Daily Archives: October 31, 2015

#31ZombieAuthors – Day 31 – HALLOWEEN INTERVIEW – David W. Wright of the Self-Publishing Podcast

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Self Publishing Podcast

Sterling and Stone

Happy Halloween, 3.5 readers.

This month, we’ve chatted up an absurd amount of zombie fiction writers, haven’t we?

They’re all impressive in their own right, and they all bent over backwards to help me out, so it was virtually impossible to figure out who to assign the coveted Halloween spot to.

Then it hit me.  Use it to talk to one of the dudes who got me writing again.

Not to make this about me, but long ago, I gave up on my dream of becoming a writer.  Like so many before me, the path toward traditional publishing seemed like it was riddled with one insurmountable wall after another.  Spend my time writing only to end up with my work tossed on a rejection heap with countless other writers competing for a highly coveted publishing contract?

Hell, I might as well have cashed out my life savings (all 3.5 dollars of it) and spent it on lotto tickets.

So I moved on and pursued a more realistic profession, but as the years went by, I always second guessed myself.

“What if?”

What if I’d kept at it?  Would I be a writer today?”

Around late 2014 I discovered the Self Publishing Podcast, starring full time indie authors Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt, and of course, today’s guest, David W. Wright.  Together, this trio have their own “story studio,” Sterling and Stone.

They’ve found success as multi-genre authors, with sci-fi epics like The Beam, steam punk adventures like The Dream Engine and TV style serials such as Yesterday’s Gone, just to name a few.  They’re so prolific I doubt I could rattle off all their hits in one sitting.
51yjssATf+L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Their self-publishing guide, Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success) has become a bible of sorts for the indie community.  I picked up a copy and thus far I’ve found the information it provides to be invaluable.

I have a standing appointment with these gents every Wednesday afternoon, during which I pop on their podcast and listen to the boys talk about the craft they love on my commute home.

To be clear, they don’t deal with get rich quick schemes or gimmicks.  They’re just three guys who talk about what works and doesn’t work for them.  They regularly schedule guests on the cutting edge of self-publishing, and most importantly, they have fun.

Yes, I said fun.  You won’t be bored when you listen to SPP.  The best way I can describe it is that Johnny, Sean and Dave aren’t the stodgy, tweed coat wearing professors who drone on and on in a boring lecture guaranteed to put you to sleep.

Rather, they’re the cool TAs who stop by your dorm, crack open a beer, joke around with you, and give you the straight scoop on what you need to know.

Will I ever self-publish a book?  I have no idea, but listening to these guys helped me decide to pick up my long abandoned dream of a writing career, dust it off, and start working toward it again, and that in and of itself has made me a happier person.

Dave, as one of Sterling and Stone’s preeminent horror fiction writers, welcome to the Bookshelf Battle Blog.  I’ve heard you and your compadres say it doesn’t get any worse than your other podcast, Better Off Undead, but I’d challenge that notion since last time I checked, my site only has 3.5 readers. 

NOTE: BOLD=BQB; ITALICS=DAVE

Q.  Happy Halloween, Dave!  Do you have any plans to celebrate?  (Redact as necessary.)

A.  If by celebrate, you mean hide away from anyone who might knock on my door, then yes, I’ll be celebrating in an undisclosed location.

Q.  What’s the deal with zombies?  The past month, I’ve interviewed authors from all different backgrounds and they’ve all managed to find their own unique take on the zombie genre.  For the layman who thinks, “I don’t get it.  All they do is grunt and groan and eat brains!” please explain why fans can’t get enough of the undead.

A.  I can only speak to the appeal from my perspective. As long as I can remember, long before I ever saw a zombie movie, I dreamed of hordes of slow-moving people coming after me. Most horror movies, the hero or heroine have some chance to defeat the bad guy, monster, etc… There’s something terrifying about an unyielding, unending force of nature like a horde of zombies.

There’s a cathartic nature to most horror, and I think zombies can be representative of many fears for people, and movies and books are just one way of facing those fears in a safe manner.

I think one of the books that truly gets that fear right is The Girl With All the Gifts. Those zombies will track you down, and just wait outside wherever you’re hiding. They’ve got nothing but time, and they will eventually get you, unless you find a way to fight back.

