The Zombie Apocalypse Is Over

I Want You to Stop Writing About ZombiesIt’s October, which is my favorite time of the year. This month has everything: my birthday, falling autumn leaves, crisp cool air, scary movies, ghost stories, costumes, and trick-or-treating. It also means writers like me tend to flex their horror-writing muscles.

This year, I would like to make the following pledge: I will not write any zombie stories. Not now. Not ever.

As a writer, my desire is to find new and compelling stories to tell. Lately, the horror genre has been over-saturated with zombies. And it needs some (wait for it…) fresh blood.

Zombies (like the sparkly vampires before them) have had their moment in the sun. It’s time to lay the undead to rest.

The Rise of Zombies

Until a few short years ago, no one really dared to tap the zombie genre. It was sort of George Romero’s personal playground, and other filmmakers and writers gave it wide berth. Sure, there were some movies (like Sam Raimi’s classic Evil Dead series), but zombies weren’t really a thing. With the advent of video games like Resident Evil and films like 28 Days Later, zombies started shambling—or running—into the mainstream consciousness.

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Banned Books Week 2015

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” —The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America

Banned Books WeekThis week, the American Library Association (ALA) celebrates our freedom to read with Banned Books Week (September 27 – October 3). This annual event challenges Americans to consider their most basic freedom, the Freedom of Speech and Press, and honor the literature that has made an impact on our society.

I first became interested in Banned Books Week back in the early 2000s, when I was working at a university. I didn’t know the first thing about banned or challenged books, but the more I read the more I began to see the complexity of this sensitive subject.

For many people, the idea of banning books seems distant and remote. It conjures images of book burnings during Hitler’s Nazi regime. Yet, the idea hits closer to home. Some wonderful pieces of literature, including Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, and even Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax have been the center of censorship debates in the past.

Since 1990, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has received reports of 9,500 attempts to remove books deemed by some as inappropriate.

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Artist Spotlight: John Anealio

This week I’m starting a new segment that (I hope) will become a regular entry on my blog. Instead of talking about myself or my work, I’m going to talk about someone else whose work has made a difference in my life. It may be a writer, filmmaker, musician, designer, or illustrator. But I promise that these won’t be names you’ve likely heard of, even though they mean a lot to me.

Laser Zombie Robot Love by John Anealio

Laser Zombie Robot Love by John Anealio. Artwork by Len Peralta.

To get this party started, I’m going to talk about John Anealio. Since 2010, John has been co-hosting The Functional Nerds podcast with Patrick Hester. But what introduced me to John was his eclectic style of music.

Trying to categorize John’s music difficult. Some of his songs have an alternative sound, some have an acoustic sound like folk music, others have a pop hook that makes them very memorable.

But no matter the style, it’s John’s lyrics that captivated me. John calls it “nerd music.” I call it inspired.

John writes songs that appeal to the geek in me. His album Laser Zombie Robot Love (and isn’t that the coolest title?), includes beautiful tunes inspired by a “Steampunk Girl,” an “Angry Robot,” and the fact that “George R.R. Martin is Not Your Bitch.”

In each song, John tells a micro-story. And while some are clever or silly, many give a poignant look at the life of a geek. For instance, with “Steampunk Girl,” he tells of a young girl adopting a new fandom and leaving her goth days behind.

“So, she’s putting on her goggles and a bowler hat
She checks her pocket watch, adjusts her rocket pack
She laces up her boots and puts her makeup on
She grabs her leather coat and her Tesla Gun

Cause she used to be a Goth Kid but now she’s a Steampunk Girl”

On his album Seasons Geekings, John writes a sad (but very-relatable) tale in “The Millennium Falcon for Christmas.” As one might imagine, it’s the story of a child obsessed with getting his favorite Star Wars spaceship as a Christmas present in 1979.

“I just wanted the Millennium Falcon for Christmas
and a season full of cheer
I just wanted the Millennium Falcon for Christmas
but I didn’t get it that year”

It could be easy to dismiss his music as novelty songs, the type that Dr. Demento might have played on his radio show back in the day. Yet, John’s music transcends the campy, transforming his words and stories from mere goofiness to heart-felt and beautiful poetry. Whether he’s performing his own songs or covering favorites like “Mr. Roboto” or the “The Transformers Theme,” he always brings something personal and different to the music.

