Pictures from Vermont Comic Con, Part II

 

By Jason Harris

 

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Harley Quinn.

Writer/artist Bob Layton

Writer/artist Bob Layton.

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The Flash and Mr. Fantastic.

The Flash and Mr. Fantastic.

Writer/artist Matt Bessette.

Writer/artist Matt Bessette.

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Jareth the Goblin King and Sarah.

Jareth the Goblin King and Sarah.

Deadpool and Spider-man.

Deadpool and Spider-man.

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The Penguin.

The Penguin.

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Rick Grimes and a zombie.

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Authors Matt Spencer and Kristine Croto.

Authors Matt Spencer and Kristine Croto.

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Actress Melissa Cowan (The Walking Dead).

Actress Melissa Cowan (The Walking Dead).

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The Mighty Snorter table.

The Mighty Snorter table.

An Interview with Writer Rod Labbe

by Jason Harris

Rod Labbe has been a freelance writer since 1977. His work has appeared in such publications as Fangoria, Gorezone, Starlog, Famous Monsters of FilmlandMuscle & Fitness, and Autograph Collector magazine. He has written his first novel, The Blue Classroom, which is a ghost story and will be published by Samhain Publishing this coming May. He is currently working on his second novel, which will be published by Samhain in 2015.

Rod Labbe he set of Stephen King's Graveyard Shift.

Rod Labbe on the set of Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift.

JH: When you started freelancing in 1984, what publications did you write for?

RL: My writing/freelance career actually began in the fall of 1977, not 1984. That’s when I landed a work-study job as a reporter with The University Free Press weekly newspaper (University of Southern Maine). I was a sophomore, totally green, and had never written anything outside of short stories that were strictly for my own enjoyment. What I lacked in cred, however, I more than made up for with dedication, discipline and determination (the “three Ds,” as I call them). From 1977 to 1981, I contributed articles every week to the UFP, ranging from theatre reviews to editorials to sports pieces and pretty much everything in-between. No limits! I also found time to edit the campus literary magazine, The Presumpscot Review, published annually. All of that was great, a wonderful hands-on training ground–even more significant, since I’ve never taken a Journalism course, not one.

I continued this kind of writing (including editing The Maine Review, a literary magazine at the University of Maine) as a graduate student at the University of Maine in Orono. During the summer of 1984, I stepped away from the collegiate environment and submitted work to an outside publication. That was for a magazine called Mainely Local, published out of Central Maine, where I lived. I’d seen an article about it in my hometown newspaper, was intrigued, and gave the editor a call. We met the next day at a local eatery/bar. She told me about her publishing plans–really quite ambitious–and welcomed me aboard as a writer. The one glitch? No pay, just comp copies. That was ok; I realized the exposure and experience would be invaluable. I stayed with them for a year and a half (while in school and also following graduation), sometimes generating articles on my own, but mostly doing ‘filler’ and ‘fluff’ assignments–which I hated.

From tiny acorns mighty Oaks grow, I’ve found. That stint with Mainely Local gave me the gumption to seek out other venues–which I did in March of 1985, two months prior to leaving the University of Maine. That’s when I sent out an interview to MuscleMag International (a bodybuilding monthly) and a short story, entitled “Pumpkin Head,” to Footsteps magazine (small press, non-paying). Lo and behold, both were accepted! And MuscleMag paid me $100! I was on my way!

JH: Do you have a specific writing style?

RL: Hmm. If I had to pinpoint a “style” for my freelancing–which has been and still is 95% non-fiction–I’d say ‘conversational.’ Interviews can be tricky things. A sense of comfortable ease should underscore the dialogue. Almost from the get-go, I settled on a laid-back, conversational style. It serves to present the individual profiled in a ‘down to earth’ manner; the reader will know this is a flesh and blood human and not merely an unreachable celebrity. I must also mention that I do all of my interviews over the phone so what’s transcribed is definitely ‘conversational.’

As for fiction, I’m not sure if I have a “style,” per se. I just write, edit, polish and tweak! Constantly! I was educated in a time when there was great emphasis on sentence structure, good grammar, spelling skills, etc.; therefore, I utilize all of that when I write. I never emulate nor “copy” any other writer; find your own voice–not necessarily a “style,” but it should be something you, as the writer, enjoys wearing like a comfortable sweater.

JH: You have written for genre publications such as Fangoria, Gorezone, and Starlog in the past. What were some of the topics you wrote about or what was the subject of your articles?

RL: Writing for Fangoria was my dream. I can still remember the first issue I ever bought–#9, featuring that great Motel Hell cover, on Friday, October 31, 1980. Yep, Halloween! I sat in my sun-washed dorm room, read the book from cover to cover, and drifted off into reverie. Ah! Someday, I told myself, I’m going to write for Fangoria. But how? I had no cred and no contacts, outside of living in Maine, the same place of [Fangoria’s] patron saint, Stephen King. At that point, I’d only been published by my campus newspaper!

