My current reading/to read pile

I just had one of those good things/bad things moments happen to me.

The good thing was that I bought two books of one of my guys (I should clarify that so that you know that I am not a pimp for a team of gigolos but, rather, it is someone who works for me in the legal and just I.T. way :) ): ‘Handling the Undead’ by John Ajvide Lindqvist author of ‘Let the Right One In’ and ‘Rivers of London’ by Ben Aaronovitch.

This counts as good because the first is by the author of a book that I adored as ‘Let the Right One In’ was a breath of fresh air, IMnsHO, in the vampire mythos and now that he is turning his hand to zombies I am excited to see what he will do; I don’t know Ben Aaronovitch but the ‘blurb’ for ‘Rivers of London’ is “what would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz” … for my Colonial readers the ‘Fuzz’ is slang for police. The idea of a trainee wizard, in the Metropolitan Police Force, is an intriguing one and I think that there is going to be a LOT of very British tongue-in-cheek dry humour in this one.

The bad thing is that these two books have just added to my ever growing pile of things to read, or re-read. Currently I ‘think’ that this is now:

‘Handling the Undead’ by John Ajvide Lindqvist
‘Rivers of London’ by Ben Aaronovitch
‘The Anubis Gates’ by Tim Powers
‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ by Wayne Simmons
‘Flu’ by Wayne Simmons
‘Seaborn’ by Chris Howard
‘On Writing’ by Stephen King
‘Under the Dome’ by Stephen King*
‘Collusion’ by Stuart Neville**
‘Manga Studios for Dummies’ by Doug Hills

* this may sound weird but while I have started ‘Under the Dome’ I’m actually finding the sheer size/weight of the hardback to be too unwieldy to allow me to read it comfortably. It is one of the key reasons that a Kindle is coming my way, with ‘Under the Dome’ being one of the first purchases!
** I read this last year but it was during my recovery from a tonsillectomy and, to be honest, it is mostly a pain-filled, drug-induced, blur (my memory, that is, not Stuart’s book! :) ).

As my take on the old good news/bad news motif goes, however, I am very happy to be in a position to have the ‘onerous’ pleasure of having to read so many damn fine books.

… just need the time and energy to get through them. ;)

Write what you know.

So, about a week ago, our youngest son (Nathaniel, 22 months old) started to get ill. Nothing too obvious, at the start, but one thing any parent knows is when one of their children isn’t themself – in this case it was that he was very clingy and would burst into tears if he was left alone. Nathaniel is a very independant little man so this was out of character. Within a few hours he had a temperature and the glands in his throat were noticibly swollen.

First thing the next day he threw up, and the temperature was still hard to control, so we took him to our GP who confirmed that he had some form of virus – crimson throat on top of everything else. About twelve hours later his temperature got worse (39.1) and a hive-like rash started to develop on his arms and legs so after phoning ahead we took him down to the emergency doctor where we were informed that he had scarlet fever.

Scarlet fever, I hear you cry? In this day and age?

Yes, scarlet fever. In the time between noticing the rash and getting to the doctor it had covered his body and his throat had changed from crimson to a white, pus-like, infection – basically tonsillitis. We were given antibiotics and more medicine (paracetamol and nurofen for both pain relief and temperature control, and antihistimines for the itchy rash). The very lovely doctor explained all about scarlet fever (I know some things about medical related stuff but hadn’t looked into scarlet fever as I thought that it was an ‘old’ illness) and told us what to expect – such as if the temperature reached 39 or above again to double dose the medicine and if it got over 40 to go straight to A&E or phone an ambulance.

3am ish we woke up to find Nathaniel with a temperature of 40.5 but, as he was actually awake and alert we used the medicine and tepid shower approach and managed to get him back down to a ‘nice’ temperature of 38.9. It wasn’t that we weren’t taking it seriously but knew that, by the time we got him to the hospital, or an ambulance arrived, we would have been doing those things anyway so decided to risk ten minutes on it.

Now, fast forward to today – as I said, nearly a week later – and we were back at the doctor again. This time because Nathaniel’s symptoms had changed … temperature fully under control and the little red rash nearly gone but, in their place, large, swollen, angry looking blisters on his hands, arms and feet. He has now got a secondary virus called (aptly enough) ‘hand, foot and mouth disease’. Thankfully it should be a relatively mild virus, nowhere near as nasty as scarlet fever (unless the ulcers go to his mouth then he will be in some discomfort, poor thing) so that is a ‘good thing’, isn’t it?

Well, yes, it is … however yesterday Mackenzie (3 years 20 months old) complained of a headache. Yesterday Mackenzie got a temperature. Last night Mackenzie developed a rash on the roof of his mouth, white spots on his throat and – if you already guessed this give yourself a gold star! – today he was diagnosed with scarlet fever.

