Posted in Monday Mayhem

The Enemy Within

There is a place for everything and everything has a place. Given today is Monday Mayhem, I can attest that if nothing is in its place, there will be mayhem.

Star Wars' Darth Sidious
Star Wars’ Darth Sidious

In the past, I’ve written extensively about zombies, The Walking Dead, aliens, the end of the world and other flavors of destruction you might consider chaos for the choosing. I think one of the most interesting subjects is what would happen to this world if all social boundaries no longer existed. What I’m thinking has to do with human interactions. Although I’ve written about the subject in my book Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise, the matter keeps popping up. One can only cover so much in a book before the themes spill into other works, such as this post you’re now reading.

One of the themes I wanted to explore with the book, and related to this subject, pertains to the absolute corruption of the human soul. For example, when people turn into zombies, it is easy to see them as enemies—they see their food ahead, they smell it and they want to eat it.

However, when people are not zombies, and they try to kill the hero, that becomes a more fascinating story. I read somewhere that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. I don’t think that is too far from what I’ve learned when dealing with dark characters in my books. Again, I’ll bring up zombies. With zombies, you can see them coming. They are easy to spot. Humans, though, are tougher.

Edge of Tomorrow
Edge of Tomorrow

Of course, not everything is easy to understand. In the film, Edge of Tomorrow, the adversary is simple to find. They’re creatures bent on the destruction of humanity. They will not rest until every human is a grease spot.

The tougher challenger is the one you can’t see coming, or even worse, the one who at first is not an enemy at all. A great example of this is Darth Sidious of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. The term wolf in sheep’s clothing comes to mind when I’m thinking about this particular breed of maleficent.

All right, now you may be wondering what I’m talking about, since I’ve completely deviated from the subject matter. Or have I?

It is my opinion that the corruption of the human soul is the key to a good story. And as I said, it is one of the most fascinating aspects of writing. Not only does it provide a great deal of conflict for the reader, but the theme also provides a remarkable sense of accomplishment for the writer—if done right.

I’m wondering aloud. That’s all. I suppose I’m wondering about evil characters. Are they compelling enough to write a story centered only around them. Do we always need a hero?

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

What do you think? Do we always need a hero in a story?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

A Word of Thanks

Tomorrow I will be releasing Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise, the third and final book in the Ranger Martin zombie trilogy. I should be happy, and I am, but I have to admit I’ll miss Ranger and his gang of misfits. He and the kids provided me a wonderful outlet to talk about society, relationships, and the pains of growing up in a confusing world. Although the story is set during a zombie apocalypse, the angst felt among the characters is what I believe everyone feels at some point in life. I found it easy to write the scenes where Ranger, the shotgun-toting undead killer, and Matty, the fiery teen and natural leader to her peers, would have it out while everything around them collapses.

A Word of ThanksYet, I’m also excited the trilogy is complete. I can’t express how thankful I am to all those who have supported me this year, day after day, as I would churn out page after page while the deadline loomed to remind me there is a finite date when it would all be over.

My biggest thank-you goes to my wife for all that she has had to put up with while I completed the trilogy. How she did it is beyond me. Scintillating conversations such as, “Honey, do you think when a bullet pierces a zombie head the brain will explode behind its skull in fragments or in a uniformed splatter pattern?” Or this, “What if the undead bleeds green, does it mean I can amp up the violence because green will make it seem more of a comic book?”

To her, I owe my sanity.

Next, I’d like to thank the rest of my family. This includes my parents, who, even though they can’t read English, attempted to make sense from my rambling pages about the undead taking over the world. My mom, especially, took it upon herself to read a page a day, not knowing what she was reading, in order to show her support for my work and me. Every year I would release a book she’d ask, “What are you going to do now?” And I’d answer, “I’m going to write another book, Ma.”

I’m thankful to have such a supportive family.

Of course, I couldn’t do any of this without the kind supporters who visit my site every week, liking and commenting everything I’ve published, and providing me with the inspiration to continue writing.

If I didn’t have your attention, I’d probably be spraying graffiti throughout Toronto’s train system.

Lastly, a big shout out goes to the members of my review team who have taken time from their busy schedules to read my book and provide their thoughts. Nothing I can say would say it better than how they’ve said it below.

