Thrice a Zombie Weapon…

Zombie Apocalypse: Thrice a Zombie Weapon…

Ever wonder what authors would do in the case of a zombie apocalypse? For the next several weeks, I’ll be posting the answers to that question on my blog…

This week, author Sylvia Gunnery weighs in on her zombie apocalypse survival plan. And she does so as a story! Sylvia is one of the authors I’ll be doing workshops with at the SD73 Young Authors’ Conference in Kamloops on May 4th.

 

Zombie Apocalypse Challenge

It’s midnight (of course). The wicked winter wind howls around the corners of my house and the angry Atlantic Ocean pounds against the rugged shoreline. Salty spray is hurled at the trembling windows. All dire warnings. But is anybody listening?

Snow swirls out of the darkness like desperate, lost ghosts.

Or zombies.

A sudden knock sounds on the front door. Eerie. Eager. Then again.

Through the frosted window I think I see, in the dangerous darkness, a crowd (more of a small collection, than a crowd, actually) of desperate zombies, huddled helplessly together. They plead with undead eyes for me to let them come in out of the apocalyptic storm. The winter nor’easter, my first weapon, has grabbed the zombie spirits by their fleshy (er..I mean…) creepy throats. They are already faltering in their gruesome intentions!

But the zombies are not yet conquered. (Of course not.)

My second weapon is ready.

I open the door. Zachery (I already know his name because I’m the one writing this scene) stands at the head of this zombie collection. He’s the one who came up with the brainy (yummmmm) idea to appear at Crescent Beach on this winter-storm night. Zachery nods to his nearly dead followers. Like a group of ten-year-olds at Hallowe’en, they crowd into my porch. I close the door against the wild wind and frigid, foreboding night.

Grey eyes stare out of decayed faces. Grey and blistered lips curl across pointed and purposeful teeth.

“Hu…” I stop myself (before it’s too late) from asking if anyone’s hungry.

“Thi…” I stop myself (before it’s too late) from asking if anyone’s thirsty.

My second weapon has begun to work its magic. Silent. Invisible. It oozes into their brittle zombie bones. Finally, their grey and gruesome zombie thoughts slowly begin to melt away in the warmth of the fire in the wood stove. (Note: slowly begin to melt away.) It’s not over yet!

I have one more weapon left! (Three is always a good number in story structure–you know, like three wishes, or three little pigs, or three blind mice. Or, in this scene, three zombie-conquering weapons.)

With my third weapon, I will turn this boney band of beleaguered bodies into a calm collection of curious creatures!

“Sit down, everyone. Make yourselves comfortable,” I say. “Do I have a story for you!”

It was a dark and stormy night…

About the author…

Sylvia Gunnery first took herself seriously as a writer when she attended the five-week Banff Centre writing session in 1976 under the instruction of W.O. Mitchell, Alice Munro, and others. Since then she has published over 25 books for teens and children as well as professional resources for teachers of writing. A recipient of a Prime Minister’s Teaching Award, she has presented at conferences, libraries, and schools across Canada.  In 2016, she was honoured with a WFNS Legacy Membership.  Sylvia lives at Crescent Beach, on the South Shore of Nova Scotia.  Her newest YA novel is Road Signs That Say West (Pajama Press 2017).

Zombie Apocalypse: Zombie Escape Artist

Ever wonder what authors would do in the case of a zombie apocalypse? For the next several weeks, I’ll be posting the answers to that question on my blog…

This week, author Karen Spafford-Fitz weighs in on her zombie apocalypse survival plan.

Full disclosure: I have never watched a zombie movie in my life.

I don’t really understand what zombies are, or what they’re capable of doing. So I’m possibly the least qualified person to write about how I’d respond during a Zombie Apocalypse. Nonetheless, I’m surprised by my strength of conviction about how I’d survive such an attack.

First of all, I am NOT a morning person.

In fact, I have been described as [wait for it….] a ZOMBIE in the morning. Doesn’t that already give me an edge? So if the Zombie Apocalypse were to happen in the morning hours—and my odds are 50/50—any zombie warriors would simply assume I was one of them and would pass me by. Because we’re talking zombies—not cannibals, right? (PLEASE tell me zombies aren’t cannibals too. Otherwise, I’m hooped!)

