Welcome to the 2014 zombie apocalypse flash fiction contest, hosted by yours truly, J. Whitworth Hazzard. This flash fiction contest is being held in support of my kickstarter for Dead Sea Games.
 
Judge and editor-extraordinaire Miranda Kate will be deciding everyone’s fate in this competition. Up for grabs are a $25 Amazon Gift certificate, a 20-page critique from Miranda, and loads of great ebooks donated by my talented friends. Plus everyone who enters will get a free copy of “Dead Sea Games: Adrift” to whet your appetite for zombie destruction.
 

On to the rules!

 
THE PROMPT:
 
Is a setting.

New-York-ZA

 

The people are gone but the zombies remain. Somewhere in this concrete and steel jungle are a thousand stories of bravery, heartbreak, love, and adventure. What will yours be?

 

Your flash fiction piece MUST

 

…be 500 words or less.

…be posted to your blog before July 27th at midnight, EST.

…conform to reasonable standards of adult society (read between the lines, folks)

…include the promotional links highlighted below

…be set in New York City after the zombie apocalypse.

 

The setting is similar to the setting of Dead Sea Games, but don’t let that hem in your creative spirit. We want to read all of the great stories that I know can come from this great big melting pot of humanity—totally gone to hell-in-a-hand-basket. Your piece can be any genre, any universe, any characters (even mine!), any set of rules you like. Just be entertaining and make us feel. As always, if you don’t have a blog or a place to post your flash fiction send in your piece using the comment section below and we’ll post it (and link it up) for you.

 

PRIZES:

 

Grand Prize Winner – $25 Amazon Gift Certificate and 20-page writing critique

 

2nd Place – eBook Bundle

 

Minstrel by Marissa Ames

Zombie Wars Trilogy by Jean Booth

Kitchen Antics & Other Tales by LE Jamez

Tales by the Tree published by J.A.Mes Press

 

3rd Place – eBook Bundle

 

Thane by Travis Bow

Beneath the Rainbow by Lisa Shambrook

Darrion by Marissa Ames

In Creeps the Night published by J.A.Mes Press (Sept. Publication)

 

PROMO LINKS (copy and paste anywhere in your entry):

 

Like my story? Kickstart the zombie apocalypse by publishing Dead Sea Games.

Want to write like me? Personal coaching and critiquing by Miranda Kate.

 

On your marks, get set…GO!

Have fun and don’t forget to link your blog to the contest using the linky tool below!

 


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Kickstarting the Zombie Apocalypse

 

If there were something you could do to get this zombie thing going already, wouldn’t you pitch in and help out? I mean, come on … it’s been 35 years now since Dawn of the Dead. Where are the *$%@ zombies???

 

Yeah, I’m disappointed too. There’s only so many times you can dust off your crossbow before that trigger finger gets itchy. Maybe that’s why I started writing zombie adventures in the first place. So maybe if you can’t speed along the virus outbreak, you can help me get my novel Dead Sea Games put together and on the market. It might just tide you over until the real deal comes along.

 

Check out my Kickstarter for Dead Sea Games, a zombie apocalypse novel in four parts. The first three episodes are out on Amazon now and you can pick up a copy by clicking over on the sidebar. So far, I’ve gotten great reviews and feedback on the first three episodes, and the finale is shaping up to be a doozie!

 

Click HERE —>  Dead Sea Games

 

Watch the horribly awkward video if you like. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. My video production skills have all the finesse of a kindergartner drawing unicorns with fat crayons.

 

 

 

Dead Sea Games is a fun little adventure with equal parts zombies, humor, action, heart, thrills, and chills. I’m really quite proud of it and would be grateful for a little nudge in the form of a couple bucks contributed to the kickstarter. $5 will get the complete story, same as Amazon, and more will get you books and swag. Why not add to that collection of zombie t-shirts hanging in your closet?

 

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to spread the word on social media by clicking below!

