Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fitness and creative types

If you want to maintain your creative output, one of the first things you should do is purchase a gym membership. Or—failing that—perhaps an exercise bike. 

Am I still being too elitist? Well, how about a pair of walking shoes? 

Charles Dickens is one of history’s most prolific authors. He was also a compulsive, habitual walker. Dickens reportedly walked as many as twenty miles each day. (I can’t imagine walking that far in the footwear of the Victorian Era.) It was during these long peregrinations that Dickens brainstormed, and dealt with writer’s block—to the extent that Dickens ever suffered from that malady.

Around the time that Jimmy Carter was president, I read the following advice in a copy of Reader’s Digest. (My grandmother was a subscriber.) “If you’re looking for inspiration, go for a walk. Angels whisper to a man when he’s walking.”  

Yes, I realize that statement is both gender-discriminatory and indicative of Judeo-Christian bias. But you get the idea: Exercise is a great way to enhance one’s thought processes. 

It’s been long established that exercise oxygenates the brain; and this spurs creativity. I get some of my best ideas—about all sorts of things—when I’m running, walking, or riding a stationary bike.

And let’s not forget the endorphin rush that exercise provides—otherwise known as “runner’s high”.

Too many writers and creative types have driven themselves to early graves with drink or drugs over the years: Fitzgerald, Poe, Kerouac—the list goes on and on. I can’t help but wonder: How many of them might have been saved—and been more productive artists—if they’d become addicted to exercise instead?

Just a reminder about my YouTube channel

I regular read from my fiction at my YouTube channelAs of this writing, I've done complete readings for all of Eleven Miles of Night. At the present time I'm reading from 12 Hours of Halloween.

My YouTube readings are chopped up into easily digestible chunks of three to eight minutes, and organized into sequential playlists. 

This may or may not be the best and most convenient way to consume a novel-length work of fiction. I'm realistic about this endeavor: Relatively few readers will want to sit before a computer and listen to an entire novel. But my YouTube readings should, at the very least, provide an ample opportunity for you to sample my books and to determine whether or not a particular piece is what you're looking for.

My philosophy is that fiction writers, like rock bands, should market their material by providing potential readers with lots of free samples. That's what I try to do online, rather than tweeting endlessly about cats and politics, as I noted a few weeks ago. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

'12 Hours of Halloween': Reading # 13: The transformation of the ghost boy

Below is reading reading #13 from my coming-of-age supernatural thriller set in 1980: 12 Hours of Halloween. 

To listen to all of the available readings, please visit my YouTube channel. See below for more information about 12 Hours of Halloween.

The rocks that I threw at the ghost boy had both found their mark, almost by accident. (In truth, it had been my intention for them to merely land close by, perhaps splattering him with mud.)
The ghost boy did not attempt to evade the projectiles, nor did he raise a hand in reflex, as most people would.
Leah, Bobby, and I had both watched in silent amazement as the rocks passed through the body of the ghost boy. 
And when each rock passed through him, the ghost boy changed. For a split second he was no longer a boy at all: he was a rotting corpse with exposed rib bones, a grinning skull trailing remnants of long hair.
It was as if the rocks had broken whatever energy field sustained the illusion of an actual boy. That was the explanation I would give myself in the years to come, as I reflected back on that day by the little pond, when I threw rocks to avoid the revelation of uncomfortable secrets. 
Those thoughts would become the reflections of a much older man, who could look back on the actual events with a certain degree of detachment. At the time, I pushed the few seconds of the nightmarish vision to the back of my mind. Truth be told, I was at that juncture more concerned with Leah: What would it take for me to move past my fear and make us more than “just friends”? 
In a more normal year, my crush on Leah might have remained the defining event of the season. But Halloween of 1980 was to be a time of strange sightings for the three of us. And we hadn’t seen the last of them yet. In the very near future, it would be impossible for me to avoid confronting them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Why I write corporate fiction

Judging by the shortage of corporate fiction, you might be led to believe that there isn’t much drama in the corporate world. 

