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#31ZombieAuthors – Day 1 Interview – Sarah Lyons Fleming – Packing the Perfect Bug-Out Bag

sarah lyons fleming

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Kicking off this zombie author interview series in style is Sarah Lyons Fleming, the writer behind the Until the End of the World series, billed as “a story of survival, humor and true love.  And zombies.”

Reading Order:

1 – Until the End of the World

2 – And After 

3 – All the Stars in the Sky

She’s also the author of the novella So Long Lollipops, but recommends you read Book One first before delving into it, unless you’re a sucker for spoilers.

NOTE: BOLD=BQB, Italics=Sarah

Q.  Hello Sarah.  BQB here.  I’ve called you because my friends and I find ourselves in quite a predicament.  We’re locked up tight in Price Town, a Wal-Mart-esque store with everything you could ever possibly want under one roof. The security gate is holding for now, but zombies continue to fling themselves at it in an effort to break in and feast on our sweet, sweet gray matter.  I doubt we’ll be able to stay here forever. My colleague, Alien Jones, has suggested we all pack a bag full of supplies in case we need to make a run for it.

On your Amazon Author page, you note that you have “an unhealthy obsession with bug-out bag equipment.”  So please enlighten us, what is in the perfect bug out bag?

A.  You are in quite a predicament, BQB, but you might just be in the best place. The perfect BOB (bug-out bag, not to be confused with “BQB”) should have everything you need for a situation where you have to leave your digs. Of course, your situation is zombies, so you’re going to need weapons, and fast. Let’s do that first.

Tools/Weapons:

Thankfully, Price Town has a camping/hunting section. Find a good knife, preferably full tang—one in which the metal of the blade continues to the end of the handle. Guns and ammo (your choice). A machete could work.

Thank God! Price Town has a two machetes for the price of one deal!

Thank God! Price Town has a two machetes for the price of one deal!

You might as well throw a few more quiet weapons in there, because guns will only call zombies your way.

Good screwdrivers: great for an eye socket and screwing things.

Maybe a hammer: Plus, you never know when you’ll have to board up a few windows.

Axe: firewood and skull-cracking, it doesn’t get any better than this.

You should have some tools anyway, or a good multi-tool, so these are dual purpose.     

Never a flame thrower—Moving zombie torches? No thanks!—although I think Price Town stopped carrying those after that one incident, as I’m sure you remember.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE:  I do.  It was all over Network News One.  A sad day for the flame-throwing industry.  Back to you, Sarah.

But will it hold my action figures?

But will it hold my action figures?

You’ll need a large backpack. Remember, weight is going to be a big factor. Only put in the things you think you’ll need, and only get a bag as big as you can carry for long distances (and run from zombies while wearing). Use that waist belt to keep the load stable and take the strain off your shoulders. Cool looking? No, but you’ll thank me for it.

Now, what else do you need? Water, food and shelter, right?

Grab some bottles of water, along with a way to filter more. Water is heavy, and if you know you can reach a natural source of water and make it safe to drink, all that weight won’t slow you down. I have a UV filter, a hiking filter and a Lifestraw. They’re not all in my BOB, but, obviously and possibly frighteningly, I really like water filters.

Food: Try to go light on this—cans are great, but they’re heavy, so look for things that come in packets or things such as nuts and dried fruits and protein bars. MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) are a wonderful invention. Not having to cook is always a plus. You can get a backpacking stove if you insist on warming things up. And, let’s face it, a hot cup of coffee or tea may just give you the sanity you need to survive another day. But there’s always a campfire for that.

A light cooking pot and metal utensils so you can cook and eat that food. Don’t forget you’ll have to clean out the pot, so you might want a sponge.

Clothes: Shelter your body first. What’s the weather like? Pack for it. Stay dry. Ponchos/rain gear may not be the height of fashion, but they keep off rain and zombie guts. Extra socks and underwear (because when being chased by the undead, there are bound to be a few accidents). Also, GLOVES. Make them leather—good for the cold and rough handiwork, as well as keeping those zombie teeth off your skin.

BQB's stain resistant teflon underpants, designed by Dr. Hugo himself. Resistant to all zombie related accidents!