61NWfE06WqL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Q.   Z 2134, which you co-authored with Sean, features a dystopian America of the future, one in which zombie plagues have ravaged the world, giving rise to a totalitarian government, not to mention the Darwin Games, a televised survival show in which people have to fight zombies on air.  What inspired you to write these stories?

A.   Well, I’ve always wanted to write a zombie story. Sean wasn’t as keen on the idea, as he felt like it had all been done, and there was a lot of it at the moment. However, if we could mash up other genres, he was a lot more interested. So we thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a Hunger Games type story with zombies?” At the time, I’d not even seen The Hunger Games, and had read only the first few chapters. But I knew the idea, and we thought it would be cool to blend it with zombies and add a dose of 1984.

We pitched it to 47North after they’d reached out to us because of Yesterday’s Gone’s success, and they bought the trilogy.

Funny that some of the one star reviewers say it’s a “direct ripoff” of The Hunger Games, which I have to laugh at given that the only thing we ripped off was that it was a) a game and b) how The Hunger Games did the opening part where everyone had to make a mad dash toward the loot (which is as far as I got in the series). Anything similar beyond that, if there actually is, is pure coincidence. Fortunately, enough people liked the series for what it was to make it a bestseller at Amazon.

I think that mash-up of Z 2134 was sort of a dual-edged sword, though. While it earned us a lot of new readers, I think that people who thought we merely ripped off The Hunger Games, probably didn’t go on to give our other books a chance. They probably thought we were mash-up hacks churning out derivative stuff, which is a shame, because I feel that our other books are original and genre defying in many aspects.

Sean and Johnny are currently writing the first book in a zombie series that I’m super excited about, which seems to have an original sorta twist to it. Perhaps Sean and I will write in that world, since I’m still itching to do a proper real zombie story.

Q.  One thing I’ve noticed about science fiction/zombie lore is that authors have a tendency to forecast a future of doom and gloom.  I can’t say as I blame them though, given that every day there’s a new story on the news that rattles my faith in humanity.  Do you think a book where people are actually happy and the world has come together in a peaceful, harmonious future would ever be viable (or dare I say, realistic?)

A.  As much as I’d love to believe otherwise, it all comes down to a few things that seem immutable: there are limited resources on this planet, and people are clannish by nature. Therefore, there will always be struggle.

Q.   Let’s talk SPP.  You guys do a fair amount of busting on one another, all in good fun of course.  Still, I have to say I envy the partnership you’ve formed.  I’ve worked on a number of group projects in my life and to date, I’ve never walked away from the experience without holding back the desire to strangle my partners (who probably felt the same way about me.)  Do you guys realize what you have and more importantly, when the microphone’s off, do you tell each other?  It’d make me happy if the three of you would break out in a chorus of Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings one day, in celebration of a rare collaboration that actually works.

A.  I don’t think we talk too much about it. We’re usually busy talking about the work that needs to be done to fulfill our dreams. When we met in Austin in Sept. 2014, though, it was the first time all three of us were together, and we had a long heart-to-heart-to-heart talk, and it felt good to get to know Johnny (I’d already known Sean) in person. We’re like family, except we get along more often than most families.

Q.  Dave, as mentioned on your site, “Sean is the Tigger to your (Dave’s) Eeyore.”  I’d even go so far as to say that Sean is the Professor X to your Magneto.  In other words, Sean’s an optimist while you’re a pessimist.

Is that why you two work so well together?  One of you holds out hope, the other can see problems coming at twenty paces, and together you equal each other out?

A.  Good analogy. I think we’re a good mix, though I’m sure we’d be better off if I were a bit less pessimistic and a bit more hopeful. I think pessimism can be good as a protective shield, but there are times it costs you in potential.

Q.   Not to bore you with my problems, but a maniacal alien dictator from an unnamed world despises reality television to the point where he’s demanded that I write a novel so finely crafted that it causes the public to abandon shows where cameras follow around vapid celebrities and focus their attention entirely on scripted media.

But I don’t want to bother you with that.  You’ve been in self-publishing for a long time now.  Is there one nugget of advice, something that you wish someone had told you early on when you were getting started that you could pass on to me?

