Chloe 

Book Two of  the Dragoon Series
Out Now!

For further questions or concerns please contact: 

Abbey Elliott 

© 2020 by Evan Ratke Proudly created with Wix.com

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I have a blog now. I can’t decide if that’s good, bad, or potentially catastrophic, but I’m going to run with it.

The third short story in my weekly/sort of weekly short story binge is one I’ve been eager to read for quite a while now. Not only is the author of this story a local Richmond writer, the story itself is set in Richmond. Big as it is, Richmond isn’t exactly at the level of the global cities you always see in books, movies, and television (I’m looking at you New York City). So, I get jittery with excitement whenever I find a story that features Richmond, either partially like in an episode of the TNT post-apocalyptic television series, “Falling Skies,” which came complete with a view of a devastated Richmond skyline, or fully, as in the case of this short story, “Zombie Walk,” by Richmond’s own Bill Blume. And I had a real blast reading it, though not just because it’s set in Richmond.

“Zombie Walk” was published by “Time Killer Publications.” While self-contained, this short story takes place within the larger universe of Bill Blume’s novel series, which includes the books “Gidion’s Hunt” and “Gidion’s Blood,” published by “Diversion Books.” This story, as I discovered via an author’s note at the end of the story, takes place between the first and second books of the series. So I’m going out of order by reading “Zombie Walk” without having read the first book in the series. That wasn’t an issue, however. I’ve always had this weird enjoyment for jumping into a series out of order and playing catchup with the plot and characters. Not that I do that all the time, it’s pretty rare that I do actually. But even if I didn’t enjoy that it wouldn’t matter. “Zombie Walk” is perfectly accessible for readers who are new to the series. In a lot of ways this story is a great foot in the door for the series as a whole and has spurred my interest in going back to read the first book, and then the second. Spoiler warning from here on for people who haven’t read “Zombie Walk” and don’t want to know anything about it or the first book in the series.

As you might’ve guessed from the top of this blog post, the title, “Zombie Walk,” is somewhat, probably intentionally misleading. Though I don’t imagine people who’ve read the series in order like you’re supposed to do were misled. This story isn’t about a zombie invasion of Richmond, at least not really (more on that in a moment). Rather, this story is concerned with the much more intelligent and cunning of the undead, vampires, and the high school student, “Gidion Keep,” who hunts them. No, no, don’t roll your eyes. I know young-adult vampire fiction has developed a bad reputation in the past decade or so, thanks to a certain book/movie series with a certain sparkly vampire who likes to stalk his underage human girlfriend. THIS IS NOT THAT!

The vampires of this story, and the series I’m assuming, are not misunderstood romantics, nor are they vampires in the classical sense, nor are they an unstoppable plague seen in various vampire-apocalyptic crossovers (I’m hoping to blog about one of those stories at a later time). The vampires of Blume’s story are handled with a refreshing amount of realism, about as much realism as can be applied to a story about vampires and their teenage hunter. As Blume makes clear in the wonderfully tense early parts of “Zombie Walk,” the vampires of his world are really not much more than serial killers and predators, albeit serial predators with longer life spans and improved senses. They blend in with nighttime crowds, stalk potential victims, and lure them into poorly lit areas, as real-life killers and predators do all around the world, including in Richmond. High school student by day, vigilante vampire hunter by night, “Gidion’s” fight doesn’t come with human race-saving stakes. His fight is a matter of public safety, which is a far more believable wheelhouse for someone his age, especially when his family has a long history of hunting vampires and provides him with the necessary skills to live this moonlight life. Reading the story, I got the sense that if the truth of these vampires’ existence became common knowledge, the biggest life change we would see is some overzealous and ineffective political campaign to rid the world of them, like the War on Drugs before it (I would totally read a Bill Blume book about the War on Vampires, not that he has to do that).

But why is the story called “Zombie Walk?” That’s central to the plot. In this iteration of Blume’s series, “Gidion’s” close friend is taking part in Richmond’s annual zombie walk, basically a pre-Halloween tradition where a crowd of people dresses as zombies and flood Richmond’s streets in a mock zombie apocalypse. Apparently this zombie walk is a real thing, though I hadn’t heard of it till reading this story. That’s what I get for living in the suburbs. Down to earth and drawn with plenty of enjoyably relatable awkwardness, “Gidion” isn’t all that interested in taking part in the walk. Not until he learns vampires have targeted the walk, putting his friend and scores of other people in danger. Thus, he’s faced with the challenge of finding the vampires and eliminating them before they attack the crowd and without anyone noticing.

