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Tuesday 8 December 2015

☀☄✉ Dead Jed: Adventures of a Middle School Zombie: Dead Jed [1] - Scott Craven

Welcome to Day 2 of #MGRewind week! Celebrate Middle Grade reads with Tantrum Books/Month9books.

Sharing his memories as an MG reader, we welcome author of the  Dead Jed: Adventures of a Middle School Zombie, a Middle Grade Humorous Fantasy Horror by (, Month9Books, 232 pages).

This is the first book in the Dead Jed series.

PREVIEW: Check out the book's synopsis, trailer and excerpt below, as well as details of the other two titles in the series, including Return of the Jed, which was released today!    Read various excerpts with Amazon Look Inside.

Month9 / Tantrum Books will be awarding one (1) digital copy of the titles featured in this week's #MGRewind to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.

Synopsis | Trailer | Teasers | The Series | About the Author | Giveaway & Tour Stops


Dead Jed is Shaun of the Dead meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Jed's not your typical junior high geek. He is, to use the politically-correct term, cardiovascularly-challenged. And while his parents have attempted to shield him from the implications of being 'different' for as long as they could (Jed was 8 and at a friend's sister's birthday party when he blew his lips off onto the cake in front of everyone, finally prompting the “Big Talk” from his parents and an emergency SuperGlue repair by his dad), 7th grade at Pine Hollow Middle School as a target of Robbie the supreme school bully and his pack of moronic toadies is rapidly becoming unbearable.

From being stuffed in a filled trash can as “dead meat” and into a trophy case as the bully's “prize,” to literally having his hand pulled off in the boys' room (Jed's always losing body parts. Luckily, a good stapler and some duct tape and he's back in the action) and a cigarette put in it and try to frame him for the recent reports of smoking in the school, Jed's had enough and is ready to plan his revenge. Besides, it's awesome what you can do when you're already dead!


