Monthly Archives: March 2012

Murder, Tea, and Piggles

This week I began another rewrite for my first book. For the first time, I feel like my protagonist has something going for her. I’ve probably rewritten the same first chapter twelve times over the past six years, trying to reinvent the wheel over and over and over again. What I needed was for someone to come along, look at it, shake their head and say, “Nope. You’re facing the wrong way. Look over there.”

Last week, the lovely Julie Kenner did just that for me. The result has been oddly liberating. Not only do I feel able to better express a more fully-realized protagonist, but the new goals I wrote for her can be woven seamlessly into the rest of the book. Instead of feeling like I’m reinventing her, I actually feel like I was able to peel back her exterior to figure out exactly what it is that she needed to be. It works — she is much better this way. There are so many little Easter eggs to sprinkle through the book now, and I think that will ultimately make it a more satisfying read for people. I’d love to tell you about them, but as a whole one or two of you have actually read the thing, it wouldn’t make any sense. So you’ll just have to wait. Until I find an agent, sell the book, and it someday gets published.

Yesterday, Karen McFarland hosted New York Times Bestselling Author Bob Mayer on her blog for a great guest post about creating unforgettable characters. I would highly recommend that you check it out. There were some nuggets in there that I definitely intend to keep in mind when I continue this rewrite.

What struck me most about the advice and feedback I’ve gotten lately is that people need motivations for things. They may not be positive things — in fact, I think that often people are more motivated by the threat of something negative than the possibility of something positive — but they have to be present. Whether it’s trying to get your reader to accept why your protagonist is trusting that stranger or why she is so determined to keep something secret, the reader has to be able to say she understands even if she wouldn’t make the same choice.

So as I strike out on this new path (hopefully not in the baseball sense of the phrase), my protagonist has a few new things in her backpack, including a cat named Piggles. My friend has a cat called Miggles, and when I was thinking about her cat, I was thinking of him going hungry and being mad about it, and voila — Piggles was born. He should be an interesting kitty to play with.

A dog kitty

This is about how I picture Piggles. A dog kitty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The past few weeks, I’ve been acting as a beta reader for three friends. It’s been a really fascinating experience, both because it has shown me some amazing writing from three people who will certainly be big names in fantasy/paranormal fiction before long AND because it’s helping me to look more critically at my own work. All four of us are unpublished writers, and I think we’ve all felt the frustration of running into walls with our work. Sometimes you just get too close to something to be able to see what needs to be fixed. None of us are professionals, but we all have completed novels and all have the goal of being traditionally published. I think we’re all happy to have the chance to get feedback on our work from writers in the same genre.

I think we’re all guilty of getting too close to things, whether you’re a writer or not. Sometimes we get so focused on whatever goal is floating in front our faces that we get lost in that metaphor about seeing the forest through the trees. It’s hard to see the forest when your nose is stuck between a couple creases of bark.

Bark of a Pine tree showing normal sloughing o...

Forest? What forest? Bark of a Pine tree showing normal sloughing of plates of bark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes we can get perspective on our own, but other times we need that gentle readjustment in our thinking to come from the outside — or sometimes we just need a bap on the head with a yardstick. I’m setting out on a new journey with some new goals this month. Instead of completing book three by April 15th, my goal is to have a submission-ready book one by June 1.

What have you needed perspective on in your life lately? Yardstick or gentle turn? Have you had to reevaluate your goals?

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How to Prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse

Warning: This post is rated R for language, honesty, and badassery. If none of those appeal to you, I bid you good day.

Because you know it’s coming. Let’s face it — we humans suck at teamwork most of the time. But we’re great at destroying ourselves with bombs and wars and guns and tabloids — so why not face the inevitable and just start getting prepared for it?

Zombies.

Who doesn’t love those cuddly, zany funsters? They shamble! They moan! They eat your evil boss’s face! You better hope they’re the shambling, moaning kind of zombies, because if they turn out to be the rage-y, 28 Days/Weeks Later type of screaming bastards, we’re all probably just plain fucked. Buggered. Up shit creek with only a still-wriggling arm for a paddle. Any way you slice it, if there are fast zombies? Yeah. You and me? Dead. Deeeead-y dead dead dead dead.

