Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fleshing Out TRANSPORT Part 1

The entire TRANSPORT novella series and short stories started with a desire to write something within the Military Thriller / Military Sci-Fi genre. I also have a big interest in all things Military. I decided to take a spin outside my usual writing of Sword & Sorcery, and roll into some Military action-adventure.

The world of TRANSPORT was born.

The story takes place in Grand Rapids, Michigan circa 2025. After a pandemicly serious strain of H7N9 (avian influenza virus or bird flu virus), the world has been turned on its head. You are either fortunate enough to not be affected, or unfortunate and affected. INFECTED. If you are infected, you go one of two ways: you die, completely, dead-dead, or you become a walking maggot factory.

Grand Rapids, as most of the other LARGE cities in the country, has become a walled bastion for humanity of the true living type. Industries have moved back close to the hub of the city if they had been stationed in the outskirts. Other than the tall concrete walls, gates and concertina-wire fences, it is business as usual; day to day survival, luxuries still of home (just packed with more close neighbors)...

...But with that constant niggling feeling everything to drop into the shitter in the blink of an eye.


Because outside City Central, people, creatures, towns and smaller habitations fight BIG TIME for survival. The niceties and necessities of life are quite a bit more... challenging.

The mighty Grand River separates the east side of Grand Rapids (City Central, the hub) and the west side neighborhoods. As mentioned, on the east side, the Living. On the west side, the big city's undead roam.

Okay. Zombies. The walking dead. Rotters. Shamblers.

But these rotting-faced, face-chewing folk are something more.

I didn't want the same old ZOMBIE THANG going on. You know, people running around, running away from the undead, fighting the undead, the undead wanting to tear them up, eat their brains.


The world of TRANSPORT takes place in a post-post (zombie) apocalyptic time. The virus is more or less a thing of the past (happens in 2013) and Humanity, so far as usual, has survived to live another day and try and start anew. The undead are still around. The unforunate Grand Rapids undead civilians are contained on the west side of town behind a huge fence line. They are fed doped meat to keep them docile. There are laws about the Military or anyone else shooting them, doing them harm as they are "less fortunate friends and relatives" who are still cared for. More or less. The living city folk let the Military have the crap job and go in and feed them and protect them if shit hits the fan.

There are still your angry FERAL zombies that want to rend you to pieces and sup on your flesh and blood. Outside the city limits, outside the barricaded villages miles away from Grand Rapids, these "wild dog" type zombies still wander and will attack if provoked or are simply hungry.

It is better to walk softly and carry a loaded machine gun than make a shit load of noise and attract every pissed-off undead thing in your vicinity. Even if you are in an armored vehicle, getting gang-piled by snarling, snapping Zees...not so good.

There are a few other types of ZOMBIES in the series/storyline that I think stand apart from the usual serving of the undead within the genre. I will talk about those and other things, like, why Grand rapids, Michigan? Why the Military? Why a 1950's gas station attendant zombie in my next FLESHING OUT posts.

Until next time.

Don't fear the dead, they don't have to deal with living like the living do.

ZOMBIE TROOPERS, a new TRANSPORT World related series I am working on.
No publisher yet but good Pos-Apoc Military goodness.

IMAGINARIUM Writers Convention - Post Convention Commentary

September 23, 2014

Three words, four numbers, and some exclamation points sum it up: 


I arrived in Louisville, Kentucky about 2pm on Friday, September 19. Originally parked my car wa-aay far away from where the exhibit hall. Luckily was smart enough to just take my computer bag with me, not try to cart my tote and boxes across the vast complex which was the Crowne Plaza.

I procured my Guest Badge and met Susan Roddey and some of the Event Staff (more folks, come to find out, were part of the SSP family) and stepped into the exhibit hall.

Placed me next to the fire extinguisher in case I spontaneously combusted.

I sweat like I'd just stepped under Niagara Falls.

