Undead Anonymous

The Undead That Saved Christmas

August 1st, 2010

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the mall,
All the zombies were munching on some guy named Paul…

I’m writing the introduction to a holiday themed zombie anthology called The Undead That Saved Christmas. It’s a charity anthology to help the foster kids at the Hugs Foster Family Agency, serving foster children San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange counties in southern California.

All proceeds from the sale of the anthology will go to the agency to help them give their foster children gifts this holiday season.

If you’re interested in learning more about the anthology, submitting a story, purchasing a copy, or buying a 3″ x 5″ book cover sticker, just click on the title or cover image or click right HERE.

You Might Be a Douche Bag

May 30th, 2010

douche bag or douchebag >noun 1 a device for washing out the vagina as a contraceptive measure. 2 a person, usually male, with a variety of negative qualities, specifically arrogance and engaging in obnoxious and/or irritating actions.

With respect to Jeff Foxworthy, I’ve put together a short list of people who I feel are good examples of douche bags. Or douchebags. Either way works for me. This list was prompted by my recent early morning bike rides, but I thought I’d expand it to include a few other examples.

-If you’re cycling side by side on the Golden Gate bridge and you don’t drop into single file for an oncoming cyclist, you might be a douche bag.

-If you wear a team racing jersey while cycling and you’re not on a cycling racing team, you might be a douche bag.

-If you’re a cyclist who gets mad at a car that almost hit you when you blew through a four-way stop sign, you might be a douche bag.

-If you’re a smoker who believes the sidewalk and the gutter are official depositories for your cigarette butts, you might be a douche bag.

-If you don’t understand the concept of using the ashtray in your car rather than throwing your cigarette butt out the window, you might be a douche bag.

-If you answer your cell phone in a restaurant while your date sits across from you picking at her dinner, you might be a douche bag.

-If you put your cell phone on vibrate but answer text messages while you’re in a movie theater, you might be a douche bag.

-If you invade a foreign country on the premise that they have weapons of mass destruction and it turns out they don’t, you might be a douche bag.

-If you deny your relationship with a White House intern by debating what the definition of the word “is” is, you might be a douche bag.

-If you’re the CEO of British Petroleum and you’re more upset about the fake Twitter account mocking your company than you are about your historic oil spill, you might be a douche bag.

Slow Teenagers & Other Pet Peeves

May 13th, 2010

I’m sitting at a traffic signal, the light turned green, waiting to drive through the intersection as several teenagers who stepped into the crosswalk just before my light changed shuffle across the asphalt like zombies, their feet barely lifting off the ground, walking without purpose.

Slow. Indifferent. Annoying.

Are they conserving their energy for something?  Is it a peer display of cool?  A nonchalance to give the adult world the finger?  The slower you move, the less you care?

All I know is that my light’s going to turn red before they clear the crosswalk.

Lack of courtesy is a major pet peeve for me and it’s something I touch on in the book I’m currently writing. (Not Fated, but Book #3, which I’ve titled Lucky Bastard). My main character is annoyed by a lot of things – cars that take up two parking spaces, neighbors with loud stereos, and cell phone etiquette, among others – so I thought I’d channel him for one of my blog posts.

So besides slow, indifferent teenagers, some of the other things that annoy me:

Street telemarketers.
Bad customer service.
Friends who answer their cell phones in restaurants.

Really, anyone who answers their cell phone in a restaurant. Or while standing in the checkout line at the grocery store. Or in any enclosed, public place. That’s why you have voice mail. You can call them back.

On second thought, maybe it would be more appropriate to think of this as People Who Annoy Me, since most of the things on my list are people.

People who litter.
People who don’t say please or thank you.
People who think movie theaters are interactive experiences.

Almost every time I go to the movies I end up sitting by some man or woman who insists on keeping a running commentary throughout the film. Or who is constantly asking questions. If you don’t understand what’s going on, stop asking your friend or your spouse to explain and figure it out for yourself. Take a class on critical thinking. Improve your ability to problem solve. Read more books instead of watching reality television or playing video games.

Bicyclists who don’t obey traffic laws.
Smokers who think their cigarette butts are biodegradable.
Drivers who don’t understand the concept of merging.

