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Left! My Review of “He Left Her at the Altar, She Left Him to the Zombies” by Katie Cord

Posted in book review, evil girlfriend media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2013 by vagabondsaint

(Author’s Note:  Katie Cord, friend of this blog, does not know I am writing this review.  Don’t tell her until the end, would you?  Thanks.)

So there are a couple-or-three things I need to get out of the way before I get to actually reviewing the book He Left Her at the Altar, She Left Him to the Zombies by Katie Cord.

leftcover2

First thing is:  I am not typing that title out over and over again.  We’ll be calling it Altar/Zombies from here on out.

Second: this book is currently out of print.  Katie Cord self-published it a few years back, before starting Evil Girlfriend Media. The copy I bought from her in September 2013 was one of the few remaining in her possession.  If, after reading this review, you wish to join the growing chorus of those begging her to republish Altar/Zombies, please feel free to send a message on her site. You can still get copies on Amazon, but be prepared to pay a bunch.

Third: this book is a little rough.  I was warned before I read it that it was self-edited, and Katie makes no claims at all to being an editor.  Definitely could use a little more polish before the repub. . .hopefully Katie can find an editor that works cheap (hint, hint).

Okay.  All that said, let’s get on to the review!

He Left Her at the Altar, She Left Him to the Zombies is brilliant.

Seriously.

I’m not even a zombie fan, and I loved the hell out of this book. Reading this book, I started to understand that good zombies stories, really good zombie stories, are about the survivors, not the zombies.  Katie clearly already knew that, and painted ten pictures of normal, flawed (some deeply so) human beings struggling with the sudden reality of dead people not staying dead.  It’s about the discovery of a new world through abrupt change (more on that later).  Whereas The Walking Dead is mostly about Rick Grimes trying to do right by his troupe of survivors and bring some order to the new lawless world, these stories are about people who are just people – not exemplars of a higher ideal, not moral compasses for other survivors, not even shining examples of the heroism everyone should aspire to – just real, average people shoved into extraordinary circumstances.  Those are the stories Katie is telling here, and they are simply brilliant.  Brilliantly written, very well characterized, deeply flawed, people – those people always make for more interesting stories than archetypes and pure heroes, and Katie does a fantastic job with them here.

Enough raving – though I could go on for quite some time – let’s get to the stories.  As with WSB, I went through and took notes on each story.

1. Puberty – This is the second time I’ve read a version this story.  An elongated version was written for the writing group that Katie and I used to be part of; that was the first version I read. Gotta say it – sorry, Katie – I like this version much, much better.  Shorter and more to the point, this version, just as it is, could and should be the first chapter of a novel-length story. It’s a great coming-of-age story, the feeling of transformation is very well portrayed, and the story is just so, so good this way! It’s such a sudden, abrupt transition from day-to-day boring life into this strange new world – the suddenness makes it so good and really pulled me along with the heroine into her new, unwanted life.  So much better this way!

2. Daddy’s Girl – Another story that could be part of a larger one, “Daddy’s Girl” is an interesting look at life inside a military family with an overbearing patriarch.  He’s mostly like Bill Cosby, but that he records all the family’s conversations is a disturbing detail – it’s like if Cliff Huxtable worked for the NSA. But it’s not about him, it’s about his daughter, and how she uses the lessons he taught her, from a prom gone awry to the wonderful twist at the end.

3. The Language of Survival – If you ever want to read a story that will dissuade you from being a professional pedicurist, this is it.  Oh my God, other people’s feet. Ick. That part of the story is pretty grody, but enjoyably so! There are a lot of moving parts in this story, from Amy’s relationship with her vapid sister April and domineering Auntie Xian to the pale creepy guy that’s there for a surprise meeting, and then the zombie problems start – all of these elements are expertly juggled in the story, which is why I love it!  And it manages to be funny in the middle of all that, too!  This story continues the theme from the other stories of a new world being discovered, but Amy is the one who uses the opportunity to break free of her old life and be someone new – a very satisfying ending to a very good story.

