Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Writing

As many of you know, and as some have noticed, I don’t talk about writing. There’s a reason for that. I’m sure I’ll get my hands rapped because of this declaration, but I think it’s important to talk about, since this is the rare and possibly only occasion when I will speak freely about this.

Photo credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
Photo credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

One of my family members calls me a machine. I’ll take that as a compliment. The other comment I get is I’m a workaholic. Again, I’ll take that as a compliment.

The truth is, before I started this site, I had taken an extended leave of absence from all social networking sites. I know what you’re thinking, “Nothing wrong with taking a couple of weeks off to regain perspective.” In my case, it wasn’t a couple of weeks. It wasn’t even a couple of months. Sit down for this.

I’d taken eight months off from all social networks. That’s eight months off Twitter. Eight months off Facebook. Other than email, eight months off every social network. Months prior, I’d written a three-quarters completed draft of Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse. Then I stopped. Cold turkey. For eight months, I didn’t write a word. Anywhere.

[This paragraph is intentionally left blank.]

When I came back, I had so many pent-up ideas that I couldn’t stop writing. The format for the site took an afternoon. It was that quick. This includes coming up with the categories Monday Mayhem, Women Who Wow Wednesday and today’s Freedom Friday. I dusted off my old zombie manuscript and completed it. I quickly started Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion.

Earlier, I said my family considers me a machine. Well, that’s not too far from the truth. I write every day except Saturday, even when I don’t feel like it. I don’t wait for inspiration because, I suppose, it’s now a habit.

If you’re curious, this is how I do it. I sit. I write.

Pretty simple, huh?

There’s a bit more to it than that, but I write whatever comes to mind. I’ll edit after it’s down on paper. And because I’ve established a two-to-three week buffer before publishing anything, I have a lot of time to think and play with ideas. If I don’t like an idea, I chuck it. In a year, I must have thrown away a dozen posts.

But I must say, hadn’t I taken eight months off before creating this site, I’m sure I would’ve convinced myself I needed inspiration to write. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The bottom line? I don’t talk about writing because I’m too busy writing.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What about you writers out there—what is it that compels you to write?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Alien Invasion: Survival Plan

Many alien invasion movies have the extraterrestrials coming to earth, raping the land of its resources, then leaving. Sometimes, we are the resource, which soon triggers a cat-and-mouse game humans would rather forget. Need I mention War of the Worlds and what the aliens did to our planet in that movie?

War of the Worlds
War of the Worlds

For this week’s Monday Mayhem post, let’s have a look at survival techniques when facing off against aliens. Let’s also concentrate a few moments on what we can do to thwart a possible invasion from our planetary neighbors.

Before I go on, let’s get something out of the way first. I’ve always been reluctant to use the term “we” in any of my posts. In fact, I try to avoid using it as much as possible. Some folks say it denotes inclusivity in order to place leadership in the midst of the people. In my mind, however, it has always set the speaker above the listener by way of privileged knowledge sharing. It also gives the impression the speaker is in a better position of distributing said knowledge than the listener—therefore, not making them equal in status, but privileged. So, it’s with some reservations I use the term “we” today, not because I feel privileged to lord it over you, but because, just like you, I’m part of the human race and wouldn’t know what else to call us. Besides, there’s no way I’d like for you to become equal to my insanity when I write these posts about zombies and aliens. That would be sick.

Aliens
Aliens

All right, what can we do to survive an alien invasion? Unlike zombies where we can shoot them in the head and it’s all over and done with, aliens require a new set of rules.

For instance, some aliens will hunt us with heat-seeking scanners, much like in the movie Predator. And we all know what happened there. Hadn’t it been for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character thinking of a brilliant plan, like the rest of his team, the creature would have also skinned and hung him from a tree upside down.

Some aliens will bleed acid, making killing them a virtual impossible task. I cite the movie Aliens and how in one scene, blood sprayed all over a soldier while attempting to shoot the ravaging beast. Not a pleasant sight, I might add.

Some aliens will eat us if we’re not careful. For this example, I call upon Men in Black where an alien bug ate Tommy Lee Jones’ character. Lucky for him he had a way out.

So you see, aliens come in different varieties. How on earth—pun fully intended—are we to defend ourselves? How would we be able to survive? Like I said, with zombies it’s pretty easy—one shot to the head and they’re over and done with. What about aliens? How would we do it?

Here’s my survival plan. Bear in mind, this is totally unscientific. I came up with this while shaving. If it’s a bit uneven, then you’ll know why.

