Friday Five: Top Five Zombie Flicks

It’s the last day of the Holiday Bog Hop, which means it’s the last day to visit all of the blogs and enter to win some amazing prizes! If you haven’t already, be sure to check my main giveaway page for your chances to win my book and an amigurumi zombie hand-crocheted by yours truly. And keep reading to see how you can grab another chance to win a free e-book copy of Dominion of the Damned!

I’m a fan of zombie movies, which you might notice if you read my latest novel. I’ll pretty much watch anything with zombies in it, and I’ll be the first to admit, there’s a lot of bad out there in zombie-land. But there’s some greatness, too. Here are my five favorite zombie movies, in no particular order:

1. Shaun of the Dead – Billed as “a romantic comedy, with zombies,” there’s  really not a better way to describe this movie, except to add that it’s British. And if you’re a fan of British comedy, then I don’t need to tell you that Shaun of the Dead is freaking hilarious. One of the best things about it is how straight it plays the zombie apocalypse — it’s not really a parody of the genre as much as it’s a genre-mashup. The zombies are quite frightening. It’s the “You can’t really be serious about this” attitudes of the protagonists toward everything that makes this probably the funniest zombie horror movie you’ll ever see.

2. Return of the Living Dead – This 1980s classic actually is a parody of Romero-style zombie movies, and it’s pretty brilliant. Although hilarious, it also has some genuinely frightening moments, along with a significant amount of gore.  It also gets credit for adding zombies’ unyielding hunger for “braaaaains” to the genre.

3. Dawn of the Dead (2004) – Here’s where I have to confess that I still haven’t seen the original, so I don’t know how it compares, but this is a pretty frightening flick. There’s not a lot of humor to be found in this one, but it is a fascinating study of human nature in a dire situation, when it all comes down to survival. And the zombies in this are of the fast-moving variety, which makes them all the more frightening.

4. Night of the Living Dead (1968) – The movie that started it all is a classic, and for good reason. Its low budget only adds to the realism and feelings of claustrophobia and paranoia, and although some of the performances are pretty far from Oscar-worthy, there’s also some stand-out acting from some of the unknown actors in the film. It’s the film that set the standard for all modern zombie movies, and I still never get tired of watching it.

5. Pontypool – This is kind of a controversial choice. I debated giving this slot to either Zombieland or Fido, both of which I liked better overall than Pontypool, but I realized that I have more to say about the latter. It’s kind of an obscure movie, about a morning radio shock-jock and his producer who are locked in their basement radio station when an apparent zombie-like outbreak occurs in their small Canadian town. It’s one of the more creative approaches to the genre that I’ve seen, and it’s almost like listening to a radio play, as most of the action is heard rather than seen, leaving a lot to the audience’s imagination. I do have to say, though, that the ending almost ruined it for me, which I found to be almost insulting in its pretentiousness. But up until then, it was a pretty entertaining and original take on the zombie genre that had me on the edge of my seat.

Do you have a favorite zombie movie, or do you steer clear of the genre altogether? Tell us about it in the comments — and for this last day of the Holiday Hop, I’ll randomly select one winner from among today’s comments on this post to receive an e-copy of my zombies vs. humans vs. vampires novel, Dominion of the Damned!

Friday Five: Cold & Flu Season Edition

It’s that special time of year, when it seems like practically everyone I know is hacking and coughing and falling victim to the various bugs that are floating around, and I get that threatening tickle at the back of my throat. So I thought I’d share my top 5 home remedies and preventive measures for keeping that tickle from making good on its threat.

1. Vitamin C. This is more prevention than a cure, but I’m a big believer in Vitamin C’s immunity-boosting powers. I take 500 mgs a day (plus whatever’s in my multi-vitamin) all year long, but this time of year I usually double up on it, especially if I feel like I might be coming down with something. I can’t say I never get sick, but it doesn’t happen very often, and when it does it’s usually relatively short-lived.

2. Licorice root tea. This tea has anti-bacterial properties, and when sweetened with honey (also anti-bacterial) it’s a powerhouse at knocking out a sore throat — or keeping that scratchiness from achieving full-on soreness in the first place.

