Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Crossing the line? Zombie fiction quandaries.

When I started writing my DEAD series, an idea came that I had to wrestle with for quite a while. In a world that would eventually become lawless and very brutal, where would I draw the line? As the Garrett McCormick character came to mind, I had to make a choice on how to handle him. I knew that he would probably become the most hated character in zombie fiction...but the subject matter was going to be tough.

What I decided to do was focus on the strength on the individual that would become his victim. I wanted to really make Kirsten a strong person internally. That was only part of it, though. The other thing was even more important: what degree of detail do I allow.

I decided to borrow from one of my idols in suspense...Alfred Hitchcock. He was a master at taking you to the edge and then letting your mind fill in the blanks. I am of the belief that the human imagination is an excellent tool that every writer should rely on even more than his or her own words. If you lead them to a dark room and walk away, the reader can make that room far more scary than any description I could put into words.

I make it a point to read ever review I receive. Good or bad, I always look to see what I can learn. After all, the readers are my employers when you get down to it. Now...will I compromise my writing for a person's opinion? Nope. But constructive critique is always useful in improvement. Every so often, I get reviews that hammer me for the brutality that I can easily say comes from the scenes with Garrett. The thing is, I DO NOT go into detail. Personally, I would be uncomfortable writing those scenes and they would just be awkward and creepy. So...I take it right to the edge and then leave the reader to their own devices. Interesting how I get a review every once in a while that blasts me for my "graphic rape scenes". Okay...where? Here is where I will quote on of the reviews, this one makes me point at the screen and say, "YES! Thank you!"

"David" writes: "...I have read a couple of reviews complain about brutality, etc. For those who may be leery of that aspect, I can assure you that it is not excessive or gratuitous, and certainly the sexual violence is not that different from A Song of Ice and Fire (which contains incest, slavery, rape, child rape (Daenerys), copulation with spirits, metaphysical intercourse, etc; and about few people bat an eye). That part of the story is a facet of human nature about which the author has written. A repugnant facet, to be sure, but it does reflect the reality of some people's behavior. Overall, the sexual tone of the book is pretty tame and positive toward women in general. Most of the sex is consensual and occurs between adults."

Alan says: "...Violence and sexual activity exists but are carried at soft beetroot and lime settings....graphic they ain't."

Now, I am a big opponent of writers going off on a tirade at negative reviews. Seriously, if you can't handle them, then don't write. It is part of the business. Suck it up buttercup. My only issue is when people make claims that just are not true. Hey, if you don't like the plethora of characters and varied story lines? That's cool. I can respect that. If you just flat out thought the story was lame...I'm okay with that too. You are absolutely allowed your view, and I do not begrudge you posting that 1-star actually adds credibility to all those glowing 5-stars in my opinion. (I actually have a small cadre of haters that go so far as to 1-star every title I have out as an audio book and give "not helpful" votes to any of the positive reviews. the time you get to book 4 or 5 in the series and rate it a 1 star...wouldn't you stop reading it by then?) But when you slam the story for elements that do not exists, I have a question for you...

What is lurking in your mind?

I have been attacked via email by people who say I am obviously f****d up in the head. I have haters that spew things on the social media about me based on things that they know little about and even make up parts to try and deride me both personally and professionally. The reality and the stories have some distance between them, but that is not what I will be getting into here. I know who I am, and I know that my only goal as a writer is to create a world that lives and breathes. I want it to be "real" and not a bunch of candy-coated drivel. Try to watch your news the next few imagine if all order, law and structure was removed and people could act in any manner without fear of punishment? Scary...isn't it!

If you are reading this, you probably have read my DEAD series. What do you think? Do I go too far? Did my idea of trying to make Kirsten into a mentally strong girl who would not be defeated by her tormentor miss the mark? Would the series have been better is that whole section of the Vignettes been left out?

Weigh in below with your comments. 


  1. I'd like to say in a positive way, that Garrett & Kirsten's story so far was the most disturbing, and if I don't go too senile, will be the one story arc that I will never forget, I believe like you stated above our minds fill in the blanks, I saw stuff that you did not describe at all, and though not a happy ending, ended with an YEAH, UP YOURS! that left me sad, mad, very disturbed, but kind of weirdly satisfied, it needed to end the way it did, or I probably would have thrown my Kindle across the room, Thanks

  2. I agree that if you are into the series at book 4-5, then you would know to expect there to be some undesirable moments. Alfred Hitchcock was a mastermind, shadows are much more frightening than a face. Reading is what I like to call "Movies in your mind." As a reader you make up the character's looks based on little descriptions (black haired, tall, unshaven, etc.) If you imagined Garrett's every move in and out of the picture it was YOU who defined that. I like to be scared and surprised, Garrett was definitely scary, and Kirsten surprised me with her strength. I think that particular narrative was spot on. We live in a world of rules and consequences, social rights and wrongs, moral compasses. Even now we see just a glimpse of the under workings of lawless minds on the news and papers. Garrett and Kirsten's story was as real as it gets folks. For the haters--let them hate. These are the types of people who will demand a refund on their plate even after they ate every last bite. Some people lead their lives by insecurities and negativity and I believe these types of people will be the first to commit such lawless acts if the consequences were not in place. Sorry if I may have generalized a bit hope I didn't piss off the haters.... nah!
    Keep up the good work...Don't feed the trolls :)

  3. I have read a couple of the Dead series, and found them to be just fine. I have read other books that go into more detail and way more brutal then what you have written. I think that you have found a good balacnce and maybe people are letting their imaginiations get the better of them as they read as well.

