Blast from the past: “And Then One Night”

HGWorld-logoA while back, friend and fellow word pusher Jay Smith was the chaotic evil mastermind behind HG World, a full-cast audio drama depicting a zombie uprising and those who struggle to survive it. Jay wrote all of the scripts for nearly 30 episodes and an audio novel, and more than 70 people lent their voices in various capacities over the course of the series.

Back in 2010 or 2011, Jay posited the idea of a series of shorter episodes depicting characters and events away from the main storyline. Along with a few other folks, he invited me to submit story ideas for this “audio anthology” he was tentatively calling A Long Cold Lonely Winter. I pitched an idea about a Marine unit tasked with protecting a small group of VIPs, specifically a United States senator and his family. Originally meant to transport the senator and his entourage to a secure location, things go sideways and the Marines are forced to seek shelter at an abandoned National Guard armory post. They fortify their positions after being told to stay put and are preparing to hunker down for the winter, “And Then One Night, All Hell Broke Loose.”

At least, that’s how I wrote it. I submitted a script for my story, but didn’t hear much about it after that. For a variety of reasons, mostly work and life and other things of higher importance, the anthology idea was shelved while Jay focused his attention on other things. I was plenty busy writing all sorts of other stuff, so at some point this just sort of faded into the back of my memory.

Then, last week, he posted an announcement on Facebook that he was officially “retiring” HG World, and that’s when I received a cool little surprise: Somewhere along the line, Jay had cast the voices for my script, and he and his crew recorded it.

Wait. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? How the hell did that happen? How the hell did that happen? Well, the “how” seems easy enough: Jay and his people did what Jay and his people did a lot: They just did it. Imagine my genuine, pleasant surprise.

Now, this is only the raw audio, meaning it’s not anywhere near being a polished episode of the sort Jay and Company put out time after time while working on HG World. So, for all I know there would’ve been edits and maybe even redos if we’d decided something else worked so far as the dialogue went. But, this is a neat little reminder of something fun I did for a friend a while back. Check it out:

HG World: A Long Cold Lonely Winter – “And Then One Night…”

Full Cast List:

Civilian #1 – Isaak Wells
Civilian #2 – Warren Blackie
Civilian #3 – J. Longshaw
Cpl Kirsten Beyer – Ginny Swann
1stLt Carrie Burroughs – S. Longshaw
Col. Michael Davison – David Sobkowiak
LCpl Becky Gaskill – Karen Kahler
LCpl Ricky Jackson – Stacy Dooks
Sgt William Leisner – Tanja Milojevic
GySgt Joshua Marshall – Brion Humphrey
Melissa – Melissa Morgan
Cpl Scott Pearson – Justin Grubbs
Robert Powell – Warren Blackie
Cpl Gary Taylor – Tom Kerin
Andy Waverly – Adam Boeing
Senator Charles Waverly – Lee Turner
Woman – Danielle McRrea

and Keith R.A. DeCandido as Todd Rage

Many thanks to Jay, the cast and crew, and everyone else who worked to put this together. I’m sorry to see HG World retire, but I fully understand having to let a favorite project rest when life’s other demands get in the way. Maybe Jay will find a way to revisit it, one of these days.

The Diary of Jill Woodbine, by Jay Smith.

Hey, you.

Yeah, you.

Stop what you’re doing, and go and buy this book right now. Buy it, read it, love it.


I hear a few of you asking, “What the hell are you babbling about, Ward?”

It’s possible that a few of you reading this are acquainted with HG World. For those who aren’t: It’s an audio drama series created and written by Jay Smith and chronicling the lives (and deaths, and undeaths) of various people caught up in a zombie apocalypse. Since 2009, Smith and a talented troupe of voice actors and behind-the-scenes folks have created two seasons’ worth of zombie goodness, making the product of their loving labor freely available to anyone who cares to stick it in their ears. For good reason, the series is a winner of the prestigious Parsec Award.

As the saga of HG World continues to unfold, Jay wrote a spinoff audio story, The Diary of Jill Woodbine, read by voice actor Veronica Giguere. The tale centers around young Jill Woodbine, a journalist who has managed to make her way to a “relocation center,” which formerly was a home improvement big box store, HG World, and offers a new perspective on the plotlines unfolding within the episodes of the “main” show.

