Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Hard to believe it’s been so long since I last added any posts to my own official author’s website. And it's strange how much zombies have come to define, not only my childhood fantasy of success, but also my realized adult dreams of that success. But we'll get to that in a moment.

The biggest reason it’s been so long since I've been able to bring myself post anything here was because of serious physical and emotional issues, to do with my injury, and the ongoing, self-imposed, physical therapy--namely my continuing martial arts training, mostly in Krav Maga, with a little Ju-Jitsu, thrown in from time to time, just so I don’t forget what it’s like to be in the worst possible real-world combative self-defense scenario: on my back, mounted by an angry opponent, who means to do me some real damage. But I have a whole different page setup for talk about my martial arts training (and now instructing part-time in Krav Maga, as well) called “Me and Krav Maga”, in which I will speak to what’s been going on with my physical work, and how it’s affected me, both physically and mentally.

Here, on this page, I’ll speak to my writing.

Sometimes…well…most times, it’s now become almost impossible to separate the two worlds. One reason, not being the least of all my reasons, is that a lot of my current writing has to do with characters who use martial arts in their everyday world; violent people, who deal with their own violent worlds in very violent ways.

One of those works in which I’ve been immersed in for the past year or so has been in writing a series of books that have two ongoing characters named Max and Little Billy.

The series of books, which I’ve taken to calling “Redneck Noir” because of the environment and Deep South Gothic fiction sensibility which I am reaching for, take place in, and around, my hometown of Yulee, Florida, a redneck burg if there ever was one, just outside of Jacksonville, Florida and ten miles from the Georgia state line, right in the heart of fierce Gator and Bulldog country. The books take place during the mid-1970s to, what will most likely end, around the early-to-mid-1980s. These were my formative childhood years, during which I learned, thanks to my daddy and the rest of the Cook family, some hard facts about life.

Some nasty, violent lessons, at home and at school. Things which are best left to the book’s characters to talk out for me.

Written in first person POV, I primarily use Max, a white, late 20s-something, ex-special ops military veteran of the Vietnam War, as my personal avatar, through which I speak about violence, and how it affects a man, mentally and physically, as he finally ages in the series into his early 40s.

And there’s also his best friend, Little Billy, a towering huge ex-“almost” pro football player, who is also a veteran of the same war. His nickname ‘Little Billy’ comes from the fact he is named after his father ‘Big Billy’, also a huge, towering man.

Max and Little Billy were best friends from childhood because their fathers were in the moonshine business together. Having grown up in a backwards little redneck town in the heart of the Deep South, where racism is still a very real problem in the time period during which the books are set, their friendship was challenging, to say the least. But, again, they were boys who grew up in a violent environment together, who became like blood brothers through their childhood years, and remained best friends despite their environment, watching one another’s backs through the years.

They both have come back home after serving their separate tours of duty, in a very violent conflict overseas, back home to their little redneck town, where they were both known as ‘hellraisers’ when they were younger, during those violent racist years as best friends.

Max has inherited quite a bit of money from his great grandmother, the woman who helped raise him when his mother disappeared during his very early childhood. She was his protector and nurturer, as his father drank himself into varying degrees of emotional rage, and took it out on Max throughout his childhood. Max has used the money to buy a rundown redneck bar, which he names “The Whipping Post”, after a then popular Southern rock blues anthem from (one of the bands whose music helped fuel the mood and feel of these novels as I’ve written them).

My first book in the series is called DEAD DOG, which begins with Max returning from his local veterinarian’s office with his recently deceased dead dog’s cremated remains in a box in the seat next to him. Gator, his dead dog, was one of the only things in his life which he loved, so he’s not in the best of moods when an old enemy of his and some drunken, pissed off cronies decide to run Max off the road and attack him with baseball bats, two by fours with nails in them, and steel pipes…

By the way, did I mention Max has been trained in some fairly lethal hand-to-hand combative techniques during his time in the military, a then-still modern system of self-defense called Krav Maga, something which his special ops instructors insist upon as part of his training while in ‘Nam. But this is not the only system which Max has been trained in: he is also proficient in the combative techniques used in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (which these days has become almost synonymous with Mixed Martial Arts, but was originally developed as a real world self-defense system used in the very violent third world Brazilian back alleys and slums, much like Krav Maga was used—and still is—in the violent war torn back alleys of Israel.), also in Japanese Aikido, the Filipino art of Eskrima (also known as Kali), which mostly involves using specially constructed rattan sticks as weapons, and the U.S. Rangers system of knife fighting, along with their specialized mixture of ‘dirty fighting’ combat techniques . These are all areas in which I have trained in, off and on, since 2007, so when I write about Max’s use of these martial arts and ‘dirty fighting’ techniques, these are things which I know how to do and have used in simulated combat situations.

