Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Year Ends on a Good Review

The year 2014 ends on a good note for my zombie shorts Cities of the Dead: Stories from the Zombie Apocalypse, with a glowing four-star review on Amazon:

One of the things that impressed me most about this collection is that it is written by one author. If that sounds weird let me explain. There are twenty stories in the book that ALL deal with zombies. In order to create twenty stories that don't keep covering the same ground takes a great deal of imagination (not to mention a whole lot of time spent thinking about zombies). There are a few characteristics that remain the same- zombies love brains and prefer their food uncooked- but there are more that are quite different. There are super zombies, zombies who fall into different classifications and even zombies who appear to be evolving into something new. The people are also varied. They are good, evil and everything in between. There are people who adapt quickly and others who cling to their faith in a world that has abruptly disappeared. People who are convinced they are helping humanity by performing atrocities, and others who beat themselves up for not being able to protect everyone in their groups.
Overall, this is a fun collection that left me with a lot to think about. Zombies...who knew?
If you're wondering, yes, 2015 will feature at least one new collection of stories set in the same zombie world.

And not to short Barnes and Noble, but I did get a 5-star there:
Posted December 26, 2014

No text was provided for this review.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

New Book, New Dog

So, the year started out in earnest with me working on a brand-new genre-defying novel that slowly ground to a halt around page 200 and was shelved. Hopefully only temporarily, but, well, some things that die do not return from the dead.

Unlike my latest Cities of the Dead project, "Winters of Discontent," which I bum rushed out the door and through the various digital publishing sources just in time for Christmas. The stories were written in-between attempts at the novel and had been sitting, unedited, on the computer, begging for attention. That attention was given, and I can now brag that for the fourth year going, I have managed to publish fiction for the universe to enjoy. It's only available at Amazon and Smashwords as an eBook, but will be up everywhere, soon, including a 66 page paperback version.

It's four stories. I had meant to do an entire book as a sequel, but it was that kind of year. I think my model going forward will be to something like this, a small number of shorts, released periodically to advance and develop the zombie apocalypse. This one continues the stories of the gyrocopter pilots from the first book, and I'm thinking I may continue to do that as well as maybe with some of the other survivors from the first book. We'll see.
In personal life, I got a dog. We got a dog. After a year of resisting, I relented and we rescued a hound mix (mutt) from the local ASPCA. She's a beauty, and possibly a mix of Jack Russell terrier, beagle, and pointer (but, nobody really knows).

I was surprised to find all the legends of dogs true: they'll eat anything at this stage. Especially anything made of wood or that smells of foot. I'd like to say that two months of constant training have her house trained, but I'm not going to say that quite yet, even though she has developed cues to alert you to her need to head outside. She hasn't gone inside in more than a month, but I don't trust her, yet, for long periods of time (especially overnight), so she's still relegated to the crate from time to time.

We named her Calico after tossing out a few names both pre- and post-adoption. How did we get that, you wonder? Well, the first rule of dog-naming was no common human names. I wanted to name it Amdiranifani from the Vernor Vinge books about the Tines world, but was over-ruled. So, on the drive home from the shelter, I was daydreaming about 1700s pirate "Calico" Jack Rackham, and suddenly blurted out, "How about Calico?"

Everyone agreed. She's Cali most of the time, to the kids.

It's nice to have her around during the day, when I'm alone with the house. Unlike the previous cat, Calico follows me around to see what I'm doing when she's not balled up on the couch dreaming of squirrels.
As usual, I'm looking forward to Christmas. I love this time of year.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Z Nation Review

Five episodes in, and the new Syfy show Z Nation puts you on notice: don't worship your heroes. The pilot episode introduced a special operations soldier as the potential hero of the show, only to kill him before the end of the episode, much to my kids' disbelief.

