Author Archives: sandopolis

Goodnight, Mr. Romero

Zombie legends may have been around since the dawn of storytelling, but George Romero reinvented the creatures and catapulted them to monster superstardom many decades ago. Romero’s zombies are now the “classic” undead, and any of us who create or escape into zombie fiction owe a substantial debt to Mr. Romero (whether or not our preferred zombies are tools for satire or political criticism). He died in his sleep this week, at age seventy-seven—a fitting end to a man who caused so many of us sleepless nights.

Fear is a funny thing, quite often entertaining when we know our physical safety isn’t actually being threatened—just consider the popularity of scary movies, Stephen King, and adrenaline-pumping amusement park rides (well, those actually can be physically dangerous). Kids like to tell each other urban legends about ghosts and murderers, and they like to play practical jokes that will startle unsuspecting victims. All-in-all, fear mongering seems to be a pretty universal attribute (which explains a bit about present day politics), as is the afterglow of surviving a fright. Dealing with manufactured fear helps us prepare for facing the real thing, and there is never a shortage of truly scary things to worry about in the real world.

Writing Zombie Crusade allows us to create an alternate universe where hordes of voracious monsters threaten to consume humanity. Our creatures may (purposely) get mislabeled as zombies (thank you, George Romero), but the overall appeal of horror and apocalyptic fiction, as rebooted by Night of the Living Dead, will continue to inspire us and thousands like us.

George A. Romero, you will be misssed.

Giveaway Winners

Congrats to dorksdom and Autumn–winners of autographed copies of the first two novels in the ZC series. Thanks to everyone who entered–some of you had some awfully nice things to say about our books (if we win the lottery, or if Tours becomes a blockbuster movie, we’ll be sure to send autographed books to everybody who entered our first zombie blog contest). We had to substitute an old basket for the suspiciously missing plastic Halloween bucket, but here’s a  photo of the drawing as promised:

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Zombie Crawl 3! Giveaway! Part II!

So we wanted to share some of the fun we had at Fort Wayne’s Fantasticon this weekend and remind everyone about the ongoing Zombie Crawl giveaway.

First, a pic from our first “con” event–of all the monsters, mutants, and other creatures roaming the venue, our grandson was scared of this guy:DSCF3276.JPG

Our neighbor-table was a couple of young, amazing artists. Our sixth grader won a copy of the adorable ghost butt cartoon you can check out at karlicartoons.com

All in all, the weekend was a huge success, though we probably lost money overall. The vendors across from us, owners of Dragons Nest Unlimited, were the nicest people on the planet (which shouldn’t be surprising since they sell board games – we purchased our first Christmas present for this year from their booth).

As for the Zombie Blog Crawl (the blog “party” hosted by Band of Dystopian), we’ve had a couple entries to date. To enter our zombie crawl giveaway, email us at writevohs@earthlink.net with the label “zcbloggiveaway” in the subject line. All entered emails will be collected in an old plastic Halloween bucket, and our 11-year-old (likely wearing a batman mask) will draw the two winners on October 31st. We’ll take pictures and post the process.

A little redundancy isn’t a bad thing, so here is how the Zombie Crawl works:
Each day, the scheduled authors and bloggers will post awesome zombie-tastic content for your enjoyment along with a giveaway on their site/blog/page. You can hop around to all of the participating sites and enter as many giveaways as you like.
The easiest way to make sure you don’t miss a post is to join the Facebook event page where links are posted each time an author or blogger participates on their scheduled day.  https://www.facebook.com/events/1943815195845479/.
There are also have several flash giveaways on the event page as well as a grand prize giveaway on Band of Dystopian’s main page (http://www.bandofdystopian.com).
Happy Halloween!

 

 

Zombie Crawl 3! Giveaway!

Happy Halloween-we recently discovered the Zombie Blog Crawl, a “party” of sorts, hosted by Band of Dystopian. ZOMBIE CRAWL is an annual event where authors and bloggers post zombie-related content along with giveaways to celebrate zombie season. The Zombie Crusade series didn’t want to be left out of this z-holiday event, so we’re giving away two sets of autographed copies of the first two books in the series. To enter our giveaway, email us at writevohs@earthlink.net with the label “zcbloggiveaway” in the subject line. All entered emails will be collected in an old plastic Halloween bucket, and our 11-year-old (likely wearing a batman mask) will draw the two winners on October 31st. We’ll take pictures and post the process.