BQB’s stain resistant teflon underpants, designed by Dr. Hugo himself. Resistant to all zombie related accidents!

Shelter: A tent? Maybe, and only if it’s very light. A tarp? That works, too. Don’t forget rope to string it up—actually, just don’t forget rope in general. It’s a useful item. Emergency blankets will help to keep you warm, and they weigh next to nothing. Wool blankets would be better, and insulate even when wet. A light sleeping bag is awesome. Garbage bags can be stuffed with leaves to make a sleeping pad and get you off the wet/cold ground. Be creative if you don’t have room for the fancy stuff like a tent.

Heat: Don’t skimp on this. How much does a lighter weigh? Yeah, next to nothing. How about matches? Put them all in a waterproof container and hunt down a flint fire starter. You should have three ways to make fire. You can make your own tinder but, hey, you’re in Price Town. Get some of that emergency tinder. Or a tube of Vaseline and a bag of cotton balls—works like a dream once you’ve soaked the cotton balls with the petroleum jelly.

First Aid: We all know there’s no coming back from a zombie bite, but other situations might arise where you’ll need to play doctor. Throw in some pain-killers, digestion-related meds, and any medicines you take regularly. If you can scavenge them, get some antibiotics. Yeah, you’ll need Band-Aids, bandages and ointments, but you could also need blood clotting agents, gauze, moleskin, tourniquet and a suture kit. These things can be expensive, but, right now in Price Town, they’re free. Go for it!

Hygiene: I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but showers may be a thing of the past. Get wet wipes and antibacterial wipes. All purpose camp soap. A small towel and washcloth. And you’re gonna need some toilet paper. Maybe a trowel to bury your, um, leavings. A small mirror can help you to make sure you look your best and be used for signaling. On second thought, don’t look in the mirror. You’re a mess.

Lighting: Flashlights, headlamps. Spare batteries (or get a hand crank light). You can’t see in the dark, and you’ll need to see what’s coming. In my BOB, I have several ways to light up my world, and so should you. I also have a solar charger with which to charge batteries/phones. It’s handy and pretty awesome, but it doesn’t need to be at the top of your list.

Other things: You’ll want a map of the area. Paper and a pencil to leave a note when/if the gang gets separated, or you’re suddenly inspired to write a poem. A compass and whistle. I have a small monocular as well.

It might do you no good in the zompoc, but a BOB should have some cash in it, preferably in small bills.

Two-way radios would be great. You want to be able to talk across long distances without screaming—unless you want to end up as dinner. Also, you might want a regular or shortwave radio. You’ll want to hear where to go when the government opens those Safe Zones, or know how to avoid them when they’re overrun by zombies. Because they will be.

Happy packing!

Q.  How did you come about this unhealthy obsession anyway?  What’s up with being a “wanna be prepper?”  Are we all doomed or is it a better safe than sorry thing?

A.  We’re all doomed, BQB. Every last one of us.

Nah, I really like camping supplies and survival stuff. And I like to be prepared—or at least semi-prepared—because I get edgy when I’m not. I call myself a “wannabe” because I don’t have a bunker or five years’ worth of food, but I do what I can. It’s easy enough to buy an extra box or can of something at the store and stick it in your pantry, right? You’d be surprised how quickly that adds up.

Q.  While everyone’s packing, let’s talk about your books.  How did you get into the writing game?

A.  I wanted to read a post-apocalyptic book with regular characters who were like me (slightly goofy, pretty snarky and definitely not military experts), so one day I decided to write it. Some of the characters have a leg up in that they have access to supplies, but they’re regular folks who face very irregular events.

As the story grew, I became so invested in the world and characters that it turned into a series. I’d never written fiction before, and now I can’t imagine NOT writing. It’s my happy place, even with the zombies.

41vqvdKyrfL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Q.  Your tale begins with Cassie Forrest who, according to Until the End of the World’s description, “isn’t surprised to learn that the day she’s decided to get her life together is also the day the world ends.”  Isn’t that always the way?  Irony, I tell you.  I often find myself lamenting that if something good happens to me, something bad must be lurking just around the corner to equal things out.  Why is that?  Are we all just saddled with bad timing?