Sometimes I wish there were protocol police, officers of the social graces who would fine people for inappropriate behavior and arrest repeat offenders who would have to serve time at an Etiquette Rehabilitation Center.

Five Days in Paris

April 12th, 2010

After the World Horror Convention, since I was in Europe for the first time in eight years, I decided to take the train over to Paris and spend five days enjoying the City of Lights.

I didn’t have more than a rudimentary use of French. Bon jour, au revoir, merci, sil vous plait, etc. So I checked out some CDs from my library to try to learn a little more conversational French. In theory, I knew what I was doing, and felt confident I could handle basic conversations.  But when faced with actually answering questions or trying to remember what I was supposed to say, well, let’s just say I did a top notch job of butchering the language.

Still, even when you can’t speak the language, it’s pretty easy to have a great time in Paris even when it’s cold and wet and the lines for the museums and Notre Dame are two hours deep with tourists on Spring Break.

Rather than waiting in line, you can can discover places that everyone else missed.  Like the Jardin des Halles in Chatelet-Les Halles, by the St. Eustache Church.  Or Les Viaduc des Arts in the Bastille, an old elevated railway viaduct turned into a garden promenade above exhibition spaces that are home to craftsmen’s workshops and galleries.   Or the streets that wind behind the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur in Montmartre and through the Latin Quarter behind the Pantheon.

I did manage to see the Catacombs, the Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise (found Oscar Wilde, but Jim Morrison apparently wanted to be left alone), the Musee Rodin, The Louvre, and wandered past and under the Arch de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, but avoided the lines that would suck up my afternoon.

All in all, a great way to end my trip to Europe.

Some random thoughts on Paris:

While there are dogs, you don’t see a lot of dangling tongues and excited faces. Most of the dogs wear serious expressions, like they’re all business. But then, so do their owners. None of the humans seemed particularly happy to be out walking their dogs. I only saw one owner who actually interacted with her dog, a Bull Terrier, with affection.

A friend suggested the Canal St. Martin was a good place to take a walk, touting the cute boutiques and numerous patisseries. Personally, the area was a little more crack whore than I expected. The boutiques were selling T-shirts that said My Parents Got High at Canal St. Martin and all I Got Was This Stupid T-shirt and you could buy dime bags from the crystal meth junkie twitching under his umbrella stand, with his serious dog at his feet.

I also ate at Chartier, an inexpensive restaurant at the edge of the Opera district. Chartier is touted as serving inexpensive quality food in a very Parisian experience that is well worth the visit. What the travel guides don’t tell you is that you sit elbow to elbow cafeteria style with everyone else and that if you don’t eat steak, you’re only non-meat option is some kind of unidentifiable fish croquette with a sauce that tastes better when you eat it with your rice pilaf.

Adieu, Paris!

A Day And A Half In London

April 3rd, 2010

Okay, back from being more or less disconnected for 12 days.  Which, I have to admit, was refreshingly freeing.  However, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to share in the moment during my trip to London and Paris and the World Horror Convention, but circumstances dictated otherwise. So here’s my travel blog in flashback form, starting with my first leg in London…

Since most, if not all, of the time you spend at a World Horror Convention is in the hotel attending panels, readings or (truth be told) in the bar, I opted to take advantage of a little time in London before heading down to Brighton, England, to attend the annual World Horror Convention and Bram Stoker Awards banquet, both held outside of North America for the first time.

And yes, that was all one sentence.

While there’s not a whole lot of London you can see in just 1 ½ days, I did manage to get in a lot of walking through neighborhoods and past a lot of the iconic sights. Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden, Soho, and of course, the Tower of London.

One of the things I enjoy most when I visit another city is just walking around. Taking in the sights and sounds of someplace foreign. Appreciating the architecture. Listening to the language. And since I only had the 1 ½ days, I didn’t want to spend all of it inside. So I chose only a couple of attractions to visit: The Tower of London and the Van Gogh exhibit, The Real Van Gogh, at the Royal Academy of Art.