Just in case I’m wrong about the cannibalism thing, I have a second skill that would surely prove invaluable:

I am profoundly directionally-challenged. In fact, the only thing more non-existent than my knowledge of zombies, is my non-existent sense of direction. My daughters even have a rule when travelling with me: “If Mom says to turn left, just turn right and you’ll be fine.” My directional challenges are virtually on the superpower level. I defy anyone to figure out why I just turned left, veered right, hopped over a fence, or made any other directional move. Even I am without explanation for them. I am one-hundred-percent unpredictable and would baffle even the smartest—or the dumbest—zombie going. Take that, Zombo!

If, on the slightest off-chance, neither of the above happened to work, I’d do something else supremely clever. Like, I’d eat a clove of garlic or I’d wear a cross. Because that would work too. Wouldn’t it?

Karen

Karen Spafford-Fitz is the author of three middle-grade and teen novels: Saving Grad, Vanish and Dog Walker. Her two new books, Unity Club (Orca) and Push Back (Lorimer) will be released in fall 2018. Karen lives in Edmonton, Alberta where she anticipates adding “Zombie Escape Artist” to her resumé.

 

Zombie Apocalypse: Saved by Book Characters

Ever wonder what authors would do in the case of a zombie apocalypse? For the next several weeks, I’ll be posting the answers to that question on my blog…

This week, author Cristy Watson weighs in on her zombie apocalypse survival plan.

A few days after James McCann asked me if I would like to join several authors in writing a guest blog post…

…for his new website, I was driving to work early in the morning along Highway 10 on a stretch of road between Cloverdale and Langley. As I came over the crest of the hill, I was thrown off guard by the strangest sight. On the road, close to the white line dividing the two lanes going East, was a workman’s glove. Now you may think that isn’t all that strange. However, the glove was HUGE and it was not lying flat on the ground, but rather, it was propped up, and I swear it looked full, as though there was a hand in it and it was reaching for my car! Of course I swerved, and thankfully, avoided causing an accident, but I was unnerved by what I saw. Was I channelling James and my future blog post to his page, or was this something more sinister, something about which I should be worried?

So far, I have not seen any other signs of a future apocalypse.

But what I spotted that day has definitely put me in the right frame of mind to be prepared for the future, and for writing this blog today. So what skills do I possess to help me, if the end of the world is nigh? Well, my best defence would be to somehow get to Calgary where my sister lives. She is the one person who would know how to defend us. She is an expert in all things related to Zombies. In fact, I phoned her for a little research, and her first response was that I should throw my Rupert Holmes album at the approaching horde. I laughed at her reference to Shaun of the Dead and she took that moment to add that she can think of a number of my albums that could be thrown toward the slow-moving masses of grizzled, hanging flesh. She went on to share other ideas that did not include ruining my record collection. However, none of them seemed to be solutions I could manage.

I have to admit it – I would be in trouble. I am fairly inept when it comes to the necessary skills and knowledge required to survive in a world over-run with Zombies. So, I have decided to look at the characters in my books. Would they fare any better than me? Would they be able to protect me?

In Benched, Taz would probably be my go-to character for support.

He is fast, jumpy and impulsive, but also loyal to his friends. He would rise to defend those he cares about and would literally, run circles around the zombies, but that would only be helpful for so long.

Living Rough has a main character who loves Edgar Allan Poe and is in fact, nicknamed, Poe.

On his own he wouldn’t be much of a threat, but if he could get a hold of The Tell-Tale Heart, he could throw it at the Zombies. That might buy him some time.

My next story with Orca Currents, has a secondary character named Toby, who loves to play Plants vs. Zombies on his iPad. If he were able to access plant arsenal, we’d all be saved! Failing that, I would still be in trouble!

In my latest book with Orca (released January 2019) my MC, Roonie, would be all over this epidemic.

She loves to dance HIP HOP and has all the right moves. She could dance her way out of this. Since I have trouble touching my toes, I might still be in trouble!

Of my three books with Lorimer Sidestreets, only one character comes to mind as being able to help me.

As long as we can find a car with gas, Logan loves street-racing. He’s living on the edge and is reckless enough to get us out of town, running over anything that gets in our way. We won’t have enough gas in the tank to get all the way to Calgary, but since the Rockies are a high climb, hopefully the Zombies won’t have reached that far, yet. And then Sis, the rest is up to you!

In my current WIP called A New Dawn, one of my main characters is a leader of the Winged-People.

Even though her wing is damaged and she can’t fly, her comrades can. I think I would fare well on the back of one of her clansmen! Because all my characters are fictional, my final thoughts on my best skill for surviving a Zombie attack – I don’t have one – so I better turn and run!

 

 

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Dungeons and Dragons and Creative Writing

Over the next few months, I’ll be running workshops that connect Dungeons and Dragons to writing creatively.