A.   Work through the doubt, and write a lot. Growing up, I tended to abandon projects the moment they got a bit too intimidating. I’m still prone to self-doubt and lots of rewriting before I’m happy, and I blow deadlines, but I am still always moving forward toward a goal — something I didn’t do before I had Sean as a partner.

Q.   Self-publishers are often vocal about their fears, which is understandable. Amazon might change their terms.  Tech companies they depend on might go out of business.  Traditional publishers might find a way to flip the proverbial poker table over and take their chips back.

But lets forget all that and be positive for a moment.  Let’s be Seans and not Daves.  As an expert in the field, do you foresee any major, positive developments coming in the future that will make self-publishers jump for joy?

A.   I’m hoping for a universal e-book format which would allow people to migrate their collections across readers without having to jump through hoops. I’d love to be able to buy at any store and read on whatever reader I prefer, without having to go through proprietary apps.

While companies may be resistant to this, I think in the long run it will help the companies sell more e-books.

Q.   Dave.  Seriously.  Thank you for all that you do.  When The History of Self-Publishing is written, there should be twenty chapters dedicated to you, Sean and Johnny.  The floor is yours.  If there are any last minute words of wisdom you’d like to share with my 3.5 readers, please feel free to do so.

A.   Thank you for having me. I’m not sure if this is wisdom, but I’ll share one thing. I started putting comic strips on the web in 1999. I was clueless to how bad I was. I think a lot of artists early on come in one of two flavors — they think they’re awesome or they think they’re shit. The truth is probably somewhere in between. Had I realized how bad I was, I’m sure I would’ve quit. Instead, I thought I was better than I was, but knew I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be, so I pushed through, always trying to get better, until I had a semi-successful comic which I could be proud of. So, I’d say don’t beat yourself up early on, but don’t ignore the areas you need to improve, and just always keep creating.

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BQB’s Zombie Apocalypse Survivor’s Journal – Day 31 – (Part 3)

It was late.

I sat in my office, the magic bookshelf behind me, the tiny characters who inhabited it fast asleep.

NN1 was on my TV, various commentators weighing in on all the consequences that General Morganstern was in for.

On my computer, I typed the following words:

Johnny Gunhands:  A Farewell to Hands

Draft #2

VGRF came in.

“You foiled a corrupt general’s plot, saved us all from being blown up, and destroyed the zombie menace,”  she said.  “Don’t you think you’ve earned some sleep?”

“I can’t,”  I replied.  “I’m too wired.  Besides, you know with the Mighty Potentate up my ass the world will never be safe from alien invasion until I finish this book.”

I opened up iTunes and turned on my favorite show, The Self Publishing Podcast.

Notorious indie authors Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt, and David W. Wright were discussing the latest news in the world of do it yourself publishing.

“I hate you all,” grumbled Dave.

VGRF picked up the space phone and handed it to me.

“What?”  I asked.

“Go on,”  she said.

“Oh please.  The world has already given me too many miracles tonight.  I doubt an interview with one of these illustrious scribes is in the cards.”

“The worst that can happen is they say no,”  VGRF said.

I let out a loud, obnoxious sigh.

“Fine.  Here goes nothing.”

I looked up the number for Sterling and Stone, the SPP trio’s publishing company.

I dialed it.  The phone rang.

“Hello?  Yes. Bookshelf Q. Battler here.  I’m doing a zombie author interview series and I’d like to talk to Dave about Z2134….uh huh….uh huh….uh huh…Dave’s at Target?  Uh huh….sure I can hold…”

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BQB’s Zombie Apocalypse Survivor’s Journal – Day 31 – (Part 2)

“All the lights and sounds drove every zombie in town here,”  Alien Jones said.

“Great,”  I said.  “We’re safe from being blown up but now we’re going to be ripped apart by the undead.”

“Not quite,”  Alien Jones said as he punched a button on his space phone.  The pilots’ voices were back.

“God I hope there’s some hot chicks at the ‘Cool As Shit Fighter Pilot Bar’ tonight,” Buzzkill said.

Alien Jones handed me the phone.

“You can communicate with them now.  Human signals are notoriously easy to hack.”

“They are?”  I asked.

“Of course.  How do you think the Mighty Potentate has been getting free cable all these years?”

“Umm,”  I said into the space phone.  “Come in, good buddy?”

