C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

This Plague of Days

Season One of This Plague of Days (ebook) will be discounted to 99¢ for one day only, Saturday, December 19!

“This is like reading World War Z…hooks you from the beginning and you can’t stop reading!” ~ Armand Rosamilia, Author of the Dying Days

Jaimie Spencer is a boy on the spectrum caught in a fight for survival as the Sutr virus spreads across the globe. The inexorable mind virus brings civilization as we know it to an end. The war for the future has begun and the greater numbers are on the side of the infected.

To save the world, Jaime will have to save his family first.

Filed under: This Plague of Days, , , , , , , ,

They’re going to kill us

AFTER Life INFERNO

is free today and tomorrow

AFTER was a medical miracle. Researchers weaponized it.

Deep in an underground vault, the weapon is waiting.

It wants out.

The Two Ways Series Fiction Can Go

Back when I was co-hosting the Self-publishing Roundtable (RIP), one of our guests was the amazing Wayne Stinnett. Wayne writes compelling page turners set in Florida. He had some interesting advice: In an episodic series, don’t raise the stakes. The adventure happens. The hero saves the day. Next book: new adventure.

Think of it like James Bond movies. Bond goes out, saves the world and comes back to save the world in the next movie. He’s eternal and unchanging. To my mind, the failing of the more recent movies with Daniel Craig is the focus on his age. In the first movie, he’s a terminator bursting through walls and new to the 007 license to kill. In the next, his superiors are ready to put him out to pasture.

In the movies, directors did the same to the original crew of the Enterprise. “Spock, am I too old for this shit?” As a fan I say this sincerely, we didn’t want to hear all that. In a perfect galaxy, Spock and Kirk are still out there saving us again and again. Kirk’s space karate is still strong and no one worries about arthritis. 

Wayne’s not wrong about the benefits of an unchanging protag whose focus is gunshoeing rather than saving the world once and then moving to Arizona to raise Alpacas. Sam Spade and Nero Wolfe never retired, either.

(For more of his excellent advice, check out Wayne’s non-fiction book, Blue Collar to No Collar: From Trucker to Bestselling Novelist in Two Years.)

That said, there is another way to go. Just know that some reviewers will kill you for it. 

In most of my series, I failed to take Wayne’s excellent advice. I raise the stakes. Stuff that happens in the first book has a big impact later on. Story arcs are long. Not everybody is going to like that. Not every casual reader has the patience to get a big pay off in Book 3 whose seeds were planted in Book 1. Alas, that’s usually what I’ve got for readers. I certainly provide thrills and jokes along the way, but the world-saving stakes are often built across multiple books.

I ran across a book blogger who didn’t like Tamara Smythe in Haunting Lessons. In the foundation book of the Dimension War series, Tam was an ordinary and innocent girl in her senior year in high school when she lost her high school sweetheart to the Grim Reaper. That’s how she found out she wasn’t ordinary. She can see ghosts and gets institutionalized for it. As her story develops over three books, she learns that our world has been invaded by interdimensional beings bent on our destruction. Tamara becomes a warrior on our side with blessed weapons and holy bullets. The blogger in question didn’t like it. She wanted Tam to be a badass warrior woman from the first page.

Okay, cool. There are lots of books like that and good for them. That wasn’t our story so my co-author and I didn’t write it that way. Across three books, we were able to tell a story with a bigger scope. And we got to enjoy training montages! People love training montages. From Rocky to the Karate Kid, that’s what makes up the bulk of those movies: learning, growing, changing, building up to kicking ass on a grand scale.

Another example, This Plague of Days definitely raises the stakes. The clues are there, but it’s a slow burn. First, we watch civilization fall. Through the lens of a mute boy on the spectrum, it starts out as a zombie apocalypse without a ton of zombies. As the action rises across the trilogy, the world-building is ambitious and many elements grow and change. New species develop. The Big Bad in Book 1 may seem over the top, but in Book 3, it is revealed why she does what she does and it’s a real kick in the brain pan. I could not deliver those twists within the confines of one book (unless that one book is the big honkin’ omnibus).

