Zombie Awareness Month Roundtable: Permuted Press Authors

31 05 2013

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2013 Zombie Awareness Month

Most people would agree that the majority of zombie novels are less about the masses of flesh eating reanimated corpses, and more about the people left behind having to deal with flesh eating reanimated corpses. Today I’ve asked Three authors from Permuted Press, one of the top publishers of Zombie and Apocalyptic Fiction, about those lone Survivors in the new dead world.

Today’s Participants are:

Derek J. Goodman, author of The Reanimation of Edward Schuett.

William Todd Rose, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Infective People.

Jessica Meigs, author of The Becoming Series.

What characteristics do you believe makes someone potentially more likely to survive a Zombie Apocalypse?

Derek J. Goodman -  I think it’s tempting to assume that the number one characteristic someone would need in a ZA situation is survival training or skills, and I don’t really think that’s wrong, but most importantly I would say the key characteristic is adaptability. Someone would have to think on the fly, especially if the characteristics of zombies turned out to be different than everyone expected them to be. People would need to be able to expect the unexpected and then adjust accordingly on a moments notice. People who couldn’t accept what was happening or think they could stay their same static selves no matter the situation wouldn’t last long.

William Todd Rose: I think the most important characteristic is the indomitable will to survive. In this type of scenario, the majority of the people you’ve ever loved or cared about are dead; society has fallen and every day is a grim struggle for survival. The things you once took for granted — food, shelter, water, and such — are now as precious as rare gems once were. Continued existence would be bleak and grueling, so there would have to be something there, a little spark, which made you want to keep on going despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

Jessica Meigs: Despite the fact that I’ve loaded my books in the Becoming series down with main characters who have military or law enforcement experience, I’ve never really believed that those are fully necessary to survival in a zombie apocalypse scenario. To me, the best characteristics that anyone can have in the zombie apocalypse are adaptability; levelheadedness; a willingness to learn, listen to, and work with other people; and a drive and a reason to live. Regardless of what training you may have, I think if you’re missing any of those key elements, you drastically increase your chances of dying in the apocalypse.

As a consumer of Zombie entertainment do you prefer stories about characters that are well prepared for an apocalyptic event, like zombies, or characters that are ill prepared, yet manage to find some way to survive?

Derek J. Goodman:  I don’t find much interesting in a story about a person who knows everything that’s coming, unless maybe you’re trying to play it up for laughs. Good drama comes, I think, when a character is put in a situation they weren’t ready for and you learn whether or not they have it in them to become more than they thought they were.

William Todd Rose: I personally like the ill-prepared characters. In one of my novels, The Dead & Dying, I actually contrasted these two types of characters in one of my protagonists, Carl. He was a character who’d always secretly wished for an undead apocalypse like he saw in the movies; he thought he had his contingency plan and knew exactly what to do. When it went down for real, however, he found that life doesn’t always imitate art; this man who thought he was prepared for the final days turned out to be just as unprepared as everyone else.

Jessica Meigs: I think of the two, I definitely prefer the latter. Most zombie stories I’ve read that involve the survivalist types who always predicted that zombies would come and are supposedly well prepared for such an event are the types of stories that read like Max Brooks’s Zombie Survival Guide: like a field guide rather than an interesting story about people. I’ve read so many stories, including a very popular series, that were highly reviewed and ranked, yet read like an instruction manual: "I did x, then I did y, then I did z, and I did it all in the following way…"  And it seems to always work out perfectly for the main character because he followed steps x, y, and z and never doubted himself or encountered anything he couldn’t handle. To me, that is incredibly boring. There’s no cause and effect, no drama, no real crisis for the character, just rote step-by-step.

Considering the world we currently live in, where people are entertained by the notion of zombies but the general population has the idea that something like that would never actually happen, I think it’s much more realistic to have novels where the characters are ill prepared–because the majority of the general population wouldn’t be prepared for something like that. I think the shock and awe effect, the scramble as characters try to figure out what’s going on and what to do to in order to survive, make far more fascinating stories than the borderline step-by-steppers.

As a writer, how do you balance a character having the necessary skills to overcome the odds of  zombie outbreak with creating true human responses to such an unbelievable event?

Derek J. Goodman: I’ve seen some writers that have a tendency to write characters that, when they are prepared and skilled and know what they need to do, that means the character is stoic and doesn’t get affected by the bad things going on around them. That’s fine at times, but personally I think it gets boring when you see it too often. Even if a character knows what they’re doing, I like to find something humanizing about them, maybe something that throws them off their game. The hardass likes puppies, the smile-less killing machine once lost a little sister and this situation reminds them of the car wreck that killed her, etc. There’s always a way to fit something like that in there and do it without making it feel forced.

William Todd Rose: A lot of my characters are flawed and damaged people. They’ve been changed by the things they’ve seen an experienced and, as such, have moments of weakness. Sometimes, they reach the end of their ropes: they don’t want to go on, they feel as if they reached as far into their reserves as they can. So it really goes back to my answer to the first question: they have to push through the shock, grief, and post-traumatic stress and continually get their shit together to keep on living.