Writing Your Story Dungeons and Dragons-style

Whether you write contemporary tales or fantasy epics, the popular game of Dungeons and Dragons can make you a better writer. See how modern writers have been influenced through creating characters, maps, and collaborative storytelling to work through tough plot points!

At the end of this workshop, you’ll have the tools to say goodbye to writer’s block forever and get that novel written and polished.

What does that mean, exactly?

When I was 14 years old, I ran a weekly D&D game with my friends and had to come up with stories–sometimes on the fly. The purpose of D&D is that you have a storyteller, known as the Dungeon Master, who narrates the story to the players. This includes the setting, plot, and non-essential characters. The players are the ones who tell the Dungeon Master what the essential characters do–and as any writer knows, your characters can often screw up your intentions for the plot.

So now, many years later, I have been playing D&D 5th edition as a player and messing up the well-thought out plot my Dungeon Master has created. For the last month, I have been running my own game at the library as storyteller for a group of teens who continuously challenge me as a writer. There has not been a game where the teens haven’t forced me to rewrite the story and to accept the path the characters (whom they play) want to take.

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The teen D&D game uses apps.

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We also use 3D printed characters!

How does this translate into writing?

To create a story as a Dungeon Master, I had to write and create the following things:

(1) A map of the world where the story takes place.
(2) Maps of all the towns the characters may visit.
(3) Histories of the world and of the towns. Plus, of the spaces the characters may travel between towns.
(4) A plot that would get the characters (acted out by the players) to want to go from Point A to Point Z.
(5) Sub-plots that those characters would experience along the way. (Points B to Y.)
(6) Non-essential characters (played out by me) that would challenge the players. Some are friends, some are foes. Some who are friends, turn out to be foes. Some who are thought to be foes, turn out to be friends (the players had quite a bad turn here when they thought they were rescuing a farmer’s daughter from cultists, only to discover they were freeing an evil werewolf’s daughter from a group of warriors and wizards who could have saved her. Notice the past tense there…)
(7) Constant writing and rewriting of the plot week-to-week, and sometimes during the game, when other ideas surface either through the players or through my own ideas.

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The adults also play D&D at my library!

Those seven steps are essentially what it takes to write a book. And I’ve used this technique to write several books of urban fantasy, apocalypse, and contemporary tales.

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Last of these covers for Rancour and One-Eyed King!

I’ve taught workshops before where we played D&D to inspire our stories. I even created my own “Apocalypse Survival” role-playing game for classrooms, which I did for a few years while the apocalypse still seemed like a far-fetched idea.

How about you? Do you use Dungeons and Dragons (or other role-playing games) to inspire your writing? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

James in his Jeep Getting Java – The Penny, Mission

I have a favourite coffee place in Mission, BC. The Penny is an amazing cafe that gives back to its community by supporting an outreach program that offers comfort, relationships, support and food to those in need. (In their words from their site.)

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Walking inside, it seems like any other cafe. Friendly staff, neighbours who greet one another, and plenty of comfy places to sit.

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But there’s something very special about supporting a neighbourhood space that is using its profits to better the situations of those in need.

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This last Christmas while there, a neighbourhood Santa stopped in to greet everyone and offer candy canes. He’s been doing this for 33 years!

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Everyone in the cafe was thrilled.

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I definitely recommend this place if you are ever in Mission. The coffee is great, and they very often have gluten-free treats!

For a theme song, I thought this fit well.

James in his Jeep Getting Java–The Coupeville Edition

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The look on Grinfinn’s face when I grab his collar and my Jeep keys is priceless. He always does this little dance when he knows we’re going for a Jeep ride, and it’s the only time he bolts out the door as fast as his one inch legs can carry him.

This past weekend we travelled to Coupeville, Washington on Whidby Island, a town of approximately 2,000 people. I travel to Whidby Island a lot, and have blogged about it on more than one occasion. The town of Langley is a favourite travel destination that you can read about here. This historic site still has that frontier look from the 1900s when the town incorporated. Its history as a settlement from the 1850s is a fascinating one, and well worth the read.

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Beautiful, friendly, and peaceful, this was the perfect spot to go after a particularly rough week. There is something therapeutic that happens on road trips, kind of an erasing of the emotional cache that leaves me fresh for the following week. As always, Grinfinn was the hit of the town with lots of people stopping to take photos, pet him, and ask what kind of dog he is.

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Grinfinn and I wound up spending our time on a bench overlooking Penn Cove. Thanks to the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, there was free wi-fi so I had a great spot to rest and write. There was also a hot dog stand where I was able to get my lunch.

