Tag Archives: zombies

Author Interview: G. Wells Taylor

[G. Wells Taylor was the guy who got me started with self-published books. Years ago I knew such things existed, but I’d never had the incentive to try them out. All that changed when I stumbled across the site manybooks.net and downloaded a copy of Mr. Taylor’s book When Graveyards Yawn. In the pages of that book I met “PI in zombietown” character Wildclown; it blew my mind. Since then I’ve been addicted to the amazing and unfiltered weird that the channel of self-publishing opens up. Today’s it’s my great joy and pleasure to present to you my interview with the man who started it all…]

All of your books seem to feature the undead in one way or another. What is it that fascinates you about zombies and vampires? Is it simply the horror of imperfect immortality, or is there something more?

Zombies and vampires are fitting tools for exploring the horror of imperfect immortality, as you say; but I also see them as dire warnings against imperfect mortality, since they inhabit negative aspects of our own collective identity. Zombies fly in the face of the democratic ideal of safety in numbers and instead invoke the image of mob rule and soulless conformity. Vampires suggest the hypocrisy of individual superiority mocked by an utter dependence upon and envy for their inferior prey. These uncomfortable contradictions make these monsters so human and therefore, captivating to both readers and writers.

In my experience the journey to becoming a seasoned writer is more tangled and complicated than most readers will ever know, so what’s your story? When was the moment you realized, “I want to tell stories,” and how long did it take your dream to come to fruition?

In the early days, I used to illustrate and write stories for my own entertainment. I did well in art class, and thought painting and illustrating would be my way of figuring out my personal puzzles. However, during my first year of art college, I realized that I had many more than a thousand words to say about each picture I generated; so I began to suspect that I would find commercial or fine art to be lacking for me as a sole means of self-expression.

I dropped out of college to work for a few years before eventually returning to study journalism and English literature in university. In the meantime, I had been writing stories and banking manuscripts.

I did annual submissions to publishing houses with little success, but was not discouraged. I knew my stories did not fit the mold. Imagine pitching Wildclown to a publishing industry that was shifting to a more conservative and risk-averse business model.

I thought of myself as a writer despite the fact that people pointed out I wasn’t making any money at it. I didn’t get the point and kept writing anyway.

I mentioned before that you write fiction that primarily focuses on the undead —a topic which has gotten more than its share of attention in the past few years— and yet your stories put a fresh spin on the established tropes: the World of Change posits the question: what if every living thing became effectively unkillable? In Bent Steeple your villain is a pedophilic vampire. In the Variant Effect a wonder-drug makes certain people begin to crave human flesh. And my question is, what is it that drives you to take these tropes that everyone thinks they know backward and forward and say, “Fellas, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet”?

I yearn for something original when I read books. I want to be surprised and entertained by the experience, so I am obsessed with putting something new into the over-worked and overpopulated genres in which I write. I have to be passionate about a book before I can write it, so discovering something unique is essential to lighting that fire.

If you were given the power to imprint a unique monster of your own creation into the cultural consciousness what would it be?

I think my “skin eaters” from the Variant Effect are leaving a mark on readers. I sure have a lot of fun writing them, and I suspect their back story might be sufficiently believable and unsettling to leave a lasting impression. They give me the creeps.

[Albert here: ya’ll can meet the skin eaters for yourselves in Mr. Taylor’s books The Variant Effect and The Variant Effect: GreenMourning. They are super creepy. But don’t take my word for it. Go. Read.]

Conversely, if you were given the power to completely remove one single work of fiction from the pages of history and the minds of men, what would it be?

That’s a hard one. I’ve got too many favorites to focus on a single work of fiction that doesn’t turn my crank. It is a rare book that I will put down once I’ve started reading it. There is usually something of value in every piece of fiction.

From what I can tell, you’ve started self-publishing your books digitally before it was “cool”. What led you down that path? Were you rejected by the mainstream publishing world, or did you always know you wanted to be a solo act?

Historically, the Canadian government has subsidized Canadian publishers in an effort to mitigate the cultural impact of the much larger American publishing industry. Those subsidies went to Canadian publishers and fiction writers that focused on Canadian stories: culture, immigration and history.

