Genre: Thriller/Zombie Apocalypse
Publisher: Luke Ahearn
Date of Publication: May 19, 2014
Number of pages: 409
Word Count: 118,099
Cover Artist: Steven J Catizone
Civilization shuts down as throngs of speechless hedonists fill the streets in deadly revelry. They feel only pleasure and never pain, even as they are injured, maimed, and mutilated. Few people remain in the world unaffected, left to witness the madness unaware that things are about to get unbelievably worse.
Cooper is among the few survivors of a conspiracy to depopulate the world. One week ago, college was his biggest concern. Now he is on a dangerous journey to find his sister as an ever-present threat of nightmarish proportions engulfs the world, throwing him in the path of some of the most malicious people that ever walked the earth.
The present, Monterey, California
“Fuck!” The wiry, gray-haired old man felt his eyes go wide with surprise, but he quickly got his shit together. Jasper scowled; now he was very pissed off. He might stoop and shuffle when he walked, but he didn’t take any shit.
Some big fat bastard was bear-hugging him from behind. He could see white mountains of wet flab before his eyes, and he smelled vomit. He felt a massive wet belly and man tits pressing against his back. Large folds of cold wet flesh engulfed him, and he shuddered at the sensation.
He hated hugs, especially from men, and hugs from big fat sweaty bastards were absolutely unacceptable. He carried his best spiked hammer, an old-school Craftsman from back in the day, before the gooks were making them. He was just itching to use it. The fat bastard was yelling something in his ear.
“I love you! I love you, man!”
“Ahhh, geez!” Jasper twisted out of the flabby cocoon and took a few steps back. What he saw disgusted him. It was a giant fat kid, a head taller than himself, who looked like a giant baby, all hairless and soft. The kid was smiling like an idiot, and that made Jasper even more pissed off. Food smeared the kid’s face and ran down his chins in greasy streams between his man tits and over his belly. All Jasper could think was that all that shit was all over his back. Now he would have to burn his shirt and take a long, hot shower.
The kid wore nothing but baggy white underwear soaked in sweat. Jasper shuddered at the clammy coldness on his back. His flannel shirt clung to him and felt like a cold, wet bathing suit.
“I love you, man!” The big fat kid smiled as he came at him for another hug.
“Ahhhh! Fuck you!” Despite his advanced age, Jasper moved with an efficiency and force that spoke of his many years as a carpenter. He brought the spiked hammer down on the kid’s skull, and it collapsed inward with little resistance. He liked the sensation of cracking a head but hated wasting the time to do it.
The kid dropped to the concrete like a wet sack. He was still smiling, which made cracking his skull less enjoyable. Jasper wished he could bash every asshole around with his trusty hammer. He looked around to make sure another shithead wasn’t looking for a hug.
A woman came at him, hooting so loud he could hear it over the crowd, waving her tits at him. He took her out too, with an easy smack between the eyes. He had enough of this shit. He cracked a few more skulls for fun, but he got bored. It was always the same: an easy tap to the skull and the moron dropped, still smiling.
The streets were crammed with people, and they were all acting crazy. Jasper just wanted to get home. It seemed everyone was congregating downtown, streaming in from the surrounding neighborhoods. People were walking in large groups, arm in arm, naked and clothed, dancing, running, and hugging. It all made Jasper sick, just god-awful sick.
He tried to go all the way downtown and almost got caught up in the crowd. People were pushing and jamming each other into doors until they cracked open. He heard the crash of large plate-glass windows, but no one reacted. In fact, he saw people just getting pushed through the windows in a wave. He could tell that people were getting seriously injured and killed, and he just wanted to get the hell out of there.
He left at the right time. The press of the massive crowd smashed and suffocated, ground and trampled, and killed many—and the party continued to grow. No one screamed in panic or pain. No one yelled for help or dialed 911. And no one stopped to offer assistance, an apology, or true human interaction of any kind. Everyone was bent on doing exactly what they wanted to do, and what anyone else wanted didn’t matter to them in the slightest.
In any place where people gathered for a good time, the crowds were thick. The mall was packed, but the hospital was empty. The wharf was so full that hundreds fell into the icy waters of the bay. The office parks and businesses were dark and silent. Some groups formed parties on random streets for one reason or another.
A large majority of the city was empty, devoid of people. Most left their homes and walked away, leaving doors unlocked and often wide open. They would join a group and wander away.