Contingency Plan A: Fast Zombies

Solution: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. As Adriana Ryan said on her blog yesterday, why wouldn’t you want to be on the winning team in a zombie apocalypse? If there are fast zombies, that’s my plan.

Shambling Zombies

If there are zombies, chances are they’ll be sort of ungainly with the rotting and the decaying, and the “muh-muh” quest for human flesh or brains. That’s the eventuality I want to help prepare you for! And since I got an A+ on this zombie quiz, I reckon I’m qualified!

Feel free to follow along with my simple, step-by-step instructions!

Supplies

I don’t know if you knew this, but you kind of have to eat and drink fairly often in order to stay living. Watching Walking Dead this year made me wonder how on earth they still had enough canned food after feeding nearly twenty people for weeks — surely the stores in a tiny town don’t have that much creamed corn to offer.

Besides, if you wait until the apocalypse to stock up, you’ll have to deal with the idea that every other yokel in your area will have the same damn idea, and while bolting to REI after their killer survival gear would be a lot more free if you didn’t have to pay for it, by the time you get there alive and unbitten, all the good stuff will probably be smashed or gone.

Or there could be a zombie sitting on it, eating the sales associate’s brains.

So save yourself the trouble. Zombie apocalypses are about thinking smart and not getting dead. Costco sells massive amounts of survival food! I know. When I saw it, I about piddled from pure joy. Need vegetarian emergency food? They’ve got it! Emergency kits, first aid, cured meat, water purification and storage? They’ve got that too! Oh, my god. Why don’t I have a panic room yet filled with this stuff?

It might also be helpful to get yourself set up with some survival gear — a solid sleeping bag or three, lightweight warm jackets, lots of layers. Remember. The more layers you wear, the more the zombies have to bite through to break your soft, pearly skin.

Weapons

Sure. Everybody thinks guns are the bee’s knees. But how many people can actually shoot? And did you see The Walking Dead finale? Shane’s gunshot is what brings the entire fucking horde down on the farm! One shot. If you want to survive, go with something quieter. Maybe learn how to shoot a bow — besides, arrows are both reusable and something you can make if you need to. Most people wouldn’t be any better at making bullets for a semi-automatic than giving themselves their own colonic.

Learn how to use melee weapons. Swords, knives, clubs — anything that can disrupt the brain functioning of a zombie. Aim for stuff that can cut through bone and doesn’t make much noise. Stay quiet, stay alive.

Use a gun only for emergencies — you know, the kind where you’re in a secured location and can help somebody out by popping off rounds in zeds from above.  Otherwise they’re just going to bring more trouble, no matter how badass they make you feel. Ranged weapons are great, but only as far as your ammo flies. The second you’re out of ammo, all you’re left with is a rather inefficient club.

Fashion

You want to survive? You might have to be uncomfortable. You want clothing that you can move in, but that protects your vulnerable smushiness from zombie chompers if you were to say, get pinned. My choice is leather. It can be soft, it’s durable, and hey, it even looks good.

Yeah, I'd say it looks good.

Barring leather, you could always reinforce your clothes with duct tape. It might look a fair bit stupider, but I’d rather look like a jackass than end up undead.

Sturdy shoes are a must. I’d say go for some reinforced hiking boots or lacing leather boots. They might be clunky, but you want your feet free of blisters.

And finally…

Location

When the apocalypse first starts, you probably won’t have much of a choice. You’ll be stuck where you are, and that’s fine. Get as high up as you can — chances are, zombies will be better at going down stairs than up them. Hole up, enjoy your MREs, perfect your leather gear, and get used to stinking. But when things settle down and pretty much everyone is deader than you? You might want to consider moving north.

If zombies shamble and moan, they probably don’t have a lot of muscle control. And they’re rotting. Which, you know. Gross. Get them cold, and it’ll be harder for them to keep moving. That’s why we better hope this thing starts in the fall — spring time zombie apocalypse would mean much more dead going around the world. (Although if it were spring for us, those in Australia and elsewhere on the flip side of the equator would be in better luck.)

When you do have a chance to migrate north, you’re going to need a lot of skills. Hotwiring cars, siphoning gas, scavenging — all very important. You also might want to think about what the least used roads in your area happen to be — they’ll probably be your best friend in case of apocalypse. I live in DC, so I know for a fact no highway in fifty miles would be passable. Ugh.