I’m a believer in never letting go of your dreams, and if you pursue them doggedly enough, eventually they’ll become realities. That happened for me in 1986, when I sold my first article–an interview with novelist John (The Legacy) Coyne–to Fango. The next year, 1987, I sold another small piece about Maine author Rick Hautala, who sadly passed away last year. I finally ‘hit it big’ when I landed a star-making assignment: visiting the set of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary (1989), in Maine. That generated four articles and led to more film set visits (all King- related: Graveyard Shift, The Langoliers, and Thinner). Gorezone surprised me, since I thought my interview with Pet Sematary’s director, Mary Lambert, was going into Fangoria. Instead, it ran in Gorezone and scored me my first cover!

The Starlog piece, on Steve Reeves–famous as the cinematic Hercules–was submitted cold, via an e-mail to the editor. After Stephen King’s Thinner was filmed in Maine the fall of 1995, I took a break from Fangoria. Little did I know that break would stretch fourteen years!

My path led back to Fango in 2010. Editor Tony Timpone had stepped down, and a new editor–Chris Alexander, formerly of Rue Morgue–took the reins. I sent Chris an e-mail and introduced myself, which opened the door to my second stint. Chris is great. He’s supportive, energetic, enthusiastic and smart. I have his ear, and that has created a strong bond between us. He’s given me some choice assignments, too, like covering Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows movie and a two-part retrospective on Pet Sematary (currently running). Alas, prior to Chris’ arrival, Fangoria had fallen on hard time, but now, it’s reclaimed the crown as America’s premiere publication dealing with ‘horror in entertainment.’ I’m glad!

JH: Were you always a freelancer or did you work as a staff writer for any of the the magazines that you wrote for?

RL: I’ve always freelanced. In the beginning, I gladly accepted work that was assigned to me and bit the proverbial bullet. That’s all part of the game of moving up on the ladder. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great having the financial security of being ‘on staff.’ Creatively, though, I’d find it incredibly stunting … unless I was editor.

JH: What were some of the articles you wrote for Muscle & Fitness, MuscleMag International and Iron Man magazines and Men’s Workout about?

RL: I got into the fitness/bodybuilding books quite by happenstance. When I edited The Maine Review, I interviewed two people who’d gone to Maine and ‘made it big’ in the outside world. One was novelist Stephen King. The other was a bodybuilder, Skip Robinson, who’d won his weight/height class at the Mr. World competition. The interviews saw print, and amazingly, I received more comment on Skip’s. Bingo, an idea was born–I decided to mail this off to a bodybuilding magazine. This was in March of 1985. The editor complimented my style and suggested I find someone “new and today” to profile. I took his advice, found a ‘new and today bodybuilder,’ Jeff King, and interviewed him. MuscleMag bought it, and voila! I had my first big freelance writing credit!

My most rewarding project as a bodybuilding/fitness writer was creating a Legends of Bodybuilding series for Iron Man magazine. This ran from 1998 into 2012, approximately four installments per year and all extensively researched and executed. I interviewed classic bodybuilders and provided workouts and photo support. The series was immensely popular and archived all over the web. Just Google ‘Rod Labbe,’ and you’ll find a Legends interview

The fitness magazine marketplace has taken a severe hit, and several publications I freelanced with have been cancelled. Diminished ad revenue forced others to drastically reduce page count. Considering this, I’m now concentrating my freelancing efforts on the horror genre. Fans there are a more loyal and a less fickle bunch, it seems. And new mags are popping up

JH: What were some of your favorite freelance pieces?

RL: I was born in that far away year of 1952, so what I did, played with, watched and observed growing-up now has “nostalgia appeal.” and nostalgia is BIG. Without exception, every article I’ve written and [every] interview I’ve done is tinged with the burnished glow of nostalgia.

I wrote four huge pieces for the late/lamented Autograph Collector magazine because I’d been an ‘autograph collector’ as a teen. All of my articles for Scary Monsters magazine stem from personal experience as a ‘monster kid.’ Writing about Dark Shadows, Vincent Price, Famous Monsters of Filmland, The Munsters and Aurora Monster models is a blast. There’s something to be said for living a relatively long life. I don’t have to research such things as Marilyn Monroe’s death, the first moon landing, the ’60s counterculture or JFK’s assassination–I lived through them.

JH: How did you come to write for these different magazines?

RL: Easy. I just decided to ‘go for it’ and submit my work. In the case of Fangoria, I had an interview already done and merely sent the editor a ‘snail mail’ (this was in 1986) asking if he’d be interested. He was! That’s all it took for me to get my foot into the Fangoria door. But how to keep it open? There’s the rub! You must use ingenuity and a bit of craftiness. Study the magazines you want to write for and establishing good connections with editors is key. Always produce professional work! No misspellings, use accurate quotes (if an interview), edit to a fault and make sure your articles shine.

