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How Kindle and the KDP Helped Save My Little Girl

(This post is dated June 22, 2012, and is from my old blog. I repost it here because it is an important part of the ongoing story of the making of The Zombie Bible.)

In fall 2011, a whole lot happened in my life and the lives of my family, and it happened very fast. In November, my wife and I had our second daughter arrive, beautiful as a spring morning. She gave us a little bit of a scare at birth, but then she was fine and gazing up at her mother with those deep hematite eyes of hers. Then, right after Thanksgiving, she began having seizures. At first they were intermittent and quick; by the winter, they were regular and severe. They began as partial complex seizures – one half of her body jerking and her breath getting shallow enough to scare her father – but one seizure would trigger another and that would trigger yet another, until she was having generalized seizures, loss of control of every muscle in her small body – even down to her eyebrows and her tongue. One time her skin color turned as gray as ash.

It was scary for a while. Real scary. Her mother had epilepsy as a child (a mild form) so she liked to let on that she knew what to expect and wasn’t frightened, but I could see it in her face. My wife was worried sick, and she still hasn’t entirely recovered from that.

Neither have I.

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Nothing gets Inara down for long.

It took a couple of months for the doctors to find the right cocktail of medicines to give our little Inara Cahira a stable babyhood. I suspect the trouble was partly that every week or so she added a good ten percent to her body weight, wreaking havoc with her dosages. There were a few evenings when she would have ten or even fifteen seizures. I will never forget the nights I spent sitting by her at the hospital, watching her fitful sleep. I probably prayed more in those weeks than I have at any other time in my life, and slept less. I think Inara’s older sister thought the hospital was where the new baby lives.

She’s well now, for the time being. After a grand total of six ambulances and five hospitalizations (the longest lasting nearly a week), she has been two months without a neurological seizure. Her last EEG came back normal; for the moment, this is under control. She is an astonishingly cheerful baby; she giggles at everything. She even giggled at her doctors and nurses—once they got the IV in, at least. She isn’t the kind of girl that lets anything get her down, and her mother and I are fiercely proud of her.

The other half of this story is one of gratitude. Bad things and good things come at the same time, and they walk hand in hand. In December, at the same time that I was getting increasingly worried about my little girl, my first book, a horror novella that I had self-published through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), got picked up by Kindle Singles – which is a very exclusive and eclectic Amazon storefront specializing in shorter work. Between December 12 and Christmas, the book sold about 6,000 copies and reaped a windstorm harvest of acclaim and positive reviews. Shortly before Santa arrived on our rooftop, Alex Carr over at Amazon Publishing called me up and offered to acquire my series. Now Amazon’s 47North is coming out with new editions of the first two books in August 2012 and with my third novel in October 2012. Their people have treated me well, and I’m excited to work with them.

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Pictured here: Covers for the self-published (2011) and 47North (2012) editions.

You’ve probably heard from a lot of indie writers about the freedom that self-publishing in general or KDP in particular has afforded them. That’s all true for me, too. But what I will always remember most about my publishing experience in the winter of 2011-2012 was the surreal experience of receiving—on the same day—a packet of medical bills that scared me half to death and a royalty check that erased them.

Since then, I’ve used the money I’ve made as a writer through KDP to fund ongoing treatment and testing for little Inara, as well as treatment for my wife’s chronic pain syndrome. Without the doors that KDP opened for me, I don’t know how I would have afforded any of it, or how I would have taken care of my little girl and kept food on the table, too. I thank God for it and I celebrate the technology and the people who have made this possible. Many emerging writers (whether traditionally or independently published) release their work and see it vanish for a while into an empty chasm. I got to see the return on my investment in a tangible, immediate, and deeply personal way.

