#5: 28 Days Later
It's been exactly 28 days since my last newsletter, hence this email's subject line. Also, the zombie movie 28 Days Later has been on my mind a lot lately, nestled in between my winter-deprivation induced craving for barbecued ribs and my growing desperation for a Covid-safe haircut to sideline my post-apocalyptic hermit-inspired grooming.
I felt like going for a super literal subject line to headline my blog this month, but I didn't think you'd click on this if the title had been "This is a blog", or "Please read me". Heck, even my mother wouldn't have clicked on those, and she clicks on pretty much everything.
SUBJECT: Re: re: re: Claim your ten million dollar prize today!
SUBJECT: URGENT! Your medical results have been processed. Congratulations! You have Ebola!
SUBJECT: Save 800% on expired Cambodian calendars - TODAY ONLY! <CLICK>
SUBJECT: We have naked pictures of you. Respond now or we'll send them to all of your work colleagues.
SUBJECT: This is yor bank. The one were you put yore moneys. Pleese conferm yore PIN (passward) and ackount nomber.
Just kidding, Mom. You made me. I love you. Just please stop clicking on junk mail. There are other viruses to worry about besides Covid-19, most of which might compromise my inheritance.
I also went with the aforementioned subject line because 28 Days Later is one of my favorite zombie movies ever. I know, I know. Technically, the viral, mindless, murderous bloody-eyed plague victims in 28 Days Later aren't zombies, because they're not reanimated undead, as per the George Romero mythos.
But I'm an inclusive kind of guy. If you go bonkers and start running around, growling, chasing and spreading your infection by getting all bitey-bitey with people, I'm totally letting you join the zombie club. No argument or lobbying needed. Cannibalism doesn't count as cultural appropriation in my book.
(My apologies to any actual cannibals out there. Please don't make bacon out of my loins.)
So far, Danny Boyle has made two movies in the series. 28 Days Later, then 28 Weeks Later. Apparently there's still a chance that the rumored third movie in the series (28 Months Later) might see the light of day. Hopefully, this project will get greenlit and go into development sometime soon.
Personally, I'd love to see this movie happen now rather than having to wait for 28 Years Later. Don't get me wrong. I love science fiction. But as much as I love the idea of slashing up futuristic space ghouls with a light saber, I'm just not that into the idea of Aliens vs. Zombies. When it comes to stories about reanimated, flesh-eating walkers taking over the planet, I like them low-key, timely, and realistic.
You know. Relatable zombie stories. Kind of like When Harry Met Sally, but with more teeth.
What about you? Do you like 28 Days Later and its sequel? Do you consider the infected in those movies to be zombies, or would you put them in a different category?
In other news, I just finished reading an absolutely outstanding zombie novel, probably one of the greatest ones I've ever read. It's The Living Dead by George Romero and Daniel Kraus. My In-Laws gave me the hardcover for Christmas, which either means they know me well, or that all the Amazon Echo smart speakers I have strewn around the house are spying on me then sending people suggestions about what to buy me. If so, I need to start casually name-dropping the 2021 Toyota 4Runner SR5 with leather interior more often.
The Living Dead was just released a few months ago, and it's the perfect culmination of the epic zombie apocalypse story George Romero first created over fifty years ago. It's the same zombie plague he unleashed in Night of the Living Dead, but reset to modern times, and with completely new characters and settings.
This book is an absolute beast, almost twice as long as a regular novel. Once you dive in, you understand why. The ambitious post-apocalyptic tale interweaves several stories, characters and groups as the zombie uprising unfolds and plays out over a VERY long span of time. You get about 50 years of post-zombie apocalypse history, bringing this book into the same range as Max Brooks' legendary World War Z when it comes to lengthy, decades-spanning timelines. You really get your money's worth here. And as you would expect from a George Romero story, this isn't just a big, superficial zombie mashup. Beyond the zombies, it's an active, thought-provoking commentary on many timely issues like economic disparity, media consumption, the fragility of our civilization, interpersonal relationships, military hierarchy, race relations, sexism, and more.