JH: What would be your advice for writers who want to be freelancers?

RL: My first piece of advice: don’t expect riches or fame. Start this journey as a fun (emphasis on that word) hobby, and you’ll be much happier. The second tidbit: write what you like and THEN market it. If I’m intrigued by the subject matter, I’ll gladly do an article simply to put it ‘out there.’ The goal is to be published, first and foremost. Forget about money–you can think about that later. Working gratis will give you incredible exposure and fodder for your portfolio. If you’re in love with writing, like I am, it’s never a chore!

My third recommendation? Educate yourself. Learn HOW to write. It’s not merely the desire or the urge, you must have a modicum of talent and be willing to learn. That means listening to criticism, even if it angers you. And it also means seeking out legitimate critiques, not just reassuring pats on the head from parents, siblings, and loved ones. Parents will rarely give you the straight scoop–they don’t want to hurt your feelings. An editor has nothing emotionally invested in you, so it doesn’t matter to them if feelings are hurt when they reject your work. Rejection does hurt … but it also helps you grow as a writer.

When doing fiction, it’s a good idea to read beforehand. Go to the classics. Read DraculaFrankenstein, Jane Eyre, Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, Wuthering Heights, A Separate Peace. Watch films, too … but not junk. Watch films like Rebecca, Dead of Night, The Maltese Falcon, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Uninvited, Rosemary’s Baby, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, The Birds, The Exorcist, All About Eve, The Haunting, Sunset Boulevard, The OmenNightmare on Elm Street and Carrie (originals only, please). Don’t limit yourself! Embrace the full experience.

If you’re truly considering a freelance career, invest in a copy of the latest Writer’s Market (published annually). The book compiles the best markets and lists everything you need to know. Peruse the magazine racks at your favorite bookstore. Is there a magazine you read and have always yearned to write for? Go ahead and just do it! I’ve found that the proof is in the doing, not necessarily the planning and/or dreaming. You must make that extra effort to get your work to an editor. Sure, rejection might happen; it’s part of the game. But the genuine warriors push forward, despite the occasional speed bump.

JH: Your first novel, The Blue Classroom, will be published in May by Samhain Publishing. What’s it about?

RL: The Blue Classroom is a Maine-based ghost story involving a haunted Catholic school and the spirit of a cruel, vindictive nun. There’s an extensive flashback to 1957 near the beginning, but most of the action takes place in 1998. I hesitate to call The Blue Classroom an epic, but it’s very close to 400 pages. The cover art just blew me away … and I’m extremely fortunate to have been picked up by Samhain. Their horror editor, the great Don D’Auria, has been a guiding light. Like Chris Alexander, he’s simply a great guy.

Keep in mind, Jason, I’m not a young Turk, and I have absolutely no use for splatter punk or flash fiction or ‘fan fiction’ or whatever it’s called. At 61, I’m old school all the way and go for quiet chills rather than gore, sexual nonsense, violence and/or rape. Frankly, I don’t understand most young writers. I’ve picked up books that are recommended to me, and what I find is gratuitous violence, profanity, and themes that are distasteful and unpleasant. And I’m sick of hearing about the ‘zombie apocalypse.’ Just what is this strange fascination with zombies. I can’t figure it out.

JH: How did you come up with the title?

RL: When my first draft was completed, I pulled out a trusty yellow legal pad and wrote down a dozen evocative titles. I chose The Blue Classroom because, hey, that’s where the horrifying memory takes place. What memory, you ask? Buy the book and find out.

JH: What inspired you to write your first book?

RL: In the fall of 1984, I’d just begun my last year as a Graduate student–a hectic period, as you might imagine. Not only would I be graduating with a Masters, but I was ending a monumental chapter of my life and entering into uncharted territory. Two things were on my immediate agenda: (1) becoming a freelancer, and (2) writing a novel. But how? I examined the situation from every angle and just dove in, navigating the rocky freelancing waters like a drowning man. I’d no guide and did everything by myself. In the meanwhile, I also set about tackling a novel. Can you say, failure? Nothing gelled. Idea after idea imploded or just sat there, lifeless. Frustrated, I gave myself breathing room and concentrated all my efforts on freelancing.

In 1989, with my freelancing journey going smoothly, I went back to brainstorming about the novel. I was reading through my graduate project, a collection of short stories entitled Seven Dark Images, and found the perfect inspiration. Can’t go into too much detail about that … but The Blue Classroom did grow from a short story originally published in 1985.

JH: How long were you writing it?