Jessica Meigs: I think this is the point where I start referencing my books.

As I’ve said before, the ill-prepared storyline is something I favor more than any other. In my series, starting with the novel THE BECOMING, I use the character Cade Alton to show that, while you might have a skill set that would theoretically prepare you for such an event, that doesn’t negate any human responses you might have. In the first novel, I introduce Cade Alton, who is one of the series’ four major characters; Cade has a background that would, you’d think, prepare her to survive just about anything: she spent seven years in the IDF, training and performing as a sniper. However, just because she had a background that was thoroughly steeped in the military (and not only military, but in a country’s military service that allows women on the frontlines), that doesn’t prevent her from making what, in hindsight, are incredibly stupid, incredibly HUMAN mistakes. Indeed, when the Michaluk Virus reaches Memphis, Tennessee, and her infected boyfriend attacks her, Cade doesn’t jump into action and immediately fight back. She doesn’t utilize the skills she spent seven years learning immediately. Instead, she freezes. She panics. She goes into total reactionary, break-down mode until she’s FORCED to take control when her best friend cracks. She isn’t able to just whip out a pistol and shoot her boyfriend in the head, because it’s her BOYFRIEND. It’s someone she loves. The thought of killing him does not immediately cross her mind. This is, indeed, only human. At that point, Cade had never faced anything like a zombie in her life. No one had. So when she freezes up, it’s because she can’t process what she’s seeing: no one could. It’s only through the rest of the series that you see Cade come into her own and become a force to be reckoned with (especially in The Becoming: Under Siege, which is currently being written, and the untitled fifth and sixth books).

Ultimately, it’s a very careful balancing act to take a highly skilled character and keep them human. Some writers, I think, are seduced by the skill set of the character, and as a result, they tend to focus on those skills at the expense of human reaction and human emotion. I try my absolute best not to do this (though I have no doubt that, at some point, I’ve probably slipped up somewhere), because I find the human experience and human psychology to be by far the most fascinating part of apocalyptic stories.

While the humans tend to take center stage, in many novels zombies are more than just the catalyst for a human story, but characters themselves. We’ve seem  novels from the Zombie point of view, Voodoo Zombies, Demon Zombies, Zombie Private Investigators and Zombie gangs. Are there any aspects of Zombies as characters that you wish were more explored? Conversely, are there any aspects about Zombies that you feel have been played out?

Derek J. Goodman –  I would like to see more of an idea of zombie culture. Whether you keep them as fairly brainless or upgrade them and give them emotions, there has to be something in there that drives them, even if its just holdovers from when they were alive. I haven’t seen a whole lot of that out there yet and think some amazing things could be done with it. As for things I’m tired of, could we please get past the idea that the question of fast or slow zombies is important? Why are we still fixating on this? We can do so much with the concept of zombies yet we’re stuck on this endless debate about their speed. It’s played out. Let’s examine something else about them.

William Todd Rose: Personally, I love to read authors who do new and interesting things with their undead characters. There can be a lot of back and forth about what does or doesn’t constitute a zombie and, to me at least, those arguments get old very fast. As authors, we should be stretching our imaginations and trying to find new ways to look at the genre. Why would I want to limit my own creation by imposing someone else’s preconceived definitions upon them?

Jessica Meigs: I love, to some extent, the idea of a story from a zombie’s point of view. It’s why I have an entire chapter in The Becoming: Revelations from a character’s point of view as they go through the transformation from human to one of the infected.

However, I think that, barring some exceptions, the zombie point-of-view idea is something that should be used sparingly at the risk of overdoing it (especially after the popularity of Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion). There’s only so much a reader would be able to stand of graphic descriptions of a zombie eating flesh from the zombie’s point of view.

As for aspects about Zombies that have been played out…I think in zombie lit, the biggest thing that has been played out would probably be the J.L. Bourne-style novel or the Z.A. Recht-style novel: heavy on the military tactics, light on characterization. Bourne and Recht did it well, but they were also some of the first. Since then, I think, a lot of (not all of, just a lot) stories that take that same storytelling bent have done it to the point where it’s so overdone, it’s like reading the same novels over and over. It hardly ever changes. I think if you’re going to do something from that perspective, it’s time to bring something new to the table, because the whole of the Military Zombie Book style has been overdone.

All of your books feature unique characters that you not see in other examples of the Genre. If it was not for the zombies, or the events that put them where they are in your story, what kind of life do you thing your characters would have had?

Derek J. Goodman -  With most of the characters in The Reanimation of Edward Schuett, since it takes place a whole generation after the Zombie Uprising, they probably wouldn’t exist. Rae especially, since she’s the daughter of two known zombie killers and they probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. Edward is the only one who could have gone on to a different life. I picture him having the so-called "average" life, watching his daughter grow up, probably losing his job when the factory where he works downsizes, starting up a moderately successful small business of his own, then going on to retire to a life of fishing and dying of a heart attack at some old age. That’s probably a life he would have much preferred than what he got.