“Who is this?”  Buzzkill asked.

“This is Bookshelf Q. Battler,”  I said.

“This is a secure channel.  How did you hack into it?”

“Umm…there’s an app for that?  Hey listen, Cool As Shit Fighter Pilots, I need you to come back and waste some zombies.”

“10-4,”  Buzzkill said.

Alien Jones leaned over me and punched a button.  A non-lethal red laser shot out of it.

“What the hell is that?”  I asked.

“A laser target designator,”  Alien Jones explained.  “Point it at the zombies and the Cool As Shit Fighter Pilots will do the rest.”

“Damn it,”  I said.  “This thing has everything.  Where can I get my own space phone?”

“Eh,”  Alien Jones said.  “They’re fun at first but then they become a pain in your back quarter.  Every year they tweak it a tiny bit and expect you to buy a whole new one.”

I pointed the laser at a house down the road.

“Wait,”  I said.  “We should let the zombies get closer.”

“Why would you want them to get closer?”  VGRF asked.

“Because they’re right by…the house…”

VGRF glared at me.

“You know, the one that sorority rented and they all just lie around on the roof and sunbathe topless all day?”

VGRF slapped me for the fourth time this month.

“So I’ve heard!  Ahh, screw it, those babes are probably all zombies by now.”

I pointed the laser at the sorority house.  The zombies were tearing it apart, looking for survivors.

“Buzzkill, I’m painting the target now.”

“How does a civilian have a laser target designator?”  Buzzkill asked.

“I uh…bought it on eBay?”

“Shit,”  Buzzkill said.  “Probably some disgruntled Russian sold it.”

The F-15s did another flyby.

“Locking on…”

BOOM!

The sorority house went up in a fiery blaze, taking the majority of the town’s zombies with it.

The F-15s flew off.

“Pleasure doing business with you, Bookshelf Q. Battler.  Stop by the Cool as Shit Fighter Pilot bar sometime.  First round’s on me.”

Alien Jones launched his space phone into the air again and dropped a funky, smooth beat.  It was reminiscent of one of Barry White’s soulful 1970’s love jams.

3.5 readers, you might remember from the beginning of this tale that Alien Jones sounds exactly like Barry White.

“What are you doing?”  I asked.

“Now it’s time to celebrate,”  the Esteemed Brainy One replied.

The alien levitated himself in the air.  Still in his hipster garb, he broke out into song.

FUNK YOU, BABY

By:  Alien Jones, The Esteemed Brainy One

Aww baby…don’t you know you make me feel…fresh.

BQB/BERNIE:  CHORUS

Fresh!

ALIEN JONES

Aww baby, don’t you know you make me feel…frisky!

CHORUS

Frisky!

ALIEN JONES

Aw baby, don’t you know you make me feel…FUNKY!

I’m gonna funk you up woman, funk you up and down.

Funk you all over the place, all over this funkin town.

Funk you up in the mornin’

Funk you up at night!

Goddamn baby don’t you know our funky love

Will be one funky ass sight!

Funky love baby!

Funk you all night long!

CHORUS:

Funk you all night long!

ALIEN JONES:

Funk you the funkin hell up while I’m singing this funky ass song!

I don’t know how I’ll do it, because I got no junk!

CHORUS

He’s got nothin’!

ALIEN JONES

But you know my ass will find a way because I’m one funkin funky ass hunk!

The space phone dropped into Alien Jones’ hands.

“That was unlike you,”  I said.

“Sometimes an alien just has to funk.”

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BQB’s Zombie Apocalypse Survivor’s Journal – Day 31 – (Part 1)

High atop the south wall of Bookshelf Battle Headquarters, I dialed the number for Network News One.

“Hello?” a lackadaisical operator answered.  “Network News One.  How may I direct your call?”

“I need to speak to the Hot Ass Blonde Chick With Big Titties!”

“Ugh, the hundredth time tonight,”  the operator said.  “Sir, I’m going to tell you what I told all the other perverts. Yes, we realize that the Hot Ass Blonde Chick is quite fetching but she’s a serious journalist and doesn’t have time for…”

I cut her off.