RL: The going was very slow, at first. I started in August of 1989 and worked on it when I could–and that turned out to be not very often. Between 1989 and January of ‘91, I’d written only three chapters! With the new year (1991), I decided to test the publishing waters and sent out my three measly chapters to publishers. Most of them came back so fast, the packages were smoking! Rejections across the board. I also let Rick Hautala read what I had, and he didn’t like it. Man, talk about disillusioning! Did I have what it took to be a novelist, I wondered? Maybe not. I was having much more luck as a freelancer and instinctively grasped what editors wanted. But when it came to fiction, I just didn’t seem to have that spark. I put the novel–or my, ahem, three chapters–in a desk drawer and let it germinate. By that summer, I’d decided to give the project another try. I barreled forward and finished a first draft sometime in early 1992. I had all of 200 pages and thought, wow, this is great! But the journey was just beginning. 200 pages would translate to a very thin book! I needed to flesh out the story, really put myself into it, which I did. By the end of 1999, the manuscript was just kissing 500 pages in draft form.

Then came the hard part: editing. I am a perfectionist, and that’s not always a good thing. I slept, ate, and existed with my book, tweaking, rewriting, throwing out chapters then putting them back in again. Aaargh! A decade trundled by. In 2012–yes, fantastic as it sounds, 13 years later–I had a good thing and sent it off to Samhain Horror (I told you I was determined!). Six agonizing months passed, and the e-mail I’d been waiting for arrived from Don D’Auria, Samhain’s horror editor. The Blue Classroom was on their schedule for May 2014.

Now, I’m waiting. Have I succeeded? Or will readers hate what I’ve put together? We’ll see …The Blue Classroom cover

JH. Who is your favorite author/authors and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

RL: Naughty, naughty, I know, but I do very little reading, nowadays–outside of articles and an occasional short story. Oh, I’ve tried reading more, but I usually end up losing interest or just shaking my head at all the gratuitous gore and sex … and ZOMBIES! I love the masters, people like Steve King, Poe, [and] Lovecraft, of course. But if I had to single-out a writer as my favorite, it would be Robert McCammon. In my humble opinion, this artist has never gotten his due. They Thirst, which I read in the summer of 1981, is a remarkable book. And I also loved Mystery Walk, Usher’s Passing, Swan Song and especially A Boy’s Life.

JH: What books have most influenced your life most?

RL: There are two, both intertwined. One is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which I read way back in 1967, when I was 14. The other is King’s Salem’s Lot. I just could not put that one down. Even today, I’ll find myself going back to ‘the Lot’ and rereading certain passages. The section where Ben Mears encounters the vampiric Marjorie Glick in an examining room is high-octane horror. King wrote it beautifully, with so much unbridled energy. That’s when he was a hungry artist, and I plugged into his raw-edged enthusiasm. I should also mention how much I love The Shining. That one book kept me up all night, the only time such a thing happened. I started at about 10 p.m. and was still reading at 4:30 a.m. The true definition of a ‘page turner.’ It’s his masterpiece, as far as I’m concerned.

JH: What are your current projects?

RL: I’m always working on something. My second novel for Samhain is in the pipeline, scheduled for publication next year. It’ll be finished and polished up by June 2014. There’s a third novel percolating, as well as a collection of short stories, two of which were finalists in Fangoria’s ‘Weird Words’ competition. Freelancing continues, and my goal is to win a Rondo Award. I’ve been nominated three times, so far. Hopefully, 4th is the charm! It’s a busy, rewarding life, as clichéd as that sounds. I find new challenges in every project.

Editor’s Note:

The Blue Classroom e-book is currently available for pre-order at Amazon by clicking here.

Hordes of Humping Zombies in ‘Mourning Wood’

Hordes of Humping Zombies in ‘Mourning Wood’

by Stacey Longo

Mourning Wood

Mourning Wood (2010) is the story of four friends living in a town that becomes overrun by a new breed of zombies. It seems that Dr. Jacob Pendleton has gone missing while filming an infomercial for ShamPube, the very same product that has been tainted, producing hordes of horny, humping zombies (“humpers”). Pendleton has a shady past himself, having betrayed the team of Texas Jim Callahan and John Wood years ago, which resulted in John going missing and leaving Texas Jim – you guessed it – mourning Wood.

The film quickly reveals itself to be a hot mess of puns, adolescent jokes, and ridiculous plot twists. Not that this is a bad thing – from the newsman named Dennis Douche (pronounced Doo-shay, of course) to the amazing transformation of Rick to a super-zombie due to the high levels of THC in his system, this movie feels like four guys having fun and not taking themselves too seriously. From naming the hideous Sasquatch character “Fluffy” to the snippet in which we follow Dr. Pendelton in his search for the secret ingredient in Stiff Again, the mikakes sohard bush, this movie is full of gags aplenty. It’s neither high quality nor highbrow, but there are many, many scenes in which you’ll find yourself laughing out loud. And all cheap jokes and puns aside, the opening Claymation sequence is pretty fabulous.

If you are expecting Academy Award level acting and plotlines here, perhaps you shouldn’t have rented a movie titled Mourning Wood. But if the title of this fine film makes you suppress a snort of laughter, you won’t be disappointed.

