HOOD on sale for 0.99!


For only a short time more HOOD is going to be on sale for 0.99!

For those of you who haven’t read it… Now’s your chance 😉

For those of you who have, spread the word! I’d say it’s pretty damn good value to get for a buck if I do say so myself.


My voice actor, Mike Jameson, has been doing a fantastic job and I’m ecstatic on how it’s coming out. We’re most of the way through the book, so hopefully I should have it up for sale soon!


Hope y’all are enjoying your summer!

Evan P


August Book 2 Update!

So July has came and went. Damn that was fast.

So, where am I in progress of WHISKEY, BOOK 2 of the American Rebirth Series?

WORD COUNT: 58,000

Good news: The draft is almost done. It looks like the book will end up being around 70K+ words. I should have it done by this month! That in and of itself is a pretty awesome feeling. It took me three years to write the first draft for HOOD. It’ll take me about 3 months for WHISKEY.

Bad news: I only wrote 28,000 words in July. To give myself a break, I have been going through some pretty strenuous crap in my life. So there is that. But reality is, I fell short of my 2,000 words/day goal by a pretty sizeable margin, and I wrote less than I did in June.

I’m starting to think that word-count-hitting is a poor motivator. Aside from feeling satisfied that I hit my goals, it’s still mostly just a weight around my neck. Truth is I write most prolifically when I get in a flow and/or get really excited about the scene I’m writing.

I think I’d be better off just focusing on what gets me most excited about whatever current scene I’m writing. Last night I churned out 2,300 words pretty easily, because I really felt in the groove and felt excited about all the little details.

Anyway, I’m still trying to figure out optimal writing/motivation goals for full-time writing. As of right now, I’m just going to set the goal of having the manuscript done by August 15th. In the meantime I’m going to try and figure out something that makes the day-to-day writing pressure not… well… feel like pressure, lol.

Can’t wait to get it done and published already. I’m really pretty damn proud of how much I’ve written this summer so far.

-Evan Pickering

Five Hundred Words

There’s something I read recently that really stuck with me.

And I’m going to paraphrase here… But finding your dream career isn’t about finding one where you love the good parts– it’s about finding a career where you enjoy the hard work.

Because basically all careers, no matter how greenish the grass looks on the other side of the hill, have hard work. No matter how dreamy they seem.

I’m glad I love the writing, the editing, all the stuff that goes into it. There’s something so satisfying about creating a story.

But it’s hard work. It really is. And the procrastination can be REAL.

I’m in a pretty beautiful place that I find myself writing BOOK 2 this summer as my full-time. THAT doesn’t totally feel real.

But the work is. So there’s something of a transition I’m undergoing, It’s a totally different feel writing with the pressure of a Book 1 behind you and readers clamoring for a sequel!

So I’ve come up with a plan. It’s very much in the spirit of sustainability. It’s pretty simple– 500 words a day. It’s not a lot, I know. but that’s the point. Because on a daily basis, I need to feel the satisfaction of getting writing done. I have to keep it from feeling like a ticking clock–and the best way to sustainable success, is small, rewarding increments.

So let’s say I write 500 words and it’s only 2pm one day. I’m rolling, the writing is flowing. I just keep writing. And I get to feel awesome, like an overachiever xD Maybe i’ll get 3,000 words… maybe 8,000. I’ll be sky high.

And if I have a tough day, and only write 500, then I feel like I did what I need to do. And if I take a day off, I don’t feel like I’m SO far behind.

So basically, set your daily goals as very achievable–so you can feel good, so you can blow them away, and you can average more than your goal. You’ll feel great, you’ll write more, and you’ll shake free of the stress of I need to be writing. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. And give yourself the leeway to write it the right way.

At the end of the day, it’s about quality, not quantity. I can’t wait to give the readers of HOOD an ever better work to read.

Evan P.


Free Excerpt: Chapter 2 of HOOD

For those looking for Chapter 1, check out this hotness

Though you don’t have to read it to enjoy CH2. You might just not totally know what’s going on 😀

There’s not much better than a Friday with summer coming just around the bend. COME ON SUMMER DAMMIT.



Chapter 2 – One Man Gone

Hood slammed the door of the truck. The bright sun blared down on an old house that remained largely intact. He’d seen this exact sight before: an unhinged red front door and pile of rotten wood shingles that lay in a heap next to the walkway. They’d already been to this house, months ago.

He scanned the area, looking over each shoulder. The narrow lake shimmering in the sunlight nearby looked much more sylvan now than in the nighttime.


“Mmm-hmm?” He replied, the crunch of his footsteps on gravel unceasing as he strode towards the old farmhouse. It still held the air of the majestic country home it must’ve been some years ago.

“Why are we looking in the same place again?” Hood’s tone did nothing to hide his annoyance.

“Just keep an eye on the truck,” Whiskey said, entering the house with his police-issue shotgun half-raised.

Hood breathed in deeply, leaning his head back and letting out a grumbling sigh. He looked out over the still lake, a few lost pine cones bobbing about like ships at sea. He turned around, observing the vast overgrowth of grass and weeds on what must have once been fields. The old barn, covered in flaky brown paint, was listing so heavily to one side it looked as if Hood yelled at it, it would collapse.

In the distance, over the top of the treeline, he could see the rise of the Shenandoah Mountains. At least, he was pretty sure that’s what it was.

He hoisted his rifle onto his shoulder, letting it rest there lazily. At least it was a gorgeous day, even if they were in yet another ghost town.

He wondered what his old home in D.C. looked like. The parts of the city that still stood had been on the brink of chaos when Hood and Taylor left two years ago. They’d waited for days hoping their parents would show up, but fled when the survivors grew desperate. Radiation sickness had decimated many of the people who had survived the blast.

How different would Hood’s life be if his entire family had been together during the fall. They probably never would have met Whiskey and become a part of Clearwater. He hadn’t seen Ian in over a year even before the fall. Their brotherhood had become a long distance text conversation and occasional Skype call. Ian had been busy starting his family and Hood couldn’t figure out what the hell he was doing with his life. They both had treated separation like a temporary nuisance, the distance in the modern world seeming so small. God, I miss you bro. What I wouldn’t do just to get to sit down and talk with you again about nothing.