4. He Left Her at the Altar, She Left Him to the Zombies – Well, the title kinda gave the plot of that one away, didn’t it?  But it’s still well worth reading! Especially for the protagonist Maddie, who is, point-blank, a terrible, terrible person! “Bridezilla” is one of the many words that could be used to describe her, and one of the few I can say on this page.  She’s a selfish, spoiled, self-absorbed, ruthless, unholy terror of a woman – and that, as I began to realize with dawning horror, makes her extremely  well-suited to survive a zombie apocalypse.  In the movies, that type of person never makes it to the end, but in reality, they would not only survive but possibly prosper, because they’d do whatever it takes to insure their own survival.  A funny, but brutal lesson to learn.  Well taught, though!

5. Marriage – This was my least-favourite in the book, actually.  I felt the marriage problems were smoothed over too quickly, and, if the story had continued, would only return in greater strength later.  But at least I cared enough about the characters to think that much about them, as those who know me know that I don’t often do with real people.  It’s still a well-written look at an astereotypical marriage, with a breadwinner wife and lay-about husband, but ugh.  That guy.

6. The House and Kid – While the last story looked at an un-traditional marriage, this story looks at a painfully traditional marriage, and works all the better for being a counterpoint to the previous story.  Looking back, I realized that this is the first story in the collection of a smooth, orderly life, falling suddenly into chaos; a point wonderfully illustrated by the zombie PTA that shows up – and I am not kidding about that.  At its heart, this is a story about all the little things we fuss over every day, and the knowledge, brought by horror, of what it is that really matters.

7. The Pet – In my notes, I called “The Pet” a “quietly, and therefore gloriously, disturbing story”.  Like the title story, the female protagonist in this one is not a good person; Mariah Braxton (I just got that name, haha) is also selfish and self-centered. The difference is that Mariah rationalizes away her guilt over the terrible things she does, unlike Maddie, who just never felt guilt.  So there’s a little more hope for Mariah.  In the end, though, Mariah reveals herself to only have wanted the same things we all want, which makes her a little less horrifying than Maddie was, but still every bit as ruthless.  Something else I liked about this story: it’s told from Mariah’s perspective, and Katie does a great job of making the reader sympathize with a terrible person.  Maybe you won’t want to, but you will, and you’ll like it in the end.

8. Your Cheatin’ Heart – This story takes place in Mississippi, which reminds me: What are you trying to say here about my home state, Katie? I don’t want to give too much of this story away, but it’s my favourite of the collection and it shows that Katie has a completely-correct-yet-completely-depressing grasp of human nature.  This is EXACTLY what would happen in a zombie Apocalypse, if enough of humanity survived. It’s hilarious and it explores an avenue of depressingly-realistic human reaction to the zombies that I’d never seen done before.  The good news here is that this story is reprinted in the recent collection Roms, Bombs, & Zoms, published by Evil Girlfriend Media. This story alone is worth the price of that book!

9. The Plan – “The Plan” is more a traditional ghost story than it is a zombie story, but still a good one that earns its place in this collection.  The failed “raise the dead” ritual was a nice, humorous touch.  This is the most character-driven story; it does read a little dry early on but picks up quickly enough to prevent you from losing interest.   It also maintains the theme of the risen dead making a new world, a new life, possible, and does so in a way that’s perhaps more traditional than the other stories in this book, but isn’t out of place with its motifs.  It’s about where you came from, where you’re going, and what the people that didn’t get there have to say about it.

