#20: Springtime Slobbering
The snow is gone, the flowers are growing, and warm, delicious daylight beckons us out of our humble homes. Once outside, we're greeted by the joyful squeals of happy children playing in the sun, timid squirrels and rabbits stretching their furry legs, and sweaty joggers prancing through the neighborhood as they sidestep soggy discarded surgical masks, thawed dog poop, and an occasional latex condom or four.
Side-note: I actually walked by a clump of what appeared to be four separate street condoms the other day. I can't help but wonder what specific situation led to somebody abandoning four individual condoms all in one place at such a relatively quiet suburban intersection. Was it just one dude who had trouble figuring out the mechanics of donning said rubber and had to burn through three trial units before getting the hang of it with lucky number four? Was there some sort of intimate, action-packed local meet-and-greet-slash-potluck-slash-bump-and-grind nobody invited me to? Or perhaps this was simply four separate friendly neighborhood condom-shedders who, inspired by the previous prophylactic litterer's choice of location, decided to follow suit...? There's a story in here somewhere. If I could only find a way to throw in some zombies and maybe a dozen doomsday biker cannibals, there might just be yet another post-apocalyptic novella waiting to happen. "Dong of the Dead"? Is that too on the nose? Or rather, is it too on the dong?
When spring comes around, most of my single friends and colleagues start pumping out some pretty intense lovey-dovey pheromones. Eager as a beaver (sorry for that one), they ramp up their annual romance campaigns, usually using a combination of online dating sites along with in-person charm offensives. They'll swipe their index fingers on Tinder so often their fingertips get as crusty as gravel. They'll hit up their friends for leads on any available singles. And then safe havens like libraries, dog parks and grocery stores become uncomfortable hubs for annoying cute-meet encounters. I suppose there's something to be said about a fresh stack of eggplants to break the ice with a smoking stranger. If you're going to strike up a conversation with some random hottie, blabbing on about the weather and what's good on Netflix, might as well do it over a pile of phallic-shaped nightshade vegetables, right?
Meanwhile, most of us predictable, boringly married or steadfast partnered-up folks... well, for whatever weird evolutionary reason that compels us to do this, we roll up our sleeves, dig out our favorite stash of toxic chemicals, and start cleaning the crap out of our homes.
I don't know where the heck this tradition of spring cleaning started up. Maybe it's all that bottled up libido we pair-bonded people used to direct toward frenzied springtime mating that suddenly has to go somewhere else, sort of like my Instant Pot's built-up pressure hissing out when I flick the quick release valve. Maybe if humanity hadn't invented the ritual of spring cleaning, the entire monogamous segment of earth's population would get crazy homicidal every year. Married people would garb themselves in camo gear and start hunting each other down with axes, ice picks, and flamethrowers. May would basically become one big jumbo marital version of The Purge, and every time the daffodils bloom, half of the planet's hitched population would get snuffed out, while all the new widows and widowers get to become single all over again.
Crap. Was that another story idea? Geez. I really have to stop doing this...
Anyway, for me it's a little different. I really don't have much of an appetite for spring cleaning in April and May. I walk around the house, spot a few floor-dwelling dust-bunnies here and there and think:"Hey, look at that. Free insulation!"
Yeah, spring cleaning doesn't exactly fill me with jubilation. However, the one seasonal hankering I'm really feeling right now—which is appropriate given the genre I write it—is eating flesh.
Sorry. That was just a super gross way of saying that I'm excited about BBQ season.
I should mention that my family and I have dramatically upped our consumption of veggies, legumes, and whole grains over the past few months. We're eating so much darn salad these days that when I work out in the morning, my sweat smells like rancid balsamic vinegar. I should probably bottle the stuff and try to sell it. Is there a way to make "Nic's Salty Secretions" sound more marketable? Anyway, healthy food has dominated our menu of late. At least three times a week, we have delicious morning smoothies and hearty meal salads. And even more surprising, our kids haven't asked to be legally emancipated yet. Given how many families on our street barbecue twice a day, I'm amazed my children haven't dethroned my wife and I as their primary caregivers. Although we haven't cut back on dessert yet. I think that would be our family's version of opening up the nuclear launch code suitcase. If we ever try to replace our children's desserts with kale chips and melon balls, I'll have to start locking my bedroom door at night. The kids know where I keep the keys to the shed where I keep all of my sharp garden tools.
