I AM HOPE OUT NOW!

ES_IAmHope

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Topher, Jesse, and Sawyer thought their greatest threats were the Infected and Mutated that roam the world. As they struggle to reach the Concentration Center in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina they discover that the monstrous mutations of the undead are the least of their problems. Something else, something far more intelligent and lethal, is hunting them.

Topher knows that the only way humanity will survive is to find a cure for the strange infection that’s ravaged civilization. He’s on the brink of discovering it, but the further his research goes, the more he realizes that curing the world may mean losing Sawyer.

In order to stay together, all three men will have to battle for their lives and Topher will have to make the ultimate choice: cure the world or save his lover?

EXCERPT

“You stupid bitch!” Richey shouted. Chloe was hitting him, throwing everything she had into her punches and slaps. Richey punched her in the face, and Chloe fell limply to the side.

Reality snapped back.

Nash scrambled for the fallen gun. I dived for another. I grabbed the shotgun and fired a shot at Stu, hitting him in the stomach. He dropped the AK-47 with a scream.

Jane’s gun went off. I craned to look. Jesse had her hand raised in the air, twisting her wrist so that she dropped the pistol. He slammed his knee into her gut. She collapsed to her knees with a groan.

I climbed to my feet and grabbed the AK-47 from Stu, keeping my shotgun aimed at his head. He lay on the ground, clutching his stomach. There was a dampness that seeped through his fingers. Stu stared up at me, but it was too dark to read his expression.

“Help over here!” Nash shouted.

I jerked my head up. Nash was on the ground, struggling with Richey. There was a flash of silver mixed in the tussle, and then a succession of gunshots. Nash and Richey froze, and my heart leaped into my throat. Nash shoved Richey, who fell back lifelessly.

“Bastard,” Nash spat. He stood, holding the gun.

A hand locked on my ankle and pulled my foot out from under me. The world tipped sideways; all the stars spilled out of the galaxy. My head slammed into the ground. I dropped the guns. The grass smelled damp and musky. I groaned and dug my fingers into the dirt. When I looked up, Stu had a gun pointed at my head. Blood poured from his mouth. He didn’t have long. A few minutes, maybe only seconds.

I tipped my head back and looked over at Jesse. At some point, the tables had flipped again. More of Jane’s guards had come, corralling Jesse, Sawyer, and Rio over with Chloe, who lay motionless on the ground. Jaden clung to her. His tiny whimpers punctuated the night.

Nash stood off to the side, his newly proffered gun pointed down. He glared mutinously at Jane.

“Enough games,” Jane said viciously.

I inched my fingers toward the AK-47. Stu kicked the gun out of my reach. “Don’t move,” he wheezed and then coughed wetly.

“You’re going to die,” I whispered. “Do you want these to be your last moments of humanity? Killing innocent people?”

“Shut up!” Stu roared. He towered over me, all muscle and rage.

I closed my eyes. A cool breeze stirred through the grass and kissed my face. I opened my eyes and looked back at Jane.

“Abominations must be destroyed,” Jane said, as if it were a mantra. If she said it enough times, would it make everything that happened here okay?

“Do it,” Jesse challenged. “Kill us. It won’t make a difference.”

Jane took a gun from one of the guards and aimed it straight at Jesse.

My eyes widened. I clawed at the grass, trying to compel my body to move. Jane’s arm trembled. Her convictions shook.

“Please,” I croaked. Her head snapped in my direction. “Don’t. This isn’t the answer. This isn’t the way to save the world. You do this, and you destroy all hope of ever stopping the infection.”

“What do you know?” she sneered, her teeth dark with blood.

“I know that if we kill one another, we’re no better than the Infected.” I pushed up on unsteady arms. “Life isn’t over. It’s only evolving—”

Jane scoffed. “Blasphemy.”

“No, reality. The ability to adapt, to expand, it exists inside us. We can overcome this, but we have to stop killing one another first.”

Her gun turned on me.