10. The Cure – Up front: this story is heartbreaking.  It’s so sad.  It’s gonna grab your heartstrings from the beginning and not let go. But it’s so well-crafted and the characters so well-developed that you have to read it.  Olivia Jayce makes a compelling protagonist, and her love Dani is a very tragic figure in the story, and her struggles with her illness gave me a new respect for those who care for the disabled.  Olivia makes a deal with Umbrella Corp a shady pharmaceutical company to save her love, and the results. . .well, just read it.  It’s a very sad, very evocative story. I know that may scare some of you away, but I like it when a writer makes me care enough to feel what they want me to feel.  I like emotionally evocative writing, and this is a shining example of that particular bit of word-crafting.  Also, it wouldn’t be out of place as backstory in a Resident Evil game; in fact, it reminds me of the very sad back-story shown in the credits of Resident Evil 4, about how the poor villagers just wanted medical treatment and were instead infected with. . .okay, I’m digressing.  Just read the damn story (and play Resident Evil 4; it was the last one before Capcom thought co-op or AI players were a good idea).

In fact, read all of the stories.  They’re all wonderful in their ways, all working along the same themes but exploring those themes in very different ways.  The variety is great, the characterization is spot-on, the emotional involvement with these characters is very high, and you may stumble over a spot here or there that needs editing but it’s not enough to distract from the enjoyment of these ten brilliant tales.

Get this book if you can, and if you can’t, ask Katie to re-publish it here!

VS – 12.23.13

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The VS Interview: Katie Cord of Evil Girlfriend Media

Posted in interview, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2013 by vagabondsaint

Good evening, readers!

It’s been a few years since I’ve done an interview, but I got the fedora and dictaphone (ask your grandparents) and Serious Reporting Tie out of mothballs (ask them again) just so I could do this interview!  I’m just kidding; I did this over Facebook chat so I didn’t have to transcribe anything, and I sure as hell wasn’t wearing  a tie.  I was at home; be happy I was wearing pants.

Katie Cord is the founder/publisher/co-head honcho/Evil-Girlfriend-In-Chief of brand-new publishing company Evil Girlfriend Media.  She is also a friend of mine, a fellow writer, and a fellow displaced Southerner (though a far prettier one than me)!

Katie CordKatie Cord, looking just a little nefarious. . .

Anyway, I suck at introductions, so without further ado, my interview with Katie Cord!

VS: What is Evil Girlfriend Media?

KC: Good question! Evil Girlfriend Media is a company specializing in horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. We are starting with publishing books but have talks with several companies to also produce boutique items for lovers of those genres. My big dream is to provide books, boutique items, art, music, and video games under our name. That’s why we chose “media” instead of “publishers” as our name.

Sounds ambitious! Why call it “Evil Girlfriend”?

“Evil Girlfriend” is a nickname that my husband gave me when we were dating. I was bullied during my nursing clinicals in school and came home crying. He asked me what I was going to do about it. I didn’t know. He’s an artist, so he suggested I draw out my feelings. When I was done, he said, “Oh my god, you’re my evil girlfriend.” It was the first time I started using creativity as well as not being a nice girl.

I’ve been writing out emotions and drawing ever since.

And I’m not always nice.

I’ll consider myself warned! As you know, there are many other small publishers out there competing for new writing talent. What sets EGM apart from all the rest?

Wow, I know it’s amazing how many small publishers there are out there.

For one thing, our e-book royalties are very competitive. We feel this is very important because it’s what’s causing so many writers just to self-publish. Plus, we pay for anthologies. We are passionate about helping writers succeed. I’ve already set in my mind our first YA [Young Adult book] is going to sell x-amount of copies for my author and we are going to make her known even if means we are up all night selling it all over the place. I’m sure other publishers are just as passionate, goal-oriented, and care about writers, but if I had to ask one of my friends or writers, I think they would tell you those things about us.

So, would you say it is your dedication, not only to the success of EGM, but also to the success of each individual author that sets you apart?

Yes, I would think so. I don’t think EGM will be successful if we don’t consider and nurture every author that comes on board.

We need to have it on our mind that we want every author to be a rock star.

Your dedication to the authors is great, but what about the support staff? The editors, illustrators, and such? What does EGM offer them to set it apart from other publishers?

