October 23, 2014

rUNdead is THIS SATURDAY!!!

Hey local people!! Are you coming to rUNdead 2014??? You know, the biggest, coolest, BEST zombie race in the Charleston area? It's happening this coming Saturday, October 25th!!!!



If so, here's what's in store for you - some facts, tips, tricks, and fun, from your very own rUNdead blogger (me!!):


  • Haven't signed up yet? No worries. You can sign up DAY OF at Wannamaker Park in North Charleston. We still have runner and zombie spots available. Show up between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and you can be a part of the festivities!
  • For runners, zombies, and spectators, gates open at 2 p.m. Children under 12 are free; anyone over 12 who wants to come watch and be part of the event may do so for a $5 donation to Lowcountry Food Bank, or the donation of at least five canned goods.
  • Bring the whole family!!! There's plenty to do for everyone!!
    • The Kid Zone will feature an obstacle course, and Nerf gun zombie target practice!
    • Everyone is encouraged to dress up in costumes, and there's even a costume contest!
    • For all of us 80s enthusiasts, there will be a Thriller Flash Mob, open to all and set up by the Charleston Zombie Walk crew!
    • There will be food trucks (Smoke, King of Pops, and Hot -n - Quick) so you won't starve!
    • After the awards ceremonies and costume contest, we'll be showing The Goonies on the Cinebarre big, blow-up screen, so bring chairs and blankets and sweatshirts!
    • There's going to be a REAL LIVE WALKING DEAD WALKER (not in costume, don't worry) telling all about his experiences on set. He's a cool guy, and I know you'll love talking to him!
  • And I will be there, selling copies of Zombie Days, Campfire Nights, and Jo!! Please stop by and say hi, buy a book, and I'll be happy to sign it!!
Seriously. I can't wait to see all you fabulous zombies. It's a great event, fantastic for the whole family, and I hope you join us!!

October 22, 2014

Apropos of nothing: a sweet Zoe story

If you know me, you know how much I love my child. You also probably know how great she is at driving me completely insane. I think she thinks it's her job to talk my ear off, all day, every day, and sometimes I run completely out of words (and patience).

Last night was one of those nights. As soon as I picked Zoe up from school, she started talking. And never stopped. Even at soccer practice, she KEPT TALKING to me. And then, during her bath, she wasn't listening, wasn't moving fast enough, and I was TIRED and CRANKY and FUSSY at her. 

But then....after the bath....once she was in her jammies and was sleepy and snuggly....this happened....and these are the moments I live for:

Zoe: <crawls into my lap for a hug>
Me: <sniffs the awesome smell of clean kid and immediately relaxes> I'm sorry I've been grumping at you, baby.
Zoe: It's okay, Mommy.
Me: Zoe, do I give you enough hugs every day?
Zoe: No, Mommy. It's never enough.
Me: Do I tell you I love you enough every day?
Zoe: No, Mommy. It's never enough.
Me: I love you, boo.
Zoe: I love you, too. 

I mean....how can that not make a rough night suddenly...perfect?

So anyway...that's the story. I'll have Undead America news later this week, but for now, that's all I've got.

October 9, 2014

#TBT: Our Alma Mater, Sayreville High



Let's go back in time for a minute, you and me.

It's the fall of 1996. I'm still Leah Soltis, a skinny, geeky girl living in Sayreville, New Jersey. For the past five years, I've attended every single football game my high school has played...and most of the ones for the two years prior to that. I'm a flag girl, a member of the marching band's color guard, and my brother was on the marching band for two years before I was old enough to join. By the fall of '96, I've been to over a hundred football games, and I'm actually the Captain of the color guard, if you can believe that. A Senior. Our band is on its way to a state title for our division. In a few week's time, we'll march onto the old Giants Stadium field and perform the best we've ever performed.

But that's not what I'm going to talk about today.

Today let's talk more about those football games. 

Like I said, I went to every game. I cheered my team on from the stands under balmy late summer skies, and in the freezing rains of November. I basked in the warmth of a harvest moon, and I huddled under ponchos and blankets, snuggling with my girlfriends to keep warm. 