In AFTER Life, we follow a Toronto cop, Dan Harmon, into the depths of a weapons research lab. In the rest of the trilogy, he shares the spotlight with Dr. Chloe Robinson as they battle nanotech-powered brain parasites and sentient zombies bent on world domination. Surprising twists emerge that no one reading the first book could have foreseen.

My crime thrillers are a tad more episodic in nature. Jesus Diaz is the funny anti-hero who isn’t quite as good at being a hitman as he thinks he is. He doesn’t change much as a person. Kind of a slow learner. Even so, he messed with the FBI in Bigger Than Jesus. That doesn’t get forgotten just because he’s in a new city in Higher Than Jesus or Hollywood Jesus

Caveat: 

Writing more episodically, some readers may accuse you of “taking the easy way out” and writing the same book over and over. In most cases, they’re dead wrong. I have heard of an author who keeps the same plot and just changes the names and places. That’s not the norm. Conscientious writers publishing episodic series put a lot of effort into their books and aren’t out to provide any less of a thrill to their readers. I don’t think many authors go to the trouble of writing entire series with the goal of short-changing anyone. Sure, there are grifters, but most of us think we’re artistes, dadgummit!

But! And this is a big ole hairy day-glo orange monkey butt:

Many successful series are based on the episodic model and their fans love it. A lot of readers won’t give you a chance after the first book. Tons of readers want “the same thing, only different.” Just like Bond and the original Star Trek crew, the familiar is comforting. Many readers read for comfort. Books in series, particularly long series, tend to make more money.
If writing and eating is your goal, this is the way to bet.

One more time for the doubters in the back: If you want to make more money and catch more readers, refusing to raise the stakes and build castles in the sky might be a safer, more lucrative choice. 

If I had to do it all again, I tell myself I’d write under more pen names and make sure the branding of all my covers was entirely consistent. If I had to do it all again, I tell myself I’d write solely in long series instead of standalones and shorter series that continually raise the stakes until my protagonists are out to save the world instead of themselves. I should have been more strategic and planned series that power on for 27 iterations and go deep on one genre.

I tell myself these things, but I know I’m lying to myself. I don’t write that way, but I probably should have. Shrug. I’d take a lot of really good advice, if only I were an entirely different person.

~ Pick up your complimentary ebook of AFTER Life Inferno today or tomorrow. It’s a quick, breezy read that will get your blood pumping. (Lock the door, too. You’ll feel safer.)

For a look at all my thrill rides, check out my author site, AllThatChazz.com and, while you browse, hit the subscribe button.

AFTER Life is a fast-paced trilogy featuring flawed people, sentient zombies, and brain parasites with aspirations to take over the world. From a task force officer filled with regrets to a nanotech researcher charged with saving the world, the story arc is full of action and twists. The ending will surprise you.

The ebook for Inferno is free today and tomorrow to download at your Amazon store.

Filed under: writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Guest Post: Mistakes Made

Reading Weep, I became impressed with Eoin Brady’s writing. It’s a compelling zombie novel set in Ireland powered by well-drawn characters. Recently, I reached out to him to share a bit of his author journey. Today, Eoin generously shares his missteps and how he’s correcting them. Thanks for sharing, Eoin! ~ RCC

Getting It Right Beyond the Writing

I can’t speak about success with much credibility. However, I’ve a good bit to say on the topic of failure, the prelude to success.

I’m Eoin Brady and I have published three books. One is a contemporary romance and the other two are in the post-apocalyptic, science fiction genre. There’s a fantasy series in the works, too. You can probably spot the mistake. Romance and horror under the same pen name. I’ll grant you there is neck biting in both, but there’s a little more ‘will they, or won’t they?’ with romance. 

My first book I’m Not Saying It was published in June of 2018. It bombed. You couldn’t hear crickets chirping on the sales dashboard because not even they knew to show up. To date, it has still not made back the cost of its cover and editing. It was a premade cover too, not all that expensive.

