Zompocalypse Short: Daniel’s Story

In September one of my giveaway gifts was a short story featuring the winner as a zombie apocalypse survivor. The giveaway is done through my mailing list which is at my website www.eloisejknapp.com.

For these giveaway short stories I ask the fan what their weapon of choice would be and if there was anyone they wanted to suffer a gruesome death. What Daniel said surprised me. “Life’s too short to hate anyone.” I thought that was awesome. It wasn’t what I expected and it made me think. I wanted this story to reflect something I rarely touch on in the zombie apocalypse, which is the good side of humanity.

danielsstory

Daniel covered Jordan as he shoved cans of food into a plastic bag, feeling optimistic about their find. His gaze never settled in any one spot on the tiny convenience store. You were knew where the dead would be lurking.

Chili, baked beans, pickled beets. Almost three cans of each. Plus they’d found a few packages of jerky in the convenience store break room. This was a feast, more food than they’d had in weeks.

Jordan hefted the pack onto his shoulders. He grinned. “It’s heavy.”

“Not for long,” Daniel said. “I’m starving. Back to base?”

“Yep. Quick and quiet. Let’s go.”

The two paused at the entrance to the quickie store, taking a look outside. Thick lazy snowflakes drifted to the ground, adding to the already five inch deep layer. The snow made things difficult, but it also helped them see any tracks left by the undead. The only set of prints was theirs coming from down the street directly to the convenience store.

Daniel’s heart pounded in his chest, but he kept his nerves in check. He clutched the suppressed .22 handgun and strained to hear any groans or shuffling. The snowfall dampened sounds.

No matter how many times they left to find food, it didn’t get easier. They still feared for their lives, or that they wouldn’t find any food at all.

“Clear, come on,” Daniel said.

He went first. They followed their own footsteps exactly, using the indents to make their progress home a little quicker. Neither Jordan or Daniel liked trudging in the snow longer than they had to. The city might look abandoned, but it wasn’t. There were zombies. Other survivors who had bad intentions. All hidden and waiting for the right moment.

They turned left at a daycare. Behind the chain link fence trikes and toys were all smooth mounds of snow. The door was open–had been open since forever–and the skeleton of a kid was halfway out. Daniel looked away and focused on the pig plumes of white coming from his mouth. They needed to find a different route. He hated walking by the daycare.

After another block they were in front of base. At three stories, the office building was the tallest structure in the town. It was the newest, too, built only a couple years ago. The colors were tan and blue with white trim, and a peaked roof had a giant clock. It was supposed to look classy. Daniel and Jordan chose it for its vantage point. If they climbed up the service ladder they could see through little windows across the entire town.

Daniel kept watch while Jordan moved a bench from the front doors. It wouldn’t do much to keep out humans, but it was good enough to keep the dead out. He unlocked the doors and they shuffled inside. They waited five minutes, listening and waiting for any signs someone followed them. Satisfied they were alone, they took off their gear and settled in. If they were lucky, they wouldn’t have to leave for another week.

***

The chili steamed on the small propane stove, its scent filling the office they designated as a kitchen. Daniel’s stomach rumbled. He was so hungry it hurt. The last time they ate was four days ago; canned pineapple and Vienna sausages. The pineapple gave him canker sores.

“I think it’s hot enough,” Daniel said. He clutched his metal spork in hand.

Jordan used the sleeve of his jacket to move the can in front of Daniel. “Definitely. Here you go, man.”

It tasted like heaven. He shoveled in two bites before he realized he’d burnt his mouth terribly. Daniel gulped down some melted snow from a beat up plastic cup and made himself slow down. They ate in companionable silence until Jordan–as usual–started talking.

“I always thought when the zpoc happened I’d go kill my boss over at Dairy Queen. I regret not doing it. Hell, there’s a lot of people I would’ve offed if I had the chance. What about you? Who did you want to revenge kill?”

“No one.”

“What? You’re kidding.”

“Life’s too short to hate anyone, so no,” Daniel said. “I never dreamed of the zombie apocalypse happening so I could kill someone or get revenge. That just isn’t me.”

Jordan took a big bite of his chili and spent a good minute chewing it. He had a pensive expression and Daniel could tell wheels were turning. Finally, he shrugged. “Good on you, I guess.”