I learned a love of the game of football in those years, and it's stuck with me ever since. (Seriously. Ask me sometime about that time the Giants were in the Superbowl and I was six months pregnant with Zoe and the refs made a bad call and I climbed up on my coffee table to yell at them....Charles was not pleased.)

On this particular day, at this particular game, the football team is marching its way toward a state championship. And man, I want them to win. We all do.

It's a home game tonight, and I have friends on the field. Because even though I was a band/theater/academic club geek, I was lucky. I was able to make friends with all sorts of people back then, and some of my friends happened to be on the football team. They were good guys...one, in particular, helped me get through A.P. Math that very same year. I sat with him and a couple of other jock-friends every day, and we did a LOT of group work. Thank goodness - I wouldn't have passed that class without them.

But I digress. Back to the game.

It's nearing its end, and despite this being one of the best seasons in our school's storied football history...we're losing. Nothing our team can do is helping. Our plays are falling apart. We're losing yards instead of gaining.

The minutes are winding down, faster than we want them to. We want more time instead, to get the score back to even. We want more time instead, to win.

It's not meant to be.

The players, the band, the cheerleaders, the spectators....everyone in our stadium....we're all on our feet, cheering on our team, hoping that maybe, MAYBE, one more cheer will be the boost they need to make it. The boost they need to win.

It's not meant to be.

The clock zeroes out, and the other team had wins.

It's the senior players' last game, and together, they tak a victory lap around the field. It's not a victory lap for that game, though. No. Rather, it's a victory lap for their high school careers. For their team's success over the prior four years. 

Many of them have tears cutting paths through the dirt on their faces. That one particular friend, the one who helped me through A.P. Math, cries as he runs. Tears burn white-hot in my eyes as well. I hate to see the season - their careers - end that way.

But it's a beautiful thing, that victory lap. There's not a single person in our stands who isn't clapping for our players. We were so proud they've come so far. We're so proud of their journey. 

I'll never forget that moment.

****

As much as it hurt to see my team lose that day, it hurts a thousand - a million - times more to have that gorgeous memory stomped all over, turned upside-down, topsy-turvy, inside out, the way it's been over the past few days.

This fall, fall of 2014, 18 years later, my old high school's football team has been shut down amid allegations of hazing...of abuse...of the sodomizing of children in the Sayreville War Memorial High School football team locker rooms. 

Oh, dear God, Sayreville. What have we done? What have we allowed? What has been happening in a locker room while adults were nearby, able to stop it, but allowing it to happen?

What the hell kind of culture have we created?

I'm heartbroken for the victims of this alleged abuse. I'm heartbroken for the abusers, too, though. For an abuser is often created by abuse. What was done to those players in the past, to make them think this type of behavior was okay? What chain of abuse has been allowed to exist in that locker room, and for how long?

I look back on that night, so very long ago, and I wonder....there were good guys I knew on that team. Was this going on back then? Had they partaken in the chain of abuse? Were they hurt? Did they hurt?

There are so many questions, and so many people can answer. So many people can shed light on the darkness of that locker room. I truly hope they will.

My hometown is hurting. I wish I was there, to stand with my classmates and my friends as they stand up together for the victims. I wish I had been there in Kennedy Park (Oh, God, remember the cement hills? The rope swings? The chain nets?) for the vigil. 

I hope my hometown can be strong. I hope they can come together like we did that night, for our team, long ago. I hope they can let this investigation not become a witch hunt, but rather a hunt for truth.

I hope my hometown can heal. I hope that, once the truth is told, that terrible wound that's been ripped through all our guts can begin to close. There will always be a scar, that's for sure, especially for those children most directly involved in these heinous crimes. But scars can be overcome.

Those poor children. Their poor parents. 

We have to do better, Sayreville. We can do better. I know it. I'm here with you, watching from afar, and I stand with you. Let's find our answers, let's fix the problem, and let's begin to heal. We owe it to ourselves....and those children.

October 7, 2014

In lieu of something more serious....ZOMBIES ATTACK GIVEAWAY!!!!!

Hey!

So I was bitchy yesterday morning....and then SCOTUS took HUGE steps toward marriage equality later in the day....and I'm still processing my happy thoughts on that so I can talk coherently about the topic later this week (Ellen, I'm going to have to plan that party we discussed, aren't I???)...so I thought....why not talk zombies for a minute?