Aside from being an entertaining read about a teenager chasing quasi-realistic vampires in Richmond, Virginia, “Zombie Walk” is an awesome story in general. You don’t have to be familiar with Richmond or its yearly festivities to be drawn in by this story’s likeable characters and swift plot. You don’t even have to be a fan of vampires or zombies to like this story. The life of “Gidion Keep” is the focus, not vampires. Funny in its lighter moments, frighteningly tense when it needs to be, this story has enough for all different types of readers. But what I loved most about “Zombie Walk,” more than its Richmond setting, more than its realistic take on some very unreal villains, is a key aspect of “Gidion’s” character, one that intrigues me the more I think about it and one that Blume addresses at a critical point of the story. As commendable as “Gidion’s” actions may be, he frequently has to behave like the things he hunts in order to combat them. “Gidion” is human, yet his tactics mirror the vampires to the degree someone viewing him from afar might question his humanity. Having finished this story, I’m now anxious to find time to read the two full novels of this series and see if that element about the line between human and vampire is further explored, and to get more nighttime Richmond adventures with “Gidion Keep.”

“Zombie Walk” is available to purchase in Kindle format on Amazon. “Gidion’s Hunt” and “Gidion’s Blood” are also available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats. I highly recommend checking out Bill Blume’s work.

Thank you for reading my ramblings. #Amreading #Amwriting

I have a blog now. I can’t decide if that’s good, bad, or potentially catastrophic, but I’m going to run with it.

To recap, I started this blog last week by documenting the beginning of my short story reading. As a writer who doesn’t read enough, I’ve decided to ease back into reading with a number of short stories that I can then talk about on this blog. Of course, this won’t be the only topic I’ll ever discuss. There are an infinite amount of short stories out there, but like any subject there are only so many ways you can talk about it. So the topic will change sometime, when I’ve hit the end of my short story reading list. (Note to self, make actual list.)

I’m continuing this week with one of my personal favorite short stories, “The Sniper,” by Liam O’Flaherty, published almost a hundred years ago in a London publication, “The New Leader.” Is it fair to call this a favorite short story when I’ve read so few short stories? Probably not, but it’s a story that’s stuck with me for so long I can’t help but give it preferential treatment.

“The Sniper,” takes place in Dublin, Ireland in the midst of the Irish Civil War. I’d hesitate to say my knowledge of the Irish Civil War is even surface-level. In this case that’s okay though, because O’Flaherty’s method of storytelling doesn’t require much of any prior information about the war. Only the most minimal and necessary background details are given before readers are dropped into a single night of the war, following the actions of a lone rooftop sniper in Dublin. That’s one of this story’s best qualities, I think, and part of why I love it. In less than three full pages and with almost no backstory, Liam O’Flaherty is able to entrench his audience in the danger of war, in the tragedy of civil war, and the horror of a war zone in a once peaceful city, telling a story both simple and complex that just about anyone anywhere can comprehend. “The Sniper,” is set in Ireland in the 1920s, but its reach is universal, its relevance timeless.

The rest of this post is going to involve spoilers from here on. So if you haven’t read, “The Sniper,” and happen to be interested I’d recommend reading it and coming back. It’s really easy to find online and only takes a few minutes to read. And I’m not exaggerating when I say you don’t want the ending of this story spoiled before you read it. If you have read it or don’t mind spoilers, then feel free to keep reading.

*SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT*

Like I said above, the story covers a single night of the war from the point of view of a sniper, as one would probably expect from the title, operating alone on Dublin’s rooftops. Just as the background of the civil war is left undescribed save for the most essential information, the background of the protagonist is largely unknown to the reader. Not even his name is ever supplied to us. But again, in the context of this story, his name is not necessary. And given the story’s brief length and the author’s writing style, giving him a name might well have diluted the story’s impact. Placed in the same circumstances in the same time period, anybody could be this sniper.

While the sniper’s background is absent, what readers learn about him throughout the story is actually quite significant and works to drive the quick plot forward. Thanks to a brief description at the beginning of the story, we learn the sniper is rather young, which would normally carry the anticipation of inexperience. Not here, however. Dispatching the gunner of an armored car and an informer on the street below him in swift succession and with no hesitancy whatsoever, the sniper shows that not only is he proficient in his role, he’s used to the killing this war demands of him. The horrific carnage he helps to create on Dublin’s onetime peaceful roads passes him by with no apparent effect on him, at least not at first. I’m certain the people the sniper kills in this story are not his first kills.