Even though he and Jordan had been survival companions for two months now, they rarely spoke about life Before. It was painful for Daniel. He’d lost everyone within the first couple weeks. A year later did nothing to mend the grief or depression. There was a permanent bleakness to the world that, he imagined, would be there until the last living person died.

Lately Daniel wasn’t sure what he was living for. Not Jordan. He wasn’t a friend. He was a nice guy, but Daniel always suspected he’d leave him for dead if he ever had to. He hadn’t encountered living people for months. Before that, the ones he did were terrible or wanted nothing to do with him. If there was nothing in life to live for, living was pointless. He was going through motions, nothing more.

Despite their constant hunger and the bleakness of their lives, Jordan enjoyed it all. He liked killing zombies. He’d killed living people too, in self defense he claimed, and was not fazed by it. He liked not having anyone rely on him.

Those kinds of thoughts were what kept Daniel awake at night. He imagined some day his last drop of hope would evaporate and he’d feel it, like a shift in his body, and he wouldn’t want to live anymore. Or worse, he’d be like Jordan.

His chili gone, Daniel rinsed the can and his spork, and went to his sleeping bag. He slipped out his pocketknife and faced the wall, adding another tiny line to the tally of days survived.

***

“Daniel! Daniel wake up.”

His eyelashes were frozen shut. Daniel had to cover his face with his hands and exhale hot breath to free them. When he looked up, Jordan was already going up the ladder to the clock.

“What is it?”

“People.”

Daniel’s stomach tightened into a knot. People could mean a lot of things. They could be raiders who’d kill them for fun or their supplies. They could be other survivors who needed help, more help than they could give. Or, what Daniel hoped, they were better off and would help him and Jordan.

He wiggled out of his sleeping bag and followed Jordan up the ladder. At the top was a narrow walkway just below the clock. There were tiny rectangular windows overlooking one side of the town.

“Morris street,” Jordan said. “Oh God. They’re headed to the FEMA camp. Gonna be a blood bath.”

About a half mile down Morris, four adults and two children walked single file down the snowy road away from the tower. Daniel knew they were following signs to the old FEMA camp. It was set up just outside of town a month into it all and was overrun with dead a week after. The dead congregated there for some reason, their bodies statues inside tents and trucks. It was why Daniel and Jordan were so quiet; loud noises might draw the horde deeper into the town.

“We need to stop them,” Daniel turned and began descending the ladder. “They’re going to die.”

Jordan leaned over the edge, but did not follow. “Let them go, man. They’ll be at the camp before you can catch up with them.”

“I have to do this.” Daniel hustled down the ladder and grabbed his suppressed handgun. He couldn’t explain to Jordan why he needed to try and save the people outside. The guy wouldn’t understand.

He removed the barricade from the door. Suddenly Jordan was behind him and helped pull the bench aside.  “I’m not going. I’m staying here. But you can come back if you make it.”

Daniel gave him a curt nod. His body felt electric as adrenaline coursed through his veins. He descended the steps and broke into a full run around the building towards the group.

When he realized how far he had to go before he met up with him, it didn’t discourage him. It made him work harder. He eventually caught up with the path they’d already cut in the snow and used that to his advantage and picked up speed. He clutched his gun tightly, eyes scanning the buildings flanking him. So far no dead.

After another few minutes he caught up. He spotted them clamoring on top of an overturned humvee. About fifty yards away was the FEMA camp. Six undead were shuffling towards the group, but made terribly slow progress in the snow. There were already four around the humvee trying to scramble up. It was an awful idea going up there to begin with; more would congregate around them and then they’d have no chance of escape.

Daniel was a good shot, but with little ammo every shot had to count. He used the dead’s distraction to his advantage and crept up behind the first. With his gun pointed directly at its head, he fired. The bullet went through its soft, rotten skull and ricocheted off the humvee. Daniel’s heart skipped a beat at the sound. He needed to be careful.

His action drew the attention of the two nearest him. The first tripped over the body of its comrade and tripped, its head landing conveniently at Daniel’s feet. He saved a bullet and crushed it’s skull in with the heel of his boot. The skull caved in and the monster stopped moving.

