WOOFER'S LAIR

Welcome to Woofer's Lair. Curious as to what you will see here? Well, for the most part, you will find book reviews, maybe the occasional movie review, and if you are lucky, you might stumble across one of my own works in progress. If you like what you see or what read, and even if you don't, please feel free to leave your comments. As I am somewhat new to blogging, all of your constructive feedback is appreciated. Have fun and thanks for stopping by.

Wicked Seasons

Wicked Seasons
My short story, HUNGRY FOR MORE, is included

CURRENTLY READING

CURRENTLY READING
Koji Suzuki's Spiral

Monday, April 25, 2011

Excerpt from Untitled Zombie Novella -- In Progress

This is an excerpt of the zombie novella that I'm currently working on.

***

Back outside, the streets were just beginning to show signs of life as the refugees crept from their nighttime shelters to forage for the meager scraps that could still be found. Dave didn’t think it was likely that these folks were in danger of starving anytime soon; it was more likely that they were operating in self-preservation mode, hoarding what they could for when there was nothing left to be found. Now wasn’t the time to worry about them, though; he had to find that little girl. Well, technically he didn’t have to, but the cop in him wouldn’t give him any rest if he didn’t put his best foot forward in trying to find her. He took a moment to survey the street.

Across the way was a fabric store, its window spider webbed with cracks that had somebody had attempted to cover over with duct tape. To the left of the fabric store, a pair of corrugated steel doors, both in the down position, loading docks for the store and whatever businesses occupied the upper floors of the building. To the right was a discount media store, the kind that sold pirated videos and DVDs and stripped down electronics at “bargain” prices. By some miracle, the plate glass windows were still intact. The door, however, was another story. Pieces of the thick glass littered the sidewalk, sparkling in the sun like discarded diamonds. Of the hooker there was no sign, but she wasn’t too far off. A steady, rhythmic slapping sound echoed in the concrete corridor as she tried to break into one of the other store fronts on this side of the street.

Drawing his service revolver, Dave considered the video store. It was an enticing lure for a child, but his gut instinct told him she wasn’t in there. It wouldn’t hurt to check out the place, but he knew it would be a waste of time. During his years on the force, he had come to rely heavily on what he jokingly called his “Spidey Sense”; it had never failed him, and he wasn’t about to start second guessing himself now. Dismissing it, Dave moved into the middle of the street, looking back the way they had come, his gaze shifting from one side of the street to the other, lingering briefly on each store front and doorway before moving on. He started forward, weaving his way slowly through the obstacle course of abandoned cars, torn open garbage bags, and vandalized refuse from some of the stores. That rhythmic slapping grew louder the further he got from the Old Navy, and as he passed by a smoke shop, he caught sight of the prostitute in the recessed doorway of the store front. Keeping one eye on her, he continued moving toward the end of the street, one destination in mind.

He had covered half the distance when he heard footsteps behind him, a heavy slapping of sneakered feet against the grey slate of the sidewalk. Even before he turned around, he knew what he was going to see and he cursed under his breath.

With one hand pressed to her stomach, the woman from Old Navy hurried towards him. There was a wild, desperate look in her eyes as she headed his way, unaware of the danger that lurked within the shadows, waiting to ambush her as she passed. There was a chance she could get by the thing in the doorway, provided she didn’t. . .

“Vicky! Victoria!”

“Goddammit,” Dave muttered, moving to intercept the woman before she became zombie chow. He tried to wave her away from the building and into the street, but she was blinded by fear for her daughter and she continued to stumble toward him.

There was movement in the doorway, and Dave knew he wasn’t going to make it in time. He didn’t slow his pace as he raced towards the woman, but he had only managed a dozen steps before the hooker shambled out of the doorway. The woman collided with the zombie, letting loose with a startled scream. The thing staggered backward on impact, seemed to hesitate a moment before starting forward again, arms reaching and teeth snapping. Terror had paralyzed the woman, who stood there, both arms wrapped protectively over her swollen belly, staring death in the face. The only chance he had was to shoot the walking corpse in the back the head; there was no doubt he would hit his target from this distance, but there was a chance that the bullet would pass through the thing’s head and hit the woman in front of it. He veered to his right, hoping to get a better angle from which to shoot.

The woman had a deer in the headlights look to her, eyes wide and glassy, lips quivering, unable to speak as the zombie reached for her. The corpse was within striking distance, it’s thin, bony fingers on one hand brushing the woman’s shoulder, the other raking across her arms, still held protectively over her stomach. Red welts rose in the wake of the thing’s filthy, infected fingernails, followed by blood welling up.