You know what? The story kicks ass. It’s a great listen. If you’re a fan of zombie apocalypse stories, you know there’s a lot of material out there, of varying quality. Jay’s stories are definitely among the better offerings you’re liable to find, and Jill Woodbine is some of the best material he’s written for his own series.

Jay’s taken Jill’s story and transformed it from its audio roots into a novel. While I enjoy listening to Jay’s scripts come to life through the power of the spoken word, I have to say that I absolutely relished the chance to read his prose. Now you can, too. If you’re of a mind to do so, check out the preview of Jay’s Jill Woodbine novel, and if you like what you read, consider buying the e-Book and supporting a talented author. The Diary of Jill Woodbine, by Jay Smith

Give it a look, zombie fans. You’ll dig it.

Zombiefied…now in paperback!

Hot diggety!

A couple of years ago, editor Carol Hightshoe over at Sky Warrior Books published Zombiefied, an anthology of…you guessed it…zombie stories! That’s right, the undead wereCover for Zombiefied spotlighted in a mess of fine tales, two dozen of them, in fact. Among the stories offered up in this collection was my own bit of zombie musings, “Stop-Loss.” My contribution to Zombiefied was actually a reprint of sorts, as the story originally had appeared on a now-defunct webzine site.

Originally, Zombiefied was offered in various electronic books formats, and remains available on those platforms, but Editor Carol passed the word today that the anthology now is available in a trade paperback edition, via CreateSpace.

I’m jazzed about this for a few reasons, actually: First, though I’m by no means the e-Book spurning sort, I still prefer good old-fashioned paper books for the bulk of my leisure reading. Next, as a writer, it’s nice to have a book to put on the “brag shelf” in my office, and in this case, I’m doubly happy because this actually is the first time “Stop-Loss” is available in a print format.

So, there’s that.

Anyway, if you’re into zombies (and really….who isn’t?), Zombiefied and its 24 tales may be just the thing for you. Give it a gander, whydontcha, and pass on the info to all your zombie-lovin’ friends.

CreateSpace – Zombiefied: An Anthology of All Things Zombie

Zombie Nation…the magazine? Ayup.

So, I’m at the grocery store today, grabbing me some lunch (salad from their salad bar, if you’re curious), and on my way to the checkout lanes I run past the book/magazine aisle, as is my habit when I hit this place about once a week. My eyes are scanning the various magazine titles when I happen across…this:

Believe it.

At first glance, this looks like a Guns & Ammo clone (and actually is put out by the G&A folks), in that it features articles on various weapons and other gear which are real and available for sale, and with some Fangoria thrown in for flavor. The gimmick here is that much of the magazine’s content runs with the notion that the Zombie Apocalypse is coming, and you pricks better be prepared. With that in mind, the articles highlighting the rifles and so on are written in such a way as to highlight their features and operation and how they contribute to the killing of zombies. There also are numerous tips and hints for holding your own and making your way through a world overrun with the undead. For this, the “premiere issue,” there’s even a pull-out target with a zombie, so have at it, survivors!

Other articles are “outside the box,” such as interviews with prominent zombie show-biz folks, a retrospective on zombie movies, and even some recommendations for zombie fiction and so on.

I’ll admit, I chuckled when I saw it. It’s a harmless enough idea, and–believe it or not–the companies who make hunting and survival gear are marketing “zombie survival” weapons and gear. I assume that’s all for fun…unless I missed a memo from the CDC or something. Anyway, I’d rather buy something like this than anything with Justin Bieber on the cover, right? The price point is a bit steep ($8.99), and this looks to be a special, rather than the start of a regular periodical.

Anybody else see this? Apparently, it’s been out for a month or so, but this was my first time noticing it. I almost wish it turns out to be a regular thing, just to see where they take the idea.

And since we’re here and on this topic, don’t forget Rule #2: “Double Tap.”

A Yard Doggie artist is nominated for a Chesley!

Passing along word from my friends down at Yard Dog Press! Artist Mitch Bentley has been nominated for a Chesley Award from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists, for the cover artwork he created to adorn Jean Stuntz’s The Alamo and Zombies.