There were still a few souls hiding indoors who were anything but euphoric. They watched with fear and horror the goings-on outside their windows. Jasper had been one of these, but he needed his goddamned pills and had to drive through all this crazy shit to get them. Of course, when he got to the damn pharmacy it was closed. He had tried to call ahead, but no one answered the phone. He was pissed. He wanted nothing to do with this crazy shit. He didn’t want to see any of it and certainly didn’t want to walk through it. He saw quite a few people doing things he had only seen in his buddies’ dirty magazines. But there was one thing every single person was doing: smiling like a retard with a lollipop—every single one.
At first, he thought all the outlandish behavior was confined to idiots, kids, and queers. It had to be some new drug to get them this nuts, he thought. But too many people were acting bonkers, too many people who just didn’t fit the behavior.
He walked as quickly as he was able away from the crowd and back to his car. He’d seen some shit in his day, but in the last few the world had descended into pandemonium. There were reports that almost everyone around the world was walking away from their jobs, no matter how critical. Everything was grinding to a halt. Transportation, communication—private or military, trivial or critical—everything was just going belly up. Jasper had known this day was coming ever since the blacks were allowed to vote.
And the crooks in Washington didn’t know anything. They said it was an unknown virus and creatively named it Euphoria-Z. Z because they didn’t know what it was, only what it did. And their advice? Stay indoors and away from crowds, bunch of geniuses.
Jasper had never expected he would need to kill people, not since the war, but in the last few days he had been forced to. The streets were crazy, and he wouldn’t even be outside if he hadn’t needed his pills. He felt as if he were the only sane person for miles. He looked at his feet and wondered, only briefly, if something were wrong with him? No, couldn’t be, he thought. None of this was right. The world had gone crazy.
Did you always wanted to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
Yes. I never wanted to be anything else.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
Not until recently. I’d been published for well over ten years, but for some reason, never considered myself a writer. I started to question this and realized my definition of a writer was wrong. I read somewhere a long time ago that if you are writing, you are a writer; when you stop writing, you are not. I just accepted that I am writer because I decided to consider myself one. Being a writer is a call no one can make but the individual.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
Over ten years ago, I was up at the wee hours of the morning, surfing the web. I have no idea what I was looking for, but the last thing on my mind was getting published or submitting a book proposal. I came across the submissions page for a publisher that was looking for computer game development books. I spent about twenty minutes filling in the submission form, skipping large chunks of it. There were questions like, “why do you think there is a market for a book of this type?” and I would answer, “because you are looking for people to write these types of books.” Then I went to sleep and forgot about it completely. The next day, I did all my usual stuff: coffee, etc., and when I checked my email later in the morning, there was a message from the publisher. The subject line was something like, “Can you call me ASAP?” So it turns out, they had an author who took an advance, blew them off, and never even started working on the book. Worse still, he was lying and telling them all along he was making progress on the book. He was a well-known author of these types of books at the time, so they took his word for it until it was close to the launch date. They asked me if I could write a book in two months, so I said yes. I had a lot of leeway as I wrote the book, since they were desperate to get a book (any book) finished and on the market. I ended up writing a book that sold far better than any of the original author’s work. I was fortunate, blessed, whatever (I hate the term lucky for personal reasons) and after I blew the doors off the joint with that first book, the publishers were coming to me.
Do you do another job except for writing and can you tell us more about it?
I have many nonfiction books on the market, I’ve been a game developer, game artist, 3D art content provider, art director, and I sell physical art/props. I make life-sized pirate skeletons, skull lamps, and have been commissioned to do numerous custom props for plays and retail displays.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
Euphoria-Z is a traditional zombie apocalypse novel with plot twists, well-developed characters, and a unique beginning.
Who is your publisher? Or do you self-publish?
Self-published. I put a lot of thought into the decision, and it was an easy one to make.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
The first draft takes one month. I really like the writing process, so when I write, I write six to ten hours at a stretch. Once the first draft is being beta read, I get the marketing process going. Soon after that, the beta feedback starts to come in. By then, I am starting the second draft, taking the readers’ feedback into consideration, and that can take another month.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
The sequel to Euphoria-Z is in the works. I have a thriller coming out and an old school sword and sorcery novella as well.
What genre would you place your books into?
I write in different genres. Euphoria-Z is a post-apocalyptic thriller.
What made you decide to write that genre of book?
I’ve wanted to write a post-apocalyptic novel for a while, but I started this book when my son went off to college. It was a way to be with him (yes, in a kind of weird and imaginary way) because I knew I would miss him. It has helped me personally.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?