William Todd Rose: Bosley Coughlin, my time travelling protagonist in The Seven Habits, would have continued on just as he always had, I think. The most important person in his existence would have continued to be himself and he would have eased his way through the rest of his life without ever knowing a true connection to another living soul. Would he have eventually given up his regime of drugs and the occult? Probably not. He would have continued to search for something he couldn’t quite define and yet simultaneously run away from it as well.

Jessica Meigs: This is such a hard question, because I have trouble thinking of my characters in that way. I’ve toyed with ideas like this in the past, but considering the circumstances I’ve stuck them in in the Becoming series, it’s hard to envision them outside of those circumstances. I’ll do my best, though, and focus on just the main four: Cade Alton, Ethan Bennett, Brandt Evans, and Remy Angellette.

I think Ethan and Cade would have both definitely stayed in the domestic, suburban-style lives that they were living (and enjoying) in Memphis at the beginning of THE BECOMING: living next door to each other, socializing, just generally enjoying their lives and having fun.

Brandt and Remy, though, are a little harder to figure out. Both of them were on downward spirals in their lives prior to Michaluk: indeed, when the virus broke out in Atlanta, Brandt was…well, I won’t say where he was physically, but emotionally he was in a difficult place. His child had died, his wife had left him, and he’d joined the military at twenty-six to get away from his life. But then several months before the Michaluk Virus broke out in Atlanta, his parents had died, and he was struggling to help his younger sister Olivia complete medical school at Emory. There was very little left in his life for HIM, and I can imagine that he’d probably have descended into alcoholism at the first available opportunity. He was, in summary, very much emotionally damaged. The apocalypse, I think, gave him purpose, especially after he’d met Cade.

As for Remy, well, I can definitely say that, if not for the zombies, she’d have ended up in jail. In fact, as we’ll come to see, on the day the virus hit her home city of New Orleans, she had just been arrested and was in a holding cell–and not for the first time. Her life was in a drastic downward spin; she almost compulsively did things that would get her in trouble and screw up her life. Even after the zombie outbreak, this didn’t stop. If anything, I think Remy displays some sociopathic tendencies (such as her single-minded pursuit of the infected to the point of recklessness) that are really going to come into play the further along the series goes. But I like to think that this makes her a much more interesting character because of it. 🙂

Thanks to our participants. Check out Permuted Press for more Apocalyptic, Horror and Zombie novels. You can click on the images above to find my reviews of these audiobooks.

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Audiobook Review: The Becoming: Revelations by Jessica Meigs

31 05 2013

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2013 Zombie Awareness Month

The Becoming: Revelations by Jessica Meigs (The Becoming, Book 3)

Read by Christian Rummel

Audible Frontiers/Permuted Press

Length: 12 Hrs 27 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: The Becoming: Revelations is a strong finale to the trilogy, giving us a completed story yet setting us up for future explorations of the Michaluk plagued world. Meigs creates compelling characters and thrust them into a devastating world, allowing them to show their cracks. With each new edition, the world of The Becoming becomes more and more intriguing.

Grade: B+

One of the things I try to do each Zombie Awareness Month is to provide tips and tricks for surviving the Zombie Apocalypse based on my in-depth experience of listening and reading other people’s stories.  Yet, I feel like I have neglected one key crucial demographic, the Zombie Apocalypse Bad Guy. Not everyone will be a plucky survivor looking to stay alive while struggling with the moral quandaries of the new situation. A few of you may turn out to be one of the many varieties of human scum that will plague the Wastelands, and you too will need tips on Survival. Yet, how do you know if you are a bad guy? Well, if your Zombie survival strategy is to outrun other Survivors, you are a normal human. If it’s to kneecap other survivors so the hordes get to them first, you are probably a bad guy. Do you have a pit of Zombies pets that you use to threaten your fellow survivors with? I’m leaning towards Bad Guy. If your idea of an Engagement Ring is a dog crate and handcuffs… Total Douchebag Bad Guy. Bad Guys can also include Mad Scientist performing experiments on the living, crazy dudes with armored Zombies, Scumbags who rob women and children and leave them on the side of the road, and anyone who’s Post Apocalyptic Soundtrack is a mixed tape with Kenny G and Nickleback on it. So, as a bad guy, you may get a crazy smart idea, like, “Hey, let’s kidnap the good guy’s girlfriend and make him come to us.” This is a classic Bad Guy ploy. Suggestion though, not all women are easily kidnapped and held. Try to avoid kidnapping say, bad ass former IDF snipers, because if you do, it will probably be you who needs to be rescued.