This is how the Zombie Crawl works:
Each day, the scheduled authors and bloggers will post awesome zombie-tastic content for your enjoyment along with a giveaway on their site/blog/page. You can hop around to all of the participating sites and enter as many giveaways as you like!
The easiest way to make sure you don’t miss a post is to join the Facebook event page where links are posted each time an author or blogger participates on their scheduled day.  https://www.facebook.com/events/1943815195845479/. There are also have several flash giveaways on the event page as well as a grand prize giveaway on Band of Dystopian’s main page (http://www.bandofdystopian.com).
You can use the schedule below to click through to each site. Make sure to leave comments and interact with the participating sites. Have fun, and thanks for joining the party!
OCTOBER 24 – Monday
OCTOBER 25 – Tuesday
OCTOBER 26 – Wednesday
OCTOBER 27 – Thursday
OCTOBER 28 – Friday
OCTOBER 29 – Saturday
OCTOBER 30 – Sunday
OCTOBER 31 – Monday
Grand Prize Giveaway

This is a weekend of firsts for us–we’re also participating in the Fantasticon in Fort Wayne at the Grand Wayne Center. We set-up our table before heading off to watch our high school senior’s sectional football game (our team won!). The merchandise and artwork that was already on display with only about half the vendors there was unbelievable. Between the Zombie Crawl and Fantasticon, this weekend promises to be the best kind of Halloween fun. It might even make us forget that the Cubs just suffered loss #2 against Cleveland . . .

 

 

 

 

 

A Novel Surprise

In general, I strongly dislike surprises. Now I’ve never won the lottery (although I did get a call from a gentleman with a thick accent who tried to convince me that I’d come in second place in the PCH sweepstakes and all I needed to do was wire a couple hundred dollars to some woman in Kansas to cover the taxes on my winnings in order for my new Cadillac and a giant check to be delivered to my door), though I will admit that it’s hard to win if you never purchase a ticket (don’t think that I’m not a risk taker–I just have basic math skills). So I’m not usually “pleasantly surprised” by the unexpected twists of everyday life. But I’ve been reading a draft screenplay of my first book, Tours (historical fiction focusing on the family of Charles Martel and the Battle of Tours), and even though I have nothing but affection and respect for Sony VP Josh Nadler, the author creating the screenplay, I wasn’t expecting to be riveted. I was expecting to be annoyed by the story line changes necessary to adapt the novel for film. I tend to like to be in charge of my world, and any worlds I create (whether based in history or in my imagination). I’d heard nothing but negative consequences from authors who’d allowed other people creative control over their work (Hemmingway described the situation as one where  the author should, “Drive to the border of California, throw your book over the fence. When they throw the money back over the fence, collect the money and drive home.”) So while there isn’t much money to be collected on my side of the fence (no surprise there), there is a sense of unexpected satisfaction that my first real novel has inspired a screenplay that I am proud to be associated with–even on the first draft. I didn’t see that coming.

Doomed to Repeat

I just saw a Facebook posting that said “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it; those who do know history are doomed to watch others repeat it.” I shared this quote on my own page, and it may be my final commentary on anything of a political/social/economic nature there. Nobody is listening. I have a sneaking suspicion that most people see me as an annoying know-it-all who has no common sense. They may be right. But not this time, this time I know I am right.

I read a speech by Newt Gingrich in which he argues that American Muslims (American citizens who follow the religion of Islam), should be required to take a test to determine if they believe in Sharia. If the answer is yes, then they are to be deported. First of all, even I believe in Shariah. I believe it is the law Muslims are to try their best to follow, and it’s been around since the beginning of the religion. To deny its existence would seem to be on the shady side of insane, so I guess I believe it exists. Secondly, where do we deport American citizens to? Thirdly, isn’t this illegal according to the law (Constitution) our Founders left for us?