What are the Chesley Awards: From the ASFA page:

“ASFA annually gives out the Chesley Awards, which were established in 1985 as ASFA’s peer awards to recognize individual works and achievements not otherwise recognized by the Hugo Awards, during a given year. The Chesleys were initially called the ASFA Awards, but were later renamed to honor famed astronomical artist Chesley Bonestell after his death in 1986. The awards are usually presented annually at the World Science Fiction Convention or at the North American Science Fiction Convention when the Worldcon is held outside of North America.”

So, there you go.

Mitch’s cover art for The Alamo and Zombies is a finalist in the nominations for Best Paperback. You can see it and the other entries here: 2012 Chesley Award Finalists

Congrats and good luck to Mitch!

Hey! HG World is a Parsec nominee, too!

Well, whaddaya know? More friends with podcasts (not to be mistaken for friends with benefits) are getting nominated for the Parsec Awards!

In this case, I’m talking about Jay Smith and his merry band of talented voice actors and production personnel over at 3015 North Studios, who already can point to one Parsec on their shelf, receiving their second consecutive nomination for their kick-ass zombie apocalypse audio drama, HG World.

If you’re not a fan, well…what the hell’s wrong with you? Get on over to the show’s page on Podbean and commence to all that downloading/streaming/listening action. It’s all there, waiting for you, and your juicy, tasty brains.

You can read the full list of Parsec nominees here.

Good luck to Jay and the whole HG World gang!


For the past two Halloween evenings, I’ve taken to “live-Tweeting” a story on Twitter while trick-or-treaters wander the neighborhood. The idea is that I “narrate” the story, one 140-byte chunk at a time, for however long it takes to spin the entire yarn. In 2009, I offered up a “Twitter-fied” version of story I’d previously written, a short zombie tale called “Last Stand.” Last year, I wrote a new story, “Counter-Protest,” which didn’t use zombies.

For 2011, I return to the world of the shuffling undead with a new tale written just for tonight. It’s a short, rather sardonic look at zombies from the perspective of a regular old working-class guy just trying to get by in a world that occasionally descends into chaos…at least long enough to screw up his bottom line from time to time. Unlike the previous years, and since I won’t be home this evening, I’m not going with the “live-Tweet” option. Instead, I’m just posting it here so you can read the whole thing at your leisure.

Please be advised that the story contains strong language and depictions of graphic violence. So, without further stalling, here we go for Halloween 2011….


Dayton Ward

Few things piss me off like somebody trying to skip out on their tab. That goes double when it’s one of my regulars.

“Where the hell do you think you’re going, Tucker?” I barked, stopping Tucker Hayden in his tracks as he was making his way to the door. He at least had the decency to look dumbfounded as I crossed the bar toward him, pushing past some of the other regulars who always stayed right up to the second I kicked them out the front door at closing time. Moving so that I now stood between him and the front door, I was able to see from Tucker’s eyes that he was six kinds of shit-faced. He probably didn’t even know where the hell he was.

“I was just gonna take a leak,” he said, with more than a hint of whining underscoring his slurred words.

Shaking my head, I grunted in irritation. “John’s back the other way,” I said, pointing over his shoulder toward the rear of the bar and the narrow hallway leading to the restrooms. “Unless you’re looking to piss on another cop’s car, that is.” Tucker had crossed paths with the local law a month or so ago, when he’d decided that a squad car parked on the street in front of my place made for the ideal urinal. The cop assigned to the car hadn’t shared Tucker’s opinion, and it was only because he was a frequent customer of mine that I was able to talk him into not citing Tucker for indecent exposure and branding him a sex offender or some other such damned thing.

His shoulders seemed to slump a bit, and he couldn’t even look me in the eye as he sighed. “I’m sorry, man. Things have been real shitty, is all. You know I’m good for it, right?”

Part of me was furious with him, because this wasn’t the first time he’d pulled this stunt. Still, I knew he’d been having a rough go of it. He’d been laid off at his job down at the mill, and now he had money problems including the bank circling him like vultures as it pushed ahead with foreclosing on his house. Tucker’s marriage was in trouble, too, likely owing to all of that, and it probably wasn’t helped by him coming into my place and running up a tab he couldn’t pay. I try not to be a dick about these kinds of things, especially when it’s somebody I know, but I hate being played for a chump.