The Becoming: Revelations is the third book in Jessica Meigs Becoming Series, and the one that closes out the first main arc of the series. After the events at the close of Ground Zero, the survivors of The Michaluk Virus are holed up in a safehouse licking their emotional and physical wounds. When a mysterious enemy kidnaps one of the group, it sets off a series of events that reveals deep secrets that goes back to the very origin of the virus. With Revelations, Jessica Meigs has moved her series more into Mira Grant territory, full of science and twists on the typical zombie tropes. While still full of adventure and plenty of zombie action, Revelations is less about surviving the rise of undead and more about adapting to the changed world. So much Zombie fiction deals with the here and now, and Revelations has enough of that in it to make any thriller fan happy, but there is a real look to the future that offers very interesting avenues for exploration in future editions that you may not get in the typical zombie survival tale. One of the main thing I have liked about Meigs writing is her ability to show true tension filled human interaction in a highly stressed situation. At times her characters act like real assholes to each other, yet there is an unmistakable bond there even within the more contentious characters. Even the romantic subplots are murky enough, full of confliction and a concern for the future, to feel more than just some kissey kissey in a sea of death. Meigs doesn’t take it easy on her characters, showing us at any point in the story one of our favorites can be taken off the board with little or no warning. At points, I questioned her main antagonist. Her decisions seemed so scattershot, so illogical that I felt she was too unbelievable and questioned why anyone was following her. Yet, I shouldn’t have doubted Meigs. She created a reasonable explanation for her badies actions that was much more than a Bond villain monologue. She even managed to make us feel a little sympathy for the cold hearted bitch. At times it felt like Meigs was playing the worse game of chess in the world, scattering all her pieces across the board, then attempting to find some way to bring them all together. Luckily, she managed to pull it all off, bringing things together for a strong climax. The Becoming: Revelations is a strong finale to the trilogy, giving us a completed story yet setting us up for future explorations of the Michaluk plagued world. Meigs creates compelling characters and thrust them into a devastating world, allowing them to show their cracks. With each new edition, the world of The Becoming becomes more and more intriguing.

I think it says a lot for the narrating skills of Christian Rummel that I just listened to two of his audiobooks in relative proximity to each other and didn’t suffer any sort of cognitive dissonance wondering why a Battlecruiser Captain was fighting Zombies in Post Apocalyptic Atlanta. Rummel again brings his strong characterizations and spot on pacing to Meigs Apocalyptic world. He has a strong grasp of these characters, although I did feel Ethan had a bit more of a country twang than I remember in the first two novels. This, of course, probably better suited the character, and further helped delineate him from Brandt, which was something I remember struggling a bit with in Book 1. Where Rummel really shines is in all the mayhem and craziness of the climatic scenes. Meigs packs a lot of emotional punches into the mix of action and zombie mayhem, and Rummel finds just the right balance to deliver these moments. I have grown to really enjoy these characters, even when they totally frustrate and annoy me, and much of the credit goes to the excellent narration skills of Christian Rummel. Now, we must wait and see where they all go next.





Audiobook Review: The Becoming: Ground Zero by Jessica Meigs

7 08 2012

The Becoming: Ground Zero by Jessica Meigs

Read by Christian Rummel

Audible Frontiers/Permuted Press

Length: 9 Hrs 5 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: The Becoming: Ground Zero succeeds where many follow ups fail, by changing the tone and slowing down the pace, Meigs actually manages to create even more tension than the original. It’s not an easy ride, with devastating emotion and heartbreak as we become more and more attach to these characters in an extremely unpredictable world. Full of mystery, intrigue and even some romance, The Becoming is a series I want to devour like a lone weaponless survivor in a horde of the undead.

Grade: B+

There is a rising axiom among fans of zombie apocalypse fiction that it’s not about the zombies, it’s about the survivors. Sure, we love the rising of the undead, the friends and loved one turning into insatiable eaters of human flesh, many of us even enjoy the gore and mayhem that comes with the ravaging hordes, yet, tales simply about walking corpses seeking out the flesh of the living isn’t enough to make a compelling story. We need to get to know the survivors, to feel their pain. A good Zombie outbreak novel asks the question, “What would you be willing to do to survive?” Yet, as Zombie fiction becomes more and more saturated into our culture, other questions are starting to be asked. One major theme that is really beginning to get examined in Zombie fiction is, “Is survival enough?” So much of Zombie fiction centers on surviving, yet, when the first wave is over, and the survivors begging to adapt to a new way of life, the obvious question is “What’s Next?” Should our survivors be happy with simply surviving, finding a way to live day to day with the constant threat of the living dead ending everything you have been fighting for? Often, our survivors find themselves with some sort of mission, find a cure, save a loved one, search out as location where you can make a life that serves as their new purpose. Yet, these types of decisions come many side effects, the greatest of which is conflict. In a group of survivors, how do you choose to take on a mission when it reduced the safety of the group? How much safety are you willing to sell in order to gain a sense of purpose? These issues are key points for any surviving group, and the driving theme of Jessica Meigs second novel of her zombie Apocalypse series, The Becoming: Ground Zero.

