Good news: one of my newsletter subscribers won the Zombie Pen's Undead Giveaway! Bad news: everybody else didn't. Being somebody who never wins anything beyond an accidental d**k pic, I know all too well how much not winning blows. But I figure none of this will matter much during the zombie apocalypse. Nobody really cares who won the Mega Millions when everybody's busy bashing zombie brains with a rusty can of tomato soup or an abandoned femur.
The winner of the Zombie Pen Undead Giveaway was Tom Trudeau from Cardinal. Congratulations Tom! A big thank you to everybody who took part. I've enjoyed doing this so much I'm already planning the next undead giveaway (and the next one will have some consolation prizes thrown into the mix). Hopefully, it'll happen before the dead rise and start pounding at your door!
If you were interested in any of the giveaway prizes, you can see them at the following links:
Zombie Cereal Bowl: this one is sold out everywhere right now! But the same company who makes it also has an awesome Zombie Cookie Jar - check it out!
The headline for this month's newsletter is Everything is trying to bite me, which I think would make a fantastic headline for a Walking Dead singles' convention. I doubt that such a thing exists, but I think AMC should get on it. I'm married, so I know about as much on the topic of dating and romance as a barrel of expired sauerkraut. But my instincts tell me that when it comes to finding a compatible soul mate, an ongoing obsession with post-apocalyptic scenarios should rank pretty high in selection criteria. Maybe it should even be up there with whether you both want children, whether you speak the same language, and whether you're even remotely physically attracted to each other. Wouldn't your eye be drawn towards somebody who said they liked long romantic walks on the beach, candlelit dinners and slow, sensual machete-sharpening sessions in a backyard bunker?
I mean, there are specific dating websites for clowns, sailors, marijuana lovers, people with mullets, women in prison, beard petters, bacon afficionados and even emo goths. Why couldn't there be one for all us tender-hearted zombie-apocalypse preppers? Zompocsingles.com should absolutely be a thing. If you're a genius computer programmer, maybe it's time to quit your secure, high-paying job at Google or Microsoft, roll up your sleeves, and start hooking us up.
Sorry, I got a little sidetracked there. Almost everything does want to bite me these days. I usually brag about how un-biteable I am; mosquitoes and black flies don't seem to care for me all that much compared to all of the younger, more delicious members of my immediate family. Maybe it's because of my addiction to sour candy, or my pasty, unpenetrable layers of Old Spice deodorant. Or maybe it's just the whiff of a middle-aged aspiring writer's desperation-fueled basement pheromones that sends them buzzing away. In any case, I think I've found the insectile exception to the ewww-Nic-tastes-gross rule.
The last non-human who bit me was my son's leopard gecko, just a few weeks ago. This time, I got chomped by my first ever black-legged tick. I had spent the weekend feeling pretty manly, mowing the lawn, fixing up the dock, tidying the garage and setting up the firepit. It doesn't take much to make me feel manly these days, given that most of the time I'm just limping around the house in my post-trampoline-accident exo-skeleton knee brace, pathetically yelling at my kids to stop leaving their half-eaten sandwiches on the floor because I can't squat to pick them up for them. When it comes to me feeling manly, usually just a well-timed burp, a hearty knuckle pop, or a successfully opened jar of marmalade will be enough to spike my testosterone for a half hour. So two full days of sweaty yardwork made me feel like I was a shirtless, oiled-up Jason Momoa bench-pressing a Chevrolet Malibu on top of an active volcano while surrounded by a crowd of undead ninjas.
But the following Tuesday, while getting ready for my morning shower, I spotted the ugly little bloodsucker, gnawing on me like I was a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. He was embedded so deeply into my thigh it looked like he was auditioning to play one of the face-planting zombies from the zombie movie Cargo.
Long story short. I screamed like a goat giving birth to a teenage stegosaurus, my wife pulled the tick out using my - I mean her - eyebrow tweezers, I called my doctor and got a prescription for prophylactics because Lyme disease sounds like it really, really, totally sucks donkey balls.
