Tag Archives: zombies

Ways Real Life Is Not Like Video Games

  • Random strangers you meet are not, however tangentially, related to your Destiny
  • You are not athletic
  • You are not flexible
  • Physics has pretty solid limitations
  • You are probably not highly skilled with a bow, handgun, or rocket launcher, and definitely not all three
  • You do not manage to carry a nearly unlimited number of items in only an outfit that has no obvious place for pockets
  • You will not be in a situation where you need to craft a gun from spare parts you “found” in an ancient temple
  • You are not encouraged to break pots in other people’s houses
  • You should not disturb artifacts. They belong in a museum
  • Your grandfather does not come back as a ghost to judge you on your farm quality
  • You are unlikely to be The Chosen One
  • You are not likely to survive an apocalyptic event
  • You will not be asked by said strangers to go on a fetch quest
  • You cannot fast travel
  • Cut scenes are unskippable
  • Resource boxes are not located conveniently just before the Big Boss location
  • Respawn is highly unlikely and unpredictable
  • Save points are possibly nonexistent
  • You do not get to choose your baseline appearance or personality
  • Leveling up does not come with any obvious sound effects and only rarely with badges
  • Additionally, most achievements cannot be shared with friends
  • You will not be known and respected across the land
  • If you slaughter a village of peasants, you cannot load a saved game to restore your honorable reputation
  • Not all merchants will trade with you
  • You are unlikely to make a living by selling natural resources you found by the road
  • Your companions do not have to listen to you or follow your leadership
  • You need to eat just because you burn energy, not just because you got punched in the face or otherwise injured
  • Do not light fires unless you know what you are doing
  • You do not have an awesome, inspiring soundtrack at key moments
  • If you tire of your storyline, you cannot put it aside or switch to a different game
  • Getting a date and getting married are somehow both more and less complicated
  • You are not required to give people gifts in order to make them become your friend
  • You have to take bathroom breaks
  • You are unlikely to encounter werewolves, zombies, or mechasoldiers
  • Weather lasts more than five minutes
  • Climbing a mountain is not the fastest way from A to B. Just stick to the road
  • The controls can be tricky to learn and operate, and the rules seem to be continually changing
  • You cannot draft players onto your sports team. You do not own a sports team, and even if you do, it doesn’t work quite like that
  • Drinking “potions” with unknown ingredients is a good way to get sick
  • Healing takes more than a mouthful of herbs
  • Call for help if you jump in a pipe and end up in a dungeon
  • No one is giving swords to 10-year-olds, and people in caves who try to should be reported to the authorities
  • Important objects do not highlight when you look at them
  • Plants are a poor defense against the undead
  • If you think you are fighting the Greek pantheon, a horde of demons, dragons, or aliens, please consult a mental health specialist
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“What Do You Write?”, or The Genre Prison

I just recently read one of those articles about how the “new wave” of self-publishers “must” act, and it left me rolling my eyes. It said, instead of just writing, editing, and publishing something, and then working on a social media platform/blog, you should do it the other way around: blog first, become popular (literally, that was the whole step–oh, ok!), hope you still have time for the book you originally wanted to write.

I’ve seen that advice before, but today it just made me eyeroll particularly hard (because of course it’s as easy as “get popular.” Gag me). The advice was further to pick what you were going to write about–presumably the same thing that is your future book topic–and then write extensively on that narrow subject.

Now, don’t get me wrong, that totally works for some people. I met a woman at a conference who started her blog about kids’ photography, and it led to a book deal and stuff. Great. But guess what? She didn’t start the blog so she could eventually write a book; she started the blog because she wanted to be a blogger.

Anyway, back to the “write about one topic a lot” thing: most broadly, that means writing about a specific genre. But I think that’s locking yourself into a prison for no good reason: so your first book ends up being a steampunk romance, great, but what if you want to do a sci-fi horror for the second one? Do you have to spin off a totally different blog? Start all over again? Insanity!

Besides, sometimes the genre is stupidly hard to define. That’s one of the biggest problems with Undead Rising. What genre is it? It’s got zombies, so that’s sometimes horror, even though it’s maybe PG-13 level scary. Zombies are also supernatural, so it kinda fits in that arena. But it’s also funny, so does that make it humor? Except it turns out, weirdly, that most humor books are nonfiction, so that isn’t exactly a good fit. It’s a gamebook, which is awesome, except it’s a genre completely dominated by children’s books from the 1970s and that’s not exactly a section most people are familiar with… so what, exactly, would my one-genre blog be about?

I guarantee you if I had to talk exclusively about zombies, this blog would have died a long time ago.

The conventional publishing wisdom is contradictory here, too. Officially, you pick a genre and you just write in that genre until your hands fall off. It used to be if you wanted to write in a different genre, your publisher would frown on that and your new stuff wouldn’t be published; you were only “known” in one arena. Except… if you got famous, then it was back to whatever you wanted, apparently. All my favorite authors right now may be best known for a certain thing, but they cross genres at will, following whatever they are interested in: Neil Gaiman (comics, children’s books, YA, adult novels); Brad Meltzer (historical fiction, superhero comics, children’s picture books); Margaret Atwood (dystopian fiction that she likes to call literary fiction, short stories, fantasy); and Jim Butcher (urban fantasy, role playing games, comic books, steampunk).