It’s been a year since the Michaluk Virus changed the world, and Ethan, Cade and their small group have found a way to survive despite the constant threat of the undead. Yet, when a mysterious woman shows up, and asks for their help to travel to Atlanta, to the CDC headquarters where the virus began, some see the opportunity as a chance for purpose, while others see it simply as a Suicide mission. And for Brandt Evans, the stoic former marine who barely escaped Atlanta after the initial outbreak, it’s a trip back into his greatest nightmare. The Becoming: Ground Zero is the sequel to Meigs excellent debut novel The Becoming, yet, instead of sticking with the tried and true it makes a big change in tone and focus. While The Becoming was a fast paced Zombie Outbreak novel that focused on surviving and adaptation, Meigs slows down the pace and focuses more on the interplay between the characters in Ground Zero. Now, I am never one who gets excited by romance in Zombie novels, usually it seems forced and uncomfortable. While there is a touch of heavy handed romanticism in Ground Zero, for the most part it comes off organically, and actually serves the plot. Meigs has a knack for straight forward characterization that never glamorizes, but portrays realistic reactions to a devastating world. Almost every one of the main characters frustrated me at some point, but in a way that only proved how engaged I was in their struggle. Plus, I like that Meigs characters actually make mistakes, often stupid ones, but manage to learn from them. Unlike many sequels which are just ramped up versions of the original, Meigs actually ramps down the violence through most of the book, yet made it feel somewhat more ominous. And all the character development, mysterious situations, and mood creation pays off in a killer ending that had me wanting the next edition right now. The Becoming: Ground Zero succeeds where many follow ups fail, by changing the tone and slowing down the pace, Meigs actually manages to create even more tension than the original. It’s not an easy ride, with devastating emotion and heartbreak as we become more and more attach to these characters in an extremely unpredictable world. Full of mystery, intrigue and even some romance, The Becoming is a series I want to devour like a lone weaponless survivor in a horde of the undead.

Christian Rummel again brings his talents for characterizations and plotting to the world of The Becoming. One thing that Rummel really managed to do well in his performance of The Becoming: Ground Zero was to really find the dark humor that Meigs has infused this tale with. Meigs snappy dialogue and clever turns of phrase are really brought to life by Rummel’s reading, evoking plenty of audible laughs from me. Rummel also masterfully handles some really devastatingly emotional moments that I can’t go deeper into without spoiling some key moments in this tale. I will say though, I didn’t cry. I am a big, manly man, who doesn’t cry, especially as he’s driving home late at nigh on a particularly curvy road that follows Neshaminy Creek. Tears would have been far too reckless.   I did have one small quibbling complaint, and that was in the opening of the book. Meigs used a diary entry by a new character to remind us of the world she created, Rummel read this in his narrative voice, and not in the character’s voice. It really doesn’t change much for the performance, just a little personal quibble of mine that most readers probably wouldn’t even notice. The Becoming: Ground Zero is a wonderful expansion of Meigs world, expertly delivered by Christian Rummel.





Narrative Overtones: My Interview with Christian Rummel

27 06 2012

Christian Rummel has narrated over 120 Audiobooks, for companies such as Audible and Random House Audio. Among his many works are two of my all time favorite science fiction series, E.E. Knight’s Vampire Earth series, and Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series. One of the hardest things for an audiobook fan is to transition from print to audio for a beloved series, and luckily there are narrators like Christian Rummel that help make that transition smooth. Christian was kind enough to answer a few of my questions for Audiobook Week.

First question is an easy one. Can you tell us a little about yourself, and how you got started in the audiobook industry?

Christian Rummel: I grew up in an area of Pennsylvania renowned for its peppermint patties, Harley Davidson factory, and the near-meltdown at  Three-Mile Island, a local nuclear power plant.

I studied acting in college, joined the union after graduation and became a stage actor.  A few years ago, I got my Masters in classical theatre at a Shakespeare training conservatory.

Got involved in audio books because an old friend from the same PA town wrote a medical thriller called ISOLATION WARD. That friend, Josh Spanogle, also hooked me up with an audition for Random House, who was recording an audio version of the book. I got the gig, and that was the start of my career in audio books.

What steps do you take when prepping a book for recording?

Christian Rummel: I’m very low prep. I’ll (usually) read the book first, maybe think  about some character voices, but that’s about it. I’m not one of those narrators who use fifty different highlighters to mark character changes. I don’t like to mark my script at all; I like a clean page…

Walk us through a typical recording session. Do you typically work with a director or technician when recording?

Christian Rummel: I don’t have a home studio, so all of my recording is done with someone else in the room, usually a sound engineer, though some companies do like to hire directors as well. All the directors I’ve worked with have been pretty hands off, mostly just there as an outside ear and to sort of gently guide the process along.  Mostly, I just roll into the studio, grab a cup of tea and a bottle of water and get to work.

 


My first audiobook experience with you as a narrator was Valentine’s Resolve, the sixth book of the Vampire Earth Series by E.E. Knight. I was a little worries, because I had read the first 5 books of the series, and I was worried about a disconnect between how I imagined character’s sounding, and the narrator’s performance. Personally, I think you nailed it for David Valentine, and Smoke, as well as the peripheral characters. When reading a novel in preparation for recording, what do you look for in helping you decide on what you are going to do with a character?

