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PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2017 12:52 pm 
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Hello All,

My name is Mike Canon, I'm a ZA author, and I just published my first ZA Kindle novel.

The second book should be out in April or May, with a short backstory in between.

I'm looking for input on how I did on my first attempt.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I'll be around ZS on a regular basis, if you have any questions, advice, or "HEY! you screwed the pooch here." when it comes to my writing.

Thank you again.

https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Rhodes-Book-Ashleigh-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B078J6D15F/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1514656263&sr=8-1&keywords=dark+rhodes


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 5:08 pm 
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FIRST CHAPTER: LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK - Mike


March

I was about 100 miles outside of Boston on the Massachusetts Turnpike when the sputtering, coughing, and ultimate quitting of the engine was my SUV’s declaration that I was out of gas and it was time to start hoofing it. I knew it was going to happen sooner rather than later. Earlier that day, I had hit something that had put a small hole in the gas tank. I had hoped to find time to repair it, but the area behind me was too hot to stop for an extended amount of time.

With a quick sigh, I used the last of the vehicle’s momentum to glide to the center median. I laughed inwardly at the irony of my actions. I must have passed thousands of abandoned vehicles that were smack dab in the middle of the road since I left Boston nine days ago. I guess old habits die hard.

Oh, by the way, my name is Ashleigh Rhodes, and this is my story, well, my story so far. In a past life, I was a 27-year-old structural engineer, working for my Dad’s construction and engineering company in Tucson, AZ. Engineering was my then; my now is decidedly more uncertain and a lot more terrifying.
I started these journals as an outlet – a release valve of sorts. I’m using them as a way to try to wrap my head around everything that’s happened to me over the last eight months.

I hopped out of the SUV and grabbed my bug out gear off the rear driver’s side seat. It contained just what I needed and could comfortably carry. Clothes, rain gear, food and water, ammo, a weapons cleaning kit and other essentials, rounded out with a few hidden gold and silver coins. The large military-grade pack was quite heavy, but I could handle it.

As I slipped into my backpack and adjusted the straps, a large orange Tom Cat hopped from the front to back seat, chirping his demand of my attention. Mr. Crowley had been with me almost since the beginning. I tried to leave him with others, but he wanted nothing to do with anyone but me, so along he came. The cat’s company was quite welcome right now. He helped keep me grounded in our insane new world.

After a quick scrub on Crowley’s furry head, I looked over and regretted all the gear I’d have to leave with the SUV. There was no way I could carry it all, and there was plenty more available. I slung my M4 over my shoulder, on top of the backpack strap. It sported a Colt M203 40mm grenade launcher, but I didn’t have any grenades for it.

I slid “Thunker” into its belt sheath on my left side. Thunker was a custom mace a new friend outside of Boston made for me. It was a 1 inch in diameter, two and a half foot long solid stainless steel rod with a three-inch steel ball welded to the top, and a smaller flat oval ball welded to the bottom. A flat, braided nylon cord was wrapped and glued just above the oval and ten inches up the rod to improve my grip. It was a heavy, fantastically effective weapon against the undead; silent and deadly at the same time.

Guns are handy, but too much gunfire in one area was like ringing a zombie dinner bell. While traveling alone, stealth kills are much better for not inviting unwanted guests to the party.

A Beretta 92FS was already in its thigh rig on my right leg. It dropped the pistol down to the middle of my thigh, but I liked it this way. I found it made sitting in a vehicle, or sleeping for that matter, a lot more comfortable than a traditional hip holster. Sleeping with a weapon within easy reach was a necessity these days. There were too many predators, both living and dead, running around to be caught unarmed. I kept a Smith & Wesson .40 in a backup holster on my left calf. The 9 inch, Tanto-bladed knife, in its sheath, in my right boot rounded out my offensive equipment. I felt like a walking freaking arsenal, but in post-undead America, you could never have too much hardware.

The crazy part was that 50-odd days ago I had never shot anything more powerful than my brother’s old .22 rifle, or used a knife on anything tougher than a cheap T-bone steak. My Dad, my brother Brian, and my boyfriend Christian were the military men; I was just the daughter, kid sister, and pretty girlfriend.
Now, I was an expert at multiple hand-to-hand combat disciplines. I could use almost any weapon, some of which I had never even seen before, with the practiced ease of a seasoned professional. Hell, I could even fly a helicopter if need be. My new familiarity with weapons, combat, and survival came with a high price I had not yet come to grips with. Yes, I admit it; I have issues, some huge, scary issues.

