Saturday, November 26, 2011

Post-(vegetarian)-Thanksgiving report

I'm on Day Three of a Five-Day Weekend, partially due to Thanksgiving and partially because we're taking Brenda to the hospital on Monday for the first of a new-for-us treatment for her rheumatoid arthritis. We did the Thanksgiving Day meal, the connecting with friends and family via phone, text messaging and XBOX Video Kinect (although XBOX failed us last night for any kind of connecting-with-friends - curses!), the watching the online deals for whatever we just can't live without (didn't find much outside of a killer deal on AA batteries), and our ACTUAL weekend begins today with the normal "weekend stuff" we normally do.

I want to take a moment to talk about our Thanksgiving Day meal. We're vegetarians, and Brenda has developed an intolerance for gluten (it messes with her RA quite a bit), so we get the normal ribbing and joking from friends and family around this time of year about what we can or can't eat.

We do just fine. We're not losing out. You're not "winning" over what we do. We do our own thing and we're good.

Before we became vegetarians, we did the turkey-at-Thanksgiving thing. And it was fine. Except for the clean-up. Man, that part SUCKED. And because we have no family in the Pacific Northwest and all our friends had their own family-things going on, we typically had too many leftovers. I always hated to let it happen, but we had food go bad in the refrigerator. We were wasteful people.

We've been vegetarians for going on eight years now (it was a journey as we still ate the occasional seafood, but I'm no longer even pescatarian at this point), and we've settled into a decent groove for these big holiday meals at home. We don't have to buy a turkey and spend all day preparing and cooking it. We don't have to deal with the cost, time and headache involved in buying all the fixin's needed for the big turkey/ham/turducken/whatgever. For those who might miss the hours spent in the kitchen cooking up all the traditional "stuff," maybe that's something they'd miss. We don't. We spend a couple hours getting the pumpkin pies, the garlic mashed potatoes, the green bean casserole (made with gluten-free soup!) and all the rest ready, and that's it.

We do pick up a Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Croute from the Field Roast Grain Meat Company, and that just needs some thawing and baking time, but that can happen while we're getting the pecan pie mixture ready to go.

The foods great. The clean-up is easy. There are leftovers (the Field Roast makes a yummy breakfast!). And we're good.

We (also) win.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Well, at least I TRIED something different

I tried something different this time around. I got it in my head that I was going to outline my work-in-progress - a novella I was hoping would clock in around 40,000 words. This WIP is the longest piece I've attempted in a long time, and I wanted to approach it with a detailed outline, breaking down each chapter, plotting the hell out of the story before sitting down to write Word One.

It took me writing and then completely jettisoning Chapter One, and then just letting the prose take me where it would go without my trying to force it to show me that this technique just isn't going to work for me.

For a brief moment, I felt overwhelmed. I've got a 40,000-word piece and now I don't have a road map! I have three main characters I know fairly well, a working title, and a basic set up in mind, but now the story could go anywhere whether I want it to or not.

That moment of panic is gone. Now? I'm having a LOT of fun just spending time with these characters and enjoying what they're doing, saying, feeling, etc.

Do I think this piece will end up 40,000 words? I don't know. I know it will be longer than a short story, and not as long as a novel, so technically, it's still going to be a "novella," right?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Throwing Down the Words - An Interview with Edward J. Russell

When I first met writer Edward J. Russell, I knew him as "Lord Dward," one of the co-hosts of the podcast Plan Nine From Cyberspace. He's since retired from podcast production, and in early 2011, he released his first novel The Dead Infested: Second Bane. (And if you ever meet him at a con, you'll have to ask him about Golden Corral.)

Plan D:We're about to meet Edward-J.-Russell-the-writer. Before that, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Edward J. Russell: My background? Well, I was born and raised in Indiana, and joined the Army straight out of high school. In fact I left for basic training four days after graduation. I some how lucked out and spent most of my time in the Army stationed in Florida and Hawaii. When I left the service, I lived in Arizona for a few years before feeling the call to come back home to Indiana.

D: What led you to first put pen-to-paper or fingers-to-keyboard?

E: Dissatisfaction with some of the things I was reading. I read constantly as a kid and while I am a slow reader, I have devoured tons of books. Early on in school, I enjoyed making up my own stories, most of which ended up with the main misunderstood character getting the girl. Mainly I just have that inner need to create and that is something that builds up and has to be let out from time to time.

D: Describe The Dead Infested: Second Bane.

E: Second Bane is the poorly-titled first book in a trilogy that follows the struggles of various survivors trying to cope in a world where the zombies have taken the upper hand. I skipped right past the outbreak and initial fight for survival, and focused on a few groups or factions and how they try to maintain some sense of traditional society in a world where law and order no longer exist.

D: Why zombies?