Christian Rummel: This relates to the previous question regarding prepping a book.  Honestly, there’s only so much I can do with my instrument, so in choosing a voice for a particular character, I think mostly about whether I can sustain it for an entire book (or series.)  I also just try to go for variety, which is a lot easier for males. I really only have one voice for females, so it’s a matter of dressing it up with accents or different speech patterns

Have you ever received hate mail or crazy ranting reviews from irate fans of a series who didn’t like the way you voiced a character? I know some fans, particularly genre fans, can be brutal.

Christian Rummel: I’ve never gotten any crazy hate mail from irate fans. I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who may be unhappy with the way I’ve voiced particularly beloved characters, but if so, they tend to keep it to themselves or their blogging audience. None of them have contacted me personally. I think I would be more amused than annoyed if they did…

The other day, E.E. Knight posted a picture of the next Vampire Earth novel, Appalachian Overthrow. I sort of geeked out about it because it features my favorite character, Ahn-Kha, Now, I’m not sure about when and if the audiobook version of this novel will come out, but hopefully you will be recording it. Being that you seem to record a lot of series, do you ever go back and listen to you work of a past book to prepare for an upcoming title?

Christian Rummel: I never listen to any of my work, period. Can’t stand it! Even when I’m trying to put a demo together I will always ask somebody with a fresh ear to help me. I’m far too self-critical to listen to my own stuff.  I actually don’t own much of my own work. The books I record for Hachette or Random House come out in CD form; some of those I have, but not much digital stuff.

Another favorite series of mine is the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell. What amazes me about your performance in these numbers is the sheer number of characters you have to deal with. How do you manage to keep them all straight?

Christian Rummel: This sort of relates to the last question… working on a series like LOST FLEET, it’s like hanging out with your family. They’re all pretty distinct to me, so I don’t have much trouble keeping them straight. If you’ll notice, a writer like Jack Campbell doesn’t physically describe his characters at all. We have no idea if Black Jack Geary is 6’5” or 5’2” or what color eyes or hair he has. When I first started the series, I decided to have fun with the nationalities of the various characters, mostly so I could keep them straight and give them some variety. I thought about shows like STAR TREK, which boasted sort of a ‘United Nations in space’ cast, and gave the characters accents or dialects based on what nationality their last names evoked.

I would be remiss if I don’t talk about zombies. I am a huge Zombie fiction fan, and with the Permuted Press/Audible deal, there has been a flood of undead audiobooks. One of my favorites was Jessica Meig’s, The Becoming. Cade is a kick ass character, and you did a great job bringing her to life. She has a complicated vocal story, being a former Israeli Defense Force sniper, living in the American south. How challenging is it for you when you are performing women voices, particularly ones with specific accents? What was the strangest character voice, as for as regional and ethnic ties, that you had to come up with?

Christian Rummel: I’ll be honest: I’m not really all that pleased with what I did with Cade on that book. I have several Israeli friends who learned to speak English from British tutors and so have taken on a bit of the Queen’s, so to speak. That’s the accent I gave Cade, but I’m not sure it was really right for her background. I did my best to keep it as subtle as possible, so the listener can focus more on the attributes of the character as written, and less about whether her dialect was authentic.

I just finished a six-book series by Anne Emery, which had all kinds of crazy voicings in it, including a three-page monologue by a female Italian opera diva. That was a bit of a challenge… As far as the strangest, that’s a tough one. The Joseph Wambaugh HOLLYWOOD series have a lot of interesting characters: junkies and winos and drag queens; there’s a lot of crazy ones in there!

Do you have an all time favorite character? Is there a character, whether specific or just a general type, that you haven’t yet had the chance to voice, but would like to?

Christian Rummel: I don’t really have a favorite all-time character, but I do enjoy the         dudes who have what I call the ‘Badass’ voice: Black Jack Geary, Titus Quinn, Ray Lilley. Ironically, men of action, rather than words

I’m sure you have had moments where you’ve messed up, either misreading a text, reading a line in the wrong voice, or mispronounced a word. Is there any especially funny or embarrassing in studio moments that stand out?

Christian Rummel: I make so many mistakes every session that they’re impossible to recall. However, sometimes the script itself is so riddled with editorial errors that it can be hilarious. I just recorded an audio version of the 33 1/3 series about Slayer’s REIGN IN BLOOD (a personal fave) and the manuscript was full of typos. My favorite was the mention of Motley Crue’s first album: TOO FART FOR LOVE. It’s juvenile, but the engineer and I laughed a lot over that one!

Finally, if someone were to write the story of you life, who would you want to record the audiobook version?

Christian Rummel: Interesting question. As much as I dislike this actor, I’ll have to go with Christian Slater, because (sigh) his is the voice to which mine is most often compared. Sadly…

Thanks for taking the time out to answer these questions!