Here’s what I mean: How many novels have you read that take place in offices? Or in factories?

Probably not very many. 

Maybe none, in fact.

This is somewhat surprising, when you think about it. A large percentage of the fiction out there could be fairly described as, “fiction in which the nuts-and-bolts of a particular profession plays a major role.”

And we aren’t just talking about the professions that involve guns and car chases (though of course those are included, too).

Let’s look at some of the more common types of “professional fiction”:

Medical: The example that comes to mind here is Robin Cook. Most of Cook’s novels are “doctor procedural” novels of one sort another.
Legal: Is there anyone out there who hasn't read a John Grisham novel by this point? His breakout novel, The Firm, is a fictional account of life inside a mafia-dominated law firm. 
Police procedural: Police work probably provides more fictional opportunities than any other profession. My personal favorite in this genre is Michael Connelly, author of the Harry Bosch detective series.
Education: A surprising number of novels are set in schools or colleges. Consider Stephen King’s Carrie, and Bernard Malamud’s A New Life.
Educational institutions aren’t obvious settings for novels. When you think about it, schools and colleges are relatively tame, safe environments. I think the large body of “school novels” springs from the fact that so many people who are drawn to writing fiction are also drawn to teaching. (Stephen King, to cite only one example, was a high school English teacher before he “made it”.)
Military: This one is obvious. Military life is filled with conflict, danger, and moral dilemmas. My favorite practitioner here: W.E.B. Griffin.
Spy/espionage: This category is related to the above one, of course; but it is nevertheless distinct. Whereas military fiction focuses on men and women in uniform, spy fiction deals with those who go on missions behind enemy lines. You’ve no doubt read (or at least heard of) John le CarrĂ©, Vince Flynn, and Brad Thor. They all write (or wrote, in the case of the late Vince Flynn) spy fiction. 

But when was the last time you read a novel about a machine tool salesperson? Or a purchasing agent? Or a woman who works in the accounts payable department of a large corporation? Probably you haven’t. If these professions appear at all in fiction, they are usually present only as dim back stories—but never as the main events.

I noticed this several years ago. It occurred to me that this dearth of “corporate fiction” underserves the market for two reasons. 

First of all, a large percentage of the reading public works in cubicle farms, suburban office parks, and factories. (A much higher percentage, I would wager, than those who work as spies, law enforcement officers, or green berets.)

Secondly, there is plenty of conflict and drama in the corporate world, especially if you are willing to see the potential for the “big stories” there.

Let’s get back to John Grisham’s The Firm. Now, The Firm is a great book; and I don’t begrudge John Grisham a single dollar he’s made from it. But let’s be honest: There aren’t many law firms like Bendini, Lambert, and Locke—the fictional one in which the equally fictional Mitch McDeere encounters so much trouble. Most law firms are pretty mundane places, and so are the lives of most lawyers.

John Grisham (a former attorney himself) created the universe of The Firm through a two-step process: a.) Grisham applied what he knew about law firms and the legal profession, and b.) Grisham asked a series of “what if” questions: What would happen if a small, exclusive law firm in the American South were dominated by mafia interests? What would happen if a young lawyer decided to rebel against this arrangement?

I came up with the idea for my novel Termination Man through much the same process. 

Termination Man is set in an automotive manufacturing firm—an environment with which I had a deep (if not always happy) familiarity. 

My what-if questions arose when I read a nonfiction book about the marginally ethical practices of corporate HR departments. That gave me the starting point for the story, which you can grasp from the book’s Amazon.com description:

A long forgotten double murder of two young women in Ohio. A struggling corporation in turmoil. Two powerful men, two bitter rivals, each one hiding his own secrets. One driven by lust and rage, the other driven by a conflicted sense of right and wrong.