The tick bite got me thinking back to my childhood (maybe because most injuries, from a lowly tick bite all the way to a theoretical helicopter blade beheading, have a tendency of making my whole life flash before my eyes). Us zombie fans often talk about what made us become so interested in undead stories in the first place. Sometimes it goes all the way back to when we were kids. For some, it's old movies, comic books, or video games. Personally, I think my very first exposure to the concept of zombies - of regular people who suddenly get infected and turn into violent, dangerous, contagious creatures - was actually from The Smurfs.
In 1959, the first Purple Smurf story was printed in the French comic book Spirou. It tells the story of a Smurf who gets bitten by a weird fly, and the resulting illness turns him into a violent, crazed, purple-skinned Smurf who hops around, biting (or smurfing?) other smurfs, spreading the infection. It's very much a children's version of a zombie apocalypse. And it was written in 1959 - almost a full decade before George Romero's 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead!
The story was later published as a standalone book, then eventually adapted into an episode of the popular TV series. I must've been seven or eight years old when I saw it, and the idea really stuck with me. It creeped me out, big time, but I couldn't stop thinking about it.
Is it possible that George Romero was also influenced by the Purple Smurfs? Did this idea stick to his brain and inspire him to write Night of the Living Dead? Maybe. We'll never know. But it's my theory, and I'm sticking to it, just like a tick in a thigh. Anyway, if you'd like to check out the adapted TV episode about the quasi-zombie Purple Smurfs, you can see it right here (or by clicking that last image of the purple smurf).
So the Purple Smurfs were my personal gateway drug to the zombie apocalypse. What about you? What led you down this ghoulishly fun path?
In other news, thank you so much to all of you who sent me photos of your adorable pets last month. All those dogs, cats, birds, rats... not to mention the random photo of that one reader's husband sleeping on the couch... they really cheered me up. Well, not so much the guy dozing on the couch. That one made me a little uncomfortable, to be honest. But the other ones, definitely.
My family and I are thinking about getting a dog sometime in the near future, although our selection criteria for what breed to get are a little complicated. It has to be a medium-sized dog (small enough that he can't easily steal any barbecued ribs I park on the kitchen counter, but big enough that he won't get stomped by my perpetually running six-year-old), easily groomed, non-shedding, mostly hypo-allergenic, and gentle with kids. The dog should be moderately active, but happy living in a small house with an average-sized fenced yard. He should be cuddly, playful and smart (but not so smart that I need to train him to find hidden WMDs just to keep him from tearing our curtains off). Bonus points if in a zombie apocalypse, he can act like a furious, raging dire wolf from Game of Thrones.
Given that dog shelters are pretty much empty everywhere right now, and that puppies from breeders cost something like $83,000 in BitCoin and have a seven-year waitlist, I think I may have better luck placing an order for Spot, Boston Dynamics' robot dog. Aside from the fact that it's headless, doesn't want to snuggle, is made entirely of cold, rigid metal, and kind of looks like it could kill me in my sleep, it's not a terrible option.
Or maybe I should just try to adopt one of the contestants in the Ugliest Dog in the World pageant. Any one of these would make a fantastic and super-appropriate mascot for The Zombie Pen. Bonus: If I had a dog like this to cuddle up to, I probably wouldn't feel so disgruntled when I saw my reflection in the mirror every morning. There's no better way to improve your self-confidence than by surrounding yourself with visions of your worst nightmares. That's probably why I have so many friends. They all feel so much better about themselves after hanging out with me for a couple of hours.
Do you have any dog breeds to recommend? Please share your wisdom. Should I hold out for dog shelters to get back to post-pandemic normalcy, or should I find a dog from a quality family breeder who's not gouging me so much I'll have to sell my spleen to an underground organ harvesting cartel just so I can afford it?
