A quick plug for a good friend – David Shires, the COST OF LIVING cover artist

CostofLivingI just wanted to take a moment to publicly thank David Shires of The Image Designs for his stirling work in putting together the brilliant cover art for THE COST OF LIVING at short notice recently. Often when I’m working on an Infected Books release, I’ll have an idea what kind of design I want to use and I’ll give the artist a very general brief. In this case I had an idea and I’d made an incredibly amateurish attempt to produce the artwork myself. I emailed David all the details, and received the finished piece within a day. Phenomenal!

David’s done work for me previously and has been featured on this site before. You might remember his AUTUMN illustrations which are on display over at www.lastoftheliving.net. My personal favourites are the images he produced for OFFICE POLITICS and SKIN.

For more information about David’s work, email create@theimagedesigns.com or visit www.theimagedesigns.com or facebook.com/theimagedesigns. Once again, huge thanks to David for his work on THE COST OF LIVING which has been a massive factor in the book’s success. I’m incredibly grateful.

Office Politics - illustration by David Naughton-Shires www.knightwatchpress.infoTHE COST OF LIVING is available now from AMAZON.COM | AMAZON.CO.UK | AMAZON.DE | AMAZON.ES | AMAZON.IT | AMAZON.CA | AMAZON.COM.AU.

Watch for an announcement in the next few weeks about another zombie-themed novella and an undead print collection coming soon from Infected Books.

AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION

autumn_human_condition_thumbnailLots of stuff going on behind the scenes to get the limited edition hardcover of AUTUMN: AFTERMATH and the new, expanded edition of AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION published. Prices and release dates will be announced in the coming weeks, but today I thought I’d share the contents of THE HUMAN CONDITION with you. It’s turned into a monster – almost 40,000 words longer than the original edition.

The book will be available as an eBook, trade paperback and limited edition hardcover in May from Infected Books. Click here to register your interest (with absolutely no obligation) and click the link below to find out more about the book – the very last piece of the AUTUMN story.
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Kieran Cope’s AUTUMN: ECHO

So here we go. As promised yesterday, here’s Kieran’s AUTUMN short story. Once again, huge thanks to Kieran for his generosity and for being such a willing ‘victim’. Click here to visit www.lastoftheliving.net and read Kieran’s story.

The final part of the lot I put up for auction was to have the winning bidder’s short story illustrated. As you probably know, I’ve been working with the excellent Craig Paton a lot recently, and he seemed the ideal person to produce Kieran’s portrait. You can see Kieran just to the left of this text, and Craig’s beautiful illustration is reproduced below. I’ll be presenting Kieran with a signed print later this year.

Once again, thanks to Kieran for his support of the Genre for Japan initiative last year, and thanks also to Craig for producing another piece of top quality artwork. Visit Craig at www.craigpaton.com.

Come back here again tomorrow when AUTUMN: AFTERMATH is launched in the UK at long last.

New AUTUMN: AFTERMATH short story

As you probably already know, AUTUMN: AFTERMATH is released in the UK this week. One of the characters in the story is a chap by the name of Kieran Cope, and today I wanted to give you a little bit of background about him.

Cast your minds back to 11th March 2011, and the tragic events which unfolded when a devastating earthquake struck Japan, triggering a tsunami which resulted in damage of almost apocalyptic proportions. In the days and weeks which followed, numerous appeals were launched to try and provide aid to the stricken Japanese people. Genre for Japan was launched – an auction of rare and/or exclusive donations from a number of writers, artists and other genre professionals. I donated a complete set of AUTUMN books, along with the chance to appear in the final novel, and to have a new short story written about the winning bidder.

I watched the online auction with amazement – not just my lot, but all the others too. The sheer amount of cash being pledged was remarkable, with over £11,000 raised in total by the time all the bids were in. And I was thrilled to learn that my donation had gone for £290. The winning bidder was a gentleman by the name of Kieran Cope. I’ll let him explain…

“I was first recommended to read David’s novels by a friend who knew about my love for horror fiction and the human psyche. The first of his novels I read was ‘Hater’ from the Hater Trilogy. I was immediately hooked by the detailed style of writing and the way David places each reader into the size 9’s of the main Characters. After further research I found that David had somewhat of a cult following on-line and soon became of follower of his facebook page and his projects in myself. 