So I say….write what you want. Following your passion is far more interesting and more likely to keep you motivated. Who cares what the box is supposed to be? Just go for it. Make the box fit you, not the other way around.

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Amazing Halloween Book Signing

Well, my weekend was incredible. The weather was bleary and I didn’t get a single trick-or-treater, nor did I have a costume, but it may have been the BEST HALLOWEEN EVER.

Why? Because I got to meet so many people who were so incredibly pumped to discover that adults are “allowed” to read gamebooks, too!

This was my first-ever book signing (huge shout-out to the folks at Madness Games and Comics who thought it was a good idea! Buy all their cool stuff!), and my expectations were pretty low: smile at people, sit behind a stack of books all day, use caffeine to keep my spirits up. But y’all blew away my expectations! Instead of being the shy author I feel like, I was able to chat with so many people who were like, “wait a minute? Did you say zombies?! This is very pertinent to my interests!”

Undead Rising book signing at Madness Games

Writing–and self-publishing–can be really isolating; you do most of it alone, at your desk. I did not at all expect the high I got from meeting so many of my people, the folks who say “yeah, I probably wouldn’t survive a zombie apocalypse, let’s be real…but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t try!” The people who think it’s ok to be a “grownup” and still have fun like an 8-year-old. The people who say, “heck yes I want to support a local author!”

I just wish I could go give you all a big hug–you made my year!

If we met this weekend and you’ve had a chance to read some of Undead Rising, let me know what you think! And I would be so grateful if you’d review the book on Goodreads, or tell a friend, or leave a copy conspicuously on a park bench for an unassuming stranger to discover (ok, maybe not the last one!).

Also, big announcement: because of the success of the signing on Halloween, Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny will now be available for purchase at Madness Games and Comics!

Y’all are awesome. And remember: Choose wisely.

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The One Thing I’d Get During an Apocalypse

I’m writing this on Saturday, when the Super Moon is getting eclipsed, and all I can think about is the end of the world. Namely, the one thing I’d want to have with me in the event of a serious, bad apocalypse. In addition to the sensible running shoes and outdoor clothes I’d of course already be equipped with, I’d run back into the burning city for one thing.

There are a lot of good contenders: a fire starter would be clever, some kind of water-cleaning device, perhaps a camping tent. A can opener would have its uses for a long time. A good knife, always handy. But as a female apocalypse-survivor, there is one luxury that would really make survival 100 times better.

Hair ties.

hair ties for the apocalypse

Yup, those things (and preferably on a convenient clip just like this)! Absolutely essential. My day is practically over if I lose mine. You always see women in adventure shows with their hair down and flowing, and let me tell you, that’s a surefire way to get your hair tangled as heck, caught in some twigs, or at the very least annoyingly frizzy. And I’ve tried those complicated faux-Greek hairstyles where they “don’t use a tie” or just a leather thong or whatever, but I assure you, there’s really nothing as good as a nice elastic hair tie. I wouldn’t want to be in an apocalypse without it.

Besides, this comic by Kevin Warren has it about right:

Kevin Warren wonder woman scrunchie

Wonder Woman art by Kevin Warren

What one thing would make the apocalypse almost survivable for you? Share your best ideas!

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Movie Review: 28 Days Later — 4 Juicy Brains

I’m a peering-through-my-fingers kind of horror watcher (which is to say, I don’t). But I wrote a zombie novel, so it’s kind of expected that I’ll know, you know, something about some of the major zombie movies. While I don’t think my ignorance has held me back at all, really, it is a little embarrassing to admit. (This is how I explain: “I’m more of a Shaun of the Dead kinda gal than a Living Dead…”)

But I’m working to remedy things. Last month I watched Zombieland. I’ve continued my education with modern cult classic 28 Days Later.

28 Days Later- Zombie Movie Review

Premise: Jim wakes up from a coma 28 days after a zombie outbreak (related to scientists and chimpanzee experiments on “rage”) has swept through London. After stumbling around in confusion, he links up with other survivors: the tough, no-nonsense Selena; the bad-joker Mark; young girl Hannah; and Mark, her father. They seek sanctuary, and Jim hardens from soft, confused coma patient to badass survivor.

Zombie Characteristics: Zombies are technically infected with this “rage” virus. Outwardly, they pretty well match your basic zombie template, with perhaps less rotting flesh. They’re fast, or at least as fast as a human would be. They seem more inclined to rip and tear than actually eat, and there is no indication that they’re after brains in particular. They’re dumb but not totally moronic. The infection is spread by saliva (being bitten) and blood transmission.

Apocalypse Level: Severe. Jim wakes up to a totally abandoned London. It’s pretty eerie. It looks like there may not be any other people at all, but he gets lucky. There aren’t hordes or roaming undead, but it doesn’t take many to be a real problem. Though the radio/TV services are all down, rumor has it that the zombie infection was not contained… perhaps the whole world is infected. There are, however, hints of other survivors.