“You think we can overcome this? This hell on earth?”

“Do you think this is the first time we’ve faced extinction?” I rose to my knees. Icy fingers of fear inched down my spine. My blood pounded between my ears. I had to force myself not to look away. Somewhere, deep inside Jane, was a little girl scared of the monsters. I had to find her and show her that we had hope. “I know how to save us, but if you kill us, then you destroy any chance of stopping this.”

“Liar,” Jane said. “How could you know?”

“Just kill them!” Stu shouted.

“Jane, please,” I whispered.

Beyond her, a crowd huddled together. A few guards had been left to keep watch. Past them was the tree line, which was nothing more than a formless shadow stretched across the horizon. The world continued on, beyond this camp, beyond any other camp that struggled to get by.

From the trees, shapes emerged, black figures that staggered and stumbled toward our camp. They pressed into the perimeter, a deluge of undead that would soon wash over us.

A gunshot cracked open the night with a thundering clap. I caught the glimmer of blood spray before Jane fell forward and face-planted the ground. Bruce stood behind her, a revolver aimed at where she’d stood.

It was like a bomb went off. The three guards who stood by Jane began to fire. I lunged for the shotgun and turned around, shooting Stu before he could get off a round. His head exploded into a congealed mess of blood. I scrambled to my feet.

Three guards lay on the ground with head wounds. The wall collapsed, toppling over as easily as a house of cards, and the Infected flooded in.

Bruce stood over Jane, chest heaving. “I… She… This wasn’t what was supposed to happen. I…”

“We don’t have time—” I was cut off by the foghorn bellow of an Infected.

They were right on us. Their rotting shapes grew solid. I pumped the shotgun and fired off a shot at the barreling Infected, hitting him in the shoulder. The Infected’s body twisted, and he staggered, but he didn’t stop. He came, ravenous and wild.

Bruce craned his head around. He started to scream, but it was knocked out of him as the Infected tackled him. I lunged for Bruce, but someone caught me around the waist.

“Let him go,” Jesse shouted. “Grab the guns, and let’s go!”

“You can’t— He’s—” What? Dead. Bruce’s screams grew wet and gurgled, like so many others we heard all around us. I pushed off Jesse and collected Stu’s weapon.

Everyone grabbed what guns they could. Screams erupted in the distance. The purging was over, and all that was left was another broken camp. Nash carried Chloe into the RV with Jaden following behind. I shoved some guns into the front of the truck. Rio climbed into the driver’s seat of the pickup and started it up.

I glanced toward the Infected. They were running for us, closing in fast. I spared Bruce one final look and then rushed into the RV. Sawyer started her up, and we peeled around the church, barreling through the rest of the flimsy perimeter.

I shoved past Jesse and ran into the bedroom, where I raised the blinds on the single window. I watched as people scrambled to pull themselves together and escape. Now, with death pressing in, it didn’t matter who was a sinner and who was a saint. We were all food.

Time and time again, we watched civilization fall, and it always felt like a bitch slap. I bit back the misery, told myself to move on, but how long would we keep going? I pressed a hand against the window. The Infected came down on the fence, the numbers too great for the plywood and sheet metal to hold. They slammed into the barricade, and like the rest of the world, it fell.

I swore Bruce looked up and watched us as we drove away. Impossible, I knew. He was lost to the infection and to the inevitable fate of mankind. But in the thickness of the night, I saw a faint glimmer. Most likely it was my mind playing tricks on me, but there was a small part of me that saw moonlight reflecting off his eyes.

A hand slid over my shoulder. I turned to Jesse and pressed my face into his shoulder with a shudder.

“I…” What? I hated this? So did he. I didn’t finish the sentence. I wrapped my arms around his neck and savored the feel of him against me.

“We can’t save them all,” he whispered into my ear.

I nodded, because really, that was all I could do.

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COMING SOON: I AM HOPE COVER REVEAL

teaser

GUEST POST with Robert Pruneda | LARGE GIVEAWAY!