I would've never thought anybody could ever convince me to substitute much of my manly meat-n'-potatoes consumption with buckets of salad and veggies. I'm a big, lurching 6'4 meat-eating machine, an enthusiastic carnivore who can eat about as much as a pack of starving hyenas, chomping and giggling through gristle and bone the entire time. So when my wife came home with a cookbook titled "Mandy's Gourmet Salads: Recipes for Lettuce and Life", saying that we were going to try something new, I was about as excited as a sasquatch at a velcro festival. But lo-and-behold, it worked. These meal salads are phenomenal, chock full of belly-filling deliciousness that somehow tricks my body into feeling as full as I normally do after eating eight drumsticks, a bacon-covered oven baked potato, and a side-serving plateful of mac & cheese. Sure, all this roughage has gotten most of my family to flap cheeks and fire off stink torpedos like we're trying to make up for high fuel prices by becoming our own gas station, but whatever. I'm literally amazed at how much I love eating salads now.
Still, as much as I'm sincerely enjoying all these giant bowls of healthy greens, tofu, and grains these days, heck. It's springtime, and I have a brand new barbecue to break in. My old BBQ died in the fall, so just before winter set in, I took advantage of off-season prices, and bought a new jumbo grill - I actually bought a floor model to save a few extra bucks, and also because when it comes to assembling things, I'm basically an elderly koala who doesn't want to come down from the tree. I was about as interested in assembling a barbecue as I am in having another child. I'll let you do the math on that one.
But now that it's nice outside, my new BBQ is screaming at me to start scorching stuff, and I've got an entire winter's worth of healthy eating to sabotage with steaks, burgers, ribs, pork chops, and chicken.
My favorite thing to grill is baby back ribs. Mine are apparently so good that after eating them, my father-in-law threw his hands up and completely gave up making ribs, allegedly because his couldn't stack up to mine. That's the ultimate compliment a person can give another person, by the way: absolute, crushing defeat. That also used to be my primary dating strategy, back when I was single. Women would throw me anything that looked like a batted eyelash, an indulgent half-smile, or even an unintentional face twitch, that's all it took. I'd pretend to be a golden retriever, roll over on my back and expose my throat and belly. Capitulation was just my way of saying "Yeah, girl. I'm into this."
Anyway, yada yada yada, grilled meat. Carcinogens be damned. I love it, and I plan to power through several tanks of propane this summer. What about you? Do you have any favorite BBQ recipes? If so, feel free to send them my way!
On another topic, I have a confession to make. And I'm a tiny bit embarrassed to say this, if I'm being honest. But then again, this newsletter has always been a safe place for me to demean myself in front of a couple thousand strangers, which I figure is free therapy, probably useful for keeping my ego in check. So stay tuned, and maybe one day I'll post terrible early morning selfies, or regale you with tales of how many times at work I've accidentally walked into unlocked airplane lavatories to witness unmentionable sights or activities.
Alright, so here goes: I'm on Tiktok now.
I know, I know. Why in the world would a mid-forties guy want to jump into yet another social media scene? Especially one populated primarily by underdressed seventeen-year-olds shaking their hips to impromptu bedroom dance performances? Believe me, I get it. I need another social media account like I need one of Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop-branded crystal vaginal eggs.
Thing is, I recently figured out that for all of its hormonal teenage antics, lip synchs, street pranks, and silly choreographies, TikTok is HUGE for book lovers. Better known as the subcategory BookTok, it's a massive, passionate, engaged community of reading junkies and book reviewers, all interacting with each other in a friendly, interactive hub. And that's something I didn't know about TikTok. I thought it was just dancing teenagers, but it's actually super segmented into different sub-communities according to people's interests. Also, for authors, it's a great way to engage with fellow authors and readers. And these days, you can't really walk into a big bookstore without seeing a Booktok table of recommended reads. So I decided to stay ahead of the curve and try it out.
Problem is, if you want to be anything more than a fly-on-the-wall on TikTok, you have to make videos. A lot of videos. And this is not something I was very eager to do. I've always been self-conscious about being in photos and videos, and like most people, I hate the sound of my own voice. All of which are incompatible with being a Tiktokker. To top it off, I have about as much free time as I have abdominal muscles. Still, there are enough indie authors out there preaching how great TikTok for writers that I was feeling some serious FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), and had to give it a shot. Especially since Booktok is seriously underrepresented when it comes to readers and writers of post-apocalyptic and/or zombie fiction. Romance is huge there, as is urban fantasy, YA, and dystopian, but world destroying fiction hasn't exactly found its foothold yet. So I figured I might as well start carving out a little extra space for my preferred genre.
Anyway, I went ahead and made a bunch of videos. Most of them are super tame short zombie book reviews and recommendations. I'm funny in those videos exactly 0% of the time, probably because I'm too uncomfortable to blurt out anything beyond bare-bones opinions and facts. Hopefully that'll change over time. Still, I've somehow managed to gather several hundred followers already, so for better or worse, I'm sticking with it. If you'd like to give me a follow, you can find me here: https://www.tiktok.com/@nicroads
My newest novella Dog of the Dead is launching in eBook and paperback on June 1st!