Ready? Here it is…

  • Run!

Simple, right? Would you have expected anything less than a concise plan from me? I don’t think so. The point of the matter is if aliens try to invade our world, we’d be dead. In an effort to eradicate them from our planet, I soon wouldn’t doubt a nuclear strategy being in the cards. Running north seems like a good idea, I’d say. Away in the woods where defending ourselves against bears would be easier than from organ-probing monsters.

Then again, maybe it’s all for naught.

Maybe, just maybe—they’ll come in peace.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What would you recommend as another survival technique?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Carmen Ibanez

Before Ender’s Game came Starship Troopers. And before Petra Arkanian came Lt. Carmen Ibanez, leader of a ragtag military team set to destroy anything that crawls—literally. Women Who Wow Wednesday celebrates this dynamo of aggression following in the footsteps of the film’s motto: “I’m doing my part.”

Denise Richards as Carmen Ibanez
Denise Richards as Carmen Ibanez

Much like Ender’s Game, earth is on high alert, raising a youth army in the mobile infantry to combat bugs from outer space. There is training. There is testing. Then there is deployment to a far planet where the bugs reside. That’s where the similarities end with the films. Starship Troopers’ armies fight the bugs in brutal episodes of dismemberment. The film’s bright and vibrant colors lend to a retro 60’s feel in the midst of dark comedic scenes.

Setting the tone to the film, a history lesson in high school highlights the class rivalry between two attractive students, Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards) and Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer). In the middle of instructor Jean Rasczak’s (Michael Ironside) speech of how “violence is the supreme authority for which all other authority is derived,” this interchange develops:

Dizzy: My mother always told me that violence doesn’t solve anything.
Jean Rasczak: Really? I wonder what the city founders of Hiroshima would have to say about that.
Carmen: They wouldn’t say anything. Hiroshima was destroyed.
Jean Rasczak: Correct. Naked force has resolved more conflicts throughout history than any other factor. The contrary opinion, that violence doesn’t solve anything, is wishful thinking at its worst; people who forget that always die.

Carmen at the Fleet Academy
Carmen at the Fleet Academy

Aside from being quick with her answers, Carmen also has an astounding ability with math, scoring a 97% in her finals fulfilling Fleet Academy’s first requirement. Her dream lies with piloting a half a million-ton starship. But she would need nerves of steel if she wanted to accomplish such a big dream.

Unfortunately, her weakness may be her downfall. She possesses a soft stomach, unable to watch the dissection of a bug in biology class. The dead bug measures two by two and a half feet. Its long green intestines and slippery organs leave her squeamish until she hurls her morning’s breakfast.

Oh well, at least her friends understand and respect her for her strong convictions and her smarts.

Not wanting to spoil the film, Carmen Ibanez becomes an important figure in the fight against the bugs. Her strong will and temperament saves the lives of many and her natural ability to drift out of tight situations makes her a strong influence to those who look to her as an example.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Have you seen Starship Troopers? What did you think of Lt. Carmen Ibanez?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombies & Aliens Too?

The movie Alien presented an interesting concept to the viewing audience when it first came out in theaters in 1979. The premise goes something like this—humans act as hosts to alien birthing eggs until such time they’re no longer needed and die a miserable death by chest explosion. Interesting, right? Since I’ve been on a zombie/alien kick lately, I thought I’d explore this idea further for Monday Mayhem.

Alien/Zombie host relationship?
Alien/Zombie host relationship?

If you’ve read my post Zombies & Aliens? last week, you would know I delved into the unsettling topic regarding a zombie apocalypse brought on by aliens as opposed to a virus. Seeing how many commenters liked the connection, let’s continue on that train of thought to see where it goes. M-kay?

In the 1956 movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, aliens embark on an invasion of earth by replacing humans with exact duplicates, except the copies express zero emotion and individuality. Even though the film reflects a perfect commentary of communism in the 1950’s, it also goes on to explain what people would be like should they decide not to express their free will—in essence, the first inkling of a zombie apocalypse even before George A. Romero hit the scene. The only thing missing is the duplicates don’t eat people.

The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead

I know I’ve touched on this idea before by mentioning how zombie propagation changes with the times. For instance in the early 1900’s, zombies originated from supernatural practices in Haiti where voodoo doctors resurrected the dead to have them work on sugar plantations. In the late 1960’s the movie The Night of the Living Dead had fun with the notion zombies could originate from a radioactive satellite bursting in earth’s atmosphere rendering those caught in the debris undead. And just recently, The Walking Dead, although not based on an original concept, is burning the ratings by depicting a world gone crazy due to a virus turning people into walkers (a.k.a. eaters of the fleshly kind).