“My baby,” the woman whimpered.

The thing’s talon-like fingers snagged the woman’s t-shirt and blood blossomed against the white material as it pulled her closer. The woman grimaced in pain, her face a wrinkled mask of fear, fury, and disgust. Whether it was the smell of rot threatening to smother her, the pain as the thing’s nails dug into her flesh, or fear for her unborn child, the woman brought up her hands and tried to push the prostitute away. A primal scream ripped from her throat as her hands came in contact with the decomposing corpse; desperate to get the zombie away from her, she gave the hooker a hard shove. The flesh above the thing’s left breast tore. “Oh God,” she cried out, repulsed by the sight of the exposed muscle and bone, but the woman, seeing the damage, wasn’t about to quit. She shoved again, using both hands, which landed squarely on both of the hooker’s breasts. Skin split as if it was nothing more than tissue paper, and the mounds of flesh imploded. Blackened blood as thick and dark as molasses and yellowed tissue that looked like puss oozed through her fingers like a rancid cottage cheese sundae. Another cry of disgust issued from the woman, but nothing deterred the zombie from trying to sate its eternal hunger. Its teeth snapped continuously, its head lunging forward in what seemed slow motion.

The woman was suddenly aware of Dave’s presence as he slid over the hood of a car, and she turned her head in his direction. “Help me. Please.”

Dave slipped from the car’s hood and planted his feet firmly on the ground, bringing his .45 up in a two-handed grip. Taking aim, he pulled the trigger. The hooker’s head exploded, splattering the pregnant woman in a rain of gore, brain, and bone shrapnel. As life drained from the corpse for a second, final time, the body collapsed, its fingernails shredded the fabric of the woman’s shirt, leaving in their wake a trail of red welts. The woman followed the zombie to the ground, legs too weak to support her after her near-death experience. She covered her face with her hands and started to sob, the search for her daughter all but forgotten for the moment as she tried to come to terms with her own mortality. Dave knew all too well what she was going through at that moment, having experienced it himself a several weeks back, when all this shit was first hitting the fan. But whatever sympathy he held for the woman in that instant, and any relief he may have felt that she was safe quickly gave way to anger over her stupidity as he stalked toward her.

Wiping the tears from her face and smearing it with blood in the process, she looked up at the figure looming over her. She had wanted to say “Thank you”, but the words died on her lips when she saw the barely suppressed rage he knew was reflected in his eyes.

“I told you to stay inside.”

She wanted to say something in her own defense, but he reached down and hauled her to her feet, jostling her into silence.

“Go back inside.”

Still shaken by her encounter, she managed to show her defiance by squaring her shoulders and meeting his gaze. He had to give her some credit; she didn’t flinch. “No,” she told him, and he could hear the quaver in that one spoken word. Just one word, as if she didn’t trust herself to speak more for fear of giving away how rattled she really was.

Dave took a deep breath to calm himself. It would be pointless to argue with the woman. She wasn’t thinking clearly. That much was evident by her refusal to obey orders. He had no choice but to let her tag along, but he was going to lay down a few rules. Not that he thought it would do any good. She thought she knew what was best for her and her daughter, so she was going to do whatever the hell she pleased regardless of what he told her.

“Fine.” He let out the breath he’d been holding. “But you stay close and you keep your mouth shut. You do what I say and you don’t ask any questions. Is that understood?”

When she didn’t answer right away, he was tempted to leave her to fend for herself. Things might get a little hairy, and he didn’t need her jeopardizing his safety with her stubbornness. He knew, though, that if he went back without give the search his all, he’d never be able to face Mark. That man lived for kids; thus the reason he had dedicated his life to teaching. He could envision the disappointment on his lover’s face when he told him he didn’t even bother, not with this woman risking everything, and lying wasn’t even an option. But he needed to do something with the one in front of him to guarantee her compliance.

“Is. That. Understood.”

Again, she didn’t answer.

“Fine.” He turned away from her, prepared to head back to Old Navy.

“Wait.”

He did a slow about face, but didn’t make a move toward her. He fixed her with a stare, waiting.

Initially she met his stare, and it became a competition of wills. Finally, she dropped her gaze first, then her head. Twisting her hands nervously in front of her, she nodded.

