#10 - 'Til undeath do us part
Updated: Aug 10, 2021
Howdy, fellow zombaholic,
A few months ago, I asked members of my Zombie Pen Facebook group what they would do if the zombie apocalypse kicked off while they were at a wedding. You probably won't be surprised to find out that in-laws, awkward cousins and judgmental aunts didn't fare so well in this mental exercise... unless faring well includes the aforementioned family members being tossed to the zombies as an impromptu getaway distraction.
I don't know about you, but being stuck at a wedding during a zombie apocalypse is one of my worst nightmares. I'm already uncomfortable enough as it is during most weddings, what with all the sweaty dancing, the peacocking, the fancy clothes, the staged photos, the obligatory small talk with random people you'll never see again, and the looming potential for alcohol-fuelled romantic slap battles. Throw in a horde of cannibal revenants, and it might just be enough to convince me to give up on humanity altogether.
Funerals, I can handle. No problem. Weddings though, not so much. In my experience, mourners usually make for much better company than wedding guests. You don't have to come up with too many conversation topics when you have a dead body in the room to talk about. A corpse really is the perfect ice breaker.
Aside from the human tragedy, the heartbreak and the devastating grief, there's really a lot to like about funerals. For instance, people jumping up and dancing to The Love Shack or Single Ladies is generally frowned upon at a wake. You don't have to worry about color-coordinating your clothes, hair and makeup with the event's guest of honor, and there's almost always leftover pasta salad. Bonus: funeral directors tend to have a much better repertoire of industry-specific jokes than preachers, ministers and priests. They really do put the "fun" back in funeral.
"I'm going to an open casket funeral later, but I don't know how I feel about it. Remains to be seen."
When I die, I want comedy to be the central theme unifying the millions of people mourning my loss. And by millions I mean several. Maybe a couple more if my kids are all grown up by then and have developed emotional attachments beyond ice cream, Roblox and poo jokes. If I were to die now, I suspect that maybe a few weeks later they'd ask their Mom where that guy with the beard went. Maybe.
So yeah. I want people to laugh at my funeral. I know that cremation might be my last chance to get a smoking hot body, but still, I think I'd rather get buried. When they lower my casket in the ground, I want somebody who's in on the joke to play the song "Drop it like it's Hot", film the attendees' reactions then post it to YouTube. And I want to be buried in a spring-loaded casket, so that someday, some future archeologist is going to have to change his pants. Also, I want people to plant catnip all around my tombstone, so all the stray neighborhood cats hang out there. People who visit the cemetery will think I was some sort of all-powerful cat God.
Oh, and while I'm at it, I'd like my tombstone to read something pretty epic, like "He died doing what he loved: surprising alligators."
Maybe a zombie plague is exactly what I've been needing from weddings all along. Maybe, if we could replace the boring vows, the nuptials, the adorable ring-bearers, the thrown bouquets, the cutting of the cake, the predictable music, the uncomfortable speeches and the obligatory conga line with a big, healthy dose of silly, goofy gore-drenched undead survival, I'd have a better time.
Would it be weird if I showed up at my next wedding reception with a sword cane, a kevlar tuxedo and a few months' worth of freeze-dried cocktail weenies?
To be fair, my own weddings were pretty fantastic. I pluralized the word wedding because there were two of them, which is admittedly odd given how much I dislike weddings. On a good day, I'm about as excited to go to a wedding as I would be to volunteer for an 8:00am sack & shaft hot wax practical from the hungover millennials who just started attending the nearby aesthetics academy. The latter might be preferable, actually. Both involve a great deal of self-doubt, discomfort, soprano shrieks and regret, but at least with the waxing, it would all be over quickly. And contrarily to most weddings, I wouldn't have to relive the entire experience repeatedly on social media with a constant stream of unflattering photos and videos. Not unless the apprentice aesthetician secretly records a video of me shrieking and peeing my pants in agony, then uploads it onto their viral "Epic Screaming Man-Babies" Instagram account.