Oy vey, as I would contemplate saying were I that way religiously inclined.

I realise that there may be some of you, reading this, who are wondering just what the title has to do with anything that I have written? Well, that is simple. At the moment – for nearly a week – I haven’t been writing much of anything as I’ve been busy with trying to ensure a sick child is comfortable and safe. Really, what I know, right now, is scarlet fever in children – especially your own children – is a scary and tiring thing. Next week, or the week after – when they are both recovered and healthy again (and Carole and I have managed to sleep more than a couple of hours at a time) I may feel like writing about other things that I know.

But not right now.

2010 Preditors & Editors awards

I am very pleased to be able to let you know about the final results of the Preditors & Editors Poll for 2010, which include some of my work (or work that included me :) ):

My story, ‘Always and Forever’ (from the zombie anthology Rigor Amortis – available to purchase here) was ranked #6 in the standings for Horror Short Stories.

The anthology I edited, for Static Movement, ‘Powers: A Superhero Anthology’ (available to purchase here) was ranked #8 in the standings for Anthologies.

‘Rigor Amortis’, the anthology which features ‘Always and Forever’ was ranked #9 in the standings for Anthologies.

With Painted Words‘, my fiction magazine/e-zine, was ranked #14 in the standings for Fiction Magazine/e-zines.

Thank you to everyone that voted for any of those.

Wayne Simmons on the Future of the Zombie

Content originally posted by Joe McKinney at

DDG coverDo you know this guy Wayne Simmons? If not, it’s time you got introduced. Wayne is the author of Flu and Drop Dead Gorgeous, and one of the best apocalyptic horror writers working today.

Wayne’s landmark apocalyptic horror novel Drop Dead Gorgeous is getting rereleased by Snowbooks this year. And my first novel, Dead City, just got rereleased by Kensington here in the States. That little bit of good fortune got us talking about about guest blogging at each other’s site, and I’m pleased to announce that today that conversation has turned into a reality.

The original plan was to do something quick and simple, something to help us promote our new/old titles. But after a little bit of back and forth, we both realized that it would be in keeping with the theme of the old being made new again for the two of us (read that as a couple of old dudes) to interview a handful of up and coming zombie writers (read the new blood) and see what happened.

You can read my stab at it on Wayne’s blog here.

This is Wayne’s interview with Jay Faulkner, Mark McCann, and Shawn Riddle.

So, without further ado, please extend a hearty Old Major’s Dream welcome to Wayne Simmons.

Take it away, Wayne!

Wayne Simmons and the Future of the Zombie

Who are you and what contribution are you making to the horror genre?

JF: My name is Jay Faulkner and I’m a former forces brat now residing in Northern Ireland with my wife and two kids.

Apart from planning on instilling a love of all things horror, fantasy and sci-fi in my kids later on – they are only 3 ½ years old and 20 months, currently, so thought it best to wait a little longer ;) – I’m doing my bit for those genres by devoting every spare moment (and, believe me, there aren’t that many!) to writing which, as my tastes lend themselves to it, are pretty much all about either ‘pure’ horror or other genres with a very liberal splash of horror. My published work includes zombies, aliens amongst us, arachnophobia and even the horror of a ‘simple’ storm at sea – find out more at

MMcC: Hi, I’m Mark McCann, author of Deadfast, a hard boiled supernatural thriller set in my home town of Belfast and featuring Terry Fennell – a functional alcoholic with the weird ability to talk with animals and the dead. A former intelligence officer for a secret branch of the British Army stationed in Belfast as far back as ‘The Troubles’. Terry is a man in the know about things that go bump in the night; surviving on blackmail and odd cases while living on borrowed time.

Vampiric serial killers, murderous trolls, corpse eating ghouls and vicious shape shifters are just some of the obstacles Terry faces along with his horribly scarred partner: The Saint, a man with a death wish from survivors guilt and burdened with a terrible curse, in a case as horrifying as it is hard boiled.

SR: My name is Shawn Riddle and I am brand new to the horror genre as a writer. At present I only have one story, which will hopefully be published in an upcoming anthology by Wild Wolf Publishing. As for my contributions, besides being an avid fan of the genre, they are limited as of yet, but I hope to change that very soon.

What attracts you to writing horror stories?

JF: I’ve always been a writer that starts all stories with a simple question: “what if?” which, when you think about it, isn’t all that far away from: “what’s the worst that can happen?” – now, Dr Pepper aside, I think that all horror stories are pretty much about that question and, by exploring it further, I get to delve into things that scare me personally.

Human nature is such that we spend a lot of time thinking about the darker aspects of life – the noise in the dark isn’t just the wind, obviously, but a serial killer, a ghost or something worse; the scratching at the window isn’t a tree branch, but a horde of demon cats trying to get in; and the small sensation at the back of your neck isn’t just a twitch, or goose bumps, but someone breathing right behind you.