It was the first book I published, but not the first that I’d written. I shelved a nearly 300,000 word fantasy novel because it would have cost a fortune to have it professionally edited. If I was going to slip up, which was inevitable, I didn’t want it to be on something that I’d put so much time and effort into. I ended up putting a lot of time and effort into a different project and messed that up instead.

The story for the romance was set on Inis Meain, the middle and least visited of the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway. In 2017, I got a job on the island and moved there. I soon discovered that I get seasick, not great when you have to cross a stretch of the Atlantic to do your weekly shopping. On days off and after work, I wandered the roads and paths, filling them with my characters and their stories. I focused all my efforts on the writing and ignored what came after ‘The End.’ The result of that was clear. Nobody read it. If nobody could find my book then what did it matter that I lived in the location to make the story feel alive on the page?

What Went Wrong:

I’m Not Saying It is a contemporary romance, but you’d never guess that from the regency style cover. I wasn’t a big reader of the genre before writing it and that was a massive mistake. How could I hope to market a book to readers when I had no idea what their expectations were? You’re not reinventing the wheel. You’re trying to entertain people and hopefully make a living doing so. Who would I direct the advertisements to? Who were my contemporaries? What covers were working? I did not have the bare minimum information so I was set to fail before I started.

The Cover:

I bought a pre-made cover that was red and had a couple on it. That’ll do the job and save me a bit of money, I thought. Nope. There’s nothing contemporary about it. Might as well slap a chemistry text book cover on it. I had a product that was flawed because I didn’t understand the market. What authors could I target in my ads? Readers of Cecelia Ahern or Maeve Binchy? To me, they were romance authors, but their readership could be completely different. Would somebody fond of second-chance romance give my story a go? You’d get more steam from a cold kettle than you would from INSI, so was I pushing a sweet romance to a readership hungry for a bit of divilment?

The cover for my second novel, Weep, is a little closer to its genre expectations, but it does require a second glance and even then it does not perfectly convey the content within. You want your cover to let the reader know their expectations will be met. With so many new books being added to Amazon every day, people don’t have to spare you a second thought.

The quality of your story does not matter if you lose readers at first glance. I made it difficult to the point of impossible for people to find my story. If the process of buying a book from an unknown author is not as seamless as possible, you’ve lost. Even if everything was perfect, from your sales copy, cover and blurb, you’re still going to have difficulty enticing people to give you their finite money and time.

The Content: 

The main character, Shade, is a fully fledged travel blogger when we meet her. She has a fairly full bank account and is confident in her position as a seasoned blogger. Where’s the intrigue? It’s only now that I realise that the interesting part of her story happened before this book. I want to read about her failures. I want to feel anxious as the ticking clock starts and we watch as the dregs of her savings dwindle. Will she make it and be able to follow her dreams for a living? Or will she have to return to a 9-5 that she’s desperate to escape? As a reader I’m interested in characters facing adversity and watching them struggle, fail and hoping they’ll eventually overcome that failure. I’m not invested in a character that has made it without first seeing them struggle, but I’ll not stop turning the pages for one that might never achieve their dreams, yet still strives to.

***

My biggest failure was a complete lack of preparation outside of writing. When I first discovered that people wrote books for a living, that being an author was something that you could be, I swapped the fantasy section of my local bookstore, for the much smaller, writing craft shelves. I read as much as I could, but I realised that I wasn’t going to find a magic solution to becoming a writer. The fundamental thing was lacking; writing. Now in the modern age of self-publishing, it has taken longer for it to dawn on me that I should have been spending just as much time in the marketing section of the store.

It can be a little overwhelming when starting out. You are the writer, marketer,  copywriter, administrator and financier. Basically everything. I was riddled with doubt, but I then had to put that aside and try to sell a product with mock confidence when all I wanted to do was write. I suppose you can just write, but you won’t sell much.