So Canadian genre fiction writers were “solo acts” whether we liked it or not.

That left me sending manuscripts to American publishing slush piles. As you know, just prior to the eBook Revolution there were few traditional publishers who accepted unsolicited manuscripts. So the search was on for an agent. When I read that few literary agents were accepting unsolicited manuscripts, I began to think that my books would end up in an attic to be discovered by a relative long after I was dead. While an imperfect outcome, it would have to do.

However, a friend in IT and now business partner, Richard Van Dyk had assured me over the years that developments in technology would eventually push the old publishing industry model to the wayside, and opportunity would come for independent writers through digital content, electronic reading devices and the Internet. He used the rapidly changing music industry model of the time as an example.

While I had my doubts, I soldiered on and started publishing my work online, then after a few missteps with the under-utilized print-on-demand technology, the eBook came into being. That eBook publishing technology validated independent writers, and allowed me to connect directly to the reader.

Compared to many of the people I know in self-publishing you’re substantially…more mature. Do you feel that your age and experience gives a leg up on your younger competition? Or does the generational gap cause more problems than good?

I think Indie publishing is moving onto a relatively even playing field where talent is free to trump all other factors. Age and experience have just made me more disciplined. I’m better at committing my time and doing the work.

I’m gonna geek out for a minute here and say, that I absolutely LOVE your “P.I. in Zombietown” character Wildclown. Where did the idea for a hardboiled private investigator who happens to dress in full clown regalia come from?

Years ago I was working at a psychiatric hospital in a northern Canadian city that was also home to a doomsday cult. Its members dressed up as zombies and the Grim Reaper. They seemed to do this randomly, appearing Monday morning, Wednesday afternoon or Friday night, at any time of year.

Needless to say, after the initial amusement wore off, they became a little depressing. Imagine strolling down the street on a sunny day and passing a gang of fake zombies chanting about the end of the world. I had at that time developed a voracious appetite for hard-boiled detective fiction, a genre I wanted to try my hand at writing. So one day as I passed the zombie horde, I heard a wisecracking voice inside my head that I soon recognized as Wildclown. Mix in a few late nights, a typewriter and Canadian Club whiskey and you’ve got a P.I. in Zombietown.

The doomsday cult’s costumes may have inspired Wildclown’s need to disguise his true identity. The fact that he chose a gothic clown might have had something to do with my interest in Shakespearean tragedies in which insightful “fools” are always popping up at the worst of times.

Speaking of hard-boiled private investigators, a lot of your leading men tend to be hard-drinking, fast-living, loners. What is it about that kind of character that speaks to you?

I find the hard-boiled perspective an excellent way of viewing our world where the gray area has bled into the black and white. It is a practical mindset soaked in defiance, humor and skepticism. The first-person narrative of Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe or Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op was an echo of the inner monologue I was already hearing on the long nights I spent writing.

Shoot us some sage words of writing wisdom. What can the rest of us struggling writers do to up our fiction game?

Just do the work and add something to it every day. Take lots of notes and organize them. Be prepared and trust the process. Get someone to edit, and someone to read. If you feel anxious, depressed or grumpy, you should probably be writing.

Apocalypse Inc.

[Here’s my entry for last week’s Arachnopocalypse Flash Fiction Challenge . Well, one of my entries. I’ve got another one written that’s still percolating. Maybe you’ll see that one later. Maybe. Either way, enjoy.]

Ragar snarled and flung his tablet across the room, but it only plonked off the wall and fell to the floor unharmed. He looked around the room for something he could smash, but even the windows were made of infini-glass. So instead he called up the intercom interface and screamed, “PEABODY! GET IN HERE!”

A few minutes later Peabody came through the door. He was tall where Ragar was short, young where Ragar was old; his head was shaved where Ragar’s was merely balding.

“You called, sir?” The tone was deferential, the pose submissive, but there was something in the younger man’s eyes that gave Ragar the distinct impression that far beneath the surface the young man was laughing at him.

“I just got a message from Senator Dobs,” he snarled. “Last minute changes to the scenario. Said YOU suggested them.”

“‘Suggest’ is perhaps a bit stronger term than I would-”

“Shut up. I like you Peabody. Really. You do good work. But this kind of thing has to stop.”