Aside from being accustomed to killing, the sniper proves himself to be familiar with the dangers of the war that surround him, perhaps too familiar. He takes a chance to smoke a cigarette, drawing the attention of an enemy sniper on the roof across the road. So maybe the inexperience of youth isn’t totally lost to him after all. Following his elimination of the armored car gunner and the informant it is this enemy sniper our protagonist spends the majority of the story engaged with. Even when he’s wounded and pinned down by this enemy sniper, the sniper is noticeably lacking in fear for his own wellbeing, allowing him to maintain his composure and develop a tactic to counter the enemy sniper. It can be inferred that this is both a benefit of his training and a consequence of being numbed to the dangers the war poses.

Only after our sniper defeats and kills the enemy sniper does his attitude change, plunging readers into the tragedy of the civil war. Regretful for killing someone so similar to himself, who occupies the exact same role he has, just on the opposite side of the conflict, the sniper comes to lambast the war, the guilt of his prior actions caused by the fighting seeming to catch up with him. He even goes so far as to throw his sidearm down, swearing off killing. Though he picks the weapon back up a second later, he is enticed to reach the body of the enemy sniper, to see the face of this person so much like him. Braving more enemy gunfire to cross the street, again barely reacting to the horrors and dangers this war has brought to Dublin, the sniper finds the body of the enemy sniper, only to find that the enemy sniper he killed was his own brother.

Thus, in that final sentence, Liam O’Flaherty takes the common saying, that civil war is a war where brother fights brother, and proceeds to slap his audience in the face with it. He leaves them here with no resolution beyond this point, just the awareness that this war has led our protagonist to kill his own family. And with that, O’Flaherty appears to be saying that the dangers, the horrors, and ultimately the tragedies of conflict, especially civil wars like the Irish Civil War, are unified in the notion that war forces people to kill their fellow citizens and human beings, their family.

Thank you for reading my ramblings. #amreading #amwriting

I have a blog now. I can’t decide if that’s good, bad, or potentially catastrophic, but I’m going to run with it.


For this first blog post I’m writing about what I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit is a new venture of mine, reading short stories. I might be a writer, but I’m a terrible reader. I’ve been out of college for almost two years and I can probably count the number of books I’ve read to completion since then on one hand. Meanwhile, I would need an entire orchestra of hands to count the books I’ve started, enjoyed, yet put down because something got in the way. Reading for me is like travel; I love it and don’t do it anywhere near as much as I should. So, to try and mend this issue, I’m starting to read short stories. My theory is I can get back into reading with some smaller stories, that I can get the full experience of in one sitting, instead of beginning and stopping halfway through. Also, in the past I’ve only read a handful (there’s the hand metaphor again, sick of it yet?) of short stories for my own personal enjoyment, not for a grade in English class, so this is a welcome change of pace for more reasons than one.


First up on my short story reading list, “From a Table, Falling,” by E.H. Hahn, published in 2009 in, “The Saint Ann’s Review.” This is a story I’ve been told to read for years and should’ve read a long time ago. Not only did I get the chance to meet the author, my mom was close friends with E.H. Hahn and has remained friends with Hahn’s family since the author’s death in 2011. Opening up the book to this story I was a little nervous, it almost felt as if I was intruding on my mom and Hahn’s friendship. But I’m really glad I finally read this because, “From a Table, Falling,” is excellent.


At thirteen pages long, this story is shorter in its whole than a single chapter of most books, at least the ones I’ve read. That’s what exhilarates me about the story; it’s so brief yet so compelling and so comprehensive in the exploration of its subject matter. To talk about the plot is to give away the plot, so the most I’ll say on that is it follows the narrator, referred to only by her nickname, “Baby Doll,” and her loving supportive husband, “Freddy,” over the span of some twenty years. Hahn’s ability to pack twenty years into thirteen pages without making it feel crowded is extraordinary. Much of those twenty years are told in a sequence of conversations between the narrator and her husband, some of which feel so naturally random I don’t doubt they were based on real life, and metaphor-heavy narrative sections that I’m certain I only scratched the surface of. I’ll have to read this story again, and again after that. I highly recommend tracking down and reading, “From a Table, Falling,” by E.H. Hahn. It’s a trip worth taking.


Thank you for reading my ramblings. #amreading #amwriting

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