Meet the Review Team

K. Andrews’ Barnfullawalkers“It is a testament to Flacco’s skill as a writer that he manages to create two parallel journeys for our gang of main characters in the Ranger Martin series to embark upon, each one as harrowing as the other. On one hand, we have the journey of Ranger and the kids through the hellish, apocalyptic world around them, a world filled with death, horror, and unspeakable evil. On the other hand, we have the equally fraught, terrifying emotional world within each character, as he or she must grapple with the terror of allowing others in, to risk opening their hearts, and feeling love for another, when the reality of the times poses a constant danger that any of them, at any time, could be killed at a moment’s notice.”

Chris Harrison’s The Opening Sentence“To describe the Ranger Martin trilogy as a parable of our times would be confusing Jesus with John Wayne, but there are times when you wonder if the story is somehow apocryphal: the grizzled adult leading the future generation towards a promised land and salvation. But most of the time the young ones are telling the old one what to do and Ranger Martin starts to look more like the put-upon dad than God the Father.”

Kim Lo’s Tranquil Dreams“In this final installment to his Ranger Martin trilogy, we’re back to a zombie heavy novel. I feel that this third one may be the strongest one of the three. While the others are still very good, this one brings in a new aspect and focuses on the kids a little more, specifically the personal relationships going on between the teenagers here, Matty and Randy. We get a little bit more of Ranger Martin’s back story in a little more depth and understand his actions and why he is the way he is and all the hatred aside from the obvious need to survive in this zombie apocalypse thats turned him into a ruthless zombie slayer. They deal with their feelings and decisions. While this could have turned lanky and heavy, somehow it managed to steer away from that territory even if there were slight moments of silly teenage drama that seemed to come up.”

Katie Sullivan’s The D/A Dialogues“Ranger’s final chapter starts with a punch to the gut and never lets the reader rest until that final, bittersweet page. Along the way, characters we grew to love over the course of the series, face challenges that would test the mettle of any good man or woman. And a good man is what Ranger is – but even good men make mistakes, and for me, the question of trust, in the face of utter devastation, was what really turned the pages in Search for Paradise.”

A.M.’s nimslake“This book will have you cheering for Ranger, Jon, Matty and Randy. All the pickles they get themselves into to save their rag-tag family and those they save along the way. It will definitely have you biting your nails as you are gripped in the middle of the melees that happen to them on their quest to ‘Paradise’. You want to be there to shout out ‘behind you!’ You want to be there to shoot down some ‘chewers’ to help them out.”

As a final thought, to those who feel bullied or oppressed, may Ranger Martin inspire you to fight back against the real zombies of this world. May nothing get in the way of your success.

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Excerpt

On October 20, I will be releasing Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise, the final book to my zombie apocalypse trilogy. I’ll spare you the long introduction. Below is the first chapter. I hope you enjoy it.

Matty’s gaze locked on to Randy. There were too many. The redhead knew if they didn’t do something fast, they’d quickly become bait for the undead. As she let off one shot after another from her silver Colt .45, a gun that had once belonged to her grandfather, a terrible thought sliced through her head. What if this was it? What if this would be the last time she’d ever see Randy alive again? Then what? Her plan never included dying at the hands of the horde.

The undead crashed through the door, piling into the abandoned parking garage. As one zombie fell, another would take its place. As the bullets hit their targets, green blood flowed freely into the cracks of the pavement.

“We’ve got to do something, Matty.” Randy said, reloading his gun. “We won’t be able to hold them back much longer.”

He was right. The crowd had chased them clear across the back alleys of Sedona and into an empty apartment building where he and Matty thought they’d be safe. But when the rotting corpses burst through the outside door, then burrowed their way through a second door at the top of the stairs leading into the garage, the kids couldn’t think of anything to do other than open fire.

Despite the heavy shelling the zombies received by the pair, the undead didn’t surrender. They continued to flood the basement at the cost of losing more of their brothers and sisters in death.

While a group of zombies hugged the walls near the parked cars, Matty called to Randy and nodded at the vehicle closest to the door. A hidden language was in place between the fifteen-year-olds. When one would signal an idea, no matter how vague the signal appeared to be, the other would run with it. Chances were good they had the same idea. In this case, they did.