The lead character in my sword and sorcery series Dark Deeds and Black Magics. Xanthus is a city-dwelling scoundrel in his late teens who can go anywhere in society, but fits in nowhere. His family is wealthy, so he is not trusted or even liked by the poor and working class. But his family is nouveau riche, so he is not accepted by the old money, either. He is left alone in a large city to babysit his wealthy father’s home and is incredibly bored, so he dabbles in thievery, debauchery, and rarely a bit of responsibility. He meets a few other oddballs and they generally participate in shenanigans that are sometimes orchestrated by the gods. I love writing him because I love the setting of Kingspoint, the massive maze-streeted city with its magics and dangers. The prequel to the series is available now and contains a sample of the actual series.
How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
Seriously writing for ten years. My wife both inspires me to write and distracts me from writing by her mere existence (in a good way).
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
No. I need to be reasonably comfortable. Some things distract me, but most don’t.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
Yes. You can learn a lot from your reviews and make valuable connections. But is important to learn to read a review, too. A lot of writers get really upset at negative reviews (I do, too, at first) but a bad review can be valuable. You need to determine whether the review is accurate, personal, or just stupid.
If you get a bunch of reviews that all say the same bad things about your book in a constructive way, you need to pay attention. If there are repeated comments about bad grammar, misspellings, and the same plot hole, then you need to fix the problems. Good feedback is hard to get so take it, act upon it, and (sincerely) thank the people who took the time leave a review. Maybe even offer to get them a free copy of your next book and ask them to be a beta reader. People who bothered to read your book and leave a genuine review (especially a critical one) are valuable! I don’t want my wife’s feedback on my zombie novel, she hates those kinds of books. But if I find someone who loves zombie novels, has read hundreds of them, and writes thorough reviews on them – I want that person tearing my book apart like ahh… a zombie tearing a human apart!
If there is one review that just rips you a new orifice with all destructive and no constructive feedback, then DO NOT respond in any way. You will never get anything but more upset. Report it if you want, but move on with your life. The best antidote to a negative review is more positive ones, so work on the things that will get you those positive reviews. And trust that most readers are pretty good at reading the reviews, poking around, and determining the validity of the review.
And some reviews are just ridiculous, like one-star reviews because the Internet is slow, or there is too much violence in a book entitled The Most Violent Book in the World, UPS not leaving the package at the right house, or things along that line. Maybe you could ask the person ONCE to edit the review because you have no control over UPS and sometimes they will. But again, don’t expect anything, don’t get threatening, be as nice as you can, and then let it go. Don’t wait for anything to happen and don’t follow up. Again, readers see one-star reviews and read them. If they start with my favorite one-star line “I didn’t read this book, but…” then they will instantly know to ignore the review. The Amazon review system really works. People will vote and the most useful reviews will rise to the top (positive and negative); a good book will sell, and a bad one won’t.
Readers aren’t stupid, so you should not only seek legitimate reviews, but encourage your family and friends to NOT leave glowing five-star reviews. In fact, ask them to find a flaw or two about the book and even mention upfront that they are a friend or family member. Readers appreciate that more than the extra star. I recommend a book by Richard Peters, Quit Wasting Time and Sell More eBooks, because he lays out a realistic approach based in honesty and not trickery. It is a slower, harder start, but you will build a solid readership. Anyone can buy reviews and fake likes, etc. but they don’t help you and, in fact, usually end up hurting you in the long run.
Sorry, was this a yes or no question? J
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
I usually start writing on an idea and the title emerges from the fiction. I find that trying to title a novel (with exceptions, of course) before I even began is futile. If I don’t have a strong idea of the title after the first third of the first draft, there is something wrong with the story.
How do you come up with characters names names in your books?
For fiction set in the present, I use a common name for whatever period or region I am writing about. I spend very little time choosing a name. I usually go to Google and type in something like “most common boy names 1955” or whatever year the character was born, and then choose from the list. The reason I choose quickly is because I like to let the character own the name. Think of the common first name Michael. Now add the common surnames Myers, Corleone, or Scott. These three names evoke three very different images of a man created by the characters themselves.
In Euphoria-Z, Tug is the nickname that Abel Tugerson goes by. The nickname really says the most about him, evoking the image of a tugboat or a chronic masturbator who tugs a lot. I named him Abel Tugerson without thought and as his character evolved, the nickname emerged. I then rewrote the introduction of his character, introducing him as Tug from the beginning.
“Abel Tugerson, Tug to everyone and anyone since he could remember, stood in the bed of a beat-to-shit pickup truck as it rolled slowly down the 101. It was covered in rotten flesh and putrid streaks of gore.”
Of course, there are stories where name research and thought is required such as a sci-fi novel with an alien race or where the character’s name might be part of the fiction, but so far, I’ve just named my characters and moved on quickly.
