Burgers, Beers and Beatdowns

Ah, the Three B’s. The 1999 movie Love Stinks had a different list of the Three B’s, but this one is all mine. For me this is a celebration. It’s one part launch party (even though the book isn’t ready) and one part wrap party. Camp NaNoWriMo was a personal success, even if my “cabin mates” dropped out early. Here is the run-down…

  • $450 collected, near the $500 I had originally set as a goal. $150 over my revised goal of $300.
  • At $450 collected, that is 9% of the pledges raised this go around. (Less depending on how far over their $5000 goal was reached.)
  • 50,000 word goal was achieved. This involved a few 5k days and a week or two of two-a-days. (Writing from 6:30 until the day job and then back after work until the coffee shop closed.)
  • Scenes were almost done. Hitting 50k doesn’t mean the story is over.
  • Everyone who pledged was used in the book. Some were victims. Some were victims twice over. In one instance, thrice. (Sorry, Cara… please don’t mess with my coffee.) Some took on more of a role than I intended. It depended on how the writing evolved.
  • Twice I threw someone under the bus. They were related to someone through friends and family in the book, so they tagged along for the ride. Sorry, Lauren. Blame Megan for wanting to be mauled by zombies.
  • Two playlists made. Which is to say Dukes Playlist is done, but I’m still fleshing out the rock one for the detective protagonist. I’ll do a full post on it later this week.
  • New characters created… 2. This is if you counts Dukes who was mostly done already. The other is Laurali. You’ll meet her once I publish this thing. She has a small part in this story, but may come back later. And yes, she was a sponsored character.

But this all leads into the party. Due in no small part to the efforts of a side character who is a local radio personality, I was forced to look at the ticket for an upcoming UFC fight. UFC 148 to be exact. And there are more than a couple fights on there I’d like to see. Add in that I have a new stuffed burger press that I totally need more excuses to use. Add into that mix my pouring turtle that I picked up specifically to do St. Patrick’s Day servings at game night of Black & Tans, Black & Blues and Blacksmiths. I can never have enough excuses to use that. This meant a party with me ordering the PPV for UFC 148.

If you’re local and interested, let me know. I’m not going to be shy about it. There is a caveat that I only have six pint glasses at home, so these are reserved for specialty pours. Mixes and standard beers get the Red Solo Cup treatment. I’m also going to ask if you’re local and you want to come, shoot me a heads up. Even if you’re not local and want to come. I need to know that we have enough room and/or food. And (let’s be honest) having enough food and beer is more important than room. We can always make room.

Story Donors

If you were a story donor or were used as a character in the story and are interested in the fights, please feel free to show up. This is primarily a story wrap party, so the people who helped me out should be there.

I’m not sure how good it is. The vignette model for it might not work, but it was something I needed to do to put in the donor requests. What it did do though is give me some new character voices, a challenge to work through, and motivation to dive into configuring a piece for self publishing.

Published Author Request

If you’re willing to help by judging a young writers contest (short fiction), let me know. Also, if you write YA and are interested in donating a book to the prizes I’m giving out, include that information. Either works, as I could use the help in both areas. I should have specifics ready before August. (Should you know any young authors interested.)


Make Good Art

Yesterday I posted an update to get more donations. I even included MATH! This marks one of the few times outside of gaming that I’ve used math since school. But I digress…

For those of you not on the cusp of geekdom, Neil Gaiman did a commencement speech for the University of the Arts a while back. It does pertain in part to what I’m going to say, so I’ll embed it. Really though it can be summed up in the title of the blog. Simply put, make good art.

Go ahead, watch it. It is an entertaining speech. We’ll wait…

Told you, right?

Here’s where the two differing elements I described above converge. I was looking to make up the difference of what the pledge drive needed to hit goal. Taking top spot in the list would be a bonus. I figured this might be possible based on percentages, but time was going to be crucial. In one night a small group of friends increased my pledge page by a bunch. Hell, I even got my sister to donate and she hasn’t even finished the book I suggested to her close to three years ago. And I even got the author to smack talk her for not finishing it! These people, as well as all of you who either donated or spread the word around (or did both)… all of you… you collectively make it so I can make good art.