One of the survivor’s on the humvee leaned over the vehicle and used the butt of his rifle to knock down the other undead. It turned to its assailant and Daniel closed in, pointed the gun at its head and pulled the trigger.

There was still one left. Daniel closed in on it and put it down with one of his last rounds. Beyond, more zombies approached from the FEMA camp, drawn out by the noise.

“Get off there, quick!” Daniel shouted. “Before they get here!”

The biggest figure climbed down first and started helping the others down. Daniel came forward to help, too, but the survivor brought his shotgun up.

Daniel raised his hands in the universal sign of peace. “I don’t want any trouble.”

“Neither do we.”

“I came to warn you about that camp. There’s nothing there. Just a ton of dead. As you can see.”

The man was at least six feet. He stood in front of what must be his family with a protective stance. He glanced behind him at the two undead, the seemingly empty tents. “We need supplies.”

“There’s dozens in there. Once you get into the tents you’ll see. They’re just standing around. There might be supplies but you’ll die trying to get them.”

They were all off the humvee now. One of the adults came beside the man. Daniel couldn’t make out a gender—the figure was bundled with scarves and a hood–but when she spoke he heard an older woman’s voice. “I think we should trust him, Charles. He just saved us.”

“We can’t trust anyone, mom!”

That last drop of hope was threatening to vanish. Daniel knew why he wanted to save these people. He wanted to know, once and for all, if there was something worth living for. He didn’t know what he expected to happen. Part of him felt foolish. He’d risked his life, and ammunition, to rescue them and they were doubtful of his intentions.

“Listen,” Daniel said. He paused. What did he have to tell them to convince them? At a loss, he said, “I just wanted to help. That’s all.”

It must’ve been something in his voice. The man was silent, then nodded. “I believe you. It’s just, well…there aren’t good people out there anymore. We’ve come across a lot of bad ones.”

Good people. Daniel was a good person. It was easy to lose sight of it in this new world so wrecked from death and destruction. When you were isolated you lost sight of humanity. All that time in the clock tower, surviving but not living, ate away at him.

“We need to get out of here,” the older woman said as she looked back at the undead. “We live outside of town in a farm house. Do you need a place to stay?”

“We don’t have much,” the man said and shrugged. “But you’re welcome to.”

All he had was a bit of food and his sleeping bag at the clock tower. Nothing worth going back for. He knew Jordan wouldn’t come with them. Jordan just wanted to survive. He wanted to kill, to use the new world as an excuse. Daniel wanted something more. A new life—yes, a life—might be in store for him if he went with the people in front of him.

That inkling of hope shifted. Grew.

The man motioned for his family to start walking. He pulled his scarf away from his face, showing a stubbly chin. His eyes were a startling shade of green. “What do you say? We could always use help getting supplies and taking care of the place.”

Daniel managed to smile, for the first time in a year. “Yes. Thank you.”

 

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Establishing your Brand; tips for new authors

It shouldn’t come as any shock to you that self-published or traditionally published authors have to be plugged into social media and develop their brand. We have to market ourselves and can’t expect anyone to do it for us. Over the past two years I’ve learned a lot about marketing and my “brand” and discovered some things I wish I’d known sooner. I’ve been asked over the past few months for tips and advice, so here you go!

General Tips from Eloise
Get all accounts in your author name right away. WordPress, blogger, twitter, youtube, facebook, tumblr, etc. Get all of them in your author name even if you don’t plan on using them. It’s better that you have them now than someone snagging them later. This also provides consistency for fans; they will easily be able to find you anywhere instantly just by searching your name.

Also get a variety of domain names. I have theundeadsituation.com, eloisejknapp.com, and recently ejkauthor.com. Same as above; get them while you can. Even if you can’t build yourself a website right now, you can direct your blog to those URLs. If your name has complicated spelling (I realized mine does) initials + author.com can be great.

Content
Only post high quality content, limit your fluff posts. Look at it this way; not everyone likes to see a hundred posts from someone a day, but it is unlikely someone will be angry that you only post once or twice a day. When you post, ask yourself this; will this content make someone laugh? Will it educate them? Inspire them? Is it relevant? Is it relatable?

Scheduling & Consistency
Consistency is important. If you go dark, people forget about you and you don’t want that. The best thing to do is commit to a reasonable number of posts a day. Start out small, like a blog every other week and a video once a month. Post updates once or twice weekly. Try not to sacrifice the quality of your posts.