So where to start? You can lose yourself in the many courses, seminars, classes, videos, books and newsletters available. I don’t know where I heard it to leave credit, but the self-publishing boom was compared to the gold-rush. Prospectors weren’t the wealthy ones. It was the people supplying them with the means to root around in the dirt who struck gold.

To deal with a sense of being overwhelmed, I overwhelmed myself by reading book after book on self-publishing. Initially, I had a broad focus and tried to stretch my limited time to do everything at once. I’ve started narrowing the focus of my efforts. Build up the basics and implement them before moving on. I dove straight into everything. Trying to do too much all at once just meant I did many things poorly.

Current Failings: Marketing

Marketing is vital if you want to be read. It is the voice of your story. Without it, you’re invisible. I’ve had a very slapdash approach to marketing so far. My daily spend is quite low. At the moment I’m running an ad for Weep and one for the free Weep novella to build my mailing list. 

Not long after the release of Weep, I set up a few newsletter promotions. It was free for a week and thousands of people downloaded it. Quite an experience seeing those towering columns on the sales dashboard. I’ve nothing to show for those numbers though. I never set up a means of holding on to those readers. If they reached the end of the book, there was no cookie to attract them to a mailing list. I had neither a cookie nor a list. Rectifying that has taken up a good portion of my writing time this year. 

Now I have a reader magnet, A Ring of Oak & Apple. That novella has nearly tripled the number of subscribers on my list. I wouldn’t consider it a success as I’ve not really engaged those new subscribers. I’m slow to message them, taking on lessons from previously jumping in without forethought. I’m quite happy to give that novella away for free as I feel it’s the best representation of my writing. If people enjoy it, then they might go on and read the rest of my work. It removes the apprehension around spending money on an unknown product. The newsletter is a long-term investment into your career. Progression is slow; words become chapters become books. Just as strangers become readers become fans. It seems like the best way of doing that is with a mailing list.

Marketing still seems daunting, but the monster you don’t know is a lot scarier than the one you do. By defining boundaries on what can be done, the task becomes manageable. 

My goal is to make a living by entertaining readers. I cannot simply achieve that by telling stories, I have to learn how to sell them, too. 

What Helps Me Write More

With a workload increase since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve had a lot less time to write. The only way I’ve been able to get words down with any consistency is with writing sprints. I set an alarm for twenty minutes and try to write as much as I can during that time. Twenty distraction-free minutes. When the alarm goes off, I’ll make a cup of coffee for the next sprint. I can usually get between 600-700 words each time. They’re by no means pretty, but nobody else will see the first draft. I’ve found sprinting coupled with planning has significantly reduced instances of writer’s block.

Planning

What good is sprinting if you’re going in the wrong direction? When it comes to what side of the fence I fall with regards to planning and discovery writing, I do both. I’ll try to work out the barebones of a story and create a scaffolding to build upon. I don’t know the characters all that well, but the first draft is where I discover them. Some people find planning stifles creativity. If that sounds familiar, then work with what suits you. Planning has saved me time and words. I’d be lost without it. Not planning has cost me an entire novel. 

Miscellaneous Mistakes:

I may have found the title of the autobiography that I’ll never write. Getting a cover wrong is a costly mistake. Over the last few years, I’ve bought covers before the books were even started. I ordered two covers for books that existed as little more than titles at the time. Take the Weep novella A Ring of Oak & Apple, for example. What has the  moon got to do with Irish zombies? Sweet feck all. It was commissioned for a romance novel. I had to retcon the moon and a ringfort of oak and apple trees into the novella.

The checklist for publishing a book can seem quite short, but the steps involved can take years. Getting the cover done felt like finally ticking off something from the list. It was creating an anchor point in reality for something that existed purely in my imagination. This could have worked if I had a solid plan in place. With a good enough plan, you could nearly write the acknowledgements for the last book of a series you’ve yet to start.