I haven't been married twice, to be clear. I have one wonderful wife, the only one that I know of, although I did spend a sizeable chunk of my early twenties drunk and/or unconscious in Central America. So there's that. For all I know, there's a Señora Roads somewhere in Panama who's wondering why it's taking me so darn long to get back from the Supermercado.
Still, I doubt there's more than one woman on this planet who would spend a lifetime with me. The fact that there's even one member of the opposite sex who is willing to put up with my shenanigans 24/7 for this many years is enough to convince me that maybe we are in the Matrix. Or maybe there's some sort of mass hypnosis/acid trip event happening. Or perhaps I'm experiencing a temporary quantum bungee dip inside an alternate reality, like that kid in Stranger Things. Except that instead of being stuck somewhere with giant, toothy interdimensional slime panthers and an evil Demogorgon, I have a loving wife and two mostly non-murderous children.
All I know is that all these years later, I still keep expecting my wife to wake up in the middle of the night, screaming about a tall, pasty-skinned man who smells like somebody smeared Old Spice on a stale bagel, snoring in the bed beside her. Right before stabbing me in the ear with a dirty BBQ skewer.
(Not that I ever leave dirty BBQ skewers on my nightstand after snacking on a couple of leftover chicken and pineapple kabobs at 11:43pm or anything.)
No, if I got married twice, it's because my then-fiancée and I actually got hitched two times, just a few months apart. The first time was in Las Vegas, over at the cheapest, dodgiest off-strip drive-thru wedding chapel we could find. $40 later, we were bound by budgetary matrimony, as witnessed by a couple of grungy backpackers who took our unrecognizable wedding photos with a first-generation iPhone, all while a grumpy old officiant leaned out of the drive-through window to warn us that this was the real deal, then give us a skeptical thumbs up as we face-mushed through our rented Honda Accord's sunroof.
Bonus: our wedding meal was burgers and shakes at In & Out Burgers, which I would argue beats the hell out of most catered wedding meals, if I'm being honest.
My wife and I would NOT have survived a zombie apocalypse in Vegas. No way, no how. I've seen Army of the Dead. I wouldn't have made it past Planet Hollywood's slots machines before getting my elbows gnawed off by a blue-haired, rabid eighty-year-old gymnast wearing a bloodstained Perry Como T-Shirt.
My wife and I were married again - non-officially this time - just a couple of months after our solo Vegas romp. We went to the picturesque mountain town of Taxco, in Mexico, with about thirty friends and family members in tow. This is a great way to pare down your theoretical post-apocalyptic survival group, by the way. Announce that you're getting married in an exotic, faraway location that's really hard to get to. Invite everybody you know, then see who actually turns up. The ones who do are the ones who deserve to survive the zompoc by your side, sharing beef jerky and canned peaches inside the dark, moist safety of your backyard shipping container bunker.
Our awesome, DIY ceremony and afterparty involved mariachis, a tequila-saddled donkey, and an all-you-can eat taco bar where the featured ingredient was Jumiles, a local type of edible stink bug that people there consider a condiment. Kind of like bacon bits except with faces. Weddings get really interesting when you use the power of your newlywed status along with a DJ microphone to peer pressure your elderly family members to eat insects. I think I was cut out of several wills on that day, but boy did it made for great photos.
If the zombie apocalypse had happened there, it would have made for a fantastic movie. My wife and I would have banded together with our guests and fortified our small, grumbling-glory budget hotel (Hotel De La Borda - pictured - the same one where JFK and Jackie Kennedy honeymooned, apparently), de-brained packs of mariachi walkers using their own bedazzled guitars, then enlisted the help of nearby masked luchadores in our post-apocalyptic quest for survival and glory. Zombie blood would have run thick and red in the colonial cobblestone streets, like tomato salsa did on the shirts of many of our tequila-drenched wedding guests. It would have been like the movie Desperado had bumped uglies with Dawn of the Dead, then made a low-budget B-movie baby right there in our sunny little Hacienda.
Surprisingly, there haven't been many zombie movies featuring weddings that get interrupted by flesh-eating members of the undead persuasion. Given the rampant divorce rates these days, you would think more people would want to live vicariously through the undead as they crash happy weddings, eat organists and tear through a few bridesmaids.