By the end of the pilot, you meet Garnett, a former National Guard soldier who takes over the special operator's mission to transport a kinda-sorta infected/cured human from the East Coast to California, where there's supposedly a lab that can use his blood to create a cure for the zombie virus.  Okay, fine. It's not the rambling bumbling premise of The Walking Dead, but, rather, a "man goes on a journey" archetype.

It would be unfair to compare the two shows, but I will contrast them. TWD is all grim reality designed to make you despair for the characters week-in, week-out. There's no real nugget of story to the season-to-season arc, it's just a handful of characters doing whatever they have to do to survive this week's episode. It's well done for what it is, but it isn't compelling story-telling and most of the characters are so flawed as to be barely likable. So far, only "the Governor" had a plan for the post-apocalypse, but he was an unlikable tyrant. Rick doesn't have a plan, and, I'd wager, neither do the writers or producers. Fun to watch, but frustrating as hell, too, to see everything wasted on gibberish.

Z Nation aims to change that formula, by doing something almost logical: forming a group of disparate weirdos and sending them on a journey. Along the way, they encounter all sorts of interesting scenarios, including the entirely-plausible humans using zombies as a ruse to rob humans. It's a dog-eat-dog world in the apocalypse. The tenor of the show is the opposite of TWD, too. TWD is dark and gritty; Z Nation is almost-but-not-quite campy. The appearance of the show - cinematographically - is light and airy, almost "clean" and sunny.

Frustratingly, neither of the shows explains the origin of the zombie apocalypse, which is a common failure in zombie fiction. Apparently, nobody can come up with anything that isn't a military/pharmaceutical experiment gone wrong, so everybody ignores the "why" question of the zombie end times. [Cities of the Dead does not do this, by the way: you get a reason] Both shows more-or-less start after-the-fact, and you just have to deal with it. Fine.

The zombies in Z Nation are ragers while in TWD they're slow pokes. Nothing new there. I don't know why both shows - and much of zombie fiction - assumes that everyone is pre-infected with the zombie bug, but you just have to accept it. You die, you turn.

The ragtag band of characters in Z Nation complement each other well, even if their clothes are too clean and the ammo limitless. Stupidly, there's character who calls himself "10 Thousand," quickly rebranded 10K by the others in the group, because that's how many zombies he's going to kill before he reverts to his given name (Kyle, Eric, whatever). He's also the "cool character," dressed in black, loaded with weapons and an expert marksman (he'd be the hero in a video game version of the show).

Doc is comic relief and more-or-less uninteresting as an aged drug-loving hippie. Murphy is the comic foil-slash-infected-savior of humanity, if they can get him to California. The others are standard-issue cardboard cut-out characters along for the ride. If they live, maybe they'll be developed by the writers into more than what they are, now.

If they live. Mid-way through the season, they bring us to a mostly-plausible location in the mid-west where - implausibly - Garnet meets an old Army buddy running a high security refugee camp. Okay, fine, you go with that because it's an interesting idea melded into a B-story featuring a psychotic church pastor who thinks the undead are "the resurrected." Okay. Story A and B crash together in an almost-but-not-quite unbelievable moment, but, come on, this is zombie fiction, so run with it.

And then the show kills off Garnett just as you've gotten to like him.

For realz? Yes. This bodes ill for the rest of the characters (except, maybe, 10K, who seems to be slowly rising as the main character/hero [and who is, yes, likable and even desirable as the lead, but I contradict myself].

The only real stupid stupid stupid aspect of the show has to do with a character named Citizen Z, a lone surviving military operative at a super-secret military base somewhere in the arctic/antarctic/Alaska/snowy wilderness. He has limitless supplies and access to every known computer network on the planet. And he spends his time broadcasting in the blind to whoever might be able to have found batteries to power a portable radio. Three years into the apocalypse and this unbelievable character (he's the most non-military soldier you'll seen portrayed) is still at his post, trying to stitch civilization back together via radio waves.

