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.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


At this point in my writing career, I had expected to have a career like, say, Brad Thor or Neal Stephenson or any other fiction writer who can live off his writing - and then some - would have been fine for me. Hell, by now, I'd settle for a mid-list moderately successful fiction career where I made $50,000 per year.

Yeah, I'd probably settle for less than that at this point.

But I can lay claim to having sold fiction and made some money at it, and, even odder, more unexpected and somewhat gratifying, I can lay claim to being an internationally known writer. However insignificant and tiny my share of that claim is. But it's true. For the most part, my work has sold in English speaking countries - the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and, of course the USA. However, it's also sold copies in Spain, Germany and a couple of other European countries, and I think Mexico, too.

Today, we add Brasil. Or Brazil. Whichever. I know this because Amazon Brasil sent me a royalty check for a kindle sale. I don't know what I'm going to do with the 28 cents...

For the curious, I've been working of the third story of The Divine World series. I'm in chapter three or four at the moment and hoping to have the first draft done by Christmas, and the final draft out by the end of winter.

But the really exciting part of today is going to be using the palm sander to smooth the joint compound on the sheetrock I put over the hole the plumber put in the wall in the kitchen to get at the return pipe from the bathroom on the second floor.

A writer's life for me...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Movie Reviews, of a Sort

Okay, I'll just thumbnail the last few movies I've seen:

Cloud Atlas: Visually interesting. No idea what the plot was about, but it kept me watching through to the end with the hopes of finding out. Alas, I was never rewarded with a plot or a main character to root for. It was just a self-indulgent bit of movie-making that went for three hours (over two nights, as the wife and I had to stop half-way through on Saturday out of sleepiness).

Life of Pi: Completely pointless. No need to watch this "movie." It's a guy on a boat with a tiger.

Stuck in Love: An interesting little character-driven examination of love and trust and hope (and stupidity and idiocy). Nice acting all the way around, and the movie just had a certain kind of coziness to it that, done wrong, would have been a "blech" response

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Apple Watch

Okay, so Apple invented a watch, which is not really a ground-breaking thing to invent. A friend of mine strapped an iPod shuffle onto a strap a few years ago and invented an iWatch, if you will, which I thought was almost sorta cool at the time. I'm sure he wasn't the only one (if only because I've since become convinced that he probably bought the band somewhere, even though I've never seen them sold retail [and never looked]).

Would I wear an Apple watch? Sure. They're in my wheelhouse as far as watch-looking watches look (I currently wear daily Casio over-sized semi-digital "crush proof" watch which has a common name that I can't remember as I type this). I started wearing watches - again - after realizing that I was checking the time on my iPhone too often and irrationally fearing that I would drop it and shatter the screen (hence, maybe, the "crush proof" watch?).

Would I buy an Apple watch? Uhh, no. I don't even know why I upgraded my dumb phone to a smart phone all those years ago. The dumb phone did everything I needed it to do, and the smart phone now does everything I don't do with it, which includes using it as a phone. And, I pay a lot more for the privilege of having a phone that does tons of stuff I never do on it.

But, once-in-a-while, those apps do come in handy. Rarely. But, sometimes.

Now, if someone gave me an Apple watch, I'd wear it. Probably: as long as the battery kept it working from the time I put it on in the morning to the time I took it off at the end of the day. If it needed re-charging in-between, I'd be back to the Casio, which takes one battery every year or three.

I'm not sure where this wearable technology is going (there's Google Glass, for instance), but the tech world sure thinks we need to have access to info everywhere, all-the-time, even though most of us probably have little need for it. My guess is that until they can invent a chip that can be hard-wired into your skull and do all this unseen by others, few people will want it.

Although we'll see for sure next year when the Applephiles have the chance to get this gadget.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Walking Dead Gets Spin-off Series

It's official: AMC is moving forward with its companion series to mega-hit The Walking Dead. 
The network on Friday announced it has ordered a pilot episode of the project from Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and producers Gale Anne Hurd and Dave Alpert. As previously announced, Dave Erickson, who co-created and co-wrote the pilot with Kirkman, will serve as exec producer and showrunner.
Now, I like the show, but it's not a terribly well-written or well-plotted show, and I don't know if that's because it does or does not follow the comic book story (which I've never read). But, the show is just good enough that I happily watch it each episode.

Now, if you want a well-plotted, well-written story set in the zombie apocalypse, I shall point you to one: Cities of the Dead. That's a link to Amazon, but it's available at Barnes and Noble and everywhere eBooks are sold.

And a note to television producers who might look at my book and wonder how to translate it into a television show: I've already thought about how to do it, so contact me and I'll pitch it.

The New Strike Zone

Apparently, watching the watchers works:
Better incentives make better workers. As economist Edward Lazear has shown, organizations become more productive when a job well done is rewarded with extra money and dumb mistakes are punished. So we shouldn’t be surprised that, after the introduction of cameras, umpires have called the strike zone more consistently and more accurately each year since 2007
Now, if we could just find a way to do this to government.

Friday, September 05, 2014

What I'm Reading

Okay, at some point this year I basically stopped reading. Kinda. Sorta. Mostly. Usually, I've got a book or three going (and, really, I've kinda, sorta got two going, now), but for the last couple of months, I haven't been "reading. " Weird, I know.

