Goals & Zombies

The timer on the elliptical machine at the gym only goes up to 60 minutes, plus a five minute cool down. While you can’t up the length of your workout once you’ve started, you can add five minutes to the cool down, for a total of 70 minutes. (I don’t worry about cooling down too much at the actual gym, since I still have to walk back to the apartment.)

Most days I go about 4.5 miles. (I don’t always go for 70 minutes.) I give myself “bonus points” for hitting 5 miles before the program stops. Today I hit five miles. Hooray!

Now if I can only get 2500 words into my novel on top of that, I’ll be golden. Which means I should probably stop screwing around on the blog and hop in the shower already.

See you guys later! Happy Friday!

(PS – if you want a fun diversion today [via Nick Kaufmann], go to your Facebook profile. Look on the left and note the top 5 friends there. If you and they were trapped in the zombie apocalypse, what would your chances of survival be? Murphy decided to have a bit of fun with me on this…out of my 3000 friends, Bob Ford, Drew Williams, and R. Scott McCoy all just happened to be in my Top 5. As Nick pointed out, if they don’t laugh the zombies to death, at least we’ll all go down smiling!)

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You Know Who You Are

This illustrates the parenting skillz of a very close friend of mine. He knows who he is.

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Fun with The Daily Dragon

One of the best things about Dragon*Con — I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — is the whole community of folks that keep it going. It’s constantly amazing how something so large can remain so fluid and consistent without exploding spectacularly into flames.

Since the lovely folks there have been awesome enough to keep inviting me as a guest, every year I learn a little more about the intricacies of the Inner Dragon*Con. This year I donated a few books to the charity auction and signed the infamous Dragon*Con quilt (I was complimented on my signature and artistic skills with a fabric marker). I met a fabulous man who works as a handler for the stars (who imparted to me some of his secret signals) and a fabulous man who worked as an EMT (who imparted to me how to express the Hyatt elevator to the main lobby AND I’LL NEVER TELL). I was on Dragon*Con TV, and I was put in charge by folks in purple lanyards because they had fires to put out elsewhere. I was, happily, never on fire. Go me!

Best of all (though I hesitate to say “best” since the whole Con is just so much damn fun), I got to have a lovely chat with my overworked friend and award-winning author Eugie Foster and spend some time on the office of The Daily Dragon. Staff writer Amy Herring and I cooked up the intro for her “Z is for Zombie” article when we had time to talk at Hypericon in June.

Later, Joe McDermott hooked up with me on Twitter (never underestimate the proper use of a hashtag) and asked for a one-on-one interview. Of course I said yes! He recorded our conversation, which immediately put me into “podcast” mode…reading the transcript over I reailze I could have been a little less blabbermouthy with my answers, but if you love Princess Alethea, this is pretty much as true-to-form as it gets.

Those convenient links for you:

Amy Herring’s “Z is for Zombie”

Joe McDermott’s “Everybody Likes Layered Things! Like Cake! And Interviews with Alethea Kontis!”

Vive la Dragon*Con!

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The Gift That Keeps On Giving

There is a moment from this weekend frozen in my mind: the girls are on the couch combing their lustrous clean locks, Tomo’s patiently waiting to find out just what he’s being sent to the drug store for this time, and I’m cross-legged on the floor between Della’s legs as she sits above me on the couch, inspecting the itchy nape of my neck. Kelli slides to her knees in front of me and announces: “You know why Murphy created this weekend? Because we all needed something to blog about.”

There is a moment of silence as the truth of her statement sinks in. And then: “Dibs on The Gift That Keeps on Giving as a title!” I yell.

“I get Shit Happens!” chimes Gypsy.

The hippie smiles and says, “Of Lice and Men,” and we all double over in laughter.

It was a weekend for the history books, ladies and gentlemen — the kind that brings us all closer together and reminds us what really makes a family. Because birthdays shouldn’t just be about fancy dresses and presents. They should be about laughter and love…and lice.

I’ve lived more life in the past six weeks than most people dare to live their whole lives. The parting of ways, the moving, the goodbyes, the journeys, the memories revisited, the sadness, the joy, and the pain. These weeks have given me everything I’ve wished for and then some. They have brought me new friends. They have made me sick. They have made me tired. They have given me hope for the future. My birthday marked the end of that journey. (The first chapter, anyway.)

In an effort to maintain what little sanity I had left, I postponed my Big Fabulous Party plans until later (possibly spring) and settled on a smallish get-together with only enough of my friends to fit around the dinner table (and their children). Oooh, a fancy dress party a la Mary Robinette Kowal’s last year. That would be fun. Excellent idea! Nice, relaxing, and low-key.