The Tower of London was a no-brainer. I haven’t been to London since 1997 and the Tower, along with the Jack the Ripper tour, were my favorite memories. So I paid my £17, walked through the Bloody Tower and along the walls, listened to the Beefeater tell his story of Guy Fawkes being drawn and quartered (which includes being disemboweled and having your intestines set on fire while you’re still conscious), and imagined what it must have been like to live under the 39 year reign of Henry VIII. Hopefully, I wouldn’t have been Guy Fawkes.  Or Anne Boleyn.  For any number of reasons.

But my favorite part of my stay was the two hours I spent at the Royal Academy of Art wandering through seven rooms filled with the art and personal letters of Vincent Van Gogh. While the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam is still the best place to enjoy his 10-year career as an artist, this exhibit portrayed a side of Van Gogh most people never get to see. Displayed alongside pieces of art I’d never seen were corresponding letters to his brother Theo, Paul Gauguin, and several other artists and friends. It’s amazing enough to think he decided to become an artist at 27 and was self taught and produced such an incredible and extensive body of work in just 10 years, but the exhibit showed through his letters how eloquent and poetic and thoughtful Van Gogh was about his craft.

Although Van Gogh’s letters were written in Dutch and French, the exhibit had a reading room with computer that allowed you to read his letters in any language. I didn’t have time to read them all, so I read the last one, written five days before he killed himself. The actual letter, written to his brother, was in the last room, along with a first draft of the same letter never mailed, which was found, blood stained, in his coat pocket after he shot himself.

Seeing the blood stains on the letter and listening to his final written words read on the audio tour, surrounded by some of the pieces he painted during his final year, was extraordinarily moving and the highlight of my brief stay in London.

(Next, the World Horror Convention in Brighton)

Dead Body 101

March 18th, 2010

Some people are under the impression that I’m comfortable around dead bodies because I wrote a book about zombies with a lot of detail about what happens to the human body when it decomposes.  That if I ever came upon a fresh corpse, I’d study it for research.  Well, here’s a little story.

A couple of years back, when I was doing property management for some apartment buildings here in San Francisco, I was performing apartment inspections and discovered that the tenant in one unit, a big, friendly guy in his 50s, had been dead for several days. After walking out of the bedroom and seeking the safety of the kitchen, I called the landlord.  Then I called 911. This is pretty much how the conversation went.

“911. What is your emergency?”
“I’d like to report a dead body in my apartment building.”
(I then provide my name and the address.)
“How do you know the body is dead, sir?”
“Well, he’s on his back and he’s not breathing and his eyes are wide open.”
“Are you sure he’s not breathing?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Is the body cold?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t touch him.”
“Can you check to see if the body is cold, sir?”
“You want me to touch him?”
“Yes sir.”
“Do I have to touch him?”
“If you wouldn’t mind.”
(After a pause.) “Okay, fine. Hold on a second.”
(I walk back into the bedroom, bend down, then reach out a single index finger and poke him in the shoulder.)
“Yes, he’s cold.”
“Do you have a defibrillator?”
(A defibrillator? No, I don’t have a defibrillator. Who the hell carries around a defibrillator?)
“No. I don’t have a defibrillator. And I don’t know CPR, either, so if you want someone to try to resuscitate him, then I’m not the man for the job.”
“Are you alone, sir?”
“Yes. So if you could you please send someone over here who deals with dead bodies I’d appreciate it, because this isn’t really my forte.”
“We’ll send someone right over.”

What I Read On My Winter Vacation

March 7th, 2010

With a couple of airplane flights and several hours waiting in the airport and time spent relaxing in a hammock beneath palm trees or on the beach or at the hotel pool, I had plenty of time to read over the past couple of weeks. Of course, I also spent some of that time doing nothing but existing in a Zen like tranquility, but I did manage to get through most of three books, all of them markedly different.  Although I’m still working on Book #3, I thought I’d share what I’ve read and a few thoughts.

Pressure by Jeff Strand

I picked up this book last June at the HWA Stoker Award’s weekend in Los Angeles during a mass book signing, having met Jeff previously at the World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City.  Admittedly, I was dubious about whether or not I would enjoy it, as it wasn’t what I was in the mood for, but I soon found myself caught up in the tension and frustration of a prep school friendship that turns terrifyingly bad and haunts the main character into college and beyond.  Jeff manages to create an empathy for the main character and a growing frustration and terror at his helplessness as the story spans across several time frames.  A good, pressure-packed thriller that doesn’t hold anything back.

The Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay

I wanted to read this novel because it was one of the other three nominees for this year’s HWA Bram Stoker Awards for Best First Novel.  I was further intrigued when I came across his second novel, No Sleep Till Wonderland, and read the back cover copy. It’s a darkly comic detective novel in the spirit of Raymond Chandler about a narcoleptic detective who struggles with sleep, hallucinations, and his relationship with his landlord mother. Although I wasn’t as emotionally invested in the main character as I would like to have been, I found the writing style and the humor engaging and entertaining.  I had a hard time putting it down and looked forward to picking it back up.

City of Thieves by Paul Benioff

This novel by the author of The 25th Hour (I saw the film starring Edward Norton but never read the book) was recommended to me by Bill, one of the staff at my local Books Inc.  I intend on going back to the store and thanking Bill for the recommendation, as this was one of my favorite reads of the past year.  I finished it on the flight back to San Francisco and couldn’t put it down.  It’s one of those books that makes you appreciate the joy of the written word and how much of a pleasure it is when you come across an author who can string together words to create a memorable, affecting story.

That’s it.  That’s all I’ve got.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  This is just my opinion, so if you pick up one of these books and don’t enjoy it, don’t blame me. But if you do pick up one of these, let me know what you think.

Until next time…

Coming To You From Florida

March 1st, 2010

I’m sitting on the balcony of my hotel room on the 20th floor looking south along the beach in Ft. Lauderdale and I hear an alarm going off somewhere on the street below, followed by an authoritative recorded female voice issuing some kind of instructions.  The alarm and voice keep repeating, like an outdoor emergency warning system.

Alarm. Instructions. Repeat.

Either it’s a talking car alarm or else there’s a hurricane on the way and we have to evacuate.

This is my first full day in Ft. Lauderdale, having arrived here Sunday afternoon.  Over the previous four days I’ve been in Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Siesta Key, St. Petersburg again, then back to Ft. Lauderdale.  Tomorrow I’m heading down to South Beach for a couple of days, then to Islamorada in the Florida Keys.

The alarm is still going off, the woman issuing her warning.  The skies look clear to me off the coast and I don’t see crowds of people evacuating on the streets twenty stories below, so I figure I’m okay.

That’s one of the things I noticed driving around Florida for the past few days.  There are Evacuation Route signs posted everywhere.  I don’t know what the process is like, but at least when they issue a hurricane warning, they have an evacuation plan.  In California, we don’t get earthquake warnings, and as far as any kind of evacuation plans, as far as I know, there aren’t any.  So we’re pretty much screwed.

The alarm and the warning have finally ended, which means one of the valet attendants at my hotel is probably trying to make sure he knows how to shut off the alarm next time.

As I sit here writing this, the sun moving across the sky from ocean to downtown Ft. Lauderdale, the palm tree-lined beach stretching south almost to the horizon, I’m thinking I could get used to this.

I like Florida.  I think I’m going to move here.  Maybe to the Keys.  I’ve never been to the Keys, but right now, it sounds like a good idea.

There’s lots of water and boats here.  Sure, there’s lots of water and boats in San Francisco, too, but it’s not 72 degrees in San Francisco on the first day of March.  And the beaches aren’t lined with palm trees.  And the water isn’t clear and blue, reflecting the endless sky.

The alarm has started up again.  Either the valet needs to work on his learning curve or else I was wrong about having to evacuate.

Blah Blah Blog Q&A

February 22nd, 2010

In response to my last entry, Blah Blah Blog, Sarah Malone commented and posed a couple of questions that I thought would be best addressed here, since they’re not just simple yes or no answers.

And if anyone has any other questions, fire away. I’ll do my best to answer them in a timely fashion, even if I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Question #1: Are you critical of your own work and does it ever truly feel finished?
I’m definitely critical of my own work, to the point that as I’m writing, I’m wondering if what’s coming out of me is good enough. But I realize that’s what the editing process is for, to take the initial concept, the shell of the novel, and turn it into what I envisioned.