It was hard transition going from global, instantaneous communication to a life where your survival depended on being cut off from the world. A bird of prey was floating slowly on the strong winds high up in the blue sky. Nothing to see here, buddy.

Wearing a blank expression, Whiskey walked out the front door of the house, heading straight for the truck.

“So I’m gonna go out on a limb and say… it’s still an empty house,” Hood quipped.

“Come on, I want to check in town a ways,” Whiskey said, hopping inside and starting the engine with a deep rumble. Hood shook his head and climbed into the passenger side. I should have brought a god damned book or something. What I wouldn’t do for a PSP or a 3DS, with even just a few games and infinite battery life.

Hood’s brain rattled off into the land of the ridiculous, spurred on by boredom. “You ever wonder how long pubes would grow if no one ever shaved? Maybe you could make like a groin-beard, or make braids or something nice.” Hood  cast an absurd look Whiskey’s way.

Whiskey looked incredulous.

“Man, not even a smile?” Hood turned his head, chuckling, and stared with tired eyes out the windshield. The weather-worn, one-lane, two-way road lay baking in the sun. It looked barely wide enough to accommodate two different directions of traffic. Ian would’ve thought that was hilarious. Or maybe not. At least he would’ve fired back with something.

“It’s like you’re drunk when you’re sober,” Whiskey grumbled.

Hood shrugged. “You never thought about shit like that?”


They both stared ahead again at the sun-baked road. Whiskey scratched his bearded jawline.

“How did the hobbit ruin the boxing match?”

Whiskey glanced over at him, annoyed.

“What, you not into Tolkien?”

“Not particularly.”

Hood shook his head, looking out the passenger side at the overgrown fields passing by.

“I bet you used to give out bags of pennies for Halloween.”

A slight grin crept over Whiskey’s face. Victory. “Tootsie rolls. I like Tootsie rolls.”

“You’re a man of boundless curiosity, you know that? The body of a thirty-something, but the spirit of an eighty year old losing at bingo.”

Whiskey laughed quietly to himself. “You know what Sue Morris said to me on my last patrol before we left town? ‘Be careful to keep the lord with you. It’s the devil’s curiosity to find a way into our hearts.’”

Hood scoffed. “Her husband doesn’t do much to ward off the devil. All he does on guard duty is sit in a chair, farting in his sleep.”

Whiskey propped his arm on the door and rested his chin in his hand, gnawing at the first knuckle of his pointer finger. He knew they needed more people to defend the town in case they ever were attacked outright.

Hood furrowed his brow. The roadside was empty save for overgrowth and a gas station that looked as though it had been stripped down long before the nukes had changed their world.

“My old partner, Alan,” Whiskey said. “He retired four years ago. That farmhouse was his grandfather’s, and he told me he wanted to move there.” He finally addressed the latent question in the air.

“Well, considering we’ve been here before, and this time we have a truckload of invaluable food and gasoline, I’d consider this visit a waste of time,” Hood said, looking through the back window into the loaded bed of the truck.

“We could use his help. We’ve got too many guys who won’t be worth a damn if wasters find our town with blood on their minds.”

“You can just say the dude is your friend and you want to find him,” Hood shifted in his seat, moving back to sit up straighter, giving himself more leg room.

Whiskey rubbed his chin. “Yeah, I suppose there’s that too,” he murmured after some hesitation.

The one-stoplight town was the kind you might not be able to find on a map unless you knew where it was. The only buildings of note in the intersection were a long-cleaned-out old grocery, a faded white house—once a local diner—with peeling  paint, and an old wooden church. The road curved past the church and over a river with a low, flat wooden bridge across it. Whiskey turned off the truck and Hood hopped out of the passenger side, his shoes grinding dirt into the pavement.

If there had once been  people living in this town, they certainly weren’t here anymore.

“Look there,” Whiskey said quietly, pointing to a watery, muddy trail that lead from the rushing river to the church doors.

No animal did that. Hood’s pulse quickened.

The two of them hustled over to it, guns in hand. Clearly someone had dragged himself  out of the river. Puddles still remained, and wet footprints. Hood’s eyes met Whiskey’s. He didn’t need to say anything.

They moved swiftly and quietly along the wet tracks to the church. The outside smelled of a musty, aged wood that stirred up vague memories of his grandfather’s garage. Was it cedar? Whiskey gave him a glance, then grabbed the cast-iron door-handle.

Hood held up the rifle to sight.

Whiskey pulled the door open and the hinges groaned.

Beams of sunlight lit up the empty pews, and leaves covered  the floor. Many of the windows had been shattered. The muddy trail led down the center aisle and then to the left of the altar, where it became lost to sight. Blood trailed along the faded white stone floor.

He motioned to Whiskey: forward and to the left. The two of them entered, their footsteps echoing throughout the room despite their best efforts, followed by a gust of wind that sent  leaves and dust swirling in front of the altar.

“You win. I can’t run no more.” A man’s voice echoed through the church. A pistol clattered to the ground, sliding to a halt in the empty space in front of the altar.

“Jammed. Ain’t that my luck,” the hoarse voice said with heavy resignation.

Hood and Whiskey turned the corner, guns raised. A wiry dark-skinned man sat on the floor,  his head resting against the prayer pedestal with its rows of candles. He was drenched, his jeans and long-sleeved shirt dark and heavy with water.

After a second, Hood lowered his rifle.

“We’re not here looking for you,” Hood said.

The man stared at him, squinting.“Are you gonna kill me?” He asked.

“No,” Hood said immediately.

Whiskey cast him a disapproving glance.“Provided you don’t do anythin’ stupid,” he  added, shotgun still raised.

The man raised his hands weakly. “Who are you? I thought for sure you were the Kaiser’s men,” The guy broke into a wry smile, avoiding Whiskey’s question. “You boys look like angels to me.”

“Don’t go getting all excited,” Whiskey grunted at the man. “We ain’t nobody’s saviors.”

The man shook his head slowly, eyes closed but still smiling. “I disagree.”

“You were running from the Kaiser?” Hood asked.

“His militants, at least. I was one of their prisoners,” the man said at length, still breathing slowly.

“No you weren’t,” Whiskey said, sizing the man up.