Since this is me we’re talking about, keep in mind that “good art” means any art at all. A while ago an online friend started her campaign to publish and make it on Oprah’s book club. She wanted to sit on her couch. I knew that wasn’t me. I was the popcorn film of the literary world, the summer flick that people would enjoy but wouldn’t win any awards. You all let me do this. Hopefully I won’t turn out to be a Michael Bay movie. At least not Transformers. I’ll take a Bad Boys no matter what anyone says.

A handful of years ago I was left with a gap in my schedule. For the first time in decades there was no gaming company that wanted me as convention help, judge, content writer or any such thing. I didn’t have four to five cons to make spanning across the country. I was free. For a person like me, only having to work a 40 hour a week job is free – trust me. So after two decades of putting off what I had always intended to do once free of high school, I was writing. Without knowing it I had made a conscious decision to make good art.

There is a subtle beauty to that. If my art is a zombie novel starring a country western singer who moonlights as a monster hunter, then that is my art. Even if someone on the Internet doesn’t agree.

Quite a few of my friends may not like the playlist I have for the book. One protagonist (Dukes) has a playlist that is obviously country western in theme. Write what you know? Hell, I needed help even putting that one together. (Thanks again, Dukes.) But that is the good art. I can totally appreciate Hank Jr. even if he isn’t in my normal playlist. And yes, I did buy every song in my playlist.

My wife decorates cakes and cupcakes. She also does stained glass. My mother does jewelry, as do a number of my friends. (Hey Synde!) They all make good art. My father organizes a hell of a festival. He does it for Festa Italia as well as several other ethnic festivals around Madison. He also makes our Sister City Program with Mantova, Italy happen with some other guys from the club. That is his good art. Trust me, running a smooth festival is an art form.

Hopefully everyone who asked to be inserted into this story, either in name or in form, will appreciate the art. I hope I served your pledge well. But I think there are two real highlights here. Only the first being that the charity did break through its goal. And this does make me happy. More than this though, is that a friend of mine who lives a life much busier than mine has picked up his writing again.

Twice a week or so he is stepping out to a coffee shop for lunch. He’s calling it a Zombie Joe Lunch. These lunches are garnering him 400 words or so for the 30+ minutes he is writing. Will he make a 50,000 word novel in a month that way? Nope. Is he making good art? Totally. If my insanity spreads to even just one other person, thus making me the literary Patient Zero (no headshots, please), then I am a happy man.

That said, I have another batch of words to finish and a novel to verify through the Camp NaNoWriMo web site. Then I have to look at piecing my scenes together, fitting it into a cohesive story and editing it into something readable. Not to mention I have to make cover art and figure out the formatting. Who’s idea was this again? Oh, right. Damn.

I think for my sister’s “care package” I’ll get her copy of Mark of the Demon signed by Diana Rowland in New Orleans. Hell, maybe by every author there that wants to snark something at her. I may make good art, but that doesn’t prevent me from being a right bastard too. 😉

Last Chance to Maul

There is a final push to hit the Camp NaNoWriMo fundraising goal. On a more personal level there is a last effort shove to put me from second to the top slot as a fundraiser. What can I say, I’m a competitive bastard. In the spirit of this I have some math for y’all and a listing of my final offers for donors.

The Math…

According to the last email from the organizers, if 30% of my Facebook friends donated enough to “prebuy” a copy of the story (that’s $5 to you and me) it would make up the difference to put them over goal (and increase my donations by more than double). The same would go for around 6% of my Twitter followers. When you look at it that way, it seems to be a totally possible goal. Doing it in about 60 hours is a bit of a challenge.

I can’t promise the next Harry Potter, but I can assure you a horror story set in Madison, WI with a detective who moonlights as a monster hunter, a country western singing version of Desperado (in a pair of aviators) and a collection of friends, family and followers mauled by zombies. Oh yeah… and bath salt addicted zombies. No, I’m not kidding. (It’s fiction, I can ignore toxicology reports.)