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Orison
Orison by Daniel Swensen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Come on down to the Red Cities this summer! Calushain is beautiful this time of year, as long as you don’t mind the explosions, sky terrors, thieves, and street battles. Okay, so maybe it’s not the most relaxing vacation destination, but Calushain is filled with excitement and adventure and you’re about to get a face-full of it.

Orison is Daniel Swensen’s debut novel and he doesn’t disappoint. Mr. Swensen deftly builds a complex fantasy world with a interesting magic system based on Draconic gods. Even dragons get bored eventually, and apparently Calushain has gotten a little too predictable for Penumbra and the Lotus Empire. Our protagonist Story is an orphan bought by a thieves guild and raised for a life of crime. She befriends down-on-his-luck, ex-mage Wrynn who winds up in a jail cell across from the wandering warrior, Dunnac. Story, Wrynn, and Dunnac are caught up in the dragon’s intrigue and used as pawns in a dangerous game. Each of the unique and fascinating characters seems to go from bad to worse as the Lotus Empire’s scheme unfolds and they’re sent scrambling after an object of power that will just as likely kill them as save their hides.

Beautifully written and superbly polished, Orison is a great fantasy novel. I enjoyed the plot, pacing, rich detail, and characters immensely and look forward to the inevitably follow-up novel as these three adventurers face their next challenge. Keep an eye out for Mr. Swensen, he’s got lots more story to tell.

The Good:

Mr. Swensen is a talented writer and it shows. If there was a formula for a great fantasy novel, he seems to have mastered it on his first outing. The setting, Calushain, is fantastically described and I can easily imagine thousands of unique and exciting adventures unfolding in its streets, temples, palaces, and sewers. I particularly like the innovative magic system and fresh (to me) take on the use of a layered reality where dragons and their influence hold ultimate sway. The characters are really what make Orison a stand-out in the fantasy genre, as each has a unique and colorful back story and there are no illusions about the fact that each has flaws and moral gray areas. There are certainly no paladins or goody-two-shoes along to ruin the adventure.

The Bad:

To be clear, any defects I outline here are mere nit-picking. There were two things that nagged at the back of my mind as I read. One, the motivation for several characters gets very muddy in the middle of the book, but I can’t go into details without spoilers. This is corrected later on, but there was a lull in the middle where it’s clear that any sane person probably should have and would have walked away from the disaster unfolding ahead of them. Two, that highly polished prose I mentioned earlier may have gone a little overboard in sections, particularly in dialog. Perfect English grammar and diction isn’t something you’d normally expect from characters with such diverse backgrounds/ethnicities/species. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just think there were some missed opportunities to inject some flavor into the interactions.

Recommendations:

I highly recommend Orison to any and all fans of the fantasy genre. It is perfect for both the YA crowd and mainstream audiences and there’s nothing in here that would be a concern for young teens. It’s a fairly short novel as fantasy novels go and very reasonably priced at Amazon Kindle, so there’s no excuse not to pick it up and enjoy the hell out of it this summer. See you at The Crux!

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Minstrel
Minstrel by Marissa Ames

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ll freely admit that, up until recently, I was burned out on the fantasy genre. I’d read so much fantasy as a teenager that I’d memorized all the tropes, could see all the plot lines ten pages in, and seen all the thief/wizard/warrior permutations a hundred times. That being said, Minstrel was a wonderfully refreshing reintroduction to the fantasy genre.
Ms. Ames’s debut novel takes fantasy back to the basics and gets it right. Our hero, Liam the minstrel, is part of a wandering troubadour group that wanders into the city of Cynegil and finds that the King has died, leaving his twin sons and no clear line of succession. When one son, Riordan, seizes the throne, he sets forth a chain of events that sweeps the characters into schemes, escapes, battles, and sacrifices. The author does a great job at highlighting the struggle between Shamus, the level-headed but strict, Prince and the erst-while King from the view of someone watching it all unfold but unable to step in without risking their own life. That is, until it’s too late and the woman you’ve fallen in love with is at risk.
Minstrel is filled with interesting characters and complex relationships. We’re hoping and caring about our characters right up until the very last page, and I really enjoyed that. Ms. Ames has other Tir Athair stories in the works, so if you enjoy fantasy/romance/adventure you can happily expect plenty more tales from Cynegil.