3. This Pinterest recipe. I’ve started mixing this concoction (it’s one part each cider vinegar, honey and water, with ginger and cayenne pepper mixed in) whenever my throat feels scratchy, my nose gets stuffy or I start to feel crud settling in my chest, and I can vouch for its effectiveness. It feels great on a scratchy throat and it really opens up my airways. Of course, we’ve been out of cayenne, so I’ve been substituting my husband’s superhot pepper powder, which will practically burn a new cavity in your sinuses if you’re not used to that stuff. You might just want to stick with the cayenne.

4. Hot toddies. I rarely get sick enough to justify one of these, but when I do… I don’t know how curative they actually are, but they’re definitely soothing. This is my favorite recipe, but just the water, cheap whiskey, honey and lemon will do in a pinch, or if you’re too sick to care about getting gourmet with it.

5. Salt water gargle and nasal irrigation. Okay, I know it’s gross, especially that nasal rinse part. I’ve done the salt water gargle whenever I get a sore throat ever since I tended to get strep throat about twice a year every year as a kid, but I’m a relative newcomer to the nasal rinse, and I made fun of the Neti pot commercials when they first came out just like everyone else. But coming down with a sinus infection a few years ago and not having insurance to cover antibiotics drove me to desperation, and I will tell you — doing this thing knocked out my sinus infection. I use a child’s medicine syringe instead of the Neti pot, and it takes some practice to angle your head just right, and it feels embarrassing and is kind of disgusting. But it’s worth it when you find yourself able to breathe again.

Do you have any home cold & flu remedies (or a killer hot toddy recipe) to share? If so, tell us about it in the comments!

Friday Five – Thankfulness

I hope all of my readers here in the States had a happy Thanksgiving. I put so much food in my belly yesterday, I’m surprised I didn’t explode. I really thought I might at one point. Even though the holiday is over for another year and practically everyone I know has moved on to doing their Christmas shopping and putting up their trees and lights and whatnot, I thought I’d use my Friday Five to list a few of the many things for which I’m truly thankful.

1. My husband. We have our share of disagreements and times when we’re each just plain disagreeable, but the vast majority of the time, we truly enjoy each other’s company–which is a good thing, considering we both work at home and are up in each other’s business 24/7. But the rare times that we do spend apart, we miss each other and prefer to spend our time together. What can I say? He’s my best friend. We’ve traveled some really rocky ground together over the last few years, really testing out that whole “for worse” part, and it’s only made us closer and stronger. He always comes through for me, and I feel like I can face just about anything as long as I know he’s got my back. I love that man o’ mine, and I couldn’t be more grateful that he’s part of my life.

2. My mom. I’m so thankful that she’s here, and that she’s healthy, and I pray that she’ll stay that way for many, many more years. I’m thankful for all of our family and friends, and that each and every one of them is in relatively good health, and I’m thankful that everyone still lives close enough that we can gather together on the holidays.

3. My “frans” — my friends who are also fans of my work. They support me every way they can and help evangelize my work. They cheer me on and don’t let me get away with doubting myself or my abilities, something that I need way more often than I’d like to admit.

4. My dog. Of course I love all of our four-legged kids — we also have three cats and a box turtle — but our chihuahua, Pete, is such a little delight. His personality is about a hundred times bigger than his size, and he tends to be hilarious, not to mention so cute it hurts. In a lot of ways, he’s so childlike, and he goes a long way toward filling that particular void in our lives.

5. The talent God gave me. Without it… actually, if I didn’t have creative talent, I’d probably have an easier life. I would have made sure to get a practical degree in college, and I’d probably have a good job, and I’d put in my eight hours and then come home and watch TV or read and I’d be satisfied and so much less exhausted. And yet, I would still rather have the ability to spin stories out of whole cloth and write them down and occasionally have people tell me how my stories touched them, or made them just a little happier for a moment, or helped them through a rough patch. I am, quite honestly, terrible at speaking my thoughts, which makes me entirely grateful for the ability to write them down coherently. Also, having a writer’s imagination is a wonderful cure for boredom that I always have with me. So yes–I am tremendously thankful that God made me a writer.