Author Robert J. Duperre Talks about Zombies and Writing

Author Robert J. Duperre Talks about Zombies and Writing

by Jason Harris

Zombies are still lumbering around in pop culture after since George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead arrived on the silver screen in 1968. Romero is considered to be the father of all zombie movies. They can even be seen on the small screen thanks to the AMC series, The Walking Dead. The Resident Evil zombies are still finding success on the big screen and the next incarnation, Resident Evil: Retribution, arrives in theaters this year.

Zombies are so popular that a London-based game developer, Six to Start, has created an app that has merged fitness and zombies, “Zombies, Run!”

Author and New England Horror Writer member Robert J. Duperre is continuing to give zombie fans their fix with his four-book series The Rift, which opens with a zombie apocalypse triggered by an evil buried deep in a Mayan ruin in the first volume, The Fall, the three books that follow are Dead of Winter, Death Springs Eternal, and The Summer Son, which is due out in July.

The Fall: The Rift Book I

The Fall: The Rift Book I

In his series, the origin of the apocalypse is the Mayan Ruins, which he chose because of the fact “the Mayans were so advanced, not only for their time, but for all time.” Even with their advancement, Duperre considers the Mayans as “somewhat primitive.”

“In that way their culture sort of mirrors our own—complex and sophisticated, yet clinging to some rather archaic ideals.  So what if the same mysterious events that brought down their culture brought down our own?  Poetic justice, right?  Yeah, a bit of a stretch I know, but trust me, it works in my head.”

The author wasn’t planning on The Rift being a series. He thought it would be a simple zombie tale.

“It was supposed to be a humorous novella.”

Once it was over 400,000 words, he decided to split it into four books and completely rewrote it.

“The story had already been sectioned off into seasons, so I figured that was as good an idea as any to act as natural segues between volumes.  The only problem is the first three books all end in cliffhangers because of this, which I’m sure can be a little irritating to readers.”

Duperre thinks there are “a couple of layers” to the zombie-apocalyptic trend.

“For me, [zombies are] the perfect tool for storytelling—they represent humanity in its most primal form, in many ways reflecting conventional and homogametic nature of our culture,” Duperre said. “Literature in the zombie genre forces a return to the basics by the survivors, in effect exploring that which made them human in the first place.”

He assumes the zombie-apocalyptic trend is popular because people are “obsessed with being scared, and nothing is as frightening as the prospect of the end-of-times.”

“A zombie apocalypse is, strangely enough, the most convenient and readily available outlet for that kind of fantastic exploration.”

He has never seen this “particular scenario play out before,” which he figured was a good point in his favor. This allowed him “to move away from traditional zombie lore and present some different scenarios and outcomes.”

Duperre considers his endeavor with The Rift series risky and knows he has annoyed more than one reader by straying from the typical zombie formula.

“I’m happier doing things my own way than sticking to a script someone else wrote.”

There are some prevalent motifs running through Duperre’s series such as isolation, personal tragedy, and social injustice, which he considers “the single greatest theme” that runs through all four volumes. The social injustices that he tackles are the treatment of women and the complexities of race relations.

“At heart, I’ve always considered myself a progressive and a bit of a social activist, and this series allows me to explore these themes in a no-holds-barred manner, sometimes disturbing manner.”

Duperre’s work has been influenced by a number of writers throughout his career including Clive Barker, John Skipp, Stephen King, and George Romero, whose original Dead trilogy is “the single biggest influence” in his life.

“It was the first time I realized that monsters could be used as metaphors, and I ran with it,” Duperre said. “Clive Barker has also been a huge influence, in particular his fascination with the concept of worlds within worlds. Though you certainly can’t write a good book without talent, the style any writer develops is always dependent on the authors they’ve read and loved over the span of their lifetimes.  I’m no different, and to all the writers who’ve spurred me on over the years, I say a great big thank you.”

The Rift series is a collaboration between Duperre and fellow NEHW member, artist Jesse David Young, who has done all the series’ covers.

They had discussed as far back as 2006 about Young doing illustrations for him, but nothing came of it. Three years later in the summer of 2009, Young called about working on a comic book they could pitch to DC comics. Duperre was working on final rewrites on the first book in the series and asked Young if he wanted to do what they talked about so long ago, he said.

“We’ve been working together ever since, and it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  It’s nice to have a partner to share in the stress, after all.  I wouldn’t have been able to get as much work done as I have without him by my side.”

His series is self-published, which allows Duperre to take risks, but not something he couldn’t have done through a traditional publishing company, he said. He doesn’t hold any “real love for self-publishing” since “it’s difficult and time-consuming.”

Duperre considers self-publishing “a means to an end” and doesn’t think he would be where he is today without it. He thinks the changing publishing world is “exciting and dangerous at the same time.”

“For the release of a book to be as simple as a click of a mouse, the possibilities are endless for success and failure. I experienced a bit of both.”