It's pertinent, right? The Walking Dead starts SUNDAY and OMG I CAN'T WAIT HAVE YOU SEEN THE TRAILER YET!?!? Andrew Lincoln's beard, man....Andrew Lincoln's beard.

Plus, from Liberia, home of the Ebola outbreak, we're seeing (clearly bogus) reports of Ebola victims rising from the dead, zombie-fied. 

So...that made me wonder....I've written three books about zombies (Book 3 in the Undead America series is coming SOON to an online outlet near you...). I've talked survival. I've researched weapons. I've thought about all the ways a person could try to survive (and still probably die) in the apocalypse.

But what would I do?

What would I do if something happened in the middle of the day, when Zoe's at school and Charles is at work and the rest of my family is scattered around the country?

(The answer there seems clear....get to the school, get my child, go home and wait for my husband. When he gets home, try my parents' place in the country. Carry my baseball bat everywhere I go. And so on and so forth.)

What would I do if I happened to be out of town, far from my husband and child?

What would I do if Charles was away?

What if what if what if...

What if things were so bad that there was no way to fight, no way to survive? Or the only way would be to turn Zoe into a child like Carl, or worse, like Lizzy (Walking Dead references...look 'em up)? Would I want that?

Or would I be one of those parents who quietly gives my child a mouthful of poison, then drinks two mouthfuls myself, and lets us die in peace, while everything falls apart around us?

I don't know the answer to the question. I don't know what I would do.

So I'm throwing the question out to you: what would YOU do? How would you survive? What's your Zombie Apocalypse plan?

Answer in the comments, or on Facebook. My favorite answer will win an early e-copy of Undead America 3. I have no idea when you'll get it, but you will. Early. And trust me...you want to read it. :D

Make 'em good, people. This is all entirely subjective.

October 6, 2014

A moment on a soapbox

Okay. I feel stupid for even commenting on celebrity gossip. Normally I make a point of AVOIDING celebrity gossip. But my feathers have been ruffled, and thus I must take to my blog, get up on my soapbox, and say:

Yes. Bruce Jenner, of Olympic and Kardashian fame, looks a little bizarre right now. No longer masculine, yet not quite a woman, rumors are all a-flying.

Normally I don't give a SHIT what Bruce Jenner looks like.

But as one of those latest pictures floated across my FB page, with dozens of posters and commenters mocking his appearance, you know what I saw?

I saw a man who's wondering if he's transgender, or a transvestite. I saw a man who's considering transitioning to become something new.

And I saw people mocking him for it.

UGH.

People facing gender identity issues are far more common than you may imagine. Experimentation in the name of finding the skin that suits is just as common. When I was a little girl, I tried to become a boy. Turns out, once hormones kicked in, I was mighty fine with being a girl.....but before those hormones overtook me, I dressed like a boy, cut my hair like a boy, and fought my mom any time she tried to get me into a dress.

Someone very close to me was once very similar to me. She, too, wanted to dress like a boy, cut her hair like a boy, and to BE a boy.

And for her, when hormones kicked in, it became clear she WAS a boy.

She is now a he, and he is one of my favorite people in the world. 

The transition was tough. It was confusing for everyone involved, at least for a little while. But now it all makes perfect sense. 

Imagine facing these questions yourself. Imagine feeling like your clothes don't  fit. Imagine feeling like your body doesn't fit. Imagine having to tell all your friends and family, "Hey, I'm going to transition," or even, "Hey, I'm going to dress like this other person for a while, just to see if it fits."

Now imagine doing that as a celebrity, with the world watching.

Dude. Leave Bruce alone. He's clearly trying to work some stuff out, and our snarky comments aren't helping.

Thanks. I'll get off my soapbox now.

September 23, 2014

Just for Funsies: Zombie Weapons

My parents just moved onto some land out in the country. They have horses, and want their horses to finally be able to share their address. 

Of course, no land is perfect, though, and their couple acres need to be cleaned up a bit before the horses can move in. My oldest brother, Jonathan, is here this week, helping to clear out some of the woody parts of the property.

This is the view from their back fence.
We've had so much rain here lately, this isn't normally a pond.
But you get the idea. Trees, vines, mud, muck. 

So of course I decided to help.