Excerpt | Guest Post: Scott Craven |


Chapter One

My biggest concern at the moment was my right arm, and the fact I could not feel it. That didn’t necessarily mean I’d lost it; it had been with me when I was shoved in here, joining the remnants of a very unpopular cafeteria lunch that found a better home in this trash can. Besides, even if I had lost my favorite arm, it wasn’t like it could get up and walk away.
      As far as I knew.
      Instead, I focused on the task at hand. Getting out. Then my arm. Then trying to make it look—emerging in front of a crowd like a garbage can Houdini—as if none of this had affected me in the least.
      That last one would be the toughest. Then again, this was not the first time I’d been slammed into the trash. After several weeks at school, I wasn’t just making an impression. I was making indentations in waste cans across the campus.
      You may be wondering why a pretty friendly kid like me wound up thrown headfirst into a popular and well-used trash can, not far (and definitely not far enough) from a middle school cafeteria.
      Probably had something to do with me being—how do I put this—dead, but not dead. Flatline enhanced. Non-dependent on breathing.
      Fine, a zombie.
      “Hey everyone, come take a look at the canned meat!”
      Great, as if two legs sticking out of a garbage can weren’t enough to get the attention of students at Pine Hollow Middle School. Nice campus, hallways arranged around a grassy courtyard that was crisscrossed with sidewalks, helping keep the turf green.
      It was that green grass that had gotten me in trouble with Robbie, who assumed the role of carnival barker. “That’s right,” I heard Robbie say through the metal and various layers of pizza crusts, applesauce containers and, judging by the scent, fries with that. “We got ourselves a Z-boy. Lured him with a few fresh brains, and look what we got here.”
      BAM! The metallic clap of thunder was right next to my head, no doubt one of Robbie’s Doc Martens slamming against the can.
      “You like that there, DJ? Uh, what? Can’t hear you. You still alive? Huh? I said, are you still … oh, that’s right, my bad, of course you’re not. What was I thinking?”
      While everyone knew me (blending in was difficult when your skin was gray, cuts took a while to heal, and you never went anywhere without duct tape and staples just in case a limb got yanked off), most everyone left me alone.
      Not Robbie. He was born to be a bully. Probably destined for a job in upper-level management. Robbie—now fifteen, held back twice and thus unhappy with his career as an eighth grader—didn’t like a lot of things: younger kids, older kids, kids who got in his way. He would go out of his way to pick on kids in his way.
      It was easy to explain kids like Robbie—mom was a drunk, dad abandoned him when he was five, all his clothes sported the same designer tags: CRAZY HOWIE’S BUDGET HUT. And everyone knew his older brother Dale, who made bullying a competitive sport, practiced his skills on Robbie (some kids even said that all through fifth grade, Robbie’s first class was with the school nurse until Dale was busted for hitting a teacher). But those were only the stories I had heard. Because what I knew of Robbie came in encounters like this. We didn’t get a lot of guy time.
      “Whoa, something reeks. DJ, did you slap on some Eau de Rotting Flesh before coming to school?” Robbie again, stirring up the masses. Had to be, what, maybe two or three minutes until the bell rang? And I had to get out and look for my arm, which by now I was pretty sure was no longer on my shoulder.
      Most of my time between classes was spent avoiding Robbie, fairly easy to do since he was a head taller than everyone else and much bigger, being on the far side of puberty. I made sure to feed the beast regularly, letting him copy off me in class.
      But today, I got sloppy.
      Back in September, during lunch, Luke and I had done what we always did. We ate as fast as we could and then hit the basketball court, where I liked to carry on a running commentary about my skills, because sometimes pretending to have them was almost as good as having them.
      “Jed goes left, posts up, looks for an outlet, no one’s open, five seconds left!” I stood at the top of the key, while Luke waited under the basket, shaking his head at my play-by-play.
      “C’mon, shoot it already,” Luke said. “First bell’s about to ring.”
      Luke was my best friend. Almost my only friend. Not that he volunteered for the job. We grew up next to one another, so we spent a lot of time together. When I “came out of the casket,” as Luke put it, he didn’t mind all that much, as long as I didn’t bite him or bleed on him and turn him into a zombie.
      I was pretty sure that wasn’t possible. With all the bodily fluids I’ve leaked on my parents over the years, I’m pretty sure they’d have gone zombie by now if it were. But you would be surprised at how many kids, and even adults, think being undead is highly contagious.
      “I like you, but a guy has to be careful,” Luke had said. “Or at least wait until I’m forty or something, when I won’t mind dying.”
      Along with being neighbors, we also had a lot in common. We may have been a bit small for our age, but we were pretty smart and did well in school. But not to the point of being geeks—we frowned on those in Tech Club, probably about the only clique at Pine Hollow Middle School below us on the evolutionary ladder of cool kids. We liked sports and shot hoops before school and at lunch. And we were good enough at some things that we weren’t always the last kids picked—as long as there were Tech kids who wanted to play.
      On the court, I continued my commentary.
      “Jed fakes left, right, clock winding down, three, two, he’s gotta put it in, if he sinks it, Warriors win!” With the ball cradled in my right palm, I flexed my arm and let fly a near-perfect arc, the orange sphere headed toward the center of the hoop. It clanged off the front, shivering the metal chains.
      “Dude, you suck,” Luke said as he chased the ball into the next court. “Way outta your range.”
      “No, that was perfect,” I said. “Then that gust of wind kicked up, and it didn’t stand a chance.”
      “Yeah, right. You missed because of your general suckitude at stuff.”
      I could try to defend my talents, but Luke knew better. He was easily the better athlete between us, and in games of one-on-one, scores usually wound up twenty-one to ten or so. And when we played flag football in PE, he went about five kids before me (though I didn’t think he was five kids better than me—maybe three).