The kids retreated to the very back of the parking garage, diving behind several cars and trucks. Nothing had stemmed the flow of bodies shoving their way toward their next meal. The undead footsteps slamming against the hard pavement of the empty area sounded as thunder.

“Now, Randy!” Matty said. “Now!”

Without hesitating, Randy perched his arms on the hood of the car and aimed his gun. The crosshairs landed on the gas tank of the parked vehicle next to the door from where the undead came. He took the shot. He missed. Instead, he clipped the taillights, sending shards of plastic all over the back wall opposite his target.

“Do you want me to do this?” Matty asked.

“I got this.” Randy adjusted his grip to his gun.

In the meantime, the sons of rot continued to hug the walls, shinnying closer to where the teens hid.

Randy closed one eye, stared across the barrel of his gun, and aimed dead center at the gas tank. This time, he thought, he wasn’t going to miss. As more zombies poured into the parking garage, he slowly squeezed the trigger. The sweat from his forehead trickled from his brow into his open eye. He blinked several times until the sound of the gunshot echoed through the lot.

The bullet screamed through the air and hit the car without a problem, but it didn’t hit the tank. It hit the wheel and flattened it.

“You’re kidding me, right?” Matty’s ponytail jumped in the air as she grabbed Randy by the scruff of the neck. “Let me do it.”

“I said I got this.” He twisted his shoulders pushing her hand away.

The group of zombies hugging the walls was now halfway in its journey to making Matty and Randy a main course to a feast of its choosing. That was to say if Randy had anything to do with it. He wasn’t about to let anything happen to Matty. With both hands cradling his gun, he pursed his lips, squinted, and took a deep breath before he positioned his arms back on the hood of the car. Determination covered his face and he held his grip firmly on his weapon until peace passed over him.

The bullet left his gun in a flash and pierced the tank where the car rested, igniting the tank and the back end of the car. It exploded into a firestorm, taking the zombies hugging the walls and everything else in the sizzling blaze.

Flames crawled along the walls engulfing the door and the family of flesh eaters that had entered the parking garage. The fire ate through the crowd, shooting into the stairwell and flooding the steps with heat.

Nothing survived.

When Matty and Randy raised their heads from their hiding place, they couldn’t believe the devastation Randy had caused. They jumped into the air, slapped high-fives then fell into an embrace with one another. Bodies littered the floor of the garage torn apart from the explosion. The kids had imagined what it would have been like hitting that gas tank, but nothing quite as extensive to cause everything to become charred cinder.

In the midst of the kids’ celebration, as they held each other a while longer, the crowd of zombies that had hugged the walls hit by the fireball and was seemingly lying on the floor dead, began to rise. Whatever had happened, whether the flames weren’t hot enough or the impact of the explosion hadn’t been strong enough, they continued to lift from their fiery grave.

Gawking at the sight, Matty released Randy, pulled her gun and began shooting at anything that moved. Randy did the same without regard to what they would do if they ran out of bullets.

It took a few minutes before the inevitable happened. They ran out of bullets.

Randy tossed his gun and searched everywhere for something he could use to defend themselves from the rising bodies. But Matty had another idea. She yanked Randy’s sleeve and pointed to a door hidden in the shadows behind them. If they could make it to the door, she thought, they’d have a chance of living another day without worrying about the undead. At least that was the plan.

An even half-dozen rose from the ashes of the explosion, skin seared, hair razzed. The undead spotted the kids and their white eyes grew wider knowing the pain they had gone through would never satisfy their hunger for human flesh. Their lips quivered in a roar as they dragged from the spent fire. Their clothes hung from their skin. From that moment forward, not a bullet, human or fire would stop the zombie horde from shrieking its appetite to take hold of the kids.

Across the scorched threshold, Matty estimated they’d have ten seconds before the throng would reach them. It was not something she had imagined. The air caught in her lungs and she tore from her crouch, hauling Randy along with her.

The couple scurried to the door behind them, slamming into it, unable to stop from the inertia of their run. She grabbed the door handle and twisted it. No use, it wouldn’t turn.

“Turn it, Matty! Turn it!” Randy poked her in the shoulder.

She frantically twisted the handle, rattling it, pushing, pulling and finally kicking the door at the same time. The door, however, didn’t give in to her desire for freedom. It stood solid, and in some way, mocked her saying it had the last word regarding their fate.