Most websites offer a way to schedule your posts, whether they are blogs, facebook updates, or videos. I always schedule! This gives me the opportunity to mass generate content (for example, film four videos in one day) and schedule it for upcoming weeks. I do this with WordPress and Facebook, too. Now I don’t have to exert any mental energy worrying about updating socials and am free to do other things.

What To Post
The big question, what the heck should you even be posting? The answer is, quite simply, what you want. If you absolutely hate blogging, don’t do it. Readers will see that your posts are uninteresting and uninspired. If you love photography or short quips, maybe Tumblr is a better route. If you can’t stand the idea of taking video of yourself, don’t do it. Maybe somewhere down the road you might give it a shot, but in the beginning commit to what you know you can do and like. Build up from there! Here are some quick ideas to get you started.

  • Blog/vlog/photo gallery about anything to do with your latest work. Things that inspired you, research you’re doing, etc.
  • A short review on a book or movie
  • Interview with another author
  • Top ten lists of movies, books, or websites you enjoy
  • Anything humorous

And above all else, remember…
Building your brand takes time. It will not happen over night. You will make mistakes and sometimes your efforts won’t pay off. One author might have huge success with an outlet but it makes no sense for you. You can’t beat yourself up over this stuff.

Now, go forth and brand! Good luck in all your ventures.

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My Writing Process

Maybe I’ve talked about this before in a video, but I feel like I haven’t blogged about it. My own writing process has been the same for a few years now, so I thought I’d take a moment to talk about it. I like reading about how other people write, as I sometimes can take bits and pieces of that and use it for myself.

Stage 1 – Idea Percolation

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I can’t tell you how many spur of the moment ideas I’ve had for a really great book. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. You crack open a fresh Word document (or Scrivener project) and start writing and dang does everything sound awesome. But then the book usually fades away and becomes nothing more than a few pages of good writing that is destined to gather dust.

I don’t do that as much anymore because of my idea percolation stage. I typically get an idea for a book, then instead of writing right away, I let it sit. I’ll sit on an idea for months. During the years it took me to write TUS3, I was sitting on the idea for Pulse. I kept creating scenes in my head, plots, etc.

Keep in mind, I’m always writing something so there is no down time during this stage. While I’m writing a book, I have idea percolation going for my next book. By the time I’m ready to start writing the next book, I know what I want to do. Whatever ideas stuck with me the most are the ones I know I should write, because they’ve been with me for so long.

This really helps me weed out ideas that are just fleeting, cool ideas, versus more substantial ideas that have potential to become something great.

Stage 2 – Very Rough Outline

I like to outline, but not to the point where I’m following a script. Once I know what I want the book to be like, I’ll do a bit of light outlining for scenes I’m confident I want, and general plot flow. This is to keep me somewhat focused so I don’t lose sight of the big picture.

At this point I’m open to new ideas, major changes in plot and character, etc. I’m just writing stuff down in case I forget later (which happens; even amazing ideas sometimes disappear!)

Stage 3 – Easy Writing

No getting around this part. Eventually I just write. Write, write, write! I use Scrivener to outline, so I have a ton of note cards representing scenes. I’ll write any scene I feel like, any character. I allow myself to write what I think will be “fun” that day.

Once my writing starts slowing down, usually at about halfway, I know it’s time to move on to Stage 4.

Stage 4 – Concrete Outline

At this point it’s time to tighten up the outline. I use outlines as a way to make sure my timelines are all good, scenes are distributed correctly, and things like that. During Stage 3, I might’ve come up with new cool ideas that I need to seamlessly integrate into the rest of the story, so in Stage 4 I revisit the outline and make sure things are still looking good.

Now there won’t be room for much improvisation, because writing has become a matter of finishing the work, filling in holes, smoothing the rough edges. I allow this late outline to pretty much be the last say in how the book will go, barring any revolutionary ideas that might happen later.

Stage 5 – Writing to Finish

This is the “busy work” of writing for me. I’m still having fun writing, but it wasn’t as whimsical as it was in the beginning. Now I’m just trying to get the book done, writing like crazy, finishing up all those scenes and making sure the transitions between them are solid. It’s important to realize this stage of writing isn’t necessarily fun the entire time. It can, and does, feel like work. But that’s okay because its all part of the process!