This letter is meant as a thank you. With Inara doing better and the days getting warmer and longer, this is the first time I’ve felt relaxed enough to start thanking people. Not that Amazon’s team are the only ones to thank; my boss, my friends, and my church community each stepped in to help in very welcome and unexpected ways, and we couldn’t have made it through the winter without them. But the success of my books through KDP and Kindle Singles was perhaps the most unexpected of the blessings we received.To my church community: your meals, prayers, support, and babysitting for our toddler helped more than I can possibly say. To my boss: thank you for the beautiful health insurance package, your visits and words of strength and support, and for not even blinking when I needed to spend long hours at the hospital. To my friends: thank you for your worry, your hope, your companionship, and for all the soda pop with real sugar.

To my wife: thank you for being you, and for loving our girl so fiercely.

To the team at Amazon and KDP: your independent publishing platform was there for me and my family in a dark hour of our lives and it opened up future opportunities for me that I could hardly have dreamed of. And most of all, your platform helped me get my daughter the medical care she needed—and still needs—without my family going hungry. I am fiercely proud of my books that paid for that and I am fiercely thankful for having had the opportunity through KDP and Kindle Singles to get them out there.

Yours in truth and fiction,

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

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Why The Zombie Bible?

I was recently invited to give a brief talk and a reading from The Zombie Bible at the Real Myth and Mithril symposium, organized by the Colorado nonprofit Grey Havens Group and hosted by the remarkable independent bookstore Barbed Wire Books in Longmont, Colorado. It was an exuberant event, and I want to share some photos, as well as a quick-quick version of what I had to say about The Zombie Bible.

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(Stant Litore reads from What Our Eyes Have Witnessed.)

I feel that I learned something from every talk at the event, and that is really rare. Kelly Cowling’s talk about J.R.R. Tolkien’s idea of “recovery” and the way we use art was worth the trip, all by itself. It also provided the perfect segue to what I hoped to say about The Zombie Bible.

The quick summary: Tolkien’s idea of art was that it provides opportunity for a “recovery” of the freshness of experience. In reading a story about dragons or magical trees or zombies, we are reawakened to wonder, so that we can experience what’s around us freshly, as though for the first time. G. K. Chesterton said something similar in Orthodoxy:

“Fairy tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.”

I have always found that to be a profound description of what wonder stories — or horror stories, for that matter — might achieve. As a storyteller, I live for that “one wild moment.”

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(Kelly Cowling, founder of the Grey Havens Group, sharing deep thoughts. Behind her is a painting by artist Dan Hollingshead. His work is truly breathtaking. Photos do not do it justice. I count myself blessed to have seen his paintings face-to-face.)

This idea of “recovery” rang in my mind. When the time came to talk about The Zombie Bible, I spoke about the writing of it as an act of recovery. This is what I had to say:

The Zombie Bible combines two things I love: zombie horror and the old biblical stories, which are horror stories and wonder stories. We’ve largely forgotten that in the US because the stories have become so encrusted with politics. But the stories were written to amaze us, or shock us, or move us. A crucifixion is horrific. A child sacrifice is horrific. These stories try to shock us awake and then invite us to ask really tough questions, necessary questions. I wanted to bring these stories to readers in such a way that they would horrify and amaze us again, move us again. The Bible is our greatest cultural treasure-house of stories; these stories deserve our attention, and we deserve the opportunity to let them touch our hearts and bring us to tears or anger. We deserve to experience these stories as more than just political slogans or ‘life application’ self-help messages. The shock and grief of zombie horror is a way of letting us do that. It’s a way of taking us back out into the heart of the storm on the lake, to that moment when the waves are high and the sky is crushing us down with its dark weight, God is asleep, and we are hanging on to the gunwale for dear life, learning who and what we are.

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(Reading aloud to others–not just my own writing, any novel that I enjoy–is an activity I find deeply rewarding. I love dramatic reading; one of my most cherished memories of teaching involved taking a group of college freshmen over to a seniors’ home to give a dramatic reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The level of connection that day between the very young and the very old was beautiful to witness and be a part of. There were points at which both the seniors and the students were moved to tears. While I rarely teach now, a tradition in my home is that each night — or close to each night — I read my wife to sleep. We read The Lord of the Rings in this way, and are currently working our way through The Dresden Files.)