“Isn’t there a last-minute changes clause in the contract?”

“You know there is. And the Senator’s willing to pay through the nose for the new scenario. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t more work for the rest of us.”

“Maybe not as much as you think, sir.”

“Don’t give me that. We’ve got the planet all set and ready. Ruins smoldering properly, rot-bots charging up. The senator’s son was all set to be the hero of his very own zombie apocalypse and here you come, weeks before D-Day with this stupid spider idea.”

“Everyone does zombies sir. I’ve been trying to tell you we need to branch out; try new things. I’ve got this idea for a plant-based-”

“Shut your trap, Peabody. I swear to god if he changes his mind again, that’s it. You’re out of here. I don’t care how good you are.”

“You’re making this into a much bigger deal than it has to be.”

“Really? Then tell me. How are we supposed to reset and entire planet in two weeks. And remember, no holograms.”

“None needed sir. It’s really quite easy. The rot-bots we can just deactivate, leave them lying around as the carnage of the spiders.”

“It’s not the bodies I’m worried about. Where are you going to get billions of spiders from? The fabbers won’t work that fast.”

“They won’t have to. With a few simple modifications they’re going to BE the spiders.”
Ragar turned the idea over and over in his head, looking for holes. “You’re saying we slap a fresh coat of paint on them, program their dispensers to spin webs and give them the run of the planet?”

“Right. Maybe we have them work up a couple or three monster-sized arachnids to keep things interesting. We could do all that in a week. Tops.”

Ragar growled, trying to think of some other objection to raise, and when he found none ready at hand he snapped, “Fine. Go. Make it happen.”

When Peabody was gone, Ragar pounded his fist against his desk in frustration. He still wanted to break something.

Anymore, everything was practically indestructible. And why shouldn’t it be? This was the future, the perfect paradise, Utopia realized, the New Jerusalem descended from the heavens. And no one was happy.

Well, no that wasn’t strictly true. There was a manner of happiness to be found. But contentment…that was another bird entirely. The whole world seemed to be caught in the grip of a paralyzing ennui, a specter that lingered like an unseen cloud over the glittering skylines of their  peaceful and disease-free cities.

And so people distracted themselves. In a world with no dangers to speak of, brats like the Senator’s son paid billions for manufactured conflict, tramping off through warp holes to fight against hoards of zombies. Or, if Peabody had his way, deadly swarms of spiders. It was enough to make Ragar sick.

He walked over to where his tablet had fallen, and brushed it off with his sleeve. And then, there on the floor where the cursed thing had fallen, he noticed a single tiny spider skittering across the tile.

A grim smile slithered across Ragar’s face. He carefully raised his shoe, and then slammed his heel down with a crunch.

The Bitter End

They left him for undead. But he didn’t die.

He hacked his way through the shambling hoards, and with each swing of the machete he chanted one word:


Revenge on the woman who had been unfaithful. Revenge on the friend who had betrayed his trust.

He finally found them lying in each other’s arms. Dead. Their skin rotted into ribbons.

And though he hacked and chopped at their bones with the machete, their corpses did not cry for mercy or beg his forgiveness.

Until at last he sat and wept. Alone with his hatred.

The last man on earth.

[A story for Chuck Wendig’s latest flash fiction challenge, this one requiring a mere 100 words on the subject of RACHE.]

How the Other Half Dies

[This is a tiny little something I wrote after a conversation with Evelyn LaFont about the problem with most zombie plans. You can read her rather interesting take on the conversation and how it applies to publishing here.

Also, this story involves zombies. For those of you who don’t like that kind of thing (you know who you are) be forewarned.]

You didn’t survive.

Of course you didn’t, you poor sad sap.

You sat on the couch playing Xbox and drinking Mountain Dew for eight hours a day. You thought you were tough because your twitching fingers commanded the muscle-bound space marines with impossibly large guns.

You didn’t survive.

You made plans for this. You talked with your friends about where you would go, what weapons you would get, how you would avoid the hoards of the undead. And when you had had your fun you went back home to mommy’s house.

You watched all the movies and you cheered for the gritty survivors as they faced off against the legions of the undead. You groaned when they made stupid mistakes and got themselves killed for it. You knew you could do better. You’d seen it all. You had a plan.