“Sharp, this guy. No, I wasn’t. But I felt like it by the end. I joined ’em early. They were part of this whole separatist group, all military and doomsday survivalists at first. The Kaiser was just some wanderer. He showed up soon after the fall, covered in blood like it was no big deal. The leader at the time, an angry fella named Gary took exception to the Kaiser’s attitude and he tried to kill him. I swear the Kaiser slit ol’ Gary’s throat before he even got close. Never seen someone move like that. He declared that he didn’t want to fight, said he just wanted a place to be. He felt genuine, and many folks didn’t like Gary—he was a wild, power hungry man. Soon enough everyone came to like the Kaiser and wanted him to lead. After he took over, we started raiding, and slaving, and everything got out of control. He had some grand plan but it all seemed sideways to me. My crew tried to fight back, tried to stop the whole thing. They been hunting us down ever since. I’m the last one left.” The man didn’t bother to hide his exhaustion.

“What were you doin’ in here? Praying?” Whiskey scoffed, still holding up his shotgun.

The man shook his head. “Nah. Tabernacle usually has wine in it. Somebody beat me to it though,” He pointed at an ornate gilded container, lying empty on the floor.

“Do you know where survivors from D.C. might have gone?” Hood asked the man.

“Hell if I know. West, maybe.”

“You know of a man called Alan Dale?” Whiskey lowered the shotgun to focus on the man’s face, though he still held the weapon at a hip-fire position.

“Why, he done you some wrong? Is that why you boys are out here?” The man looked back and forth from Hood to Whiskey, reading their expressions.

“Just answer the question.”

“No, I don’t know of him. But I tend to remember the ladies a bit easier. . .” He  seemed content to leer off into some fantasy.

Hood reached into his pack and pulled out a half-drunk bottle of water and a sleeve of crackers. He tossed them onto the man’s lap. He looked up at Hood in shock for a moment, then drank greedily and started shoving crackers in his mouth.

Whiskey grimaced and rubbed his forehead.

Hood walked over to the jammed pistol on the floor and picked it up. He removed the magazine and tried to rack the slide. A casing was lodged in the ejection port. Hood handed the gun to Whiskey, who knocked the casing free with the heel of his hand and then successfully racked the slide. The dented round clicked as it fell onto the stone floor.

“How much have you seen out there?” Hood asked the man.

He wiped his mouth of cracker crumbs. “You boys haven’t had much contact with the outside world, huh?”

“Not much. We try to keep it that way,” Hood said.

The man chuckled. “Smart thinkin’. It’s all gone. I seen a man’s arm fall clean off from the radiation, but the biological shit that tore through the cities was the real nightmare. If you was lucky it killed you, and didn’t turn you into an animal while you was still alive.”

Hood and Whiskey exchanged a glance.  Whiskey’s face seemed to express some doubt. Maybe he didn’t want to believe it was true. But it lined up with what Hood had read in the dead man’s journal.

“You two got any alcohol?”

“No,” Whiskey snapped.

“It’s for my leg. I need to clean it.”

Hood looked at Whiskey, nodding towards the man. Whiskey breathed deeply in annoyance, reached into his cargo jacket and produced a flask, handing it to the man.

He poured it onto a sizable gouge in his thigh, then took a swig, grimacing. He handed it back, then tore off his sleeve and tied it around the wound, baring his teeth as he worked.

Whiskey nodded at the man’s pistol in his hand. “Keep the dirt out of the magazine, and keep the barrel clean next time.”

The man looked up at Whiskey inquisitively. “You sure you ain’t angels?”

“No. I’m keeping it. Consider it payment.” Whiskey put away the pistol. “For your life.”

“I’m dead without it,” The man said simply.

“Or you can die right now,” Whiskey replied, holding the man’s gaze. The man clearly deliberated saying something, but decided against it.

“Thanks for the food,” The man said eventually as he stood up, favoring his wounded right leg.

“Where are you gonna go?” Hood asked. The cool gust of wind through the broken window felt relaxing and unsettling all at once.

“West. Someplace in Colorado. I’ve heard rumors it’s better out there.”

“Colorado, huh.” Whiskey looked ready to see the man gone.

“Col-o-ra-do,” he repeated, limping past them down the aisle.

Hood looked around the desolate church, ransacked of everything but prayer books and Bibles in the pews. Whiskey followed the man closely behind, shotgun still raised. The man pushed his way out the front door. Whiskey followed him. Hood turned and walked out, his footsteps echoing lightly.

The sun still shone strong. Their truck sat still and undisturbed. The man whistled at it.

“Damn, you boys don’t mess around. Where’d you get all that cargo?”

Whiskey glowered at him.

“Never mind. Shit. You sure you don’t need someone to help you with all that?”

“I thought you’ve got Colorado,” Whiskey replied, scrutinizing the man from under his  intimidating eyebrows. They could damn near scowl on their own.

“Right, well, yeah. Right.”

“You gonna limp all the way there?” Whiskey didn’t hide his doubt well.

“No, I’ll catch a ride. I’ll get some beater up and running,” The man said. “Was a mechanic, once upon a time.”

“Good luck,” Hood said plainly.

“Name’s Donte. I’m thinking I won’t see you two again. You sure I can’t get that shooter back?” The man asked Whiskey directly.

He shook his head slowly in response.

“All right.” The man turned, his gaze lingering on the two of them before hobbling over the small bridge heading west. Hood and Whiskey watched him as he walked out of sight.

“Something’s not right about him.” Whiskey turned back to the truck, putting the man’s pistol in the center of the seats.

“Why do you say that?” Hood walked around to the passenger side, putting the rifle down against the seat and climbing in.

“I just have that feeling,” Whiskey said. The truck started with a whine and a rumble.

“It’s because he’s black. You’re racist.”

“Don’t be an ass.”

“It’s okay to admit it. Lots of people are racist,” Hood quipped, unable to hide his grin.

“It’s because of his story about the Kaiser,” Whiskey snapped. “Why am I even answerin’ this crap?”

“So are you like, self-loathing, since you’re part Hispanic?”

“I’m going to fuckin’ kill you.” Whiskey grunted at him.

Hood laughed, leaning his head  against the back window.“Take everything more seriously, please. It’s fantastic.”

There was a momentary lull in the cabin. The suspension squeaked as the truck bobbed back and forth.

