Just prior to the second national lockdown starting here, and in the absence of many new releases, our local cinema showed a series of classic horror movies. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned how close we live to a cinema before. It’s literally a five-minute walk from my front door, and in the eight or so years we’ve lived in this spot, it’s been a source of gainful part-time employment for three of our daughters. I love the place and have been keen to support it whenever its doors have been open during the nightmare which has been 2020. I managed to catch a couple of films, the first of which was NEIL MARSHALL’S werewolf classic, DOG SOLDIERS.
Here’s a quick synopsis from IMDB: A British Squad is sent on a training mission in the Highlands of Scotland against Special Operations squad. Ignoring the childish “campfire” stories heard about the area, they continue with their mission and come across the bloody remains of the Special Ops Squad, and a fierce howling is pitching the night sky… With two mortally wounded men, they make an escape, running into a zoologist by the name of Megan – who knows exactly what hunts them. What began as what they thought was a training mission turns into a battle for their lives against the most unlikely enemies they would have expected – werewolves.
Hard to believe today is the 10 year anniversary of the mass market release of AUTUMN. It had been around for another 10 years prior to that, of course, first as a very basic free download, then as an independent release through Infected Books. I just happened to be on holiday in New York with the family at the time, and I’ll never forget the buzz of walking into Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue and finding copies on display in the wild (see picture below). It was the beginning of an unforgettable period in my career.
Fast forward a decade, and here I am writing AUTUMN novels again! I thought the series was done and dusted in 2013 with the release of AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION, but over the last couple of years I found myself thinking more and more about the world of AUTUMN, and I came across a new story I really wanted to tell.
Go back to 2001 when I started sharing AUTUMN online for the first time, and it was a very different world. The Internet was just starting to get its claws into everyday life (and that was part of the reason I started giving the book away for free at the time), but we were nowhere near as reliant on the web and our phones as we are today, and the idea of social media hadn’t yet raised its ugly head. The surviving characters in the first AUTUMN books were isolated from the rest of the world at the exact moment everyone else dropped dead, immediately unable to contact anyone else. No one to ask for help. No one to answer their thousands of questions. Nothing but absolute, unending, suffocating radio silence.
So, how would things be different today? Maybe the last few hours and days before the power dies and the networks fail will be enough time for those desperate survivors to communicate and coordinate? Maybe they’d be able to piece together what was happening from the global population’s dying digital remains?
And there’s another huge difference between the people who survived the AUTUMN epidemic back in 2001 and those who’d make it if the events of the book had taken place in 2020. Zombies! Back in the day, there was an unwritten rule that the people in zombie stories didn’t know what zombies were, but after a couple of decades filled with THE WALKING DEAD and its variations, 28 DAYS LATER, and countless other zombie books, TV series and movies, it seems unlikely that any survivors would now be that naive. They’re going to have more of an idea of what’s going on and how they’re going to have to deal with it, and they certainly wouldn’t be as green as Michael, Carl and the others were in the first scenes of AUTUMN. Maybe that’ll be their undoing, because the living dead in the AUTUMN books certainly don’t play by the same rules as other zombies. It would be wrong to assume and underestimate what they’re capable of…
But I guess the biggest immediate difference between the original series and the new trilogy, is scale. The groups of survivors in the original series were small in number – usually less than 30, hopelessly outnumbered. Not the case for my new characters, who have to deal with the zombie apocalypse in the middle of London. This means there will likely be hundreds of people left alive, but they’ll be surrounded by literally millions of zombies. In the original books you could go for hours without seeing one of the walking dead. This time around, there are hordes of them around every single corner. I’m having a blast writing these new books. The whole trilogy has been scoped out in detail, with the intention of writing and releasing the novels in quick-fire succession during 2021.
So happy birthday, AUTUMN. Here’s to a brand new chapter beginning early next year.
Just a quick reminder that when you sign up for my mailing list, you can download a free eBook sampler of my work. It’s just been updated to include SCRATCH – my novella from the Infected Books 2016 YEAR OF THE ZOMBIE project – as well as ANGEL, my favourite AUTUMN short story, and THE DEAL which is horrible little tale torn from the pages of THE LAST BIG THING.
One of the things I love most about SCREAM is the fact it spends as much time looking back as it does forward: as well as up-to-date news and reviews, the mag always also features articles on classic (and sometimes no so classic) horror movies. This issue has an excellent retrospective article on THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. So, stuck with the new cat, and with little prospect of getting any writing done, I decided a re-watch of RETURN was in order. And as I realised I’d never properly written about it for this site, I decided to put that right too.
When foreman Frank (James Karen) shows new employee Freddy (Thom Mathews) a secret military experiment in a supply warehouse, the two klutzes accidentally release a gas that reanimates corpses into flesh-eating zombies. As the epidemic spreads throughout Louisville, and the creatures satisfy their hunger in gory and outlandish ways, Frank and Freddy fight to survive with the help of their boss (Clu Gulager) and a mysterious mortician (Don Calfa).
Hi everyone. I wanted to give you a quick update on my progress with the new AUTUMN novels. They’re coming along nicely, but I’ve had a couple of major interruptions since I announced them earlier this year (namely the onset of a global pandemic swiftly followed by a heart attack), and it’s become clear that I’m not going to make the October release I’d originally scheduled for AUTUMN: DAWN. Apologies.