Devil’s Nightmare:

Designing the Perfect Cover

I’ve learned quite a few things during my journey as a published author, but one of the most important lessons I learned was to let a professional design my covers. When I first published Devil’s Nightmare, I was like any other starving novelist out there with a limited budget; I figured I could do everything myself. After all, there are some awesome do-it-yourself tools on the Internet for designing book covers. No experience necessary. What’s that? You doubt my creative design skills? Well, let me put those skeptical thoughts to rest with this little gem:

It’s a masterpiece, isn’t it? I mean, check out those flaming letters and the awesome streaks of lightning. It really gives you an idea of what the book is about, right? Of course it does. You can imagine how quickly Devil’s Nightmare hit the bestseller charts with that work of art. The only thing it cost me was a little bit of time. Pure genius, if you ask me. After all, people don’t really judge books by their covers, anyway. Well, to my absolute astonishment . . . they do. Damn! So much for taking the easy road and saving a few bucks.

A friend of mine went through a somewhat similar experience—although his original cover was leaps and bounds better than my no-budget cover. He sailed across the virtual seas of the World Wide Web and discovered Rodrigo Adolfo. So, naturally, after getting a glimpse of his work, I hired Rodrigo to redesign the cover for Devil’s Nightmare. A few days and $250 later, he sent me this cover:

It wasn’t perfect, but it was way better than my generic do-it-yourself cover. I loved the flames, the building, the “three-dimensional lightning” and the subtle reference to Ouija boards. After making a couple of more changes to the title and name, I gave it my stamp of approval. It looked beautiful, especially in print. However, I later realized that while the cover still looked great in online catalogs, the title was hard to read in search results as a thumbnail image. Nonetheless, choosing to hire someone to redesign my cover paid off. The new design finally caught readers’ eyeballs and Devil’s Nightmare sold fairly well.

One of those sets of eyeballs was the VP of Community Management at Booktrope Publishing. In late 2013, he contacted me with an invitation to republish Devil’s Nightmare with them. While flattered, I had no desire to sign contracts with any publishers at the time. I simply wanted to remain an “indie” author. Translation: I was stingy and didn’t want to share my pennies.

As time passed, I noticed several fellow authors signing on with this new innovative hybrid publisher. I finally reconsidered and submitted Devil’s Nightmare for consideration, mainly because I admitted to myself that I needed help finding new readership in this evolving industry. Since they had previously expressed interest, they accepted Devil’s Nightmare and selected it for publication through its horror imprint Forsaken (which, by the way, is awesome). Not only did I get a professional edit (you guessed it, I had previously skimped on that too . . . I had only relied on my experience working at a newspaper and used beta readers), but I also hooked up with the amazing Laura Hidalgo, who after reading Devil’s Nightmare designed the perfect cover that displays key elements of my novel. In short, she nailed it! Oh, and here’s a funny tidbit of information . . . horror totally creeps her out. So, it’s quite ironic that she’s now a part of the Forsaken design team. Here’s the new cover:

When Laura was selecting images for the design, she told me that she had found the perfect image for Saint Hedwig Youth Home. She said it was exactly how she imagined the building when she read the novel. She and I also stayed up late one night discussing those mysterious eyes you see within the title. A lot of work went into making them perfect. The pentacle beneath the title is also very significant. I loved this particular image so much that I rewrote a key scene in Devil’s Nightmare to match the cover. If you read Devil’s Nightmare, I think you will agree that Laura did an excellent job of capturing the essence of the story with just a few images.

Thanks for stopping by and allowing me to share the process of designing the perfect cover for Devil’s Nightmare. I’d love to read your thoughts about it or about book covers in general. And before you leave, be sure to sign up for the Rafflecopter contest below for a chance to win some cool prizes.