A.  Stop being a pessimist, BQB! You won’t survive the zombies with that outlook. Even with all the hardship and loss, I think you’ll find it will all work out in the end, even when it doesn’t seem possible, even when people you love die. There isn’t always something bad lurking around the corner. Although there probably is a zombie, so look out!

Q.  Cassie’s obviously made some bad choices, chief among them dumping her fiancee Adrian and dating a jerk instead.  To make matters worse, she has to escape a zombifying virus outbreak with said jerky ex-boyfriend in tow.  To her credit, she longs to fix her mistakes.  Do you think readers identify with a protagonist who isn’t perfect?  I know I’ve made a few doozies I’d like to sweep under the rug, so I can relate to someone who longs to take back a bad choice or two.

A.  For sure. I can definitely relate to that. No one is perfect, as we all know, but I think most of us respect someone who learns from their mistakes and strives to be the person they want to be. Plus, perfect people—or people who think they are—are annoying. They make good zombie bait, though, so you might want to have one stashed away.

Q.  You’re into humor.  I try to be.  I heard a rumor this blog made one person in Ohio laugh once, but to date it’s unconfirmed.  Where does your sense of humor come from and how are you able to weave laughs into a story about people trying to avoid being eaten by vicious beasts?

A.  Ha! You’ve made me laugh, so now you’re up to two people. My humor? I suppose it came from my family—no one is safe from teasing, and to make fun of yourself is comedy gold.

I think that you need to laugh, even in the zombie apocalypse. If you can’t find anything to laugh about, you might as well lie down in front of the zombies and call it a day. I’m the kind of person who thinks of jokes at completely inappropriate times, so it comes easy for me. Of course, there are plenty of parts that don’t call for humor, but you have to laugh at some point. When I reach that point, I take it.

Q.  On your blog, “Whatnot,” you talk about all the research you did for All the Stars in the Sky.  At least one or two of my 3.5 readers are aspiring writers.  Do you have any tips on tracking down the information required to bring a sense of realism to their tales?

A.  I can’t imagine doing all the research I’ve done without the internet. I’d have to live at the library. Google Maps Street View is my best friend, as are a multitude of random websites. But I also pester unsuspecting people with emails and phone calls. I’ve gotten some good tips that way. I wanted to see the inside of a grocery distribution center for my third book, so I found one by me and contacted the company. And what do you know? I got a tour of the inside by an amused manager who liked zombies. You never know until you ask!

Q.  Thanks for taking the time to speak with me.  Before I go, do you have any last minute advice to help me brave the East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse?

A. Head shots. Always.

Also, don’t forget to laugh, and never forget you need to surround yourself with good people. You don’t want to laugh by yourself—that just looks crazy. So you’ll need them, both for companionship and to watch your six.

Thanks for calling, BQB. Good luck!

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The Writer’s Battle – What Can We Learn From Pizza Rat?

Holy Crap.  Will you 3.5 readers drop what you’re doing and look at this little jerk?

This rat has got to be the last true believer of the American Dream, let me tell you.

Look at him!

Other rats see a slice of pizza.  Maybe they’ll take a bite.  Maybe they’ll push it a little, get tired, and scurry away.

But here this little schmuck is, carrying this piece of pizza (WHICH IS BIGGER THAN HE IS) down a flight of stairs, one step at a time, presumably in an attempt to cart it off to his rat lair to feed his rat wife and rat children.

God bless you, Pizza Rat.  You’ve made me believe again.  Shit, let’s elect this rat president.

What can writers learn from Pizza Rat?