Look, I know we are all freaked out by Islamic terror to some degree. I have two sons in the service, and a third may soon join them. They may be in the safest place when it comes to Islamic terror. Where do we go? What do we do? Islamic terror can and does strike innocent people engaging in the most mundane tasks. Why shouldn’t we be a little freaked out about it? At the same time, I KNOW that the Constitution was designed especially for people the majority of citizens want to turn on. Oh, yeah, there have been times when we’ve ignored the Constitution when we were afraid. We locked up suspected Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War, indefinitely. We locked up and/or deported suspected Communist sympathizers in the years following WW I. We forced a quarter-million Americans of Japanese descent into internment (concentration) camps during WW II. We persecuted, and often ruined the professions and lives, of suspected Communist sympathizers following WW II. We did all of these things in violation of the Constitution.

Give America credit, we usually, eventually, make it right. We apologize. We award reparations. We apologize some more. Maybe we let you have casinos on your land. We have a conscience, eventually. I’m sure we’d someday know we overreacted by rounding up and expelling American Muslims (to where?), and we’d feel bad about it. But why do we have to go down this road again? Why are we doomed to repeat? Even worse, why do we so often lash out against non-threats? America is the strongest, most powerful nation on earth. Capitalism works, Democracy works. Our system can survive the Civil War, slavery, Communism, Hitler and Tojo, and the age of McCarthy. We survived 9-11. I’m fairly certain we can survive the minute percentage of American Muslims trying to do us harm. What we can’t survive, forever, is the defenestration of the Constitution.

Perils of Democracy

So I actually wrote a warm and fuzzy piece about kittens almost a week ago–inspired by the five orphan kittens currently eating us out of house and home. It sat patiently on my desktop, waiting for nothing in particular, until it disappeared into a parallel universe (the same universe that is home to single-socks from my clothes drier). I may even be able to retrieve the ode to kittens with a bit of effort (such as thinking hard about what I named the file), but recent world events have taken my thoughts in a different direction.

Athenians loved Democracy; everybody learned that in school, even if they forgot it. Other Greeks eventually tried to let people (demo) rule (cracy), with varying levels of success. Thebes was mighty powerful for a while—they put paid to the vaunted Spartans, for example. But in the end they died on the battlefield as the Macedonian monarch cut them to pieces. Democracy was mostly a phenomenon discussed by intellectuals for the next two millennia before the American colonists made use of the ancient political system, and eventually fought a revolution to keep the home-grown institution. The world has fallen in love with Democracy since the end of World War II; the majority of the people on our planet are living under democratic government. This is a positive development, isn’t it?

Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes voters vote for people and changes that really aren’t in their best interests. The Greeks did this too. Antiquity’s most famous historians, Herodotus and Thucydides, recorded some events in which Democracy turned out to be downright dangerous. Turns out that some folks are really good at convincing others to believe them, and vote for the changes they are advocating, even when the changes are stunningly ridiculous. The Greeks called those people demagogues. Athenians once voted to kill Socrates for an obviously trumped up charge made by a couple of his enemies. They also voted to execute their greatest military leader, a guy named Alcibiades, as he was leading a massive force against Syracuse. That force was entirely wiped out under the leadership of an idiot, and Athens went on to lose the Peloponnesian War against Sparta and her allies.

Democracy sounds good in theory, but the truth is that voters can do some very stupid things. Google just announced that the two most frequently googled questions in England today, the day after Britain voted to leave the European Union, were, “What effects will leaving the EU have on Britain,” and, “What is the EU?” The U.S. may elect Donald Trump in November, a man who says outlandish things and makes insane promises. Counties in Appalachia where more than ninety percent of citizens are on government assistance vote overwhelmingly Republican, the party always promising to cut government spending on the very programs these people are taking advantage of. In short, “the people” sometimes prove themselves to be poor judges of what’s actually in their best interest.

The Founding Fathers knew this was true, so they gave us a representative Democracy, also called a republic. They put the Electoral College in place to try to prevent the people from electing a dangerous person for president. Nevertheless, yesterday the British leadership allowed the people to decide if they should leave the European Union or stay. The question was incredibly simple, while the issue was insanely complex. Demagogues on both sides spewed their sound-bites and made their speeches, then the people went forth and voted. Parliament should have made the decision. In America, Congress would make a similarly serious decision.