E: Because zombies are so much more fun to play with. You have a little more freedom to make your own rules without just instantly turning off the readers. I like zombies because they are an all over menace that can function any time of day in almost any habitat, yet it still remains plausible that pockets of humanity could still survive. To me, you cannot really have that with mass numbers of vampires or even werewolves.

D: What is your zombie background? Favorite books or stories? Favorite movies?

E: I started with Night of the Living Dead, which was shown countless times as a Friday night or Saturday afternoon monster movie and I still enjoy that movie to this day. I still love Return of the Living Dead along with Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. Book-wise, I have found something to enjoy in just about every zombie book I have read. I really enjoyed David Wellington's series and I am currently getting a kick out of John A. Allen's Fried Green Zombies and Tony Faville's Avery Nolan: Private Dick of the Dead. (D: We just interviewed Tony Faville here.)

D: How have these favorites influenced your writing?

E: That's a little harder to say. I am certain that there has been influence but not sure I would recognize it.

D: You're an independent author. What lessons have you learned producing your book and making it available for purchase?

E: Writing the book is the fun and easy part. The difficult part is getting people to notice and, with luck, read the book. As you know there is so much media out there that books are competing with that getting anyone's attention takes a lot of work and time.

D: You've also sold your book at conventions. How has this experience been?

E: For the most part that is a lot of fun, although you have to be prepared for a lot of rejection. Most people are very nice and some will take a few minutes to look at the book but no one comes to a convention to see me. They are there to see the celebs and icons they are already familar with so if they stop and say, "Hi," to me, I count that as a win.

D: What is the strangest reaction you've had to The Dead Infested: Second Bane?

E: A lady bought my book at a HorrorHound Weekend, and then came to my table at the Days of the Dead convention later that year and told me her son loved the book. She told me it was his favorite and he even wrote a book report about that. That made my day!

D: What are you currently reading?

E: In addition to Avery Nolan: Private Dick of the Dead and Fried Green Zombies, I'm reading Scott Sigler's The Starter.

D: And what's next for you writing-wise?

E: I have two projects I am bouncing back and forth between. One is the second book in the Dead Infested series and the other is more of a young adult zombie book that I am trying to make more funny than scary.

The Dead Infested: Second Bane is available online in both print and e-format by going to the book's website at The Dead Infested: Second Bane also has a Facebook page. The Dead Infested: Second Bane can also be found at/ordered through some traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores. (Edward can sometimes be found at Golden Corral restaurant.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Thursday Thirteen: Non-Horror Movies

The Thursday Thirteen is a recurring feature here at Plan D in which I post a list of 13 items/movies/books/etc. of any given category. The category this time around? I'm known as a "horror-and-zombie guy" in the podosphere/blogosphere, so I thought it would be interesting to post My Top 13 Non-Horror Movies (in no particular order).

Raiders of the Lost Ark (dir. Steven Spielberg)

Matinee (dir. Joe Dante)

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (dir. W. D. Richter)

The Thin Man (dir. W. S. Van Dyke)

Double Indemnity (dir. Billy Wilder)

Winchester '73 (dir. Anthony Mann)

North by Northwest (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

Back to the Future (dir. Robert Zemeckis)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (dir. Steven Spielberg)

Big Trouble in Little China (dir. John Carpenter)

Conan the Barbarian (1982) (dir. John Milius)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (dir. Nicholas Meyer)

The Whole Wide World (dir. Dan Ireland)

(Have a suggestion for a future topic of The Thursday Thirteen? Email me at . . . )

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Post-Halloween glow

It's been about a week since Halloween, and I'm still holding on to that Halloween glow. Christmas sales commercials have started popping up on TV; Christmas ads have slowly been making their way to my mailbox, but I'm not ready to give it up. I'm still listening to horror music on my iPod all day. I'm still eating Franken Berry and I still have monster "stuff" up on my desk at work. (Granted, this is typically how I live my life anyway, but still . . . )

Halloween this year was different for me. I haven't dressed up in costume and make-up for work for the past few years (ever since they stopped doing the costume contest . . . ), and last year, I didn't touch the make-up at all. I missed it a little, but I'm sure Brenda was happy to not have fake blood staining the bathroom and/or kitchen sink for once! This year, I didn't make myself up either, but I did play with liquid latex and the trimmings when I helped Brenda's 12 co-workers dress up as zombies for their work Halloween celebration/costume contest.

It's been a long time since I've made up other people, and while I don't know if I'm 100% satisfied with the results of my own work, Brenda's team won, and we all had a good time, so I'll chalk that up as a "win!" (When I mentioned this on Twitter & Facebook, some folks asked for pictures, but as I don't really know a lot of Brenda's co-workers, I didn't think it was appropriate for me to just start posting pictures of them, so no pics, but I swear, it DID happen . . . !)