      Luke dribbled back to our court, stood behind the three-point arc, and let it fly. The bell rang just as the ball bounced high off the backboard right to me. “Looks like when it comes to suckitude, we are evenly matched,” I said.
      “Whatever, just return the ball while I get our backpacks.”
      I dribbled it the length of the playground to a wooden shed teetering on the edge of the concrete next to the field. This was the equipment room, better known as the Ballshack, with all the implications you would expect it to have for those in middle school.
      “Here you go, Mr. Stanzer,” I said, lobbing the ball to the assistant PE coach. Mr. Stanzer was the cool PE coach, maybe because he was overweight and quick to sweat, so he understood all about not being very good at physical stuff. Of course, all the jocks thought the cool PE teacher was Mr. Benatar, who was head of the department with a body that suggested steroid use. Mr. Benatar actually insisted on grading kids based on physical achievement. Who does that anymore?
      Mr. Stanzer, who was called Ballshack Bob by almost everyone (and really, I had no idea what his real first name was), threw the basketball into the back. At some point, someone had spent a lot of time pasting a bunch of labels on the Ballshack shelves, perfectly spaced to allow every ball a place and a place for every ball. But Mr. Stanzer just threw them all in the back.
      “Thanks, Jed,” Mr. Stanzer said, the basketball still bouncing around. “And good job in PE today. Bet you would’ve made that last lift if, you know, your arm … ”
      “I know. Thanks, Mr. Stanzer. And no, it didn’t hurt much,” I said. A little slippage, some sliding around in the socket. As long as I took care, everything would be fine by tomorrow.
      Luke waited for me at the entrance to the courtyard and tossed me my backpack, which I slung over my shoulder. We walked into the courtyard, where hundreds of kids were heading to one of the halls that ringed the quad. Luke and I had fifth period together—Social Studies—on the opposite side.
      “How are you doing on that map?” Luke asked as we walked across the courtyard to our fifth-period class. We were in the middle of our world-map project, and I had Eastern Europe. Had I known that part of the world had mostly countries whose names were impossible to spell, I would have chosen a different area.
      “Doing OK, but having a hard time fitting some names in,” I said. “Any idea how you might abbreviate Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan?”
      “No clue,” Luke said. “I’m just glad I was able to talk Ms. Renzi into letting me have Antarctica. I almost feel like I’m cheating.”
      “You are—”
      Another voice had interrupted from behind.
      “Deeee J-aaaayyyy. Deeee Jaaaayyyy. Yeah, talking to you, deadhead.”
      I turned, knowing who I would see. Robbie Zambrano stood, arms crossed in front of his thick chest, with his usual wingmen, Joe Caldecott and Ben Easley (better known as Joe C. and Ben E., though behind their backs we referred to them as Josie and the Pussycat—as sidekicks, they did not deserve the respect or fear Robbie inspired).
      “DJ, you know where you are?”
      God, ‘DJ’. How I hated being called that. And there was nothing I could do about it.
      “Where I am? You mean at school?” That’s what I wanted to say. But instead I choked out, “Huh?”
      “You deaf as well as brain-dead? Where … ARE … you?”
      I looked around. And then down.
      “Uh, the Eighth-Grade Lawn.”
      “Really? And what grade are you in, DJ?”
      “You know—”
      Robbie’s lips curled into a sneer.
      “I’m in seventh grade.”
      “Remind me, Joe, who’s allowed on the Eighth-Grade Lawn?”
      “Eighth graders,” Ben said. Ben often answered for Joe and vice versa. They were like that.
      “So, are sevvies allowed on the Eighth-Grade Lawn?”
      “No,” Joe said, “sevvies are never allowed on the Eighth-Grade Lawn.”
      At Pine Hollow, there was a time-honored territorial tradition. Any patch of turf in the quad currently occupied by an eighth grader was the Eighth-Grade Lawn. Which meant seventh graders were never to tread on grass.
      “And what happens—” Robbie continued with his lesson “—to sevvies who are found to be in violation?”
      “Canning!” Joe and Ben said together. That happened a lot, too.
      Luke looked at me and, making sure his sneakers were not violating Eighth-Grade Lawn space, leaned and whispered, “You didn’t let him copy in History, did you?”
      I shook my head. Robbie and I had an understanding. He sat near me in the classes we had together, and, since he refused to take notes or read a book, I had to make sure he had a clear view of my paper during tests. It was a pleasant symbiotic relationship (meaning both sides benefit, as we—or at least I—learned in Biology). His benefit was passing grades. Mine was being allowed to remain somewhat intact. For the most part, it worked well.
      But not today.
      “Remember what happened to my arm in PE?” I said. “I couldn’t adjust it quite right, and, well, it kinda blocked my paper.”
      “Shut up, sevvie! No speaking unless spoken to,” Robbie said. “Well, I think it’s on to the punishment phase of your infraction. Joe, Ben, you know what to do.”
      Ben hooked his arm under my right leg, Joe took my left leg, as if I’d been injured in a football game and they were taking me off the field. But they carried me to the trash can closest to the cafeteria, where I knew a soft landing was ahead. Soft, and very messy.
      I remained there until a minute or so after the final bell. I kicked my legs and pushed up with my remaining arm, then felt the can tip enough for me to back out.
      “Thanks, Luke,” I said as he righted the can.
      “Sorry, man, I had to wait until Robbie left.” Luke grabbed my left hand and pulled me to my feet. “Oh crap, Jed, where’s your arm?”
      I leaned over the top of the can, searching amid the wrappers, plates, and discarded food. There, between a drink pouch and a ketchup-smeared paper plate, was my hand. I grasped it and yanked.
      “I gotta go get this back on,” I said. “I’ll see you in class in a bit.”
      I walked across the empty courtyard toward the nurse’s office, since she knew by now how to take care of this without calling the paramedics. After a few days, it would be back to normal.
      “Normal” sounds pretty weird coming from a zombie. After all, “He doesn’t have a leg to stand on” isn’t just a saying for me. It’s actually happened.
      But there are certain advantages to being undead. And by the end of the semester, Robbie was going to find out. For now, let’s start at the beginning.
      That would be my first day in seventh grade.