“Look,” I said, conscious of eyes on us and keeping my voice low as I leaned in closer to him. “I get it, all right? But I warned you the last time you tried to pull this shit. Don’t be sneaking out on me, okay? That ain’t cool. I got bills to pay, too, and I can’t be tolerating any deadbeats screwing me over. Got it?”

I don’t even remember what I was going to say next, because that’s when I heard the front door open behind me. That was when Alicia, the last of my waitresses still working this late at night and doing her damnedest not to bust out of the skin-tight black tank top she was wearing, released a blood-curdling scream. Flinching in response to that, I jerked my head to look in her direction and saw her pointing toward the door.

Three zombies had walked into my bar.

No, this isn’t the set up to some joke. Three fucking zombies, each of them wearing camouflage uniforms, had pushed their way through the door and now were shuffling toward me. I heard the sound of chairs and tables pushing across the hardwood floor as people scrambled away from the new arrivals, and to either side I could see my customers all scrambling for an exit or a place to hide.

“Shit!” I grunted, backing away from the trio. “This again?” Their uniforms weren’t an uncommon sight, given that the center of town was less than two miles from the main gate of one of the larger army bases on the east coast. My bar was a regular hangout for active and retired soldiers, but it also meant that it, like everything else this close to the base, was one of the first places affected whenever crazy shit like this happened. It was obvious that the army, having learned nothing from the last however many times they’d fucked up with stuff like this, was up to something yet again.


“Alicia!” I shouted as I backpedaled toward the bar. “Throw me the bat!”

Already behind the bar, Alicia turned and reached for the baseball bat I had hanging on the rear wall, between shelves of liquor, and with the word “BOUNCER” burned into it. I didn’t have any real bouncers on the payroll, but the bat had served that purpose more than once over the years.

Pulling the bat from the pegs holding it on the wall, Alicia turned and tossed it underhand toward me. I caught it with both hands a second before the zombies reached Tucker Hayden, who was too drunk to realize until way too late that he was fucked.


The first zombie sank its yellow, rotting teeth into Tucker’s neck and he screamed in pain and terror as blood sprayed everywhere. I felt some of it across my arm and face but by then I was lunging forward, brandishing the Bouncer and taking aim on the nearest zombie. Tucker was still shrieking as I stepped into my swing, bringing the bat around until I felt it slam into something soft and lumpy. My follow-through was pretty sweet, if I do say so myself, and I was rewarded with the zombie’s head sailing across the room until it smashed with a wet thud into the back glass of the pinball machine in the far corner.

Home run, mother fucker, I thought, although any enthusiasm I might’ve had was lost as I saw and heard the game’s glass panel shatter at the same time all the lights on the scoreboard went dark.


I had time only to swing the bat in the other direction as the zombie chewing chunks out of Tucker turned toward me. Tucker fell to the floor while his attacker and the third zombie lumbered forward. Behind them, those few customers who’d still been here when the zombies showed up were bolting for the door. Like me, they’d seen this shit enough times to know that getting the hell out of Dodge was the smart play, but there was no way I could leave my place to get trashed. While I should’ve been angry about them leaving me and Alicia to fend for ourselves, what really burned my ass was that every single one of those dickbags was beating feet out of here without having settled their tabs.

Deadbeat sons of bitches, the lot of them.

I moved back behind the bar, handing the Bouncer to Alicia before reaching for the sawed-off pump-action shotgun I kept under the shelf. Eyeing the zombies as I pulled the shotgun from its mount and checked to see that a round was chambered, I couldn’t help but wonder what these poor bastards done to end up like this.

How many breakouts did this make for the year? Four? Damned army and their fucking pencil-necked science geeks and their never-ending dumbass experiments. When would those shit heads learn to lock the damned doors on that base? It was like a right of passage for zombies to wander off the reservation, making their way into town and raising all kinds of hell. They came through more often than the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for fuck’s sake, but at least those pricks didn’t try to eat you.

“Get in the office,” I snapped at Alicia before catching sight of Tucker, still squirming and whimpering as blood oozed from his neck and half a dozen other places where skin and meat had been ripped from his bones. I couldn’t do anything for him now, not with the pair of zombies shuffling toward me and Alicia. The stench of decaying flesh assaulted my nostrils as they moved closer, and despite my telling her to head for the office, Alicia stayed where she was, looking too scared to try outrunning the things. “Go!” I said, pushing her in that direction, but she held her ground.

