Monthly Archives: October 2013

Zombies – Oh, Please!

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I enjoy a good zombie movie. Although I may have a heart attack if I ever saw even a remotely plausible one. Of course possibility isn’t always needed in the horror genre. Thrillers depend on it, horror simply preys on people’s fears and zombies can be scary. Except . . .

The ability to suspend disbelief is an art. In some things, I just don’t have the knack. Zombies drive me nuts. It’s probably because they’ve broken out of books and movies and everywhere I turn I see ‘the zombie apocalypse.’ Really? If that’s the horror monster that comes true, we should be so lucky.

Now, let’s talk about rules. Every monster scenario has a different set of rules, but zombies so far are more consistent than many. I’m actually not concerned about infection; it’s the zombie itself that makes me giggle. Yes, I mean giggle.

A zombie is a reanimated dead body. They’re pretty consistent about that. The other thing most books/movies are fairly consistent about is that their brain has ceased working except for the most primitive parts – that’s why they’re driven by feeding. In Maslow’s pyramid of needs; food, water, shelter, and warmth are the most basic; and shelter and warmth aren’t necessary. Water is ignored because, admit it, it’s just not scary to have a zombie break into your home to get a glass of water.

The speed a zombie can move at seems to be an interesting variable. The correct answer should be ‘dead slow,’ but Hollywood doesn’t deal with realism. Shall we talk about what makes muscles move on a cellular level and how that just isn’t happening? No. We have to buy into a little bit of magic in the case of zombies. Their blood is coagulated in their circulatory system. Their cells are starved of oxygen, nutrients, and energy, and waste is building up to toxic levels. We’ll ignore decomposition. Nerves transmit electrical impulses how? From a brain that’s dead except for the most basic functions? Okay, we’ll say their instinct to hunt you is a basic function.

How does a zombie hunt its prey? Ignoring there should be no impulses sent from the eyes, the eyes are dead. Zombies don’t blink. This is a small detail rarely addressed and yet fairly common across the genre – dead, milky eyes. If you don’t blink, you’d go blind. Dust particles would scratch your cornea and, nervous system aside, you wouldn’t be able to see your quarry.

Smell? If the blood is coagulated, there’s no point to a zombie breathing. We smell things because we breathe, or because we specifically inhale for the purpose of trying to discover/explore how something smells. Intentionally trying to sniff something requires reasoning – a higher brain function that zombies don’t have.

Of course they moan much of the time which implies they do breathe, even though they don’t need to. Lungs are lubricated inside, except for when you’re dead of course, so in a zombie they’d be shredded. I suppose you don’t need lungs to breathe if you’re not going to use the air, just a diaphragm, which they would still have. They wouldn’t breath through their nose though, or at least not for long. Blowing your nose requires higher brain function, and the delicate cilia of the olfactory receptor neurons are buried in mucus. Mucus collects dust. Before it hardens to concrete over the receptors. First they won’t be able to smell and eventually the nose would fill with enough debris they would be forced to ‘breathe’ through their mouths.

Hearing? That one I’ll buy, but only to a point. Reacting to a sound is basic, identifying the sound isn’t. A zombie might chase a fly that flew too close to its ear until something else caught its attention. If it’s chasing you, be quiet, throw a rock, and you’re golden.

The sense of touch is tricky. If a zombie is touching you – it’s a big fail on your part. Luckily, you might still be okay. Just like with the sense of sound, identification requires higher functioning. If just a sense of touch activated a zombie’s feeding or grabbing reflex it’d be . . . amusing. Even if heat was a factor, on the first hot day they’d be trying to grab and eat everything the sun touched. It has to be able to recognize food even without that critical higher reasoning.

Body heat is sending up big warning flags to me, but it’s one of those things that would be difficult to know for sure. You know, something in the Goldilocks zone? Not too hot, not too cold, soft, shrinks away when touched . . . A zombie doesn’t have any more senses than we do, or I’d say they’re like sharks in that they can sense our minute electrical field. Humans don’t have that built in though, and it’s not like dead bodies are sent back to the shop for an upgrade on features. At the moment, we’ll have to chalk that up to magic too.

So, zombie apocalypse – unless you’re an idiot or seriously unlucky, it should be a snap.

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Why November is the Perfect Month for NaNo

 

 

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I’ve done NaNoWriMo (NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth) for years, and every year people whine about it being in November. November contains Thanksgiving – that’s time off from writing at the end of the month when a lot of people are trying to get caught up. November also contains Black Friday, and I dare not suggest skipping that to make up for word count loss on Thanksgiving.