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I managed to grab a cup of java from the Knead & Feed Bakery before they closed. (They literally locked the door as I entered the building.) They have a great place to sit outside that overlooks the cove, and once while passing through I had stopped for lunch here so I can say the food is delicious.

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During our walk Grinfinn became enamoured by this statue of a dog. It had me laughing out loud, and when others saw what was making me crack up they also laughed.

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My theme song for this post is Dare by Stan Bush. I’ve been digitizing my LP collection at my library, and now this is one of the many songs I have to play on my road trips. It’s from the 1986 Transformers movie.

James in His Jeep Getting Java–Camping, Leavenworth, and Grinfinn! Part Three

It’s taken me some time to write this last part of the trip I took over a month ago. As always happens, life gets in the way, time suddenly disappears, and now I’m probably going to write two or three blog posts of all the things happening right now.

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First, Leavenworth, Washington. Travelling to this town in the Cascade Mountains is a little like going to visit Santa’s village. The town is made up to resemble an old Bavarian village, and oftentimes storefronts will play Christmas music even though it was sunny, nearly 35 C, and the beginning of summer.

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One of the reasons I chose to visit Leavenworth was that it fared well as a “dog-friendly” place on the Bring Fido website. When Grinfinn and I arrived, we took a walk around needing first to find the pet store to pick up some supplies.

A Paw Above was friendly and helpful in getting me Grinfinn’s food and a carrier just in case he needed to rest from the heat and all the walking I was planning to do. Just one note here, is that I had opted not to take dog food with me over the border as I had been told by friends that I wouldn’t be allowed to bring it. I have not been able to find any documentation to suggest that is accurate, and in subsequent border trips I have brought dog food with no trouble.

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Once we were set for supplies, the owner of A Paw Above asked if I wanted a list of dog-friendly restaurants for my stay in town. I said yes, and she provided me with one. This came in very handy (and I won’t reproduce the entire list here, as you really should visit her store for the list if you go to Leavenworth.)

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Leavenworth is not a large town for walking, and the main drag was just a few blocks long. If you’re in the mood for shopping, there are plenty of unique shops and for the foodies there are some delicious places to eat. It only took me a few hours to see that part of Leavenworth, but luckily there is more than just shops.

Below is Grinfinn after being served a bowl of fresh water at our first lunch spot. Uncle Uli’s had a large patio area where Grinfinn and I were able to have some shade and a good meal. I had the burger, and Grinfinn had his kibble. And maybe a french fry or two…

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As I noted above, it got very, very hot during the day and Grinfinn tired out quickly. He did enjoy being carried around in the dog-carrier, and on this trip I found that this was a life-saver.

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The second restaurant I tried, also with a dog-friendly patio, was the Icicle Brewing Company. It was so hot at this point, that I asked for a recommendation and the server suggested a plate of cold cuts, cheese and crackers. It was perfect and delicious.

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The temperature had risen to almost +35C that day, and Grinfinn was really needing a break. There was a “ghost town” nearby that I wanted to check out, so we headed out to Trinidad, WA.

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This is all that is left of the original town. And, unfortunately, it was closed until the weekend so I didn’t get to see inside.

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But the journey there gave Grinfinn a chance to cool down with the Jeep’s air con, which seemed to make him pretty happy.

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The third day, Grinfinn and I headed back on the road to return home. What I haven’t mentioned yet is that I kept seeing signs in Leavenworth for a “water park,” which I had interpreted to mean one of those parks where kids get sprayed with water and swim in a pool. As always happens, I had taken a wrong turn on my way out and wound up driving past the water park–also called Enchantment Park.

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It was still early in the day, so I pulled into the lot and took Grinfinn for a short walk into the wooded area. We sat and enjoyed the early morning air, and wouldn’t you know it I saw a deer swimming in the water!

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At first I thought she was struggling, but then she climbed onto a sandbar and watched me for awhile. After a little bit of her and I assessing each other, she climbed back into the water and swam towards me.

I had mentioned in a previous blog post about Zeke’s Drive-in and how I couldn’t get a meal as the server didn’t understand that my VISA required a PIN for it to work. (She just thought it was declining due to lack of credit.) Well, on the way back I made sure to have cash so that I could try their burger and fries.

Definitely worth the stop as the service is very friendly and the food is great. I do recommend bringing cash if your card requires a PIN. And there is a cat that is very grumpy, a little territorial, and doing just fine so it’s best to just leave it alone.

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This is Angel. The photo is blurry, as that’s as close as I felt comfortable getting.