“We should’ve killed him.” Whiskey’s face remained stoic as he stared out the windshield, one hand on the steering wheel. Hood turned to look out the passenger-side window, the sunlit  overgrown trees speeding by. He rubbed his bristly chin with his thumb and forefinger. He was glad they’d let the guy live, but he hated the fact that Whiskey was probably right.

Hood was ready to be home. The place he called home now, anyway.

HOOD on sale for 0.99$! The Promo begins.

I’m excited. Maybe too much so.

High expectations and whatnot.

Today begins my second-ever Kindle Countdown Deal, and HOOD is on sale for 0.99$ for a few days to begin it! I’m very curious to see how it fares, now that the book has a goodly bit more visibility.

I’m also running an “experiment.”

Today is my “control” if you will. KCD begins, 99c, to test how many sales it gets without any promotions. Au natural, what can you do for me, Amazon?

Tomorrow and the day after, I have some stack promos lined up. Promotions for my book will be on BookBarbarian, RobinReads, Ebooksforfree, and Ereader News Today. Those will be my “variables” which I hope of course fly through the roof. 😀

So I’m very excited and interested to see what the short and long term results of promotional visibility will be for the book, after it’s been hurled out before the eyes of so many readers!

I’m going to do a write-up on the results after it’s all said and done, I think. Some of my fellow Kboarders have done the same and I’d love to share my experiences and whatever information I can gather.

*puts on lab coat, evil goggles and cackles maniacally*

Now all I need is some menacing lightning.


90 Days In. . .

Well, here we are.

1337246230_the last of us

It’s been 90 days already. My first Enrollment period of KDP Select is complete. January 13th I nervously clicked the “Save and Publish” button on my debut novel HOOD feeling like there was so much I didn’t know. 90 days of marketing and research, here I am a hell of a lot more knowledgeable on the industry. So, time to look back at my results.


F***ing awesome.


Can’t really figure another way to say it. To call it surreal is a bit of an understatement. Yeah, It’s not the #1 book on Amazon or anything. But hell, being in the top 2,000 is most of the way there.

My graph of results from my first 90 days (I know my launch day, Jan. 13th is cut off by Amazon for some reason, rest easy though I sold 0 books and had 0 page reads 😀 )


Flump yeah.

By the numbers

Books sold: 1,515

Estimated KU Pagereads: 765,000

Books sold/Day: 16.8

Highest Rankings: #1,248 Paid in Kindle Store, #8 in Metaphysical & Visionary Sci Fi, #13 in Post-Apocalyptic Sci Fi

Final Thoughts

I have yet to do any real paid promos, exception being two Goodreads Giveaways. One coincided with my KCD (Feb. 14th-20th) and the other I started a week or so ago and has yet to complete. The extent of my marketing has been grassroots social-media style on twitter and Facebook, reaching out to people both known and unknown to try and spread the word.

While I don’t yet fully know where my results land on the greater spectrum of Indie Authorship, from what I can gather this is pretty rare. I count myself lucky it came out this well… yes, I worked my ass off on writing my novel, but I made my cover myself (with the help of Gertie from Apocalypse Whenever for her photoshopping skillz) and that could’ve been a disaster as I don’t know what I’m doing in that department… I got a lot of support from Evan C. of FromTheWastes on Twitter as well as for sharing his insights with me.

All that being said, I’m damn proud of the book and how it’s been received. Having readers reach out to me over the book has been incredible. I know now the best thing I can do is focus in on writing BOOK 2, and everything else is secondary. But I’m excited and curious what the future will bring, and whether or not these kinds of numbers are sustainable.

Thanks for reading. And remember, when traveling back in time, be very careful not to squish anything.

-Evan Pickering

Excerpt: Chapter 1 of HOOD

The time has come.

*Loads & cocks rifle, serious man-face*


For all of my fans.. You’ll know this stuff. For people new to my work.. Enjoy this delicious free sample!


Chapter 1 – Campfire

Shenandoah Mountains, Fringes of Kaiser Territory, Formerly Virginia

The iron sights of Hood’s AK-47 lined up perfectly between each other, trained on the dark-haired man in the muted blue of predawn light. Something was wrong. This man wasn’t some lost wastelander. Any loner with sense would’ve given their camp a wide birth. There was an undeniable purposefulness to this man’s approach—he was looking for them. Hood’s heart sped in his chest as his breath quickened. The Kaiser knows we’re here. How many more are coming? The image of a host of the Kaiser’s soldiers waiting in the dark mountain woods set his mind ablaze. Focus. Hood took a deep breath of crisp woodland air to level himself. The man hustled to the next tree and crouched down behind it, leaning over to peer around the mossy bark towards the campfire up the hill. No one else followed behind him. Maybe he’s just a scout.

The man’s chest rose and fell quickly as he closed his eyes, pistol in hand. He switched hands on his pistol, wiped his palms on his pants. He doesn’t want this. He’s just like you. The thought surged into his mind unabated. Hood tried to cast it out, focused on keeping his aim true. Just turn around and go back, Hood pleaded. He had a perfect shot from his flanking position up in the tree, but his finger stayed still on the trigger.

You have to shoot him.

Hood chewed on the salty pull string of his well-worn hoodie, breathing in deeply and holding the air in his lungs as he squeezed the trigger on his rifle nearly to the firing point, keeping the sights steady.

The man stood up straight against the tall oak, steeling himself. He turned and dashed towards the camp. Hood kept the sights stable on him as he moved. A loud crack split the air from his rifle, a casing flying out of the chamber and down onto the forest floor below. The man cried out, then collapsed into a heap. He writhed on the ground, clutching at his shoulder. Hood let the air out of his lungs, running his hand through his short messy hair. You had to do it.

The air split with another gunshot, and the man lay still. Hood knew it was coming, but hoped it wouldn’t. Whiskey didn’t take chances. Hood should have just killed the man himself rather than leaving him to suffer before Whiskey finished it. You can’t let it all weigh you down—they were Ian’s words in Hood’s head. It was a resounding memory, but it meant something much different when Ian said it years ago—brotherly words of advice on love. He wished more than anything Ian sat beside him in the tree. Somehow, it would make all of this easier. I know you’re still alive out there. I can feel it.