Are place names decided after their creation? Or do you pick a place name and then invent them?
In Euphoria-Z, all the locations’ names are real and correspond with real places. I visited all these places before I used them as settings, but still I allowed myself to tweak a few a little. The only real fabrication is the parking structure in the book, but the area around the airport is still pretty accurate.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
I decide on character traits as I go along, for the most part. The characters evolve as I write them. I may have a vague notion of a character, there may be a specific detail that I know I want to exist, but the characters really evolve as I write.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesop’s Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
I don’t consciously attempt to send a message, I just want to entertain people. I want to give people an experience, a vacation, an escape. But I’m sure my attitudes and opinions bleed into the story, so I would say there are messages coming through. One belief I have that is represented in this book is that people often rush to judgment as to whether something is good or bad. I also believe that there are a few people in the world that are very malicious and the majority of good people are too nice to deal with them, so the bad people often have great sway over our civilization. We need to be less offended by the slight of a word or name and look at the tolerance we have for gangs, criminals, politicians, and the run-of-the-mill assholes that are just abusing our system and not contributing to it.
In the area of messages in fiction, a huge pet peeve of mine is when I am immersed in a book and suddenly I am reading a two-page rant which is clearly the author’s opinion. My opinions might come through in the fiction, but I attempt to be true to the characters and loyal to the reader. I don’t care if I agree with an author one-hundred percent; I will toss a book aside if I find myself reading a rant on any topic. I want to be entertained, not lectured.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
eBook! I do love old books as collectibles, but I have a long history of dealing with paper books. I remember how hard it was to find a decent book to read. I had to go to the library or bookstore. The selection was limited, books could be expensive at the store, and the book was always checked out at the library. Books take up a lot of physical space, too (especially when you are an avid reader and they pile up quickly). After a while, I had to deal with them to make room for more books, and a box of books can be very heavy. It was hard to decide what book to let go of, what book to keep, and where to keep them. At one point, my wife and I had a storage unit with hundreds of books all stacked up in probably thirty boxes. After a few months and a few hundred dollars, we finally realized how foolish it was to store all these books. Then we had to spend hours and hours dealing with them. Do we toss them, keep them, sell them, donate them? It was a lot of work.
And reading a physical book, for me anyway, required the constant adjustment of a light source, holding the book up (I don’t know how many times I dropped a book on my face while reading), and looking up a word was a pain. Now all my books are on my tablet, I can carry hundreds of books with me (maybe thousands), they are easy to read, I can read anywhere I want, I can read samples of a virtually unlimited supply of books anywhere I am, look up words with a touch—you guys know all this. Best of all, my house is now as empty and clean as an illiterate person’s house.
What is your favorite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
I read almost everything more than once. I would say The Hobbit is my favorite book. It’s what really woke up that part of my brain that said, “I want to be a writer.” I know I’ve read it all the way through at least eight times and then chunks of it at various other times. I love the first half of the book in particular.
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favorite/worst book to movie transfer?
I think depends on what you mean by transfer. A book and a movie are such different things, it’s like asking if lemons transfer well into lemonade? They are different things that have different sets of criteria for judging them. The quality of a movie that is based on a book has more to do with the moviemakers than the book.
Among my favorite book-to-movie adaptions is Pride and Prejudice, the Keira Knightley version. That was a great book and great movie (It's been many years since I had such an exemplary vegetable). I love The Godfather, but the book left me feeling like, meh. I’m sorry, but the book is crap compared to the movie. I can watch the movie over and over. I’ve probably seen it twenty-five times or more (you gotta get up close like this... badaBING!). I guess books can be a very rich source of inspiration and information for a film maker, even if they are poorly written. I love the book Jurassic Park. I’ve read that one several times, too. When the movie first came out, I loved it. I didn’t go expecting a book experience, I went expecting to see special effects. I didn’t think about the movie for several years, and the next time I tried to watch it, I was stunned at just how bad it was. I mean, I just couldn’t watch it!
Your favorite food is?
Your favorite singer/group is?
Def Leppard and of course, they are not on iTunes.
Your favorite color is?
I don’t have one color I would want to paint the entire world. There isn’t one color I would choose for most things by default when given a choice. There are too many variables when choosing a color in any given instance.
Your favorite Author is?
That’s like asking me to pick a favorite child.
Luke Ahearn has over 20 years of professional game development experience and has authored numerous nonfiction books on the topic. He ran his own computer game company for ten years and currently owns MasterWerxStudios, an animatronic prop shop in Monterey, CA.