I wanted to “recover” for my readers the experience of encountering these gripping stories for the first time, and encountering them as stories — minus commentary or sermon or political baggage. Of course, you can’t just prune away all of that when you meet the stories now, but you can get close by telling a story so dramatic and shocking and heartfelt that people get lost in it again — even as our ancestors once did. My first real encounter with the stories of the Old Testament occurred when I was a second-grader. Someone at school gave me a Bible and I took it home and (because I was an insanely fast reader) I plowed through Genesis before going to sleep that night. Those stories were compelling; they had me riveted. And they had me asking all kinds of questions. I wanted my readers to have that experience.

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(One of the highlights of the event for me — and something I am still trying to process — was finding The Zombie Bible on a shelf of “featured books” alongside the fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, and C.S. Lewis. Seriously, how cool is that?)

I think one thing that surprised me at the event was how many people expected The Zombie Bible to be a humorous project, akin to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Don’t get me wrong; I think Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is absolutely brilliant, and it certainly caters to my love of ninjas, zombies, and mashups. But The Zombie Bible is another animal entirely. It’s a dark and serious work that is about wrestling with history and with our dead. It’s about asking again and again whether hope and love might be stronger than our hunger, and if so, what we are going to do about the hungers our world faces.

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(My good friend, Pawnee citizen and scholar Roger Echo-Hawk, tells his audience about a rare printing of Pawnee folklore that was on the stacks at Oxford during the years Tolkien was writing the first versions of his Elvish mythology. Echo-Hawk makes a case that Tolkien — given his enthusiasm for what he knew as “primitive” mythologies — may well have read this cycle of Pawnee myths and folk tales, and that they may have influenced passages such as the resurrection of Gandalf, the Elven creation myth, and the nightly bear dance of Beorn.)

One of the most meaningful (to me) reviews I ever received for What Our Eyes Have Witnessed — a review by book blogger Jennifer Bielman — concluded with:

“I still can’t get over the beautiful horror of Litore’s writing. Looking past the zombies, you will find that Litore writes about the very core of human error and it has both humbled me and made me appreciative of the life I live. Highly recommended.”

That’s “recovery.” That’s water into wine and golden apples. That’s what matters to me as a writer, far more than sales or royalties (though I would have to say that those matter, too) — knowing that the stories I’ve told have moved a reader’s heart, allowed them to recover a freshness of experience that will affect their lives outside the covers of the book. I’m going to strive for that in each novel I write. Thank you to the Grey Havens Group and to Barbed Wire Books for a wonderful time, one of the most memorable events I’ve taken part in. Those of you reading this, I hope you will check out The Zombie Bible. Each novel retells a biblical or ecclesiastical story as an episode in humanity’s long struggle with hunger and with the hungry dead. Go take a look!

Stant Litore

Photo credit: Real Myth and Mithril symposium, Sunday, May 19, 2013, Barbed Wire Books, Longmont, Colorado. Photographers Roger and Linda Echo-Hawk.

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

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Warning for Writers: Beware Tony Giangregorio and Open Casket Press

I want to pass on a warning to young writers in the horror genre (and perhaps to readers, too). There is an editor and owner of several small presses — Tony Giangregorio — who has a long-standing reputation in the industry for not just editing but rewriting his authors’ fiction and then refusing to return or sell back the rights. He received a lot of bad press in May 2012 when he published an anthology having completely rewritten several stories submitted to it (one of them by noted horror writer Jonathan Maberry), but he is now back, publishing some mangled fiction under his Open Casket Press.

In the most recent offense, novelist Paul Johnson is currently distancing himself from a book published in his name by Open Casket Press, Survival Horror: A Zombie Story — because not only is the book poorly edited, but Giangregorio changed the location of the story and added scenes of his own, completely changing the intent of the story. (In fact, while pressing for the return of his rights, Johnson is requesting one-star Amazon reviews for the book published in his name in a bid to prevent Giangregorio from making money on this unauthorized rewrite of Johnson’s story.)