“The novel that takes an unflinching look at the dark underside of the 21st century workplace.”  
 CRAIG WALKER is a hotshot young MBA with his own consulting firm. He’s handsome, rich, and in demand. His Fortune 500 clients—the most powerful men and women in industry—call him “The Termination Man.”  
Craig Walker is no ordinary management consultant. He’s a spook, a workplace spy. Assuming false identities, Craig works undercover, building the evidence that will allow his corporate clients to terminate unwanted employees without legal repercussions. His targets are the troublemakers, the agitators, the employees whom management believes are no longer “good fits” for their hyper-competitive organizations.  
Craig Walker believes that he serves the cause of economic efficiency, and in a way, the greater good. Most of his targets don’t like their jobs anyway. In a free market, “a firing isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person. Sometimes an employee needs to leave a bad a situation.”  
SHAWN MYERS is a manager at TP Automotive, a global giant in the automotive industry. Shawn struggles to control his lust and rage, and to escape a hideous past that might catch up with him at any moment. His forbidden desire for a girl young enough to be his daughter threatens to drive him over the edge.  
 When TP Automotive hires the Termination Man to remove two innocent employees from its payroll, Craig Walker is forced to reexamine his notions of justice and morality. But these questions are soon overwhelmed by the dangers that he faces from the TP Automotive management team. After Shawn Myers commits a heinous act in Craig’s presence, the Termination Man discovers that his new clients will resort to any means in order to protect one of their own.

Perhaps you can see the what-if questions in Termination Man:

What would happen if a rogue consulting firm specialized in doing the “dirty work” of corporate human resources departments?  
What would happen if one of these consultants—in a particularly extreme case—found himself torn by the moral dilemmas that this work imposed?  
How far would management go to enforce their will if that consultant resisted them? Would MBA-educated executives resort to violence if enough was at stake?

Termination Man is an unusual novel for the U.S.; it would not be so unusual in Asia—especially in Japan.

Although corporate novels are rare in the English-speaking world, they aren’t rare at all Japan. I began my career as a Japanese language translator (long story); and I’ve read a number of Japanese novels, as well as manga. 

Many of these novels and manga are targeted at Japanese salaried employees. Writers and publishers in Japan have long recognized that corporate types enjoy reading about themselves.

One of the most successful business-themed manga series in Japan is Shima Kousaku. The eponymous Shima Kousaku is a middle manager in a Japanese electronics firm. This long-running series contains drama, physical danger, and conflict that could match any John Grisham novel.

A few editions of the Shima Kousaku series. The Japanese title is "Buchou Shima Kousaku" or "Shima Kousaku, Manager"

Why don’t American novelists write corporate novels as compelling as Shima Kousaku? I asked myself.

So I decided to write one myself: Termination Man.

Since I’d spent so many years (twenty of them!) in the corporate world, I was able to bring a certain “authenticity of experience” to Termination Man. Inside this novel you’ll find meddlesome human resources bureaucrats, sniping, scheming coworkers and (highly) dysfunctional bosses. You’ll also find some insights into the automotive industry.

At its core, though, Termination Man is about the conflict between the desire to do what needs to be done as a good employee (i.e., a “team player”) and what a moral individual must do in order to sleep at night. It’s about the difficulties of self-preservation in the twenty-first century workplace, where companies are now managed for shareholders, rather than “stakeholders”. 

In a larger sense, Termination Man is a book about the compromises that we all have to sometimes make in the highly competitive, global economy.