It's already available for pre-order. My third and final tie-in story leading up to Zombie Vale, Dog of the Dead is entirely told from the perspective of Quigley, a large, lovable dog, and it's all set in the same world as Better Dead than Red, and Dom of the Dead. I'm really happy with this story, and I think you'll love it also.
The book will be free on Kindle Unlimited, and available to purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and lots of other bookstores.
Pre-order Dog of the Dead on Amazon:
United States: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B1JRYLH6
United Kingdom: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0B1JRYLH6
I just finished reading one of the most unusual zombie-type books I've ever read. It's called Wild Eyed Southern Boyz, by Richard R. Rose. It's a huge book, a sprawling, genre-defying mashup that's actually way more about bigfoot than it is about zombies. Now, I have to admit: I received a free copy of the audiobook by the author, and honestly, I think I would've likely passed over this book if it hadn't been offered to me. Neither the book cover nor the title would have sparked my interest if I were just scrolling by. And the book description probably wouldn't have drawn me in either. I really haven't ever felt drawn to stories featuring members of the sasquatch persuasion, for whatever reason. Still, I decided to give it a shot. And boy, was it a fun ride. This is Richard R. Rose's first novel, as I understand, and while I sometimes found it a little heavy on adverbs, it's an ambitious story that really sucks you in. The characters are compelling, the world-building is remarkable, and the story itself builds up to one giant explosive finale that's really satisfying. The author's military background shows throughout the book, which makes the story feel particularly real. And the amount of history and mythology thrown into the backstory is almost on par with some sort of Indiana Jones tale. Finally, if you're into audiobooks, the narrator is top-notch, really perfect for this story. Anyway, this was a really fun read packed with action, adventure, comedy, and great dialogue. I encourage you to check it out! And if you can't get enough of this, the author also just released a prequel titled The Rougarou Wars.
Zombie movies & TV
I've been on a kick of watching (or re-watching) Canadian zombie movies lately. I've re-watched the amazing Billy Connelly classic Fido and the mind-bending Pontypool, and not too long ago I also took in Blood Quantum and Ravenous. This week, I finally got around to watching Brain Freeze, the recent French-Canadian zombie movie that premiered at last year's Fantasia festival. Available on Amazon Prime video (depending on your location), either subtitled or dubbed, it's one of those classic zombie origin stories where a mysterious chemical turns a bunch of living people (rich golfers) into green-blooded flesh eaters. Although it's worth checking out if you're a die-hard zombie fan like I am, the film didn't do much for me, unfortunately. Although the concept is interesting, the movie gets bogged down by tonal issues; the cast and crew don't seem to know whether they're making a dramatic zombie movie or a comedic one, so you're kind of left somewhere in between. The main character, a private security guard-slash-recreational prepper, just wasn't compelling enough for me to care much about his outcome. And in my opinion, the movie tries too hard to make an ecological socio-economical commentary about politics and media, which fizzles out some of the enjoyment I might've felt while watching it. Still... it scores well on Rotten Tomatoes, so maybe it just went over my head. See the trailer for Brain Freeze here: https://youtu.be/_kU2uPmCCH8
Next, as The Walking Dead is wrapping up and most of us TV zombie fans wait for The Last of Us to premiere in 2023, another big-name live-action zombie TV series is set to tide us through with a big launch in July this year: Resident Evil comes to Netflix soon, so get ready for a dose of the T-Virus! Check out the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tb9ENbFWvQ
Finally, Fear the Walking Dead recently aired a limited web series titled Fear The Walking Dead: Dead In The Water, which shows what happens to the crew of the USS Pennsylvania as the submarine gets isolated from the rest of the world as the zombie apocalypse begins. You can now watch the entire thing for free on YouTube right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FM7k2ezoIa4&list=PLP63B9XPsQt1Tn-cOIMYbse9LnvsCAmK-&index=1&t=0s
CHECK OUT THIS ZOMBIE BOOK
Oops! Tales of the Zombie Turkey Apocalypse, by Andy Zach
Accidents happen. Especially around zombie turkeys. Then you add zombie humans, and problems proliferate. Mix in some ill-planned genetic engineering, and things get crazy.The insanity continues, from the story where zombies are merged with cucumbers to the one where two basement-dwelling nerds gain access to all video content from the past two hundred years—from aliens. Andy Zach pulls out all the stops on his imagination as he serves up this smorgasbord of silliness. Try it. Laughter is good for your soul. Get it HERE: https://storyoriginapp.com/swaps/a1fcbc16-ba8b-11ec-8c4b-eb779f121061
APOCALYPTIC BOOK PROMOS
Alright, thanks so much for reading! I hope you have a rocking good start to the month of June! Talk to you next month!
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