Those Greeks I mentioned in the beginning? The wisest among them believed that the people would be safest with a philosopher-king or a group of guardians groomed for ruling. Of course, those ideas aren’t practical; even if you find people who can handle such power in a benevolent manner, history shows that there are very few such people in the world. I guess we’re stuck with Democracy. Sometimes we elect an Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill; sometimes we elect an Adolph Hitler or Neville Chamberlain. Sometimes, somebody decides to offer up some sort of referendum to the people. Usually, referendums concern a school funding plan or a neighborhood park. That’s about as far as direct Democracy should go. As always, this is just my opinion.

Summertime Resolutions

Honestly, I know it’s not the thought that counts. It’s the time, attention, and action that count—making a sincere declaration with no follow-through is worse than avoiding the issue altogether. In my household, we are masters of good intentions; I’d like to believe that we’re genuinely decent and trustworthy folks who are just easily distracted (I mean, we are bottle-feeding six orphan kittens right now), but we really need to work on making and sticking to some long-term goals.

For those of us whose Januarys consist of darkness, cold, and snow, New Years is an awful time to make a significant, behavior-changing resolution. Just getting out of bed on a cold mid-January morning should be considered a major life achievement, and I shouldn’t have to worry about getting my butt to the gym or not having dessert when I deserve to be rewarded for stumbling into a dark and freezing kitchen to push the coffee pot’s “on” button while the rest of my household is still resting peacefully.

Anyway, we are a house full of teachers and students. Summer is our season of freedom and opportunity. So from now on, every June I will make a summer resolution (even if I’m no longer bound by a traditional high school teacher’s schedule). And I will follow-through with that resolution.

It has been pointed out to me that writing my resolution down in a very public way will help keep me focused on my commitment, so what better first resolution for a writer trying to conquer ADD (or is it ADHD now?) than a resolution focused on writing? So here it is: I’m going to update this blog every week through the end of summer. I might even write more than one per week, but my goal is at least one. And I fully expect my family members and friends who’ve been bugging me about sharing my thoughts about life and liberty in a more public forum to read what they have wrought. You know who you are.

So this has been the first installment. Next topic:  kittens.

Indiana is America

Except for the years between 1983 and 1987, when the U.S. Army sent me to all types of delightful locales, I have lived in Indiana my entire life. From the rocky beaches of the Arctic Ocean to Hawaii’s bays and North Shore in winter, I have experienced some of our planet’s most beautiful landscapes. But for me, Hoosier born and bred, nothing beats an October full moon rising over ripe fields awaiting harvest. Nights spent slowly driving country roads in the heat of the summer, listening to classic rock and smelling the humid corn growing tall, are seared into my brain, providing eternal links to a thousand great memories that I will carry with me forever.

Indiana is Little League and pick-up trucks, grandparents honking their horns as they sit outside the fences to escape the hard bleachers and bugs, the sound of their excitement piercing the warm evening air as kids run to stretch doubles into triples. Indiana is cold November mornings spent shivering in deer stands, young hunters praying for a trophy while the old folks dream of the warm bed they’ve left behind to accompany their children and grandchildren in the chase for elusive whitetails. Indiana is the breakfast restaurant, a place that closes after the lunch hour, but nobody minds because the biscuits and gravy are a bit of heaven and you’ve seen a score of friends before drinking your second cup of coffee.

Indiana is pitching in to help strangers change a flat tire without asking about their sexual orientation. Indiana is coming home to find bags of groceries just inside your unlocked front door a few days after your mom or dad gets a seasonal layoff notice down at the shop. Indiana is people considerate and kind enough to buy and deliver those groceries, and nobody asks what happens in your bedroom before they bring them over.

There are bigots in Indiana, but not very many, not anymore. We’ve labored beside too many people called minorities who work their butts off and follow the rules like we do to believe you can label entire groups. We’ve seen too many people with our own cultural traits descend into abuse and poverty, seemingly content to rotate from welfare to prison and back again. We know we are living in the 21st Century. We have the internet and Smart Phones, although those phones sure seem to encourage some of our fellow Hoosiers to do stupid things like sending pictures of their private parts to their friends, and sometimes strangers. New York has Anthony Wiener, we have Bubba Junk.