In my view, this is the stuff of high drama. As a reader of Termination ManI think you’ll agree. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

12 Hours of Halloween, Reading # 11: Jeff's secret

This made me immediately nervous, because I knew that I was harboring secrets. I was feeling differently about Leah than I ever had, and I didn't yet know how to tell her so. Although Bobby was my friend, I was no longer content to have us hanging around as a threesome all the time. I wanted Leah to myself.
I didn't know how the ghost boy could have known any of this, but I was almost certain that he grasped my innermost thoughts. He had done no less in the cases of Leah and Bobby, after all. 
That wasn't a conversation I was prepared to have. Almost without thinking, I knelt and picked up a rock. Then another.
The ghost boy smiled. In a voice that was a few octaves deeper than his normal adolescent boy’s voice, he said, “Go ahead, try it.”
So I threw both rocks. The results of that effort were almost as strange as the ghost boy’s impossible knowledge.
“Come on,” I said to Leah and Bobby. “Let’s get out of here.”
Simultaneously, we all resumed walking, quickening our pace to double time. Leah and Bobby had seen what I had seen, hadn’t they?
Our one lucky break was that there was a bend in the road directly beyond the pond. We didn't stop our forward march until we were well on the other side of that bend, and beyond visual contact with the ghost boy.
Leah said, breathing heavily, “Tell me you guys didn't see that, okay? I need to believe that was just my imagination playing tricks on me.” She stopped, unslung her backpack, and allowed it to drop at the side of the road. “So tell me that guys, okay?”
Bobby shook his head slowly. “If that was your imagination, then my imagination was doing the same thing. What about you, Schaeffer?”
I might have been visibly trembling now. Probably I was. “I saw it. I don’t know what to call it, but—”
“Just stop! Okay?” Leah shouted. “Can we just forget about it, already?” 
Bobby looked at Leah, at me, and then back at Leah.
“Sure,” he said. “Let’s just forget about it. We don’t have to talk about it, do we, Schaeffer?”
“Nope. Nothing we need to talk about.”
“Okay then,” Leah bent down and hoisted her backpack again. We resumed walking.

Saul Bellow starter novel

When I was an English major in the fall of 1986, I asked my American Lit professor who his favorite writer was.

His response? Saul Bellow.

I didn't realize at the time how predictable this response was. Saul Bellow is one of those writers who has a wide following among literature professors--not so much among casual readers. 

I've read most of his books, and let me tell you: Saul Bellow is an acquired taste, to put it mildly. (I'm presently reading The Dean's December; almost of all of the action takes place within the characters' heads.)

Is there a bright spot? Yes--Humboldt's Gift. Of all Bellow's novels, this one is the most accessible to the casual reader. 

Humboldt's Gift isn't a John Grisham or a Clive Cussler novel, mind you; but it's relatively fast-paced as Saul Bellow goes. 

If you're interested in dipping your toe into the work of Saul Bellow, you should probably start here:

Who was Wilkie Collins, and why should you care?

The following video from my YouTube channel is a brief review of Peter Ackroyd's book, Wilkie Collins: a Brief Life. For the completely uninitiated, it will also serve as an introduction to Collins himself. 

Wilkie Collins was a contemporary of Charles Dickens, and a frequent collaborator of the inimitable one. 

My next book purchase: Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life

I've enjoyed several of Peter Ackroyd's histories and biographies; and I've recently been catching up on the oeuvre of Alfred Hitchcock. (I especially recommend Rear Window and Dial M for Murder.)

This book--which was published just last month--was therefore a natural choice for me. It presently sits in my Amazon shopping cart. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

'12 Hours of Halloween': Taunting from the 'ghost boy'

This is reading #10 from my novel, 12 Hours of Halloween. (To listen to the other readings, please visit my YouTube channel.)