Having all these other interesting causes to choose from, why not entertain the thought that aliens could cause a zombie apocalypse?

For instance, a meteorite could scream to earth and crash in the middle of the woods somewhere in the United States. The Department of Defense sends in a team of scientists to survey the area to investigate if the meteor would present potential harm toward anyone approaching it. One by one, the scientists die by radiation exposure. From the belly of the meteor, an organism crawls its way to the bodies of the scientists, penetrating their mouths, making them their hosts. The bodies soon rise from the dead and moan their way to civilization, but not before attacking a multitude of campers in the area, spreading the organism from one host to the other with a simple bite.

It isn’t until half the country becomes hosts to the dreaded aliens that a nuclear solution gets a green light from the presidential office.

Wouldn’t that make for an awesome story?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

What do you believe will cause the zombie apocalypse? Alien, virus or voodoo?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombies & Aliens?

It’s all about a contagion nowadays. Zombies sprout from a fatal plague released on an unsuspecting nation bent on its own destruction. A cough, a sneeze, a scratch and everyone runs for cover. But what if the zombie virus doesn’t come from a genetic mutation of the common cold?

Cloverfield
Cloverfield

Just sayin’.

Monday Mayhem has featured many end-of-days scenarios.What if the plague everyone’s waiting for is not the catalyst that jumpstarts the zombie apocalypse? What if it’s something else?

Legend has it that Haitian voodoo doctors had the ability to raise the dead. In some cases, raise the dead and make the undead their slaves. Cases exist indicating supposed resurrections took place soon after death, which in turn caused residents to question the veracity of such claims. It wasn’t until sometime had passed that authorities had discovered witch doctors had used psychoactive drugs to render victims unconscious to the point where they appeared dead. Village medical doctors could not detect a pulse therefore their declaration on the death certificate rang true. However, soon after burial, the witch doctors would order exhumations so as to use the dead for working on sugar plantations.

A hundred years ago, everyone thought the zombie apocalypse would happen from voodoo doctors gone wild, hypnotizing a whole generation of folks into believing they would become the undead. My, how times have changed.

Night of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead

Then came George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the director’s 1968 anthem to the zombie apocalypse. The premise is an easy one. A radioactive space probe from Venus explodes in Earth’s atmosphere rendering those caught in the debris, zombies. No plague here. The zombies go on a rampage to secure food for which they can feast. Unfortunately, the only food they have in mind is ingesting human. Romero’s film singlehandedly created the zombie genre we know today. However, the one factor separating Romero’s zombie apocalypse with today’s undead story makers is in Romero’s zombie origins—they came from space.

Seems quite a great deal comes from space nowadays. Transformers, Independence Day aliens, Predator, E.T., Cloverfield aliens, Close Encounters of the Third Kind aliens, Invasion of the Body Snatcher aliens, Super 8 aliens.

See a pattern here?

Who’s to say zombies will not come from space?

Just sayin’.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Do you still believe a plague will cause the zombie apocalypse?

Posted in Freedom Friday

SimAddict

Before the internet there were video games. Some were good. Some, not so good. One in particular caught my eye and wouldn’t let go. How can I describe it for Freedom Friday?

SimCity
SimCity

How ‘bout like this:

“I got hooked in 1989. At first, I could control the urges thinking I could get ahead of them. I’d think—one more time won’t hurt. Just a little. The next day I’d pay for it, waking up late with a massive headache, feeling groggy and tired. Somehow, a small taste wasn’t enough. I wanted more. The longer it went on, the worse it’d gotten. I thought I could control the urges, but once something new came along I slid and crashed again.

“Over the years, as I’d vow it wouldn’t happen again, I regressed further. Sometimes not eating. Sometimes not sleeping. Until one day, I said enough. Just like that.”

I’m talking about SimCity, the incredibly addictive city simulation for PC. With every new version of the game, I was right there buying it on release day. I can’t believe how much time I had spent on the intricacies of city and population manipulation. If you haven’t played this kind of game before, it’s very simple yet difficult to master. Later versions have more complex interfaces, but the same principles apply.