Devil’s Nightmare

Devil’s Nightmare Series

Book One

Robert Pruneda

Genre: Horror

Publisher:  Forsaken Imprint

Booktrope Publishing

Date of Publication: July 15, 2015

Cover Artist:  Laura Hidalgo

Veteran homicide detective Aaron Sanders thought he’d seen it all, but nothing could have prepared the seasoned detective for the mutilated remains of a kid’s parents or the equally vicious deaths of three boys at another crime scene.

As Aaron works to solve the cases and protect his only witness, an orphaned child, he learns of an ancient curse that leaves him questioning all he’s ever believed. Now, to save himself and the child, Aaron must confront his own inner demons, and some he never knew existed. But if he does, will he make it out alive?

Devil’s Nightmare is an occult suspense horror novel by Robert Pruneda, who shakes readers with his visually graphic scenes, supernatural twists, and disturbing settings in this first installment of the Devil’s Nightmare series.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robert “Sharky” Pruneda is a native Texan, video game “enthusiast” [addict], and fan of all things horror. He left a career in the newspaper industry in 2011 to pursue the life of a nocturnal author, brainstorming new and creative ways to creep out his readers. He doesn’t only write horror though.

He also pens the occasional family-oriented tale just to keep from going completely nuts with all those creatures of the night whispering in his ears. When he’s not pulling ideas out of his twisted brain, you’ll likely find him on social media or fighting alongside his fellow gaming buddies where they all get shot up into Swiss cheese (or turned into little bite-sized chunks because of “Sharky’s” obsession with explosives). Medic!

Pursue your dreams . . . and never look back.

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GIVEAWAY

Robert is giving away 2 paperbacks of Devil’s Nightmare (domestic only), 2 ebooks, and for one lucky grand prize winner, a signed copy of the novel, swag, and a $25 gift card. To enter, click on the link for the rafflecopter.

Vampires, Witches, and Werewolves! (Oh my!)

I’ve been away on vacation for the last few days, doing a mini writing retreat. While I was scaling (and by scaling I mean driving a VW up a very steep and very scary hill), I started to think about my latest project, the final segment in the Meteora Trilogy. Now mind you, I wasn’t the one driving. So I wasn’t floating off in La La Land while trying to ascend Mt. Terrifying Gravel Path.

Recently a slew of stories have come out that fall anywhere under the fantasy/urban fantasy/horror spectrum. Out of them, a good chunk (probably over half) has been stereotypical monster mashes. You know the ones: there’s the steroid infused alpha werewolf/shifter, a vampire that acts like an emo kid from the early millennium, and all kinds of hocus pocus witches. It’s almost as if writers are given a list of creatures and told to check one off.

Every now and then a gem pops up, a story that abandons the ever ubiquitous three-monster list and goes with something a tad more original. But even then, we seem to continue within the same area, never straying too far from shifter-vampire-witch archetype. Sure, zombies have gotten some much needed attention, along with fairies, and even trolls. But these have all been bashed over the head so many times that their brains are splattered across the wall.

Where am I going with this? Well, I think it’s time for us to come up with something different. There are so many amazing monsters out there. It’s all a Google search away. Instead of falling back on the ever traditional vampire or fairy, why not try looking into Slavic lore or take a tour down south and research Mexican myths? The world is ripe with so many fantastical creatures, it’s a shame we seem to always rely on the same fables.

Even if you’re a fan of vampires and you really, really want to write a story about blood sucking fiends (you and the rest of the world), give it a fresh spin! Look at different myths for vampires. Did you know that the Greeks don’t have vampires, but they do have lamias, which are very similar? If you want to write that zombie novel (guilty as charged), why not do something outside of the traditional virus-induced apocalypse? Zombies originate from Haitian lore, look into it and go from there.

My point is that we can do so much more than what we have been. It doesn’t always have to be vampires, witches, and werewolves (oh my!). It can be a wendigo, griffon, or yeti. I want a story about Big Foot (and not monster porn either). I want a story about kappas and chupacabras and original monsters, ones that don’t have any lineage beyond your own imagination.

