Tuesday, May 15, 2012

We've Stepped Out for a Moment

The blog is on a break. I'm busy with preparations for the launch of Matriculated Death, the first book in the Undead Bar Association series, on June 20th.

For daily Tasty Tidbits about the supernatural and Texas, follow me on Twitter. @MaryanneWells

New blog entries will start next month, the week before the book launch.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Writing Game: The Poem Shakeup

Ready to play a writing game?

I recently joined the Working Writers group on LinkedIn. A fellow writer, R. Terry, poised an interesting question. For the days when it's hard to get motivated, where does your writing get-up-and-go-come from?

Her question reminded me of a game my creative writing teacher taught me. I described the game to R. Terry, who dubbed it the poem shake-up.  The idea of poem shake-up is to take some of your own work and throw it together with fresh ideas. There's an element of randomness to the process, that keeps you from blocking your own creativity.

Here's how it works

1) Write a poem. It can be about anything.

2) Cut the poem into strips (one line per strip).

3) Grab a news article. If you want inspiration from brave new ideas, pick an article on a subject wildly different from the topic of your poem. R. Terry did this today, to great effect.

If you want a springboard for a finished poem, pick an article that compliments your poem in some way. For the example in this post, I used the second option.

4) Cut up the article, making each piece roughly equal in word length to your poem lines. Make sure the number of article strips equals the poem strips.

5) Pick up all the strips, poem and news, and throw them in the air!

6) Collect the strips off the floor, and arrange them into a single poem.

Outcome

You'll see thematic connections emerge that didn't exist before you threw it all into the air, and individual words will speak to you in new ways.

Example

For the poem from me, I picked one that I wrote for last year's International Talk Like A Pirate Day. You can read the original poem here. The article I chose was pulled at random from the July 2011 Whiskey Magazine. Why a whiskey magazine? Because I couldn't find a rum magazine.

My goal was to have a shakeup that I could turn into a finished poem. Here's the end product:


Nightmare Seas

Water wisps and mist
we wrap around the seven seas

We float around the boats
which are alien to our ways

deep ways.

We slither, sling, and sail.

It's not about enjoyment.
Our job is to be, to think,
To capture
scared whispers, nightmares distilled.
The whiskies we all enjoy.

Coolly analytical, spiritually piratical.
Our abilities hover past your eyes
in a world you'll never see.

Are we base? Are we cruel?

Do we care what you think?

Your pain is our gruel.
It tastes like the space left in time
once your legs rot below the knees,
Oaky and ethereal.

When do you sail?

No answer.

No matter.
We will know. We will see.

And here is the original poem shakeup:

Our captain was a scalawag
It's not about enjoyment
We're grim an ghastly ghoulies
This series is an entry
job it is to be think
either. It is analytical
the whiskies we all enjoy
We float around the boat
which is alien to whiskey
deep way. Their tasting
we sail the seven seas
But when yer needing work
tasters such as distillers
'cause we're nothin' past the knees
The first mate were a fool
the helmsman such an idiot
and blenders whose daily
Aye, we be ghostly pirates
the professional extreme
lovers but the norm for
As frightnen as you please
abilities lie behind
intellectual, a world
he swam in his own drool
that sail the seven seas
oh, we be ghostly pirates
ye go where there be gruel.


And that's an example of how to get inspiration from a good ol' shakeup! Go to it, and have fun!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Obsession with Zombies

Periodically someone will ask me what the deal is with zombies. Why is our culture so obsessed with shambling hordes of undead? When asked, I do my best to explain with abstract examples. No more. I found a great article that illustrates my key point with brutal clarity.

Why zombies? Well, each monster myth represents something, a fear or frustration that torments humanity. Vampires (traditional) represent carnality. Werewolves stand for the primal, uncivilized desires of mankind. Mr. Hyde is the baser part of us we silence, to be able to fit into society. Frankenstein encapsulates the horrors of man playing God. And zombies...well. What a zombie represents depends on when the myth was made. This is true to some extent with all the monsters, but with zombies most of all.

The driving force of a culture determines what the zombies mean. Put another way, the pop culture vehicle that carries the zombies expresses the culture that fueled the idea. In old black and white movies zombies represented demented love, the kind that existed when the villain believed control was needed and emotion should be forced. Zombies have stood for mass consumerism, failures of government, fallacies of science (similar to Frankenstein), and threats from other galaxies.