Here’s the thing: NaNo is a global event, and these are not global holidays. Other participants in other parts of the world have holidays and events that interfere too. Considering the international reach of the event, I doubt there is a single month that will miss some type of cultural or community interference.

Americans, we are not special. Cowboy up, plan around the kick-off to the holiday season.

I like November for NaNo. Granted, I’m a bit twisted, even for a romance writer. Or maybe I should say especially for a romance writer. Writing officially has two food groups: sugar and caffeine. Most commonly you see these in the forms of chocolate and coffee. I, for one, have stocked up on bags of Halloween bite-size candy. I already have bags of mini-Milky Ways and Three Musketeers in the freezer (I like them frozen, they last longer), as well as other little tidbits to get me through the month. Hubby is kind enough to pretend I’m just uber-prepared for the onslaught of trick-or-treaters, but we’ve been married long enough for him to know better. Can you think of a better time for an event like this than just after chocolate goes on sale? Really?

Coffee is easy. I’ll just say that at least at this time of year it’s as common to see it iced as hot, and the holiday specials kick in too. Candy cane and pumpkin spice. If you need that kind of incentive.

I tried a horror novel once (not my thing) but I found having Halloween just past made for great inspiration when outlining and starting my NaNo Novel. Halloween isn’t the best inspirational holiday for romance, but for some of my peers, it’s pretty good. Fall has some gorgeous colors and scents and I love to see that mentioned in books when I read. Or spring, depending on your hemisphere.

So, wind around and cater to the Americans who will still insist on believing themselves special and whining about the holidays in November detracting from precious writing time: Here’s what I do and I have never failed to exceed my word count, so listen up.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s official, it cannot be negotiated (I don’t care about turkey-induced narcolepsy.) So 50,000 / 30. Most people just round this to 1,667 words per day. Now be honest with yourself. Will you write that on Thanksgiving and Black Friday? How about Sundays? Have a birthday, anniversary, or other event? Look at a calendar and mark off the days you most likely will not be sitting down and writing. Don’t lie to yourself and say you probably could. Error on the side of caution and just say you won’t. If you do, great! You’ll be ahead of the game or at least pleasantly surprised.

Now, count the days you will be writing and recalculate. Let’s say you’re taking 10 days off. For some that might seem bold, that equates to 2,500 words for the remaining 20 days. Depending on how you are as a writer, it’s doable. Only 5 days off? That’s 2,000 words a day. And remember, if you do write on those ‘off’ days, more power to you.

Don’t fear the word count, just be realistic about it. Being honest with yourself is the best way to prepare yourself to succeed.

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An Author’s Take on Piracy

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When did pirating become a verb? Never mind, it’s not important. What is important (to me) is that I found out over the weekend that two out of three of my books are being pirated. A lot of things went through my mind at the discovery: I was flattered, amazed, curious, irritated, and concerned. Let’s discuss those.

 

First, I was flattered. I think this is the appropriate response for writers. Authors think of other things too, but writers are all about wanting to tell a story. It’s nice to think that someone wants to spend time with characters you created, in a world you crafted. That someone out there thinks the book you spent time pouring your heart and soul into is worth copying and spreading is amazing.

 

Authors . . . well, we are writers. But there’s also the ‘Damn! If I’m not going to get paid for it, can I at least get a good review out of it?’ thought. Unfortunately, not usually. That is irritating. Few readers leave reviews and every time you see there’s a new one, your breath catches, your heart leaps into your throat, and you cross your fingers while you pull it up to read it. (Personally, I live by Disney’s “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” line. It might be because I’m an indie author and I know how hard it is, or it might be because the only part of “Bambi” I liked was Thumper.)

 

Some authors get more upset about lost revenue. Yeah, I’ll go along with that. I’m more irritated about lower than usual chance of a review and the extra work. Yes, work. You see, authors have to defend their copyright. Even if an author doesn’t care, if he/she finds out about a copyright/trademark violation, they’re obligated to address it. Take-down notices don’t put anyone in a good mood.

 

Finally, concern. This kicked in after I forwarded my revelation on to Hubby and he discussed it with some ‘interesting people’ he knows in his security work who specialize more in that sort of thing. So, if you’re going to download books off a disreputable site, there is something I’d like you to pay attention to:

 

Download buttons are not always download buttons. Sometimes they download the book. Sometimes the book comes with ‘extras’ you didn’t expect. And sometimes you get the ‘extras’ but not the book. Hubby & Co. looked at one place and said anyone who wanted that book that bad, was asking for trouble. They were going to get spyware (apparently not malware, although how these cybergeeks could tell by looking I don’t know). If you hover your mouse over the button (or each button) your browser should tell you where the link goes. Make sure it’s somewhere you trust. Multiple identical download buttons is a bad sign. One of these things is not like the others . . . and, more specifically, doesn’t belong.