I finished collecting my gear and was about to put the cat in his usual spot on top of the backpack and my left shoulder when I heard a slight sound far off to my right. I was instantly on alert, the now familiar feeling of fire and ice washing over my body, along with a newer, calming presence that made the other two feel much more balanced.

I dumped the cat back in the SUV but left the door open. Crowley dove to the floor and under the front passengers’ seat. Turning slowly, I rapidly scanned the area through my sunglasses, so as not to betray I knew I was not alone. I quickly registered three loping Hunters on my right side about 100 yards out, meaning there were a least two, maybe three more I couldn’t see.

I casually walked to the back of the SUV to use the big window as an impromptu mirror. I watched the Hunters creep among the debris and abandoned cars on the right side of the road. The two in the lead were nude; the third was wearing just the rags of its previous human life on its upper body. The front two were big males, both were over six feet tall and covered with ropy, lean muscle. Their pinkish-gray skin announced that these Hunters were well fed and powerful for it. The third one was not as pink, as muscular, or as fast. My wry sense of humor immediately labeled the first two Hunters as “Gym Rat” zombies, and their slower compatriot as a “Dad Bod” zombie. He was still fast, but not as fast as the leaders.

In our post dead-coming-back-to-life world, it appears that the manufacture of zombies fit that of any other product. The end results were only as good as the raw materials used to create them.

If a person was old, sick, or just plain lazy as a human, they usually became a stereotypical, Hollywood, pulp-fiction zombie. I’ve heard folks call them Shufflers, Shamblers, or Moaners - everyone seems to have a different name for them. Male or female, young or old, I called them all George. It was a personal shout-out to the guy that made all those campy zombie movies my Dad and brother loved so much. I guess nowadays that director might be considered a freaking prophet, if he was still alive.

Hunters were a totally separate class of zombies when compared to Georges. If the person turned was healthy, there’s a good chance they’d turn into what I called a Hunter. While they were still technically dead, the virus that created this nightmare had made some serious changes in their physiology. Hunters could think, problem-solve and use tactics. They even had the semblance of a working circulatory system, including a slow, but readable heartbeat and minimal body heat.

If super-fast, super-strong zombies weren't enough, Hunters also have Tapetum Lucidum. Yes, the glowing eyes that ruined thousands of social media pictures of us and our favorite pets is now a scary part of our new zombie reality. Nowadays, if you see a set of glowing eyes looking your way, you better be well armed and a good shot. Because there’s a good chance the glowing eyes looking at you are not Fido or Sparky.

A persons’ best survival technique against a Hunter is to kill it long before it got close enough to kill you. I likened Hunters to sharks; their sole purpose was to eat and infect others. I guess the virus that infected them was doing what life on earth had been doing for millions of years: it was evolving.

Because Hunters came from more refined human stock, I was never so glad there were so many golden arches, taco joints, and pizza parlors around than I was after the zombie-shit hit the fan. If a higher percentage of people had turned into Hunters, rather than Georges, the living world could have kissed its collective ass goodbye.

While Hunters were fast and strong, they were still zombies. After a few weeks of encounters with them, I gauged them to be as smart as an above-average dog, but with strong hunting instincts and a pack mentality.

On the other hand, Georges were just plain stupid - nothing more than foot-dragging opportunists. Georges were almost harmless unless encountered in large numbers. A reasonably healthy person could easily outrun, hell, out-walk a George, or even a few Georges if they had an escape route. Moaning was the only weapon a George had going for it. A moaning George was a signal to all the others that food was close by, and could get you trapped in a tight place.

I had only encountered Georges and Hunters so far, but I heard some weird shit about what was out there from my fellow survivors. If only half of what I heard was gospel, then our new world had become a more dangerous place than even ole Director George could have imagined for his movies.

As the Hunters closed in on my position, I watched their demeanor change from hunting a meal to outright hatred. I knew they had my scent, meaning they knew I was as much a threat to them as they were to me. The two Gym Rats accelerated to full speed about 50 feet from me, their faces painted with unmasked rage.