And of course we needed to talk zombies while we worked, and of course we now consider ourselves ready for the apocalypse! 

Because weapons!

Everybody, meet Jonathan.
He's killer with a chainsaw.

Me? I prefer this knife.
I think the hook on the end gives it that little something special.
Don't you agree?

Anyway, much as I joke (and much as I LOVE that knife), every time I do something like this I realize more and more: I'd never survive a real zombie apocalypse. It wouldn't be the zombies to get me, though. It would be the bugs. The ticks in particular. And the fact that, with my insomnia and compulsive need to feel clean at night, I'd never sleep and I'd go absolutely insane.

And incidentally: today I also learned I have an irrational fear of chainsaws. *shakes fist at Texas Chainsaw Massacre*

See? Insane.

Happy Tuesday and I hope I made you smile.


September 17, 2014

I'm Falling in Love with John Scalzi's Lock In

Yeah. You read that right. I'm falling - hard - for a brand new sci-fi thriller, penned by none other than John Scalzi (of the Old Man's War series and Hugo-award winning Redshirts).

But it may not be for the reasons you expect.


Sure, the story is fun and exciting. Sure, the sci-fi tech is accessible even to an English major like me. And sure, I love the idea of characters who've become "locked in," thanks to a disease that shuts down their nervous systems but not their thought/communication processes (hey all you Ice Bucket Challengers - this part will interest you!!!). It's only through human "Integrators" or mechanical "Threeps" that these characters are able to communicate and live semi-normal lives, and it's INTERESTING.

But nope. Those aren't the reasons I'm falling so hard for this book.

A big part of the reason is this: there are two characters, Jim Buchold and Rick Wisson, who are MARRIED. Yep. You got it. Two guys, married.

And here's the BEST part, the part that makes me love this book so damn much I want to squeeze it: in this book, this lovely little sci-fi novel, the fact that Jim and Rick (two dudes) are married is absolutely NO BIG DEAL!

YES!!!!!!!

A gay, married couple, treated JUST LIKE ANY OTHER CHARACTERS!!! They're introduced as guests at a dinner party, and it goes something like this: one guy introduces himself to the main character as the other guy's husband. The main character....doesn't even comment. It's just a fact, like any other fact at that dinner party. Far more interesting than the fact that Rick and Jim are married is the discussion around the plight of people infected by Haden's, the disease causing the locked in phenomena.

Jim and Rick are not the phenomena. Not at all. They're just two guys at the party.

Later, when something bad happens to Jim's business (I'm trying hard not to give spoilers here), we see Rick make Jim a drink, just like any other loving spouse would do. When Jim doesn't drink it, Rick does instead, just like any other loving spouse would do. They're not treated any differently than any other married couple in any other book.

Look. This may not seem Earth-shattering, but it is. There are a lot of books out these days with LGBT characters. In many of them, a character's being LGBT becomes a central theme of the work. And that's good. In fact, that's great! We need to discuss these issues! It's important!

But perhaps just as important is providing characters that are LGBT, and NOT making their sexuality central to the story. By letting LGBT characters become a part of the landscape, no different from anyone else in the supporting cast, Scalzi is making a huge statement. "Hey, world, this is normal. This is no big deal. This is how we SHOULD be treating LGBT people IN REAL LIFE."

I love it. So much it hurts.

(Of course, I'm only about a third of the way into the book. LGBT themes may come into play later on. Rick and Jim might be the bad guys! I have no idea! If that becomes the case, I'll update this post, I promise. But from what I know of Scalzi and his politics, gleaned from years of reading his blog, I don't think that'll be the case.)

(Don't forget - I'm a slow reader. It may take me another full week to reach the end. So don't wait around today, expecting an update.)

But yes. Please! Go buy Lock In, and support the idea that having a gay, married couple in your sci-fi novel should be treated as NO BIG DEAL! Because YES! LOVE! EQUALITY! HOORAY!

****

UPDATE:

I finished Lock In, and I'm still in love. It was a fun read, it spoke my language (code, patches, software, hardware - years in the software industry have taken their toll on me and I love to see that world in fiction), and the ending was completely satisfying.

Was it the best thing I've ever read? Maybe not, but still, it was super-fun. I highly recommend it, especially to all my old software buddies out there!