Undead Anonymous

Breathers in the UK

March 2nd, 2011

The official release date of Breathers in the United Kingdom has arrived, with a spiffy new cover that shows one of the warmer moments in the book.  If you’d like to get your hands on a copy, you can order one through Amazon UK.

I’m also throwing a book giveaway to celebrate the release.   So head on over to www.SGBrowne.com to join in the birthday celebration and enter for a chance to win signed copies of both versions of Breathers, as well as a signed copy of Fated!

Andy is on Hiatus

February 18th, 2011

Thanks for stopping by Andy’s Diary.  Andy has stopped blogging on a regular basis, though he is still available to answer your questions.

For new blog posts by S.G. Browne and updates about Breathers, Fated, and upcoming novels, visit www.sgbrowne.com.

Fate, Destiny, and the Consumer Culture

October 19th, 2010

In July 2003, I was sitting on a bench at a shopping mall, watching people walk past and wondering what their futures held for them. I started writing some thoughts down about a character who can see what everyone will be like in fifteen or twenty years and went with it. A little while later, I’d scribbled out several pages that would eventually become the opening chapter to Fated.

The novel is narrated by Fate (aka Fabio) who’s in charge of assigning the futures of the 83% of humans who are fated to live ordinary, mediocre lives – most of whom will make bad decisions or fail to achieve anything more than a fleeting encounter with success.

Think single-term Presidents.
Think drug-addicted actors.
Think one-hit wonders.

Destiny, on the other hand, gets the rest of the population who are destined for greatness. Or at least for better things.

Think George Washington.
Think Meryl Streep.
Think The Beatles.

This makes for a frustrated and overwhelmed Fabio, especially since most of his humans are focused on filling their lives with the empty calories of consumer excess rather than a healthy diet of internal happiness. Throw in the fact that he has a five-hundred-year-old grudge with Death and that his best friends are Sloth and Gluttony and what you get is an immortal who’s become a disgruntled employee of the cosmos.

But then Fate falls in love with a mortal woman on the Path of Destiny (which is against the rules) and he starts to get involved in the lives of his humans (another big-no-no), changing their fates and causing some serious cosmic repercussions.

I described my first novel, Breathers, as “A dark comedy about undeath through the eyes of an ordinary zombie” and “Fight Club meets Shaun of the Dead, only with the zombies as the good guys.” Which pretty much gives you a good idea of what to expect. But with Fated, I’ve had a difficult time coming up with a single line or two that succinctly captures what the book is about.

While I describe it as “A dark comedy and social satire about fate, destiny, and the consequences of getting involved with humans,” that doesn’t tell you anything about how the novel is a bit of an indictment of the consumer culture.

Or that Fate and Destiny have a complicated, friends-with-benefits relationship.

Or that Karma is an alcoholic.

When it came to populating Fated with characters, I had a lot of fun taking abstract concepts like Fate, Destiny, Karma, and Death and giving them starring roles – not to mention cameos by Lady Luck, Honesty, Failure, Love, Secrecy, Truth, Wisdom, and most of the Deadly Sins. Just to name a few.

I also enjoyed taking a look at what it means to be human through the eyes of someone who is not human but who is in charge of our futures. Or most of them. I enjoyed seeing how Fate’s relationship with humans changed as the story unfolded and what happened when he started breaking the rules. Like his humans, I was interested in seeing how Fate’s decisions ultimately affected his own future.

Rule #1: Don’t get involved.

That’s how the novel opens and, obviously, it’s set up for Fate to break that rule. Though it’s not an all-encompassing directive from Jerry (aka God). While Fate, Destiny, and Death aren’t supposed to get involved in the lives of humans, the rule doesn’t apply to other immortals like Lady Luck or Fear or Anger. After all, you can’t be an Intangible or an Emotive or one of the Deadly Sins without having some kind of an impact on humans. That’s part of the job description, getting involved. But it all comes down to what humans do with their luck or their fear or their anger that determines their eventual outcome.

Now I just have to figure out how to fit all of that into the tag line.

Y is for You, Z is for Zombie

October 18th, 2010

We’ve reached the end of the alphabet, which culminates with a single title for each of the letters Y and Z.  And with the dearth of titles I’ve read for both of them, I decided to combine the two letters here.

And by dearth, I mean I haven’t read, or can’t recall having read, any other books that begin with the letters Y or Z.  Is there something I should have read?  Something I should read?  Like I need to add more books to my TBR pile, which is already almost an entire shelf on one of my bookcases.

But before I get to the final two titles of my Favorite Reads From A to Z, I just wanted to thank everyone who’s given this a glance and stopped by to thrown down the occasional comment.  I hope you enjoyed the posts and found some titles that you’d never considered picking up before. Happy reading!

And now, to wrap this up…

You Suck: A Love Story, Christopher Moore
The sequel (after twelve years) to Bloodsucking Fiends, this one picks up with Tommy, the frozen-turkey-bowling night shift employee at Safeway, discovering that he’s just been turned into a vampire by his girlfriend, Jody, who recently became a vampire herself. Things get complicated when Tommy’s turkey-bowling buddies find out he’s a vampire. Throw in a a homeless Emperor, a blue-dyed Vegas call girl, and a vampire cat named Chet, and what you get is classic Christopher Moore. The diary entries from Abby Normal, Tommy and Jody’s goth minion, steal the show.