“My name is Bookshelf Q. Battler,”  I said.  “She’s been working an angle on the East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse, trying to prove my fellow Funky Hunk Bernie Plotznick and I and a bunch of survivors are still within the East Randomtown limits!  Get her on the phone before I’m blown the hell up!”

“One minute sir.”

Some muzak played.

“La, la, la…muskrat love,” I sang to myself.

The voice of a hot chick picked up.

“Bookshelf Q. Battler?” the blonde reporter asked.

“Yes.  Is the Hot Ass Blonde Chick With Big Titties?”

“It is.  My God, you really ARE alive!”

“I sure am and Bernie Plotznick, my girlfriend, my deformed kid, and over a thousand survivors are at my house!”

“I knew General Morganstern was up to something,”  the blonde reporter said.

“Do you have a chopper?”  I asked.

“Sure.  The NN1 Sky Copter is parked at the West Randomtown Shop N’ Slop.”

“I need you to get in that helicopter and get to the address I’m sending you,”  I said.

“You’ll come outside so we can catch you on film?”  the blonde reporter asked.

“Better,”  I replied.  “My associate and I are going to put on the greatest concert East Randomtown has ever seen!”

“I’m on my way.”

I handed the space phone to Alien Jones.  He released it and it floated into the air.

“Can it work as a microphone?”  I asked.

“Yes,”  Alien Jones replied.  “I’m syncing it to pick up your voices now.”

“How the hell…CAN IT DO THAT?”  I asked, noticing my voice was being broadcast all over the compound.  “Whoa!”

Three F-15s ripped across the sky.

Alien Jones snapped his fingers and the pilots’ transmissions were played over the space phone.

“Overlord, come in overlord.  This is Buzzkill.  On my six are ShockinAwesome and Limpwrist.  Over.”

“Guys,”  Limpwrist said.  “I thought we talked about this.  My call sign is ‘Hellfire.’”

“Screw you, Limpwrist,” Buzzkill said.  “You show up late for ‘Cool Ass Fighter Pilot Call Name Assignment Day,’ you end up as Limpwrist.  Suck it up.”

Below, I could see the townspeople standing around my yard, listening intently.

“I read you, Buzzkill.”

I recognized that voice.  Morganstern was Overlord.

“Overlord we’re over the target now.  Ready to turn East Randomtown into a crater and fry those zombie freaks.  Over.”

The survivors gasped and started to panic.

“Copy,”  Morganstern said.

“Overlord, you’re sure there’s no one alive down there?”  Buzzkill asked.

The F-15s made another pass over BQB HQ.

“Affirmative,”  Morganstern replied.  “Jesus Christ, are you one of those hippies who whines about blowing up a whole town?  Light that shit up already!”

“Preparing to light it up, sir…”

Alien Jones snapped his fingers and his space phone produced a dazzling strobe light effect.  It also cast two spotlights on Bernie and I.

“Ready?”  I asked Bernie.

“Shit son, you know my ass was born ready!  FUNKY HUNKS IN THE HIZ-OUSE!”

Alien Jones wiggled his fingers again and the space phone shot up dazzling holograms of fireworks straight up into the sky.  They were fake but to the untrained eye, they looked like the real thing.

“What the hell was that?”  Buzzkill asked.

“What?”  Morganstern asked.  “What’s going on?”

“Come on all you East Randomtown survivors!”  Bernie shouted, his voice amplified through the magic of alien technology.  “Put your hands together and make some noise like your lives depend on it!”

It’d been years since my days as a Funky Hunk, but seeing Bernie in his element brought it all back.

“Because it does, yo!”  I shouted.  “Yo, yo, yo I’m Read N’ Plenty!”

“And I’m MC Plotz,”  Bernie added.

Together, we said in unison, “AND WE ARE THE FUNKY HUNKS!”

The F-15s made another pass.

“Overlord, there appears to be some kind of nerd show going on down there,”  Buzzkill said.  “Over.”

“Bullshit,”  Morganstern said.  “You’re seeing things.  Blow it all up!  Now!”

“Are you nerds ready?”  Alien Jones asked.

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I said.

VGRF kissed me.

“For luck.”

“Thanks baby,” I said. “But Read N’ Plenty don’t need no luck because he got mad ass skills!  Hit it!”