Duperre rushed The Fall to publication which resulted in the release of a poorly edited book, he said. It was full of plot holes, which he had to go back and fix post-publication. The same mistakes happened with Dead of Winter, but to “a lesser extent.”

“Thankfully for me, my sales didn’t really start to take off until after they were fixed which is a very good thing.  It could have ruined my reputation something fierce had the lesser-quality work taken center stage.”

He considers this a huge problem since there are a lot of books on the market that are not good. These books are lacking “plot and characterization, are poorly executed, or simply put out there by someone who doesn’t have a clue about how to write.”

These problems have created a stigma for being a self-published author “that is rightly deserved.” This stigma has even put more pressure on authors like Duperre, he said.

“I need to work extra hard to make sure the work we put out is of professional quality, is edited, and cohesive.  It’s a good thing I enjoy doing this, otherwise I might have walked away by now.”

Along with writing his zombie series, Duperre has published two anthologies, The Gate: 13 Dark and Odd Tales and The Gate 2: 13 Tales of Isolation and Despair. The first one was released in November 2010 and contains stories by him and a few writer friends. Each story contains an illustration by Young.

“After [the first anthology was released], I thought it would be a novel idea if the anthology became a yearly/bi-yearly event.”

The Gate’s sequel was released this past February. It contains stories from K. Allen Wood, David Dalglish, Steven Pirie and Mercedes Yardley.

The Gate 2: 13 Tales of Isolation and Despair

The Gate 2: 13 Tales of Isolation and Despair

He wants to publish a third volume next February entitled The Gate 3: 13 Creature Features.

“The goal is to have it be an actual paying anthology this time around, featuring some of my old-time and new favorites in horror and dark fantasy. I’m not entirely certain if I’ll be able to pull it off given the state of finances at the moment, but I’m dedicated to it, and I’ve found over the years that if I’m dedicated to something, I somehow find a way to pull it off.”

Duperre has been writing since childhood, he has been “obsessed” with it from “the process, the imagination involved, [and] the outcome.”

 “My high school term papers were behemoths, and I decided that my life’s goal would be to teach English and write novels for a living.”

Life did get in his way back in his early to mid twenties until Jessica, his wife, told him to pick up his pen again. There would be “a gigantic hole” in his soul if he wasn’t writing, he said.

He began a website, Journal of Always, back in 2009 with the idea he would blog about what he thought was important, what bothered him, and maybe even discuss his own experiences during the writing process. It didn’t happen that way though, he said.

“I ignored it for far too long and eventually it was all but forgotten. Then, halfway through 2010, I decided I would start reading my fellow self-published authors and use the JOA as an outlet for reviews.”

The website has progressed nicely for the past two years until the past few months of this year when he had deadlines looming on other projects.

“I haven’t posted a review since February, even though I have a backlog of more than fifteen to write.”

He plans on adding more reviews soon.

Duperre’s advice to up and coming writers is the same as what other writers like King has told people. It is too read and write. He also goes farther and adds a person has to edit and rewrite too. A writer also has to “be open to criticism.”

“The only way any artist improves is by trial and error.  There is no first draft of any book that is fit for publishing.  Make sure you realize that and learn everything you can before putting yourself out there.”

Here is Duperre’s bibliography:

April 2010 – The Fall: The Rift Book I (novel)
July 2010 – Feeding the Passion (short story), Darker Magazine #2
November 2010 – The Gate: 13 Dark and Odd Tales (collection)
November 2010 – The One That Matters (short story), A Land of Ash (edited by David Dalglish)
December 2010 – Dead of Winter: The Rift Book II (novel)
June 2011 – Silas (novel)
September 2011 –  Chorus (short story), Dark Tomorrows, Second Edition (edited by J.L. Bryan)
October 2011 – 39 Days (short story), Unnatural Disasters (edited by Daniel Pyle)
December 2011 – One Good Turn (short story), Shock Totem Holiday Issue
January 2012 – Death Springs Eternal: The Rift Book III (novel)
February 2012 – The Gate: 13 Tales of Isolation and Despair (collection)

Duperre will be at the NEHW booth at the South Windsor Strawberry Fest on June 16 in Nevers Road Park , South Windsor, CT. from 9 a.m to 5:30 p.m.

The Mocking Dead

This article originally appeared in the Journal Inquirer, a newspaper out of Manchester, Connecticut.

Local filmmaker to debut “Atomic Zombie” movie in Stafford

By Heather J. Linder

Zombies are taking over the Old Town Hall Saturday as local composer-turned-filmmaker Tony Diana hosts the debut of his first movie, Attack of the Atomic Zombies.

Diana, along with his two friends, created Butterfleye Films to pursue his passion for movie making. The trio developed the zombie movie as a spoof of black-and-white B-movies of the 1950s, he said.

The premiere starts at 6 p.m. at the Old Town Hall, located on Route 19 near Hydeville Road, and costs $5 to get in.

