There is a place for everything and everything has a place. Given today is Monday Mayhem, I can attest that if nothing is in its place, there will be mayhem.
In the past, I’ve written extensively about zombies, The Walking Dead, aliens, the end of the world and other flavors of destruction you might consider chaos for the choosing. I think one of the most interesting subjects is what would happen to this world if all social boundaries no longer existed. What I’m thinking has to do with human interactions. Although I’ve written about the subject in my book Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise, the matter keeps popping up. One can only cover so much in a book before the themes spill into other works, such as this post you’re now reading.
One of the themes I wanted to explore with the book, and related to this subject, pertains to the absolute corruption of the human soul. For example, when people turn into zombies, it is easy to see them as enemies—they see their food ahead, they smell it and they want to eat it.
However, when people are not zombies, and they try to kill the hero, that becomes a more fascinating story. I read somewhere that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. I don’t think that is too far from what I’ve learned when dealing with dark characters in my books. Again, I’ll bring up zombies. With zombies, you can see them coming. They are easy to spot. Humans, though, are tougher.
Of course, not everything is easy to understand. In the film, Edge of Tomorrow, the adversary is simple to find. They’re creatures bent on the destruction of humanity. They will not rest until every human is a grease spot.
The tougher challenger is the one you can’t see coming, or even worse, the one who at first is not an enemy at all. A great example of this is Darth Sidious of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. The term wolf in sheep’s clothing comes to mind when I’m thinking about this particular breed of maleficent.
All right, now you may be wondering what I’m talking about, since I’ve completely deviated from the subject matter. Or have I?
It is my opinion that the corruption of the human soul is the key to a good story. And as I said, it is one of the most fascinating aspects of writing. Not only does it provide a great deal of conflict for the reader, but the theme also provides a remarkable sense of accomplishment for the writer—if done right.
I’m wondering aloud. That’s all. I suppose I’m wondering about evil characters. Are they compelling enough to write a story centered only around them. Do we always need a hero?
Summer movies mean only one thing—aliens. This year it also means dinosaurs rampaging through the theater. Given Jurassic World‘s incredible cash haul at the box office, it’s a wonder anything has survived its carnage. Wouldn’t it be interesting if aliens and dinosaurs battle it out in one movie? I wonder what that would be like? Would you go see it?
For today’s Monday Mayhem, I would like to fantasize for a moment about a movie that I’d love to see at the theater. How does that old writer’s adage go? Oh, yes. A writer writes stuff they’d like to read. In this case, although I’m not a director, a movie I’d like to see would be an all-out battle between aliens and dinosaurs. Wouldn’t that be something?
How would such a movie start?
First, I’d like to see the amped-up dinos from Jurassic World make an appearance. It would only be fitting. Give the aliens ray guns to blast, make the dinosaurs impossible to kill, and what you’d have would be a film filled with intense battles, outstanding special effects and a crazy amount of science fiction to boot. Even more so, would the dinosaurs win if the aliens were the aliens from the movie Aliens? Try saying that fast three times.
The aliens from Aliens have acid for blood. If a dino bites the head off one of the aliens, the beast would surely choke on its own blood. It would be like it had slugged back a carton full of glass. Raw and tender doesn’t even describe the pain the beasts would feel.
How about making the film more fantastic? How about if the aliens were the little green men from another planet like in the movie Mars Attacks!? I’m not sure if the dinos would survive, but at the same time the beasts would have their paws full chasing after the little buggers all over the entire planet.
Since I’m throwing ideas out there to see what sticks, how about a movie that features the creatures from Gremlins? Talk about little annoyances. Remember what the three basic rules are for not producing a gremlin from a mogwai? Here they are
Never get them wet
Never expose them to bright light
And never, ever feed them after midnight
Imagine if you had a pool full of these creatures run after the dinos? I don’t even think velociraptors would be able to survive such an onslaught.
I can’t help myself—one more. How about a movie where Aliens and Gremlins face off in an ultimate death match to see who would go after the dinos?
Why limit it to a handful of velociraptors? Let’s throw a few thousand of these killer animals on an island to go after anything that movies. Oh, wait. I think that was the point of Jurassic Park III.
No matter, it’s always a great way to pass the time imagining about worlds teeming with fantasy.
Not much of a difference exists between zombies and aliens. Zombies want to take over the world by either consuming or assimilating humans into their fold. The typical alien, not the friendly, cuddly type, wants to utilize humans as a resource or change them to become more like them.
Today’s Monday Mayhem question is this: What if we’re all products of an alien experiment gone wrong? What’s to say our future is our own?
Let’s have a look at this world we call Earth and decide for ourselves if this truly is Paradise, or a template for a world beyond ours set in motion in the heavens to populate other planets.