Matty faced Randy with a ghost in her eyes. The realization hit that they had reached the end. They had escaped the undead clutches multiple times, ducking in alleys, stores, tossing broken crates in their path, slamming doors behind them, climbing fences and finally hiding in the parking garage thinking they had outwitted the undead crowd. Their last chance to leave death behind evaporated with that last tug at the door handle.

“What are we going to do?” Randy asked. He had always looked to her for a good idea.

“I don’t know.” Matty answered, allowing a moment where the groans of the rotting monsters could fade in the distance. “Randy, I have to tell you something. I don’t know if this will make sense to you or not, but I have to say it because it’s in my heart, and I’ve felt this a long time. I couldn’t bear to think what I’d do if I left without you knowing what’s been weighing on my mind.”

“What is it?”

“I—”

A blast tore through the silence and ignited the parking garage with sound.

The kids gazed at the opening of the stairs where moments ago a fireball had consumed everything in its wake. A silhouette appeared from the smoke. Solid. Firm in its stance. When he took a step forward, the remnant of the garage lights shining from above caught and revealed his face—Ranger Martin. Zombie slayer. The undead’s worst enemy.

Ranger adjusted his Oklahoma City RedHawks cap and reloaded his trusty Mossberg 500. Without a word, he pulled the trigger on his first victim, a deranged dragger that possessed no concept of self-preservation. Its brains splattered on the wall behind. The eater stood there for a moment with a gaping hole in its skull until it dropped to its knees and collapsed. The remaining five steered their attention away from Matty and Randy and pushed against the wall toward Ranger. No one had the right to kill one of theirs.

Despite what the undead thought, Ranger tossed several more volleys of gunfire into the horde, eliminating three more of the mass. As he reloaded, the two that remained turned and quickly raced to the teens that hadn’t moved from the door. Their feet had frozen in place as fear washed over their face. They had nowhere to go except forward, but that wasn’t an option either because forward was from where the zombies came.

In that split second while Ranger reloaded, a boy appeared from the shadows of the stairwell. No more than eight years-old, he shouted, “Matty, catch!” And with a long toss, a clip hurled through the air, passing over the heads of the undead to land in Matty’s hand. Instinct propelled her to unload her Colt .45, inject the new clip and pull a bullet in the gun’s chamber.

Bring ‘em on.

The zombie pair extended their paws as drool spilled from their mouths with only a few feet between them and their dinner. They were so close they could taste the kids.

At the same time that the redhead had reloaded her gun, so did Ranger. Two shots escaped their weapons and both zombies dropped to the ground. Green poured from their wounds. The undead never had a chance.

Relief blanketed Randy’s face. He thought for sure they would have met with death this time around, but fate had other plans for them.

Ranger slipped his shotgun in the holster that he had tied around his right leg, and he strolled toward the kids. Smoke smoldered in the background. Matty also had a place for her gun. She hid it in the small of her back. The teens met with Ranger in the center of the underground lot. Jon, the eight-year-old boy who saved Matty’s life, ran and hugged her. He said, “You didn’t think we’d find you. Did you, sis?”

“I knew you’d show up sometime.”

“You did not!” He pulled away from her then smiled.

“Sure I did. There was no way you’d miss the explosion. How many doors did it take out upstairs? Three? Four? I’m sure it even blew out a few windows, too.”

“You’re so full of yourself.”

Ranger shook Randy’s hand and said, “I thought we lost you.”

“You’re kidding. With Matty around? I wouldn’t think anything else would’ve survived.”

The reunion didn’t last long. As soon as they did away with the pleasantries, the sound of a thump travelled through the garage to hit their ears. Another thump, but this time it sounded like a pounding had erupted from behind the door where Matty and Randy wanted to escape. It happened again. Massive hits to the door until there was silence.

Jon’s face flattened. Matty stared at Ranger while Randy focused on the source of the pounding. They didn’t need another fight—not when they had resolved to put away their guns and go home.

Something else had other plans.

The handle to the door slowly turned as the four watched with gaping mouths. The latch clicked open and from the backdoor stepped a chewer, pale and tired. It must have heard the fuss from the other side. Soon, another appeared. Then another. And another. The longer the humans stood motionless, the more the undead emptied from the door.