Whiskey’s broad, tall frame appeared from behind a nearby tree. He moved slowly with quiet steps towards the dead man with a lowered pistol at his side. He wore his usual stoic expression—it was surrounded by short cut black hair and a scruffy beard with a gray patch on his chin. A police issue black flak jacket rested over his dirtied, tan long-sleeved shirt. He always wore it with the sleeves rolled up. He should just cut the damn things off.

The distant cracking of more gunshots followed. Two, three, four, five-six-seven. Then silence.

That didn’t go cleanly.

Hood whistled a melodic bird call. A similar one returned—so Billy had taken out whoever else was attacking. Whiskey was crouched down low, waiting for anyone else to come. The seconds dragged on, Hood straining to hear any sound in the dark woods. The forest sat still, save for the leaves of the trees rustling lightly with the wind. They must’ve just been scouts. Hood laid the worn black metal body of his rifle across his knees and bowed his head. This is the way things are. You have to accept that.

“Why didn’t you make the kill?” Whiskey asked, his voice familiar, slightly southern.

“I missed.” Hood slung his rifle over his back and dislodged himself from his foothold in the tree, swinging down from one branch to another.

“Like hell you did. You can’t change the way the world is, kid. You’re wasting your talent. And our ammo.”

“It just doesn’t feel right.” Hood landed on the forest floor, bouncing up to a standing position. He looked over at the dead man lying in the grass.

“I ain’t sayin’ it’s easy, but it’s them or us. You know that.” Whiskey stared off into the woods in the direction of Billy’s post. “I’m gonna check on him. Head back to camp and get something to eat.”

Hood couldn’t move, staring at the dead man in the wet grass. A memory of the old world flooded his mind:

The sun was going down in the country, Hood, Ian and their sister Taylor taking turns shooting their uncle’s compound bow at a fake-deer target pincushioned with arrows.

“Do you think you could kill someone if you had to?” Ian said, releasing his shot to the sound of a satisfying thunk. The orange sunlight illuminated his short blond hair.

“Who is it you’d have to kill?” Hood said, taking the bow and nocking an arrow.

“You don’t know. You just know its either you or him.”

“So it’s a guy, then?” Taylor asked, shielding the setting sun from her eyes. Her phone dinged a text message tone in her pocket, unattended.

“Does it matter?” Ian said.

“Of course it matters. What if it was a girl you guys had to shoot?”

“I kinda feel bad just shooting this thing.” Hood aimed carefully, releasing the bowstring. The arrow snaked through the air and thunked an inch from the bull painted on the midsection of the fake deer.

“For feeling bad, you’re pretty good at it,” Taylor said.

“The way I see it, you don’t know if the guy is good or bad. But we know we’re good,” Ian said.

“Just playing devil’s avocado here, but if we shoot the other guy, are we still the good ones?” Taylor said with a smirk.

Ian laughed. “We can figure that out while we’re still alive.”

Hood gnawed his lip. He missed that life so much that the memories had become more bitter than sweet. Part of him wanted to forget. He would do anything to have Ian, Mom and Dad with them in this brutal new world. It would make it all bearable. Family against the chaos. He thanked whatever god would listen every day that he had Taylor. He only wished he could tell her they were alright. She’d be worried back in Clearwater, holding down the fort until they returned with the supplies they purloined from the Sheriff.

Only a few years ago Hood had been in college, skipping classes about the history of war and the rare revolutionaries like Gandhi who stood against it. War and death were distant concepts. Now civilization was a memory, and war was a part of life.

A squirrel ran down a nearby tree, darting through the grass and away from Hood before scrambling up the bark of a tall maple. Hood’s shoes tread softly on the wet grass as he moved toward the man’s body. He held the worn grip of his rifle, but kept it at his side. The corpse lay sprawled face-down, blood seeping into the dirt. The dead man was much taller than he’d looked from a distance. He was recently shaven, and his backpack sagged over the back of his head. Hood knelt down, opening it. A book, of all things, sat inside. He pulled it out, inspecting the blank black cover before flipping through the pages. It was hand-written. He tucked the book into the back of his pants, and removed the man’s backpack.

What kind of person were you? At the very least, the type to keep a journal.

The guy wouldn’t be doing any more writing. Hood grit his teeth.

He kept the rifle in hand, headed back towards the campsite. From the other direction in the woods, he could hear the murmuring voices of Whiskey and Billy.

Hood walked up the sloping grass to their camp in the wooded foothills, the fire flickering outside the small, red oak cabin. He tossed the backpack onto the ground near the concrete slab the cabin rested upon. Doug and Tommy sat in folding chairs around the campfire, passing a flask between them, rifles at their sides.

“Kaiser’s men?” Doug inquired.

“Yeah, a few of them. You two take watch. I’m sure Billy could use a break too.” The two of them rose to their feet with some effort, Doug stretching wildly.

“Damn, shift starts early, huh?” Tommy smirked. The two of them turned and headed northwest, in the direction Hood had come from. Tommy shoved the flask into Doug’s midsection.

Whiskey and Billy emerged from the trees into the firelight. Billy was dripping blood from his left hand, which he held tight in his right.

“Oh shit, Billy Red’s got some red on him!” Doug shouted as they passed by. “One of the bastards tagged you, huh?”

“Shut the fuck up!” Billy shouted, grimacing.

Hood moved to meet them halfway. Billy stared nervously at Hood with sharp blue eyes. He pulled his hand away, revealing the bloody hole in his left palm as his hand quivered uncontrollably. Hood flipped it around to the other side, saw the exit wound.

“You’re lucky. It went clear through. Get the iron ready,” Hood said.

“Oh fuck me, this is going to hurt.” Billy bared his teeth as he stared at his bloody hand.

Hood clapped him on the shoulder. “Just don’t think about it. And you might want to start drinking now.

Before Hood had finished speaking Billy had snatched the bottle out of Lucky’s hands as he sat beside the fire. The two of them immediately started to argue, Lucky ranting about how searing wounds shut did more harm than good. Billy was having none of it. Not like Lucky was a doctor or anything, he just didn’t want to give up his booze. Really, none of them were. It was a sore area of need, one they couldn’t easily remedy. They didn’t find many doctors wandering the mid-Atlantic countryside these days.