Solutions & Resources: 

Enrolling in Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula courses has been one of the best investments I’ve made for my writing. It’s an expanding library of content on most self-publishing topics. I reference it as and when I need. For my recent novella, A Ring of Oak & Apple, I went back over videos on blurbs, front and back matter and now I’m going into the marketing side of things. I’m an avid listener of the SPF podcast and that made me feel confident in what they were offering. For me, it was a way of reducing that sense of being overwhelmed by finding a place where most of what I needed to know was condensed into video lessons. Their Facebook group, The SPF Community, is a great place to find information on what is working for other writers.

Right now building up an email list is my main focus, outside of writing more books. I’m giving the Weep novella away to entice readers to join. Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque is an illuminating book on the topic.

David Gaughran pretty much covers everything on his website. https://davidgaughran.com. I also found his books insightful.

Tools I Use:

Canva: (Free). I use this to design all of my ad images.

Writing: Google Docs. I might give Scrivener a go on the next book. Right now though Google docs does the job.

Formatting: Vellum – professional formatting, easy to use, no qualms about this purchase.

Kindle Rocket – Keywords for ads and categories.

Mailerlite: Email newsletter.

Bookfunnel: Distributing reader magnet novella.

Website: Squarespace. My site is barebones, but it does the job for now.

Learning From Failure:

The experience of writing, editing and publishing INSI was invaluable and the lessons from those mistakes have been a great base to grow from. I plan to take that book down, rewrite parts of it and position it as number two in a new romance trilogy with genre-specific covers and published under a separate romance pen name. It was by no means a wasted effort. Mistakes make great fertilizer.

~ Eoin Brady is the author of apocalyptic horror, epic fantasy, and contemporary romance novels, most of which are set in Ireland, where he lives and writes. Weep, his most recent story, begins on the west coast of Ireland as a mysterious disease ravages the country. Find out more at www.eoinbradybooks.com

Filed under: book marketing, , , , , , , , , ,

Updates for Your Writing Life


I’ve been very busy but less productive. The second half of 2020 needs the transmission ripped out and a full overhaul, top to bottom, plus a fresh paint job. New strategies are in the works. In the meantime, please do check out these updates from my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

These links are like oxygen. You can’t do without them for long:

COVID-19 is a Zombie Pandemic

If zombie tropes were a shoe, they’d fit the mess we’re in. Watch me lay out the case for how fiction has become reality.

And not for nothin’, if you write, you will be underestimated. I reply to those who have offended me. Neener-neener-poo-poo! Feel my righteous wrath!

Or as Stephen King put it, “If you write…someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.”

You Are Not a Cog

Are you working at 100% and killing it or killing yourself? Pleasant news: The rise and grind mindset never really made sense.

Wait for the Turn This Takes

Everything is on fire. Is it over? Will this Independence Day be America’s last? Should we care? This settles it.

Every Evil Thing

Seen on the internet: Did you have a happy childhood or are you funny? (Written to the sound of a great gnashing of teeth.)

The Writing Life: Vicissitudes

Some days you feel like you’re on The Truman Show, desperately trying to escape and, oops! The bridge is out and the nuclear power plant has sprung a leak and you’re thwarted at every turn.

Racing down the spiral

As darkness falls, insomnia slips into bed beside me and poke me in the brain. Follow the horrible, hilarious stream of consciousness. Follow Jenny all the way down the block.

The grim future scenario I didn’t want to write

Apocalyptic predictions to ruin your day, for free!

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics. You should really read all his books. It’s reading, but it doesn’t feel like homework. Remember that? Remember reading things for pleasure? Wasn’t that great?

Catch the reading fever at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: All That Chazz, Rant, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Winter of Zombie Blog Tour 2014: John O’Brien’s New World

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The stench of frozen rotted meat is in the air! Welcome to the Winter of Zombie Blog

Tour 2014, with 10 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of November.

Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or

teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as

well as interaction with them! #WinterZombie2014

 

AND so you don’t miss any of the posts in November, here’s the complete list.