Whilst posting a personal facebook message about my shock after witnessing the TV footage of the Japanese earthquake and resultant tsunami I started to wonder how I might be able to help or make a difference. A few weeks later my question was answered I noticed that David had an item up for auction, “Item 58” as part of the Genre for Japan web page, all proceeds going to British Red Cross’s Japan Tsunami appeal.

I was overjoyed when my bid was successful, and after a few days of wondering if it had all been just a dream the reality started to sink in, I was going to have a character based on me in the final book of the Autumn series and an illustrated short story would also be written and published on David’s website www.lastoftheliving.net. Wow!!

Having received a pre-release copy of the final book I can honestly say that I enjoyed it immensely and feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to be part of what I consider to be a modern cult classic series of novels.

There was one question David asked me during our email correspondence that I found so unbelievably difficult to answer. Did I want to be a survivor or a zombie? And to find out my answer you’re going to have to read the short story and of course the final book of the series Autumn: Aftermath. I promise you won’t be disappointed.”

I guess by now many of you have read AFTERMATH, so you know all about Kieran. What you don’t know is what happened to him on the day the world died, and how he got to the place where we meet him at the beginning of the book. Come back here tomorrow and find out…

AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION

Right, nearly there with my recaps of the AUTUMN series in readiness for the UK release of AFTERMATH next week. Today I’m going to look at the various short stories I’ve written to expand and compliment the overall story over the years.

As I’ve already explained, AUTUMN started small but grew rapidly in size, its cast of characters growing with each new novel. Apart from jumping back in time to the beginning of the outbreak at the beginning of THE CITY, and the parallel events of PURIFICATION and DISINTEGRATION, it’s told in a largely linear way. That’s all well and good, but as I introduced each new character, I found myself wanting to go back and tell their individual backstories. To have done that within the books would have made them unnecessarily complicated, and so I came up with AUTUMN: ECHOES.

Originally appearing online only, these (very) short stories explained what had happened to minor background characters from THE CITY to get them from the end of the world to the city centre university where the survivors had grouped at the beginning of the book. It seemed to work so well I continued and did the same with some of the new characters from PURIFICATION too, and it was while I was putting together the third book that these ECHOES seemed to take on a life of their own. Here’s a brief extract from a scene near to the end of the book:

Amy Steadman (day 3) by Craig PatonEight weeks ago this had been an intelligent young clothing store department manager with a bright future ahead of her. Now it was a mud-splattered, half-naked, emaciated collection of brittle bone and rotting flesh. Unlike the majority of the seething crowd, however, this one was beginning to exhibit signs of real control and determination. Unlike those which simply stood there vacantly or those which ripped and tore at the other corpses immediately around them, this body was beginning to think.

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AUTUMN: DISINTEGRATION

Therapy time again… I’m writing these posts just to get them out of my system as I prepare to draw a line under the AUTUMN series. Today I’m looking at book four, DISINTEGRATION. I’ll have a couple of posts about short stories next week, then a piece about AFTERMATH to coincide with the UK release of the final book later this month. To learn more about the series, visit www.lastoftheliving.net.

When I finished writing AUTUMN: PURIFICATION, I thought that was it for the series. Then I realised I still had more to say and wrote THE HUMAN CONDITION (more about that book and AUTUMN: ECHOES next week). Once again, I thought I was through with zombies. But as I finished writing HATER back in early 2006, I changed my mind again and found a reason to return to AUTUMN.

The books were taking a critical hammering. They still do, to be fair, although these days people seem to be a little more accepting of zombie stories devoid of the usual flesh-eating clichés. For every positive comment I received, I seemed to get many more decrying the lack of blood, guts, guns and action in the novels. That frustrated me beyond belief. It would have been one thing criticising me if I’d done blood, guts, guns and action badly, but to have a pop because those things weren’t there seemed a little below the belt. I’m not one to respond confrontationally to a bad review (because we all know where that can lead) but I did need a way to work through my frustrations. AUTUMN: DISINTEGRATION was it. I decided to see what would happen if I dumped a group of stereotypical zombie survivors into AUTUMN. I wanted to know how they’d cope.

But there had to be more to the new book than that. It had to be more than just following a group of folks battering their way through the living dead, because that would have made it just another bland, run of the mill zombie tale and I wanted to do something different. It occurred to me it would be infinitely more interesting to pit survivor against survivor: to imagine what might happen when those who’d managed to stay alive by fighting and killing were forced to try and survive alongside those who’d taken a more cautious approach. The potential for conflict was huge. You could argue they’d all chosen the right way because they were all still alive, but who would back down first? With all their lives on the line, would anyone accede?