That leads us to the offers. Otherwise known as “what you get for helping Zombie Joe out.”

A Care Package

Anyone donating before Saturday night (let’s say 8pm CT), send me your mailing address and the detective in the story will send you a care package. This is serious. The goodies are relating to the protagonist.

A Copy of the Book

Any donation $5 or more will still get you a copy of the ebook once published. Depending on rewrites, editing and the cover art I am shooting for early August release, just before Authors After Dark in New Orleans. Since I am doing all of the production, it all depends on how much I think it’s crap on the first pass-through.

Maul a Friend/Volunteer as a Victim

Anyone donating at least $10 can choose the Maul a Friend option, or simply offer themselves up as a victim. Now it will just be a small scene where a monster eats you, but I put a couple of placeholders in there. If I can’t write you in during the final scenes I’m pushing through, I’ll add you in during the edits.

The more you donate in, the more people you can have mauled. Or, should the opportunity be there, the larger role the character I name after you will have. I may or may not have left one or two hunters unnamed for just such an occasion.

Youth Writing Contest

In the event that I take the top spot, I will solidify and announce a youth writing contest. With prizes! If any of you published authors out there are interested in helping to judge, let me know.

Playlist to Random Donor

In the event I take the top spot on the pledge pages, I will choose a random donor from all donors (including even the very first donors) and will send one of them at random the playlist. I believe this will require you to have an iTunes account. If I make my original goal of $500 donors I will send out two playlists, one from each protagonist.

My Gratitude

Seriously, I appreciate everyone supporting this. If you think you might know others interested in it, send it out to them as well. Of course if sheer numbers bury me in requests care packages may take on a different note and will take a bit longer to get out. The more time I spend doing shipping the less time I’ll have for editing.

Thanks again to all who’ve already donated and all the rest of you for sitting through this shameless plug. 😉

EDIT: Adding easy link to donate. Click Here

Back in the Land of WiFi

I’m not even being trite. The further up you get in Door County the less connected you are. I spent a whole week with nary a G to speak of. Verizon is a great service, but even they have their limits. Our friend’s kid took out his flip phone at one point and proudly claimed, “I have 3Gs.” I just looked at him and said, “Prove it. Do something with them.” 😉

Honestly I could have traveled about 5-10 minutes south of Fish Harbor to a coffee shop that offered WiFi for my iPad (still no 3G-4G there), but the point was to get away. Also the closer one in Ephraim reminded me of The Victory more. It was also a cash only place. A little less Brooklyn, but still eccentric. Leroy’s Coffee Cafe, and I’m guessing Leroy is an ex-surfer or ex-skateboarder. Between that place and The Good Egg, Ephraim is an excellent vacation spot. Really, most of Door County is.

My writing highlight of Door County (aside from some kick ass scenes that make the book harder to finish but the story better) came from day three of showing up at the coffee shop at 7am to write until 9-10 in the morning. A long line had formed so I set up my stuff and started getting ready to write. When the line was gone I walked up and ordered my coffee. The barista was fixing it and asked if I was writing a book. My gut reaction was to say, “No, I just really like coffee.” Then I remembered she was fixing my drink.

Another highlight that came back to bite me in the ass was when I was told that television signals were able to be picked up in the park. This was awesome for me as Ben Dukes was making his debut on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. If you remember back earlier this month, I blogged about how his bit on the show as a worker was my inspiration for my protagonist in my Camp NaNoWriMo story. So we cranked up the antenna and did a channel scan. Sure enough we had a CBS channel. Unfortunately it was fuzzy at best and storms Wednesday night knocked it out entirely. On the upside, I had the DVR set, so I caught the show on Sunday when we got home. Also, the clip is already up on his YouTube channel.

For the record, Down in Flames is one of my favorite songs from his album. Also, the playlist for Dukes will be coming out shortly. The one for my other protagonist is only about half done.