Stage 6 – Let it Rest

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When I finally finished the book (yay!) I walk away. I don’t start revising immediately. Like my Idea Percolation Stage, I also need time away from the book. That space allows me to revise more efficiently and with fresh eyes once I come back. This could be a week or a month, but never longer than a month.

Stage 7 – Self-Editing

I’ll go over the entire book, start to finish, and read and edit. I catch and fix plot holes, character inconsistencies, and phrasing. If I think an area needs more, I’ll integrate another chapter or few pages. I won’t address how I deal with a major change needed in the book; that’s a whole other blog!

Stage 8 – Beta Readers

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This stage is SO important. I have a handful of trusted people that I can send my second draft to and ask for feedback. They’ll tell me what sucks, what needs more work, what doesn’t make sense. I parse that feedback and create a third draft based on it.

Note: Around this time I start finally writing that idea that had been percolating!

Stage 9 – Professional Editor

Whether it is being published by someone else, or I’m hiring someone personally, the third draft is sent to a professional editor. They’ll go over it, I make the edits, then sometimes I send it back for them to look at one last time.

Stage 10 – Bask in the Glory… Kinda

At this point I’ve read the book so many times there are another billion things I would do to change it, but I consider the book done. You have to ship it eventually. And in my experience, if you keep a book too long, and work on it excessively, it can start to suffer from it.

So, now that the book is done I proceed to cover design, formatting, blurb obtaining, and all that good stuff. I send the book out into the world and hope for the best!

Posted in On Writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Zompocalypse Short: Sadie’s Story

In August one of my giveaway gifts was a short story featuring the winner as a zombie apocalypse survivor. This is the first story in that series! The giveaway is done through my mailing list which is at my website www.eloisejknapp.com.

zompocalypsehsort

Sadie wasn’t surprised the zombie apocalypse really happened. After reading so many books and watching so many movies, she figured it was only a matter of when, not if. When the telltale signs started popping up—strange bite victims, overloaded hospitals—she called it what it was.

She was in an inopportune location with opportune resources when things really got bad. Sadie happened to be judging a youth fencing competition at the local high school when the first undead broke through the door. The stiff was just as she imagined. His glassy white eyes were hungry for flesh. Fingers worn to the bone reached out for anything living while eager moans escaped his fetid mouth.

While everyone screamed and tried to run, Sadie headed straight for the rapier in a glass box that was to be awarded to the fencing champion. It was meant to be decorative, but she recognized good steel when she saw it. She shoved the display case onto the ground and gingerly picked up her weapon of choice.

People were falling over each other as they tried to cram themselves through a single emergency exit on the opposite side of the gym. A few bold individuals would circle the zombie and dodge by it.

She didn’t want to dull the blade if she could avoid it and took the same approach, easily side-stepping the oafish monster. Sadie mentally noted their strength would be in numbers and if they managed to get her by surprise.

Her numbers theory was proven correct as she went for her car behind the school. There were a dozen of them all headed straight for the building. Four were blocking her from her vehicle. Despite her confidence with the blade, by the time she dispatched any attackers, the rest would be on her in an instant.

The run home would take thirty minutes at top speed. Sadie wasn’t confident she could maintain top speed that long. Plus, there was no way of knowing what was between her and safety.

An alternative idea came to her.

“Hey! Hey, look!” She waved her free arm and instantly caught the attention of the stiffs. They began shuffling towards her. “Come on. Over here, that’s it.”

Her blood pressure was through the roof as she executed the risky maneuver. Her body screamed for her to run but she stayed firmly planted. Eventually the horde was consolidated and only ten feet from her.

She bolted right and ran around the group towards her car. The second she navigated around the minivan parked in front of the driver’s side she came to a hard stop. Standing right in front of her was Mr. Pearson, the principal who invited her to judge the competition.

Only now he wasn’t Mr. Pearson. He was dead, his shirt missing and his entrails hanging from his stomach. Huge chunks of flesh had been torn from his arms and chest. They seeped blood. He must not have been dead for very long.