Let me know what you think, what you want to see. Who else is tired of the same ol’ song that keeps getting sung in urban fantasy and horror? Who else wants to see something more than the glittering undead and witches with vendettas? I know I do!

EXCERPT: Club Revenge by J.M Dabney | E-BOOK & $10 AMAZON GC GIVEAWAY

“I knew the moment I caught your scent across the room. You were wearing this tight secretary outfit, pinstriped skirt, white blouse, for a number you were performing. Fuck, you were gorgeous.” The roll of her eyes infuriated him. “Why the fuck is it so hard for you to take a compliment from me?”

“Because you give them so easily.”

“When I am here, have you ever seen me leave with anyone? Tell me one time and I will leave you to the safety of your precious bubble.” When he wasn’t here with his family he fulfilled his needs, anonymous women that meant nothing beyond one night. Ripper may be considered a bastard in a lot of ways but he wouldn’t rub Tasha’s face in his conquests. The more he saw her search her memory the further her anger was pushed away. “You’ve treated me like a kid for the last five years, practically patting me on the head. I tried to tell you and you shut me down every time.”

“You’re just—” She closed her mouth so fast her teeth clicked together.

“What? Pretty? I’m getting tired of that one. Just give me a fucking chance, maybe even a date or a conversation where it doesn’t end with you running from me.” A snicker from the bar narrowed his eyes. “Shut up, Ma!”

“Amora, your son is trying—” Lark moaned as the admonishment was cut off.

“Could I possibly do this without the audience?”

“Maybe I could suggest some poetry, or a kiss, something to make her forget you have the appeal of a leprous rage demon.”

“Dad, so not helping here.” He shot Tasha a glare as she coughed to cover what suspiciously sounded like a laugh. “Don’t even start finding this funny. Can we go somewhere else to talk?”

“Okay.” Ripper reached out and laced his fingers through Tasha’s; turning he led her toward the door flipping off his parental units as he went.

“We love you too, son.” Growling at the amused trio as he pushed open the door and stepped out into the bright afternoon sun as he tugged Tasha to his side.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

By day, she’s an introverted cook hiding out in her kitchen in the middle of nowhere Ohio, by night and any free time she may have, she is a writer of mainly LGBTQ Fiction and Erotica. Although, she’s equal opportunity when it comes to telling a story, she’ll even write a bit of straight erotic romance when the mood strikes.

She has been writing for years in old notebooks. At the age of eight, she wrote the worst poem in the history of poetry, but it sparked her love for writing. She reads too much and loves to get lost in other worlds and her favorite stories have to include laughter and at least one reader doing a double take.

Thirty-something, forever restless, she uses her stories to ground herself, and find her place of peace.

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GIVEAWAY

Want to win a copy of Club Revenge? Three lucky winners will get a copy. First place will also receive a $10 Amazon GC. Follow the link to the rafflecopter to enter.

GUEST POST: Su Halfwerk | $25 AMAZON GC GIVEAWAY

The writing of Aberrancy

My reading interests started with the darker aspects of fiction. When I was young, I listened to fairytales and waited for the interesting parts where the bad witch, evil sorcerer, or sinister queen plotted against the protagonist. That was where the real story began for me, not the fluffy happiness of king, queen, and their cute little princely offspring. Despite Grimm’s Fairytales’ heavy rewrites (sometimes the stories were romanticized, other times they were turned into a festival of gore) they remain the ultimate collection of short stories that touch on some of the very rudimentary, sinister human traits.

Aberrancy is no fairytale; it’s Robert’s gloomy journey into madness brought about by his inability to let go. A witch ruined his perfect life and she had to pay no matter the cost to his career, personal life, and sanity. As a result, I researched “determination” as a personal attribute and came across many heartwarming stories of dreams come true and goals reached because these people wouldn’t give up on their dreams.

But what if what they had were nightmares instead of dreams? What if, for argument’s sake, these people’s objectives were wrong? Worse still, what if they were right?