At the last possible second, I slipped out of my M4 and backpack, letting them fall to the ground. I launched myself skyward while simultaneously spinning 180 degrees to my right to face my attackers. Landing on the roof of the SUV, I had to check my balance as my opponents slammed into the back of the vehicle, causing it to skip forward a few feet. The one on the right was a split second ahead of his peer, so he took the brunt of the impact, his face trying to merge with the SUV’s rear window.

The window became a spider web of broken glass but somehow remained mostly intact. I heard glass cracking, metal bending, and bones snapping followed by the loud pop of a human skull meeting its breaking point. Its skull compromised, the lead Hunter flopped to the ground never to move again. Like I said, Hunters are fast and strong, but not too smart.

The slower Hunter bounced off his peer and the SUV, its broken right arm flopping around uselessly. Ignoring its arm and still enraged, the creature stared at me and emitted a low, mewling hiss. This was not the first time I heard such a sound from an injured Hunter and wondered if this was the monsters’ verbal response to physical pain, if they even felt pain.

The killer zombie launched itself at the SUV. I skipped back to the middle of the roof, out of its reach for the moment. I registered movement to my right, seeing two more Hunters moving at speed towards our little party. Four Hunters at once were not odds I liked, even with my new skills and abilities.
I pulled my Berretta and lined up a shot in one fluid motion. The pistol barked twice, both rounds taking one of the newcomers in the nose and left eye, dropping the creature like a stone. Its partner vaulted his fallen comrade with little effort and no remorse, just as the other two Hunters came around the side of the big SUV to try to kill me.

That was the one big difference when it came to the Hunters and me. While they hunted others for food; they hunted me to kill me, as well as for dinner. I quickly dispatched Mr. Broken Arm and Average Dad with a couple more well-placed double-taps to each of their heads. My aim and accuracy continued to amaze me. I was still getting used to the new and improved Ashleigh 2.0.

Sliding my pistol into its holster, I jumped backward off the passenger’s side of the SUV, landing about eight feet away from the vehicle. My goal was to force my last opponent to come around the SUV to get me.

I realized my mistake immediately as another Hunter launched itself from behind an abandoned hybrid. The zombie’s strong arms enveloped my chest, pinning my arms to my sides. It growled and hissed at me; I could smell its fetid, graveyard breath over my left shoulder.

I snapped my head back, breaking the creature’s nose. This action would have floored a normal human, but the zombie barely registered the impact. Again, old habits die hard, even the ones that weren’t entirely mine. I pulled it forward hard, then backward even harder, slamming the zombie into the back of the hybrid. The impact was strong enough to move the car 10 feet and knocked the creature off balance. I broke its hold on me as it tried to regain its balance.

Spinning away, I drew Thunker as I moved. I continued my spin; the large mace slammed into the side of the monster’s head. I was at an odd angle, and my strike wasn’t perfect, but the steel ball did its job, catching the zombie below the right ear, sending shards of skull into the Hunter’s brain. Ichor and brain matter exploded outward, the putrid stench of death and decay covering me.

Without warning, I was slammed to the ground as the last Hunter hit me at full speed, the impact ripping the mace from my hand. Its blackened teeth gnashed millimeters from my face. I wished I had zipped my leather jacket as I felt its sharp nails rake my right side as we rolled across the roadway. I kicked, punched, and pushed at the Hunter as we each fought for our lives, or unlives.

Avoiding its snapping teeth, I managed to get one hand on the top of the zombie’s head. I quickly sunk two fingers into the monster’s left eye socket. My fingers had little effect on the creature, but I used my newfound leverage to wrench its head back.

I lined up and sank my teeth into the Hunter’s neck. As the gray skin parted, cold, black, virus-tainted blood erupted into my mouth, and I drank greedily. Revulsion and ecstasy coursed simultaneously through my body as I fed. My body convulsed, I wanted to throw up at the thought of what I was doing. But instinct took over, and I kept my lips pressed to the creature’s neck.

The zombie fought, but it couldn’t break my death grip. I was too strong during and for days after I fed. As I finished, I stood quickly, repulsed by what I had just done. Dropping the drained, but still undead Hunter at my feet, I crushed its skull under my boot, snuffing out its preternatural life for good.
I stopped for a moment, senses still on high, making sure I was alone. Other than a few curious Georges (Sorry, I had to do it at least once!) hundreds of yards away, I reaffirmed there were no other threats in the vicinity. Walking to the back of the SUV, I stripped out of my gore-soaked clothes, keeping only my boots, belt, and jacket, leaving the dirty clothes in a path on the side of the road.

