It starts with a jolt—the bang of a door, the manic tinkling of the bell above it; suddenly, shockingly, you find your legs sticking uncomfortably to a naugahyde bench and your elbows resting on a formica tabletop while your palms burn around a white ceramic coffee cup. The weather is suddenly oppressively hot (and forget about that “dry heat”
crap because those of us who have lived in the desert Southwest can tell you
certainly that it’s crap–112°F is 112°F and “dry” is just a sick myth), it’s night, and the world around you is about to explode into chaos.
Several breathless moments follow that initial shock, and, as a reader, you hope against hope that you can pull yourself out of the situation—that you can believe the voice in your brain that verbally slaps you around—telling you that you’re sitting safely at home with a Nook or a Kindle cradled in your hands and cold weather just outside the door.
Yet, as the elderly man who just burst through the door and sucked you out of your closely-guarded reality approaches the counter, you find your eyes closing. You see the glint of his revolver reflected against yellowed countertop rimmed with stainless steel… Yeah, well. Give it up. You’re there.
Living Dead at Zigfreidt & Roy is a short story. Keep remembering that as you
read it. It’s tight, it’s fast-paced, and it does more in 19 pages than some novels manage in 100,000+ words. The characters are expertly drawn; the author offers little by way of description, but these characters are people we’ve already met. We instinctively know them—the elderly Texan, the cook who eyes him suspiciously across the counter, the eager-to-please busboy, and the customers in the diner. The dialog flows naturally, expletives and all, and there’s no doubt these conversations really took
place … somewhere…
I suppose it’s fitting that all Hell breaks loose in Las Vegas. I love the premise. I love the execution (sorry). It is a truly enjoyable, bloody, fantastic, pulse-pounding read. Moments after finishing it, I got on Twitter and made a comment to the effect that Mr. Howerton’s story had me cowering in a diner booth whimpering, “Don’t look here…. Don’t look here…” I stand by that statement. I will also add this: here’s to sincerely
hoping and praying that what happened in Vegas STAYS in Vegas. (5 Stars on
Smashwords for originality, realism (Heaven help us), and absolutely fantastic
Axel Howerton’s story LIVING DEAD AT ZIGFREIDT & ROY is always 99¢ at Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/97194)
and on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Living-Dead-Zigfreidt-Roy-ebook/dp/B005V5QT04/
A CAREER GUIDE TO YOUR JOB IN HELL is available at all online booksellers including Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Career-Guide-Your-Job-Hell/dp/0976943425
Now, Axel also sent along a giveaway! Hooray! The first two people who comment on this post will receive Living Dead at Zigfreidt & Roy FREE from Smashwords! Be sure you include your email address so I can send you the coupon code! THANK YOU, Axel!!
AND, as promised, an interview with the Founder of Coffin Hop, who, apparently, is a survivor of the cubicle wars that have claimed so many in the name of such futility… I sent Axel four questions, and his responses blew me away! Enjoy these insights into the mind of a Canadian horror writer who’ll scare you … you know –
JM: Where did you grow up and, when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Axel: I was born in Edmonton, Alberta Canada (home of fellow hopper Jamie Friesen of the awesome Zombie Night in Canada) and immediately demanded a less Edmonton-like, so I ended up spending my most formative years in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. I have distinct memories of horrifying nightmares after seeing The Shining and Saturn-3 at the all-night Drive-In when I was 6. I also remember hunting the tree lines of Kelowna looking for Bigfoot after watching The Six Million Dollar Man; and looking for vampires in the underbrush. By 10 it was Dark Shadows reruns after school and by 12 I was writing stories. My grade 6 teacher asked me to contribute to some kind of school board project and I was hooked. After that it was always storytelling, be it sketches, plays, scripts or action stories. I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller, at first I thought I’d be a director, a screenwriter or a playwright. Studying for a B.A. in English somehow led me to 15 years-ish as a film, music and DVD reviewer and entertainment ‘journalist’ before I floated back to writing fiction.
JM: Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
Axel: Obviously that grade 6 teacher, Mrs Frenette. My dear ol’ Grandaddy, who seems to seep into my every word. My High School English teacher, Al White, who steered me towards the greater ‘literature’. My wife, who’s spent 16 years trying to convince me to ‘get on with it’. My pals Scott Phillips, Scott Duran and Shane MacDonald (my boss/partner from www.eyecrave.net)who’ve led me to believe I have some kind of talent. W.P. Kinsella, who told me I could make it. Richard Brautigan, Mark Twain and Elmore Leonard who are probably terrifically frustrated with trying to teach me.
JM: Who is your favorite author and why?
Axel: Oh sweet fancy Moses. How can I pick one? Michael Chabon? Twain? Chandler? Hammett? Piers Anthony? Tolkein? Frank Herbert? Poe? You notice there’s not a ton of horror authors there. If I have to absolutely pick one right now, right this second? Ray Bradbury. He’s got the way with words, the boundless imagination, the pure devilish talent for every genre. That’s what I aspire to. To be able to transcend genre and write stories that stick to your brain forever, be it sci-fi, horror, comedy or straight-up literature. That’s my goal, just to write good stories.
JM: Do you ever come up with anything so FREAKIN’ WEIRD AND WILD that you actually scare yourself? Do you wonder where that comes from?
Axel: My story “Hum” in the anthology *A Career Guide To Your Job In Hell* ended up being so balls-out crazy and batshit insane that I honestly had to step back and wonder if the cubicle-life that inspired it really was driving me out of my mind. Several people have quite literally backed away from me in conversation after reading that story. Really, I was just venting at the mind-numbing wretchedness of that kind of job, and the glad-handing, two-faced, backstabbing soap-opera kind of environment that sprouts up in an office situation where people spend all day stewing in their own misery. I was working for a huge oil company, in records management, and was just surrounded by the most awful, bizarre and incredibly stunted people. Nobody did more than an hour or two of real work in a day, they spent all their time gossiping and stirring up shit and scheming against each other like some sick and twisted reality game-show nightmare. I was on contract there, and they ‘let me go’ the day I came back from my honeymoon, without so much as an inkling of why. I remember feeling like I could cry, I was so happy to be out of that place. To hell with sparkly vampires, shirtless werewolves and undead hordes – being ground to dust in a cubicle with the fluorescent lights buzzing through your brain – that’s real horror.
Those of us participating in Coffin Hop 2011 are supremely happy that Axel survived the cubicle experience and has gone on to become … um … “well adjusted” just doesn’t seem to work in this case, so we’ll go with … become an inspiration to horror writers and purveyor of bloody-good stories that keep us up at night (*jerk* … I mean that in the most respectful way … ^___^)
COFFIN HOP 2011 CONTINUES!!!