“No fucking way!” she yelled. “Just shoot them, already!”

It’s gonna take me a week to clean up the mess. I brought the shotgun to my shoulder, taking aim and pulling the trigger. The blast pounded my ears as the first zombie’s head disappeared in a red rain, showering its buddy, Tucker, and the nearby chairs and tables with bits of blood, flesh, and bone. I racked the slide to chamber a second round and that’s when the shotgun decided to jam.

“Damn it!” Dropping the weapon from my shoulder, I clawed at the spent shell casing wedged into the breach. Alicia was backing away from me, holding the Bouncer in front of her as she moved down the bar. The lone remaining zombie was almost within arm’s reach and I side-stepped the bastard, still fumbling with the shotgun and trying not to serve myself up for dinner.

Then I caught movement near the door and got a glimpse of camouflage and light reflecting off long black barrels. There was just time enough to grab for Alicia before the first shots rang out. My fingers closed on the first thing they found—the front of her tank top—and I pulled her down to the floor with me as a hailstorm of bullets screamed overhead. I heard glass breaking and wood splintering, and I covered my head as I felt a shower of debris falling down on us. Something wet splashed across my pants legs, and I tried not to think about the money these soldiers were shooting all to hell.


I heard something heavy drop to the floor on the other side of the bar, accompanied by a voice from somewhere near the door yelling that everything was “All clear.” Then that same voice called out to us.

“Everybody okay back there?”

Rising to my feet, I pulled Alicia with me, and we got our first good look at our saviors. Two soldiers, dressed in full combat gear and looking too young even to be shaving yet, were pointing rifles at the festering corpse before them on the floor. The zombie looked dead for real, this time, with most of its head gone and lying in an expanding pool of dark, murky fluid that might once have been blood. That shit was never coming out of the wood, I thought; I’d have to strip and refinish the whole damned floor. Again.

One of the soldiers, noticing Tucker twitching nearby, turned and fired a single round into the luckless man’s skull, putting the poor bastard out of his misery. Satisfied with his handiwork, he turned and looked at me.

“You all right, sir?” he asked, before his attention shifted to Alicia, and I realized for the first time that in my haste to pull her to safety, I’d torn her tank top. She wasn’t wearing a bra and was doing her best to cover herself, but there was more her there than tank top.

“Asshole,” she hissed at me.

Reaching beneath the bar for one of the clean towels stacked there, I handed it to her before looking back at the soldier. “Oh, we’re just fabulous here. Just another Monday night, you know; no football, no baseball, but plenty of critters to shoot at.” I cast my gaze around the bar, noting the number of bullet holes in the walls and the shattered remnants of what had once been a fully stocked bar. Nothing makes me smile like having to replace the bulk of my inventory, to say nothing of repairing small arms damage to cedar wall paneling. “Nice shooting, boys. Glad to see the army’s keeping up with marksmanship training.” The comment earned me a pair of withering stares, but I didn’t give a damn. “So, what the hell happened this time?”

The soldier’s lips tightened and I could see his jaw clenching before he replied, “I’m afraid there’s not much I can tell you at this time, sir, except that there’s been another containment breach at the base, and you’ll have to come with us.”

His partner gestured for us to follow him. “We’re evacuating all civilians to a safe location until the situation is under control. It’s for your own safety, sir.”

“Of course it is,” I said, shaking my head. “Just like the last, what? Three or four times?” I indicated the wreckage that represented what was left of my bar. “What the hell am I supposed to do about all this? My insurance company’s getting tired of cutting checks for me to fix everything after one your little lapses over there.” I stepped past Tucker’s body, sad to see that he was dead but thankful that he hadn’t turned into one of those things. Despite my mixed feelings for the man, I could only shake my head as I considered a single, humorless thought: He’d managed to skip out on his tab, after all.

Well, I suppose I could let him have that one.

“I’m sure the army will be more than happy to reimburse you for your troubles, sir,” the first soldier said, though I could tell from his expression that even he didn’t believe the bullshit he was shoveling.