IMAGINARIUM was/is big for me. It was the first big convention I had attended in, hmmm, twenty years. It is the first big convention I had attended where I had something to sell, ie, a book. It was the first big convention in which I would have my own table space to put my stuff up and try to promote and sell. It was the first time meeting, in person, my Seventh Star Press publisher and publishing family and SSP authors (many of whom are books ahead of me in written work available). I knew a few people that were attending the convention, like 2 or 3, from years ago, but 99.8% of the rest were all new. Well, I had "met" them on Facebook.

I was nervous, thus the sweat shower.

Me and my publisher and Imaginarium Director, Stephen Zimmer. And my editor, Rodney Carlstrom.

BUT once I got situated between the wonderful Michael West and the marvelous Jen Mulvihill, and after being greeted warmly by my publisher and some of the other "family members"...all was good. In fact, by weekend end, I pretty much felt like I'd known these people all along. That is how great EVERYONE was at the convention.

A community of artists who enjoyed their craft, gave a shit, were human, and enjoyed the company of their brothers and sisters of the trade.

I sat in a panel, as an audience member, after meeting my current TRANSPORT editor, Rodney Carlstrom, and listened to he and the others discuss STEAMPUNK TODAY. he and the rest of the panelists knew there stuff. Experts in the field.

I sat in four panels as an actual panelist, including one as a moderator.

Before I walked onto the whole scene I thought I'd be too nervous to speak, would not know what to say or how to join in the conversation, or talk like a nervous babbling baboon, BUT, by the time it was my time to sit down with the other artists and audience, because of the warmth already spread around by the IMAGINARIUM people (event staff, publisher, other writers, etc.) I felt very comfortable in these groups and had quite a bit of fun.

Saturday, September 20, was my big full day of the convention. I was part of a panel discussion on Cover (Art) Lovin' and, later, The Zombie Horde. I also attended a workshop instructed by Tim Waggoner, which was awesome, and the guy (an established author as well as writing instructor) was a true gent and interesting.

When I wasn't attending a panel or workshop I was hanging out at my little book/table display. Often times, I would see someone I wanted to say HELLO to and meander off to another table.

So much to do. So many people to see/meet.

The bonus: EVERYONE was very friendly, cordial. I didn't meet anyone who was a stuffed shirt, a person with nose turned up, acting mightier than thou, better than you, a true artiste frowning on the other dredges of the Craft. Everyone I met was eager to say hello, talk a bit, chuckle or provide serious feedback.


Saturday evening there was a masquerade ball/convention after-party. People hung out. More discussions. More laughter. More camaraderie.


Sunday, I did (2) panels: LONE HERO VS HEROIC GROUP and INTO THE WASTELAND (where the conversation fell on the subject of zombies again). It was all good though. Cool panelists. Cool discussions. Some laughs.

I packed things up and left the area around 1pm, and headed back north.

I write this little blog post several days after the convention, and can say, I can't wait to go to IMAGINARIUM 2015.


September 29, 2014

It has been a week since IMAGINARIUM. It still makes me excited thinking about the experience, the people I met, the discussions, the fun, the being involved in something bigger than me, in being involved in this huge group of story-tellers, tale weavers.

Again, I thank Stephen Zimmer, Susan Roddey and the entire crew who helped put this thing together and make it happen.

See you next year.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mini Diorama for IMAGINARIUM Convention TRANSPORT Table/Book Display

What better way to try and garner some attention at your book display, at a convention, than having something additionally VISUAL to draw an eye to your written work than a diorama.
I have built two small dioramas for the convention. One is a vehicle and driver, loaded down with salvaged, scavenged goods, being attacked by a Feral zombie.
The other is this somber little piece below. One of the local zombie civilians of Grand Rapids, standing behind the fence within the UCRA (Urban Civilian Retention Area) where the city keeps her undead "friends and family" in my fictional Military Zombie Post-Apoc book series, TRANSPORT.
I call this little vignette: ALONE.
Think about it. I know zombies gross us out, make us sick, make us fear-filled. But what if, mindless or not, you found yourself in this fellows position. Alone, on the other side of the fence, the living, breathing populace on the other side, living the good life...HELL...LIVING, while you shamble your days away, eating doped meat, calm, but UNDEAD.
Think about it.
Anyway, this piece will be at IMAGINARIUM in Louisville, Kentucky, this weekend at my table display helping to promote TRANSPORT.
TRANSPORT (Book One) can be found here:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