Storm cover large5

 (Editor’s Note: NSFW words to follow in the excerpt, so you may not want to read it aloud at the office…)

Excerpt from A New World: Storm

As we make our way along, several exits lead into darkened interior hallways. Each of

the wall corners are rounded and house nurses’ stations. I look behind one to find a figure on

the floor, clad in the torn remains of scrubs. Dried blood covers the floor and is splattered on the

walls. Staring at the sight, I’m confused. The building entrances and perimeter didn’t show any

evidence of night runners, but the bodies and the other evidence points to the fact that we may

not be alone. I’m not sure how they are getting in and out of the building.

I peel away an escape route plan taped to one of the walls. Sending Red Team to the

next intersection of hallways, I motion Jan forward.

“Where is the lab?” I ask.

She studies the map, and points to a large room in the interior.

Taking the map, I advance to the next hall, where Red Team is standing guard. Looking

down the corridor, I see that it intersects other hallways. The ambient light doesn’t reach far,

leaving the corridors and rooms beyond in a deep gloom. The interior halls will be in the dark.

“Looks like this won’t be the walk in the park it seemed,” I state to Lynn.

“What do you think?” she asks.

“I don’t know. We’ll have to assume that we aren’t alone. We have a safe corridor along

the outer halls, but who knows what we’ll face in the darkened hallways.”

“Do you think the equipment is worth the risk?” Lynn asks.

“I have no idea. Seems that is happening more frequently. I mean, what if we get her

equipment and she finds an answer to the night runners? If she does, then yes, it’s worth almost

any risk. However, I sadly lack the ability to see into the future. Sitting here staring at darkened

halls, and knowing how much I love hospitals, I would say we turn around. But, it’s about the

chance, isn’t it? If we don’t go, then there is zero chance,” I comment.

“Are you having a nice conversation with yourself?”

“No, not really,” I answer.

I stand at the intersection, pondering. It seems that I always knew what to do in the past,

was able to see the right choice. I momentarily wonder if the move hasn’t altered my ability

to choose clearly. I may be thinking too far ahead, to finding a truly safe haven in the midst of

all this chaos. And with that looming possibility, I may be taking the easy route instead of the

right one. If that is truly the case, then I’m in no condition to be making decisions. I’ve second-
guessed decisions in the past, but not my whole reasoning ability.

Shit, even these thoughts bring more doubts.

Taking a deep breath, I shake my head. “Okay, fuck it. We’re going in. Red Team, you’re

at the next intersection covering our six. Lynn, you’re with me. Have Black Team cover Jan like

At the next intersection of hallways, Red Team covers the corners. Although there is a

faint amount of illumination, the area is still cast in a deep gloom. There may be enough residual

light to keep the night runners away from this position. Only a couple of feet into each branching

corridor, the light ends completely, leaving only darkness.

Lynn and I turn the corner. Assuring that my carbine is set to auto, I raise it and creep

into the hall leading to the lab. I sidle near the wall, stepping silently. Slowly, I make my way

down the hallway, Lynn keeping pace on the opposite wall. My heart feels like it’s in my throat

and I slow my breathing to calm my heart rate. Once again, I find myself snaking down a

hospital hallway. The air within is stuffy and cold.

All of the doors along the hall are closed. I pause at the first one, listening. Reaching

down, I slowly push on the handle. It’s unlocked. I’m not sure that night runners have mastered

the art of doors, but I’m not chancing it. It would be my luck that I run into a pack that can

saunter in and out of them with nary a thought. After all, they must be entering and exiting the

building somehow. That is, if they are leaving at all. Perhaps they are feasting on the food within

the hospital. Of course, the evidence I’ve seen could be from weeks ago.

I nod at Lynn, open the door, and step silently into the room. I’m not sure what the room

is used for, as curtains are pulled in places. No shrieks or sudden movements accompany my

entry. I exit and slowly close the door. Lynn checks a door on her side with the same result;

there’s no one inside. We creep down the corridor, checking the rooms but never leaving the

doorways. Black Team follows quietly behind.

Reaching the doors that Jan indicated as housing the lab, Lynn and I stack against the

wall. It would really suck if night runners were inside and we had to start shooting. Knowing my

day, I would put a round into every piece of equipment she needed. Of course, if there are truly

night runners within, we’ll just turn and run for the light.