...He was sitting where he always sat: on a fallen log beside a stagnant pond that formed the pit of a little bowl of land alongside Shayton Road.
The pond was not a proper pond, really, but rather a low point where rainwater had collected. The depression in the land had been the site of an old industrial building, a structure that had once been a slaughterhouse (so the rumors went), or maybe just a warehouse. In any event, the building had been very old, and had been vacant for a long time when it was finally demolished two years earlier. 
Now all that was left here was a barren crater filled with miscellaneous debris, and a shallow pool of water. The scene looked vaguely like something from a war zone. A bomb might have landed on the now nonexistent building, rather than a crew of demolition workers and a backhoe. 
The crater was inaccessible for all practical purposes: It was hemmed in by two steep, slippery-looking hillsides behind it, and a sharp drop-off at the edge of Shayton Road on the near side. We had never played in the depression, never seriously thought about exploring the banks of the sludgy pond. This place was foul and muddy; and venturing down there would have meant a twisted ankle, if not a broken leg. 
The crater had never attracted our notice much at all—until the ghost boy had begun appearing there.
He was wearing what he always wore: an old army fatigue jacket, jeans, and beat-up sneakers. The ghost boy might have been fourteen or fifteen years old—a few years older than us. He was smoking a cigarette and watching us approach. Doing, once again, what he always did. 
I tried to look for his reflection in the pond and couldn't see it, though a skeptic could have easily claimed this was a result of the position of the boy, the pond, and the angle at which we approached him.
What was more difficult to explain was the way the kid seemed to blend into the hillside behind him—a craggy, muddy incline of dirt boulders and scrub pines. We had all noticed this: it was as if he were alternately there and not there. 
“Maybe we should just ignore him,” Leah said. We were drawing close now, though still just beyond earshot. “Maybe if we ignore him, then he’ll ignore us.”
Bobby snorted. “Fat chance. He doesn't want to be ignored. We’ve tried ignoring him before, haven’t we? But he always calls out to us.”...

'12 Hours of Halloween': the sighting of the 'ghost boy'

This is reading # 9 from my novel 12 Hours of Halloween. 

In this installment, Jeff, Bobby, and Leah leave St. Patrick's and begin the walk down Shayton Road, where they will spot the ghost boy.

To listen to the other readings, please visit my YouTube channel.

Mr. Snyder talked on, and told us how the Celtic festival of Samhain had been co-opted by the Catholic Church, and transformed into the holiday known as All Saints Day or All Hallows. The modern Halloween, he explained, was actually a truncated form of “All Hallows Evening”, or the night before All Saints Day. 
Then he told us how the jack-o’-lantern had been originally carved from a turnip, and then a gourd, and finally a pumpkin. The jack-o’-lantern was once thought to ward off evil spirits.  
But by now I was only half-listening, my mind wandering off onto other topics. I was reflecting on the fact that I had never had a girlfriend before. I was enumerating Leah’s qualities: Not only was she pretty—she was smart; she had the second-highest average in math so far this year, and seemed to breeze through every class discussion in our other courses, always prepared, always knowing the right answer. 
I was wondering (for what might have been the millionth time) how many other boys had noticed her by now. How long would I have to make my move? I needed to ask her to “go with me”—as we said in those days. 
That would require a previously unknown level of courage for me; I knew I wasn't up to it yet. How shattered I would be if she said no—that she “only liked me as a friend”.
And, of course, with the walk home only a few hours away, I was also thinking about the ghost boy....

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hellhounds and Ohio Horror

Hellhounds are among the creatures that amateur filmmaker Jason Kelley encounters during his walk down the Shaman's Highway in Eleven Miles of Night. 

The concept of the hellhound, of course, has been around for a centuries, and has been a source of inspiration for artists drawn to the macabre. 

I like this illustration and short blurb from Discovery.com's Animal Planet:

BEARER OF DEATH? "Hellhound" is only one of many names used to describe ethereal, black dogs that roam hillsides and graveyards. With their glowing red eyes, super strength and speed, and a tendency to trail fire and brimstone in their wake, Hellhounds make for a terrifying messenger from the underworld. They are said to have been created by a group of ancient demons to serve as heralds of death, and seeing a Hellhound — some say once and others claim it takes three sightings — inevitably leads to the viewer's demise. Hellhounds boast many titles, including Black Shuck, Cerberus, Garm and Perro Negro. In the popular Harry Potter series, author J.K. Rowling referred to a menacing Hellhound as "The Grim." 
 AN ANCIENT LEGEND: Hellhound legends date back to the time of Vikings and sightings have been reported throughout history. These sightings, which are not confined to one region of the world, have more recently occurred near cemeteries in Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana and Ohio.
Note from the above that these beasts have been seen in Ohio--where Eleven Miles of Night is set.