With these questions in mind, Aberrancy was born.

I’m still not sure if Robert should’ve just went on with his life, whatever was left of it.


EXCERPT FOR ABERRANCY

Her arms were secured to the wooden chair’s arms with six coils of duct tape. The same was done to her feet and the chair’s legs. Another set of layers—twelve to be exact—secured her midsection to its back.

“I don’t have much,” she said. “Take whatever jewelry I have. Take my bank card and pin code, just let me go.”

He slammed his hand on the table, the solitary candle shook without toppling to the ground. The bottle of fizz did though, and was smashed on the floor. “I don’t want your money.”

“Then what do you want?” Liquid leaked out of her eyes, presumably tears.

“Answers.”

Her glistening eyes shifted sideways. “What?”

“You heard me. Proper and reasonable answers will be your salvation.”

“Answers to what? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t even know you.” Under her breath, she muttered to herself, “This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening.”

“You thought I wouldn’t find you.” He smirked.

She inhaled sharply. “My name is Delia Kane. I’m a—”

“—high school history teacher,” he mocked. “A small town spinster who hasn’t taken a single step out of her little town except to relocate here to teach.” He paused. “Isn’t this the spiel nowadays to connect with your abductor? To humanize yourself by spilling a summary of your bio no matter how fake it is?”

She blinked sweat out of her eyes. “That’s my life you’re talking about. Hold on a second…how come you know so much about me?” She squinted at him, studying his face. “Who are you?”

The night was humid. His borrowed orderly shirt was sticking to his back. “Who am I?” He backhanded her hard enough to hurt his hand. “Stop playing tricks. You might not know how I found you this time but you know damn well who I am.”

She sniffled; mucus ran out of her crooked nose. “I swear to God, I don’t know you. There must be a mistake.”

Surely she could make out his face in the dim light. Then again, maybe she’d lost her memory from the last accident she had. Or, as per her habit, she was lying.

He glanced at the microwave’s clock. Twelve o’clock. It had taken her over four hours to awaken from the drug he’d injected her with, longer than he’d anticipated going by his wake-up record. Unlike him, her body wasn’t used to it.

“Maybe I should tell you a story. You know, to help you remember.” They had time. No one would stop by at this late hour on a school night.

And if anyone showed up, he would introduce their guts to her butcher knife.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Su Halfwerk writes in the horror and paranormal romance genres. From a tender age, the written word left a strong impression on her, later on terrifying, blood-chilling books became the object of her interest. Su’s style in horror combines shuddery terror with elements of surprise; some would even call it an enigmatic twist. In the world of paranormal romance, she transforms the desire to scare into a quest to seduce and tantalize.

When not writing, Su is designing book trailers for herself and other authors.

Website: http://www.su-halfwerk.com
Blog: http://www.suhalfwerk.blogspot.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Su.Halfwerk
Twitter: http://twitter.com/SuHalfwerk
Instagram: https://instagram.com/suhalfwerk/


GIVEAWAY

If you’d like to win a $25 GC to Amazon from Su Halfwerk, just follow this link to the rafflecopter.

Writing a Zombie Apocalypse

Thanks to The Walking Dead the zombie-horror genre has been revitalized. Fans of George A. Ramiro (myself included) have been able to enjoy a slew of zombie novels, movies, games and comics. Zombies are, to put simply, the new vampire.

While the spike in the genre is great, we have to take it with a grain of salt. With more authors writing about zombies, that means we’re going to get our share of poorly written, ill-conceived, and unoriginal zombie stories. Everyone raise your hand if you’ve read a bad zombie book. (If you aren’t raising your hand right now, you’re lying!) It happens, and that’s okay. Because if there’s one night thing about a bad book, it’s that you can learn from it—you learn what not to do, and what to do.

While I worked on my Meteora Trilogy, I had to find a balance between classic, cliché, and original. I’m going to discuss some of the biggest issues in the zombie genre, how to avoid them, and provide some tips for creating your own original zombie novel.