“Now would be a good time to run.” Ranger said to the kids. “Go!”

They dashed to the stairwell from where the fire had left ash and soot in its path. As Ranger followed, he had an idea. He wasn’t ready to take a stand, not against fifty of the gut-churners. However, he did want to make clear that nothing would threaten the kids under his protection. This he knew to be true.

When the kids had all but disappeared into the stairwell, all except for Matty who trailed behind, Ranger grabbed her gun from the small of her back, pushed her into the stairwell, and aimed the weapon at the car she and Randy had hid behind when they had set off the first explosion. He waited until the crowd had passed the vehicle to pull the trigger.

The bullet burst through the gas tank and sparked another fireball, bigger than the last, taking with it three other cars. Shrapnel tore through the bodies as if they were sacks of green oatmeal bursting into liquid sludge. Whatever the fire didn’t catch, the shrapnel took care of.

In that instant, when Ranger could have waited a little longer to witness the destruction he had caused, he slammed the door shut behind him as the flames raced and crashed into it, trapping the undead throng.

As the blaze consumed everything in the parking garage, Ranger escaped with the kids with only one thing leaving his lips. “Yahoo!”

Search for Paradise Excerpt

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Cover Reveal

Four years later, it’s done. The final book to my Ranger Martin zombie series is complete. Today I reveal the cover to Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise. Am I excited? I wouldn’t know where to start to tell you how I feel right now. Yeah, I am excited. Can’t you tell? Next month, my dream will come true. On October 20, 2015, the book releases.

Ranger Martin and the Search for ParadiseLast Friday, I’d promised I’d tell you where the idea for Ranger Martin came from.

As clichéd as it sounds, I woke up one morning in October 2011 with Ranger’s name surfing through my head. While shaving, the image of a zombie slayer turned father-figure began to take shape. Ranger would travel across the country saving kids from the likes of chewers and eaters, providing lodging and giving them a purpose for their existence.

The story grew after I had entered it as part of National Novel Writing Month in November that year.

Two of the other main characters in the series are Matty, a fifteen-year-old who doesn’t take any flak from anyone, and her know-it-all eight-year-old brother, Jon. Together, they’re the ones who cause Ranger the most grief.

What I found interesting writing this series is how the stories for each book flowed without much effort on my part. I had a general idea of how it would all work—actually, all I had were the titles Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse, Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion, Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise, and the endings. Beyond that, I hadn’t a clue as to what would happen in each novel. Every day that I took to my writing hole there was an adventure awaiting for me to discover.

In all honesty, it was as if I were taking dictation.

Anyway, to give you an idea where the cover came from, the photo is from October 2004. I was sitting on a hill watching the boats pass at Toronto’s Waterfront when I saw a women standing on the dock. She caught my attention and I snapped her picture. A few seconds was all it took and she was gone. Years later, I would remember that photo and it made me wonder whatever happened to that woman. What was she thinking while she stared into the distance? Was she thinking of her family? Was she thinking of a long lost love? Or was she simply standing there because she saw me taking photos of the area knowing she would become a timeless image for others to talk about?

If she only knew her image would become part of the cover to my next book, I’m sure now she would think it flattering.

Not to make it sound as if the whole process for writing the trilogy was easy, I had to sacrifice a better part of my Sundays and evenings to put the series together. That included dedicating writing sessions between events such as home renovations, birthdays, driving my kids to recitals, long weekends, funerals, and anything else you can classify as mundane tasks that would make up life. Add to the laundry list the blog schedule I had committed to in December 2012 to write three posts a week, no matter what the circumstances, and you have a very busy Jack.

Mind you, I’m not complaining—I’m explaining. Then again, I wouldn’t trade in the experience for anything in the world. If it hadn’t been for Ranger Martin, I wouldn’t have found the writing rhythm that works for me. Ranger taught me

  • Never to surrender.
  • Always be consistent.
  • And never pay attention to what the crowd is doing.

Okay, I think I can now can tell you what Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise is about! From the back jacket:

There is no cure. The change is permanent. Whoever says they can fix this is wrong.

Months ago, billions of people died in the zombie apocalypse. The survivors either have become refugees looking for a way out or have turned against each other. No one will admit they killed their friend for a package of raisins. It happens though, and there isn’t anything anyone can do about it.