Unfortunately, this is only the latest in a series of such cases.

Here is a copy of a post on my old blog from May 2012, which assembled a lot of the evidence against Giangregorio in one place:

Beware UnDead Press and editor Anthony Giangregorio. This press — one of Tony G’s many presses (to my knowledge, he also owns Living Dead Press and Open Casket Press) — is a scam. Author Mandy DeGeit has blogged about what happened to her, and no less a personage than Neil Gaiman himself has been tweeting the news.

Here’s the short version:

  • Tony G recently released an anthology that included Mandy’s fiction. The story featured disastrous spelling and punctuation errors not present in the original manuscript, Tony changed the gender of a main character, added in flashback scenes, and added a suggestion of rape to the end of Mandy’s story.
  • When confronted politely but firmly, Tony G. unleashed a torrent of abuse via email (you can read all the transcripts at Mandy’s blog).

(Update 5/16/12: Mandy DeGeit’s story is not an isolated case. Other writers whose stories have been mangled recently by Tony G. include Jonathan Maberry, Alyn Day, and Rocky Alexander.)

More info:

Tony is actually infamous in the industry for disreputable behavior, alleged shadiness around copyright, and ill-treatment of authors. (And by shadiness around copyright, I don’t just mean rewriting stories that have been submitted to him; Tony also reportedly self-published one or more novels set in the world of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead — with the same characters! — without permission from George Romero, and then proceeded to collect royalties on Romero’s intellectual property.) You can learn more here. And here is a list of other writers who have reported bad practices by this individual.

For more of Tony G’s past history, check out novelist Rhiannon Frater’s post on the subject and also this running blog documenting the misdeeds of Tony G and his presses.

His most recent — and creepy — shenanigan: apparently threatening to make a house call on another writer (of the opposite sex) who has also requested that her (also drastically rewritten) story be pulled from his anthology. Maybe it’s a joke. A very, very creepy joke.

Young writers out there, please be careful. When approached by — or approaching — any publisher, vet them thoroughly. Granted, there aren’t many scam artists like Tony out there in the industry, but please be careful. That said, I don’t want to give an impression that Mandy DeGeit is in any way responsible for what happened to her story. When Tony slashed, burned, rewrote, and changed the entire narrative, that was a crime against her intellectual property. That’s like being authorized by you to show the house you lovingly designed to other people to celebrate it, and then demolishing half the house and remodeling it in a shoddy manner completely out of step with your original design. Without telling you I’m doing so. (Note that Mandy was never sent proofs, even though she was in touch with Tony by email regularly.) And then when you point out that I’ve severely damaged your house, I send you abusive emails telling you that second-rate designers like yourself should be grateful for my help.

This makes me furious.

(Update 5/16/12: Writer Beware has posted, in response to this incident, a detailed column on what to look for in editing clauses in a publishing contract. I highly recommend reading it.)

(Update 5/17/12: The anthology Cavalcade of Terror,in which Tony G. brutalized the fiction of writers Mandy DeGeit, Alyn Day, and Rocky Alexander, has been yanked from distribution and will no longer be sold.)

Please spread the word and help other writers beware.

Stant Litore

I am reposting this information with the update not in an attempt to tar-and-feather this man, but as a warning. If you are a young writer or even an established writer looking to publish a short story on the side, please be cautious in dealing with this publisher. Please do your research thoroughly when vetting potential publishers. Please go over contracts with care — though I know what a rush it can be to be offered publication after a long search for it, it’s still vitally important to treat a publishing contract as the high-stakes business decision it is. And please share the word with other writers you know.