 

So, (while my publisher doesn’t condone illegal piracy and I will get an earful for not writing a smack-down post on the subject) if you’re going to pirate my books, please do it safely and I’d really like a decent review out of it (Amazon and/or Goodreads are good places). Obviously, I can’t speak for other authors, this is just my two cents. 

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Thanks & Who thought of ‘Fall Break’?

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It’s been a great week so far. The book promo for Be Careful What You Wish For went better than I hoped, always a pleasant surprise and I thank you all for that. And for the nice reviews. Indie authors tend to love reviews. I got a lot of editing done so I can send off a couple of books to a real editor and lock away my inner editor when November and NaNoWriMo hits. That’s a subject unto itself. And now the kids are out of school for the rest of the week for ‘Fall Break.’ This is clearly something the teachers dreamt up because I can’t imagine a parent asked for it.

What Fall Break is going to mean in our household: Both kids will sleep a lot. I would say it’s because that’s what teenagers do, and in The Girl’s case it’s true. With The Boy, he’s always liked to stay up late and sleep all day. I’m trying to figure out how this is going to translate into any career other than night security.

After they get up, The Girl will read, maybe help around the house. She might help Hubby with building a trellis for our blackberry bushes that are threatening to become the source of a horror novel. I’m thinking The Creeping. No? Come on, thorns, tentacle-like creepers edging their way all through the garden area along the side of the house. It’s dangerous to try to harvest rhubarb now. The blackberry bushes, that aren’t planted that close, will reach out and grab you. Anyway, so they get a trellis-arch to get those creepers off the ground and make it easier to get to the berries. We’ll plant raspberry bushes on the other side so they can duke it out overhead. Should be fun. For the birds. Maybe it’ll keep them away from the blueberry bushes.

The Boy, when he finally gets up, after I’ve woken him up several times because at a certain point it’s ridiculous, will play Xbox or want to watch zombie movies. The Girl doesn’t care for zombies in general, they scare her. Imagine that. I think that’s part of the reason we have the entire Resident Evil collection and The Boy has it memorized. Also why he’s a zombie every year for Halloween.

My children love each other.

 

 

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Vampires in Literature (They’re Everywhere!)

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The companies formerly known as “The Big Six” – AKA the major publishing houses – and a significant number of literary agents have been saying for quite some time they’re not looking for books on vampires. They’re out of style. They won’t stay popular. The market is saturated. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera . . . Yet we persist in seeing vampires in literature. I’d like to go on record as saying I think that narrow-minded attitude is wrong. And here’s why:

 

First, I’ve been reading vampire books for thirty years, there’s an increasing amount of variety out there now as compared to what used to be available. They’re not always evil. They’re not always going to kill you, change you, or even hurt you. The sun has lost much of its power, as has religious symbolism. Vampires can be neighbors, family, lovers, or they can still be the violent psychopath lurking in the shadow. An author can say something about humanity by making a main character a vampire. They’re accepted, but with each book a reader picks up, they do need to understand the rules about those particular vampires. They’re like us, just with a condition.

 

Second, if major publishers or agents refuse to deal with vampires any longer, there are a multitude of small publishing houses now who will happily take them on, some even specialize in horror or paranormal. And paranormal is a genre that can be very successful when self-published. (Which may link back to why there are soooo many small publishers and the major publishers are financially hurting. Hmm.)

 

Third, vampires are sexy. Come on, who doesn’t go for a bit of necking? They’re seductive, frequently beautiful, powerful, and shunned by society (a classic trait of a romantic hero). A vampire is usually a ‘bad boy’ or ‘bad girl’ type that draws us in. When they’re not, they’re often the underdog, which draws us in.

 

Fourth, immortality is something that is very attractive (in an abstract sense) to humans. From The Fountain of Youth to plastic surgery, we dream about eternal youth and life. Is it any wonder vampires fascinate us?

 

Fifth, as I touched on in my first point: variety. Humans come in a range of colors, heights, weights, shapes, with a nearly infinite number of optional features. We speak different languages, have different interests, and range from incredibly intelligent to unable to understand the first thing about any of this post. Vampires encompass all of this, plus whatever bonus abilities their condition allows.