Sadie’s reflexes were better than she remembered. She took the proper stance and jabbed him. The strike went through his throat. Not good enough. She readjusted and quickly corrected her mistake. The rapier went through his eye and plunged into his brain. His body fell to the ground with a loud thud.

She steadied her hands as she unlocked the car and set her weapon in the driver’s seat. If she could drive any distance closer to her house, she’d be happy.

But she only made it halfway. A semi-truck was tipped in the middle of an intersection, blocking any way around. An SUV and sedan were wrapped around each other in a tangle of metal and rubber causing even more congestion. At least fifty zombies shambled around the scene, picking off the living still in their vehicles.

Sadie went to back away, but in the time she assessed the scene another three cars were behind her. She cursed and flung her door open, snatching her rapier as she exited the car. Speed was her best friend. The sooner she was out of the mess the better.

The jog home only took fifteen minutes as she was able to cut through lawns and parking lots. Her confidence was building. She just killed a zombie and had multiple near death experiences. If this didn’t make her a badass apocalypse survivor already, she wasn’t sure what would.

A pang of stress dampened her mood. As she turned onto her street she saw dozens of the dead wreaking havoc. Some were eating people on their front lawns while others beat on cars as they tried to get escaping prey.

Thinking quickly, she slipped around the back of the first house she saw. The fences weren’t too high. She could climb them and make her way to the back of her house and enter unnoticed. A handful of zombies already caught sight of her, but she was sure after jumping a few fences she’d lose them.

It worked. At first. What she hadn’t anticipated were the ones already in back yards or moseying inside houses that came to greet her. Sadie’s muscles ached as she dodged and sprinted. Climbing fences was a lot harder than she thought it would be. Each time she tossed her rapier over and hauled herself over, she worried she wouldn’t have enough strength to do the next one.

After four houses, she needed a break. Her arms were like jell-o. She glanced around the backyard for somewhere safe to hide.

A shed! It was the perfect place for the stiffs to lose her trail, not to mention give her burning arms a break. The house it belonged to was silent; no zombies had yet to see her. Sadie crossed the lawn and pulled the door open on the prefabricated storage shed.

Inside was the last person she ever wanted to see.

“Sadie?”

“Lola.”

The wannabe home wrecker extraordinaire sat by a lawnmower with her knees pulled to her chest. Runny mascara made thick trails down her thickly applied foundation. Uninterested in spending a minute with the crazy chick, Sadie turned to leave. She had a history with this one.

But the groans of the undead sent her right back into the shed, where she closed the door quietly.

“They’re out there,” she told Lola. “Be quiet.”

Lola eyed the bloodied rapier and bit her lip. “Um, is that a sword?”

Outside something rattled. A fence door, she figured. Sadie shushed the woman. Her plan to lose the undead might not have worked. It certainly wouldn’t work unless she shut up.

“Hey, I asked you a question…”

“I said shut up! Don’t you hear them out there?”

Now she whimpered, burying her face into her hands. Her makeup was a horrific mess. It reminded Sadie of a demonic clown, the way the gloopy pink lipstick smeared around her mouth. “They killed Ted!”

“Ted? Oh my—wait, why were you with Ted?” Sadie thought better of it, also realizing she broke her no talking rule. “Nevermind. Just shut up.”

The sound of wood splitting caught her attention. The living dead were relentless. Whatever it was that drew them to the living was an effective radar. If Sadie stayed in the shed, they’d find and trap her. What she needed was something to distract them long enough to truly escape.

She clenched her jaw and took a deep breath. Her house was only a few fences away and she had the perfect distraction right there with her. Every woman for herself, right?

“Lola, we need to make a run for it. On the count of three…”

“What! No, I can’t!”

“Two…”

“Sadie I’ll die out there!”

“THREE!”

Sadie pushed open the door. There were five zombies shambling into the yard. Their mouths opened and snapped at the sight of the women. A few were only ten feet away from the shed. Sadie bolted left and ran to the fence, using every precious moment she had.

A shrill wail came from behind her. Sadie took one glance back and saw Lola halfway through the shed, her strappy heeled shoe caught in the doorframe. Two undead had descended on her. One pulled a sinewy chunk of flesh from her neck. A waterfall of blood cascaded down her chest and her screams turned into gurgles.