First and foremost, if you are editing an anthology for us, your name is on it. If you edit a book, you are on the inside of the cover. We want to promote great editors as well.

The illustrator is important too. Without that awesome cover, someone may pass over a kick ass story.

We will even promote the model on the cover if they want. It takes a lot of people to get that book into the hands of the reader and they deserve some credit as well!

Our pay rates are not the same people would receive from a big publisher but we will definitely credit the person for their hard work and promote them.

It sounds like a company very dedicated to making sure that everyone is recognized and promoted for their input. What inspired you to take EGM in that direction?

It’s what I think every person wants in the work that they do. Joseph Campbell once said, “One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.” Evil Girlfriend is that for me and [her husband] Anthony. It’s our way of helping creatives become who they need to be, while helping the readers they touch on their own journey. We are all on this journey together, man (said in her best “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski voice).

From Joseph Campbell to The Big Lebowski – that’s an impressive range of influences! Are you looking for a similar variance of influences in your authors?

Yes! We want to provide a diverse range of authors. Of course, the type of work we produce will have to be something that Anthony and/or I would like to read. We read a lot of different things. I’m most interested in those people who can relate to a wide audience while sharing their passion for sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. Of course, you don’t have to love The Big Lebowski or Joseph Campbell to submit, but how can you not?

Good question! What would you like to say to prospective authors, editors, and illustrators that are thinking of submitting work to EGM?

Submit or contact us! Will we accept everyone? No, it’s not possible. However, if we can give you insight that will help you, or lead you to work with someone else, we will. If we accept you, we want to start a relationship that will give you the ability to do something you love while working with a company that also wants to do what they are passionate about.

So you’ll be helpful even to rejected authors?

Of course, I do not want to break anyone’s confidentiality but we sent out a helpful letter to someone who is just starting out. We gave advice on how to format and re-submit. Also [help with] some things that brand new writers do as mistakes. We are a brand new company as well. We will make mistakes. Karma is a you-know-what.
We like good karma.

Good karma is good! Before you go, please tell us about the anthologies you mentioned earlier.

Our first project is a series titled Three Little Words; each anthology’s theme is based off those three little words so each story must have the elements provided. Witches, Stitches, and Bitches, Roms, Bombs, and Zoms, and Stamps, Vamps, and Tramps are the first three anthologies in this series. They are fun, flirty, but we are not looking for voices that are typical. We would love to see some LGBT stories or gender role reversal. Definitely shake things up bit. Especially in the zombie selection, we tend to see a lot of Caucasians writing zombie fiction as though they would only be the group that survived or deeply feel the effects. That is definitely not going to be true. So we don’t want 15 stories about straight white people in love for the anthology.

Speaking of gender roles, you know that famed producer/directer/writer Joss Whedon is known for his strong female characters. Would you like to see more of those in submissions for EGM as well?

Yes, I’ve been heavily influenced by Joss Whedon. I’ve watched everything he’s ever made that is available. Wouldn’t it be cool if Joss Whedon wrote a short story for us? You think if I beg him he will? Help an Evil Girlfriend! So, yes, we would love those stories.

Can’t hurt to ask, right? Any parting words for the readers and/or Joss Whedon?

Well, for one, Joss Whedon thank you for writing about kick-ass geek girls when I was an overweight unhappy teenager who only survived puberty because of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror creatives. For writers, keep writing; believe in yourself even when you want to burn every piece of paper you’ve ever touched. Have your tantrum and keep going. Creating is painful, but you are doing it because it has to be done. Also, give Evil Girlfriend Media some love by liking our Facebook page and sharing the word. Love to all and keep being evil!

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That’s it!  Thanks to Katie Cord for granting me this interview! Go show Evil Girlfriend Media some literary love by visiting their site, reading the EGM blog, and maybe even submitting some work!

Thanks for reading!  See you next time!

VagabondSaint