If that sounds heavy, don't worry - you get A TON of exciting zombie action as well. Violent, action-packed and super-duper gory. For example, there's a mention of somebody's innards getting pulled out through their... ahem. I'll let your imagination do the rest. All this to say that there's plenty of gruesome stuff in here to keep you away from the fridge, if explicit zombie books are how you control your late-night snack cravings. (Whatever works for you. I use an improvised whip made from a studded mountain bike tire, but that's a story for another day.) Still, the authors balance their grotesque bloodbath with plenty of intelligent observations and sentimental developments, so you get the entire package all in one book. You'll be disgusted, but you'll feel plenty smart at the same time. It's kind of like watching a really great TED Talk while sitting on the toilet after eating too much Taco Bell.
The Living Dead began as a rough, unfinished draft, a collection of ideas which George Romero compiled over many years. Many of the pages he archived before his death were concepts rejected by movie studios because they would be too expensive to film. (For example: a big part of this story happens on an aircraft carrier.) But Romero's heirs handed the project over to author Daniel Kraus, a die-hard Romero fan who had brilliantly adapted Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water to a novel, amongst many other projects. Kraus really did a fantastic job with The Living Dead, and to my mind, this book is a keeper. Just like World War Z, this is a collectible, something to treasure. I expect to re-read it again in the future. I highly recommend it to any fellow zombie fans out there.
I'm also midway through Stephen King's 11/22/63. It's a story about Jake Epping, a teacher from Maine who finds a time portal to 1958. He travels back hoping to fix the past and stop JFK's assassination. It's too early to give my final feedback on the book, but so far I'm really enjoying it. It's absolutely immersive, the kind of story that keeps you thinking about it throughout the day, and as you fall asleep at night.
I've always fantasized about time-travel, probably ever since I first saw Back to the Future so many years ago. I'm not sure why, but I think I'd want to go back to visit the old West, circa 1865-1900. There's just something about that era that's always drawn me in. Maybe it's because of how easy it was to pull off a hat, a mustache, and body stank without being called a hipster. If you could travel back in time, where would you go? What would you do?
Speaking of zombies, my truck died. But I've decided to double-tap it so it never gets back up again, moaning and groaning for another shot. It's an embarrassingly rusty 2005 GMC Yukon, and it finally hit that point where fixing its problems would've involved way more money than what it was worth. Now I have to start shopping for a replacement used vehicle. I'm looking for an affordable family hauler, AWD or 4X4, capable of towing about 5,000 pounds. Bonus points if it's an armored, terrifying motorized hellbeast capable of outlasting the catastrophic fall of mankind. It has to be able to keep a couple of kids safe, cozy and entertained in the backseat while I do some white-knuckle tactical driving to dodge radioactive zombie bears with a scalding, foamy latte in hand. So cup holders are important.
Do you know a lot about trucks? If so, do you have any recommendations for good used vehicles I should be on the lookout for? Forget all my post-apocalyptic babble for a minute. If it's got ABS and half-decent fuel efficiency, I'm willing to forget about grenade-launchers and integrated antiviral biocontainment units.
As far as my own writing goes, there are quite a few things going on. For one, I've been doing a ton of research into parkour. This extreme James Bond-slash-Jackie Chan-style discipline, which involves running, jumping, climbing and death-defying gymnastics, plays a big part of the Zombie Vale series I'm working on. My lead character Addie is a Park Ranger but also a Traceuse, otherwise known as a female adept of parkour.
If you've never seen what parkour looks like, take a look at THIS INSANE ROOFTOP-HOPPING VIDEO. If you watch it on a big enough screen, you might get vertigo. Or maybe you'll be like me and just yell terror-induced profanities at the screen even though the people in the video obviously survived long enough to upload this video to YouTube. Hopefully I never see something like this in real life. I'll be like a spectator who hollers a swear word at a live golf tournament, except instead of missing a birdie, the athlete will plummet to his or her death by falling off a thirty-story building.
I'm totally in awe of parkour practitioners in the same way that I admire people who can dance. In both cases, I'm watching something astounding which I grudgingly admire, but have absolutely no intention of ever doing. In fact, when it comes to dancing, I'd probably opt for trying to backflip from one twelve-story building rooftop to another rather than try to move my body to music in a coordinated fashion on a dance floor in front of other human beings.
One of those two activities would cause a catastrophic, deeply traumatizing tragedy. Whereas the other one would only lead to my body hitting the ground at 120mph. I wish all decisions were this simple.