Sadie tossed her rapier over the fence and followed suit, forcing her body to obey her command. The next two yards were completely empty. It appeared her zombie followers had given up as well, distracted by the taste of trampy flesh.

As she finally entered her own yard and home, relief flooded her. The entire experience lasted about an hour, but it had taken its toll on her. She’d only be safe at home long enough to gather supplies and make a plan. Who knew when the undead would be at her doorstep.

No matter what, Sadie knew she could handle whatever the apocalypse threw at her.

She was a fighter. She would do anything to survive.

 

Posted in Giveaway, Short Stories | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Reality Check: where does your time go?

I’m always trying to improve functionality in my life, and a lot of that has to do with time management and prioritizing. I try to be aware of where my time is going and if I’m being productive, but since I don’t really time myself on anything, it’s kind of guesswork.

My friend recently introduced me to an app called RescueTime. While being very considerate of user privacy, the app logs all websites and things you do on your computer and phone and puts it into sweet graphs. I’m extremely wary of apps like that, and privacy issues, but after reading up on it I decided it was legit.

The great thing about this is that you cannot escape the truth. When the approximate number of how you’re spending your computer time is right in front of you, there is no more disillusion. You will see, instantly, if you’re truly being productive or not.

How I Use It

This is an average workday for me.

This is an average workday for me.

I categorize anything to do with my day job as a neutral activity  (purple). Anything to do with social media or time killing websites is unproductive (red/dark red). All software relating to design, writing, or blogging, are productive (blue/ dark blue). It’s important to be realistic with how you categorize your activities. Even though I use Facebook as a marketing platform for my author stuff, I still classify it as unproductive. However, that’s why I have goals!

Here's the graphs showing an extremely productive day (Pulse of 71 with 3 hours logged).

Here’s the graphs showing an extremely productive day (Pulse of 71 with 3 hours logged).

My goals are 1 or more hours of writing/design a day and less than 1 hour of social networking a day. Whatever legitimate stuff I’m doing on social networking will never be more than an hour.

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You can also manually add time on your phone. This is something I don’t really use right now. It’s hard to remember to start logging the time and end it when whatever the activity is, is done. I’ve used it for reading and house cleaning, two activities I consider productive.

If you’re looking at improving your productivity, or at least being more mindful of time spent on technology, try it. Getting a snapshot of how you really spend your time on the computer is eyeopening. Face the music, make some changes, and be more productive.

Please note: this is my honest opinion of this app. I was not paid to or contacted about blogging about it. :)

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Final Comedian Cosplay

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“Once you realize what a joke everything is, being the Comedian is the only thing that makes sense.”

I posted here and there about this cosplay, but I wanted to have a solid blog post that goes over the entire thing like in this video. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m the kind of person who gorges myself on research before actually starting something, so I hope this information is helpful to you in your own pursuit to create the Comedian from Watchmen.

Base
The basic items I have on are leather pants, a leather underbust corset, and a leather top. Guys, an easy route for you would be black cargo-y Military looking pants and a black sleeveless shirt. I’ve seen instructions before on making his body armor out of plastic car floor mats. I used some knee-high leather boots I happened to have on hand. I never got around to making fancy elbow pads, so instead I just sewed tubes of leather fabric and called it good.

Gloves
I bought these cheap fingerless gloves that I’ve bought two other times for different cosplays. I used hot glue to attach metal studs to the knuckles, then silver fabric paint for the rest of the details.

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Suspenders & Belt
I got these suspenders from Amazon also (pretty much everything is from Amazon, hehe). They are a little expensive, but I use them for other things too. I already owned the tactical belt that they are attached to.

I designed the smiley face and went to a local button making shop and got a couple made.

Holsters & Guns
I purchased these holsters. Not leather, but affordable and they work.

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I got these Desert Eagle airsoft guns. Yes, I know he uses 1911s. Do I have airsoft 1911s? No. Could I find the Deagles that fit nicely in the holsters and worked just fine? Yes. :)

I used my same design from the smiley face pin and printed it out, then ground off the emblem on the guns and glued them on. I then applied a thin layer of clear glue over it to seal it. I put them on both sides of the handle because I liked the way it looked.