What are you thankful for, dear reader? And did you have a good Thanksgiving?

Friday Five – Get Your Steam(Punk) On

Steampunk Nerf Weaponry : The Girl, The Guns : 5I’ve been poking around the corners of the web lately, trying to become more familiar with the steampunk genre in preparation for writing my next novel, Radium Town. Of course, being a nerd who lives on the Internet, I’m fairly well acquainted with steampunk already–and you probably are, too, you just don’t realize that the genre itself is fairly old. It’s the rise in popularity and cosplay and what have you that are relatively new.

At any rate, I’ve stumbled across a few steampunk-related links that I want to remember, so I thought I’d share them with you this week.

Keys On the Typewriter: Steampunk 101 is a good overview of the genre, its history and evolution, its tropes and conventions, and it’s growing appeal. If you think you’re clueless about steampunk, this is a good place to start cluing yourself in.

American Cultural History 1890-1899 (and also 1900-1909) is an excellent reference resource for the time period my story will be set in. It includes sections for each decade on things like Art & Architecture, Fads & Fashion, Historic Events and People & Personalities. This should come in really handy for world-building and grounding my alternate-reality setting in history and realism.

Steam Circus doesn’t really have anything to do with my novel–I just find I’m digging the whole steampunk aesthetic, and since I haven’t been to a con in over 8 years and even if I did attend them regularly, I probably wouldn’t have the nerve to participate in full-on cosplay, I figure the best way to integrate a little steam into my wardrobe is with steampunk-inspired jewelry. This site has some such jewelry that is downright gorgeous, as well as other accessories that would work either as part of a costume or for a more subtle approach.

And speaking of real-world steampunk fashion, Minnie Zephie’s Steampunk Treasure Trunk chronicles her pursuit of same — attempting to integrate a subtle steampunk aesthetic into her every day wardrobe without crossing the line into costume-wearing. I really like this idea, and I think it’s something I could pull off. I feel like as I look ahead in my author career to potentially attending cons, signings and other writer events, I need to start paying a little more attention to my style and image and elevate it a few (dozen) steps above “yoga/pajama/workout pants and a tee-shirt most days and put on jeans on the rare occasions that I leave the house.” Anyway, I’ve always liked the neo-Victorian classical look, and I really like the edge that the steampunk elements give it.

And if I want to go a little less subtle, I can always whip up one of the AMAZING steampunk-inspired knit patterns from The Ladies of Mischief. This site is giving me SUCH a hankering to run to my local yarn shop and plunk down about a hundred dollars on some quality yarn so I can make these projects. LOVE the bloomers! And the corset! And… and… all of it! Love! Except, sadly, I don’t have a hundred dollars to spend on good yarn and I barely have time to knit these days. But it is bookmarked, and some day, my pretties, just you wait.

Friday Five: TV Vampires

Between yesterday being Bram Stoker’s birthday, and me being thisclose to finishing revisions on my vampire/zombie novel, it seems appropriate for this week’s Friday Five to count down my Top Five Vampires of the small screen (but sorry, Mr. Stoker, Dracula didn’t make the cut).

I have a confession – I haven’t seen True Blood or Vampire Diaries, and the little bit I have seen of Twilight kind of made me want to find Stephanie Meyer and kick her in the shins. Which is kind of irrelevant, since this is about TV vampires, but it still bears mentioning. For me, the Buffyverse was pretty much the pinnacle of my vampire fandom, and it pretty much ruined all other vampires for me. Nevertheless, although this list could easily consist entirely of the Fearsome Foursome plus Harmony, I’ve limited my choices to only three Buffyverse vampires. I’m sure it surprises nobody that they top my list.

1. Spike – Has there ever been a redemption arc as compelling or heart-breaking as Spike’s evolution from bad boy Slayer arch-nemesis to lovesick anti-hero to full-fledged noble hero? I think not. And in all of his incarnations, Spike managed to be equal parts dead sexy and hilarious. HE is the one who ruined me for all other vampires. They just don’t make ’em like Spike anymore.
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