Yet, humans have gone on a binge to pollute the oceans, sanitize the drinking water with chemicals and bottle that which is free. Is it a surprise humans haven’t all grown a third arm by now? Putting it another way, without water we’ll all become zombies, seeking the wet stuff any way we can.
Our Air—Making a mess of our water supply is one thing, but breathing clean air is a miracle. Even the air in Antarctica is seeing a chemical shift that is currently precipitating a breakdown in the precious ozone layer that keeps humans from charring to a cinder. Big industry spews tons of toxins into the sky, destroying migrating bird patterns, and leaving some humans gasping for oxygen.
More can happen by way of regulation, but how far will that go? Some nations could set the controls in place while other nations would scoff at them.
Our Soil—At its current state, Earth is one big garbage dump. The day after every Christmas, city streets become a shrine to non-recyclable wrap and packaging. Every ballgame produces enough trash to fill truckloads of waste that will have no home other than Earth’s ocean floor. Landfills have become as common as gulf courses. How soon will it be before a major environmental catastrophe hits humanity? Will it change those who have decided the earth is a temporary abode resting between celestial bodies only to fulfill humanity’s inclination to self-destruct?
The zombie need to replenish outweighs the needs of the few. Without water, air and soil, is it a wonder a zombie apocalypse will be inevitable?
More to the point, with all that humanity has done to improve that which it has under its domain, why aren’t aliens knocking on our door to adopt us as a future generation for planets of which they have ownership?
Tomorrow, my second book in the Ranger Martin series releases. That sentence makes it sound as if something’s about to escape the San Diego Zoo. From what I know, literature doesn’t eat people. At least I don’t think it does. So I wouldn’t worry about wild books named Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion running rampant in the streets. It’s just not going to happen—although you may encounter a slightly crazed author attempting to sell you his novel. And I use the word “attempting” in the loosest of terms because half the time, I have no clue what I’m doing.
I mean, I’d rather drive around aimlessly than spare myself the embarrassment of asking for directions. That’s how one year my family and I made it through Maine to Nova Scotia. How else do you think I’ve survived this long? I’m sure others are the same way. Same goes for bland theater popcorn. The idea of rising from my comfortable seat, knocking knees with the folks blocking the aisle all in a bid to get extra butter at the concession stand sounds like a lot of work to me. Instead, I’ll sit quietly never really knowing that I could have had more flavor for my snack during scenes of the latest Transformers film.
I’m not very good talking about myself either. I’m terrible at it. I have a Facebook page and Twitter account, and I post stuff on there, but I don’t like being intrusive. Trust me, I could do better with these days I have to talk about my book. It’s something that does not come naturally and takes me forever to come up with words that wouldn’t make me sound like I’m bragging. Because that’s what I don’t want to do—sound like I’m bragging.
For this reason, I’m dedicating this Monday Mayhem post to my Review Team. These folks volunteered their time and energy to read Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion in order not only to provide me feedback, but also to give potential readers an honest opinion. It’s best hearing what they have to say than for me to open my mouth so you can watch my brains fall out.
Rhyanna’s Reads—“This book is one fantastic pile of pages. The book is one of the more exciting stories that I have read. It has action, and some funny, silly, and active characters!… This book is so wild that almost everyone will love and read it!”
K. Andrews’ Barnfullawalkers—“Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion is a madcap ride, a rollicking read, that will keep you turning the pages well past bedtime. Flacco weaves a tapestry of imagery, dialogue and intrigue in his tale of zombie apocalypse and world’s end that I find endlessly compelling as a reader, and truly inspiring as a writer…Flacco shows his skill as a writer and a storyteller as he weaves these fantastic elements together in a way that is enthralling, believable, and quite simply, unforgettable.”
Sandi Layne’s Writing from time…to time—“Though the title indicates there is an alien invasion—and there is—this is still a zombie story, complete with constant attacks by the walking undead as well as government cover-ups and entirely human bad guys.”
Karen Oberlaender’s My Train of Thoughts on…—“This story is as cleverly elaborated as the first one, has a pleasant flow, focuses on its protagonists and their strategy to save the human race, as well on ethical values.”
Jolene Cecil’s Valley Girl Gone Country—“I have to say that the twists and unexpected turns of this story will leave you stunned…unlike in a movie theater where one can cover their eyes with their hands shielding them from watching the impending doom of the characters on the screen, I couldn’t do that. I had to keep reading.”
Adrienne’s greatsnaps, goodtimes and me—“Readers beware: Flacco is also not afraid to kill characters. This made me very happy because what is an action, suspense novel without a few shockers? Sometimes he even lets you get to know the characters, become attached to them, and then BAM! They’re gone.”