"Jason Kelley is a young, struggling filmmaker looking for his first big break. When the semi-famous cable television ghost hunter Simon Rose approaches him about a freelance project, Jason is understandably thrilled.  
He isn’t fazed by the fact that his assignment is a walk down the Shaman’s Highway, an eleven-mile stretch of rural Ohio roadway that is reputed to be haunted by malevolent spirits, hellhounds, and demonic forces. Jason is an agnostic in regard to the supernatural.  
He isn’t prepared for the reality that awaits him on his walk through eleven miles of night—nor the more human violence and heartbreak that he will face along the way."

To listen to readings from Eleven Miles of Night, visit my YouTube channel

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Adolescent Angst and Halloween

In this excerpt of 12 Hours of Halloween, Jeff Shaeffer listens to his teacher's discussion of the historical roots of Halloween--including and explanation of Samhain.  

Jeff's minds soon drift, however, to thoughts of girls, and his gnawing adolescent insecurities:

I surreptitiously swiveled around in my desk so that I could steal a glance at Leah. She was seated two rows over from me. When I saw her I felt my heart flutter, as they say—and even at the age of twelve I had enough self-awareness to feel a little silly for this. As I’ve mentioned, I had been looking at her for all of my life.

After wearing her blonde-brown hair straight for years, Leah had of late begun wearing it in the feathered hairstyle that celebrities like Farah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith had recently made all the rage. She had grown a few inches, too, so that we now stood more or less eye-to-eye. (My pubescent growth spurt, which would eventually bring me to my present height of 6’1”, would begin the following summer; but I had no idea of this at the time.) Leah’s legs were long, tanned, and lightly muscled. 

She was by no means the prettiest girl in the St. Patrick’s junior high. But she could easily be counted among the most attractive ones; and I grew more than a little anxious whenever I saw other boys talking to her—especially the taller, stronger, and more aggressive boys in the eighth grade.

“Halloween,” Mr. Snyder began, “was originally a Celtic holiday in the British Isles, known as Samhain. The Celts celebrated Samhain after the fall harvest. Samhain represented the end of the growing season, and the beginning of the darker time of the year.”

I was mildly disappointed. Halloween a mere “harvest holiday”? The beginning of winter? So what? But Mr. Snyder was far from done.

“Of course,” he continued, “there was a lot more to it than that. This is a spooky time of year, isn’t it? Have you ever noticed that?”

I involuntarily nodded, and felt a little chill. I remembered the figure whom Leah, Bobby, and I referred to as “the ghost boy”; and I wondered if we would see him during our walk home today.

“The ancient Celts believed,” Mr. Snyder said, “that this season at the end of the traditional harvest, between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, was a liminal time.” Mr. Snyder paused, realizing that he had used a word beyond the range of the average twelve year-old vocabulary. “That means a time when the barriers between the world of the living and the world of the dead break down, or at least grow very thin. The Celts believed that the post-harvest holiday of Samhain was a time when the souls of the recently departed returned to their earthly homes, to visit their loved ones.”

Now I definitely felt the chill. I had been but a small boy when my grandfather and grandmother Schaeffer had died. My memories of them were fragmentary at best. If what the Celts believed was correct, then maybe they still visited us from time to time—perhaps on one night per year, perhaps more often than that. This thought was simultaneously comforting and unsettling.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Happy Veteran's Day...and thank you

This is my grandfather in the south Atlantic, circa 1943. He had some great stories to tell. Thanks to all former and current members of the U.S. military on Veteran's Day...and perdition to their enemies.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Horror Fiction is also about Redemption

Today is Election Day; but I don’t want to talk about the elections.

Let’s talk instead about—horror fiction and redemption!

This is a principle that is best explained through example.

Almost everyone who has any interest in the horror/suspense genre is familiar with The Walking Dead, so we’ll focus our attention there.