I’m hoping that AUTUMN: DAWN will now be released in April 2021, with the other books in the new trilogy – INFERNO and EXODUS – following in quick succession. It’s been an absolute blast returning to the world of AUTUMN after nearly a decade away, and though the new books will be very different on a number of levels, the same bleak tone and the overwhelming scale of the apocalypse feels just as it did when I started writing the first book back in 1997. If you’ve not read the original books, you can find a huge amount of information and stacks of free AUTUMN short stories at www.lastoftheliving.net.
Today’s the day that the first book in THE BLEED series finally hits the shelves. It’s been a long time since MARK TUFO and CHRIS PHILBROOK invited me to play in the apocalyptic wonderland they were cooking up, and I’m very pleased to have been asked along for the ride. It’s been a blast so far, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where our merry (not really) band of characters end up.
This is an apocalypse like no other, and now we get to share it! THE BLEED: RUPTURE is out today.
Less than a week to go until THE BLEED: RUPTURE is released. Here’s a glimpse into the third and final story strand…
When the grandfathers to the grandfathers were young, the race of gods stepped through time and space, appearing in the North. Fleeing an ancient, world-eating evil they called the Bleed, they came to build anew, in peace. Other than strange hair and eye colors, they appeared similar to normal human beings—but they were taller, stronger, and smarter, and were ripe with powers from their home world. They brought unheard of learning and experience with them; they built their Endless City from one edge of the North to the other, with its mile-high walls and towers of stone, steel and wood soaring above that. They ruled the world from afar, without war, or even effort, ever watchful for the signs of the Bleed, their unending, ever-hungry foe.
They took husbands and wives and left thousands of half-breed children behind when the enemy they fled bled through the fabric of the worlds. Deep in their city, servants of the evil ate at their new home, one bloody soul at a time. They made their stand at the edge of the world, almost a score ago, and not one god has been seen since.
A week today will see THE BLEED: RUPTURE hitting the shelves as an AUDIBLE EXCLUSIVE as well as a paperback and ebook. I have two BLEED-related things to share with you today. First, some very kind words about book one from my good friend, CRAIG DILOUIE:
“From three of apocalyptic fiction’s most innovative authors, THE BLEED series pits humanity against an infectious, all-consuming evil in stories packed with great characters, interesting ideas, and plenty of good end-of-the-world fun.”
And here for your pleasure, because you can’t have too much of a bleeding good thing, is the cover for book 2. RAPTURE is due in March 2021.
When the lockdown began, I promised visitors to this site more regular updates. Things started well, and I gave away a load of audiobooks and ebooks and recommended a decent short film. And then it all came to an abrupt halt. I wanted to write a brief post to explain my sudden absence, and to thank the people who’ve helped me through it.
Two weeks ago today, I had a heart attack.
It came out of the blue. My dad suffered years of heart-related problems at the end of his life, and I was determined my life would take a different route. I did everything I should – I sorted out my diet to reduce my cholesterol and lost weight, I exercised several times a week, I took steps to sort out my high blood pressure… At 8:00am on Tuesday 14 April, I can honestly say I felt in better shape than I ever had. Ten minutes later, though, it was a very different story.
I’ll cut to the chase. My family are incredible, and our NHS is second-to-none. Within an hour or so of suffering the attack, I was in hospital and undergoing treatment. Within three hours I was sitting up in bed in the coronary care unit of the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham, feeling well enough to be able to send my wife and kids the picture below.
I’m doing well now, all things considered. Because of the quick response time, there’s barely any damage to my heart, and I’m hopeful that within a few months I’ll be back to normal (whatever normal is these days). But there’s no question that this has been a life-changing experience. I was very fortunate, but when something like this happens, it’s easy to think ‘what if…?’. Things could have been very, very different. The outcome could have been much, much, much worse.
So I just wanted to let you know I’m still around and I’ll be back at work soon. The real purpose of this post, however, is to publicly thank some folks. Firstly, to my wonderful wife Lisa and my amazing kids. I’m a very lucky man. I put you all through hell that morning, and I’m sorry. Thank you from the bottom of my (now improved) heart for your love and support. I pride myself on usually being able to string a few words together, but I could never express how much I love you all. Also, to my extended family and friends – I will never forget the outpouring of emotion and the deluge of good wishes I’ve had from so many folks. It’s enough to bring a tear to this grumpy old bugger’s eye. Actually, who the hell am I kidding? I’ve been reduced to tears on many occasions since my ‘mishap’ (as my youngest daughter Zoe has labelled it).
I also want to pay tribute to everyone at the QE hospital, and to the NHS as a whole. I received incredible care, delivered at astonishing speed. In normal circumstances that would be remarkable enough, but I had a heart attack at the peak of the most serious and wide-reaching health crisis in living memory. I am simply in awe of the NHS and will be forever grateful for the treatment I received.
So there you go. It’s been a tricky couple of weeks. If my 2020 was a novel, no one would publish it because it would be too far-fetched! In all seriousness, though, wherever you are, please give your loved ones a hug and also show your appreciation for the many thousands of healthcare workers keeping us all safe and well at this unprecedented time.
And I still have a few codes for free audiobooks – TRUST, STRAIGHT TO YOU, THE COST OF LIVING and STRANGERS. Fill in this form if you want one. There aren’t too many left, so be quick. I’ll remove the form from this post when they’re all gone.