Knowing Your Zombie 

You wouldn’t think you’d need to know a lot about zombies to write a zombie novel, but you’d be wrong! A zombie is still a mythical creature, just like the vampire, werewolf, or witch. It’s a good idea to know a bit on the history of zombies. There’s a long and complicated heritage to zombies, but the root of it comes from Haitian culture. Zombies were magically reanimated corpses. Over the years, the idea of a zombie has taken ahold of culture—this goes as far back as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Hell, you could say farther, because zombie lore has been passed down for ages.

Why is this important? Because it helps you figure out where your zombies come from. Researching the different cultures and mythos for zombies will help you develop a more solid starting ground for your story. Maybe you want to go with a magically created. If that’s the case, how? Was it a necromancer? A voodoo priestess? You’ll need to research both of those. Or are you going the Ramiro route and having the undead rise up? That’s fine, but why are they coming back to life? Even if you never reveal it to your readers, you still need to know so you can write a more rounded story.

What King of Zombie? 

Now you need to decide what kind of zombie you have. There are so many kinds now, and you can put your own spin on each one.

Here are some basic zombies to consider:

  1. Traditional zombies – slow moving, rotting corpses (Ramiro)
  2. Running zombies – rotting corpses, but they run really fast. Could also be called rage zombies. (28 Days/Weeks Later)
  3. Cyber zombies – Cybernetically enhanced/revived corpses (Chronicles of Reddick, Mass Effect)
  4. Space zombies – Driven mad by the edges of space or altered by an alien borne contaminate (Firefly, Night of the Comet)
  5. Mutant zombies – Genetically altered corpses, possibly stronger, faster, and not looking like a human (Resident Evil, The Last of Us)
  6. Magic zombies – Brought back by voodoo magic or necromancy. (American Horror Story: Coven)

All of these have a root somewhere. Use them as a base to create your own zombie. Maybe you want to do running zombies in space, magically created space zombies, or mutated cyber zombies.

That Trope as Old as Time 

Try not to fall into the pitfall of writing a stereotypical zombie novel. An authoritative hero steps up when the zombies rise (for unknown reasons) and leads a band of misfits to survival. Too many stories have this same premise. Try putting an original spin on the idea. Why are they trying to survive? Is there someone else after them? Take an old idea and give it a new spin. We don’t need more copies of The Walking Dead. Look at Autumn by David Moody. We don’t know why the zombies happened. In fact, we barely get the zombies (until the end of the story). Instead we focus on three characters and how they handle the strange turn of events. We follow them from being with a large group, to splitting and going to fortify a home. There we watch how everything breaks them down, resulting in different decisions from each character that’ll have an effect on their survival. Moody took the basic plot and gave it a fresh twist by making it a character driven story instead of a plot driven one.

Keep it Consistent! 

The biggest issue with poorly written zombie novels is that they start with your basic zombie, don’t know where or why the undead are rising up, and fail to keep the story consistent. You’re traditional shambling zombies aren’t going to start running at you half way through the story. Whatever you do, keep your creatures consistent. It only frustrates the reader.

Understand the Human Body 

These are rotting corpses. I repeat, they are ROTTING corpses. Know how the human body works, understand the time period it takes to decompose, and consider all elemental/environmental factors. This will have an effect on your zombie. If it’s a few months into the apocalypse, unless they’re a newly turned, most likely that rotting body is starting to crumble. It means weak skulls (good for stabbing), decaying flesh, exposed/bleached bones, and so forth.

Stereotypical Authoritative Hero 

Everyone thinks that the main character needs to be another Rick Grimes. If they aren’t a sheriff/police officer/army man or some other authoritative figure, than the group won’t survive. Wrong! That trope is over used and dated. I’m not saying there doesn’t have to be a cop or military officer in your group, but he/she doesn’t need to be the leader or the main character. In my Meteora Trilogy, the main characters are your average Joes: two book store employees, a pharmacist, and college student. Yes, during their travels they encounter the military, but I never make those characters the focus.