Now that they seemed to have an understanding—not that he thought it would mean anything if they found her daughter—he started forward, brushing past her without saying a word. His gaze danced from one side of the street to the other, pausing briefly on each store front barely long enough to register what kind of store it was before moving on to the next. There was nothing that would be of interest to a little girl, and he was beginning to wonder if maybe she hadn’t strayed from the street and onto the avenue. There was a Toys R Us nearby, and with the streets virtually free of traffic, the path would be relatively clear to what a child would consider paradise. The thought sent a nervous twinge through his gut; just because the dead went into hiding, that didn’t mean there weren’t other threats posed to a child wandering the streets alone. There were other animals out there, predatory creatures that walked on two legs who would think nothing of taking advantage of the downfall of civilization to satiate their baser desires.

He pushed the thought from his head, needing to focus on the current situation. Making their way up the street, weaving through the abandoned vehicles, sounds from the hive became more apparent. They sounded agitated. Normally when they went to ground, they were like statues, standing completely still, staring through dead eyes at a rapidly dying world. Something had them stirred up, and Dave was beginning to get an uneasy feeling in his gut.

Veering to the right, Dave made for the sidewalk, trusting the woman would follow behind him. He didn’t think to look behind him to make certain until he was curbside, when he spotted the coffee shop, the door an empty chrome frame, the glass from which littered the sidewalk. He turned to tell her he wanted to check the place out; for a child it was the perfect lure, full of the promise of an assortment of treats that could be consumed away from the watchful eye of her mother. Never mind the fact that anything that might have been left behind by the looters had long since spoiled. That was something that would not have even entered a child’s mind. But when he turned, he found the woman was not behind him. He scanned the immediate area and let out a groan when he spotted her on the other side of the street. She was crouched down by an abandoned minivan and reaching underneath for something. What it was he couldn’t see, but he had a sinking feeling it was something connected to her little girl.

When she stood up and turned to face him, he saw what it was and he was seized with a chill that went bone deep. She held in her hand a sneaker, and even from where he stood he could see it was streaked with blood.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

And so continues my zombie reads with David Wellington's Monster Island, Book 1 of his zombie trilogy. This was a Must Read for me since it takes place in New York City, and as a Native New Yorker, books that take place in and around the Big Apple go onto my list. Not necessarily because they are great reads, but more because I want to see how accurate they are to the locale.

The Zombie Apocalypse is already underway when Monster Island opens. Dekalb has already lost his wife to the plague, leaving him to protect his daughter in a world overrun by the dead. He is captured by a band of female warriors, most of whom are still in their teens and who under the command of Mama Halima, and he is separated from his daughter. While his daughter is being well taken care of, he is left to his own devices in a darkened prison cell, along with numerous others. While trying to negotiate better terms for the prisoners and expressing his desire to be reunited with his daughter, Dekalb learns that Mama Halima is sick and needs drugs. But not just any drugs. The female warlord is HIV+. Dekalb agrees to venture out under armed escort to retrieve the drugs she needs in return for his daughter. He soon finds out that all of the military medical bases have been looted, but he refuses to admit defeat. He says he knows where he can get the drugs, but he will need a ship and a crew. Once the ship, crew, and armed escort have been obtained, Dekalb sets sail for New York City.

Meanwhile, in New York, Gary, a med student, has all but given up hope. He thinks he is the only one left. He is of the mind, If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and he has studied the zombie population at large and thinks he has discovered a way to improve upon their condition. They don't have to come back as shambling, decomposing, flesh-craving corpses. So, taking the equipment he thinks he will need, he sets a make-shift lab in his apartment and sets out to commit controlled suicide. When he awakens to his new life, he finds his experiment has been successful: he is dead, but he can still think and reason, and he can talk.

When the Dekalb and Gary cross paths, Gary convinces Dekalb that he can help with his mission, as he is able to move amongst the dead without fear of being attacked, since he is one of them. The only condition Dekalb has to agree to is that they take Gary with him when they leave. But can Gary be trusted? And is there something more going on than either one of them suspect?

While Monster Island starts off as your typical zombie apocalypse tale, it quickly evolves into something more. You won't find government experiments gone wrong here, nor will you find the dead rising as a result of radiation exposure or the product of some Haitian priest or priestess seeking revenge for a wrong done to his/her people. No, the reason for the dead rising delves deeper into the supernatural realm, which, when I saw where it was going, I wasn't sure I liked at first. Now that I have put some distance between the reading and the writing of this and allowed myself think on it, I feel this is the downfall of the novel. While the story did keep me interested to a point, my interest in it began to waver half way through when I saw where it was going. I know this is the first book of a trilogy, but I feel the whole supernatural element was too ambitious to be explained away in one book. In fact, I found the plot to be a little too contrived. The story starts in Africa, then jumps to New York City. You mean to tell me there was no place closer than the United States to search for the needed drugs?