The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks
Arguably the book that laid the groundwork for the zombie madness that has engulfed film and fiction. This always practical, often enlightening, and frequently amusing manual about how to survive a zombie attack is filled with helpful advice such as: Use your head, cut off theirs; and Blades don’t need reloading. With weapon and combat techniques and case histories of recorded zombie outbreaks, this book has it all. A must read for anyone who wants to survive the zombie apocalypse.

X is for e(X)cellent

October 15th, 2010

Or, as Charles Montgomery Burns says: Exxxcellent.

Since there aren’t any titles that make the list for my favorite novels beginning with the letter X (and since I’ve never read any books that start with an X), I thought I’d use this entry to list my most excellent reads, or my Top 10 Favorite Reads from all of my previous entries.

In no particular order…

The Best of the Best

Lord of the Flies, William Golding
Favorite novel, hands down. The death of Simon still haunts me. Who’s got the conch?

Lullaby, Chuck Palahniuk
My gold standard for dark comedy and social satire. One of the most influential novels I’ve ever read.

The Stand, Stephen King
First time I ever mourned the death of a fictional character. King is the greatest storyteller of our time.

Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
A calypso based religion, a midget, and the end of the world. All blackly hilarious. Only in a world imagined by Vonnegut.

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Nearly 60 years later, it’s still one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Elegantly crafted sentences that just hum with the beauty of the written word. An inspirational read.

Wicked, Gregory Maguire
Before there were mash-ups, Maguire showed how to take a classic story and breathe new life into it. Exceptionally smart and entertaining.

Lamb, Christopher Moore
Nobody does humorous irreverence like Moore and this one stands alone on a podium built for one.

American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
One of the most disturbing, compelling, and entertaining novels I’ve ever read. A brilliant piece of writing.

The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
A voice like no other. Chandler set the bar for detective noir and it’s never been challenged.

Close But No Cigar
High Fidelity (Hornby), Wonder Boys (Chabon), Geek Love (Dunn), A Dirty Job (Moore), Invisible Monsters (Palahniuk), The Shining (King), Catcher in the Rye (Salinger), 1984 (Orwell), Lolita (Nabakov), and In Cold Blood (Capote).

W is for Wicked, Water, and Wizard

October 11th, 2010

The W’s presented a bit more of a challenge than the prior two entries, as I’ve read more than fifteen novels that begin with this letter of the alphabet. While the top two were never in any serious danger of being left off the final ballot, the last one was a tough call and could have gone four different ways. In the end, and admittedly after some serious flip-flopping, I had to leave Watership Down (Adams), Wonder Boys (Chabon), and A Wrinkle in Time (L’Engle) on the outside looking in.

Other notable and memorable titles I’ve read that begin with W include The Witching Hour (Rice), War of the Worlds (Wells), Wolf’s Hour (McCammon), Watchers (Koontz), The Waste Lands and Wolves of the Calla (King), World War Z (Brooks), Where the Red Fern Grows (Rawls), Wuthering Heights (Bronte), and Walden (Thoreau).

The three that made it? A famous witch, a circus fable, and an epic search for a dark tower.

You’re the Top
Wicked, Gregory Maguire
I know the musical adaptation made a lot of noise, but give me the book every time. The story of the Wicked Witch of the West prior to Dorothy’s arrival in Oz paints a very different picture of the events that eventually unfolded after Dorothy’s arrival. Filled with heartache, humor, romance, political intrigue, and social commentary, Wicked does a great job of making you see the alleged villain’s side of the story. If you’ve seen The Wizard of Oz, then you really need to give this a read.

Two Mints in One
Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
My favorite book I read in 2009, I got completely swept up in the story of a ninety-three-year-old nursing home resident who reminisces about his time spent working in the circus to the point that he almost begins to lose track of what’s real and what’s not. The characters are delightful, the story intoxicating, and the prose inspired. A wonderful ride back in history to the circus heyday of the early twentieth century.

Three on a Match
Wizard and Glass, Stephen King
The fourth installment in King’s The Dark Tower series, Wizard is, in my opinion, the best of the seven. I also believe it’s just flat out one of King’s best novels. If the purpose of storytelling is to get the reader emotionally swept up in the lives of its characters, than this does the job. I remember getting chills reading certain passages and chapters as the book neared its end. Read the first three installments in the series just to get to this one.

*Final Bonus Titles: The Play’s the Thing
Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee
Although completely different on every level, these are two of my favorite plays to read. Both Beckett and Albee are masterful.

Ask Andy – Formaldehyde Fixes

October 8th, 2010

This installment of Ask Andy comes courtesy of Ray, who asks:

Hey, Andy…You don’t look as dead these days. What’s your secret? I keep eating shampoo and it doesn’t seem to help.

Well, Ray…the thing about shampoo is that, unlike some of your handy household products like dish-washing liquids, fabric softeners, and carpet cleaners, the formaldehyde content in your average shampoo is pretty low. You might want to try some Palmolive dish soap or Woolite carpet cleaner and see if that makes a difference.