We check the door and verify that it’s unlocked. On a nod from me, Lynn swings the

door open and I dart in. The room is large, with long counters and stations along the walls and

in the center. I check the dead corner as I make my way along the right hand wall. Lynn follows,

sweeping left. We pause half way down. There’s nothing inside except beakers, vials, and

equipment. We head back to the entrance and motion Black Team forward.

“The room is clear. This has to be done quietly. Don’t disturb anything, and gather the

equipment Jan indicates,” Lynn tells them.

They enter. As Jan passes, I grab her arm. “Do this quickly?”

She nods and enters with the rest of the team. Lynn and I station ourselves in the

corridor. She holds the door open and we both cover farther down the hallway. Even though I’m

on the opposite side of the hall, I still hear very faint whispering coming from inside the room.

Other faint sounds emit as they gather equipment.

Fucking keep it down, I think, hoping there aren’t any night runners nearby that can hear

A little way down is another intersection of hallways. For some reason, the ambient light

that reaches the intersection behind us doesn’t reach there. It could be that the hall doesn’t

reach the outer corridor. Minutes pass that seem like hours. I hear the clang of something

metallic come from within the room. It’s a soft sound and not very loud, but to my ears, it sounds

like a train crashing into a semi. Lynn turns her head sharply to the interior. Shrieks erupt,

coming from a side hallway; they sound close.

Fuck, that doesn’t sound like a night runner shriek, that’s more like a kid screaming, I

think, tightening and pulling my M-4 tight.

“Lynn, get Jan and the equipment out, now!” I sharply whisper. “Head for Red Team and

get to the outer corridor where there’s light. I have our six.”

Lynn calls inside, softly yet sharply. Black Team exits, surrounding Jan, who is pushing a

steel cart loaded with gear.

What the fuck?!

“Go, go, go.”

As they quickly retreat down the corridor, I rise and being backpedaling. Lynn stays with

“Go,” I say, rising. She shakes her head.

“Dammit,” I mutter.

John O'Brien

John O’Brien

Screams fill the interior, echoing down the hallways. Amongst the din, I hear feet

slapping on the linoleum. As I step backward, I have my carbine aimed near the corner where

the night runners should appear. My aimpoint is aimed where their heads should be. They round

the bend in a hurry. As they come into sight, my reticle is above their heads. I lower my barrel a

touch and begin squeezing the trigger. Their ghostly pale faces register.

Fuck, they’re kids.

There are six of them, all dressed in torn and deeply stained hospital gowns, looking to

be about ten or twelve years old. I feel sick to my stomach as I watch, unable to pull the trigger

as they streak down the hall. I am backing up as fast as I can, but they are rapidly closing. For a

split second, I tightly shut my eyes.

Fuck this…dammit!

Placing my glowing crosshair on the nearest one, I fire, almost point blank. The child’s

head snaps to the side as my bullets strike. Blood sprays from the multiple impacts. With

feet flipping into the air, its head hits the hard floor with a whack. Strobes fill the scream-filled

hallway. More kids fall to the ground under the torrent of rounds fired by Lynn and me. In

seconds, six small figures lie bleeding in the hallway. Another shriek rises and a larger night

runner female, dressed in scrubs, appears at the intersection. Upon spotting the young ones

down, she pauses, then screams like I’ve never heard a night runner shriek. Other smaller

figures appear behind her.

Screw this, I think. Lynn and I turn and run.

Racing down the darkened hall, with shrieks sounding behind, I’m reminded of a similar

chase with Lynn. This time though, friends await at hallway intersections. Black Team is

nowhere in sight. I yell to Red Team to pack up and go. Rounding the corner, hard on the heels

of Gonzalez and company, we reach the full light. Behind, the night runners continue shrieking

I feel incredibly sick. The sight of those small faces, pale or not, will haunt me to the end

of my days. My legs feel weak and I sink to my knees.

“That was messed up…I mean, really messed up,” I say, panting.

 

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Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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