On the whole, a likable and well-done show with a healthy dose of humor that doesn't take itself as seriously as TWD. There's a lot to work with in this particular apocalypse, and I hope to see something emerge as the rest of the season progresses.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Still Looking

Had to head to Walmart this afternoon to pick up an online order of bedding for my daughter's room. Finished the remodel on it last week - stripped the walls and repainted them, tore up the carpet and refinished the hardwood floor underneath, stripped the woodwork of paint and stained it. So, it was time to get rid of the makeshift bedding she's been making do with and girlie her room up.

So, while I'm waiting for the clerk to find the package in the warehouse, I notice a large area where there are photos of missing kids, some of which are age progressed to what they might look like now after years of being gone. And then I saw a pair of 40-year old women on one poster, taken as young girls in 1975 and never heard from again. And my heart broke a little bit, knowing that there is still someone out there looking for them after all these years, hoping against hope to be reunited.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The "Science" Behind CotD

In Cities of the Dead, victims of the zombie plague die when the essentially bleed out. Doesn't matter if a person was bitten or got the virus through the air or direct contact: that person will suffer a day-long gradually increasing flu-like infection which will eventually knock them unconscious and cause them to bleed out. The person dies, then is "resurrected."

And now, "science" confirms the process: "Two Ebola patients, who died of the virus in separate communities in Nimba County have reportedly resurrected in the county. The victims, both females, believed to be in their 60s and 40s respectively, died of the Ebola virus recently in Hope Village Community and the Catholic Community in Ganta, Nimba."

Okay, okay, so maybe not science. Time to ready up with guns, ammo and canned goods, though...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

On the Tube

So, via Netflix last night I played ep. 1, season 1 of The Glades, a show about a Chicago cop who relocates to Florida because "fish out of water" scenario. I thought it might be sorta kinda like Justified, but, no. Fifteen minutes in, I turned to the wife and said I would never watch another episode. Unbelievable characters doing unbelievable things in unbelievable ways, all the while smiling happily as if murder mysteries are meant to be filled with mirth and joy and poorly played jokes. By the end of the episode, the main character arrests his partner because "surprise ending!"

Just further proof that my maxim to avoid shows about cops, lawyers and doctors remains true.

On the other hand, I'm several episodes into the television version of About a Boy, the novel by Nick Hornby. I kinda like it, even though it's not exactly funny (and my wife hates it). It just feels comfortable to watch, if that makes any sense.

Friday, September 19, 2014

History is not History

I don't write about politics. For the most part, anyway, because it's pointless. But some chump somewhere signed me up for Democratic Party notifications from North Carolina, so I'm constantly forced to unsubscribe/spam/delete my address from email lists. Normally, I don't even bother to skim the emails, but I found the latest one laughably stupid because it contravenes rationality.

Apparently, someone named Kay Hagen is running against someone named Thom Tillis for a seat in the US senate from North Carolina. Hagen is a Democrat, and is attacking Tillis for not voting to "apologize" for a race riot of some sort in 1898. Yeah, you read that right: something that happened in 1898 needs Republican apologies in 2014. Not at all surprising is that Tillis, the speaker of the NC house of representatives, voted not to apologize for something that had nothing to do with him when a measure came before the house.

And Hagen's team is all over that shit as proof that Tillis is a racist or something.

But what? Oh, right, here's the Wikipedia entry: "Originally described by whites as a race riot (suggesting blacks were at fault), the events are now classified as a coup d'etat, as white Democratic insurgents overthrew the legitimately elected local government.[2][3] A mob of nearly 2000 men attacked the only black newspaper in the state, and persons and property in black neighborhoods, killing an estimated 15 to more than 60 victims."

So, Democrat Kay Hagen wants Republican Thom Tillis to apologize for the sins of white Democrats, and if he doesn't, he's a modern-day racist. Or something.

I haven't figured out how the Democratic Party has managed to trick people into thinking the South was ruled by racist Republicans, but it's a good trick. You'd think the Republicans would have some way to counter this trick - you know, by using history or something - but then, Republicans are stupid.