Update 5/26/13: You can read one blogger’s review of Open Casket Press’s publishing contract, clause by clause, here. If you are a new writer seeking publication, this is worth a read for examples of absurdly exploitative clauses that a scam publisher may write into a contract. The broader takeaway, of course, is that it’s a really good idea to review your contract with a legal expert prior to signing.

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

– Rob Kroese, author of Mercury Falls

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Love in the Time of Zombies

Book Cover: Death Has Come Up Into Our Windows

Besides a philosophical zombie thriller, Death Has Come Up into Our Windows is a love story, a married man’s hymn to marriage:

As dawn slipped into his house with the sound of voices in the street on that last day, Yirmiyahu had lain beside his wife in their bed. The navi had watched her sleeping, her soft body, her graceful eyelids, the delicate curve of her jaw. He thought how beautifully she was made, how God, who had birthed her into the world, must have meant for the whole world to look like that, like her. At peace, glowing with beauty. Yirmiyahu smelled her hair and caressed the long strands of it.

The first time he’d seen her, she was dancing in the barley during the Feast of Tents, with all about her the pavilions and booths of the People, and above her a night filled with stars. He had danced with her, and asked her name and her mother’s, and she had laughed when he told her he was a levite by birth, like her, for she did not believe him. After they danced they had kissed, and the touch of her lips on his left him dizzy, and when he stumbled back to his father’s tent he’d realized how sharp, how bright in color were the tents and the people and the wild thyme growing by the path.

The wedding bowl had cracked beneath their feet. He remembered how she had hummed as she moved about their first home in Anathoth, and the way she cried softly a few months later as she packed his levite’s robes and her green linen gown—a gift of her mother’s—for the long walk into the hills to Yerusalem. The words they’d spoken together when he came into the room to hold her. The soft warmth of her beside him as they finished the packing together.

They had gone in the summer, and on the first night of their journey, as they laid out their bedding beneath a stand of terebinths, the cicadas in the branches made a roar with their wings, a droning that drowned out all the world’s other sounds, wrapping husband and wife in a hum of privacy, the two of them alone together in the summer night. He remembered the gentleness of her kisses on his throat, the soft noises they had made together, the way she lay in his arms afterward and dreamed with him of children.

But Death Has Come Up into Our Windows is also the tale of a city devoured by the ravenous dead, a city in which the living and the dead hunger and love can scarcely survive:

A few unclean dead, or many (their number grew so fast), were hunting in the alleys. He thought of the shambling corpses, their hands scratching at doors, pulling at the fragile wood. A few months ago, he had seen two—one had been a priest, a priest, one of his own caste, still clad in the simple white robes of the levites who kept the Temple—he’d seen those two tear down a door and drag a woman out into the street. He had run at them, crushed one’s head with a shovel he’d taken from a worker at the wall. But the other—the priest—had sunk its teeth deep into the woman’s shoulder. He remembered her cry of pain, the wildness of her eyes, her terror. He remembered the way the walking corpse that fed on her looked up at him when he came at it, its eyes with nothing in them but hunger and animal hostility. He remembered its wavering moan.

“People do not feel safe in their own city. Miriam, my Miriam, there are children starving, alone. Easy prey for the dead. And there are more dead in the city than we think.”

In December 2011, Death Has Come Up into Our Windows spent 3 weeks in the top 7 bestselling horror novels in Amazon’s Kindle Store. Today, you can read this story of love and loss and zombies on your kindle, or in paperback … or listen to the audiobook. I hope you will find the read both surprising and moving.

Stant Litore

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No Lasting Burial

Cover: No Lasting Burial

A first-century Israeli village lies ruined after zombies devour most of the coastal community. In their grief, the villagers threw the dead into the Sea of Galilee, not suspecting that this act would poison the fish and starve the few survivors on land.

Yeshua hears their hunger. He hears the moans of the living and the dead, like screaming in his ears. Desperate to respond, he calls up the fish.

Just one thing:

The dead are called up, too.

No Lasting Burial ushers readers into a vivid and visceral re-interpretation of the Gospel of Luke and the legend of the Harrowing of Hell. The hungry dead will rise and walk, and readers may never look at these stories the same way again.