I'm currently writing the longest action sequence I've ever written. It's a non-stop, action-packed parkour zombie rooftop battle, and I'm really excited by how it's turning out. I've also managed to resist the urge to order my kids to reenact my drafted parkour scenes in our living room to help me visualize some of the more complicated sequences. I think this speaks highly to my parenting skills. I'm willing to let them walk to school, but I draw the line at having them practice barefoot wall jumps while double-fisting machetes and baseball bats.
Dad of the year award, here I come.
I also bought myself a new toy, something I've been wanting to get for a while now. It's an Alphasmart Neo2, a portable, old-fashioned word processor that dates back to 2007. This is a very low-tech machine that schools used to keep on hand to teach typing. They were discontinued many years ago, but you can still pick up a gently used model for pretty cheap on eBay or on Amazon.
Why would I want a retro electronic typewriter with a tiny screen and no connectivity, you ask? Well, the thing is, I get distracted pretty easily when I'm writing. Sure, there are the constant chirps and bleeps of online notifications and so forth, which I'm pretty good at ignoring. But mostly what interrupts my workflow is my constant need to go off into research rabbit-holes, to look up some aspect of whatever I'm working on. Like now, for example. I just stopped writing my newsletter to go do some research on how easy it would be to eat soup while wearing a 1950s girdle.
Why? Because Google. That's why.
I also tend to skip back to my previous day's writing and rework it, even during the early drafting process. Both of these are productivity no-no's.
When you're writing the first draft of anything, the important thing is to just get it out, plain and simple, without getting sidelined by the smaller details. This you can do later, once the bulk of your story has been pounded out. It's kind of like an intimate encounter with a romantic partner. Don't overthink it or spend too much time on the nitty-gritty. Just get to business, be goal-oriented, and leave all the crippling insecurities, self-doubt and clumsy pillow-talk for immediately after.
But when you draft, that's all you should do. The Alphasmart is great for that - its limited functionality and offline status means it's a pure writing tool with no hoopla. (It does have a spell-checker, a thesaurus, a word counter and a few other doodads.) And the keyboard looks and feels great - it's a mechanical keyboard, and I'm a sucker for the satisfying sound of exaggerated clackety-clacking as the words pump out.
I'm very excited by this acquisition. Now there won't be anything to distract me from writing beyond the demented screeches and inhuman wails of my diminutive offspring whenever they ask me to intervene in one of their conflicts, which only happens about once every four minutes, give or take four minutes.
I also commissioned a brand new zombie portrait of myself to use for my author photo in my upcoming book Zillionaire: Zombie Apocalypse Survival for the Rich & Famous. Check it out! This was hand-drawn by the world's foremost zombie illustrator Rob Sacchetto, who also drew the cartoons for Zillionaire. I think this piece of art is a fairly accurate rendition of what I'll look like during the zompoc if a zombie French-kisses me without first getting my explicit consent. Which I might give willingly, if their breath is minty fresh. I'll take the smell of rotting corpses over bad halitosis any day of the week.
It's a bit of an improvement over what I actually look like these days as a stay-at-home, temporarily mobility-impaired non-zombie. There's just something about a global pandemic that makes you give up on your looks. Don't get me wrong, I still bathe. There's no mold anywhere, as far as I can tell. But I'm not going to pretend like I don't often wear the same pair of pants for more than a week. Maybe a pandemic is the perfect way to promote body-positivity. When you're spending this much time at home wearing ugly sweaters while slowly losing the socially imposed training on how to hold back your farts in public, there's just very little incentive left to be self-conscious about your looks. Just imagine what we could accomplish if the next pandemic were zombies! Who needs the self-affirmation of slow-motion Dove body confidence commercials when you spend most of your days intentionally slathered in zombie guts just so you can go scavenge for stale Pretzels in the undead wastelands?
As you know, I always try to include a few links to book freebies in my newsletter, especially zombie and/or post-apocalyptic books. If this is something you enjoy, you're in luck this month! I've got a ton of promising options for you. All the links/images below lead to free books.
JUMBO FREEBIE BOOK PROMOS
Authors teaming up to cram your eBook readers with so many free stories you won't ever need friends or family anymore? Yes, please. Check out the three mega-promos below before they expire!
That's all I got. Thanks for reading, keep on keepin' on, and have a phenomenal month of March!
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