Think of the first draft as kind of like building a house and putting up the walls and the floor and the ceiling, creating a solid structure on a firm foundation. Something that will hold everything I want to put into it. Each subsequent draft fills the house with furnishings and decorations and all of the details it needs to make it complete.

Of course, sometimes, I realize I need to rearrange the floor plan or add another room or a second level or a basement, but fortunately, it’s just an analogy, so it costs a lot less.

And as far as feeling as if it’s ever finished, yes.  There’s a definite sense of accomplishment when I’ve completed the first draft and then again when I’ve made the final edits.  But I can always find something six months down the road that I think I could have done better.

Question #2: The novels that you wrote before, are you planning on trying to publish them now that your name is out there?
Prior to Breathers, I’d written three novels that were straight supernatural horror, with the first two being told in third person omniscient and the third told in the first person. While there are redeeming qualities on all three, it’s unlikely I’ll pursue trying to publish the first two.

One, they’re very different from what I’ve doing now, both in style and voice. I’ve found that writing dark comedy and social satire with some kind of a supernatural edge resonates with me more than writing straight supernatural horror. And, more importantly, I don’t believe the quality of the writing is up to par with Breathers or Fated. The third novel, however, has promise, though I’d have to rewrite it to make it more darkly comedic.

Thanks for the questions, Sarah!

Blah Blah Blog

February 21st, 2010

Okay, I realize it’s been nearly two weeks since my last blog entry, Andy’s comments about breathers notwithstanding.  Chalk it up to projects and trip planning and general distraction and attending to some personal matters like flying up to Portland and helping my mom pack and then driving her down to California, which is what I was doing when I was informed that Breathers had made it on to the final ballot for the 2009 Bram Stoker Awards for Achievement in a First Novel.

Woo hoo!

But that’s another blog post.  Eventually.

This was going somewhere when I started it.  Let me get my map.  Hmm, let’s see…ah yes, there we are!

I’m aware that I seldom discuss what I’m working on, or not working on (which is often the case) because I don’t plot and I’m not really sure where it’s going and I’m easily distracted, so I’d have to be vague and stumble through some fragmented explanation that would try to deflect attention from the fact that I had spent the last three days playing spider solitaire and watching the last season of Weeds.

I do, however, sit my ass down in front of my computer at 8:00am every morning (or mostly every morning) and give myself the next 3-4 hours to compose my 1000 words for the day.  Sometimes I see other authors posting on Twitter that they’ve finished their 2000 words by noon and will write another 2000 words that night.  Or that the average person can write 500 words an hour (which is two, double-spaced pages in 12-point Times New Roman with one-inch margins), and I think, okay you gluttonous bastard, how about giving some of those words to me?

The most words I’ve ever written in one day is 2500, and I powered through 5000 words in two days back in February 2008 just before the Super Bowl when I had a bad cold and was finishing up Fated to give to my writer’s group.  I have to say, I think that was probably some of the best writing I’ve done.  I don’t think I edited much of that portion of the book.  Maybe I should write when I’m sick and under deadline more often.

So that’s why I don’t tend to blog about my writing.  But if anyone’s interested enough in knowing more about my process, I’ll be happy to occasionally blog about it.  But be warned, there will be a lot of plot holes.

I also notice that some authors are perfectly capable of blogging about personal things that happen throughout the course of their existence – health issues, pets dying, interpersonal relationships.  Which always amazes me when men can blog about relationships because we never talk to each other about them in real life.  And yes, I firmly believe that the Internet is an alternate reality.  Kind of like on LOST.  Though I’m not really sure which reality is the real one there.  The island now or the airplane landing in LAX three years earlier?  Come to think of it, maybe I’m not sure about this reality, either.

Where was I?  Ah yes, personal things…

While I’m perfectly happy sharing my love of Ben & Jerry’s and the fact that I have a lingering man crush on Kevin Costner, I’d prefer to leave the more personal details of my life to the tabloids.  Who, fortunately, don’t give a damn about me.

So there you have it.  A rambling discourse on not much of anything.  Thank you for listening.  Now, back to spider solitaire.