This past month has been a pretty good one. In fact, I found out that a TV series project I developed a long, long time ago is being considered at Netflix's Originals Department as we speak. While my expectations that this will actually pan out into a TV show are about as big as the miniscule arachnid my wife dragged out of my tender flesh, I still take it as a pretty awesome compliment. Only a tiny fraction of TV proposals ever make it that far at Netflix, so it's encouraging. Unfortunately, I can't tell you much about that specific project right now, other than to say that it's got a heavy dystopian/sci-fi/post-apocalyptic stamp all over it. It's basically just like Paw Patrol, except absolutely not.
Another thing that I'm psyched about is that The Zombie Pen Facebook Group finally cracked a thousand members! In fact, by the time you read this, we may be edging close to 1,200 zombie fans, virtually intermingling in a virtual pit of post-apocalyptic silliness. If you're not in the group yet, come and take a look! We won't bite. Actually, I can't promise that.
And finally, a big thank you to everybody who offered to join my Beta reading team for Zillionaire: Zombie Apocalypse Survival for the Rich & Famous. The book is now being dissected by our group of crackerjack readers, well on its way to publication later this year.
COOL ZOMBIE STUFF
The Zombie Pen now has a Spotify playlist! This is the result of my asking the members of our Facebook group what songs they'd like to listen to during a zombie apocalypse. Obviously, the playlist is CRAZY eclectic - some of the songs are adrenaline-fueled metal explosions, others are songs you hate so much they'd make you want to smash up an undead horde, others are about zombies, or about the end of the world, some are haunting, tragic and melancholic, others are just good old end-of-the-world hip slappers... you get it. It's a total mish-mash. But it's also super fun.
If you'd like to listen to the playlist, click the link below. You can even add tracks if you like - it's a collective playlist, you can add on as you wish. You can also email me the titles of the songs you'd like to include, and I'll throw them on there for you.
ALSO, Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead finally premiered on Netflix. Have you seen it? If so, what did you think? It was a heated debate online - some people love it, others hated it. I had mixed feelings about it, although it definitely entertained me. But the important thing is that the movie is now THE MOST WATCHED MOVIE in the history of Netflix.
What does that mean? Well, I'm no Nostradamus, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that this is good news for fans of zombie fiction everywhere. Every year, somebody out there talks about how zombie stories are dead. But this is proof to the contrary. So long as the appetite for zombie movies, tv shows, books and games remains this strong, we'll keep getting more. So whether or not you enjoyed Army of the Dead, I think it's great news for all of us.
THERE'S A ZOMBIE IN YOUR EAR
Looking for some top-notch, absolutely free zombie entertainment? If you haven't discovered the zombie apocalypse podcast We're Alive yet, you're in for a universe of undead fun. With over 200 million downloads, this fantastic, top-quality, award-winning production plunges you into the long-term story of a group of zombie apocalypse survivors, played by a long list of superbly talented actors. This is The Walking Dead for your ears. Doing the dishes will never have been so much fun, unless you're some sort of demented dishwashing fetishist. You can listen to countless hours of episodes on your favorite podcast player, or directly from their website right here:
The vast majority of zombie books out there are set in the United States. As much fun as these stories are, it sure is fun to step outside of North America now and then to see how the zombies gobble up other countries.
One of the all-time most popular zombie series out there, Apocalypse Z by Manel Loureiro, sets the stage for the fall of humankind in Spain, and it's a grim, thrilling, compelling and gruesome everyman story of survival. Originally published as a fictional day-by-day blog, this incredibly popular zombie trilogy is the first-person diary of a lone survivor, an ordinary man and his pet cat as they witness the decimation of humanity after an undead plague spreads across the planet. I'm only one book into this series so far, but it's captivating. There are many, many diary-style zombie stories out there, and you can see why this format is so effective when it comes to telling post-apocalyptic stories. They really make you feel so intimately attached to the character, to his daily struggles for survival. This series is one of the building blocks of the zompoc genre, and it's definitely worth checking out.
ZOMBIE AUTHOR PROMOS AND FREEBIES
JUMBO FREE BOOK PROMOS
That's all I have for now. Thanks so much for reading, now go and show that month of June who's boss!
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