MMcC: I enjoy the freedom to explore the darker impulses in people, the base primitive side that we like to think we’ve evolved beyond, but rather always lurks quietly at the back of our mind ready to make us scream or cave in to those things so terrible we have no choice but to buckle and spew.

SR: I have been a huge fan of all things horror since my early teenage years. I had been sheltered from it as a child and wanted to know what it was all about. I suppose it’s the dark side of human nature that intrigues me the most. The evils and horror of human nature and the world have always interested me. I have always been fascinated with the darker nature of humanity. The horror genre reflects a lot of those things. Even amplifies them, I think it’s a much more productive way for people to entertain our darker nature.
What are your favourite horror novels and why?

JF: Well, my two favourite horror authors are James Herbert and Stephen King – I still think that Herbert’s trilogy of rat-based books was amazing as he brought a tangible and brilliantly paced ever-growing sense of fear to proceedings.

King, of course, is a genius and should go down in history as one of mankind’s greatest writers.

MMcC: I intensely enjoy Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books, because he has successfully blended the low down and dirty gumshoe with an incredible supernatural horror theme while at the same time maintaining an superbly well devised back story/sub-plot. I’d also be remiss to leave out King’s Salem’s Lot and David Moody’s Hater, because again they made the very people you’d come to know throughout the books seem alien and dangerous, creating an air of paranoiac hysteria within their very pages.

SR: Hands down my two favorite horror novels have to be “Autumn” by David Moody, and “Flu” by Wayne Simmons. Autumn is the top of the list because David Moody creates such an effective atmosphere of tension and exploits it like a master. You are always waiting for the other shoe to drop and when it does, David delivers the goods. Wayne Simmons’ “Flu” is a close second to “Autumn”. Wayne’s style is much different from David Moody, David is subtle. Wayne is in your face, slap you upside the head and makes you pay attention. Wayne’s writing style drags you into the story and makes you face the situation with his characters. They both have the philosophy in writing of exploring the actions of ordinary people in extraordinary situations, I love that philosophy and it’s the philosophy I plan to use in all my future works

What’s going on for you now?

JF: Right this moment I am still busy promoting an anthology of zombie stories, which features my very own story ‘Always and Forever’, in the zombie anthology Rigor Amortis. I had such a blast working on the story itself, and then with the editors of it, that it actually kick-started my love for horror all over again.

In terms of new work well the zombie theme isn’t going to go away, it seems, as I am currently working on something that was going to be a long story but is now longer more likely to be a novella – possibly even a novel. I don’t want to say too much about it but it is a ‘western’ in feel, set in the future called ‘Redemption’.

MMcC: I’m currently finishing off writing my second Novel: The Generous Dead, while breaking my rear trying to get Deadfast as much publicity as I can muster now that it’s finally in print. Check it out at: Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Deadfast Blurb: Meet Terry Fennell, Belfast’s guiltiest drunk and most unobliging detector. A former soldier for a secret branch of the army, Terry dealt with all the things that go bump in the night, now cut loose and disenfranchised after a secret handshake between the government and the nocturnal element put him out of a job and on to the dole queue. When a distraught mother seeks Terry out to help find her kids, kidnapped by her back-from-the-dead ex-husband, he can’t resist the lure of fast money. However, a simple no hope case turns into a complex web of lies and misdirection as Terry finds himself plunged into a life and death chase where violence is the fastest route to the truth and hard drinking is a hangover cure. It’s the sort of life he wishes was somebody else’s. It’s the sort of life that could get you… Deadfast

SR: I just submitted my first work for publication in an anthology and am currently working on my first novel. The one thing I have always wanted since i started reading and watching the horror genre is for someone to scare the hell out of me with their work. Although many have engulfed me into their stories and made me part of them like Wayne and David, none have yet to truly terrify me. That is what I am going to go for in my novel, I am going to attempt to scare even myself, and hopefully many many others once i get the book published.

write365 – a T.K.O.

… or, for you non-fight fans, that means that write365 just beat me.

Not because I don’t intend to write something every single day because I will be – and am – doing that very thing. The problem is, you see, that what I am writing every day is currently shaping up to be the first draft of a novel and, on top of that, I am still writing some short stories when the fancy takes me and editing another large piece of work. Those are things that I can’t actually post but only post about – and, to be honest, it will get boring for you (my dear readers) as much as me to constantly do that.

So, instead, I have decided to not attempt to post a piece of fiction, or a journal about writing, every day for the next 365 days but rather focus on the writing itself.

I would like to consider that a draw between me and that pesky write365 but, being honest, it won on points ;)