Buy your copy here.

Here’s a taste of No Lasting Burial:

Some days, out on the sea, they would haul up one of their too-empty nets and feel some weight in it, and looking down they would see rising out of the deep, one of the dead tangled in the net, its face lifted toward them, eyes pale and white like those of a dead fish. Already reaching a hand toward the surface, its jaw opening.

And when that happens…

Shimon took up an oar and leapt on the gunwale and spun the wooden blade in his hands to give it momentum and force. Slammed the blunt wood into one of the pale faces. The corpse lost its hold on the net and was hurled aside into the waves, where it sank as swiftly from sight as a dream upon waking. Then, roaring as though furious at the dead and at the sea and the sky and Mighty God himself, Shimon spun the oar, slamming it into one face after another, dislodging the dead, in one case crushing the corpse’s skull so that its body went limp as he sent it back to the sea.

In 26 AD, the whole world has become sharp and brittle with the memory of violence. You just met Shimon, the fisherman out on the waves. This is Kana, the zealot:

Memories crowded upon him–that day of ambush on the high Adummim last summer; the sweat and heat of his long night’s battle at the synagogue door fifteen years ago; the scream of Ahava, his beloved, dying as the teeth of the dead tore at her; his encounter with a dead child in the alleys of Yerushalayim, its empty eyes and wild hiss, a tattered doll still clutched in its hand. Kana shoved the memories away, hard; he had no time for them. Every bone, every beat of his heart, every breath had to be focused on this moment, on the slide and shriek of his Roman knife, on the lurching, groping movements of the enemy he faced. On killing.

And this is Yeshua, the stranger who comes to their town:

“My mother . . . she told me once that our father did not promise a life without pain,” Yeshua murmured, closing the woman’s eye. His words were slow and spoken with terrible clarity. “Not without pain. Only that he would weep with us. Only that his heart would break. Only that he would take each moment of suffering, each death, each, and hold it in his hands, and . . .and bring from it something, something even more beautiful than what was lost. A forest of cedar grows from a field of ash, and each seed, every seed must fall to the earth, fall and crack open and die before it can become a barley plant.” He touched the woman’s hair, stroked it a moment. His gaze never left her face.

And there is a love story, love in the midst of great pain, between young Koach and Tamar:

Then she did something he did not expect. She let the blanket slip from her shoulders, let it settle to her feet, gently as feathers. For a moment, she held her arms across her breasts, then let them fall to her sides and she lifted her chin though her face burned. She let him see her, all of her, her beauty and her bruises. This gift of herself. Her father might strip her or beat her, but he could not take this from her: her right to open her heart and her body to one whose heart called to hers. Koach held his breath. All his life, he would remember this moment. His first sight of her. The memory would be holy to him. As though her rooftop were the place where God touched the world and created beauty.

Buy No Lasting Burial today. Seriously. Do it. You’ve never read a novel quite like this one. Go read it, and I will see you in the Galilee.

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

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A Response to “Zombie Jesus”

Easter season on the Internet brings a flood of “zombie Jesus” memes. As a novelist who writes about zombies and the Bible, I’ll offer a response.

To me as a zombie fan, the beauty of the old story — whether you approach it as an atheist, a religious man, or an agnostic — is that it IS a story about resurrection and feeding. The story casts Jesus as the potent opposite of a zombie (and thus zombies as the opposite of him). One rises from the dead and feeds you — with his own body and blood. The other rises from the dead and you feed it … with your body. One feeds you; the other feeds on you. Jesus isn’t a zombie story; Jesus is a story in which all the rest of us are zombies: all of us feeding on, consuming, and devouring each other.

Zombies frighten us and fascinate us because they are the ultimate extreme of what we already are or what we fight not to be: those who consume and devour.