You’re the mayor of a new town. In fact, you have to build the town into a thriving metropolis. The way you do this is by laying down industrial, commercial and residential zones. Then, you supply water and electricity to the zone, and wait. Yes, much like real life. You’ll soon see traffic move into the zones. Small bungalows become two-story detached homes, which in turn grow to apartment buildings. Retail outlets turn into department stores, which eventually spring to multilevel office buildings. In industrial zones, the small manufacturing shops gear up to pollution-centric factories.

The game is open-ended. It means you create your own goals and from there play to your heart’s content achieving your goals.

My goal had always been to make the absolute best town to live in for a family. So I’d have lots of open spaces, plenty of parks for walking, and fun things to do for the kids. Many of my towns had industrial areas just outside city limits so as I could avoid the pitfalls of maintaining such monstrosities.

Car Crash
Car Crash

SimCity also offers many other options for the casual gamer such as a sleek budgeting interface, a town council to appease, and various panels to check your statistics. I can’t tell you how important it is to look at the town’s stats in order to gauge future growth.

When I played, and I’m talking heavy game play, I tended to stem growth leaning toward building a quality life for my Sims instead. In other words, numbers meant nothing to me. If I knew a hundred Sims enjoyed their life in a rich environment as opposed to a thousand Sims who were unhappy in nothing but a cookie cutter municipality, I knew I had completed my job.

Of course, I did have my moments playing devil’s advocate where I’d throw a few alien invasions at my towns to measure their resilience against disaster. And sometimes I’d even start a riot or two, just to see what would happen. Thankfully, I never saved those messes and had copies of the originals I could restore.

And that’s the beauty of the game. Whatever your goal is, whether it’s building a population boom or a quiet community nestled in the mountains, SimCity will allow you to do that.

In the meantime, I have yet to fall off the wagon again as I value my sanity. Maybe next time I’ll talk about my other addiction: Age of Empires.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Have you played SimCity? What game is your addiction?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Calhoun

A few weeks ago, I celebrated Women Who Wow Wednesday with my tribute to Incredible Women, three females from Pixar’s film The Incredibles. It was the first time I shined a spotlight on animated characters that epitomize true heroism. This week, having recently seen Wreck-It Ralph, I want to concentrate my efforts on Calhoun, the tougher-than-nails soldier of death who can burn a hole through any alien that comes her way.

Sergeant Calhoun
Sergeant Calhoun

Rather than take the traditional route of describing Calhoun in all her glory as a brazen warrior and defender of Hero’s Duty, I thought I’d take a different approach.

What is a true hero?

A true hero is someone who goes beyond themselves to fulfill a role they never intended on fulfilling. We can recognize these people by their humility in what they do. They do the job never expecting anything in return. The satisfaction they gain comes from making the world a better place to live. Sometimes they have to make decisions that will hurt those they love. This is necessary for the greater good, even if it may harm a few of those who they’re trying to protect.

On the other side of the coin lies the enemy. They’re slick, smooth talking, and always ready with an answer as to why things are the way they are. Their oily tongues pay tribute to the eloquent words they speak. They reassure those in peril all will be well. All will change. All will be better—if—no one disrupts the status quo. Their countenance is that of light, but in their hearts lies darkness. They are snakes ready to pounce on the innocent.

In the center of it all rests a virtual Utopia. A city no one would suspect as having any problems. On the outside things seem to run smoothly. The citizens receive their meager allotment of resources in exchange for their forced labor, although they don’t know its forced. The city runs without difficulty as long as everyone completes their assigned duties.

Sergeant Calhoun Portrait
Sergeant Calhoun Portrait

If everything’s running smoothly, why ruin it?

The hero usually is the first one to recognize something in the Utopian garden is just not right. Sometimes, it’s the hint of how the enemy answers questions without ever revealing anything. Sometimes, it has to do with how superficial things look. It could be anything, really. But in the midst of it all is the hero, knowing something needs fixing.

In the movie Wreck-It Ralph, Calhoun is that hero. A golden-haired character with a dark backstory, she recognizes something bad’s happening to the world she inhabits and needs to fix it—fast. As opposed to a diplomatic solution, she opts for proactive engagement. With Calhoun, there’s no such thing as aggressive negotiations because with Calhoun there’s no such thing as negotiating. She slaps on her weapon and fires. No 20 Questions. No sob stories of how she feels neglected and unloved, blah, blah, blah. She just fires.

Now, wouldn’t life be easier if everyone follows her example? I’ll leave you with that thought.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Have you seen Wreck-It Ralph? What did you think of Calhoun?