Now on our way to Chippewa Falls (Lake Wissota specifically) we passed through Cadot. My wife texted this to my sister (who had already been camping there with her husband and our cousins for a day) and she requested we bring her some Country AND Western. (Country Fest was going on in Cadot this past weekend.) I told her to text her back with “done” but I don’t think she did.

You guessed it. As we were driving to the boat launch so my wife could scope out photo opportunities, I advanced through the iPod to play the Johnny Cash song that made the playlist (When the Man Comes Around) and Down in Flames. Also, as we were leaving the Leinenkugel Brewery on the way back to the campsite, the first song on the shuffle was When Do We Start Drinking, also by Ben Dukes. My sister may never make a smart ass request of me again. Oh who am I kidding? I know damn well she will.

So this morning I sat back in my usual spot. The Victory. I busted out as many words as I could in the hour and a half I had. About a thousand. Well under my normal amount. But it was my first day back. Also there were multiple people pacing up and down across the tables. Multiple. All of them. Stalking like a caged friggin’ tigers. As I was writing about the Big Badâ„¢ in the story… you guessed it… stalking up and down like a tiger. Seriously, it was freaking me out. But I digress.

I was back in the Land of Connectivity. The Nirvana of WiFi. And what did I do? I sequestered myself into a WiFi Wasteland to write. On the upside, I am coming up on 40k total. So that means, charity story update time.


  • I’m nearing 40k.
  • The story will likely top out at 53-56k with the scenes left to write.
  • Editing, revising and writing between the scenes might get me 60-65k. For my genre that is a bit light, but it is still novel length.
  • I have a couple more people to write into the story.
  • The ending is solid in my mind. (Although I haven’t written it yet.)
  • Dukes is fleshing out well. He’s becoming the young Obi-Wan to my detective’s Qui-Gon.
  • I met my revised goal of $300 raised, but I’d like to give the top spot a run for their money. (I’m currently second.)
  • To offer incentives, until the end of this week I will continue to give the care package to any donors. The person donating the most I’ll send the playlist for Dukes to them. Or just Ben Duke’s album, since half of it is in the playlist.
  • As always, anyone who donates $5 or more will get a copy of the ebook.

So, get to work people. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors. Tell anyone and everyone. If enough of your friends, family and neighbors sign up, I’ll send you a care package too!

To donate, click on the Camp NaNoWriMo tab above, the Sponsored Camper stamp to the right, or simply go to http://zombiejoe.stayclassy.org

Name a Wight

EDIT: Extended! Both offers below are extended until I get back from camping the end of this week. Naming opportunities will still be done, but the closer I get to the end the less my ability to enter those. Naming the wight will be a simple search and replace on the placeholder name. 😉

This is the first real sponsorship challenge I am offering. For all I know, it could be my last. The inspiration for this one came from out of the blue – much like the inspiration for Duke himself. Only this time it came from writing.

If you’re following me on Twitter you may have heard me mention at some point that I have used zombies as the foot soldiers of the Big Badâ„¢ in my story. Specifically zombies born from the use of bath salts. I’m not talking straight up drugs, although that is part of it, but also synthetic drugs altered by dark magic to create the necrotic disease that brings the victims back from the dead. Much like with the very real world Miami bath salts incident, these walkers tend to shred off their clothes. The fever cooks them and they remained flushed for the first bit of time after turning. It also allows them to move faster and with more coordination until their muscles start to rot.

Enter the trio of zombies to the University Book Store on State Street. Never mind their reason for being there. They just  are. And so are my two heroes. Except only two of the dead guys are pouring with sweat and stripped down to only their humility and humidity. The other guy is taller, more solid, cold to the touch, and decked out all in black. This includes a black leather duster. In Wisconsin. During the Summer.

I had no idea what he was, but he was there to lead the strike on the book store. He was there for the intelligence as he wasn’t a brainless zombie. I am playing with calling him a wight, but that will likely be decided in revisions. He is dead, still walking, intelligent and is not vulnerable to the hunger. What I didn’t do in the scene I wrote him in to was name him. All of his companions were fever zombies so there was no dialog like, “What to go zombie pal.” Or “Hey, these are some pretty good cheesy fries.”