  • Writing is hard work.  It’s one thing to think about doing it, but only determination and sheer will gets it done.
  • When others shrug their shoulders and give up, you get in there and get that pizza!  Other people give up on writing all the time.  By keeping at it, you’re doing better than all the other writers, just like this rat did better than all the other rats.  You see any other rats out there becoming a viral video star?  I think not.
  • Success comes one step at a time.  Get the pizza slice down one step.  Then another step.  Then another one.  Don’t skip steps. This furry little contagion infested dynamo look at the stairs and cry, “Oh my God!  Too many steps!  I give up!”  No, damn it, he took his slice down one step at a time.  Unfortunately, the video cut short and it does appear like he abandoned his slice at one point, but I like to think that he got nervous around the humans and went back for his dinner once the coast was clear.
  • The same thing goes for your writing.  You start your blog.  You think, “Oh my God!  That other blog has thousands of readers!  I only have 3.5!  SO WHAT?  You get in there and you entertain the ever loving shit out of your adoring 3.5 readers, just as I do every day.  I’ve dragged my pizza/blog down the 3.5 readers step.  One day I’ll drag it down the 100 readers step.  Then the 200 readers step.  Before you know it I’ll be back at my rat lair, chomping on my pizza, or rather, enjoying an audience of a thousand readers.
  • Apply the Pizza Rat model to your daily word count.  Don’t be like one of those lazy ass rats who looks at a pizza, shouts, “Too big!  No thanks!” and scurry off with an empty belly.  Don’t look at your computer screen and go, “A hundred thousand words!  I’ll never type that much!  I’ll just give up on my dream!”  No.  Be like Pizza Rat.  Type a few words today.  A few more tomorrow.  After awhile, you’ll have one delicious novel.

Patience.  Determination.  Guts.  Glory.  Be strong enough to do the work others are too weak to even try.

God damn it, Pizza Rat, if I were a hot she-rat I’d be so turned on I’d have a million of your pizza rat babies and send them out to spread the plague all over the five boroughs.

So remember, 3.5 readers/aspiring writers, today, your writing career might make you feel like a tiny rat and success will appear as far away as the bottom of a long ass stairwell.  But go slow, take it one step at a time, and before you know it, you’ll be feasting on cheesy, gooey success.

Pizza Rat 4-Eva!

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Authors Who Dared to Consult the Esteemed Brainy One

All Hail the Mighty Potentate!

All Hail the Mighty Potentate!

AND NOW A SECURE TRANSMISSION FROM THE MIGHTY POTENTATE, SUPREME AND UNDISPUTED OVERLORD OF A PLANET THE NAME OF WHICH IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS

Alien Jones!  I demand a full list of all the Earth authors who’ve dared to consult your highly evolved mind!

Step forward, oh Esteemed Brainy One, and notify me whose names shall be added to the protected rolls  in the event it is deemed that an invasion of Earth is the only means necessary to prevent the intergalactic spread of reality television!

Do this quickly or be vaporized!

Alien Jones, The Esteemed Brainy One

Alien Jones, The Esteemed Brainy One

Certainly, oh Wonderful Potentate!

The indie authors who’ve consulted my are as follows:

A.H. Browne – Do aliens still probe?

Java Davis, The Road Trip Writer – How do I contact Alien Jones?

G.P. Eynon – Why do aliens have better stuff?

Pandora Spocks – Who is Jon Snow’s mother?

Marion Stein – Is Alien Jones related to Yoga Jones from Orange is the New Black?

Justin Sloan – Pit one of my books against a classic.

KD Rose – Make Higgs Boson funny?

Brannon Hollingsworth – Who would win in a fight of robots vs. aliens?

Connie Flanagan – Intelligent plant life?

Sledpress – Is Hollywood really capturing what aliens look like?

Daniel Waltz – Have you ever water traveled?

Oh Mightiest of Potentates, forgive this alien and spare the vaporizer, for in the beginning, I was less efficient and crammed multiple authors into one column.

These brave pioneers, who dared to attach their name to a column purported to be written by an alien in the service of a man who claims to own a magic bookshelf include:

DC Graylocke – I don’t plan to participate in reality TV

AND

Gary Henry – Will the alien provide advice for the lovelorn?

READ HERE

MEI MEI/JEDIBYKNIGHT – Can you tell me about your alien ancestors?

AND

Gary Alan Ruse – Have you read my books?

AND

Kai Delmas – who would win in a war between orcs and men?

READ HERE

Kim Magennis – Was Tesla one of yours?

Tara Ellis – I’d love to share my book with your readers.

READ HERE

TJ SIEBENECK – Which book cover should I use?