So, yes, sometimes it can be embarrassing to be from Indiana, mainly when our elected representatives do incredibly stupid things. Having the lowest voter turnout in the nation for the 2014 election cycle is a legitimate cause for Hoosier shame. But Indiana is a beautiful place, mostly populated by genuinely nice people. Our current state politicians may have little regard for the will of Indiana’s citizens (obvious case-in-point: Glenda Ritz), but, fortunately, time marches on.

Our Disturbing Zeitgeist

As a history major in college I always loved the word, “Zeitgeist,” which my professors explained as meaning, “The Spirit of the Times.” Understanding the zeitgeist surrounding historical events is critical to any attempt to interpret history as objectively as possible. But recently I’ve been trying to figure out the current zeitgeist. I once heard that when Dwight Eisenhower was asked by a reporter after VE-Day to explain what World War Two meant to mankind, he told his questioner to, “Wait fifty years and see.” Whether true or not, I love the logic behind this statement. Every day, all day, we hear people on news and commentary programs across the nation giving us their opinion on what is happening, and why. Often, they present their opinions as fact, usually claiming to be the one true source of information available to their audience. But some of these people have now been spouting off for decades, and we have the luxury of examining their claims and predictions against what we now know. Sometimes they were right, and sometimes they were wrong, but nobody was right about everything. My point is that trying to identify the current zeitgeist in any society is difficult to do.

Nevertheless, I’m going to try to do just that, and if I’m going to attempt to offer my opinion as fact concerning our current zeitgeist, I’m going to use a serious subject: our obsession with vampires and zombies. Now, the vampire is an ancient creature, found in mankind’s earliest writings in one form or another. Prior to a few decades ago, vampires were always predatory monsters to be killed as quickly as possible. These days, not so much. Nowadays, vampires tend to be highly cultured, benevolent creatures, eager to engage with humans in nearly every way imaginable, especially as a romantic interest and/or protector. What’s up with that? How did a man-eating monster with a 5,000 year history of blood-drinking morph into our friend so quickly? And zombies…fifty years ago most people didn’t even know what a zombie was. Judging from the hundreds of manifestations with which zombies have been presented to eager audiences over the past forty or so years, we still don’t know exactly what a zombie is. However, one characteristic is usually present in every type of zombie we see in film and print: flesh-eating. Zombies eat humans, usually by dragging them to the ground and starting to gnaw on them while they’re still alive. That’s not cool.

Still, zombies are popular, very popular. A few books and films have tried to present thinking zombies, creatures that living humans should feel sympathy for and stop trying to kill as soon as we see them. These efforts haven’t met with much success, especially when compared with the stories of humans surviving the zombie apocalypse. In short, we like our zombies being killed by heroic humans capable of making consistent head-shots with all types of weapons. The zombies are scary, and sometimes deadly, but small groups of resilient humans usually find ways to overcome the monsters and go on with life. So what does all this mean concerning our zeitgeist?

I think maybe we’re worried that monsters are real. Maybe they aren’t the monsters of lore, but still pose an existential threat to humanity. Our monsters are global warming, climate change, dwindling resources, natural disasters, economic depression, even Monsanto. We humans living in the second decade of the 21st Century are afraid, even if the fears are hidden deep inside our subconscious minds, our collective soul. So how do we cope with that fear? Well, we make the monster not so scary, friendly and helpful even. Why should we be afraid of Edward and Bella? And if we can’t stop the monster from bringing about an apocalypse, then we create groups of ordinary people who discover that they are heroic and quite capable of surviving the disaster. I mean, Rick Grimes and his crew on The Walking Dead were all just ordinary humans until the zombies came, and now they are more than survivors: they are conquerors.

There you have it: the current zeitgeist all neat and tidy. We know monsters are real, and suspect that their day is coming. Perhaps coming very soon. But, the monsters will either turn out to be fascinating creatures who love us, or stumbling, mindless flesh-eaters we can stop if we are smart and tough. I think I understand why we are engaging in this kind of behavior: it’s a survival mechanism. I mean, if we had to constantly live with the indisputable fact that our globe was warming, sea levels rising, weather going haywire, ever increasing demand for ever decreasing resources such as oil and food, we would be out of our minds with fright. Heck, most of our people would need to be on drugs for anxiety and depression, or even panic attacks. No, we’re definitely better off with vampires and zombies playing major roles in our zeitgeist. Dont’cha think?