TIM HOLTROP: Five Things Learned Illustrating the TRANSPORT Interiors

Specialist Eddie Mulholland, Rear Gunner of the M213 HTV HURON
I met Tim Holtrop about 20 years ago (my, how time flies) while pursuing a local illustrated digest thingie called PETRUS COMICS PRESENTS. I got lucky enough to know this very talented guy, and ran into him again a year or so back when I was writing another Grand Rapids-based post-apoc tale entitled FINAL RIGHTS. Tim did some sketches for that story, just for my eyes, just for the fun of it.
When my idea for a post-apoc military/zombie action-adventure series came about, I told him about it, and next thing he was working on little illustrations to visualize things.
And then I got him REALLY involved, paying job-wise, in doing real deal B&W illustrations for the TRANSPORT series. (Thank you, Stephen Zimmer.)
Tim is a great guy, a truly blessed artist, and a friend.
Take it away, Tim...
When Pete asked me to write "5 Things I Learned..." doing the interior illustrations for TRANSPORT, I had to take a moment or so to think.

I wonder if it would count toward the five things if I mentioned the renovations to the fallout shelter, adding extra rooms (secured, separated from the rest of the unit) in case some of my loved ones were zombified and needed a safe place to stay near us in a nuclear war...or my recent investment in developing and stockpiling MORG (doped meat by product used to feed the local zombies in the book series--PJW) for the pantry, so they'd have something proper to eat.
Hmmm...maybe that's not what Pete wanted me to write about. (Nope--PJW)
I guess I'll move on with things related to doing the art for his books.
1. I still enjoy helping others put their imaginative vision on paper.
I've drawn a lot of pictures for a lot of people over, well...A LOT of years. When people want me to draw something for them, they usually have some idea of what they want me to draw. Some folks have a very particular vision, and I have to work diligently, using the skills I've been given, to meet their high demands. Other folks have more of a general "subject matter" in mind, and are willing to allow me to craft the art as I see fit, trusting that I'll do something cool. Most folks that I've worked with fall in between, having varying degrees of clarity about what they want drawn, allowing me some freedom to explore and help them bring their idea to light.
Tim Holtrop early sketch of the M213 HTV HURON
Pete Welmerink had some ideas in mind for the TRANSPORT art he wanted, and he provided me with good reference material, including some of his own stick figure sketches to help communicate his ideas to me. (That's about the best I can do. Stick figures.--PJW) He also gave me the freedom to explore the characters, settings, and action of each scene within the boundaries of his vision for it. I was able to help him explore possibilities for actions, poses, shots and angles in the concept stage of the art, and he provided me with good feedback and decisions that helped keep us on-track all the way to the finished art. I think we worked well together. (Yes!--PJW)
For many years, God has blessed me with the ability to enjoy working with and serving people. My job as an artist has been less about "art", and more about helping others with the skills I've been given. I had a great time working with Pete on the TRANSPORT illustrations. After all this time, I still enjoy what I've been given to do, and for that I'm very thankful.
2. In a world full of bleak doomsday scenarios, Pete's approach to Zombies is interesting and refreshing.
We seem to be fascinated by death and destruction in our culture, and that's reflected in a lot of our entertainment, especially the Zombie stories that I've seen (I may have missed something, of course...I can't read books or watch TV and movies all the time...I'd never get work done!).  Pete brings in a very interesting human element to the post apocalyptic world as he shows that people still care about their loved ones despite the horrifying condition they're in. They care so much that they've developed a way to keep them fed and docile, and given them places to "live" in the community. Zombies have been integrated into this speculative future society as they rebuild and deal with other danger and the politics of life in this new world. I like what he's doing...I think it provides us with a sense of hope...perhaps the future isn't going to be completely ruined after all.
I also like how Pete made use of real places in this speculative, fictitious future. I enjoyed drawing what some of those places might look like in that setting: the Westside Apostolate, the old Marathon station, the city of Grand Rapids itself...wonderful tie-ins to this real world we live in. Some interesting fictitious characters like Sister Mary Mirose, Bob the zombie gas station attendant, and the Huron's crew, coupled with a good story, gave me a lot of interesting things to draw.
Tim Holtrop sketch of the M213 HTV HURON with its 25mm cannon turret.
3. I enjoyed researching and drawing military equipment and vehicles.
Some folks may think artists have to have everything already memorized to be able to do their work on a job...but that just ain't so. Artists get to research their subject matter before they draw it. They tackle assignments involving things they already know and things they have yet to learn about (although, some clients might prefer that an artist already know the subject matter to some degree, especially on a tight deadline with little to no time for research!). As an artist, I am blessed with the opportunity to learn new things frequently as I do my research for a project. Even though clients provide visual reference for the things they want rendered in a particular way, I still have to explore the reference, and I come away learning something about what I'm about to draw.