Whiskey put an old iron rod into the fire, shaking his head. Joey and Wedge plodded out of the cabin with a squeak of the screen door, unmistakably hungover. Ever since they had found a case of vodka on the last raid, this had been a regular occurrence.

Hood walked back towards the cabin, but Whiskey held an arm out, stopping him.

“You all right, kid?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Hood ran his thumb over the sights of the rifle hanging at his side.

“The number of people we’ve killed is never gonna get smaller.” Whiskey held his gaze. He had a fatherly look on his face, whether he knew it or not. “Just remember who we do this for.”

Whiskey would make a good dad one day. If that was ever a possibility, the way things were now. Another guy might have found it uncomfortable, but Hood was glad Whiskey and Taylor were a couple. Under the circumstances, it only brought Hood and Whiskey closer. It’s not like they had a hell of a lot in common other than they both fought to keep Taylor safe. Along with all the other people of Clearwater.

“I’m fine. I’m okay.”

Whiskey’s stern gaze lingered on him for a moment before he turned and walked to the fire to check the iron. Hood opened the screen door of the cabin and went inside. Whiskey was used to the darker side of humanity. He had been a cop for a long time before the collapse of civilization. The idea of someone trying to kill you wasn’t foreign to him.

The poorly made, wood-framed couch and empty spaces on the floor were covered in bedding. Hood ambled slowly to the kitchenette, grabbed some salted jerky from a jar and chewed on it. He picked up the pan on the stove, scooped a few cold beans from the bottom and ate them while staring at a dark knot in the red woodgrain of the wall.

If a bear or a wolf came out of the woods he’d shoot it to stay alive. If a tree was going to collapse on his house he’d cut it down. If a pack of the Kaiser’s men snuck towards their camp, he had to gun them down.

If they were all merciless killers it would be easier. Hood knew by now many of them were regular people just fighting to survive. Being a part of the Kaiser’s army was the only chance for survival for countless refugees.

Maybe to them, Hood and Whiskey and the Clearwater crew were that bear in the woods.

Hood lay down on the couch, staring up at the defunct ceiling fan and the stained wood boards it was mounted to. The dead man’s journal jabbed him in the back. He pulled it out of his pants, running his hands over the soft faux leather cover before opening it. The orange light from the campfire came in through the window. He could clearly read the man’s surprisingly good handwriting. He opened the book to the first entry.

Maybe some other civilization will find this book some day and marvel at our great tragedy. I don’t know why else I would bother to write this. I guess it’s some kind of catharsis. It’s been two years since the nukes and the chemical weapons destroyed our country. One day you’re grocery shopping, the power cuts off. Everyone shrugs nervously and goes home and waits for it to come back on and it never does.

The weaponized virus or whatever the hell it was that made people into wild animals—that was what really ruined everything. Someone had the clever idea to call it the red death. It’s catchy, I’ll give them that. Most of the infected are gone now. Now the survivors just have to stop killing each other. Not like humanity’s ever been able to do that.

I’m writing this because Bob is dead, and I have no idea what to do anymore. I have no one to talk to that I really trust. The Kaiser’s officers are ruthless, and most of the other people are too afraid to go against them. Everyone stays in their lane, even if that lane is fucked.

One such ruthless asshole of the Kaiser’s they call the Sheriff sends us out to take out U.N. remnants. I don’t even know why they want them dead. They’re so pathetically weak, just trying to survive like the rest of us. We fight rangers of the Sons of Liberty more often than not. They’re the real threat to the Kaiser’s dream of a new country. That’s the idiotic party line the officers keep spouting. Honestly, I wish I could fight for the Sons instead. Supposedly the Crusader united the entire New England region under the banner of the Sons shortly after the fall. Though who knows, the Crusader might be as much of a self-righteous psychopath as the Kaiser is. People who’ve been here longer than I have said the Kaiser seized control over the mid-Atlantic region in only three months. Three goddamn months. The whole world has gone to shit.

I have to keep Danny and Kim alive. With Bob dead, I’m the only one left looking out for his kids. I never wanted to have to do that. That’s why I never had any goddamned kids of my own. But they’re good kids. They don’t deserve this shitty world.

Hood let the journal rest under his nose, his hands starting to sweat. You killed a good man today. You killed him because he happened to be on one side and you happened to be on the other. You did it because you had to. But it doesn’t change the fact he’s dead. Now those kids are alone. The chemically treated paper had a sweet, nostalgic smell, one that reminded him of lying on his childhood bed reading fantasy novels as he wished he were on some grand adventure. He heard Whiskey’s voice in his head. Don’t do this to yourself, kid. You’ve gotta let it go. His hands acted on their own as he skipped ahead to the latest entry.

Just got our marching orders. I’m to go with Don and George to sneak into the camp of this country-ass gang that’s been raiding supplies from everyone. The Sheriff says it’s a skeleton crew, and we can take them by surprise. I don’t like it. It doesn’t make that much sense, and it seems an awful lot like a suicide mission. But I don’t have much of a choice. I should’ve kept my goddamned mouth shut. He probably knows I haven’t been too happy with this bullshit they’re making us do lately. I wish there was a way I could get Danny and Kim out of this disaster. Part of me wants to just run off. But lord knows what they’d do with those kids. God, you miserable prick, just give me a way out of this.

Hood exhaled slowly, closing the book. Every fight Hood won was someone else’s loss. Whiskey said it was us or them. The whole world thinks it’s ‘us or them,’ though.

Hood could justify killing an evil man, if he had to. But this man? He felt a closeness to him in reading his raw thoughts. He could’ve easily been one of their crew.

Hood wanted no part of this war. All he wanted was peace and quiet with his family, and maybe to find a girl who lived like the world wasn’t in ruins. That’s a greedy thought in a world like this, though. He’d be happy with peace alone. Not that it would happen. He dreamed that Ian and Mom and Dad would just show up at Clearwater one day. But back in reality, all he could do was protect his sister and pray his family was still alive out there.

Billy’s screams and curses reverberated through the walls of the cabin, interrupting his musings. Hood was glad he’d never had to sear any wounds closed with the iron.

The screen door creaked open and the main door swung in with a crash.

Billy’s blue eyes were wide behind unkempt brown hair. He held his left hand in his right like it was a sick bunny.