With effort, I popped open the damaged back hatch of the SUV, setting my rescued items down. I grabbed two gallons of water, a washcloth, and some all-in-one hair and body soap. Stepping away, I quickly washed as much of the zombie filth off me as I could. From the first day I awoke in my own personal Hell, I couldn’t get zombie-filth off me fast enough. I scrubbed hard; I suppose I was still trying to wash the inside as well as the outside. Yep, I still had issues.

As soon as the water ran out, I walked back over to the SUV to grab a towel. I dried myself off, leaving the towel on the ground. I selected new undergarments and an outfit, along with a new pair of sunglasses out of my stash in the back of the SUV.

Before dressing, I felt along my right ribcage and breast, where the Hunter had raked me with its nails. The wounds felt like they were almost closed, but I still moved to use a side mirror to watch the accelerated healing process at work. It still fascinated me to see the wounds stitch themselves back together. I watched as a chunk of new tissue filled the void on the underside of my breast. In less than three minutes there were barely any marks on my ribcage, and the gouge in my breast was almost filled in with new, pink tissue. Even with my accelerated healing, the area still ached and itched, and would for hours.

The March breeze was strong and cold, but even standing there completely nude, I was okay. I knew it was cold; it just didn’t bother me. Without warning, my right index finger involuntarily shot up my right nostril, picked a huge booger, and wiped it on the side of the SUV.

“Ugh! Gross! I hate having other people’s bad habits! Next thing you know I’ll be trying to scratch my balls!” I thought loudly.

I indignantly walked back to the rear of the vehicle, reacquiring my clothes off the tailgate. I dressed quickly, having spent too much time in one place. I was alone for now, but that could change in an instant. A naked woman by herself was an inviting target for any predator, alive or undead. I wiped down my boots, belt, and jacket with some cleaning wipes, and another towel, before slipping them on.

I quickly loaded a full magazine into my 9mm and slid it into its holster. I put the half full one in a cargo pocket of my pants. I’d reload it as I walked.

I grabbed some bottled water, a toothbrush and toothpaste out of side pocket of my backpack, as I slid it and my M4 on.

A questioning meow came from low on the back seat floor of the SUV.

I smiled, and said, “It’s okay Mr. Crowley, you can come out now.”

The big orange cat jumped over the back seat, bounding to me, chirping, meowing, and purring like a boat motor, while he paced back and forth.
I said, “I’m fine, they weren’t that tough.” I set my oral care products on the tailgate as scrubbed on him for few seconds. I surveyed my supplies one last time to see if I was missing anything.

As my senses returned to normal, the intensity of the moment hit me like a ton of bricks. Tears flowed freely, and I sobbed inwardly. Since screaming could be hazardous to my health, I yelled under my breath, “FUCK! How did this happen! Why me?!” I think I’d said that a couple thousand times since February 5th, and I still didn’t have a satisfactory answer.

I retrieved Thunker and a damp towel, using it to clean the weapon while the cat circled my feet and rubbed against me. I slipped the mace back into its holster and dropped the towel again. I picked up Crowley, letting him settle himself into his usual spot on top of my pack and left shoulder. Picking up my brush, paste, and water I brushed and rinsed my teeth as we started walking west.

A lone figure stood on an overpass about 100 yards behind Ashleigh.

He was tall – over six feet, heavily muscled, and appeared to be in his twenties. His intense, brooding brown eyes did not match his youthful appearance.
A lone shuffling zombie approached from the right but lost interest in him as it took in his scent. Without taking his eyes off Ashleigh, the man dispatched the zombie with a quick machete thrust to the side of the head.

The cool breeze whipped his braided dark hair and long leather jacket as he watched Ashleigh move away. The stranger quickly cleaned his machete and grabbed his gear to follow her.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:25 am 
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Interesting... Pretty dang well written too, only one typo (“...as scrubbed on <the cat>“ vs. “and”) that I caught in this teaser.

Also not usually a fan of the “super” or “enhanced” type zombies (and humans), but I’ll picture Kate Beckinsale from the Underworld series and muddle through it!

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:49 am 
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Thank for the feedback 91.

Typo fixed.. I'll update my Kindle Direct Press file ASAP. :lol:


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