MEI MEI/JEDI BY KNIGHT – Are any aliens from Star Wars based on real aliens?

Kim Magennis – Elvis, Bermuda Triangle, and Socks

READ HERE

Julie Shackman – What is your favorite genre and why?

Joe Schwartz – What color is that damn dress?

Kim Magennis – Who built the pyramids?

READ HERE

ALIEN JONES’ FINAL THOUGHTS

Oh, Mightiest of Potentates!  In summation, a total of 21 indie authors and/or bloggers have consulted the precious wisdom of my genius mind.

Surely, this is a sign the humans are worth salvaging.

Especially worth noting is that for the past 9 weeks, I have not gone a single week without one human seeking my counsel.

Bookshelf Q. Battler informs me that he is honored that so many authors would trust this blog to promote them.  He put out the call for humans to ask an alien a question and the questions have been coming in since this column began March 1.

BQB and I continue to fight the good fight against the reality television that so offends your eyes by promoting fiction.  Also, BQB is even working on a series of his own, and that’s a far cry further from where he was at the start of this year when I found him.

I had my doubts, your Potentosity, but perhaps BQB is indeed the chosen one.

That’s why you’re the Potentate.

Humans, please keep the inquiries coming.  Let’s keep the MP happy and keep the hot streak going.

Yours in Braininess,

Alien Jones

Alien Jones is the Intergalactic Correspondent for the Bookshelf Battle Blog, on a mission to raise Earth’s collective intelligence levels one question at a time. Do you have a question for the Esteemed Brainy One? Tweet it to @bookshelfbattle on Twitter, leave it in the comments on bookshelfbattle.com, or stop by Bookshelf Battle on Google Plus. If he likes your question, he might even promote your book, blog, other project in his answer.

Image courtesy of a shutterstock.com license.

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And Now a Message from Alien Jones

Hello.

The Esteemed Brainy One enjoys the dog days of summer...pantsless.

The Esteemed Brainy One enjoys the dog days of summer…pantsless.

Alien Jones, the Esteemed Brainy one here, reminding you to “Ask the Alien” a question and get plugs for your books and blogs in my answer right here on the Bookshelf Battle Blog, bookshelfbattle.com.

Help me get Bookshelf Q. Battler’s writing career up and running so my boss, the Mighty Potentate, will release me from this mission.

“But Alien Jones,” you ask.  “What are the pros and cons of asking you, an alien, a question?”

PROS:

  • You help your planet become one answer smarter.
  • You help promote self published authors and strike another blow in the Mighty Potentate’s war on reality television.  You thought reality tv was harmless, didn’t you?  But now a reality tv star is running for president.  Next thing you know it’s Secretary of State Kardashian.  Don’t say you weren’t warned, 3.5
  • You’ll get a free plug and maybe even gain a new reader or two.  I’ve helped 20 indie authors already.
  • The Mighty Potentate won’t vaporize me.

CONS:

Literally, nothing.  Why are you humans so quick to look a gift alien in the mouth?  A representative of a hyper intelligent species wants to share all the mysteries of the universe with you and you’re all still like, “Well, I dunno, let me kick the tires on this one and get back to you.”

So ask me, Alien Jones, a question today.  You can ask away on twitter.  Tweet @bookshelfbattle #AskTheAlien and our resident Blogger in Chief will forward your question to my ship.

Or, just leave it in the comments here.

“But Alien Jones, where else can I, a mere human, get in touch with you?”

If you can reach BQB on his other social media, go for it.

Here he is on facebook.

Here he is on Google Plus 

And finally, here’s the World Renowned Poindexter on Wattpad.

And finally, you might ask, “Alien Jones, how long will it take for you to answer my question?”

Normally, I try to answer questions in the order they’re asked.  I used to bunch several questions into one column, but now I like to give each author a column all their own.  That doesn’t mean that repeat askers aren’t welcome.  They are.  And if you’re one of the 3.5 people out there without a book to push, feel free to ask away.  I like to help indie authors promote their works, but you don’t have to have something to promote in order to ask away.

Thank you, Earthlings.  Continue your normal functions of duck faced selfies and scratching yourselves at inopportune times.

Alien Jones, signing off.

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