Tim Holtrop does action figures...illustrative-wise!
I knew a little bit about military equipment and vehicles from past work, but working on TRANSPORT helped me learn a whole lot more, which is something I definitely enjoyed. The future world Pete has crafted isn't so far removed from our own, and the military items in use are still pretty close to the things we use in our present world. Even though it's a bit more time intensive to draw military gear than normal day-to-day civilian items, the researching and sketching taught me more about the things our brave men and women in uniform have to use to protect us and our interests in today's troubled world, and helped me apply them to a speculative world of tomorrow. 
4. Digital inking takes a bit more time for me than traditional pen & ink, but I like the's worth doing.
It's been a while since I've smelled the odor emanating from an open bottle of black ink, or felt the sensation of my #102 dip pen nib through it's plastic handle as I moved it across a sheet of bristol. It's also been a while since I've felt the disappointment of having to white out a stray ink line, or patch in an element I've had to make changes to after it was already finished in ink. I miss these things, but at this point in my life I don't have the studio space to accommodate all the art tools I love to use...Instead of buying a bigger house, I chose to use the digital tools being offered these days.
Driver of the M213 HTV HURON, Spc. Loutonia Phelps, laying down the law.
Although I drew the interior illustrations for TRANSPORT in pencil (on paper), I used a combination of Manga Studio EX 4 and Photoshop to handle the inking chores. After scanning the pencils and making any adjustments necessary in PS, I imported them into MS (yes, I like to abbreviate!), turned 'em into bluelines, and set up my layers. From here onward, I inked the art with some of the wide variety of tools available to me. I don't even come close to using all that's available, but it's always good to have more than enough. Later, I exported the inked art to be able to do any final work or effect in PS.
I'm used to using triangles, french curves, and other physical tools when I draw and ink, but in the digital world, things are a little different. Inking in MS provides some cool tools with the special rulers like the perspective rulers, the parallel lines ruler, and the custom rulers I can make when I need to ink a special shape. It's different from traditional inking, but it's actually pretty fun to use. It takes me a bit more time than traditional inking at this point, but there's a lot to explore and the effects that I can produce digitally are much easier for me than when using pen/brush & ink. As for making corrections...well, I still need to make 'em sometimes (ok, a lot more than I'd like to admit), but now, it's a whole lot easier, and involves a lot less disappointment.
5. I still enjoy drawing zombies.
I've always loved drawing action-packed and adventurous material, but back in my "artistic youth" I loved to draw wild and gritty subject matter too, like zombies, violent battles, and destruction. What other fantasy-loving heavy metal music fan wouldn't love stuff like that? But God had other plans for me, and brought me through a lot of experiences over many years changing my life and helping me broaden my artistic range to be able to enjoy working on everything from sci-fi to children's subjects.  (Once God gave us some kids, I couldn't help but start working on softer, friendlier material...who wouldn't do the same?)
A Feral Zombie and not-so-Feral, but local Grand Rapids undead citizen BOB the 1950's gas station attendant zombie
I've worked as an artist on projects in all sorts of media, drawing fantasy creatures, cute cartoon animals, cars, food, and normal everyday folks. I didn't draw much of the gritty, violent stuff anymore...and, oddly, I didn't mind.
Over the past few years, I've been given opportunities to draw the undead again, and I've realized that I'm approaching it from a different standpoint. I've grown a lot in my personal life and as an artist. I was a little apprehensive at first about drawing zombies again, but I gave it a shot, and found that even though my heart and my life have changed, I still enjoy drawing a wormy, walking corpse from time to time. I think Pete's approach to zombies (as I mentioned above) has helped me ease back into this, as he really has added something significant and mature to the direction of post-apocalyptic zombie lore.
Well, I guess these would be the "appropriate" 5 things I learned working on TRANSPORT. I should probably wrap it up now, as there's still a lot of work to be done if I'm ever going to get a 15-foot tall, heavily armored family transport ready to roll so I can run errands safely when the world falls apart.
Hmmm...I think I'll need to build a bigger garage, too.
Tim Holtrop always has loved drawing and telling stories. He’s very thankful that God has blessed him with the ability to do both professionally. Over the years, he’s been given work in publishing, film, television, advertising, web, and other entertainment related arenas drawing comics, storyboards, comps, concept sketches and illustrations. He’s spent some time working in Los Angeles before moving his family back home to West Michigan, where he currently provides his services by working from home and delivering art to clients via e-mail / internet.
Web Sites:
For the whole family (I told ya'...I do more than zombies):
            Cute cartoon animal designs:
            Free printable activities and books:
You can find Interior Artist Tim Holtrop and Cover Artist Jason Conley's work upon and within Peter Welmerink's military/zombie series: TRANSPORT.
TRANSPORT Book One available now at all booksellers. Ask for it by name if they do not have it on the shelf.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