My detective called him Scooter. That may morph to Skippy though. I can’t continue forward with that as a name, but I need to name him something. He’s the right hand of the Big Badâ„¢ and will come into play in at least one more scene. Probably more. That’s where you all come in.

Monday the 18th I leave for Door County camping for the entire week. So, the first person to donate in for the option of naming a character and leaves it in the comments will have the ability to help me name the right hand of the villain. I’ll even include a special thanks in the acknowledgments. Also, for anyone who donates in at least $10 to the pledge page by Sunday night (say 10pm CT) can send me their address and I will ship them a care package. It will be food related and linked to one of the characters in the stories. Anyone earning the care package, let me know about any food allergies.

Sunday night or Monday morning I will post who is naming the character with me and list people who will be sent care packages. Hopefully I will have something to report.

And speaking of reports… (You see what I did there?) I am currently at 21306 for the month. I am stopping at the coffee shop for a second bout of writing, so that will go up. Basically with a near full day of Legend of the Five Rings on Saturday I wanted to build up a cushion.

Who has two thumbs and is going to be writing Saturday morning before the tournament? This guy! Zombie Joe!

In Review:

  • First person to donate under the “Name a Character” option will get to help me name the Wight.
  • Anyone donating at least $10 worth this weekend will get a care package from me in the mail.
  • The link to the pledge page is on the right. The stamp that says “Sponsored Camper.”

Camp NaNoWriMo: Fundraising 201

Updates for Under the Hood

  • Sitting at 9546 as of mid-morning June 7th (about 2k under goal)
  • Sponsors/Friends Mauled: 2
  • Friends’ Homes Destroyed: 1
  • Days of Doubling Down on Coffee: 2
  • Totem Named: Might name him for MC, or just call him Plot Monkey

Badges Earned

  • Creative Nonfiction – the whole premise of my pledge levels ensured this one.
  • Word Count Padding – I actually have to remind myself to use contractions once in a while.
  • Secret Noveling – I’ve written during lunch, and hid in a corner at our Italian Community Festival to get more words in.
  • Eureka Moment – Not sure I’ve met this one yet. I did take a sidekick (named for the son of a friend who pledged) and took him from being left behind, to getting mauled, to coming back at the end as an antihero. Could be, or may not be an “aha” moment.

If you are signed up for the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge, you’ve probably been through the Fundraising 101 section or email. Assuming you’re fundraising this time around. I’ve hit a few pitfalls and some new tricks to get more people involved in your story and pledging for it.

Tip #1

Talk about your story. Additionally, talk about some of the folks who’ve pledged to have something added to the story. For my part I posted to Twitter asking if it was okay to have an author kill a monster with a coffee mug. Specifically a custom, hand-fired one that said “Because I’m the Author, that’s why.” It gets people talking and gets them thinking. Plus, if you’re excited about the story it will show and be infectious. You are Patient Zero for your own story.

Tip #2

Take cash donations. My wife had a friend that doesn’t like using her credit cards online. As such, she took the money from her directly and is going to make the donation online to the pledge page herself. She did the same with a couple of her coworkers. Just today Patrick (the owner of the coffee shop I do my writing in) donated to the pledge page for using the store in a scene by handing me a check. It makes it easier for people you know locally to contribute without having to remember while they are in front of a computer.

As an aside to this, for accountability, I would post each donation separately and list who the donation is from in the comments. That way not only do you know, but the people who made the donation will see it as well. It also allows you to thank them on the pledge page in addition to in person when they hand you the money.

Tip #3

Consider “DVD Extras” for the story to go out to contributors. Or as things you’ll release if you hit certain levels. What I currently have in the works is an iTunes playlist for the main character. Sort of a “what’s in his iPod” sort of thing.

