all alone and living in an old airport, has figured out a way to “tame” the dead. A heartening examination of a parent’s love and the sacrifices one must make in the face of absolute terror.

Twenty-Three Second Anomaly by Ray Wallace: Eh, I could give or take this one. The story of human experimentation and how exact science can be. Interesting, but the punch isn’t punchy enough and the emotions seems forced. Not bad, but could be better.

The Last Generation by Joe Nazare: Another very interesting and not-quite-zombie story. All people have fallen over and entered a state of non-death, and only a few wake up, albeit minus their memories and sense of self. An inventive story, but lacking in some important information (such as how do they remember pop culture references and not their names or pasts) that could have made the story much more affecting. Decent nonetheless.

Bitten by Eugene Johnson: One of the few standard zombie tales in the whole collection. A very short story of a bunch of folks trying to protect a house at the end of the world. It is what you’d expect.

Lifeboat by Simon McCaffery: A very entertaining story of a group of people surviving the apocalypse by sailing the ocean on a cruise ship. Intriguing and imaginative, the narrative takes twists and turns I never expected, coming out at the end in an intense, hell-bent-for-leather climax. One of the best in the bunch.

Rabid Raccoons by Kristen Dearborn: Now this is what I call taking a genre and flipping it on its head. A teen girl does her friend wrong, only to be assailed (possibly mystically) by zombie raccoons. A stupendous job of telling a story from the viewpoint of a young adult, this tale captures the sense of seclusion and fear beautifully. Great story.

Zombies on the Moon by Andrew Clark Porter: Another short tale, and while the imagery of a moon cluttered with zombies has stuck with me since I’ve read it, this is another example of a story that could use some fleshing out to be perfect.

The Fare by Lucian Soulban: The absolute best story of the bunch. A lonely man in the aftermath of the world’s end hires a mysterious cabbie to help him obtain closure for his past sins. A tremendous study of the human condition, of how guilt can guide our actions after a traumatic event, no matter if we were in the right or not.

What’s Next? by Elaine Blose: This is the only story that I don’t think belongs in this collection. It wants to be campy, describing a world where aliens bring about the zombie apocalypse, only to have monster after monster appear in their wake, but it comes off as amateurish. The rest of the stories in this collection are so strong and insightful, it seems entirely out of place.

Goddamn Electric by K. Allen Wood: Another ingenious story, imagining a “different” sort of zombie, when the skies open up during an apocalyptic storm and fry everyone who wasn’t smart enough to find shelter. High on anxiety and even (surprisingly) emotion, this story follows an old man who’s lived a long life and isn’t quite ready to give it up.

Hipsters in Love by Danger_Slater: This is the oddest story of the bunch. I absolutely hated it until I was a couple pages in, when I went back to the beginning and re-read the title. This is a complete farce of a tale, a satire poking fun at a certain segment of our modern culture, complete with kids and their ironic t-shirts worrying about obtaining some Pabst Blue Ribbon in the face of the undead. A highly funny romp, it’s the perfect choice to end this anthology.

So that’s it! In all, I’ll say this is well worth the read, and the best zombie anthology to come out in years. Congrats to Apex and to Jason Sizemore. You’ve collected something highly entertaining and even touching. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves this genre of story.

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Guest Post: Love of the End Product

Batten down the hatches, buckle your wigs, Lee Thompson is in the house!

If you’re unfamiliar with Lee or his work, I predict that will change in the near future. Steadily making his way up the small-press ladder, 2011 is shaping up to be Lee’s breakout year. Let’s do a quick rundown of the year thus far…

His debut novel, Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children, and the novella Iron Butterflies Rust were released through Delirium Books; a second novella, As I Embrace My Jagged Edges, will be available through Sideshow Press in the weeks ahead; his short fiction was published in The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1 (“This Final December Day”), Dark Discoveries #18 (“Crawl”), Shock Totem #4 (“Beneath the Weeping Willow”), and is forthcoming in the anthology Hacked-up Holiday Massacre (“We Run Races with Goblin Troopers”). Breakout year or not, Lee Thompson is making a hell of a noise.

Enigmatic, charismatic, and a genuinely good dude, Lee is hopefully destined for big things. Call me a fan.

As part of his 2011 Blog Crawl, he’s stopped by Shock Totem HQ to discuss his journey from dreamer to professional writer. Dig!

LOVE OF THE END PRODUCT

by Lee Thompson

I’ve hungered to make a career of writing. To get past my inadequacies and lay it all out there, the good and bad.

I was a horrible student. I think I’d have been deep into a writing career if I had cared about all of this when I was younger. But I didn’t even care about myself then. And I’m glad I didn’t find this passion until so late, because I got to live, I absorbed so much, and there are multitudes of emotions, hard-won lessons, regrets and shame, pride and rebellion that I went through and now get to draw from.

I remember being so poor (my own fault) those first five years before I’d published a single thing that I always had to use other people’s computers to write on. I was an inconvenience and they didn’t have to let me do that, but they did. I submitted a lot of stories on library computers and got a lot of rejections because I really wasn’t very good. But I was hungry to improve.