But why is there so much about zombies in the culture now? What is driving the fascination? I think the key to the answer lies in the comic book series, The Walking Dead. Unlike the vast majority of zombie stories out there, the Walking Dead lexicon doesn't explain what made the zombies. Virus? Government experiment? Radiation? Don't know. The story isn't about what made the zombies. It's about the living and the undead.

To create monsters without a cause is to say that anything could have made the monstrosities. And this idea resonates with the culture, as does the zombie myth, for one reason: as a culture, we don't believe in or trust anything. Schools? No. Journalism? Nope. We have Twitter now. Although we don't really believe in it either, we just use it. Church? Um, no. Government? No.

When you don't believe that anything can protect you or save you, you start to believe that anything can harm you. Anything can turn you into a zombie, and nothing can save you.

It's the sad realization that we believe in nothing, that fuels the zombie myth in our culture today. It's believable, accessible. That's the answer to 'why zombies'.

In the past, I've had a hard time explaining the loss of faith that's growing in our culture. Then I read this article. If you ever wanted a brutal run-down of our crumbling institutions, read this. If you ever have a friend ask you 'why zombies', send them the link. As long as real stories like that of Johnny Whitmire are with us, zombies will stumble through our books and march across our screens.

Until we find something to believe in, the zombies stay...and multiply.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse in 3...2...1...

Have you ever dreamed of becoming a zombie? Not a TV show walk-on or flash mob zombie. A real, true to life zombie. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, your wait is over. And the best part is, you don't have to die to make it happen.

Earlier this month, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia has been testing electromagnetic radiation guns that can target a human's central nervous system. According to this article, previous research has shown that the use of similar radiation can be used to alter psychological states and transmit commands. Ta-da! Zombies. Living dead.

It isn't clear that the Russian gun is advanced to the point that it can transmit commands. To date, it has only been used for crowd control. But if the Russians are looking to do more than just control a crowd, and want to command the dissidents, they should consider playing with this technology. A mobile brain scanner. Imagine, you use the brain scanner to map the future zombie's brain, then use the radiation gun to target the specific region of the brain you need to control. With some fine-tuning of the process, the government could concentrate on behavior modification. Like in the Episode 1, Season 5 episode of the Syfy show Eureka, technology could make us into happy and obedient zombies.

Ah, the joys of science.

The technology is still in the testing stage, and the Russians estimate it will be ten years before they are ready to deploy the gun for military use. But now that the news it out, they won't be the only ones working towards that goal. Forget the Space Race...it's time for the Zombie Race.

Countdown to the Zombie Apocalypse starts now.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Big Announcement

I've got a few things to talk about today. The most important thing first, of course.

On June 20, 2012, the first Undead Bar Association book will be published. It will be an e-book, available through Amazon. The book, titled "Matriculated Death", will contain two novellas: "Black Letter Law" and "Corpus Delicti".

"Black Letter Law" will be familiar to regular readers of this blog. It's the very first story (first on the story event time-line), and the one story that I co-authored with Naomi O'Conners. But don't think that just because you read it here, you know what's going to happen. The story went through a complete re-write. There are new characters, new scenes, and a fiendish twist right at the end. The version that will be published on June 20th is so different from the blog version, that I'm acutally going to leave the original on the blog. Literary geeks and fellow writers, feel free to read both versions and analyze the changes. It's fun.

"Corpus Delicti" is brand new. To balance out the other novella, which features vampires, "Corpus Delicti" is overrun with zombies. The story also answers some long-standing Undead Bar Association questions, like the sad fate of Maryanne's beloved truck.

In preparation for book publication, this blog will be getting a face-lift. I will also partially pull some stories off the blog, in anticipation of re-writing them for publication in later e-books. As mentionned before, "Black Letter Law" will stay in its entirety. So will "Fouburg Fairtale", Naomi O'Conners' tale set in New Orleans. And I'll probably leave "Homesdead" up as it is. For the rest, I'll take down all but the initial episodes, leaving just enough to get a flavor for each story. Blog revisions will take place May 26 and 27; expect a new look on Monday, May 28.

Last piece of news for today: I will be travelling in June, conducting research for the second Undead Bar Association book (which will be published this fall). Look for some research updates and photos on Twitter (@MaryanneWells). You'll be able to get a real feel for book 2 by looking at the photos.

Thank you, everyone, for your support encouragement these past two years. That's right, the blog has been around for almost two years! And several of you were encouraging me to get back into writing before the blog was even imagined. Thank you. Now brace yourself for the next chapter of the UBA adventure. It's gonna be a wild ride!