You can find Christian’s work at Audible.com.





Novella Review: The Becoming: Brothers in Arms by Jessica Meigs

15 05 2012

The Becoming: Brothers in Arms by Jessica Meigs

Pages: 111

Format: EBook

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: The Becoming: Brothers in Arms is a short, but fully realized tale of undead mayhem and two brother’s fight to survive. It is a must read for fans of The Becoming, as well as a good introduction to Meigs world for those who have yet to experience it.

 

Jessica Meig’s The Becoming was the first audiobook I finished listening to in 2012, by a slim margin. I was listening to it on my way home from a friends house, were I was celebrating New Years Eve. It was around 3AM and I was driving down the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia, riveted to Meigs characters as they dealt with the undead. It was a great way to bring in the New Year. What I really liked about The Becoming was its characters and their realistic response to a world turned onto its head.  About half way through The Becoming, our main characters meet up with two new characters, Theo, a paramedic and his brother Gray.  These two characters become and integral part of the narrative and added a new dynamic to the overall tale. Yet, they just show up in the midst of the chaos of the zombie apocalypse and we never really get too much of a back-story on these two brothers and how they survived until that point. Luckily, Meigs remedies this with a supplemental novella called The Becoming: Brothers in Arms, which tells you the story of how these two brothers were able to survive the initial outbreak, and eventually hook up with the characters of the original novel.

The Becoming: Brothers in Arms is a fast pace, tightly drawn Zombie outbreak novel that highlights the characters craftiness and ingenuity over any special skills or training. Theo and Gray are not highly trained military operatives, or survivalists who have been planning for this day, but two regular brothers who must use the tools at their hands in order to survive the violence and mayhem of a zombie outbreak. Meigs does a good job putting these two relatively normal guys in situations where they must use their natural born intelligence to find a way out of a highly unusual situation. In particular, Theo, the paramedic’s tale, is full of dark humor, and it’s obvious the author draws on her experience as a paramedic to create a realistic and tragic series of events for Theo to find ways to deal with. Meigs gives you interesting glimpses into both brothers thought processes, as they take in the evidence of the strange going ons, each coming to terms with the reality of the situations in their own ways. One of my favorite aspects of this novel is the author’s realistic portraits of sibling’s complicated relationships. While these brothers are willing to travel through a nightmare landscape to make sure the other is safe, the resentments and miscommunications of the sibling relationship simmer underneath. While the initial part of this story is a full of fast paced zombie action, when the action slows, the complex relationship easily takes its place creating tension, and driving the story forward.  The Becoming: Brothers in Arms is a short, but fully realized tale of undead mayhem and two brother’s fight to survive. It is a must read for fans of The Becoming, as well as a good introduction to Meigs world for those who have yet to experience it.





Welcome to the Apocalypse: Upcoming Audiobooks for The Walking Dead Fans

23 03 2012

While Rick, Glenn, Andrea and the rest are on hiatus hanging out in the shadows of a creepy prison, The Zombie Apocalypse doesn’t rest. If you are like me, you need a regular zombie fix or you start jonesing for entrails and brains. Well, have no fear, there are plenty of new Zombie Apocalypse Audiobooks coming out between now and the Season 3 Premiere of The Walking Dead.

Completed Trilogies

If you are like me, often times you hate that long wait between books of a series or trilogy. Well, here are two trilogies whose finales are due out over the next few months:

The Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant

Hachette Audio

Blackout, Book 3 will be out early June,

As the World Dies Trilogy by Rhiannon Frater

Audible Frontiers

Siege, Book 3 will be out soon.

 

Ongoing Series

Sometimes it’s nice to meet a bunch of Survivors and follow their ongoing adventures adventures. Here are some series with new audiobooks coming out in the next few months.

Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo

Tantor Audio

Four Audiobooks in this series will be released by Tantor Audio over the next few months.

The Becoming Series by Jessica Meigs

Audible Frontiers

Book 2 The Becoming: Ground Zero will be released in July.

The Dead World Series by Joe McKinney

Tantor Audio

Mutated, the fourth book in the series will be released in September.

The Infection Series by Craig DiLouie

Audible Frontiers

The Killing Floor, the next book of the series, will be available in April.

Undead Debut

It’s always fun to discover a new author. Check out this Debut release.

The Return Man by V M Zito

Hachette Audio

The Return Man releases in early April

 

Young Adult Zombies

Let’s face it, kids like zombies too. The following are series of novels written for young adults, but should make adults hearts leap out of their chests as well.

The Benny Imuru Series by Jonathan Maberry

Recorded Books

Flesh & Bones, the final book in the trilogy will be released in September.

The Ashes Trilogy by Ilsa J. Bick

Brilliance Audio

Shadows, Book 2 of The Ashes Trilogy will be released in September. Cover Art not yet available.

 

Zombie Anthologies

Sometimes you don’t want to take on the whole hordes at once, just handle the zombies in a couple quick bursts. Here is a Zombie Anthology with stories by some of the top names in Zombie fiction including Sons of Anarchy’s Creator, Kurt Sutter.