Thursday night there was some drama. Some folks got upset…and then got over it. A Canadian arrived. I went to bed early. Friday was awesome. There was Scrabble and giggles and turtles. The zombie kind. Tomo came and brought his girls as one of my birthday presents–Ariell returned one of the books I had lent her over New Year’s. There was dancing in the garage. We ate spaghetti. We remembered why we needed each other, and my worries went away.

And Ariell’s head started to itch.

Early Saturday morning, there were dead bodies on the pillow and a very distraught almost-thirteen-year-old.

“So, I hear my present came with a bonus,” I told her. She laughed.

Tomo went to the store and bought a two-pack of lice shampoo. Having been through this enough times in Elementary school with my sister, I knew a thing or two about Ye Olde Louse Comb. We’d nip this puppy in the bud, no worries. Ariell and I watched TV and bonded as I took my time combing her terminally tousled hair. We had no other plans. Dinner was five or six, the Eagles game started at eight — otherwise it was just us.

But the wimpy little shampoo didn’t work. A few things in the house broke. The turkey was wonderful and the stuffing divine and I looked great in my dress…but around halftime we decided that a.) the Eagles weren’t going to win the game and b.) we needed more lice shampoo. Not only was Ariell still finding Little Monsters, but the back of her neck was covered in bites. I was determined to conquer this once and for all.

I changed out of my dress and joined Tomo this time for the hunt…and was very surprised at what we discovered. 1.) There are many different brands of treatment available for lice, F.) There were not more than two boxes of any kind on the shelf, and 45.) I did not get yelled at for sitting on the floor in the grocery store for an extended period (but that’s another story for another time).We bought three boxes — one for Tomo and one for each of his daughters, just to be safe.

I finished combing Ariell’s hair for the third time sometime before 2am. “You realize this officially makes us sisters now.” I told her. And then I went to bed and cried myself to sleep. I dreamt of lice and crazy psychosomatic itching.

Only…it wasn’t psychosomatic.

Sunday morning brought us our third run — this time to the Rite Aid because we’d already bought out the Giant’s stash of medicine — bringing our total brands of medication tried up to five. We were informed while checking out that “Yeah. the entire district has it” which just made us laugh. Because we didn’t have local lice. Ours was imported from Virgina.

Only the best for Awesome Porch.

We broke a few more things this day — including the upstairs toilet — and while I had to wash my own hair it was Della who put in the gel and combed it out. Della…to whom I gave lice in the second grade all those years ago after she tried on my Brownie hat. It all comes full circle, doesn’t it?

Lice is a thing. It happens. Whether or not it’s a tragedy is only a matter of perspective. It brought us all to new levels of togetherness. It helped clean and spray the entire house. It taught us a lot, about lice and about each other. It provided a case study on the best lice medication to use (we all agree Lice MD is the best, the one with the green comb. It was the most successful, and was the least harsh to use on a poor sore head that’s already been terrorized by Little Monsters).

Most of all, it caused a quarantine that forced the whole crew to stay one more night. I got to wake up on Monday — my actual birthday — and have cake and singing and breakfast with all my friends. My more than friends. My family.

So..thank you, Ariell. Little did you know, you brought me the greatest gift of all.


Best birthday present EVAR.

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Genre Chick Interview: Daniel Waters

When I met Daniel Waters at the Southern Festival of Books here in Nashville this year, he had no life. Specifically, his one-line bio was something along the lines of “Daniel lives in Connecticut with his family.” Outraged at the oversight (and a little frightened of meeting a person who really had nothing more to say about them), I concocted a much more colorful history with which to introduce him at our “Young, Fanged, and Undead” panel. In appreciation (and because he’s just that awesome), he answered these interview questions for me in about 12 hours, reciprocating in the same witty spirit.

And no. We’re not telling you whether or not zombies are real. Some things you just have to decide for yourself.

Alethea Kontis: What were you like in high school?

Daniel Waters: My standard answer is that I was a near-perfect mix of the five personalities from The Breakfast Club, meaning that I am equal parts Brain, Criminal, Athlete, Basket Case, and, um, Princess. The reality is that I was probably about 95% Basket Case, even if I tried to look all Criminal on the outside.

You know, teen readers ask this one often, and I think what they are really asking is, “Will I be okay?” And the answer is, “You will.”

AK: I was struck by how poetic the chapters written from the Zombie POV are. Do you write–or have you ever written–poetry? Any favorite poets?
DW: Why, thank you for that–I tried really hard to get somewhat experimental things like the speech pauses in Generation Dead and the “first person, zombie” POV in Kiss of Life down correctly. I’ve never written poetry and don’t really consider myself to have an aptitude for it, but admire and have great respect for those that do. Some of my favorite poets are Langston Hughes, James Scully, Allen Ginsberg, Theodor Geisel, James Merrill, and Morrissey.

AK: Zombie walks are all the rage this year — do you participate in them?