As for the Vietnam War background, and stories to which I refer to throughout the books in the series, these are all things which I have heard from actual ‘Nam vets, like my father and his friends, growing up, and my own research, of course.

Needless to say, Max and Little Billy soon find themselves in some serious contention with the local drug lord’s aggressively violent son, who has taken a special dislike to them after a little incident that Max barely survives.

Anyway, I don’t want to give away the whole book, because it is being published next year. I sent off my copies of the contracts to the publisher, and awaiting the countersigned contracts. Once I receive them, I can officially release the news about the publisher and dates and such.

But that’s not all, my zombie apocalypse trilogy, CITIES IN DUST (Book 1: Disintegration, Book 2: Dominion and Book 3: Dead Souls), finally found a home. Again, as soon as the contracts come back countersigned, I’ll announce the publisher.

If you’ve never heard me speak about this huge trilogy of books before, it is, literally, the largest collective amount of words I’ve ever written before, sitting somewhere at just under one million words for the entire threesome of books. It is gory, has a definite old school Goth sensibility about it, and has met with nothing but good reviews from those who’ve read parts of it. I don’t want to talk too much about what happens in the books because my particular take on the undead, while is very traditional Romero-esque world zombies, but the end of the world is brought about in a way by which I’ve never seen in any other zombie literature or cinema. And, yes, I did take the name of not only the entire trilogy from a classic Goth song from my younger days, but also the book by book titles. All of them I’m sure will be familiar to anyone who knows their dark music classics. And if they’re not, then watch the vids and listen to some of the lost classics from four of the greatest Goth groups in the history of music:

Speaking of unique zombie cinema…I just saw the other day one of the best, most well made, artful zombie films I’ve ever seen.

Produced, written and directed by the Ford Brothers, THE DEAD (2010 or 2011, depending on the source you check for the information) is truly one of only two zombie films I could ever see being nominated for an Oscar. There's an artful, deliberate craftedness, and a sense of literacy, which would seem to go against the whole over-the-top idea of a worldwide flesh eating zombie apocalypse, but THE DEAD felt like a Dante-esque journey in so many ways, and then that end scene...all I can say is, incredible.

The other zombie film I'd nominate for an Academy Award would be, of course, George Romero’s original DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

And in case you didn't know it, this is one of "The Top 10 Most Influential Films On My Life"...for more about that actual list, and all the other BLACK GLOVE MAGAZINE staff writers, see the HUGE Xmas-issue list we're putting together right now for our Horrorhead fans, which will be go up in December 2011, issue #30.

DAWN OF THE DEAD has been on that list since I saw it when I was a little kid--me, my little brother and our cousin, all of us hunkered down in a fenced off field of dead grass that lay adjacent to the local drive-in, THE REEF. It was an experience which has informed my entire life since did another zombie movie. 

Like I said, there was a sense of classical literacy to the film, but make no mistake, it also still retained a disgustingly grimy, filthy, sweaty realism that made me feel like it lay somewhere between Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE (1979)

and the original early Romero’s Dead films--NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) and DAY OF THE DEAD (1985). It has a grimy realism in the narrative, and the characters felt like real people, and they did what I feel real people would be likely to do in such a horrific crisis as a worldwide zombie apocalypse—all the terrible, stupid, heroic, amazing things.

By the way, THE LOFT is showing Fulci’s infamous stomach-churning zombie classic this weekend- October 21st and 22nd. As advertised, they’re showing the brand new re-mastered Blue Underground version of the film. It looks nice and clean in the ad clip at the site. But, in some ways, I prefer my old beat-up VHS copy of the movie, because it was obviously taken from the original tattered and worn 35MM reels used in drive-ins like the one I saw this at all those years ago, THE REEF DRIVE-IN, in Fernandina Beach, Florida, just over the John Shave Jr. Bridge, only a few hundred yards from the pine forest and St. Johns River.

I write about that place quite a lot in my non-fiction essays at the magazine, and even in my fiction it shows up, time and time again. But can you believe, in all my long internet searches, I have never once turned up a single picture of that old drive-in sanctuary?

Not one!

Seemingly, no one ever took a picture of the place, when it was standing in its full glory, or even before it was finally torn down, over twenty years ago, to make room for a warehouse for the local paper mill.  For, if they did, no one ever posted it online.  Trust me, I've searched diligently over the years for just one picture of the place, so I could feel just a little closer to one of the places that holds such importance for me in my life since then, a place in which many ways I feel is where I “grew up”.

I have no problem in recalling every movie we ever saw at the drive-ins, in and around my hometown, especially the ones at THE REEF.

But more importantly, I’ve been able to find just about every film since then, in one form or another, either VHS or DVD, or even sometimes, just a simple public domain online copy of them, to add to my ever-growing collection of horror films. It’s a collection of which I am justifiably proud, for it contains thousands of movies now, all of which I’ve seen and loved at some point in my life--even the most terribly produced ones…maybe those most of all. HA!