Firstly, I've been reading Flight of the Eagle by Conrad Black for almost a year, now. It's a ten-thousand page long book about how the different presidents of America have used US diplomacy to forge the America we live in today. Interesting. Fascinating. And, too many details. So, like, three pages a day, maybe.

Secondly, I've been buying my fiction at the thrift shop, just because. I picked up a copy of William Gibson's Zero History because I liked some other stuff I've read by him. This book, though ... well, I'm about a third of the way through it (in, say, three months of reading) and it leaves me flat. I'm not sure what the story is about, and the characters are, well, not really worth the journey of finding out what the story is about. If you get my drift.

I'm also sort-of reading Gated, which was gifted to me by a neighbor who is related to the author and who knows I'm a writer. It's YA fiction, which leaves me flat, mostly. So far, no tension, and it's a thriller, of sorts. I get a page or four in every once-in-a-while.

So, my reading list is depressing my desire to read, because none of it really grabs me. What about you?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The Reset Button, Pushed

So, yesterday my kids went back to school and I couldn't believe another summer had evaporated so quickly. They seemed longer when I was younger. Pretty good summer, though: a week at Bethany Beach, MD, for the annual beach vacaction; a long weekend in Point Lookout, NY, for the end-of-sunmmer catch-up with an old flight school buddy and our families; a day of batting cages/mini-golf; a trip to a trampoline park the name-of-which-I-can't-rmember; and, a long weekend traveling by RV to Oshkosh, WI for the EAA airshow where I saw the Thunderbirds perform, which was cool.

Did I mention I wrote the first chapter to the third installment of The Divine World? I have to get back on the stick with that.

I also started doing P90X again. Today was plyo. Bleh. Although, I have to say, several years ago when I was doing it daily, I was in the best shape of my life and sporting a nice trim figure. Then I switched over to barbell training and became kinda strong but pudgy. We'll see where I am in 88 more days...

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cities of the Dead: Now Free! (For a while)

Since there's a new zombie show coming to town - Z Nation on SyFy - I'm letting eBook versions of CotD go for free for maybe the month of September or so, maybe longer, maybe not. For now, as in today and the short foreseeable future, you have to go to Smashwords to get a copy for nothing. The prices will update at all other eBook retailers over the course of the next week or so. I don't know how that works, but computers seem likely.

If you take a copy, come back and write a glowing review of it... (winky emoticon)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Z Nation and Zombie Stories

As I told my wife several years ago, or, rather, as she told me when I was writing the initial test stories for Cities of the Dead, "zombies are popular, now." Indeed, they are, and SyFy (I hate that and prefer SciFi, but the channel has almost no science fiction on it anymore) is coming out with Z Nation in September. I assume the reason is because The Walking Dead has made it five seasons and is continuing to grow in popularity.

With any luck, Z Nation will be better than TWD, and I say that as a fan of the latter. However, TWD is a marginally decent show about zombies per episode, but as a series, it tells no compelling stories. The story arcs are lame, and most of the characters are unknowable and unlikable. But, zombies!

Now, this is true with just about every zombie TV show or movie: the writers don't know what to do with the material on hand, so you just get zombies and people shooting them: zombie pron. This can be entertaining, but it's usually frustrating, too, since what you're really dealing with is a post-apocalpse scenario in which the real story is how the humans living create a new civilization amid the chaos. This is what I attempted to address in CotD, showing how mankind struggles to survive amid the new landscape where most of the "people" are now zombies, not just stories of people killing the undead (though there is plenty of that).

My book was looked at by a movie/television producer shortly after it came out, but he said he couldn't figure out how to make it into something (that's the short-short version, since he told me this through a mutual friend before I had even thought of how to translate it to live action). I could easily turn my stories into a television series, if ever given a chance. Not sour grapes, there, just noticing that I've had time to think about how my 20 different stories - which tell one complete story - could be altered to a different medium.

And, yes, I have written some more zombie stories for a possible second CotD book, fleshing out (heh) some of the original stories with follow-ons, as well as some new stories which look at issues left out of the first book. I may keep at that in my spare time (I'm currently working on the third Divine World installment, so...), but my spare time has many suitors these days.

And that's about as deep as I'm going to get with this today.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Divine World #3 Begun

Yeah, I know, I don't write here nearly enough. Well, almost not at all. I'll try to change that going forward, but I think I've said that before...

Anyway, I've begun writing the third installment of The Divine World series, once again setting black ops commando David Arris into the super-natural world very few people ever encounter. Chapter One is complete, and I hope to get a few pages done every day and have the first draft done sometime before Thanksgiving. This is possible because I'm working from a very detailed outline.

In fact, the first six or seven DW installments are already done in outline, so if I keep at it, I should be able to crank through them rather easily for the foreseeable future. All I need is time, which is occasionally in short supply.

I had been working on another project, but the deeper I got into it, the more I realized I was getting further into the weeds and farther from what I thought the story was going to be. I'm going to let that sit and percolate for a while, maybe draft an outline when I get the time.

Let me know what you might want me to blog about, and I'll try to do some of that. You can follow me on Twitter at @william_young, but it's slim pickings there, too, which I'm trying to change.