The cast and crew will be present to answer questions and sign autographs. DVD copies of the movie will be on sale for $10.

Attack of the Atomic Zombies was filmed exclusively in Stafford and features an almost entirely local cast of actors, including Diana’s wife and daughter.

The film’s plot centers around an evil scientist named Dr. Harry Housen who comes to town to conduct experiments and then dumps atomic waste into the Stafford water supply. When residents drink the water, they are transformed into atomic zombies.

Diana’s zombie’s don’t attack or bite, though. They loiter more than anything, he said, which was designed as a parody on small town life.

The film is a “love letter to the B-movie genre,” Diana said. “The acting is supposed to be stiff and wooden to make it work. It comes across really hilarious.”

The production company had a limited budget and all-volunteer talent, so Diana, who freelances full-time as a composer and digital editor, used his computer editing skills to enhance the film and make its ‘50s setting look more realistic.

In one scene, he superimposed a 1950s Chevrolet Bel Air in a parking lot, and in others he digitally removed cars or objects that looked too modern.

“The computer opens up a whole bunch of possibilities,” he said.

The movie’s dialogue is also unique, Diana said, because none of the lines were scripted. Rather, Diana wrote a synopsis of all 23 scenes and let the actors improvise.

“They knew what they had to do in the scene but not what to say,” he said.

Many of the actors were familiar with improvisation, but some were new to the craft.

When the cast viewed the film for the first time in November, they were relieved at how well the movie turned out and how hilarious the dialogue was, he said.

“The film has a good heart,” he said, “and it’s a lot of fun. People had a passion for making it.”

All three members of Butterfleye Films worked on the production. Diana wrote the film’s music and synopsis and did visual effects. Brian Thone made all of the props, including Dr. Housen’s nuclear reactor, and did zombie makeup. Steve Bednar helped create the film’s concept and plays Sheriff Ed Wood, the story’s hero, on screen.

The trio is already busy making their second film, which Diana said will be more dramatic and ambitious than the comical zombie spoof.

He hopes to someday make movies full-time and to work with a consistent group of friends and actors to pursue his “intense passion” for filmmaking.

“My hope as we go forward with this venture is to keep using the same people to develop a troupe,” he said. “People will get used to the actors in it and see them play different roles in different movies.”

The movie’s runtime is 71 minutes, including trailers. It was filmed in early September over three weekends, and Diana spent five weeks editing and adding special effects.

After the special Stafford showing Saturday, Attack of the Atomic Zombies will make an appearance at Boston Comic Con in April.

For upcoming event information, visit the film’s website, http://aotaz.necromare.net.

Book Review: The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook By Jeff Kinley

This book review originally appeared on the Confessions of a Psychotic Housewife website.

I recently received a copy of the new book The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook: Slaying The Living Dead Within by Jeff Kinley to review.
Ben Forman was your every day average young guy, starting his first job, and falling in love with his girlfriend. He didn’t think that the zombie activity so common in the big cities would happen where he lived. As the epidemic spreads, will he find himself surviving, or becoming one of the undead? While the story itself is fictional, the author uses it to teach about sin, grace, and salvation in a way that appeals to the young adult set.
If I ever needed any further proof that everyone is marketing using zombies these days, The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook is it. Then again, take a trip to your local big box store on Black Friday, and you’ll see them shuffling through the store: zombies. They really are amongst us – folks so glued into the day to day consumerism life that they have become essentially what a zombie is when you break it down: barely functioning shells of bodies. (George A. Romero was right!)
The end of the book has a discussion guide for groups to use.
For parents, the book does have a warning on the back that it’s not suitable for younger audiences, so take that into consideration if you are purchasing this as a gift for ‘tween or teen this holiday season. (Really, you should use that warning for nearly all zombie related books and movies, but I do realize I am a bit stricter than many parents).

photo courtesy of the website, Confessions of a Psychotic Housewife.

The author, Jeff Kinley, did attend ZomBcon this past year, and we headed over to his booth:
The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook: Slaying The Living Dead Within by Jeff Kinley is a paperback religious and spiritual growth book published by Thomas Nelson. It is 272 pages long. The suggested cover price is $15.99, but Amazon has it available for $10.98 as of this posting. It is also available as an e-book for the Kindle and other e-readers.

Author Releases Supplemental Material in Anticipation of His New Book

In celebration of author Stefan Petrucha’s release of his new book, Dead Mann Walking, on Oct. 4, he is releasing some supplemental material about the history of zombies.

An Explanation From the Author: In my first draft of Dead Mann Walking, a group of peacefully protesting chakz, pushed too far by the living, go feral, fulfilling the zombie stereotype. As chak-detective Hessius Mann helplessly watches the mess, he broods on the fictional history of the walking dead.

Upon reading this, Ace editor, Jessica Wade, felt it pulled the reader out of the story-world. I agreed, lopping it out quicker than Ash with a chainsaw-hand.