Armor Pieces
I made the belt, knee, and shin pieces out of a thin plastic I cut out and heated to keep a curve. I then used craft foam to create the details. The whole thing was spray painted, then painted with acrylics for aging. I used Velcro and a ton of hot glue to make the straps used to hold them in place.

Here is all our gear laid out and ready to go for Emerald City Comic Con!

Here is all our gear laid out and ready to go for Emerald City Comic Con!

Right Shoulder
This was tricky and now, after two years, I can think of a hundred better ways to do it (mostly just L200 foam or Worbla). What I did for this particular one, was put expanding foam all over a knee pad that fit over my shoulder, then carved it into the right shape. I used paper mache to smooth it out, sanded it, then applied a thin layer of Instamorph over the whole thing to make it strong.

Way too much work, and also the product of a more novice cosplayer (not that I’m a pro now, lol). Seriously, try using L200 foam or Worbla for this shoulder piece if you can. I know you can do a better job than me!

Left Shoulder
I made the left shoulder out of craft foam, then used one piece of plastic from my other armor pieces as a base underneath. This was just a matter of getting the shapes right and gluing them together. I used a painted stud in the front for detail and Velcro to attach.

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Mask
I made two versions of this mask: one in craft foam, the other in Worbla. The Worbla one looked and fitted better, but you could go either way. I simply drew the mask in Illustrator, printed it, traced and cut it out, then heated it up until moldable and pressed it against my face. Painted it, etc. I used wig tape to adhere it. I used gel eyeliner to paint around my eyes, then set it with black matte eye shadow. That makes the darkest, most consistent look.

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Other Details
For the cigar (a must have on this cosplay) for conventions I took black electrical tape around the part that goes in my mouth and put a layer of glue on the rest of it to seal it. Why? The cigar gets wet and flaky fast, which is gross. It starts flaking off everywhere and looks bad.

I got some silver hair chalk and tried graying my hair a bit at the temples. I think it really looked good and added another level of detail.

You could also carry another gun if desired.

10469698_814134345278394_407892681443365845_nIf you have any questions feel free to contact me on facebook or leave a comment here!

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Final Lady Ozymandias Cosplay

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“I don’t mind being the smartest man in the world, I just wish it wasn’t this one.”

This cosplay was a lot of fun to do. It was my first time using L200 (or Y2) foam, and also my first time putting a wig on someone. The only part of this cosplay I never ended up doing were the gold accents on the shoes, but the rest is pretty great! Here is a quick breakdown of how I did it. Don’t forget to check out the video version of this post for more info!

The Basics & Fabric
She has on a gold bodysuit. It was a Zentai suit and then I cut off the head, hands, and feet. For the rest of the fabric items, I used cheap white fabric to get the right shapes and create patterns. Then I sewed the final products.

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She has on a purple tube dress I sewed in about five minutes, then a purple tunic. This is all made out of the same purple knit I got from fabric.com. The cape is made out of the same fabric, attached to the tunic and body suit with safety pins. All of the edges are turned under and sewed.

The Gold Armor6 I built the shoulder piece, belt, forearm bracers, and headband out of L200 foam. I made the patterns first out of paper to ensure the shape was right, then cut it out of L200. At the time I used hot glue to piece them together, but I would HIGHLY discourage that now and recommend Contact Cement! The detailing is done with craft foam and more L200.

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The photo above shows the basic forms of foam armor before any detail was added. Looks kind of funny, eh?

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After all the details were added, from there I sealed the pieces with Mod Podge, applied PlastiDip, then spray paint, then a high gloss clear sealer.

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Wig & Other Details
The wig is from International Wigs. This site looks kind of sketchy, but I’ve ordered three wigs from them and only had one minor shipping delay.

Britt has a TON of hair, but it wasn’t that hard to put it up. I used a ton of bobby pins and slowly wrapped all her hair around her head, pinning as I went, until it pretty much was even. I then applied the cap, wig, and used wig tape to secure it. Rest assured, even if you have a ton of thick hair you can still effectively pin it back! Patience and tons of bobby pins are key.

hair

The makeup is very simple. Just foundation, eyebrows, a bit of purple and gold eye shadow to define the eyes, mascara, and some lip gloss. She also has purple nails.

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I bought some heels that looked kind of similar to Ozymandias’ and spray painted them purple.

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That’s it! If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

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