IMAGINARIUM Convention next week in Louisville KY

Special thanks to D. R. Acula for his awesome no-nonsensery blog post on same topic and the cool promo piece below


September 19-21, 2014
Crowne Plaza
Louisville KY
What is this IMAGINARIUM?

The Imaginarium Convention  is a writers convention that offers, panels, workshops, art, a film festival, a masquerade ball that hosts an costume/cosplay contest. It is a melting pot for writers, aspiring writers, publishers, readers, and anyone in the creative writing business to meet and network and learn.
$55 for a full weekend pass
$25 for a day
A group of 8 or more: $35 per person for the entire weekend
You can register here:

Main IMAGINARIUM site here:

The IMAGINARIUM On Social Media:

Other informative posts about the IMAGINARIUM:
The Quote below is from the awesome website 'I Smell Sheep' concerning a 6 part post series... links are below.
"Ever wonder what goes into creating a convention? Stephen Zimmer has agreed to take us through the steps. He has agreed to do a six week series about what it took to put together Imaginarium which will make its debut this September." - From I Smell Sheep
The Genesis of The Imaginarium Convention- Part I: concept and venue

The Genesis of The Imaginarium Convention- Part II: The Building of a Guest List

The Genesis of The Imaginarium Convention- Part III: The Programming (part 1)

The Genesis of The Imaginarium Convention- Part III: The Programming  (part 2)

The Genesis of The Imaginarium Convention- Part IV: Convention vs Conference

There is also the excellent Blog of Selah Janel:

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The HURON...LEGO Style

Yesterday I showed a sketch of the HURON (drawn by the talented Tim Holtrop way back in the early days of TRANSPORT's conception) to my son Matthew, and challenged him to create a LEGO rendition of the big M213 Heavy Transport Vehicle. The M213 Ridgerunner-Class HURON is the prevailing military vehicle in my post-apoc military/zombie action-adventure series, TRANSPORT.
Matthew accepted the challenge and began building.
And here, for your viewing pleasure, are the results.

Matthew and his creation

Hmmm... pretty darn cloe to cover perfection. :)
HURON front gunner Sgt. James Stokes??
It took Matthew roughly an hour and a half to dig through LEGO parts and put the whole thing together.
Yes, it is not Army green or beige. It is not an exact front, back, sides, duallie front wheel model as depicted in book series or illustrations...BUT IT IS DANG COOL!
Thanks son!