 

Sixth, right now you see a lot of superheroes in movies. Hollywood is hot for making and remaking movies about superheroes because we love them. Hollywood made it obvious, but it barely scratches the surface of what’s really out there when you look at comics and graphic novels.  Superheroes (usually) have extraordinary abilities, and that is what partially defines a vampire. Without that power, vampires would just be some photo-sensitive geriatric who gets his protein in a really sick way. What sets vampires apart from many superheroes is immortality. (Not all, I know. Wolverine’s a hottie, I can stand to keep him around.) When someone has been around for hundreds of years, I’m confident they’ve picked up a few things along the way.  You get better with time and practice, so what if there’s no end?

 

Seventh, just as a vampire can be a superhero, they can also be the ultimate villain. All the power of a superhero, plus the immortality I mentioned to learn and perfect your techniques, then add bitterness. I’m just guessing, but eternity could be lonely. Once you’ve seen it all, what have you got left to look forward to? All that power, with only a cold, dark, emptiness inside.

 

Eighth, vampires may be the ultimate horror monster. It depends on what scares you, obviously, but they can really be up there if done correctly. Blood. Wow. Blood alone freaks some people out and is practically a horror genre staple. They used to be us, it could be you, your friend/family/lover could be hunting you down soon with the quest to drink your blood. Now, this is very similar to zombies as a monster and they’re certainly popular. The difference, as I see it, is their ability. Zombies are actually fairly easy to defeat unless you’re in a really bad position or badly outnumbered. (And I’m thinking I need to do a post on zombies because there’s a lot going on there.) Vampires have few weaknesses and it only takes one to kill you. If you’ve got more than one to deal with, you’re so screwed. With that in mind, I’m a little disappointed we’re not seeing them as much in the horror movies. Hey, Hollywood! Are you listening? (Crickets chirp . . .)

 

Now with all the vampire novels out there for sale – and people buying them, I know the agents and publishers see even more. I’m confident they see a lot that I’m glad aren’t cluttering the self-published lists. But it’s the same with every genre. There are always good and bad books. You can’t just say “no more of this” without taking into account why there’s so much of it to begin with.

 

Good guys or bad, I don’t see vampires going to the grave anytime soon.

 

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Shameless promotion of my book’s free weekend (Do I get points for honesty?)

ImageIt’s a free weekend for Be Careful What You Wish For (As if that graphic didn’t already tell you that). It’s going better than my free weekend for AKA Lexi Frost, I’m not sure if that means anything, but I’ll take it. Yay. Also of note is that the print version of these and Flynn’s In are all out now. Yay again. Although the print and Kindle version of the latter aren’t linked for some reason, Amazon promises they’re working on that.

So, want a nice little Time Travel romance this weekend? It’s free on Amazon until Tuesday.

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Trick-or-Treaters: You’re on notice!

Halloween and I have always been on shaky ground. It’s a love-hate thing. I love to decorate for Halloween, but I hate to dress up, or hand out candy. When my kidlings were little, I loved to dress them in elaborate costumes that I sewed myself (seriously, Disney, eat your heart out), but I hated to take them Trick-or-Treating. As a child, I rarely went, so I suppose I just couldn’t get into the spirit of it when my kids were kids. Not that I stopped them.

Now, that the kids are older, everything’s changed. First, I can’t dress them in cute or clever matching costumes. The Boy dresses up as a zombie almost every year. Not hard, he has everything. The Girl plans all year, changing her mind weekly so I couldn’t plan if I wanted to, and finally ends up with something in the “steampunk” category. Again, by this time we have almost everything. They go to different parties. Hubby answers the door and I hold The Cat’s leash and keep her from freaking out in her little costume by every two-year-old pumpkin that shows up at the door and shrieks at the sight of a black cat on a leash. Last year she was a quivering little dragon. This year, she may go as a “nervous wreck.” I’m trying to figure out how to convey that concept.

Anyway, there are so many interesting costumes out there now, for kids and adults, but it’s the young women that concern me. I’d love to say dressing up is for the kids, but it’s not. Adults love to see the kids dress up, and women enjoy the excuse to get away with wearing in public what they wouldn’t otherwise wear outside the bedroom, let alone the house. As out society’s rules continue to relax, as well as our standard and seemingly good taste, I wonder who’s going to draw a line.

I will. Right now. Everyone is on notice. If someone shows up at my house in this, I will throw a black ball of fur and claws at you, pull it back with a leash, then do it again. I will repeat that as long as it takes until Hubby can get the hose. The hose is for you, not me. Are we clear? This will not happen on my front porch:

Miley-Madness

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