Then something happened last year where I turned a corner. It was like everything finally fell into place. I think it was that I learned so much from my buddies Shaun Ryan and Kevin Wallis, and I started studying novels I loved, hand copying them—in notebooks, on old printer paper, in legal pads—to learn more even though it was time-consuming, and I realize now that I stopped writing the first ideas that popped in my head. I started writing for me.

When I began this blog tour my first Division novel wasn’t even released yet and here we are with Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children out, as well as my second book Iron Butterflies Rust.

I think I’m very fortunate. I sold my first two books to Delirium Books, a publisher I love, one who has discovered rising stars and cares about the stories and a writer’s career. A publisher who has put out a lot of great material that first took shape in the minds of my heroes (Tom Piccirilli, Greg Gifune, Douglas Clegg, etc.) Not a bad way to lose my virginity. My publisher believes in me. He’s honest about what works for him and what doesn’t, but still asks questions that matter, and wants my input.

How awesome is that?

Very fucking awesome.

So, how does it feel to see your dreams coming true?

It’s wonderful. And it’s a little scary. And it’s very surreal. It’s still sinking in that I’m a professional now. I pour my heart and soul into my work. I use a lot of stuff from real life, from when I was stupid, when I was a kid, moments when I possessed that elusive quality called commonsense, when I was a drunk, dreams I’ve had, and memories and questions that torment me.

And I have friends like Shaun, Kevin, Jassen, Susan, Cate, Mark, Sam, Bec, Peter, Mike, Mercedes, Wanda, John, Nick, Doug, Ken, Neal, Glen, Jennifer, Kate, and so many others who support me, not because I have to beg them or bullshit like that, but because they care.

Any success I have is the result of all those people, and editors like Shane Staley, James Beach, Steve Clark, Adam Bradley, Tom Moran, Ken Wood and lots of others who encouraged me, and earned my respect because of their kindness, honesty, heart and passion.

I could fill pages with people who have helped me along the way these past few years. But that’s kinda frightening too. More and more people I feel I owe something: for putting down their hard-earned money, for spreading the word, for giving feedback, and most of all for their faith and their time. I’m more grateful than you might ever realize. So a huge thanks to all of you.

I never realized how much it would thrill me to get comments from people I don’t know telling me they loved this book or that short story. What an eye opener. It means a lot. It means, in some small way, I’ve connected with another soul (sometimes without ever sharing a conversation). I adore that beyond words.

Thanks to all those who have read and commented and spent time with me.

And a huge thanks to those kind souls who let me blog on their pages.

So much has happened in a short time, but hell, I’m just getting started.

For anyone who missed earlier guest blogs on this tour see them here.

Rock on, you bad mofos.

Lee Thompson

Posted in Alumni News, Blog, Guest Blog, Nonfiction, On Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Contests GO!

Looking to score a free copy of the latest issue of Shock Totem? Well, if you head on over to Lee Thompson’s new website you can toss your name into the e-hat and possibly win one of three copies he’s giving away.

Lee’s story “Beneath the Weeping Willow” is featured in this issue, and it’s fantastic.

Looking for a zombie fix? Like board games? Then look no further than Oh No…Zombies! You can win this game by shambling on over to The Zombie Feed and following the easier-than-easy rules. But be quick, the deadline is tomorrow night, August 13, at midnight.

And while you’re there, consider purchasing a copy of their namesake anthology The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1, which features my story “Goddamn Electric,” as well as tales by Lee Thompson, BJ Burrow, Danger_Slater, and many more.

We have a few contests of our own scheduled. Stay tuned…

Posted in Blog, Contests, Staff News | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Bad-ass Zombie Feed Contest

Contest time!

As mentioned here before, Jason Sizemore, owner of Apex Book Company, has released volume one of a new anthology series under his The Zombie Feed Books imprint. The anthology, simply titled The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1, features fiction from issue #4 author Lee Thompson, Daniel I. Russell, BJ Burrow, Monica Valentinelli, Simon McCaffrey, and many others, including yours truly.


[ click photo to enlarge ]

So how about a free copy?

Head on over to Jason’s website and check out the “bad-ass” contest he’s set up where two lucky—and creative—people will win autographed proofs of The Zombie Feed. You can find the contest here.

(Tip: Pick me!)

Posted in Alumni News, Blog, Contests, Staff News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Feed the Zombie Feed

The Zombie Feed, a new imprint from Jason Sizemore, is hosting a contest. The contest is simple: Ask a question. And if your question is chosen, you will win this:


[ click photo to enlarge ]

The Zombie Feed Vol. 1, edited by Mr. Sizemore.

It should be noted that this anthology features my story “Goddamn Electric,” the first—and currently only—zombie story I’ve ever written. I’m excited. And I want you to own it.

In addition to this, if chosen, your question will be answered by all sixteen authors featured in the anthology. Should be interesting…

So go here, read the rules, and ask away. Good luck!

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The Zombie Feed Anthology Accepting Pre-orders

The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1, a new anthology featuring issue #4 author Lee Thompson and yours truly, among others, is now available for pre-order. It is being edited and published by Apex Publications owner Jason Sizemore, so you can expect quality.

Pre-orders come signed by the editor. Click here for more details.

Posted in Alumni News, Blog, Staff News | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments