Dark Moon Presents Zombies – Review

  • Title: Dark Moon Presents Zombies
  • Edited by: Jason Shayer, Stan Swanson, Jennifer Word, and Frances A. Hogg
  • Available as: eBook ($3.95) and Paperback ($12.95)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983433538
  • Where available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.
  • Rating: 5 Balloons

A few weeks ago, Julia Jansen offered me the pleasure of reading Dark Moon Presents Zombies. I can’t resist zombie tales any more than I can balloons, and will always make time to read one no matter how many other projects I have cooking. All up, this one was a real treat for zombie aficionados like me. A short story collection, it provides quick reads you can enjoy at the doctor’s office or on a train. Each author offers a unique twist, and I feel compelled to comment on all the stories.

Shannon Farrell tells “Bouvier des Mort” from a dog’s point of view. The dog stands by his ailing mistress and never leaves her, even when she dies and starts to decay. After she reanimates as a zombie, her dog follows her everywhere she goes. When she feeds on people, the dog feeds too. This one sent chills up my spine.

AE Stueve’s “I, Zombie” portrays a meeting between “reformed” zombies,” people who have taken an injection to eradicate the virus from their bodies. This makes an interesting premise, and as I read, I kept wondering if someone would attack Dr. Yvonne, the pompous speaker who talks down to the “cured” zombies.

“Thicker Than Law” kept me turning the pages. Author John McMullen brings us into the horrific action from the first page with the threat of the “billies.” Protag Elizabeth discovers her brother is one of them. Worse, her parents have turned their home into a slaughterhouse, with her as an intended meal. Brrrrrr!

Dennis McDonald’s “Black Friday,” gives shopping after Thanksgiving a horrific meaning after multiple people die in a train wreck. Protags Cameron and Scott start the evening dreading a write-up from their boss. Their boss wants everyone ready for the hordes of customers, but the unspeakable greets the salespeople when the store finally opens. Definitely a page-turner.

GK Hayes tells “Papa Doc’s Zombie” in the first person by an elderly grandmother who assures her grandchild that her voodoo will protect them from zombies. It left me with a nostalgic feeling as I read about the grandmother’s youth and how she stood up to a voodoo priest. A worthy read.

Kate Putnam’s “The Five Rules” is the diary of Vodoun living in a world overrun by zombies. He talks about the everyday hardships of getting supplies, and that made me care about him as a character. Aside the horrors of becoming a Blue Plate Special for the zombie, I got a sense of Voduon’s depression and loneliness.

CW LaSart’s “All The Rage” is another tale that takes us into the everyday hardships of a group trying to survive a post-zombie apocalypse. Food is scarce, malnutrition has set in, and as for medical care, well there isn’t any, unless you can get your hands on antibiotics. LaSart turns up the heat by introducing a pregnant character, raising a new problem: how can someone survive with a newborn in tow? Another member of the group, Zak, bullies the other members. His insanity and strength makes him more dangerous than the zombies.

“Gingerbread Man” is a nickname for an ex-football player whose would-be career was cut short by an accident that severed his spinal cord. Now a quadriplegic, Andre “Gingerbread” is trying to escape in his motorized wheelchair, with a zombie in pursuit. Will he make it? Author Barrett Shumaker teases the reader with the zombie at first touching, then grabbing, and the suspense builds.

“Legio Mortuus” features zombies of the early Roman times. Severus, the prefect, makes an effective fighter with his sword, except the enemies he fights are all walking dead. These men are hungry as they show when they fall on a lone person. Beggar and noble alike become fodder for these monsters. Jason Shayer demonstrates great characterization skills, making me hope that Severus escapes. Does he? That’s for you, gentle reader, to find out.

The protag in “Death on the Newsfeed” is addicted to Facebook and his laptop. So engrossed in reading the “shares” that he ignores the destruction going on around him. CD Carter paints him as a cyber-stalker who cares only about his Facebook characters. I found Kevin somewhat pathetic. He doesn’t lift a finger to get himself out of danger. When the zombies outside break into his home, he ignores them too!

“Sound Set Off” is one of my favorites. David AET takes me into the action from the first sentence. His protag has the same first name, and he is up against it, locked in his house, little food, no water, and a hoard of zombies breaking through his windows. I followed him as he thought of ways to distract them so he could escape, even get away. He makes a great hero, and I kept rooting for him to escape.

“I am a Candle” is told from a zombie’s point a view. This was the first time I read a zombie tale like this, and Roberta Kowald crafted hers well. The narrator portrays herself as lonely, not one of the popular girls, and is dismayed that she can walk the earth. Her so-called friends hold a rite to bring her back to life, but other not-so-friendly zombies come back too. This zombie can think, and I found myself almost hoping she can “bite back” the people laughing at her.

Kendra Lisum’s “Broken Down Lives” portrays two young children who are seriously hurt, appearing dead, but they come around. As they get older, they start feeding on dead animals and remain four and six forever. Kathryn the mother is newly widowed and struggling to make ends meet, and she deals with the behavior by pretending this would go away. Denial only anesthetizes so long, and Kathryn deals with the budding horror in her own way.

Rebecca Snow’s “Step Right Up” features two monsters: the flesh-eating zombies and the greedy salesman who uses high pressure tactics to get people to buy his “zombie repellent.” As I read through the story, the salesman chilled me to the bones more than the zombies did. By far.

Stan Swanson’s “Hail to the Chief,” the last tale in the collection, makes a great political satire. Zombies invade the White House, and I can imagine having a zombie in the Presidential chair. Not too much blood and guts here, and drugs keep the zombies peaceful, but the satire makes this tale a delightful read. As an aside, I think we already have zombies in the White House.

Zombies presents oodles of horror fiction.

 

Autocrit Revisited: When Your Book Needs More

Some time ago I raved about the merits of Autocrit. I ran Steel Rose and other work through it and became ecstatic when the software ferreted out repetitions, cliches, and problems with sentence structure. I showed up at the PWC with Autocrit-edited work, and learned that Autocrit made a great proofing tool indeed. The extraneous adverbs became history, and so did problem sentences.

But workshop leaders told me the manuscript needed something more. The one-dimensional characters had to go. The villain was all-evil, with no saving graces. Even Dracula had his sympathetic moments. I took a figurative slap on the wrist because my villain turned from a medical professional into a monster who wants nothing but blood. Where’s the conflict?

There wasn’t any. Shame on me.

At the conference, the workshop leaders preached the merits of Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. I got the workbook, started reading it, and got a strong awakening. For starters, my protag Alexis whined too much. Granted she has serious problems, but don’t we all? Not many people sympathize with a whiny character. So I’m whittling down the whining as I go through each chapter.

By the way, Alexis grew up in a strict religious family. During her treatments, she falls in love with and beds down an alien lover. Whaaaaat? This goes against her religious beliefs, not to mention her mother’s feelings. In my rewrite, Alexis will have to fight with her conscience before she agrees to love this fellow.

Maass encourages the writer to think of his protagonist’s defining quality. Then he prescribed the writer to write a paragraph in which their protagonist does the opposite. Okay, in Steel Rose, Alexis loves her mother and would never do or say anything to upset her. As the book reads now, Alexis doesn’t mention squat about her alien romance, knowing her mother would get angry. For my rewrite, Alexis will tell her mom, “Hey, it’s my life, and I’m the one who has to live with him.” Just thinking about this makes me respect Alexis more.

I just did the same exercise with a secondary character. After I rewrote the respective chapter, I saw a big difference in the way it read.

With the chapter on antagonists, I softened villain Laurel a bit, and gave her an extra dimension. Now I’ve got to do the same with another antagonist. I will need to work those exercises a lot more before doing the chapters with the villains.

After I’ve walked through (there’s no running here) each chapter through Writing the Breakout Novel, I will revisit Autocrit for help with proofing.

Has anyone else worked with the Breakout Novel workbook? How did it help you?


 

When Flowers, Kindness, and Coupons Lead to Mischief

A wise coworker wondered if shopping at several different stores just to get bargains was a good idea. I compare prices before going market shopping, but she suggested that I might spend the money in gas.

Giant is having a special where they double the dollar coupons next week, but most of the groceries on my list I needed this week. The thought crossed my mind that I could postpone purchasing some items with dollars off coupons until next week. Then I got to thinking about my buddy’s advice. I don’t use much gas to go to this Giant, but it’s a dicey area for getting nabbed by Mylar balloons.

Right away, as I walked in, a large Disney character balloons tried to get at my cart. I had to run. I think I burned some serious calories fleeing from balloons.

Another work buddy did me a big favor, so it crossed my mind that she would love getting a daisy balloon. The daisy went into my cart. That balloon has her name on it, I told myself.

I picked up food to make for the Aid for Friends. Our church bulletin reported that food supplies had run low, and alas, the recipients do not have the funds or health to go to the store. Some of the recipients are homeless. So I decided to help by cooking a few meals.

I decided to do all my purchasing today, and never mind the dollar-off coupon deal. Good thing I did. After I finished shopping, the daisy started nuzzling my ear. What? I asked.

There are more balloons like me, the Mylar daisy whispered, and you know full well you want one for yourself.

Not this time, I told him. I am watching my budget.

Of course, you are, the balloon told me, and you’re helping other people. That’s great. Don’t you think you should reward yourself?

Oh, well, uh. More rustling from ahead of me. Another daisy waltzed over to my cart. I admit, I badly wanted that daisy. As I approached the register, the Disney character balloon jumped at me. Next time, I’ll get you, he said, smiling.

After I paid for my groceries, I said to the cashier, “This store is mighty dangerous with its balloons.” He laughed.

If I had gone back next week for the double dollar coupon sale, I might have saved on the respective items, but spent more on balloons. My coworker gave me good advice about shopping at one store.Barbara Custer loves her Mylar balloons and zombie fiction.

 

Revisions and then More Revisions

Over the months, I’ve alluded to a sequel: Steel Rose. Steel Rose wound up with its own cast of characters, so I can’t call it a sequel any more. Maybe this is good. At workshops, speakers have advised everyone to put their manuscripts aside for a few weeks, and then rework them. I put Steel Rose on the back burner while I worked on Starship Invasions. Now I’m back with fresh eyes, and I brought along my Autocrit program.

Putting the manuscript aside was the best advice anyone gave me. When I went back to it, I found a lot of inconsistencies and need for line editing. The big thing was repetition. One chapter was cluttered with “that.” There is nothing wrong with using “that” or “was,” but those words shouldn’t clutter the pages. In this, Word has been a staunch alley with its find and thesaurus features. Since I’ve gotten into publishing books and marathon revisions, I’ve made peace with Word, and I’m starting to appreciate its assets.

But let me not digress. The more revisions I make, the more I see that need to be done. Writing comes naturally, but introducing characters that people love can be difficult. The body language needs work, and I’ve seen that with others’ manuscripts. I found research helpful, and even more, the critiques I get from my writer’s group. Reading out loud enabled me to catch problems if I stumbled over sentences.

Some days, the revisions come easy, especially after a good night’s sleep. Other days, it might take three or four of my best curse words to do the job, especially when life gets in the way. On the bad days, I try to remind myself I’m making progress. And if later, an editor should suggest revisions, I will consider that person a good friend. It is better to fix the problems before the manuscript goes to print, than to have a reviewer or reader comment on them later.

That said, I have to wonder how Jonathan Maberry and other great writers get through the revision process. With deadlines, you have to move fast. I can edit fast. I have to sometimes for the NTD tales but revising comes slow. Perhaps if necessity was involved, I’d speed up my revisions.

I’d like to hear about your revising process. What was most difficult? What has helped you?

Steel Rose features cross-genre horror / science fiction by Barbara Custer

This tale received a lot of pruning before it went to press. Props to my editors!

Createspace versus Lulu Revisited

Some time ago, I laid out the advantages of using Lulu versus Createspace. And my biggest beef with Createspace was not being able to use my credit card. Well, at last I found my way through the labyrinth of ordering functions, enough to order a proof. Createspace has made peace with my credit card, and when I got the proof of Cold War Heroes, I found that the proof looked decent enough for a bookstore. So the assumption followed that I could go ahead and run all my future NTD magazines through Createspace. Not quite.

I’ve already run NTD 20 through Lulu, and got a lot of nice compliments about the issue. So with the PDF generated by Lulu’s software, I proceeded to upload on Createspace. You see, any book run through Createspace software will automatically go on Amazon. But Createspace wasn’t crazy about handling 8.5 x 11 books. You can’t do 8.5 x 11 books for premium distribution on Createspace like you can with Lulu.

No biggie there, until I got a memo from Createspace informing that the PDF wasn’t viable. NTD always has a print label on the spine, the way many perfect bound magazines do. The print had to come off of the spine, said Createspace. Also on my book reviews, I needed to add two additional places where the books reviewed are available. I don’t have the Acrobat software needed to change the spine. I could make the changes on the inside file on my Word 2007, save it to PDF and use that.

Ah, but with Lightning Source, Lulu, and Createspace, it isn’t enough to use a PDF. The fonts have to be embedded a certain way for the file to pass muster. Lulu will convert your word files to PDF so that you’ve got a file that meets that requirement.

Does that mean I’m firing Createspace? Not necessarily. But I can’t use it for NTD unless I’m willing to forego print on the spine. Maybe I’m having a hard time with change.

I am turning more to eBook distribution: namely Kindle, the Nook, Smashwords, and a new company www.xinxii.com, a European distributor of eBooks. The eBooks look promising, and more people are buying them. But there is a lot to be said for the feel of a print book.

I would like to hear from you about your experiences using Createspace’s software, and your thoughts on the future of eBooks.

 

CreateSpace versus Lulu

My mother once told me that when you leave your old street for a new street, you know what you’re leaving, but you don’t know what you’re going to find. I kind of felt that way when some of my fellow small press publishers encouraged me to do my NTD printing through CreateSpace. The royalties are better, they told me, and copies are cheaper.

If you want extended distribution, such as Published By You in Lulu, it runs about $100 ($75.00 for distribution and $25.00 for an ISBN if you buy yours in lots of ten). I saw that I could get extended distribution in CreateSpace if I got the pro plan for $39.00, and then I read the fine print. CreateSpace does not sell overseas. Lulu does. Once you plunk down the $39.00 charge, you have to pay $5.00 a year to keep the distribution going. So..let’s say the book stays in print ten years. That’s $50.00. And there is still your $25.00 for the ISBN. CreateSpace will supply an ISBN but you can’t use it anywhere else. Funny thing, I never read anything about the $5.00 a year charge when I visited blogs to see why people esteemed CreateSpace.

There is another caveat I didn’t find on these blogs. When you upload files on CreateSpace, you must have them in PDF. That goes for the cover as well as the interior. Better go out and spend several hundred on Acrobat software to make PDF files if you don’t already have it. I don’t have Acrobat, but I have Word 2007, which enables me to convert the interior file to PDF but not the covers. Lightning Source is another company that requires you to own Acrobat software and be savvy about it.

If you don’t intend to go for extended distribution, CreateSpace may well be cheaper, and with that in mind, I contemplated CreateSpace as an adjunct to the Lulu printer. Perhaps it might work for the Night to Dawn magazine. So I gave it a try, using a PDF file I had gotten off of Lulu.

With the right kind of file, the uploading process wasn’t bad. The files passed muster, and it came time to order a proof. This brings me to my final caveat, payment. Lulu will give you the option of PayPal. CreateSpace only deals with credit cards, and the company wouldn’t accept mine. I’ve used the same credit card for ten years with no problems but CreateSpace would not accept it. I only keep one credit card that I use regularly, and I’m not getting another credit card just so I can place an order. So I did not get the proof.

Well, well. Two other sayings come to mind, these gotten from my husband. When you buy cheap, you get cheap. Stick with the one who brought you to the dance. If I tell Mike about my experience with Lulu and CreateSpace, that is exactly what he would tell me. And so with that in mind I will be happy to release Tom Johnson’s new book, Cold War Heroes, using my familiar Lulu printer, smile, and kick up my heels.

Which company would you use to print your books? What were your experiences with that company, and would you recommend it for others? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Ghost Dance features zombies, vampires, and werewolves.

 

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