The Saturday before Halloween, Brenda and I went to a Halloween party hosted by one of her co-workers. I DID dress up for this party, and it was the first time in YEARS that I dressed up as something non-horror.

(Tangent time. Here's the thing - I've been against dressing up as something non-horror for Halloween for YEARS. I wish I still had it, but I have strong memories of writing an essay in grade school - it would have been when I was living in Great Falls, MT, so it would have been sometime between 2nd and 5th Grade - in which I railed against little girls dressing up as princesses for Halloween. I wrote that Halloween should be about celebrating the monsters, namedropping Lugosi, Chaney and Karloff, and that dressing up as cute or fun is somehow against the idea of Halloween. I was, apparently, a know-it-all brat of a kid . . . once . . . anyway . . . )

This party had a theme of "historical figures," so Bren and I came up with the idea of dressing up as Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan (respectively - don't be silly). We put her in a flight suit, a flight cap and a pair of goggles, and since all the pictures we could find of Noonan were pretty much just him in a dark shirt and tie, I got off easy costume-wise.

While I've softened a bit over the years, I still think that you can have a theme party or masquerade party any time of the year, so let Halloween be about the dark and spooky (dress up as your princesses, your nurses, your medieval whatever, your pirates, your superheroes, your Transformers, your whatever any other time of the year for any other theme party!); I was happy when one of the themes of this group's Halloween party next year will be "Horror" ("Heavy Metal" was also picked as an accompanying theme, but I think everyone knows how I'm going to approach our costumes for that party!).

Back to Halloween day itself - after spending a few hours at Brenda's work making sure everyone was happy with their make-up, I came home, cleaned up and watched Scars of Dracula. I had a few other movies picked out to watch afterward for an at-home movie marathon, but ended up writing instead, which was just fine. I picked up Brenda from work later that day, after she got cleaned up, she agreed to watch a horror flick with me, so we saw Paranormal Activity 3.


Then we caught up on "American Horror Story."

Ummm . . . still working through all my thoughts on that one.

And that was Halloween.

All in all, it was a good Halloween for me. Next year, I'm looking forward to dressing up proper, though, and I've got some ideas for some things . . . not just for that Heavy Metal and/or Horror theme party, but overall. I don't know if I'll come into work dressed up or not, or if I'll take that whole day off again, but I definitely want to get the liquid latex out and get to work. (And, yes, I have plenty of leftover liquid latex from the zombie-work I did at Brenda's job . . . !)

Friday, November 4, 2011

An Open Letter to General Mills

Every October, I make a point of going to the grocery store more often than any other month. My household stocks up on Halloween candy and Halloween decorations, but when I go to my local Safeway, Albertson's or Target, I spend more time in the cereal aisle than anywhere else because this is the time of year during which I stock up on Franken Berry, Count Chocula and Boo Berry (not necessarily in that order).

As a horror and monster movie fan, these cereals appeal to more than just my taste buds, and I'm used to stocking up on the cereal during the Halloween season. I understand the economics involved in producing and distributing a monster-themed cereal year-round, and this loading-up-my-cupboards-with-Franken-Berry has become a yearly tradition. I'm not asking you to make the cereal available year-round.

Instead, I'd like to propose something else.


Mountain Dew. Taco Flavor Doritos. These two products are also in my cupboards now, even though they weren't regularly as recently as five years ago even though I used to consume these items when I was younger (probably more than my parents would have liked!). Part of the appeal in these retro products for me now is the packaging; there's something comforting about the retro design of the Taco Flavor Doritoes that probably has driven me to buy these tortilla chips more than anything else.

Within the monster fan community, your three monster cereal mascots are iconic (and even Fruit Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy have been given life as bobblehead figures), and while there are licensed products (like the aforementioned bobbleheads) featuring these characters, the cereal boxes themselves are, to be blunt, somewhat dull. They disappear on the shelf with other brightly colored cereal packages and speak nothing to their place in both pop culture and cereal history. (Count Chocula was the first chocolate cereal with chocolate bits and Boo Berry was sold as the first blueberry-flavored cereal.)

Fans of Quaker Oats' Cap'n Crunch have had the opportunity to enjoy retro packaging of the cereal or even buy a retro-style adult t-shirt. These products are clearly aimed at adults, and it is the adults that would make creating retro-style packaging for General Mills' monster cereals a success.

Please, General Mills, consider making this fan of your cereal even more of a fan next year. Create retro boxes for your monster cereals, and not only will monster cereal fans stock up on the cereal to eat until the following Halloween, but we'll stock up on these collectible boxes.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm about to finish off a box of Franken Berry.


Derek M. Koch

(PS - Any thoughts about a Limited Edition run of Fruit Brute or Fruity Yummy Mummy in the retro style?)