Here’s some other useful survival gear to have handy!

  • Compass
  • Map of your area (political and physical)
  • Iodine (for water purification)
  • A good backpack
  • A little wagon
  • A rope ladder (might be useful if you’re in an apartment building)
  • A harness and carabiners (if you’re scaling anything, always stay attached!)
  • Some portable, high nutrient food (for runs)
  • Lots of exercise and working out!

With my handy-dandy guide, you should be on your way to some solid prep work. Always stay vigilant — and if the apocalypse comes, beep me.

Emmie Mears assumes no responsibility if you get yourself dead or fall off your balcony trying to build a rope ladder. Engage in zombie prep at your own risk. If you hurt yourself, it’s not my fault. This is not meant as a comprehensive survival guide, but you’d be silly not to follow it.

Conquering Fear

Oh, hello there, gentle viewers!

What a lovely spring day it is today! The birds are chirping, the kitten is mewing, and the puppy is “roo-roo-rooing.” I also just got the first real night of sleep I’ve had in the past oh, five days or so. All in all, it’s shaping up to be a beautiful day.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about fear. For the last couple weeks, I was stalling when it came to finishing my WIP — the third novel of my trilogy. I’d gotten a couple form rejections from agents in regards to the first novel, and I was starting to sense that said first novel wasn’t quite where it needed to be. Thanks to the lovely Julie Kenner, I am now armed with some professional advice and some rather sage opinions for reworking the first few chapters of my book (you know, the ones agents see).

I also got to do something I’d been wanting to do for a while: get outside and have an adventure. Last month, within 24 hours of each other, I found an ad in a magazine about this place and my husband found a Living Social deal involving it. It’s a ropes course through a company called Go Ape, and they just opened a new location about fifteen minutes from where we live. We pounced on the Living Social deal, and on Sunday we took off for the treetops.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I’m rather afraid of heights.

So why, you ask, would I want to go ziplining?

I love adventures. I want to experience a lot of them. Some of them include things that scare me. If I ever want to go to the Amazon or experience tropical regions (or Australia, for that matter), I’ll have to work on my arachnophobia. So what better thing for me to attempt but to conquer my fear of heights?

The first rope ladder set my heart pounding as I climbed up it. I was securely fastened to the rope by my harness in three places, but that didn’t seem to matter to my adrenal glands. When I got to the top I looked down (I know, I know), and I took a couple deep breaths. The first crossing was about 20 feet off the ground over a wire the size of my ring finger. I managed it, and I started feeling pretty elated. The first couple ziplines I just stepped off and let myself drop.

The first moment of real, paralyzing terror I felt was during an obstacle of swinging platforms. Picture five or so wooden swings suspended 30 feet off the ground and having to step from one swinging object to the next. I think the word is yikes.

Using a bit of insight from our Living Social guide, I tried to keep my center of gravity low and keep a lunge position across the platforms. They moved a lot, and I had to move slowly, holding onto the ropes that they dangled from. I made it without falling in my first big moment of the day.

Oddly, this grin happened right before attempting the most terrifying obstacle I faced. I didn't think it was so scary until I stepped on it and it moved. A lot. See Spouse in the background!

After that, it started to get more fun. I managed to land the next zipline ending without careening onto my arse. And as we neared the end, the obstacles got harder, and my concentration got more focused. I have three things I am enormously proud of — things I never thought I would try, let alone do.

1. I jumped (not fell) off the platform of the last Tarzan swing. There was a significant drop before the harness caught me, but instead of gritting my teeth and edging over the side, I actually jumped into thin air. Maybe I’ll be able to skydive someday after all.

2. I had a rather graceful ending to the final zipline. I have a video to prove it if I can get it up and running.

3. I made it across thirteen squares 40 feet off the ground without holding onto my pulley for balance. These things were set up and secured to wires like an odd rope bridge. There was a gap of about a foot and a half between them. I made it across without using my hands to hold myself up — and they wobbled.

I left Go Ape feeling like I could conquer anything — if someone who is afraid of heights and feels a little faint at the thought of being up a tree that tall can cross a wobbly string of platforms with no hands and no harness tension, anything can happen.

With that feeling in mind, it’s time for me to put aside book three and my April 15th deadline and start another revision on book one.

Wish me monsters.

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