You didn’t last five seconds.

When the first zombie crashed through the window of your bedroom you were too scared to run. You screamed like a girl. Your foot got caught in the tangle of cords by your bed. And right before the undead monster sunk his teeth into your neck, you literally wet yourself in fear.

You lay in a pool of your own blood on the floor, and you wondered how it had come to this. Other people were supposed to die. Not you. The zombie apocalypse was supposed to be fun. But this wasn’t fun. This was dying.

You cried like a baby. Your tears and your blood mingled with the stain from the time you spilled your drink and didn’t bother to clean it up because you were in the middle of a really good game.

At 6:27 pm you died. At 6:28 you came back. You got up off the floor and went down the hall to the living room where your mother was just getting home from shopping. She tried to ask you about the broken window, but before she could finish the sentence you tore her throat out.

She looked at you with eyes that didn’t understand, eyes that had never seen a zombie movie. But by that time you didn’t care anymore.

Then again…maybe you never did.

A Problem of Perspective

Yesterday, I told you about my experience with my editor and how wonderful it was. I extolled the experience of being edited as something uplifting and refreshing. And my conclusion was simple:

You should do it too.

But maybe you’re still skeptical. Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s all well and good for Albert, but really what does he know? Just because he needs an editor doesn’t mean that I do.”

But you’re wrong my friend, horribly wrong. And here is why:

1. You haven’t explained enough.

You know your story backwards and forwards. You know exactly what is happening and why. But nobody else does. Which is really why you’re writing that book in the first place right? Because you want to tell people the story in your head. But sometimes you don’t get it all out.

So you’ll get your editor saying things like “Why is the dog thinking about eating the brains of this zombie. Is he in the habit of eating purifying grey matter? Is this the kind of thing his owners leave lying around the house? This makes no sense.”

At which point you realized that maybe including the detail that the dog is ravenously hungry might be somewhat enlightening to your readers.

2. Hey Bub back off on the explanation!

What’s that you say? This is the exact oposite thing of what we just discussed? Why, how astute of you.

But it’s still a problem. Because clearly you’re not trying to be obscure. You want your readers to understand what’s going on. And sometimes you tend to include to much detail, just in case they don’t quite get it.

The line between too much detail and not enough is razor thin. So you need an editor to say, “You don’t have to say ‘She reached for the can.’ Anyone over the age of four is capable of understanding that if the can was in the cupboard in one sentence and being opened in the next that it did not in fact magically teleport itself through the aether. Cans are not in the habit of doing that.”

3. Everything else

Because, lets face it, there’s way more than three things wrong with your manuscript. An editor can help you with everything from structure to weak verbs.

And please don’t misunderstand. It’s not because you’re a bad writer. You’re just too close to see everything that needs fixing.

You’re a little like the woman I met yesterday who was looking for a way to lock her daughter’s bedroom window shut so that she couldn’t get out in the middle of the night and go out galavanting with her boyfriends. (And by “galavanting” I mean “having sex”.) She looked me straight in the eye and said “When I was her age my parents screwed my windows shut, but my boyfriend just took out the screws.”

You know, on second thought you’re nothing like that woman. But you have a similar problem, which is that you can’t see the absurdity of what is literally right in front of your face. You’re too close. Too involved. You need someone who’s not involved with the situation who can step back and say, “If your daughter’s doing exactly the same thing you did at her age maybe your husband shouldn’t be calling her a whore. And exactly how did you two get to know each other anyway?”

Before I close, I wanted to give a quick caveat that all the edits I included, even though they were inspired by problems in my actual manuscript, were my own wording. My editor, the lovely and talented Ellie Soderstrom is far too nice to say things so harshly. Which was one of the wonderful things about working with her. She was able to tell me what needed changing without making me feel like a douche for getting it wrong.

I’ve already thanked her privately, but I wanted say it here where everyone could see. Thank you, thank you, thank you Ellie. You don’t know how much you encouraged me.