“Yeah,” I replied, using every last bit of willpower I possessed to keep from giving him the finger. “You mean like last time, right? And the time before that? If this is going to keep happening on a semi-regular basis, maybe it’s not too unreasonable for the army to maybe start a tab?”

Cripes. How the hell is a guy supposed to make a living around here, anyway?

Copyright © 2011 by Dayton Ward. All Rights Reserved.

Need a Halloween pick-me-up? Listen to HG World!

Yeah, you could watch some of your horror flicks on DVD to get yourself into the spirit of Halloween, or catch marathons on some of the cable channels. You could mainline episodes of The Walking Dead or True Blood, sure. Or, you could close your eyes, open your ears, and let the smooth, sultry sounds of a well-produced, kick-ass audio drama fire up your imagination.

I speak, of course, about HG World, the Parsec Award-winning zombie apocalypse podcast audio drama that is the brainchild of friend and fellow word slinger Jay Smith.

In production for two years now, HG World tells the story of various survivors of a global uprising of the undead. Most of the action takes place in and around rural Pennsylvania, and features a cast and crew of volunteer voice actors and production personnel contributing from points all around the world. I could tell you more, but Jay has gone to the trouble of drafting a sweet little press release, and I don’t want to steal any more of this thunder. Read, yo:

Atlanta, GA, September 10, 2011: HG World (, the story of survivors of a global zombie uprising, has won a 2011 Parsec Award ( representing excellence in the medium of audio drama produced for the Internet. The ceremony was held September 3rd at DragonCon (, one of the nation’s largest fan-run popular culture conventions in Atlanta, Georgia. The show, set mainly in northwestern Pennsylvania and across the Commonwealth, is the product of a global cast and production team lead by Harrisburg, PA resident Jay Smith.

“When we started the show in 2009,” Writer and Producer Jay Smith said after the ceremony, “I had no idea that audio drama was something anyone really cared about in this age of megapixels and Michael Bay pyrotechnics, but it really is a thriving storytelling medium with hundreds of shows out there to hear – many for free. The field was very competitive which makes this award all the more gratifying. We have actors on three continents producing excellent work and a brilliant, passionate production team led by Michael L Stokes that creates a unique, quality audio drama series.”

HG World was nominated for the PARSEC by fans and finalists were chosen by a yearly steering committee. Those finalists were then voted on by an independent panel of judges from outside of podcasting. Awards are given in several categories ranging from content to audio quality. The award was accepted by show producers Scott Pigg and Bryan Lincoln (who also won a PARSEC for Best Podcast about Speculative Fiction Content Creation – Fullcast Podcast). Mur Lafferty, Michael R. Mennenga & Tracy Hickman founded The Parsec Awards in 2006 to celebrate Speculative Fiction Podcasting, under the banner of Farpoint Media.

When asked why HG World was selected over other finalist, Smith explained, “I have no idea. We simply try to tell a story about good people in a very bad situation. It isn’t about undead zombies and gore so much as it is about the real monsters that still have a pulse. I think our characters resonate with listeners and our growth as a production over the years is the result of a small, but widening community of fans who appreciate the art of audio fiction and we try to make the most of that medium.”

Listeners can subscribe to the show through iTunes or the show’s podcast feed ( to receive new episodes as they are released. HG World is currently at work producing its third season of episodes. Between releases, Producer Bryan Lincoln interviews authors, actors and producers in an interview show called “Behind the Screams.”

So…you know…go and get some of that zombie podcast action. There’s more than enough there to keep you up for a bunch of nights up to and past Halloween. Pass the brains, would ya?


Cover for Zombiefied

Zombie crime fighters, politicians, soldiers, rescuers—but a Zombie prom date or bowler? If you’re looking for Zombies, prepare to be ZOMBIEFIED! Two dozen amazing zombie stories sure to breathe life back into the Undead. If you’re looking for stories that shamble, groan, and eat brains, you’re sure to become ZOMBIEFIED.

Stories by:
Dayton Ward
M.H Bonham
Gary Jonas
David Lee Summers
Carol Hightshoe
Laura Givens
Rie Sheridan Rose
Lou Antonelli
John Lance

And Many More!

Trade paperback from CreateSpace
Multiple e-Book formats from
Kindle format from