My other issues with the book lay with the characters. I know they exist, but I had a hard time swallowing the whole teenage Amazonian militia thing. Since there are so many of them, the female characters strike me as being relatively flat, even those who have been assigned names. Dekalb as a hero doesn't work for me, as his character is too weak. While his main motivation is to be reunited with his daughter, he allows himself to be pushed around by the girls. Even when they are on foreign (at least to the girls) soil, he rarely takes charge of a situation, and when he finally does, it seems to out of character for him. Gary strikes me as the most interesting character, but even his character loses his uniqueness half way through.

I do have the other two books in the trilogy, and I will get to them eventually, but they are not high on my list of books to get to. The most diehard of zombie fans might want to add this to their Must Read list, but if you like your zombies of the more traditional variety, you might want to pass this one by.

Friday, April 1, 2011

He Knows If You've Been Bad Or Good. . .

Until recently, I've only associated mysteries with the name Konrath. I have since learned that he also writes horror. I have a few in my TBR pile, which has grown exponentially within the past year (curse you, Kindle!), but when I saw Shapeshifters Anonymous, I just had to get it. It's not horror, more urban fantasy, and that was okay because I've been reading quite a bit in that genre as well. It's also comedic. I knew Konrath could be humorous—I've read Draculas, but since that was a collaborative effort, I wasn't sure exactly how much was him and how much was coming from the other authors. And because it dealt with shifters (and the fact that it was short), it jumped to the top of the pile.

Robert Weston Smith has a problem. He's a healthy individual: works out regularly at the gym, watches what he eats, and practices yoga and tai chi. So why, for the past three months or so, has he been finding strange items in his poop? That's what he hopes the doctor will tell him.

A physical examination produces a coat button, part of a zipper, and sixty-three cents in change, but no answers. The doctor suggests he visit a shrink, but Robert doesn't think that's going to provide any answers, but he promises to keep the appointment. When he returns home, he has a run-in with his annoying gypsy neighbor and her yappie little dog. Inside his apartment, he promptly passes out, not waking up until the next morning, which is when, upon going to the bathroom, he finds evidence that he has eaten his annoying neighbor. . . And her little dog, too. Realizing that the shrink isn't going to be of much good, he turns to the internet to find his answers. With growing horror, he was able to piece together a mystery, which only serves to make him more desperate to find answers. He continues to surf the web. After hitting one dead end after another, he stumbles across Shapeshifters Anonymous. What does he have to lose? He calls them and is told there is a meeting that afternoon. Before he can head out, he needs to swing by the doctor's office to pick up something they found in his stool sample—a sterling silver crucifix. On his way, he is accosted by a psychotic Santa, who delivers a rather cryptic message. He shrugs it off, thinking the guy nothing more than mentally imbalanced; he has more important things on his mind. The fun really begins when he arrives at the meeting.

You wouldn't think a guy on the verge of a nervous breakdown would be humorous, but in Konrath's skilled hands, it is. Almost from the very beginning, the chuckles start. You try not to laugh at Weston's plight (not with the strange items in your poop, but the whole embarrassment at having to take your stool sample to the doctor's office) because you can very easily picture yourself in the same situation, but you just can't help yourself. In that respect, Konrath's lead character becomes an Every Man. His characters are very realistic; as you meet them, you roll your eyes because you know people like this exist, and maybe you've even met some of them. From the pleasantly obnoxious nurse who seems to make it her life's mission to embarrass you in the crowded waiting room to the equally annoying kid full of questions to the parents who are reluctant to own up to the ill-mannered monster you just want to backhand.

As the story progresses at a swift pace, there's never a dull moment, even with the most mundane things, and the chuckles progress to outright laughter. If I was in doubt about Konrath's ability to do humor, this squelched any doubts I might have had.

My only issue, and you know there's always going to be one, is the romantic element that enters the story once Weston arrives at the SA meeting. Those who have read my reviews in the past know how I feel about romance in horror fiction. The same can be applied here. Too fast, too soon, improperly timed. I won't bore you with the details. Just let it be said that Weston's panting over Irena was not my favorite part of the story.

All in all, however, Shapeshifters Anonymous was an enjoyable read full of chuckles and laughs that really brightened my day. If you have the afternoon free, I would highly recommend it. You won't need more than a couple of hours, depending on how fast you read, as it isn't very long.