Shy’s .:shy:.—“Ranger Martin’s ‘sidekicks’ are sometimes anything but sidekicks as some (a.k.a. Matty, a fiery teen) are just as gutsy as he is when it comes to crushing zombie skulls. I’m looking forward to reading the first book so I can witness some of the early events responsible for building these relationships.”
Mei-Mei’s Jedi by Night—“Ranger is exactly the kind of guy you want with you when facing down the undead: solid instincts, quick thinking, and of course a good shot. But he’s facing more than zombies; there are some extraterrestrial visitors in town, and they don’t seem friendly.”
The L. Palmer Chronicles—“Any good adventure also needs a great central villain. While the zombie is a unified hoard of un-death, General Grayson is a twisted, cold psychopath in search of only his own survival in this invasion. His cruelty and intelligence combine to make him a formidable enemy, and one who pushes Ranger Martin to his limits.”
The Scarlet Loser—“It’s hard to tell who to root for and who the real enemies are in the story. As soon as you pick a side, that side either dies or does something that you find morally questionable. When you decide that you don’t like a character, that character shows a hint of a redeemable quality that makes you wonder from where the character’s motives really stem.”
Kim’s Tranquil Dreams—“I have to say that adding aliens to the equation is very smart. It’s not just zombies but now it gets worse when you add in an unknown thing that has unknown capabilities like aliens. It’s a whole different ballgame and it makes for an exciting adventure. That’s how I felt while I was reading this novel.”
The Opening Sentence—“There isn’t a wall or car windscreen in north America that isn’t now painted with someone’s brain. For the alien horror fans there are plenty of airshafts and cornfields to have your jollies well and truly freaked out.”
Molly’s Hot2Molly—“From the very first sentence, Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion draws you in. The action begins instantly and Jack’s descriptive, compelling writing style feels both new and thrilling as well as familiar and comfortable – like you’re watching your favorite zombie movie come to life through words.”
Karina’s Live with Courage—“The very bestest, bestest, best part of the whole novel, though, is that there are strong female characters…none are cowering lacy dresses who talk nothing but boys and play the ‘woe-is-me-I’m-such-a-victim’ card. They all rise to the challenge and meet it head on. If the author was aiming for greater-than-life female characters that girls could look up to in tough times, I believe he nailed it.”
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale tomorrow.
If someone were to have told me this time two years ago I’d be in the process of releasing my second book Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion, I would have said they were nuts. And yet, here I am. Another book release. Another cover. I’m not ready to take that yacht cruise I’ve talked about just yet. But maybe one day, when all the work is complete and I’m itching to try something new, I’ll indulge in a little R&R. For now, I only have this story to keep you entertained—this Freedom Friday story about the new book cover.
As with my first book Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse, I left the cover design process to the very last minute. It was not because I procrastinated, not by any means, but because I didn’t know how best to represent the story through art. I knew it needed a flying saucer, that was a given. I also knew it had to have a dark sky, again, another given. What kept me from going further was how all the elements would fit with one another in a nice little package.
Like last year, I had to dig deep in my 16,000+ original photos collection in an effort to find a handful of images that would work. Not an easy task. I was looking for woods scenery, but then I didn’t know how the spaceship would fit into the design. I was lost and time was slowly creeping away.
Isolated leaves on green screen
Added the saucer
The death ray
It wasn’t until I showed my son a few mockups that the creative juices began to flow. He had some amazing ideas and I wanted to incorporate all of them. One of his thoughts involved an onlooker watching the saucer from behind a tree. The forest scene would be reminiscent of those WWII movies where an escaped POW would be observing enemy planes passing overhead in the distance. I knew of the perfect picture and had no trouble finding it.
His next idea included deep dark clouds with a storm raging in the background. For a while, I wanted that, too. I tried adding clouds from a series of photos I’d taken a few years ago, but none them really worked. I ended up tossing the images and drawing my own clouds. Yep, them there are fake clouds, all right.
The last piece of the puzzle was the saucer. In reality, though, it was the first thing I’d worked on.
So begs the question—what did I use for the saucer? Initially, I wanted to throw a Frisbee in the air, take a shot and paste it into the scene. But my lack of motivation and lack of Frisbee prevented me for doing such a thing. I also had a hubcap I could have held from a fishing pole, yet again, my lazy self said, “I don’t think so.”
I eventually decided to work with a sightseeing landmark, cropping it, playing with the lighting, distorting it to have it look like the saucer in my head. The challenge was the bottom. Because the landmark is a tower, I had to erase the foundation and replace the underside with a pattern. Wouldn’t real life be simple if by the stroke of a mouse buildings could disappear? I’d totally replace them with parks and trees. By the way, if you can guess the landmark, I’ll give you the biggest kudos ever.
After I completed the work, I showed it again to my son. He liked it, but there was still something missing. I thought so, too. It needed color. That’s when I added the green ray firing from the bottom of the ship, the same ray featured in the first book of the series. Once I had drawn that, I knew there wasn’t anything left to do with it. I had finished.