Anyway, like I said, THE LOFT is showing ZOMBIE. We’re going to make it to see it, for sure, because this truly is one of the most influential films in my life. It also appears on that soon-to-be-posted "Top 10 Most Influential Films" in THE BLACK GLOVE's December issue.

I saw ZOMBIE for the first time when I was ten years old, on a Saturday night horror double-feature bill, on its opening weekend.  I have never forgotten the experience, and in some ways, all other horror experiences have been measured by my "Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE Experience".  And that’s not even getting into how it's shaped my current writing ethos.

And speaking of my current writings, the above mentioned Max and Little Billy series of books, and the forthcoming CITIES IN DUST zombie apocalypse trilogy aren’t the only new books coming down the pike from me.

Again, I will announce more news as I can legally do so, but it looks like that an all-original novel-length sequel to my mash-up hit, ALICE IN ZOMBIELAND, has finally been given the “green light” from the higher powers that be. The working title is ALICE AND THE QUEEN OF THE DEAD. I'm using some of Lewis Carroll’s wonderfully quirky characters, but like ALICE IN ZOMBIELAND, they will also have my own undead spin on them, and a cast of new characters created especially for this much-desired sequel.

I can’t tell you how many people have emailed and messaged me about when, and if, there would ever be one. Now, the answer is finally, "YES".

I’m very excited about finally getting the chance to make the sequel happen, so be on the lookout for more information on this release, and the others mentioned above in future postings here. 

You can also find new information on my Facebook page about the magazine, my books, and my martial arts, and (sadly...HA!) just about anything else going on in my life at any given moment of the day.  It's linked in several places on this page--above, below and over there, on the righthand side of the screen, you'll also find another link to it.

But the good news for my new releases doesn't stop there.

Heck, no.

I've got more books in the works, as well, and hopefully some of the older ones will also find new homes.

Right now, I'm finishing up a sci-fi/horror novel called MONGREL, which already has a publisher interested.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if we brought back one of nature's most vicious predators, and then added some extra nasty genetic surprises to its tooth and claw arsenal?  But wait, that's not all.  Then we put MONGREL on a storm-ravaged security locked down island (ala' JURASSIC PARK-style) and stick a bunch of corporate security, ex-Special Ops guys, a handful of defenseless scientists, and one greedy bitch who is willing to kill to get what she wants on the island, as well.  Trust me, when I say, this is unlike any other sci-fi/horror novel you'll ever read.  It's got action, suspense and lots and lots of bloody deaths in store for the human munchies who are stuck on the island with MONGREL.

Let's just hope the publisher loves it as much as I do, right?  HA!

And have I mentioned I recently got back the rights to my yet-to-be-published psycho-killer thriller, PAINT IT BLACK?  I've already started sending it back out again to interested publishers and I've gotten some nibbles.

But I think I'll hold off on talking about any new stuff until the next post.  I promise it will not take near as long to update, since I’ll soon have more exciting news to post.

Oh, yeah...I almost forgot...what am I reading these days?

Right now, I'm finshing up China Mieville's KRAKEN

which is just as awesome and mind-blowing as all his other works, to say the least. And do I detect a certain Lovecraft homage in his "squid-as-God" angle? I think so...

And I'm also re-reading for the tenth or so time in my life, one of my favorite classics of literature, John Bunyon's THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS

I love Bunyon's allegorical journey towards true faith, and it has come in handy for telling my CITIES IN DUST zombie apocalypse trilogy.

The question of faith has been weighing heavily upon my mind ever since the terrible injury which has laid me low, which has only continued to complicate every aspect of my life, and seems very likely to keep doing so for the remainder of my life.  It has given me much to think about, these past few years of dealing with all of the enormous physical and emotional issues caused by it.  I hope to find some of my lost faith by the end of telling my story in the three CITIES IN DUST books.  And I hope others will also find their own in reading them, because this is a huge story, filled with gritty, terrifyingly realistic scenarios, which challenge even the most stalwart of believers by the end of the telling.  When you mix in the mysticism of the Middle Eastern religions and their death goddess, KALI, it only complicates the notions of true faith, undying love and sacrifice.

But more about those things in my next posting...

So until next time, thanks for reading about my news, and a HUGE thanks to all those who have been so kind as to email me and give some much-needed encouragement through the past year or so of rough going for me.

Thanks very much.

Especially great love and thanks to my dear wife, who has suffered much because of my stupid bad luck in injuring myself the way I did almost three years ago. She has taken care of me on levels no person should have to be called upon to deal with, even in a marriage as wonderful and unconditional as ours.

--Nickolas Cook

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