The Good:

The gritty detail in this novel is astounding and ever-present. You often wander into a fantasy novel and forget that medieval societies were harsh, dirty, poor, and hungry. You have one bad harvest and people are going to go hungry, and things get ugly very fast. Ms. Ames does historical realism justice and reminds us that if you were a peasant and a nobleman (much less a King) decides to embroil you in a plot, there was very little you could do about it—unless you fancied being hung, whipped, or thrown in a dungeon to literally rot. There are lots of hard choices made by the characters in the novel, but the tremendous imbalance of power is kept in the forefront.

The Bad:

I was a little spoiled because I read Ms. Ames’s short “Darrion” before I fully read Minstrel. I expected some of the same talk about powers and wars, and was let down. I don’t consider it a spoiler to say so, but there’s no magic in this novel, or trolls, or elves, or dragons, or any of the other common fantasy critters and magical plot shortcuts. That’s not inherently bad per se, but if you’re expecting it… you’ll be disappointed.

Recommendations:

I highly recommend Minstrel to any fantasy, historical fiction, or romance fans, from teens on up. There are some scenes with serious subject matter but nothing teens couldn’t easily handle. Marissa Ames’s work is interesting, accessible, and fun. It’s an easy five stars for her debut novel.

View all my reviews

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Ready Player One
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got this book for my teenage son, who’s a video game addict, and ended up reading it myself. It is, without a doubt, a great adventure book for the modern teen. The book’s genre is difficult to pin down exactly, but since I love dystopian tales, I’ll lump it in with that group for the purpose of recommending it to others.
The basic setup surrounds the death of software magnate and billionaire loner, James Halliday, who’s online platform OASIS has become the virtual reality that most humans escape to as reality is getting rather grim. Gas shortages, massive economic disruption and overpopulation lead to a re-population of the city centers and give rise to ex-suburban migrant slums, where we find our protagonist, teenage computer afficianado Wade Watts.
When James Halliday dies and leaves the ownership to his fortune hidden in the massive online world of OASIS in the form of three gates and three keys, a new form of treasure hunter is born. Gunters—short for Easter Egg Hunter—spend years searching for the elusive Easter eggs, convinced that 1980’s pop culture references will lead the way to riches.
When Wade Watts proves them right with a classic Dungeons and Dragons adventure set on the online school world, all hell breaks loose. Instant fame and fortune are not all they’re cracked up to be when people are out to kill you. Even in cyberspace, greed is deadly.

The Good:

A book about 80’s nostalgia mixed into modern MMORPG’s? What’s not to like? Great plot, good characters, nefarious villains, and a great dystopian world to play around in, were all mixed in perfectly in this tale. It raised a lot of interesting questions about corporatism, the nature of friendship, and escapism. I really enjoyed the 80’s nostalgia as well, but I could see how that might be missed by teenage readers who’ve never lived in a world without MMOs.

The Bad:

Whenever I write, I’ve always got the rules of genre fiction in the back of my head. Mr. Cline seems to break these rules at will, and to his credit, usually gets away with it. The middle of the book was a huge reservoir of information dumps that were far too long and unnecessary. “Show don’t tell” seems to have been given a pass, or perhaps Mr. Cline won in the editor-writer battles and insisted on the overly-lengthy 80’s re-visitations. Wade’s plot armor in places also stretched the believability right up to the breaking point, but luckily for me, it was subtle enough to give a pass. I wish I could give it 4.5 stars, but I can’t.

Recommendations:

Absolutely, this should be required reading for every teenage (or adult) fan of MMOs and video games. I’d also highly recommend this to anyone interested in dystopian novels/futures and this one seems unfortunately plausible. The book wrapped up nicely so I don’t expect and sequels, so folks looking for a good one-shot novel will really enjoy this book. And, of course, if you’re a child of the 80’s and still remember Zork, War Games, and pizza parlor arcade games after school, this one is for you.

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