And that’s the story behind the cover to my new book, folks. I really hope you enjoyed it, but most of all, I really hope you like the cover.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.
Did I miss anything? Do you have a question I may have not answered?
The best aliens are the ones we don’t know who they are. Does anyone remember The X-Files? Remember how this grand conspiracy swept the show, yet the audience didn’t have a clue as to what was going on? We know, but we don’t know. We think we have it figured out, but it changes. Maybe.
Monday Mayhem has always been about zombies and aliens. From the beginning, I outlined the focus right from the first few posts. There is a plan at work here. Have you figure it out yet?
All right, as I’d mentioned, the best aliens are the ones who we haven’t a clue who they are, what they want, and their motives for doing what they do. Let’s talk about The Thing. A story that scares the sweet nothings out of me, the 1982 film introduces us to an alien that changes forms as it kills its prey. To make this real, imagine your best friend suddenly behaving strangely, turning into someone you no longer recognize. Apart from the fact that in real life we do have friends like that, my tongue is firmly planted in cheek as I write this, it would be a devastating thing to live through.
Those aliens who take our form are far worse to fight than those who you see coming.
Another example is the symbiont alien that affects Peter Parker in the 2007 movie Spider-Man 3. Amplifying Peter’s negative attitudes, the alien changes him into someone who is an exact opposite of who he is. Again, this is a far worse enemy than those detestable aliens from Independence Day. Because we can’t see their real form, we have our imaginations to rely on, pondering what happened to our friends in the interim.
It doesn’t end there. The 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of the scariest movies to watch on a cold Friday night. It presents as its stage a small town overrun by alien duplicates of its citizens—another opportunity for aliens to show their ingenious and devilish ways when assimilating a nation. What makes this story unique is its reference to communism, but I won’t get into that.
The last, but best of all examples of aliens attempt at taking over the world in human form is the TV miniseries V. The gist of the story goes like this: alien ships appear in the sky and by all accounts, they come in peace, wanting to share their technology with humans and their advancements. Little does anyone know that beneath their skin lies a monster so incredible that I can’t bear to spoil the story for you. You’ll just have to watch it to find out what I mean. This is must viewing for alien aficionados.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if shape-shifting aliens do exist? The world would make a whole lot more sense given how people change once they receive money and power. I won’t use example here, but I’m sure you can come up with your own.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.
What do you think? Are we living in a world already filled with aliens impersonating humans?
Last week for Monday Mayhem, I wrote Why I Like Zombies. I detailed how I enjoy watching a movie or reading a book where the undead are unrelenting with capturing their prey. I also drew a connection between those dastardly demons and their representation of humanity’s search for everlasting life. Lastly, I wrote about how they are metaphoric depictions of a writer’s overactive imagination—specifically, my overactive imagination.
This week, I want to talk about the reasons I like aliens.
Unlike zombies, who have a distinct set of rules dictating behavior, biological makeup and life expectancy, aliens have none of that. In fact, alien folklore is so open-ended that anyone can make up anything about these characters and still call them aliens. I like that aspect of the extraterrestrials. Spider-Man 3 had an interesting take on aliens. If you haven’t seen it, it had to do with an organism that has the ability to amplify the negative traits in a person, thereby rendering them evil. It’s quite a fascinating twist of the ordinary alien subplot you see in many other films because in this case, the alien does not have a fixed appearance.
On the other hand, I also like aliens because of the exact opposite of what I just wrote. In some circles, aliens have a concrete mythology based on the crash landing of an alleged spacecraft in 1947 Roswell, New Mexico. The UFO supposedly contained aliens the U.S. government, to this day, conspired to suppress detailed information. This incident sparked multiple theories of the government’s involvement with other planetary life forms. These theories created the legends of little green men from mars all the way to Area 51’s complicity to housing alien ships for technological studies.
I like the fact that some of my favorite movies have aliens in them as well. Movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Men in Black, and Paul feature them in prominent roles as visitors from another planet. What’s not to like of cuddly creatures aiming to take over earth?
Much like zombies, aliens also have an allegorical value to them. In the 1950’s, society’s biggest enemy was communism. Naturally, what did Hollywood do? Of course, they produced Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a film about people taken over by aliens. The commentary came when America was in the midst of McCarthyism—a time when anti-communist sentiment was at its height. It’s that allegory that attracts me to aliens the most. Aliens can symbolize any hot-topic issue thinly disguised as entertainment. They can come to embody social non-conformity matters, oppressive governments or even control-centric cults. The possibilities are endless.
But you know what? I also like aliens because they make incredible splatter patterns when shot.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.
Do you like aliens? What do you like them? What other alien legends haven’t I covered?