Zombieland's opening sequence gives us a glimpse of this, and there's also the short comedic zombie movie Till Death Do Us Part, which you can watch here. But to my knowledge, the only zombie movie that's ever set its entire plot within the context of a wedding ceremony is REC 3.
If you haven't already seen the REC series of movies, you really should put it on your To-Do list. They're Spanish zombie films, with four in the series to date, and they're definitely worth watching. The first one is probably one of the scariest zombie films ever made. It was remade in the U.S. (titled Quarantine), but I RECommend (sorry, it's early as I write this) you watch the original first. Depending on where you live, you can probably find most of these movies on Netflix, Amazon and/or Apple TV. And if you have a love-hate relationship with weddings like I do, you'll probably get a kick out of the third movie in the installment, which is all set during a wedding. Check out the trailer right here.
What about you? Have you ever been to a wedding you would have liked to see get swarmed by zombies? Let me know! I love hearing back from my readers.
In my perpetual and oh-so questionable quest to indoctrinate my two young children into the wonderfully wide world of zombie fiction without totally traumatizing them, I recently bought a zombie-themed board game for us to play together as a family. It's called Zombie Kidz Evolution, and it's really so much fun.
The basic concept is that you play a bunch of kids stuck inside a school when the zombie apocalypse hits. You have to work together to barricade the building and take out any zombies that make their way inside before they overwhelm you. It's a pretty quick (20-30 minute) collaborative board game, meaning you all play together with a shared goal instead of playing against one another. Apparently, this helps to reduce the chances one of your children will attempt to strangle the other using a bathrobe belt over who won or lost the game. (Which totally didn't literally happen at my house, especially not on August 3d, right after a contentious round of Hangman.) Zombie Kidz Evolution is also... ahem... evolutionary, which means the game rules change the more you play, which helps to keep it fresh, and keep players surprised and engaged with repeat plays. It's really a fantastic board game, surprisingly affordable, and I totally recommend it to anybody with kids, or to anybody who's looking for a great gift for the next generation of zombie killers.
Zombies on TV
The past few weeks have been phenomenal for zombie fiction on TV. Netflix finally released Kingdom: Ashin of the North, a prequel to the brilliant South Korean series Kingdom, which already has two seasons wrapped, and a third one on the way. On its own, Kingdom is absolutely gripping, without a doubt one of the best zombie TV series ever produced. Its standalone movie prequel is just as good, and a great entry point into the series if you haven't already tried it. Don't let yourself get stymied by the fact that it's dubbed. This is smart, bloody, intrigue-laden and action-packed top-shelf zombie entertainment, and you should watch it. Watch the trailer for Ashin of the North right here.
If you're a fan of the Resident Evil games and movies, you can also dive into Netflix's brand new four-part animated series Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, which explores the events that happened in between the game Resident Evil 4 and 5. This is a show very much geared towards existing fans of the franchise, and while it delivers somewhat of a lower ratio of zombies than I had expected, I still quite enjoyed it, and hope to see more episodes produced in the future. You can watch the trailer here.
Just like the undead, my new zombie novella Better Red than Dead has taken on a life of its own. This project just kind of came out of nowhere, but I'm really digging it. The story fits in perfectly with the greater world I'm building, and will help explain the origins of Zombie Vale's undead. I'm extremely excited to share it with you all as soon as possible.
The story itself is finished. At 34,000+ words right now, it's quite a bit longer than my last novella Dom of the Dead (24,000 words). I've already finished my first full story edit, where I go through the entire manuscript to revise story elements, including adding a prologue, and rewriting the ending. Now I'm doing a thorough dialogue and line edit. After that, I'll run the whole thing through my favorite computer-based text editor, a software called ProWritingAid. Finally, I'll use a software called Balabolka to read the entire story back to me out loud, editing as I go. Listening to your story read out loud is one of the best ways to examine your writing using a distinct part of your brain. Personally, it really helps me to notice problems I may have missed while reading the text. Then, I'll send it off to a few select Alpha and Beta readers for final feedback, then make a final pass over the whole story to make changes based on their comments. Finally, I'll format the document so it looks like a book, no matter what device you like to read on - for this I use either the software Vellum or Atticus.