Friday, September 5, 2014

JASON C CONLEY: Five Things Learned Illustrating the TRANSPORT Covers

1.  Zombies are just as freakin' cool to draw as they are to watch. 
My first encounter with the undead was the 1968 George Romero classic, Night of the Living Dead.  I wasn’t even born until 78’ so it was on cable where I was introduced to this slowly-built-up dread that beat its way through your boarded up window.  Talk about suspenseful!  To be not really all that gruesome, it’s never really been beat to this day as far as zombie flicks go.  Its restraint is what is appealing and it’s exactly that restraint in gore that I brought to this piece.  Our over-saturation in violence has deadened (pun intended) our response to it.  I could have just as easily drawn entrails and eyeballs and blood spraying like a MMA fight.  But that would be like everything else we see today, and that just ain’t me punk!


2.  Military vehicles COMBINED with zombies are a cool way to go, baby! 

I remember when Peter and I were going over the cover concept together and he talked about this giant armored beast called the HURON.  I thought, “Cool!  I’ve never tackled a military unit before.  This will be fun!”  And then I start thinking…the engines churned and fire blew out my tailpipe like an old Tex Avery cartoon.  He said he had three covers.  This was a series.  So I thought, “why not make them connect like some of the comics from the 90’s use to?”  I pitched the idea to Peter and his publisher, not really caring if they said no, I was doing it anyways!  I already had the image in my head of what to draw, they just had to sit back and wait.  I did a rough draft, sent it out and then went full steam ahead.


3.  I almost bit off more than I could chew.  
Not only did the three covers have to work together, they also had to work as separate pieces when broken apart for their respective books.  No small task!  The HURON was the centerpiece of this story, so I wanted it on the first book to introduce the character of sorts.  Peter said he wanted a car crushed underneath it, zombies scattered throughout, and the Grand Rapids city skyline in the background.  But if this story was about military strike vehicles taking on the zombie apocalypse then why not add some really killer beasts of BOOM to go with it??  So along came the tank and helicopter, crowds of zombies, attacking military squads and crawling creatures of the undead.  Each cover now focused on a particular vehicle that wrecked carnage with brains to spare.


4.  Color ties things together nicely. 
I wanted a grimy, used, stepped upon and drug across look for this piece.  Zombies aren’t the cleanest things, and life gets a little messy when they’re being crushed or blown to pieces.  So I used an Earth tone color scheme, set at dusk, and went to work adding all sorts of cruddy textures to ground the piece in reality. 

5. Special effects rule! 
Sparks, flames, spotlights, broken glass, motion blur, all used where needed to really sell the work and make it interesting.  Photoshop was used for this entire cover from start to finish.  But what really sold it was a professional set of filters I used called Knoll Light Factory.  If you’ve seen a blockbuster movie in the past decade, then you’ve seen Knoll Light Factory at work.  It’s a highly customizable collection of light filters, lens flares, sparkles, etc. that can really transform a piece if used correctly. 

So there you have it.  Easy enough, right?  Whatever the subject matter, you have to tackle the piece with your own style, viewpoint, and skill set available.  It helps if you have killer subject matter to work with, too!  Thanks for that part Peter!
[No. Thank YOU, Jason. Your TRANSPORT covers ROCK! I couldn't be more fortunate working with a great talent like yourself. I can draw a mean stick figure, but nothing compared to you and the other TRANSPORT artist, Tim Holtrop. You guys hit it out of the park...which is probably good, because John Ball Park (Grand Rapids Michigan) in my TRANSPORT World is home of both the undead and some, er, strange mutations yet to be discovered.]

Jason Conley lives in Chattanooga, TN with his wonderful wife and daughter.  He is a writer and illustrator, currently doing cover art/illustration work for Seventh Star Press.  His novel, The Kingdom of Vosh, was published in 2013 by Dark Oak Publishing.

Kingdom of Vosh on Amazon
Kingdom of Vosh on Barnes & Noble
Copyright 2013-2014 Jason Conley
Copyright 2013-2014 Jason Conley
TRANSPORT (Book One), with cover art by Jason Conley and interior art by Tim Holtrop, can be found here:
Uncaptioned art on this page copyright 2014 Jason Conley, Peter Welmerink