“I NEED SOME BOOZE!” He shouted, hurling bedding and clothes every which way with his right hand, desperately digging for someone’s stash.

Hood laughed, knowing full well Billy didn’t want to hear a damn thing he had to say. He sat up slowly to make his way out of the cabin.

Lucky was standing over the campfire trying to ignite the end of his hand-rolled cigarette. The orange glow lit up his round, olive face and the flames reflected in his dark eyes.

Whiskey leaned back into the folding chair, crossing his arms and gazing absently at the dancing fire.

“You guys aren’t going to give him any?” Hood said, nodding towards Billy in the cabin.

Whiskey hmmphed. “He already drank half of mine. Crybaby. I ain’t giving him no more.”

The fire crackled and popped as one log broke into two and fell into the embers below. Hood sat down on a tree stump and basked in the heat from the fire. It was a subtle comfort, but it was something. The three of them stared at the flickering flames, the occasional pop and crack accompanying the birds starting to chirp in the distance. The smell of burning pine brought Hood back to the old world again; he and Taylor and Ian as teenagers sitting around a bonfire at their cousin’s house in Maine, roasting marshmallows on metal shish-kabob sticks and talking about their future in a world that still had one.

Billy emerged from the cabin with another creak of the screen door. He walked over to a folding chair and plopped down, an entire bottle of vodka in one hand. He unscrewed the cap with his teeth and spat it into the dirt, taking a deep swig.

“Man, this is boring,” Lucky said, leaning back and puffing smoke into the air.

“Here, let me shoot you. It’ll keep you distracted.” Billy pulled out his pistol and pointed it at Lucky, who flipped him off.

“Why ain’t we found any stand-up comedians from back in the day?” Lucky said, spitting out some tobacco that had made its way out of the butt of the cig.

“Well damn Lucky, isn’t that why you’re here? I mean, you couldn’t shoot a waster that was listening to the barrel of your gun to hear the ocean,” Hood said, aiming a finger gun and biting his lip in mock consternation.

“Hey, fuck you, I got bad depth perception, all right?”

Whiskey snorted. “Bad depth perception? That’s a new one. I always thought it was on account of you being about as jittery as a cat in a washing machine.”

“Y’all are just jealous of my devilish charm and good looks,” Lucky said through the cigarette, each breath punctuated with puffs of smoke. “You’re lookin’ at a superior male specimen, fellas.”

“Male specimen, my ass,” Whiskey grumbled.

Billy came up for air with a sigh, in between swigs from the bottle he clutched to his chest. “Seriously though, anyone know any new stories? I could stand to be distracted.”

“I’m not sure we haven’t heard every true story and twice as many made up ones at this point,” Whiskey said, unscrewing the top of his flask and taking a drink. Hood smacked him in the knee and beckoned it over with two fingers. Whiskey handed the flask off to him. Hood tipped it back, holding his breath to keep the taste but not the burn.

“Yeah, actually, I got one,” Hood said wiping his lips on his knuckles. He looked down at the stainless steel flask, a smile growing from the fond memory. “It’s from high school, actually. You aren’t gonna believe it’s true.”

Hood looked up at the three of them. Billy and Lucky stared back, attending to their bottle and cigarette respectively, while Whiskey kept staring into the fire. Hood handed the flask back to him, breaking his reverie.

“Well shit, don’t keep us in suspense,” Billy said, resting the bottle on his knee.

“Bet a bottle it’s another one about his adopted brother Isaac or whoever,” Lucky pointed at Billy.

Hood picked up a pebble and threw it at Lucky over the fire. Lucky snatched it out of the air, and jumped to his feet in a crane stance.

“You see that Mr. Miyagi shit? Like a ninja, son!”

“Congrats you caught a rock, sit down and let him tell the damn story,” Billy grumbled.

“Nah that’s cool, Lucky wants to practice his Tai Chi,” Hood said.

“Stop being an asshole,” Billy gestured at Lucky with his bottle.

“Don’t get all butthurt. Go on, tell your fuckin’ story,” Lucky sat down, pulling the cigarette out of his mouth.

Hood rubbed his palm with his thumb, launching into the saga. “So yeah. Way back in high school Ian was all about this girl Deirdre Connelly. Ian’s the kinda kid who was single-minded in his focus. She was a pretty girl, but spoken for all through high school until senior year she and her dude broke up. She skipped class one day, apparently getting pretty high and sexting Ian with her address, saying her parents weren’t home. Problem is, his teacher saw him on his phone and took it away, giving it to the front office for my mom to pick up. . .”

Lucky had perked up at the mention of a pretty girl and sexting, taking a strong pull from the cigarette as he watched intently. Hood chuckled to himself remembering it. The memories almost didn’t feel real, like it was a different world.

“Anyway, so Ian obviously isn’t going to let this stop him. He sneaks out at lunch, meets up with this chick he knows who’s a makeup artist at the mall. They come up with a plan, and they go full Mrs. Doubtfire, turning Ian into my mom. I mean full-blown: dress, stockings, heels, wig, makeup, everything. I swear, it was pretty goddamned convincing. He strolls right into the front office claiming to be Mrs. Huntington, there to pick up her son’s phone. He had the voice pretty good too. Unbeknownst to him, I had just got caught drinking cheap vodka in the bathroom and they decide that while ‘my mom’ was there, they should take me to her for discipline. So I’m in the front office and I see him all done up. Immediately I lose it, I’m howling, dying, I can’t help it. Afraid his cover is going to be blown, he launches into a rant about me being more responsible and taking away my phone and X-box and grounding me and how mad my father is going to be when he finds out, and the whole time I’m in tears. Someone finally musters the nerve to question Ian’s facade. Ian tries desperately to whisk me and his phone away but is caught when the Dean calls my mom’s cell. Ian was so pissed I thought he was going to kill me, but I didn’t care, it felt like the best day of my life. The dean rambled to us about integrity and the whole time I couldn’t stop laughing and Ian wanted to stab me.”

Hood drew the story to a close, staring off into the fire.

“Well?” Lucky said, staring at Hood. “Did Ian bang that chick?”

Hood shook his head. “You’re an idiot.”

“Don’t leave it like that, douche! Tell me what happened!”