In 2013, John re-directed his creative energy to focus on his podcast. But he still puts out new music now and then. His 2014 Works in Progress, includes the song “Nerds Arguing About Spaceships.” It’s a melancholy tune that belies the playfulness of the lyrics. Even though it’s not yet available as a download, it’s a nice treat to listen to on his site. And hopefully it’s a sign that John’s musical muse is not completely finished with him.

You can find out more about John:

His music:

His podcast: The Functional Nerds

Twitter: @JohnAnealio

February Grace: Life, Love of Disney, and Wishing Cross Station

Wishing Cross Station by February GraceToday, I am pleased to bring you something a little different on my blog. For the first time, I’ve asked another author to take over and share some of her magic with my readers. (Don’t worry, I warned her that there are only three of you.)

I first met February Grace online, through Twitter, as her conversations were often sprinkled with Disney-isms and talk about her first book, Godspeed. I entered a contest to win a copy of that book, and — as luck would have it — I won. Soon we were sharing writing advice, and I became a loyal reader of her blog.

With Wishing Cross Station, her fifth novel, February once again pulls readers into a world of fantasy and romance, but a darker world than in her previous books.

I don’t think there’s much more that I can tell you about February that she doesn’t already cover in the blog post below. So, I’ll shut up now and let her begin…

When author Kevin Wohler accepted my offer of a blog post swap in the month of June to help support the launch of my fifth Booktrope novel Wishing Cross Station, I was thrilled. I looked forward to his response as to what he’d like to see me blog about for this: his very first guest post on his blog.


I’m so honored… but let me tell you… no pressure there, right?

He suggested a wide scope of things that I might write about and a few he would specifically like me cover, and I will try to do the best I can to offer a little bit of both.

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The Post-Convention High

ConQuesT logoI’m high right now. Not on pharmaceuticals or even natural substances. I’m high on a post-convention buzz. This past weekend, I attended ConQuesT, Kansas City’s original science fiction and fantasy convention. And I had such an amazing time.

For those who have never been to a con, or your only reference is the media frenzy called the San Diego ComiCon, ConQuesT is a different beast. Yes, it had its share of big-name writers, including Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn series) and George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones, Wild Cards), and artists, including Nene Thomas. But ConQuesT is a convention for writers and artists, not just the fans.

I spent my weekend attending panels on world-building in fiction, discussions on different books or genres, and other topics of interest to writers. I spent time hanging out with friends (old and new), meeting new contacts, and making new friends. Sure, I also took time to be a bit of a fanboy and get George R.R. Martin’s autograph, but the majority of time I was there as an author.

Wild Cards I, autographed by George R.R. Martin

My autographed edition of Wild Cards I.

They say “dress for the job you want,” and I think that same logic can be applied to the time I spent at the con. For the entire weekend, I was in attendance as an author. My other life — my day job — didn’t exist. I talked to people about the writing craft. We discussed the business of writing. And I told a few interested readers about my upcoming novel.

Yes, I also spent some time having fun. Rachel and I had more than a few drinks with the other writers in the hotel bar. When the wait staff remembered my drink order all weekend, I thought I might be there a little too much. And did I mention that George R.R. Martin was there?

George R.R. Martin and me

I took this picture of me and George R.R. Martin hanging out in the hotel bar. He’s the one on the far right in the distance.

The last time I attended ConQuesT, I think Bill Clinton was still president. At the time, I enjoyed the convention. I bought some artwork in the auction. I picked up a signed copy of a first-edition by one of my favorite authors. And I hung out with some cool people.

Every year since then, I’ve intended to return. But May is a busy month and something usually interfered. Graduations, weddings, confirmations… the list goes on and on. And then there were the years when Memorial Day weekend snuck past and I realized too late I had missed the con again. I will not be making that mistake next year.

And if all goes well, I may also attend MidAmeriCon II, The 74th Annual World Science Fiction Convention. After all, it’ll be in Kansas City.

How could I pass it up?