So... I still have a few weeks' worth of editing to do before I can send it to you all. But it will be worth the wait. As soon as it's ready, I'll make it available for free to all of my wonderful newsletter readers for a period before I park it over at the 'Zon and see if I can sell a few copies. In the meantime, I'm thrilled to show you the brand new cover for Better Dead than Red: A Zombie Vale Novella.
NOTE: If you're interesting in being a volunteer Beta reader for this story, please send me an email! You'll get to read it early in exchange for sending me your honest feedback ahead of my final edit.
ZILLIONAIRE: Zombie Apocalypse Survival for the Rich & Famous is also chugging along nicely. My co-author and I have received our feedback from our Beta readers, and the manuscript is now with our Editor. Next week we're starting our final edit, then off it goes to our proofreader, then to our formatter who'll do all of the layout. I'm hopeful that this book will be available by Halloween. I'll probably have the official cover to show you by this time next month!
I'm working on my writing so much these days that I'm not getting quite as much reading time as I'd like, but I just finished reading a viral zombie novel many of you have probably heard about (or read) - Nicholas Sansbury Smith's Extinction Horizon, the first in his Extinction Cycle series. This book, which dates back to 2014, is one of the best-selling zombie books of the past decade, and you can see why if you pick it up.
It's extremely action-packed, with intense, dynamic chapters, scientific intrigue, and lots of blow-it-up end-of-the-world military suspense, thrills and drama. I like to read lots of different types of zombie novels, personally; diary POV-type zompoc tales, YA dystopian adventures, gritty character dramas, comedies, and military action stories as well. This one falls in that latter category, so if you like your zombie books with tons of adrenaline and fast-paced plot twists, this might be right up your alley. I'm enjoying the book enough that I'll certainly read the sequels. You can take a look at it (and read a few sample chapters) right here, or by clicking the photo above.
To wrap up my monthly babble fest, I wanted to share something with you that has absolutely NOTHING to do with zombies, aside from the fact that lots and lots of teeth are involved. I don't know if this is the right crowd to be sharing this with, but from the emails I receive, it looks like many of you are die hard animal lovers, especially when it comes to dogs. So here goes.
Christian Vieler is a German photographer who specializes in dog portrait photography. What makes his art so special is how he snaps photos of the dogs' faces just as they're trying to catch dog treats thrown to them. The results are beyond funny. Scroll through these images, especially if you're ever having a crappy day. I think you'll be giggling like a schoolchild in no time. (You can also find lots of his other photos on Instagram or Facebook by looking up Vieler Photography.)
CHECK OUT THESE OTHER BOOKS
A deadly illness. Panicked lockdown. And two sisters who’ll stop at nothing to save each other.
The second wave of the Siberian Flu catches the country completely unprepared. Instead of killing the old and frail, the young and healthy are dropping... in hours, not days.
Kate, a new doctor, will sacrifice everything to break her and her sister free from a controlling stepfather and a dead-end small town existence. Moments from landing the critical job she needs, St. Louis falls apart around her.
Now it’s a race to survive. She has to fight through a city turning deadlier by the second and traverse a chaotic country to save her sister.
Alisa should be safe at home in their small town, but she’s never been happy to sit back and let life pass her by. Concerned for her stepbrother, she finds herself embroiled in a far-reaching conspiracy that might be even deadlier than the pandemic.
As an invisible killer spreads like wildfire, society breaks down with astonishing speed. Refusing to succumb to the chaos, the sisters will have to dig deep for strength, rely on new friends, and fight a vicious battle to survive.
From the authors of the top-selling Aftermath series, Deadly Lockdown is the first book in a gripping post-apocalyptic series full of everyday, driven characters who never quit fighting through non-stop peril and danger. A post-apoc thriller just right for fans of Kyla Stone, T.L. Payne, Ryan Schow, Jack Hunt and Mike Kraus.
JUMBO FREE BOOK BUNDLES!
That's it! That's all I have for now. Thanks so much for reading my tenth issue of The Zombie Pen! I'll see you again next month.
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