Undead slayer Ranger Martin makes the unforgiving Arizona desert his home. He has never had to defend it. He has never had to kill anyone for it. If anything, he has shelved his shotgun and has taken an early retirement package.

That is, until now.

When the military lays siege on his silo, Ranger and his crack team of professionals—a bunch of kids, really—have no other choice than to run. But after he discovers a map that may lead to a mythic city called Paradise, where neither army nor zombie can invade, Ranger mounts a cross-state journey to find the place of safety before the others find him and it’s too late.

Now, because I would love for everyone on the planet to enjoy Ranger Martin’s way of solving the zombie problem, and in celebration of my October 20 release of my new book, starting tomorrow for 5 days, I will be offering the first book in the trilogy Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse FREE. That’s right. You’ll be able to download it without spending a dime. It’s my way of showing my appreciation for all the support extended to me these past few years while I teetered on the edge of insanity doing what I love doing—writing about the zombie apocalypse.

Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse

Thanks everyone for all your support!

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Pre-Cover Reveal

When it comes to announcements, I’m never quite sure how to go about making them. Sometimes, I keep it a secret for as long as I can in order to maximize its impact. Other times though, I want to talk about it until I collapse on my bed and wish for a time less stressful.

Pre-Cover RevealToday, I’m trying to figure out which one of these times this is.

This coming Monday I will reveal the cover to my new book Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise, which hits the shelves on October 20. I’m excited about it, but at the same time, sad. The book is the final entry in the Ranger Martin zombie trilogy.

For those of you unfamiliar with how the Ranger Martin series came to be, I had written the first book Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse during 2011’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), a writing contest that takes place annually in November as a way to spurn writers to compete against themselves in order to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

I joined the challenge thinking it would be a good opportunity to exercise my skills as a writer and write the book I’ve always wanted to write, even if I had no idea what the project was going to be about. I joined anyway with the hope it would take on a life of its own.

Pre-Cover RevealFor a month, I had no friends.

Yeah, you can say I went all OCD on everyone. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 1,666 words every day for 30 days and I approached it as if it were a war. No matter what, I wouldn’t let anything or anyone get in the way of my goal to complete the manuscript.

I was such an idiot. Seriously.

Part of that attitude came from the fact that the most I could produce at that time was 500 words a day. I wouldn’t have thought I was capable of producing three times that amount. Ever. I can truly say it is also the reason some reviewers felt the writing in the first novel had a sense of urgency. And there was. Every day was a race against the clock to get my ideas into the manuscript before midnight. The way it works is if I missed one day, it meant I would have had to write 3,332 words the next day. And that, to me, would have been equivalent to clamping my head to a paint mixer and flipping the switch.

Looking back, I now see how silly that was, given today I write every day out of habit. You know what else, though? Once I had immersed myself in Ranger Martin’s world, I was producing far more than the assigned daily quota. I actually was having fun, even if I had shunned society for the entirety of November that year.

Anyway, I was planning to talk about Ranger Martin, how the character came to be, but it looks like I’m running out of time. I guess I’ll save it until Monday.

Just know I’m excited to show you the cover. It’s a journey completed. I really can’t wait.

Oh, and by the way, in celebration of the Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise release, I’m offering the first book Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse FREE next week for 5 days, starting on Tuesday. It’s my way to thank you all for putting up with my long-winded posts about zombies, women who wow, macho warriors, and anything else that may have caught my attention.

Here’s the first of the plugs I’m publishing for this celebration. Thanks for the support.

Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Dreams

I’ve put away some dreams. Did I have a choice? Yet, others I have kept alive by making them a reality. What would life be without dreams? Here are some of the dreams I left behind as I grew older.

Astronaut
Astronaut

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. Oh, how I wanted to travel in space looking for life on other planets and perhaps bring back a few aliens to earth. I quickly gave that up realizing I suffered from motion sickness. Every single time I rode in the back of my parents’ car, I can’t tell you how many times I christened the seats with the contents of my meals.

When I was a bit older, I wanted to be a lawyer. Unfortunately, I had to forget that dream when I found out that I wasn’t very good at arguing. Back then, my arguments went something like this:

Girl who liked me: “Did you break my bike?”
Me: “No.”
Girl who liked me: “You were the last person to use it.”
Me: “I didn’t break your bike.”
Girl who liked me: “You did break it. You suck.”
Me: “Well, you suck harder. So there.”