  4. Word for written word....I have not seen any of your Dead scenes to be grossly violent. Even the Garrett and Kirsten story. Personally, I thought the whole idea of Shaw's compound and his ideas was the most terrifying out of the whole series thus far. But, what I choose to see in my mind and remember from beyond your written words I recognize as a figment of my own imagination building into your story. And from my imagination, I can choose any rating I wish to 'view' each scene with. Perfect example: I imagine the zombies looking like cartoon characters in my head in order to not give me nightmares after reading the books. I am sure that is not what you might have seen in describing the zombies while writing, but it's what gets me through the book and be able to sleep later. If this was a TV series or movie - no way could I watch this. As a book, I have total control on what I choose to see and how I see the details. Any reader that cannot recognize that ability when they read something has some deeper issues to deal with within themselves. Heck, I can even skip pages if I am feeling particularly traumatized (not happened at all in any of the Dead books) or just close the book and forget it. But, I won't bash the author for writing the book. It was my choice to buy the book and read it - not the author's.
    What I really enjoy about your Dead series is that you put in a strong Framework from which I - as the reader - can drift into and make this journey with and through your characters. There is enough detail in the scenes to really drop in and almost feel the experience as either the character themselves or just as the Observer. You leave just enough leeway to form my own set of emotions and thoughts on each character as well. So, I get the luxury of looking through the eyes of the character as well as being the Observer - without the threat of getting eaten in real life.
    As far as the Haters....well, consider that as a sign of success and the balance of Yin/Yang energies. Seriously, when you start going up the ladder of success - there will always be some people on the wayside "seemingly" trying to pull you down for an infinite number of reasons. As my mentors have always told me, those that are the harshest to you are your greatest teachers. They remind you to remain humble or force you to look deeper inside yourself for improvement or simply help you to remember the type of person you "don't" want to become. And something that many Haters do not realize - they have given You power over them. And unconsciously, that is what is really pissing them off. They have allowed you to force them to look into the depths of their imagination, stir emotions/thoughts up that they did not realize they had, or can't stand what they found out about themselves during this process. They fear their own loss of control or inner darkness. Not your fault. You just wrote some words on a canvas...they are the ones that chose to read and turn the pages. Now, they have to blame someone else for their reactions instead of taking personal responsibility for the ideas they chose to form in their own minds.
    Keep up the great work. It is rare that I stick with a book series this long. Usually, it is very hard for any book series or author to keep my attention - much less bother to "wait" for a new release to come out. You are actually the only author I have bothered to follow on updates and leave a review for. That says a lot considering that I'm an avid reader, but loyal to no one in particular. I am actually re-reading the whole series again at a slower rate to kill time until the summer release. Ever see a painting where you see or feel something new every time you gaze into the painting - even after the nth time? Your books remind me of the same...the words have not changed; but there is a new emotion, a different detail, or a changed perspective on each chapter revisit. That takes true writing talent - and that is something you definitely possess. Sophie BM

  5. There is implied consent when a fan of zomfic opens your books. They certainly cannot be expecting Winnie the Poo. And there must be far more to your books than violence and sex or you would not be able to keep the long.

  6. I greatly enjoy the books. They bring the 'What if' to mind when I'm watching the news or reading the paper. 'What if the power went out and stayed out? What if the crazy just got real? What if things went to hell in a hand basket? What if...?' It made me think and study. To learn things, to brush up on others. The books are awesome because they help bring the 'What ifs' to the front to see them all. Be the sight terrifying, awesome, or down right hell raising.

    I hate Garrett. I was so pissed every time he came into the books that I seriously ended up having to walk away from the story at parts for a bit because I ended up with bad headaches. When Kirsten refused to be broken to his will I cheered. I looked crazy to people around me if I happened to be reading in public, but I cheered. I also used colorful language to help tell a man that isn't even real to rip body parts off his self and shove them up his very own un-sunny spots with fiery hot embers from hell while calling into question his mother's honor. I laughed like a mad woman when he died, then cried like I had lost my best friend when she was gone.

    Have I warned people about those scenes? Yes and no. Yes to some, no to others. Some people cannot live without warning labels. Odd, but true. Do I think the story of Garrett and Kirsten is necessary in this series? Yes. It helps show the depths of hell people will willingly wallow in once all decency and morality falls away. Do I think it goes to far? No.