21st Century Dead ed. by Christopher Golden

Blackstone Audio

This title will be released in July.

The Walking Dead Audiobook

The Governor is one of the key antagonist of the Graphic Novel version of The Walking Dead, and will make his way to the Television series soon. Learn his backstory in these audiobooks.

The Walking Dead Audiobook Series by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

MacMillan Audio

Book 2, The Road to Woodbury will be released early October.

Permuted Press Zombie and Post Apocalyptic Releases

Permuted Press is one of the more successful publishers of Zombie and Post Apocalyptic Fiction. Their deal with Audioble Frontiers continues and there will be a plethora of new audiobook releases over the next few months.

The Following Titles will be released:

March 27th

April 10th

April 24th

Well, I am sure there are more than these coming soon, and feel free to leave a comment about an upcoming Zombie or Post Apocalyptic Novel you are excited about.

If you are looking for Zombie Titles right now, check out my list of Best Apocalyptic Zombie Audiobooks of 2011.





Audiobook Review: The Becoming by Jessica Meigs

6 01 2012

The Becoming by Jessica Meigs

Read by Christian Rummel

Audible Frontiers

Length: 9 Hrs and 4 Min

Genre: Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: The Becoming is a fantastic set up for the future installments of the trilogy, a novel that focuses intimately on the Survivors of a zombie plague and yet is full of subtle hints of something more in the nature of the Michaluk Virus and its consequences.  Fans of the Undead will enjoy the well orchestrated Zombie action scenes but for the true connoisseur of zombie fiction it is the speculation of what is to come that is the true joy of this novel.

Grade: B+

I know it may not be cool to admit anymore, if it ever really was, but I am a big fan of the CBS reality competition show Survivor. One of the aspects of the show I like is that it takes a look at what people will do when all of the niceties of civilized life are stripped away from them. These people are taken away from comfy beds, air-conditioned apartments, and even readily available food. They are exhausted and starving, forced to engage in strenuous activities, and make strategic and social decisions. Let’s just say, these decisions tend not to make much sense to those sitting at home on their fluffy sofas. In many ways, my love of post apocalyptic fiction really influenced my enjoyment of this series. Every time I read a review of an apocalyptic book, where some “know-it-all” survivalist wannabe declares a book to be unrealistic because the characters make seemingly idiotic decisions that a true survivalist never would, I just have to shake my head. The truly unrealistic thing is to assume anyone, no matter how well prepared for the coming end of all civilization, will be acting at peak performance. Starvation, depravation and hyper-violence isn’t the optimal situation to develop a thorough thought experiment. I always look at books where the characters just make these wonderful well thought out and reasoned decisions as they are being chased by a ravenous horde of flesh eating undead to be insane wish fulfillment.

The Becoming is the first chapter in Jessica Meigs zombie apocalypse trilogy and while it is not going to be looked at as a groundbreaking view of a world ravaged by zombies, it does many things extremely well, one of these things being a realistic look at how extreme situations affect Survivors. While Meigs characters overall seem better prepared than most to survive in a zombie apocalypse, they also demonstrate realistic, shocked reactions to what is going on around them. Their reactions and lack of reactions seem much more human then the typical gung ho "lets go kill us some zeds" caricatures that often show up in zombie lit. I also like that Meigs takes us form the initial breakout to the start of the zombie apocalypse. It shows the characters transitional responses from the early rumors of rioting, to being forced to deal with the fact that their loved one have risen and are trying to eat them, to eventually determining ways to survive in a changed world. I enjoyed the premise set up by Meigs, that a virus called the Michaluk Virus escapes from the CDC starting the outbreak in Atlanta. Her zombies are not something that we haven’t read of seen before, but there is this undercurrent of potential permeating through the book. You feel Meigs leading you towards an unexpected path, and while you just can’t put your finger on what it exactly is, you can’t help but feel excitement for the upcoming trip. The Becoming is a fantastic set up for the future installments of the trilogy, a novel that focuses intimately on the Survivors of a zombie plague and yet is full of subtle hints of something more in the nature of the Michaluk Virus and its consequences.  Fans of the Undead will enjoy the well orchestrated Zombie action scenes but for the true connoisseur of zombie fiction it is the speculation of what is to come that is the true joy of this novel.

Christian Rummel performance of The Becoming is simply spot on. I love the way he handles the character of Cade. I cannot say his accents was truly authentic for a women who lived in Israel and serves as a IDF sniper but now resides in the American South, but it felt authentic to my untrained ear. Every time I listen to an audiobook narrated by Rummel I am reminded that he is one of the few male narrators who excels at voicing female characters. Rummel leads the listener through this fast paced tale with the gifts of a true storyteller. The action here is fast, but Rummel never rushes the listener through it, instead describing the action with a measured pace that allows the listener to get good visual images of just what is happening. The Becoming is a great start to this trilogy, and the author and narrator both left me wanting more.