Or better yet, if price isn’t a factor, you might want to invest in some cosmetic products such as lipstick, fingernail polish, and concealer. If you’ve on more of a budget, Max Factor and Maybelline offer plenty of affordable options.

However, if you prefer to get your formaldehyde fixes in shampoo, I’d suggest Prell, Head and Shoulders, or my personal favorite, Suave Tropical Kiwi.

Good luck, Ray!

V is for Vamped

October 6th, 2010

Apparently, the tail end of the alphabet is a bit on the lean side when it comes to book titles. At least for book titles I’ve read. If the last half a dozen letters of the alphabet are super models, then we’re talking Kate Moss lean. Except for the letter W. That one’s more like Tyra Banks.

While the letter U coughed up just two titles, only one of which was worth recommending, the letter V pushes the anorexic envelope even further, with just one title to be had. And even though it’s a book a lot of you might not have read, it definitely deserves it’s place on the list.

The One and Only:
Vamped, David Sosnowski
“Here’s a tip: When you give the world one last chance to save your life, be specific about the how.”
And so begins this playful and funny 2004 novel about a one-hundred-year-old vampire bachelor bored with his existence – which includes synthetic blood, Mr. Plasma machines, and hunting preserves. The thrill and excitement of chasing humans has vanished because, well, most of the humans have vanished, too. Vampires outnumber humans in the middle of the twenty-first century and Marty, our protagonist, is considering suicide when he ends up adopting a six-year-old orphan girl and trying to raise a human daughter on his own.

U is for Ubik

September 29th, 2010

From everything I’ve heard and from the lists of the Greatest Novels of All Time I’ve read, U should be for Ulysses by James Joyce.  But since that book still remains on my TBR list (and on my To Get A Copy To Be Read list), then that leaves me with just two novels I’ve read that begin with the letter U.  And although I thought Usher’s Passing by Robert McCammon was okay, I wouldn’t put it in my top three McCammon novels, so it’s not making this list.

That leaves me with only one title that starts with U worth recommending as one of my favorite reads:

The Cheese Stands Alone
Ubik, Philip K. Dick
Joe Chip works for Glen Runciter, who has just died in an explosion that was deliberately set by Runciter’s business competitors.  Except Joe and the other agents who survived the explosion keep getting messages from their dead employer on the television.  If that’s not weird enough, other survivors of the explosion keep turning up dead.

Reality gets a makeover in this dark, twisted, existential comedy filled with telepaths, precogs, suspended animation, reincarnation, time travel, and an aerosol spray that offers salvation.

Ubik was named one of the 100 Best English Language Novels by TIME magazine.

Creepy Owl Movies and a New Man Crush

September 26th, 2010

I’ve always found owls to be a little spooky and disconcerting. Never mind that they can go all Linda Blair with the head spinning around (minus the projectile vomiting of pea soup), but they’re kind of creepy, sitting there and staring, asking their incessant question, looking like a creature from another planet.

It didn’t help when I saw the previews for the alien abduction film The Fourth Kind, which I never saw but which is enough to convince me that owls are plotting their next human anal probe.

Now there’s the animated film Legend of the Guardians, which I find completely disturbing on an entirely new level, since these owls are actually talking and plotting and thinking. I don’t want owls to be thinking. I already know what they’re thinking. And it’s not in my best interests. I mean, look at these three. Do they look like they’re up to any good?

Oh, and we can’t forget about Bubo, the golden, mechanical owl from the original Clash of the Titans. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t look like a mentally stable robot owl to me.

So when it comes to mechanical, animated, anthropomorphic, alien abducting owls, count me out.

But if you’re talking about crime films set in Boston, MA, and starring a talented actor, writer, and director, then count me in. Yes, there’s a new man crush in town (sorry Bradley Cooper) and his name is Ben Affleck.

Okay, I realize Ben’s been around a while. I first saw him in Chasing Amy and later in Dazed and Confused (even though Dazed had come out a few years earlier). And then came Good Will Hunting and Dogma, which I absolutely loved – both the films and his roles in them.

But beginning in 1999, there came a run of films that I found, well, less than memorable:

Reindeer Games. Bounce. Pearl Harbor.
Jersey Girl. Paycheck. Daredevil.


But then came his portrayal of George Reeves in Hollywoodland (2006) and everything he’s been in since then has been man-crush worthy – if not the films themselves, most definitely his parts in them.

Supporting roles in Smokin’ Aces, Extract, and He’s Just Not That Into You were solid, along with a leading role in State of Play. In 2007, he made his directorial debut with (and co-wrote) the excellent Gone Baby Gone. And now, not only the leading role in The Town, but also co-writer for the adapted screenplay as well as director.

From the acting to the writing to the story to the directing, The Town was one of the best films I’ve seen this year. And more than that, you can now count Ben Affleck as one of the handful of directors whose films I will go see simply because he’s the one behind the camera.

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Andy’s Words of Wisdom

When attending pool parties, if you’ve forgotten to bring an item to share for the potluck, just spend a few extra minutes in the hot tub to create a nice stew.