In What Our Eyes Have Witnessed, Polycarp describes the hunger that turns us all into zombies, the hunger that does not let us rest content even after death:

“All our lives, we feed on what leaves us hungry, drink from what leaves us thirsting. Because we are always left hungry and always thirsty, we begin to think that those visible objects of our hunger are what we need most. A loaf of bread, a pouch of coins, the respect of others, success, a woman’s body, or a man’s. Or even a person or a thing from times past, something lost and remembered that we crave. But it is not so. These are not what we need most. Our hunger thieves us from our true selves. Like a violent fever, the hunger eats away mind and spirit. In the end, everything that we truly are is gone. Only the hunger remains. Even other men and women are no longer anything but food to us, meat for our desires and obsessions. Then we are lost.”

In another place, he says:

“We can feed on each other, or we can feed and sustain each other.”

That’s the essential and defining choice of how we live our lives (no matter what religion we call our own, if any), and it’s the beauty of the Christ story: the story asks us who we feed on and who we feed.

Writing zombies into the story allows us to throw these questions into sharp relief. That’s part of what I do.

The old Jesus zombie jokes don’t offend me, but they show that someone doesn’t really understand either the Jesus story they’re parodying or the zombie story itself. The point of the zombie story isn’t something rising from the dead. The point of the zombie story is being eaten. It’s a hunger so great that even death can not end it, and how easily we can become mindless, hungering eaters of others. That’s perhaps the most terrifying thing in the world.

If the Christ story is worth telling, it’s because it’s a story that hopes (and insists) that love is stronger than hunger.

I hope that is true — that hunger is not the defining fact of our existence, and that “people devour people” isn’t the defining fact of our future (even if it might be a defining fact of our history and our past). I hope that a descent into all-devouring, decaying-even-as-we-walk zombieism is not our fate (as exciting as that may be to watch on TV). I hope it passionately enough to write about it.

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

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The Art of The Zombie Bible

I wanted to give you a close-up look at some of the stunning art that has gone into the covers of The Zombie Bible.

This painting by Scott Barrie depicts a zombie against the fiery backdrop of the burning of Walls in Strangers in the Land.

Stant Litore's The Zombie Bible

It is a truly desperate moment in the series:

Then the men were lighting the house to the left, and Devora could hear the moans of the dead within. The dry cedar cracked and sang its fierce death song as the fire spread faster than tears or prayer. The roof of the first house cracked open with a clap of thunder, then crumpled inward, and the moans within fell silent, buried beneath the broken timbers that crushed them down and covered them like a cairn of wood and charcoal rather than stone.

Devora spun in a slow circle, taking in the gray, filthy ash drifting down from the blazing rooftops, dark against the firelit air. Some of it fell on her arm and burned her, and she cried out, not knowing whether the ash had come from a burning bed or from one of the bodies of the People. She gazed in horror at the sky, dark with smoke.

Strangers in the Land

This depiction of Father Polycarp’s gaze in What Our Eyes Have Witnessed is the remarkable work of UK photographer Danielle Tunstall, featuring the model Martyn Dalzell. It appeared as the front cover of the 2011 Dante’s Heart edition of the novel, and appears as a frontispiece in the 2012 47North edition.

Her eyes opened to him, and he gazed inside the rooms of her heart. He saw rooms that were locked and chained; he could almost hear the screams behind those shut doors. He saw other rooms that were vast and wide as oceans; in one, her love and faith in him, a faith so profound and unshakable that it shook him to see it.

What Our Eyes Have Witnessed

And here is Scott Barrie’s cover for the novella Death Has Come Up into Our Windows, the opening salvo in the series:

At the well’s bottom, Yirmiyahu lay without waking, his body wracked with cold and dryness. In the city above, the walking corpses fed and felt no remorse for the cries or the panic of the living. This was a night of the dead, in a city of the dead. He knew it, he knew it. Surely God had left the city, fled the People who’d forsaken her, left them to lie in their darkness, lost and faithless. Surely everything above him was dead. In this well, in this clammy dark, he couldn’t know if there were any breathing people yet above him. If he were to cry out now, would the guards hear—and ignore—him, or would only the dead hear the cries of God’s navi? He couldn’t know.