Gore Level: Medium. There really aren’t that many intense zombie attacks, but when they do show up, they can be visceral. Most of the “gore” and scare factor seems to come from the setting, and the rough film techniques. Isolation is the biggest danger here…after you’ve outrun the zombies.  The worst parts may be the violence of the other survivors.

Overall: It turns out the scariest parts of a zombie apocalypse may be the other survivors. The parts with the soldiers… were deeply unsettling to me. I mean, they’re supposed to be, but I found it more upsetting perhaps than was intended. That was the part that made me mad/scared, more than any of the creepy zombie parts. Zombies are scary and should be avoided, but trust for other survivors may be the hardest thing to come by in the apocalypse. Women, bring your Tasers and pepperspray when the zombies start rising up.

But I can see why 28 Days Later got so much attention. I’m grateful that the creators allowed a speck of hope at the end (though I did watch the two alternative endings, for science). I wouldn’t call it “fun,” but it’s a great movie. Plus it introduced the world to Cillian Murphy, and for that we should all be grateful.

For that, and its importance in zombie lore, I give this movie 4 juicy, blood-splattery brains!

juicy brains

juicy brains

juicy brains

juicy brains

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Movie Review: Zombieland – 4 Juicy Brains!

I have a terrible confession: Even though I’ve written a zombie book, I really don’t like zombie movies. I’m actually a big ol’ weeny when it comes to gore. I can handle reading about it, more or less, but actually watching someone’s arm get ripped off and eaten is just too much for me. It’s why I haven’t been watching The Walking Dead: I saw the first episode, and got to that one zombie that was just a top torso with its spine swishing along behind it, and just noped right outta there (but was still interested, so I took to reading weekly recaps to follow the story. I’m such a nerd).

But having missed these zombie cultural touchpoints is just a character flaw, honestly, so I’m trying to repair it.

Starting with: Zombieland.


Zombieland poster

Premise: A few months after a zombie apocalypse, a young guy (Columbus) is just trying to survive, until he encounters a few other survivors: the wild and rough-edged Tallahassee, and the innocent-looking but cutthroat sisters Little Rock and Wichita. They team up to find family, a long-sought Twinkie, and the fleeting memories of childhood safety in what amounts to a zombie apocalypse roadtrip.

Zombie Characteristics: Virus is some variant of the mad cow disease, turning people into slavering, necrotic people-eaters within just a few hours of being bitten. They don’t mind pain and are pretty fast, as zombies go; these aren’t shufflers but joggers (keep up that cardio!). A blow to the head or a double-tap shot is the best way to kill them.

Apocalypse Level: Fairly low. Sure, lots of people are dead, but there are relatively few zombies (or people) in this movie at all. You’ve got to remember “the rules,” but no one is particularly worried about finding food to eat, having a place to sleep, siphoning gas, or having clean drinking water. All the electricity is on everywhere they go. You just have to keep an eye out for zombies.

Gore Level: Medium-low. This is hardly horror-movie fare. There were a few occasions that buckets of blood were called for, but it was pretty mild as zombie movies go. Not much worse than anything you’d see as roadkill.

Overall: Pretty funny and highly irreverent. I’m sorry I waited so long to see this one, particularly as the really clever “rules” technique interlaced through the film caught on as a pop culture reference. It was even a little heartwarming. Let’s just hope this is what a zombie apocalypse looks like; seems pretty safe. Just remember to work on that cardio in the meantime.

I give it 4 juicy brains!

juicy brains

juicy brains

juicy brains

juicy brains

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Rise From The Grave (Without Actually Being a Zombie)

What if I told you there really is a way for you to be un-dead, in a very literal, and very helpful way? To be gone from this life and yet still helping people.

No, not as a zombie—they mostly just chase you for your brains. But in a way that will allow you to save someone’s life.

You can: sign up to be an organ donor.

I just recommitted to organ donation last week, when I renewed my request to be an organ donor. Here in Texas, you can do it through the DMV.

I’m an organ donor because of my friend David. David was my high school theater teacher, and he had to miss our actual performance of Romeo & Juliet because he was coughing too much to sit through the show. David has cystic fibrosis. It’s a disease where phlegm builds up in the lungs. Over time, David’s body was literally suffocating, drowning him from the inside out. He lost most of his weight, coughed so hard he broke ribs, and was on a first-name basis with the hospital staff.

But David is alive today because he was able to get brand-new lungs; well, lightly-used, or at least in better shape than the lungs he was born with. Now David celebrates a new birthday every year—the day he received the gift of a lifetime, new lungs.

Before his operation, David’s lung capacity was down to 7%. This year, it was at 110%.

Unfortunately, here in the U.S. and in most other places, essential organs like David’s new lungs are lost forever because organ donation is an opt-in rather than an opt-out. So you have to actually think about it, check the box, and make the commitment. Even when you’re gone, you could save someone’s life. What an incredible opportunity.

Go sign up to be an organ donor today and save a life sometime in your future.


Undead Rising coverNot enough zombies in this post? Why don’t you go buy my novel, Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny, available in print and on Kindle. Much like with organ donation, there’s an afterlife: when you die in the book, sometimes you rise again as a zombie, unlocking new adventures.

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