Zombie Tuesday: “We Like To Move It, Move It”

Today we’re going to throw all that writing stuff out the window and talk for a few minutes about…


Yes, zombies. What is it about zombies anyway? What is there in our cultural DNA that makes us so fascinated with the apocalypse brought on by the walking dead? Have our lives become so easy that we need to dream up horrific images of rotting corpses hunting down the few remaining living, to kick our brains out of their television saturated stupor?

Maybe. Who knows? Not me.

But they’re coming. You know they are.

You’ve seen all the movies and TV shows. You’ve played the games. Maybe you’ve even read the books.You think you’re prepared.

You’re so wrong.

You don’t have the first clue how to survive the hoards of the undead. And if you’re not careful you’ll end up in the hoard of undead moaning “Braaaiiiins” and dribbling the guts of your last victim down the front of your “Ask me about my zombie plan” t-shirt.

You think that just because you’ve seen every zombie movie ever made, you’re prepared for the apocalypse? Didn’t your mother ever tell you that you can’t believe everything you see on TV?

You’re woefully underprepared for what’s coming. That’s why I’m starting a new feature on this blog called, “Zombie Tuesdays.” It would have been alliterated, but some moron forgot to name any weekdays Zedsday, so you’re stuck with this instead.

Each week we’ll look at a different aspect of zombie survival and how to avoid being torn apart by the ravenous flesh eaters.

This week’s zombie survival tip: KEEP MOVING

It’s human nature. When trouble comes we head for home. If we can’t get home we look for a safe place to hole up in until the problem blows over.

You see this in zombie movies all the time. The survivors in the mall, in a boarded up house, in a camp somewhere out in the woods. They’ve dug themselves in, strengthened their fortifications. Maybe they’ve even built a huge fence to keep the undead at bay.

Worst. Mistake. Ever.

Why? Because when you pick a fortification against zombies that place has to last forever. The dead don’t sleep. The dead don’t get tired. And there are far more of them than there are of you.

Think you can handle it? Maybe you’ve got three months of canned goods stocked up in the pantry. Maybe you’ve got a well that brings fresh water right into your house. But the food will run out. And the zombies will still be outside moaning and clawing at the walls.

Maybe you’re thinking bigger. Maybe you’ve got a whole compound stocked with food and medicine and enough land to produce the food you’ll need all of it conveniently fenced off. But you’re still stuck there forever. Need some medicine from the ruins of the hospital in town? Too bad. Need to scavenge some parts for your generator? Not going to happen.

And what are you doing to do when the undead start piling up on top of each other outside your gates until they’ve made a ramp of desiccated flesh that leads right over your precious fortifications?

You can’t dig in.

So what do you do? You move.

Don’t leave town. That’s another rookie mistake. You get in your car to hit the interstate and you’ll be stuck in a pack of cars full of geniuses that had the exact same idea as you did. And when you run out of gas and the undead are crawling over your car and the sun is literally baking you alive inside maybe you’ll understand why leaving was a bad idea.

But you have to keep moving. On foot is fine if that’s all you’ve got. You can easily outwalk the undead, and if any of them get too close you can stop and kill them one at a time.

What if they’re running?

If they’re running then they’re not zombies. This is a zombie survival guide.

Again, you’re not going anywhere. You’re not even trying to leave town. Your main objective is to avoid creating a congregation point for the zombies.

If you’ve got a bicycle, better still. Bikes are lightweight and can usually be taken places where the roads don’t go. Also, they don’t run out of gas. This is important. If you’re going to survive this you’re going to have to forget about anything that requires any kind of fuel or charge. You’re going to have enough trouble keeping yourself fueled up without having to worry about your car.

What about sleep? Well, I would tell you that you could sleep when you’re dead, but that’s not exactly true now is it? This is a long-term plan. You’re going to need to stop from time to time for sleep and rest.

Best chance you’ve got is to find a big building with multiple exits. The undead tend not to be the brightest bulbs on the funeral home marquee. If they see you go in one door, they’ll likely begin by crowding around that door. You should have some time to catch a few winks before they call the rest of their buddies and surround the building completely. You can also use this opportunity to do a little looting.

But be careful of stores with big plate-glass windows. Zombies will rip through them like a hot chainsaw through butter.

When can you stop? You can’t. Not for a very long time anyway. As long as you want to stay alive, you have to keep going.

The day you stagnate is the day you die.