Survival of the Fittest

This is, at the heart, a survival story. Whatever your cause of an outbreak is, in the end (unless you’re writing from the zombie’s POV), it’s about survival. Another big issue with poorly constructed zombie stories is that the characters make poor decisions. Talk to any friends that are into camping or are survivalists, browse forums, talk to forest rangers, and read survival books. You’ll need to gather a lot of information in order to create a realistic and accurate story. I spent hours looking at maps and talking to people about scenarios, supplies, and other factors. Even the smallest minute detail can alter a story. Things to consider:

  1. How far into the apocalypse are they? If months, are the characters keeping bug out kits and supplies?
  2. Can anyone shoot a gun? Do you know about guns?
  3. What’s the weather/temperature/environment like?
  4. Where are they going? Would main roads or back roads be safer?
  5. What injuries and diseases can they get?
  6. What assets do the characters provide to the group? Can someone heal? Can someone hunt? If they’re dead weight, are they really important to the story (other than being dead weight, because then they need to GTFO.)
  7. What other threats are out there (beyond zombies)?

 

Making it Realistic 

I understand this is a zombie novel, and some form of suspended belief is required. That doesn’t mean you can just slack off and expect your readers to swallow every load of crap you serve them. Your characters should react to situations realistically. If they’ve never shot a gun before, they shouldn’t immediately be able to handle a shot gun. If you don’t have a medically trained character, they shouldn’t be able to become the doctor of the group.  Know the process for government response to this situation. Do your research! I cannot stress this enough!

Outside Threats 

There is more danger than just zombies. Consider all possible factors, such as bandits, wild animals, cannibals, poor weather, environmental hazards, wounds/illness, government, and religious zealots. All of these can kill your characters. Zombies aren’t the only thing we’re going to be surviving. So don’t be afraid to weave in other situations to help round out your story.

Well Rounded Characters 

Too much is depended on the main character. Unless your character is by themselves, make sure all your characters are well rounded. Put as much thought in your secondary characters as your main.

Incorporating Other Genres

Want to add some romance to your story or mystery? That’s great. In Meteora Trilogy I combine both romantic erotica and horror (crazy, I know). The key is finding a realistic balance. At the heart, I knew the story was a zombie survival story. So I made sure to keep that the main focus. The secondary plot was the story of how my three main characters (Sawyer, Jesse, and Topher) become an item and how the zombie apocalypse tests their unique relationship. I put them through a gamut of problems, from jealousy, to outside threats, to difficult ethical decisions. I never let one thing overshadow the other, balancing the sex, relationship drama, and zombie survival.

Do not, I repeat do not, turn your zombie survival into a soap opera. It’s okay to have some drama (because realistically, life exists beyond surviving and shit will happen), but it gets really annoying if that’s the main focus. Your readers came to read about undead corpses eating people, not about whether Dick likes Becky or Jane.

 

Don’t Lie to Your Readers

This is important. Don’t lead your readers to believe one thing and then change it. This applies to the zombies, to the characters, to everything. I read one zombie novel and I was really angry (to the point of not finishing the story) because I was led to believe one thing about a character, and then halfway through the book the author decided to reveal something entirely different for plot convenience. It was cheap and lazy writing.

Suspense vs Action vs Gore

All of these three elements equals a great zombie novel. Find a balance between the three. Sometimes it’s scary not to see the zombies. Describe hearing them, having them scratch walls and beat against doors. Describe the solid darkness or emptiness. Use the senses to help create an atmosphere that has your reader’s spine tingling. Then, after you’ve scared the beejeebus out of them, bring in the zombies and start splitting heads.

Hopefully these tips will help you in crafting the perfect zombie story. In the end it’s just about putting in the effort and work. You do your research, you think things out, and you stay true to yourself and your readers, and you’ll create an original and amazing story.