“Yes, you moron. They hooked up on and off all through senior year. It was a huge dramatic pain in the ass. Not exactly a limited-time-offer.”

Whiskey shook his head, wearing a slight grin. “That’s some funny shit. How come you never told that one?”

“I guess I normally don’t think about high school much. But I just remembered it.” Hood leaned back, the fire so warm it felt like it was burning his face. Maybe it was partly the liquor.

“High school huh. I bet you were one of those swoopy-haired kids who listened to that weepy ass music all the time,” Lucky said, staring down Hood for his reaction. Hood didn’t dignify it with a response, giving Lucky the finger.

“Who the fuck’s Mrs. Doubtfire?” Billy said, blinking slowly.

Whiskey snorted, rubbing his forehead. “Goddamned kids.”

The fire had died down suddenly. The glowing red chunks of wood lay broken atop each other, glowing suddenly brighter as a gust of wind blew smoke and ash towards Hood. The leaves on the trees swished softly. Lucky tossed the cigarette butt into the fire. Billy was swaying in his seat.

“Should I get more logs?” Lucky asked no one in particular.

“No. We’re going to pack up and head home. The Sheriff will know we’re here for sure when his men don’t come back. He’ll tell the Kaiser by tomorrow or the day after. I want to be gone by then. They’re not too happy with us raiding that stockpile, so we should take the supplies back to town and lay low,” Whiskey said. A look of exhaustion hung in his eyes as he stared at the embers.

Hood was sure he knew what he was thinking: That sooner or later they were going to piss off the Kaiser enough that he wouldn’t be able to ignore them anymore. But they had little choice. Hood knew just as well as Whiskey how much the town needed food, water, gasoline, and every little thing in between. They had a long way to go before they could learn to farm enough food to support themselves, let alone find a way to sustain every other need.

“Well, shit. You ain’t gotta tell me twice. I’m sick’a this busted-ass cabin,” Billy slurred, standing up and moving towards the house in one motion. His foot caught in the legs of the folding chair and he slumped into the grass with supreme drunken inelegance. The airborne bottle of vodka thunked into the grass in front of him. Lucky exploded off his seat, howling in laughter, berating Billy loudly between breaths.

“Damn dude, you all right?” Hood said, trying to suppress his own snickering.

“Changed m’ mind, I’m jus’ gonna lay here awhile,” Billy said, the side of his face pressed against the grassy earth.

Hood looked over at Whiskey, grinning. Whiskey shook his head in annoyance, but couldn’t suppress a smirk. He stood up, hands pushing himself up from his knees.

“Well Lucky, that leaves you to get the trucks out of the hiding spot. Come on, we got to get movin’.” Whiskey stretched his right arm behind his head.

Lucky complained loudly about Billy’s drunken stupor as he stomped off down the hill. Whiskey made the rounds and gathered the crew from out on watch. Everyone started packing up the supplies and loading them into the trucks Lucky parked by the cabin.

All Hood could think about was the dead man and the kids he wouldn’t be able to look after. He hadn’t had many choices. Very few people did anymore.

Hood believed completely that Ian and his parents were still alive; what would they do to protect each other if they lived under the Kaiser’s rule?

Morning light had broken through the trees and onto the dirt road by the time Hood and Whiskey headed off with a truck laden with supplies. It shed clarity on an unpleasant thought.

One day when I look down the sights it might not be a stranger I see walking through the woods, gun in hand.


If you’re interested, check out the full novel on Amazon!

See you space cowboy,

Evan Pickering

Stick With What Got You To the Dance

Distractions are so. . . Distracting.


giraffic_park2-copy.pngI’ve spent a very large amount of my writing time lately trying to learn as much as I can about effective marketing, trying to learn from other Indie Authors who have tread this path before, and, well. . . obsessively checking my reviews and sales and KU page reads and Amazon ranking. I admit it.

First step to recovery is admitting there’s a problem 😀

It’s hard work hacking out a hard outline for Book 2, developing character arcs and motivations, doing all the nitty gritty stuff you HAVE to do if you want to write a good story. Slowly, I’m getting there though.

And it’s reminding me something. Something important.

As I sweat and cheer with every dip and burst in sales each day, I’m losing sight of the big cheese, here. I’m forgetting who brought me to the dance.

It’s the writing. The Storybuilding. That shit gets me excited. I’m really happy with what I’ve got so far (after some scrapping) with the arc for Whiskey, BOOK 2 of the American Rebirth series. So happy, that I’m getting that amped-up feeling, the I-can’t-wait-to-make-this-real feeling. It’s the same joy and excitement I got from writing Hood.
It’s the goddamned reason I’m doing this in the first place.

So why the hell am I getting so excited/worked up over daily numbers? Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about how well the book is doing. To quote Saving Private Ryan, this is a gross mis-allocation of resources here.

Sure, marketing is important. I’m going to keep at it. But the delicious storybuilding, yes, my sweet dear, I’m coming back to you.


-Evan Pickering


50 Days Published…


Will The Last of Us ever stop being a source of awesomeness? I think not.

I’m 50 days in to my 90 day Kindle Select contract for HOOD: Book 1 of the American Rebirth Series.

As of 6:40pm, today:


Can you guess where my 6 day Countdown deal was? 😀

I’m pretty damn pleased with the results. I’ll admit I long to go multi-platform, but I’ve had such success with my book on Kindle Unlimited, I can’t see myself taking it off of Select.

Both graphs seem to be steadily climbing (I pray the trend continue) but the growth rate of my KU reads seems even higher.

I wish I could ascertain how much of my ranking was based on sales and how much on KU lends:


Obviously, if taking off select would drop my ranking significantly, I think it would be foolish to do.

Also: HOORAY #26 and #31!!

Part of my really wants to try multi-platform just to see how much more sales I could get from other distributors… but I think I’m going to hold off on that for awhile. I don’t want to stop any momentum I have on Amazon at the moment.

I’ve sold a net of 504 books so far, for about 10 books a day.

KU pages read, well, it’s a lot. Rough calculation is about 225,000 pages read.

I’m pretty psyched about all that.

My question for other Indie Authors: How much (or what percentage) of your sales would you say comes from non-Amazon platforms?

I’m on a quest for more information, lol. I put on my robe and wizard hat.

-Evan Pickering