Alien Jones snapped his fingers and the space phone laid down a hip hop beat.

In the distance, I saw a light and heard helicopter blades whirring.  The NN1 SkyCopter drew closer, coming to a hover over BQB HQ.

“Aww shit,”  Bernie said.  “The Funky Hunks reunion show broadcasted live.”

Suddenly, it was like we were both in our early twenties again.  We were jumping, running around, performing sick dance moves, all the while debuting Bernie’s latest jam:

STRAIGHT UP FLOSSIN’

Yo.  2015.  Funky Hunks back on the scene.

Check it!

You’re out on a date with a fly ass honey.

But damn that girl be lookin’ at yo ass hella funny.

I wonder what the hell does she see?

Awwwww shit!  It’s a rogue chick pea!

Time for the chorus:

Straight up flossin!  Straight up flossin!

Now here’s some advice that yo ass better not be tossin!”

Alien Jones twirled his finger again and the space phone displayed the Network News One feed on a holographic monitor large enough for the whole crowd to see.

Kurt Manley was in studio.

“Sources say that the Congressman located his pants and issued a contrite apology to his constituents.  In other news…”

Kurt pressed his finger down on his earpiece.

“Hold on.  Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going live to the NN1 SkyCopter where the Hot Ass Blonde Chick With Big Titties is covering a breaking story.  Hot Ass Blonde Chick With Big Titties, are you there?”

The F-15s swooped overhead once more.  Bernie and I kept jamming, keeping an eye on the coverage.

The crowd didn’t care for us at all, though some of the forty something moms in denim stretch pants in attendance did sing along.  The faux fireworks continued to brighten up the night sky.

Wearing a pair of headphones, the blonde reporter, sitting in the back of the helicopter, appeared on screen.

“Yes I am, Kurt,”  the reporter said.  “I’m reporting live over the home of East Randomtown resident, Bookshelf Q. Battler.  As you recall, General Morganstern told me earlier this evening that there are no survivors remaining in town, thus clearing the way for an aerial strike, yet as you can clearly see below…”

The camera man zoomed in on BQB HQ.  We could see ourselves on the screen.  Bernie and I waved.

“…the poorly reviewed late 90’s/early 2000’s rap duo known as ‘The Funky Hunks’ are performing an impromptu performance of their wholesome hip hop to a large group of survivors.”

Bernie and I kept rapping.

When you hang up yo toothbrush yo job aint done.

Get that floss on that bicuspid, son!

There’s all kinds of shit behind your incisor.

Cavities between teeth can be a real surpriser!

“Damn,”  Kurt said.  “That is the worse music I have ever seen.”

“Agreed,”  the blonde reporter said.  “But these nerds have blown the lid off a vast conspiracy tonight.”

Morganstern’s voice came over the space phone.  Alien Jones amplified it loud enough that the blonde reporter’s mic was able to pick it up way up in her helicopter.

“Buzzkill, blow that bitch out of the sky.”

The F-15’s tore up the sky once more.

“Overlord, have you lost your mind?”

“She has entered a restricted area!  Do it!”

“ShockinAwesome.  Limpwrist.  Let’s head back to base.”

“I HAVE GIVEN YOU A DIRECT ORDER!”  Morganstern hollered.

“Court martial me if you want, General,”  Buzzkill said.  “But I’m not about to murder a bunch of civilians, especially the Hot Ass Blonde Chick With Big Titties.  She’s a national treasure.”

Bernie and I wrapped up our song and I looked at the holo-screen.

“Kurt, did you get all that?”

“We sure did, Hot Ass Blonde Chick With Big Titties.  General Morganstern has a lot of explaining to do.  We’re going to stay with this story as it develops.  Meanwhile, is your cat trying to sit on your face and suffocate you while you sleep?  A prominent veterinarian will weigh in after this commercial break…”

The NN1 SkyCopter banked right and took off.

The crowd cheered and celebrated.  Alien Jones cut our mics off and caught the space phone as it landed in his hands.

“Um, nerds?”  the Esteemed Brainy One said as he pointed his finger towards the neighborhood.

AJ pressed an app that turned his phone into a powerful pair of binoculars.  I looked at the screen to see a legion of hungry zombies marching down the road.

“It’s not time to party yet,”  AJ said.

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