However, to celebrate Dead Mann’s Oct 4 release, what could be more appropriate than restoring it to half-life? So here ‘tis, a quick, quirky look at Z’s from the POV of a PI who should know.

Dead Mann Talking: A History of Zombies

Crowded, surrounded, attacked, the chakz gave the people what they wanted, proof that they were dangerous. It was as though that group-mind the LBs worried about had actually kicked in. Maybe the ferals just never had the numbers before, or maybe you had to be far enough back to see the patterns. I saw them now.

Flashes of chak-bodies moved in elegant waves, like flocks of migrating birds. The livebloods, for all their higher functions, fled without grace. The big picture pulsed and throbbed. But the personal tragedies played out in tiny spaces, as if the two had nothing to do with one another. In the center of the swirls stood the fair-haired cop I’d seen from the window, bullets spitting from his AK-47. They tore some dead flesh. Mostly, he was hitting livebloods before the ferals took him down.

So was this Ezekiel and his dry-bones rising in the valley of death? Was it then, or later, now, or the future? The edges were arbitrary, the beginnings and endings likewise. But as I watched, this was the shit I remembered.

In 1929 W.B. Seabrook wrote about voodoo cults and resurrected slaves in a novel called The Magic Island. It made sense that Haiti, whose population had recently thrown off their shackles, would have plantation slaves for their monsters.

In 1932, Victor Halperin’s White Zombie took it to the white Europeans. The island lust of Murder Legendre, played by Bela Lugosi, put a white virgin’s virtue at risk.

But these were early, proto-forms. There was no blood yet, not like there was on the Fort Hammer plaza. My eyes singled out a male teen, all buff and dressed to shock with Mohawk, tattoos and piercings. He ran half-heartedly, grabbing at the side of his head where his ear had been once. Red liquid dripped between his fingers. Eventually, he slowed and then, simply stopped.

In 1943 Jacques Tournier’s I Walked With a Zombie gave us a dead-eyed scarecrow. It was more a symbol. No savagery, just foreboding. It was Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend in 1954 that took it up a notch. The book was sort of about vampires, but they were so much like zombies that the 1964 Italian film version with Vincent Price, The Last Man on Earth, became the prime inspiration for George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.

1968, the zombie had arrived. Romero was the first, really, if you don’t count Ezekiel and all the others. What took so long? Well, in those days, the dead moved slowly.

On the plaza, groups formed and collapsed like cauldron bubbles. I watched two families band together. The mothers carried the little ones, forcing the older children ahead. Weirdly, the fathers carried doors, using them as shields. Two danglers and a gleet banged at them. They even tried the knob.

Romero made it biblical again. Cannibal corpses, old friends and lovers among them, children chewing on parents. The condition spreading like plague, and no one knew why or who to shoot. His sequel, Dawn of the Dead, used the same idea, but more directly as social critique, played out in comic-book colors so gaudy you had to get the joke.

I hoped the family made it. Something should survive, and it didn’t look good for anyone else. The elegant swarms had surrounded the LBs, and as they squeezed in, began to lose their pretty shape. Together now, ferals and livebloods pushed and pulled en mass, so many, so close together, they could barely move. Limbs tangled, the center of the blob tumbled, all together, all at once, like football teams in a joint tackle.

After Romero, what could you say? A horde of lesser efforts followed, Fulci’s Zombi 2 notable for an underwater battle between zombie and shark. Then decades passed. 28 Days Later brought some class back to the movies. That was more about plague than the dead, but close enough, and its monsters were fast. The Dawn of the Dead remake followed suit. The books and comics got better – Monster Island by David Wellington, The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and later Charlie Adlard (now on TV!). By then people played video games like Rebel Without A Pulse and Left4Dead, shooting and being shot, eating and being eaten. The great democracy of mass media.

The mob in the plaza had formed a single creature, like one of Colby Green’s orgies, many limbs, many mouths, some screaming, some chewing. Stray Livebloods and ferals tried to pull the bodies free, but for different reasons.

The cop with the flamethrower stood at the edge of the mass and stared, unsure what to do. He tried to help, used his free hand to grab a hand and yank, but when a feral came free, a chunk of dripping meat in its mouth, he’d had enough. He let loose with the thrower, turning it on the writhing pile. Before the cop could barbecue the lot, a liveblood clocked him with a crowbar, then dived into the smoldering mess, screaming that he had to find his girlfriend.

I’d like to say all the books and movies fade against the reality, but maybe it’s the reality that fades. After all, who could forget the surprise hit, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? This is the shit that gives us shape, that let’s us understand the world, even build it from scratch. Shakespeare told us. We are such stuff as nightmares are made on, and our little life is rounded with a scream.

The plaza had reached critical mass. The blob broke and scattered. Bodies, some moving, spilled across the street, then onto the long black hospital entrance ramp that had kept the scene arms distant. The tide was coming in.

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