Scott Craven Shares his Childhood Memories

When I was 10, two of my best friends were my beanbag chair and my bookshelf. Those chairs (imagine a beanbag large enough to cradle a person) have largely disappeared for various reasons, but I'm sure parents had something to do with it since the chairs had a habit of bleeding little white foam pellets impossible to eradicated. And even bookshelves are shrinking thanks to electronic readers.
      Back then, I could spend all afternoon lost in a book, my body slowly losing feeling as it sunk deeper and deeper into the beanbag. I often finished books in a day, and one of my favorite series involved a crime-solving trio of boys (MG books were very sexist back then). It was a knockoff of the more famous Hardy Boys, and I still have each of those 15 volumes. Every now and then I crack them open and enjoy a scent as musty as the prose.
      They may not have been the best stories every written, but I loved each one of them. They launched me on a lifetime of reading, which eventually led me to write MG books of my own. Sometimes I will imagine a 10-year-old boy or girl nestled into a favorite chair, cracking open Dead Jed, and losing track of time as well as feeling in their extremities.
      Scott Craven

Dead Jed
Adventures of a Middle School Zombie

Available NOW!

UK: purchase from purchase from iTunes UK find on Goodreads
US: purchase from purchase from Barnes & Noble purchase from Kobo purchase from iTunes US purchase from Google Books purchase from Month9Books

The Series: Dead Jed

Dawn Of The Jed | Return of the Jed |

Dawn Of The Jed [2]

The first part of seventh grade was rough on Jed, but things are looking up now that Christmas is almost here. As with past Christmases, Jed asks for the one thing he's always wanted--a dog--and again, his parents tell him they're not ready. But fate has a different plan when Jed sees a dog get run over by a car. Then, it happens. Jed suddenly has a pet, Tread, a zombie dog bearing his namesake--a tire tread down his back. Jed may have gained a dog, but he loses his best friend Luke, who fears the way Jed created his undead pet.

When Jed returns to school, he finds a mysterious group called the No Zombies Now Network spreading rumors of the dangers the undead pose to normal people. Forced to disprove Hollywood stereotypes, Jed has his work cut out for him as stories of a zombie dog begin to circulate. Jed could be expelled if he can't expose the NZN Network as a fraud. Jed needs help from his kind of girlfriend Anna, especially after he discovers Luke has joined the shadowy group.

Once again navigating the treacherous waters of middle school, Jed does his best to stay in one piece. Only this time he'll need even more duct tape and staples than usual.

[Published 9 December 2014, 266 pages]

Return of the Jed [3]

With seventh grade behind him, Jed jumps at the opportunity to spend the summer in Mexico with his dad. But there's just one catch: his best friend, Luke and his trusty pet, Tread get to tag along.

In Mexico, fitting in might be easier than Jed imagined, with holidays like Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) a rising 8th grade zombie boy and his zombie dog won't draw that much attention. But then Tread unwittingly sets off Mexico’s Chupacabra Defense Network and Jed accidentally collides with a bus. So much for blending in!

The unusual pair catches the eye of a professional wrestler, who challenges Jed to a fight. Their antics manage to capture the attention of a doctor whose knowledge of the undead causes Jed to question his very existence. Is this the answer Jed's been hoping for since his parents sat him down for the "you're a zombie" talk? Jed may have finally found a way to be normal, but at what cost?

This humorous and heartwarming story is about surviving middle school, fitting in, and embracing one's differences —even if you’re a zombie.

[Published 8 December 2015, 266 pages]

About the Author

Scott Craven has been a writer most of his life, with his earliest verifiable work coming in third grade when he established a link between the Pilgrims and the invention of Thanksgiving (since repudiated).

The Dead Jed trilogy is his first trilogy, and first three books he has ever written. He started one back in college at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and quit after the first page (he used an electric typewriter back then, cutting-edge tech). He has no idea what it was about, but he is sure it was like every other story he wrote in which he tried to mimic Stephen King.

Scott has been a journalist for 35 years, the last 30 with The (now departed) Phoenix Gazette and The Arizona Republic. He loves telling stories, whether they are his or those of others. He has one son who turned 20 in March 2015.

Dead Jed has its roots in his own horror that was seventh grade. He just wanted to fit in, but at 4 feet, 6 inches tall, all he fit into were lockers and trash bins. He eventually reached average height and was able to turn those misadventures into a book starring a zombie who, yes, just wants to fit in. Only Jed's story is way funnier than his, and he gets even. Scott never did.

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