Like I said, I wasn’t very good at arguing.

When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a rock star. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I learned all Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page‘s licks, joined a wedding band–I didn’t say I knew what I was doing, did I?–and eventually started my own band. We didn’t make much money, but the stress of lugging our own equipment wasn’t what I’d hoped. Where were the girls? What about the late night parties?

Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page

When I was out of high school, I wanted to author literature. I imagined a life where I lived in a cottage in the middle of the woods while I banged out a manuscript for my next bestseller. Somehow, the image of wearing one of those smoking jackets, sitting by the fire as I nursed a glass of Napoleon Brandy appealed to me.

That never happened. I’m pretty sure I suffered from ADD at the time, which in turn left me with jimmy legs. I couldn’t sit still for more than five seconds. Oh, well. At least I still have the notes to my ideas. That counts for something, right?

When I was much older, I dreamed of writing books. I wrote one book about zombies, I wrote another one about zombies and aliens, and now I’m writing a third about zombies again. I don’t think I ever gave up the dream of being a published author, although I may have changed what I’ve wanted to write about.

Am I happy? Yeah, I am. I’m glad I didn’t become an astronaut, a lawyer, a rock star or an author of literature. It took a long time for me to figure out my dreams. Was it worth it? Yeah, I would say so.

But I have to confess, it took a lot of work to become a published author. Had I known what I know now, I still would have done it the way I did. It’s the only way I knew how.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

What is it about dreams that spur the imagination? Have you achieved your dreams?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Future Projects—Maybe

Now that I’ve announced the release date to the final installment of my Ranger Martin trilogy, a heavy weight has lifted from my shoulders. If someone were to have said to me a few years ago that I’d have a trilogy out by Fall 2015, I would have thought he or she had lost their mind. Yet here it is, 2015, and in several months, the dream will have become a reality.

Perryville Prison
Perryville Prison

With the series fully complete, a number of other projects have fallen on my lap. I could easily tell you what they are, but then where would the fun be when I announce them? Rather, I’ll give you a hint about some of the things I’m working on, then you can tell me if you like the idea or not.

Part of my method to my insanity is diving into heavy research of a subject until I can make that research part of the story without it sounding made up. You can read some of the crazy topics I’ve written about here:

Why Don’t Zombies Eat Each Other?
Real Zombie Stories
Top 10 Most Horrifying Parasites
Zombies and Mental Illness
Zombie Animals
What Makes Horror Movies Scary?
Why do Zombies Eat Brains?
Zombie Apocalypse: Causes
A Zombie Primer
Death’s Cure

The other side of the research is byproduct subjects I never intended to write about, but nonetheless seemed fascinating to explore at the time. Things such as these:

The Human Brain
How to Sleep Well
Heads Down
Social Media Vacation
Being of Value
A Law of Success
A Day Off
Bully
Insomnia
Stream of Consciousness

Given this happens often, one of the settings to the first book in the Ranger Martin series takes place in a prison called Katlyn County Jail in Arizona. The inspiration for this setting was Perryville Prison located west of Phoenix in Goodyear. Little did I know that last month it had become the center of talk in the media for a famous criminal case that had ended. I won’t go into the details of the case, but I’m sure those familiar with it know what I’m talking about.

My natural inclination to write a book about prison life actually sparked an interest in me. That’s as far as I will go hinting on that idea. Okay, maybe I’ll go a bit deeper here. Prison can be the worst place on earth or a learning ground. Also, there are different kinds of prisons. There is the concrete kind where the prisoners are behind bars paying their dues, then there is the prison we create in our minds that we can’t escape without either helping ourselves or others helping us.

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

Another idea I’ve been looking at has to do with time. I like the idea of time travel, but in a non-linear fashion where the time continuum becomes corrupted. Einstein proved time is relative. Wouldn’t it be interesting meeting yourself and finding you’ve lived an entirely different life?

Well, that’s about it for now. I had other things I wanted to mention, but I think that’s enough to give you folks an idea of where I’m heading. These ideas may or may not happen, depends if I can find a story in them, but know I’m always open to writing about anything.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Do you like prison tales? What about time travel stories, do you like those?