Bloggers have a habit of starting the new year with a recap of the previous one – where they’ve been, achievements fulfilled, goals for the year ahead, high-five moments and all that jazz.
I guess I could bang on about the gorgeous UK summer or which of my posts I’m most proud of, but as I sat down to write, fingers poised ready to reminisce, plan, scheme and dream, I was compelled to walk you through something different:
My addiction to an undead nightmare that has grabbed me by the balls and won’t let go.
Don’t be mistaken, dear blog reader, this is a good thing. A very good thing indeed.
It began back in March…
…with a journey I took with a chap named Howie, not to be confused with Howard, his dad. Howie used to live in Boroughfare, not far from Brighton, but due to some complications with the locals, was forced to relocate to an old fort on the south England coast.
Howie was a night manager for Tesco, and seemed like a normal guy when I first met him. A little chubby from glugging too many Bud’s in front of the gogglebox, and something of a drifter in life, at least that’s how I saw him.
Appearances are deceptive, and in Howie’s case, down right bonkers.
That first night when we left his home together, I figured he wasn’t going to make it very far. His helpful nature and naivety, whilst commendable, admirable even, would soon be his Achilles heel. I could see Howie had inner strength, yet he lacked direction and focus.
But when he smashed in that guys face with a claw hammer until it was a mass of bone and gore, well, my opinion flipped on the spot.
Howie had balls. Big ones.
I would’ve sprinted in the opposite direction until my lungs burned and I puked from exhaustion. And that would have been very foolish, because knowing what I do now, Howie is the guy I want beside me in every fight with the undead.
If you’re stuck facing a few hundred, or few thousand, flesh hungry zombies, Dave is the man you call for help. Howie has a large axe which, like the undead, has a desire to hack through flesh. But give Dave some knives, or anything sharp, he’ll dance through the crowds of virus ridden filth like a tornado of death.
The rest of Howie’s team can’t be ignored.
Viking Clarence, tall, strong and oozing with power. Nick, the fixer of things, has proven himself to be a quick learner at assessing, adapting and overcoming tough situations.
Blowers and Cookey, forced to grow up fast and become a well oiled fighting machine, albeit whilst keeping the banter flowing even in the darkest of moments. Lani, almost as fast and deadly as Dave, yet with a combination of beauty and strength, not mention her brush with death that has served to cement her bond with Howie.
And then we come to Meredith, an amazing German Shepherd who understands what it means to be part of a pack.
There have been losses along the way, terrible gut wrenching ones where I struggled to believe what’s happened. But life has moved at a very fast pace this year and there’s been no chance to hang around crying when there’s work to be done, people to save, zombies to slaughter and new allies to be made.
People are drawn to Howie.
They admire his courage and ability to lead which is never at the detriment of stopping to listen to those who want to help. In my youth I had a bunch of friends, good people, the type who were there for one another in good times and bad. I suppose many people have experienced that at one point in their lives.
Yet with Howie it’s different. Take that feeling of camaraderie that stems from a core of unbreakable friendship, then double it, triple it, quadruple it and then some. My adventure’s with Howie and his team have been exhausting, thrilling and without a doubt terrifying, but also emotional like I’ve seldom felt before when reading a story.
The Undead, Days 1 to 14 are amazing.
Click the image to see it big time.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading RR Haywood’s The Undead series, then I suggest that when you finish reading this, you take a chance and read them all. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a zombie fan. Read them for everything else these stunning books have to offer – friendship, banter, suspense, emotional highs and lows, that edge of your seat feeling and huge cliffhangers that will annoy the hell out of you.
I took a chance and bought The Undead – The First Seven Days, after stumbling across it on Goodreads. I’m a huge zombie fan but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional attachment I now have for these characters.
Many nights I’ve ignored my bedtime alarm because I had to keep turning the pages. I didn’t simply want to find out what happened next, I needed to know. Haywood has an amazing gift of sweeping you along on a massive never-ending roller-coaster ride, one that once you start, you don’t ever want it to stop.
And if you’re the type who feels fourteen books is too much of a challenge, Haywood has published two volumes, The Undead – The First Seven Days, and The Undead – The Second Week.