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AUTUMN: PURIFICATION

Once again, bear with me while I exorcise a few more AUTUMN memories. As with previous instalments, there may be spoilers here…

Autumn - Purification US CoverAs I mentioned in last week’s post, by the time I’d finished writing the second AUTUMN novel, I was already plotting the third. THE CITY had opened up the story dramatically, and it was becoming clear to me that by killing off 99% of the population by the end of the first page of the first book, I’d given myself the mother of all blank canvases to work from. That said, AUTUMN: PURIFICATION was originally intended to be the end of the series, and it does bring the story of Michael, Emma and the other original survivors to a conclusion, albeit a temporary one.

THE CITY ended with all the major characters in one place (for the first time), trapped underground, and it would have been easy to write something along the lines of Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD. I knew I wanted to take AUTUMN in a very different direction, though, so I needed to get everyone out of the bunker they’d fought so hard to get into. I’d also started to take a fair amount of flack from people who weren’t at all impressed with my take on zombies. They didn’t like the idea of a zombie story without any flesh eating, divorced from many of the usual clichés of the genre. In response, I wanted to open the third book with a bang, hoping to demonstrate that even though my living dead creatures had started off relatively tame, they were now anything but!

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A look back at AUTUMN: THE CITY

A brief disclaimer: as I’ve said previously, it feels pretentious to be writing a retrospective of my own books. I think I’m doing this for my own benefit more than anything else, so please bear with me. It’s some weird kind of personal therapy, I think…

For me, the writing process usually begins when I come up with an ending, then work my way back to the beginning of a story. Not so with the second AUTUMN novel. This time, just to be different, I began with the middle.

I’d been wondering what had happened to Michael and Emma after escaping the farm house at the end of the first book (it wasn’t until recently that I actually went back and filled in that part of their story – see BREAKING POINT over at www.lastoftheliving.net). I had visions of them quickly coming to the conclusion it would be too dangerous to stay in one place, and so electing to base themselves in a mobile home and move whenever the immediate danger became too great. But I knew that in order to move the overall AUTUMN story forward – and it was starting to feel like a much bigger story by that point – they’d need to interact with characters we hadn’t yet met. This meeting – whenever and with whomever – would have to happen almost a month after the initial infection, and yet I wanted these new characters to feel like people we already knew. The best option, I thought – though not necessarily the most obvious – was to rewind time and start from the beginning again.

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An AUTUMN retrospective

This may come across as being a little self-indulgent, but I feel a need to do it anyway.

It’s just a few weeks now until the release of the final AUTUMN novel in the UK. Incredibly, it’s more than ten years since the first book in the series saw the light of day as a free download from the earliest incarnation of this site, and unbelievably it’s also five years since the AUTUMN movie entered production.

This summer saw the release of JOE & ME, and those of you who’ve read it will know how that particular story ties into the whole saga (is it pretentious to call AUTUMN a saga?!). There are a few more short stories to share with you – more about them in the coming weeks – but, on the whole, I feel like the AUTUMN story is finally coming to an end and I’m moving onto new things. That’s unless, of course, anyone wants to commission a WALKING DEAD style AUTUMN TV series…

Spurred on by some very kind words about the books recently (thank you Wayne and Rich!), I thought it would be good to look back over the entire story, so that’s what I’m planning to do. I’m aiming to cover one part/aspect of the series each week leading up to the launch of AFTERMATH, and I thought it would be interesting to talk about some of the stuff I haven’t talked about before – my influences, the locations which inspired certain books and scenes, the development of the characters, how the plot developed etc. etc. So, to kick things off, click the link below to read a few words about AUTUMN. Be warned, there may be spoilers ahead…

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The AUTUMN artists – Michael Dick

Rounding off my series of articles on the artists who have kindly provided artwork for www.lastoftheliving.net, is this piece on Michael Dick. Michael contributed a lot of art for the launch of the site back in 2010, providing several illustrations for the short story HOME, the opening scenes of AUTUMN, and AUTUMN: PURIFICATION. I was keen to have a range of different styles on the AUTUMN site, and Michael’s drawings fitted the bill.

Click the link to read more about Michael and to see some of the other images he contributed.

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