Millions of viewers were turned off by the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead. I know I sure was. Some reviewers called it “torture porn”. I can’t disagree. Torture porn is more or less what it was. 

The Walking Dead was launched six years ago on a high note. 

Yes, there were flesh-eating zombies. Yes, the setting was a post-apocalyptic USA.

But TWD of 2010 or 2011 also put the best of the human spirit on display.  

The characters were genuinely sympathetic and likable. The stories were compelling. 

The first few seasons of TWD depicted normal people trying their best to balance survival and morality in a world gone awry. That’s a metaphor that everyone finds useful.

TWD of 2016 has become a very different beast. Gone is any sense of real human virtue holding out against the dark side. What we have now is merely nihilistic violence and despair.

“But that’s real, man!” some people would say. “And that’s what horror fiction is all about—an unflinching look at the dark side!”

Yes—and no. Horror fiction certainly does look at the dark aspects of life on earth. No other genre is more concerned with basic questions of life and death, good and evil.

But if horror fiction is to be nothing but the depiction of sadistic violence, then why even waste time creating characters and stories at all? Why not just watch ISIS beheading videos? (After all, they’re very “realistic”.)

Horror fiction should examine the dark side of life. But horror fiction serves no purpose as art if it does not also show a path to redemption, as well. 

This is not a call for Pollyannaism. The darkness is real. But the darkness is also something for human beings to struggle against and triumph over. This is a principle that goes all the way back to Beowulf (one of the first “creature-based” horror tales). 

Look at all of the really good, enduring works of horror and you’ll find a contrast between good and evil, versus a one-sided depiction of evil. 

Horror fiction, at its core, is about people facing evil and preserving their humanity. Read the early novels of Stephen King—Carrie, The Stand, Christine, etc. In each of these novels you’ll find a reaffirmation of the moral/spiritual principles that make us human.

The Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead contained no hint of redemption in the face of evil. Its message was: The world is fundamentally bad, evil rules, and human life is ultimately meaningless.

This is one of the reasons why a once great show has become such a drag to watch. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Before ‘The Walking Dead’, there was ‘Hay Moon’

Between roughly 2005 and 2008 I worked on a zombie tale called Hay Moon. The completed story eventually became the lead/anchor story in my first short story collection: Hay Moon and Other Stories: Sixteen Modern Tales of Horror and Suspense.

Hay Moon is a tad longer than 10,000 words. This technically classifies it as a “novelette”—or a very long short story. 

I wrote Hay Moon before AMC launched The Walking Dead in 2010. I don’t mean to imply by this observation that I’m a genius, or that AMC in any way copied my work or stole my idea. The idea of the reanimated dead is an old one. This is a horror archetype, like ghosts, vampires, witches, or serial killers. It doesn't “belong” to any single author or filmmaker. 

I mention the fact that Hay Moon predatedThe Walking Dead because the two are very dissimilar. Hay Moon isn't a tale about the end of civilization. 

In other words, if you’re looking for another story about a plague-sized, global zombocalypse brought about by a virus, you won’t find it in Hay Moon. The zombie phenomenon in Hay Moon is supernatural, and confined to a particular place and time, as indicated by the Amazon description:

Paul Hammers was eleven years old in the summer of 1932, when the Hay Moon turned bad and for a brief while, the dead walked the earth in an isolated corner of rural Ohio.

Decades later, Paul Hammers, now a great-grandfather, looks back on that summer of fear. But is the nightmare truly over?

I’m making the novelette free on Amazon Kindle from November 6th through November 8th. This will give you a chance to sample the eponymous first story of the longer story collection—as well as my fiction in general. 

If you like this story, you might consider the longer collection of sixteen stories. If you’re in the mood for a horror novel instead, let me suggest Eleven Miles of Night or 12 Hours of Halloween

Or maybe even all three: They’re all dirt-cheap on Amazon Kindle.