Watching a writer grow.
I have a great deal of admiration for new writers who take the plunge and self publish their work on places like Amazon Kindle. There are plenty duds out there, books that have been uploaded with immense pride yet all too often lack good editing, which lets them down in a big way. And not forgetting authors who lack knowledge of their craft or willingness to learn.
I read a lot of books by amateur writers. I’m on a quest to find one that shines amongst the dirt.
Haywood’s books shine. Do doubt about it.
Here’s the weird thing about The Undead series, I almost didn’t read it.
I couldn’t get on with the first few pages because, although I wanted to read as a reader, the little writer in my head picked up on the faults. The first night I settled down in bed with my Kindle, hoping for quality entertainment. I set it aside after about thirty minutes, sighed at a feeling of a missed opportunity to find a gem, and went to sleep.
Next night, with nothing to read, I returned to find Howie battling against the odds and something clicked inside me. Haywood was a newbie, that much I could tell from the writing, but his story gripped me more than other amateur writers.
I could relate to Howie. He was a normal chap thrown into a nightmare situation. Some characters used the outbreak/plague/downfall to fulfil their own selfish and often brutal agendas. But not Howie because he strives to do what is right at every turn. If such a character existed in real life, I’d follow him to the bitter end.
An added bonus was the location, England. I could relate to the places, sights, smells, accents and that oppressive summer humidity that can smother the UK like a hot wet blanket.
Ignoring the little things paid off.
Seeing Haywood grow as a writer was as much a joy as the story he told. His style matured with every book and he appeared to be on an exciting learning curve. For me that was a huge bonus because it was no longer about finding a gem but watching one emerge over the entire series.
I’ve waited since March 2013 to write about these books, every time I finished one I thought: “Oh man, I have got to write on my blog about these amazing characters and Haywood’s writing journey.” I held off because at the back of my mind I wanted to reach a natural point, and having finished Day Fourteen, I knew the rime was right.
I read a post by Haywood on his blog, The Bookie Monster Review and my apologies…to everyone! where he admits his faults in proof-reading and editing. I recommend you read it because it’s refreshing to see an author write so candid about their work. I wholeheartedly forgive his occasional grammatical slip, missing word and odd punctuation mishap because the story is so powerful.
Haywood inspires me to write what I love.
Over Christmas I worked on editing my novel, The Range, which is now in its seventh draft. I’ve been working on this project for over two years and feel it has reached a point where I’m happy with it.
I’m sure every writer has doubts about the story they want to tell, and over the last year I’ve wondered if The Range is good enough.
I question if I’ve not edited enough, and after all the feedback from my beta readers I still have an itchy feeling that something is missing.
There must come a time where a writer needs to take a deep breath and unleash their baby into the world. I feel that time is almost there, dear blog reader, for my baby to take its first steps.
I’m glad I pushed on through those first pages of The Undead – Day 1, because I witnessed a writer learning his craft they way I have. I don’t know exactly when The Range will be published, 2014 for certain, but I’m ready to take that big scary step and release it into the eBook Wild West. I have mixed feelings about this – very, very excited but also scared.
Not everyone will like it, but hey, you can’t hope to please everyone.
If one reader enjoys it, I’ll be happy.
And maybe they’ll want to read the next one.
Just as I can’t wait to read the next Haywood book. Please say there’s a Day Fifteen coming, Haywood, don’t leave your fans waiting too long!
How to find RR Haywood and The Undead series:
Amazon.co.uk – link to RR Haywood’s published works available on Kindle and paperback through Createspace.
RRHaywood.com – Haywood’s website with details about his novels, blog posts and the artist who designed his covers, Eduardo Garay Arnaldos.
At the end of Day Ten, Haywood includes a short story, Tales of the Undead – The Ship’s Crew. As much as I love The Undead series, Howie and his team, I agonise over any possible ending because I don’t want it to end.
However, if (never when, please, never!) it ends, I wonder if Haywood will return to these new characters who inhabit the same time line as Howie, but in a different place when the shit hits the fan.
I’m a fan of different stories overlapping, where characters can cross over and witness events from a different perspective.
Keep writing Haywood, so Howie and his team can lead the survivors to victory.