Death Has Come Up into Our Windows

Litore_NLB_smallAnd, most recently, here is Jeroen ten Berge’s evocative cover for No Lasting Burial, the novel that brings The Zombie Bible to the New Testament!

“And some days, out on the sea, they would haul up one of their too-empty nets and feel some weight in it, and looking down they would see rising out of the deep one of the dead tangled in the net, its face lifted toward them, eyes pale and white like those of a dead fish. Already reaching a hand toward the surface, its jaw opening.”

No Lasting Burial

Scott Barrie, Danielle Tunstall, and Jeroen ten Berge — three remarkable cover artists. Also contributing their creativity to this ongoing series: the 47North design team, consisting, I assume, of veteran mapmakers who help me map and remap well-known biblical lands as sites of zombie apocalypse.

For example, here is the map for No Lasting Burial:

Litore_NLB_map

And one of the maps for Strangers in the Land:

Map1

And here is a close-up of a detail from the map of the siege of Refuge, also in Strangers in the Land:

TZB_Sitl_Map3

My work has been blessed by some truly amazing artists and designers! If you are new to The Zombie Bible, I hope you will check out the series here.

Stant Litore

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Newness of Life

In honor of Easter and newness of life … wow.

The pervasive rhythm of our lives is that of resurrection and rebirth: all around us, each day, we encounter things being born, things being made new. Even though some days, some years, we see only the deaths. Here is a truly breathtaking moment.

I think what struck me about this image of the tadpoles is: all of these young, new living beings rushing together, as one, toward something sunlit and beautiful, though they scarcely know what it might be; they still live in the murk of the water, but they can sense the nearness of the sun and the possibility of another, different life to be lived.

Happy Easter, dear readers. Thank you for being with me on this journey that is The Zombie Bible.

Here’s to another year of faith, hope, and stories that move the heart.

Stant Litore

(Photograph: Tadpoles swimming through a forest of lily stalks. Photo: Eiko Jones. Available as a full-size wallpaper download from the National Geographic.)

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Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!

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What it Meant to Read a Book in the Year 748 AD; What it Means Now

A little perspective.

In the year 748 AD, if you wanted to read a book, an honest-to-God book, with words in it and maybe a story … you had to be one of the fifty literate people within 500 miles. Then you had to trade something or sell something to get the book (which probably took some illiterate monks up to 2 years to copy for you). A sizable tract of land might do, or a prized war-horse, or possibly your second daughter. Then you would have: a book. One book.

It is the year 2013 AD. You have Wikipedia. You have Google. You have streaming TV and movies with low-cost memberships. If you’re into ebooks, you can buy a kindle for $79, spend an hour loading it up with 100 free classics of great literature, and you have your own library, a little larger than a wallet. If you’re not into ebooks, you can probably get a good story to read for a few dollars at your local used bookstore. Or, for free, you can visit the public library and be surrounded by more books than the total number of people that your ancestors in 748 AD saw in their entire lives.

That ought to be awe-inspiring.

Really step back and consider that for a moment.

You can afford … unlimited stories. Even if you’re broke and can’t afford FOOD, you can afford unlimited stories. You are the only generation in human history that can make such a boast.

Take a moment and think about just how incomparably wealthy and lucky and blessed that makes you.

Your ancestor of 748 AD might have been willing to sell one of his family into slavery in order to purchase the smallest literary crumb from your table.

You ought to be awed.

No matter what tragedies are besieging your life, whether financial, medical, or other … this is something to be awed about. This is something worth sitting back for a moment and thinking, “Wow.”

I am thankful to be alive and literate in such a time. We have a lot to deal with in this century, and it’s damned scary. But this…our free or low-cost access to unlimited stories…this is our biggest Wow.

Stant Litore

Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!