Pitfall #1

Consider limiting the sponsorship options. Like limit how many “maul a friend” or “name a character after you” donations you’ll take. I was really driven towards a zombie outbreak story based on the amount of people I had to maul. Naming all of them and calling attention to it in the story could come out a bit awkward, but this is for charity. I’m not trying to win any awards here.

Next time, I’ll probably set a limit. It could be a fluid list too. Sort of a “got another victim in need of a name, first person to…” situation.

Pitfall #2

When doing a “sponsor this story” fundraiser, it is a little tricky to “pants” it. An outline would help in setting up what things you can sponsor. Not that I am a full supporter of outlining as I have never stuck to any outline I set up. My characters always seem to deviate from the path.


Overall, I am really enjoying this. So much so that I’m considering doing another next year. In that instance I will likely outline it and will probably set it to be benefiting a local children’s charity in town. But that remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen how quickly I can figure out the formatting for self-publishing.

Busy first week of camp. How are y’all doing?

First Weekend Down

Opening weekend. A roller coaster ride under the best of circumstances, and it’s hardly ever the best of circumstances. This month was no exception. While there was the blessings of serendipity in the music that was playing at The Victory on June 1st when I stopped in for my morning writing spree (which I will go into in a later post on my playlist for the story), there was also the task of working the Festa Italia in Madison. Add to that a pair of granddaughters visiting and going to Festa with us Friday night. Oh, and baking two dozen cupcakes from a recipe I invented from one of our base recipes on the way home Thursday. I mentioned opening weekend is never really the best of circumstances, right?

I did manage to get through two “scenes” which will likely get made into chapters. My idea is almost a series of vignettes written around an outbreak of violence with a semi-supernatural catalyst. Due to this method and having two protagonists in the book, I am looking at doing a 3rd person point of view. I’m not a fan of 3rd person, but it has to be done. Once I have all of these scenes written, I’ll see how they fit together and write any bits I need to for connecting them.

Saturday kind of broke me though. After being up until around 11:00-11:30 I was up at 6:00 and at the coffee shop just after 7:30. I wrote and worked on ending my first scene and starting a second. I wrote until nearly 10:00am. From there I went to the Festa grounds and did some ninja writing until I was needed for anything. Due to my own inability to say no, I wound up closing up the Pepsi tent (to offer an alternative for as long as the beer tent is open) until midnight. That put me to bed around 2am when the dog finally realized if he kept me up any longer I would kick him out of the condo. I didn’t get up in time to make it to the coffee shop Sunday morning. I barely made it back to Festa grounds to drop off the keys for the golf carts.

Monday morning I made it to the coffee shop only a bit late. My mind needed a kick start, so I was only able to get in about 400-500 words. That means I am writing tonight. On the upside, I have a blog post on the first scene coming up and hopefully another on the main character I’m introducing in this story. Keep an eye out here for those definitely.

I also have an update for people sponsoring my story through the charity pledge page. When you donate, contact me with the format of ebook you’d like. Most of you I know personally and will get your email address if I don’t already have it. Otherwise, place a comment here and I’ll try and set up a form to send me the information I’ll need.

If you are wondering what I’m talking about, click on the Camp NaNoWriMo tab above. For a $5 donation to the charity (using the Sponsored Camper button to the right) you can get an electronic copy of the story once it is done. For more money, I’ll even include your name as a character, maul a friend of yours with a monster or a variety of other options. Everyone who donates at least $5 gets a copy of the book.

I’ll also plant this seed early. There are a lot of people choosing the Maul a Friend option as well as the Name a Character option. This means a lot of side characters that are getting eaten by monsters or taking small roles in the story. If my amount of characters/vignettes gets too large, I will be splitting this project into two books. In the event that I do that, everyone who donated the $5 or more will be sent a copy of both stories. My plan would be to write the second in August for the next installment of Camp NaNoWriMo. At this point, I think I can safely fit in all the names already penciled in as well as a few more without it getting too cramped.

Tomorrow, the post on the setting for my first scene will go live. See you all there.