DW: Every morning when I shamble from my bed to my coffee.

I’ve never been in an official zombie walk but they look like a lot of fun. Maybe I’ll get an invite someday from some friendly undead person.

AK: What do you think is the reason so many young folks have been drawn to the zombie “culture”?
DW: There are so many reasons to embrace zombie culture! I think in some ways, entering into a zombie horde allows a person to escape the terrible pressure of having to be an individual all the time. America especially places a very high value on being “unique,” and I think that can cause a lot of stress in hothouse environments like most schools. Zombification could be societies’ great equalizer. On the flip side, releasing one’s inner zombie is a fun way to be an individual in more polite society.

The culture, like many dark or horror based entertainments, allows young people to deal with any number of universal fears–fear of death, fear of disability or disease, social fears, etc. There’s something inherently pathetic and borderline humorous about zombies as well which also contributes to the whole cathartic experience.

It is easy to identify with a zombie, whereas it can be difficult to do the same with vampires, the superheroes and villains of the supernatural world. Zombies are us, but dead.

Plus, let’s face it, zombies are just cool.

AK: What’s your costume going to be this Halloween? Best costume you ever had?
DW: No costume this year, sadly. My best costume ever was probably Wez, who was the scary guy from The Road Warrior. My mohawk was about a foot tall. I was never a zombie (or a zombie cheerleader) but I was a Ghostbuster (a la Bill Murray) one year. I used an old metal canister that had most recently held a deadly insecticide for my proton pack, which probably wasn’t the brightest idea in the world.

AK: What were your favorite books as a kid?
DW: Favorite book as a kid is D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths. I read that one approximately one thousand seven hundred and fifty three times. I loved series books of all sorts, and science fiction, fantasy and horror especially.

AK: When you visit schools, what’s the question all the kids inevitably ask?
DW: “Are zombies real?”

AK: If you could travel back in time to visit yourself in high school, what bit of wisdom do you wish you could impart?

DW: “Keep in touch.” It is the same advice that I would hope my teenaged self would give if he traveled forward in time to drop some knowledge on me.

AK: Tell us a little about your New Year’s Eve goals. Do you have any idea of what will be on 2010’s list?
DW: I started doing New Year’s Eve goals the year after my daughter was born. Although I’ve always been blessed with a happy family life, there were a number of things I wanted to change about myself, both professionally and personally, and writing down what I wanted to change seemed to be the logical place to start.

I wrote “This Year Will Be Different” in black ink across the top of a sheet of paper. Item #1 was “I will henceforth write with blue ink”. I wrote this in blue ink, thus guaranteeing that at least one of my potentially life-changing goals would come to fruition. Then I wrote about a dozen or so other goals–some personal, some family, and some occupational–and folded the list in my appointment calendar, so I’d see it every so often. At the end of the year I spend some time reflecting on the list and what happened over the past 12 months, then I think about what I want the year ahead to look like, and then I add to the list.

I’ve got a number of writing goals on the list, although they tend to be mainly goals around the career and business side of writing life. Creativity, I find, resists legislation. I only write down things that I consider to be realistic and achievable; other than that I don’t have any rules. “Be invited into a short story anthology” was one I accomplished this year, and I’ll also get to check off “Be the author of a book I cannot read” soon, because my agent sold Spanish rights for the first three Generation Dead books last month.

One of the goals that have been on the list for a few years is the rather pedestrian “Have one of my works adapted for film or television”. I think I’ll also add: “Have two new books be published in a calendar year”. Time will tell.

AK: Any fun library stories?

DW: I have found good writing mojo at a small local library where I recently gave a talk. The librarians there won’t go as far as to say the library is haunted, but they have told me a few stories that are pretty interesting, like when they were having a discussion about wildflowers one night after closing. They heard a thud from one of the aisles, and when they went to investigate, a single book had fallen to the floor. The book, of course, was a guidebook on wildflowers. And inside, between pages 113 and 114, was a freshly severed human head.

I’m kidding about the human head part. I hear it was a really old human head.

I haven’t experienced anything supernatural at the library, except I think I’ve done some really good work there, and when the writing is going well it almost feels as though something supernatural is happening.

AK: What’s next for you?

DW: Passing Strange, the third book in the Generation Dead series, will be out next June. Then I will do a non-GD book, but I’m not sure which yet because I have a few finished projects stacked up in my office like airplanes on the runway in Atlanta. I’d like to launch a new series next year.

AK: If you could be any superhero, who would you be & why?

DW: Well, the obvious answer would be Matter-Eater Lad from the old Legion of Superheroes, because he can eat anything he wants to and never gains any weight. But the one I’d most like to be is the Silver Surfer. Being able to surf through space at faster than light speeds would be the bomb. He’s shiny and smooth. And hey, you just can’t go wrong with the Power Cosmic.

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