Alpin’s #AMMconnect Bio

I’m Alpin (like owl-pen). I’ve been writing since before I molted into a human person. My dad and I used to trade each other stories, and I’ve been at it ever since.

Why no face?
I like my glowing pyramid, but I keep my face off the internet because I have wild dysphoria some days. Plus, I’m nonbinary! Not using my face takes away some of the snap judgements people make. If you use pronouns for me, they/them is easiest, although I’m sometimes partial to it.

What do you write?
Young Adult SFF. I’m obsessed with my current project, about a kid who fakes a superpower with engineering. But! I’ve got a stack of other projects that I churn through, and most of those are fantasy. I write about young people, identity, and weird stuff. I write about choices and fate. I write what I needed to read as a young human.

Wait, superpowers?
Oh heck yes. My AMM submission, Confessions of a SuperFake, is about a hotheaded Hispanic teenager who can build anything. At university, Lexus accidentally discovers the College of Heroic Aptitude, and engineers a fake superpower to sneak in. The story is about walking two paths, doing bad things for good reasons, good for bad, and how we live with ourselves straddling both sides of the proverbial coin. Plus, I was an engineer for a whiiiiile, and dude, building things is fun! I want to get young people, especially young queer people, interested in STEM fields. We belong, I swear.

Lex? Is this about Lex Luthor?
… Don’t rat me out, fam. No, this isn’t a Superman/Lex Luthor retelling exactly, but if I get to continue with a series, be prepared. SuperFake is, though, loosely based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

What is it like???
Try: If Iron Man was poor. If Susan Storm was evil. If the Terminator hadn’t quite learned to kill yet…

I need comparable titles!
Vicious (VE Schwab) for the villains
Lock-in (John Scalzi) for the genderless protagonists
Not Your Sidekick (C.B. Lee) for the wicked superhero, morally ambiguous government, & technopath ambiance.

That’s all for now! I’m looking forward to getting to know y’all, and I’m crossing my fingers for Nov. 19!

-ARG (Add me on Twitter!)

Quick book reviews

These are a few thoughts on the books I’ve recently finished. I read much, and think much, but individual posts for reviews are quite a bother.

Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2): Awesome action-packed follow up to the most visually stunning novel I’ve ever read (Illuminae). Mildly eh on the end, but overall couldn’t put it down. Read over 24 hours.

Merrow: I had difficulties with setting in the beginning, and with plot for the first…60ish? pages. Once the protagonists met Ulf, I was more hooked. (Mind, I read this thinking I’d get a Cthulhu reference or two, but this is a separate, older version of historical fiction.) Setting: Carrick Scotland, Manx language (from Isle of Man), possibly 900s A.D.

Girl Mans Up: Loved this. Very real. Feels so truthful. I immediately made this a new ‘book club’ read. Rarely does a contemporary wind up in my favorites list, but this did.

Flame in the Mist: This is a good story, but there were some character issues and annoying tropes. Within the first 45 pages, four separate POV characters were introduced. Near the end, I got exceptionally annoyed with a “big reveal.” That being said, Renée Ahdieh seriously impressed me with her exquisite attention to detail in creating the feudal-Japan inspired kingdom of Wa. Bring on the sequel, please.

The Seafarer’s Kiss: I liked the twists and turns, especially since this is a Little Mermaid retelling starring the rise of Ursula (Ersel), the sea witch. I especially loved the F/F romance at the front and center, and the genderfluid Loki, whose pronouns were consistently they/them. BUT, I had a few issues with the one instance of violence that showed up in the main relationship (they punched each other?), and then was glossed over. Skeeved me.

The Blind Contessa’s New Machine: Beautifully written. A bit of a  friends-turned-lovers romance that had a serious age difference, but it didn’t feel like a “grooming” situation. Mildly dissatisfying ending.

Empress of a Thousand Skies: Reads a little heavy, but very pretty. I wasn’t astonished, but I will be reading the sequel(s).

The Dust of 100 Dogs: Weird, but reads well. The piracy is pretty well done (note: I don’t condone violence, peeps). It jarred me a little to go from 1st person POV (Saffron) to 3rd person (Emer, etc). Made me happy that my siblings are hella fab.

Twisted: Recommended to me by my sister-in-almost. It strikes me as a standard YA contemporary thriller, and I’m glad the protagonist gets some closure. Not impressed by the adults, but as I grow older, I realize that humans tend to plateau in competence/empathy. It is our way.

Guards! Guards!: Picked up after the second half-ish, when the dragon actually becomes king (like the back cover says). It isn’t cool that it took 200pages for crowning the dragon to happen, when the blurb says “in rather short order,” but if you like Terry Pratchett’s weirdness, dive in. It’s a little jumpy, but has many funny moments.

Book Review: Still Life with Tornado

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King was recommended to me after I spent thirty minutes eavesdropping on a conversation at my local bookstore.

After the crowd thinned (there were six people, I’m not barging in on that), I talked to the writer of the group.

During my eavesdropping, I learned that she’s working toward her MFA in creative writing, and writes Young Adult contemporary. I prattled on about my writing group, projects, and different writer-ly things, all while holding a pile of books. She added some to my pile, and this was one of them.

Still Life with Tornado

Although the truth unfolds slowly, it’s apparent early on that this is more than just a tale of teen angst. Abuse, guilt, and family play major roles as well.  Other than a mild continuity error at the end, I enjoyed this piece, and tore through it in a day and a half. It reads easy, it’s weird, and I adore that the protagonist renamed herself “Umbrella.”

Camp NaNoWriMo: April 2017

This month, I convinced my human writing group to participate in the April edition of Camp NaNoWriMo.

It’s been a ride. I validated, got my little winner sticker, and now I’m staring at my graph.


Lumpy, right? Lemme explain.

At the beginning of the month, I struggled to finish another revision for the YA sci-fi novel I’ve been working on. Camp WordCount: 0 out of 50,000. After that went off to my editor on the 4th, I finally started writing.

I got a whole day’s worth of writing done before I hit a snag. I got busy (with just a hint of overwhelmed) and spent a few days largely ignoring the project. See days 4-7, the first plateau. This is when I got my first hints. There’s something wrong with my Na-Novel.

Yep. No idea what though.

The next thousand words are dedicated to an unfinished short story (days 8-9). It’s still not done. I just needed a change.

The first wind came on day 10. I finally figured out the problem. My project is in the wrong tense. It couldn’t have the reflective quality that comes with past tense. It has to be present. So that first wind is rewriting everything I’d written previously, including a new set of circumstances. I introduce new characters, name a few others.

Day 15, around 22,000 words, I hit another snag, even though I’m zipping through words with only minor delays. I derailed my plot. The characters took a turn I hadn’t anticipated. They literally turned and headed in a different direction.

My plot was bare-bones to start with. I had twenty-four note cards with ideas written on them, shuffled into the most tentative of orders. But I hadn’t anticipated every move, and something that started as a background detail turned into a driving force. It was a better story. It stayed.

I wrote. I even got ahead!

On the 22nd day, I spiraled. Not the fun, confusing, writing spiral that begets weird stories and a bit of magical realism. My mood tanked. I tried to spend time with a friend, with my family, but I lost myself in hundred-yard stares and fatigue. For days, I didn’t shower. I didn’t leave my house. I played solitaire. I disgusted myself.

What an inconvenient time to sink into depression! I didn’t tell anyone. There’s a shame associated with mood disorders, though plenty of people talk about that. I clawed my way out day 25, afternoon. I got just enough energy to shower.

Passed out after. I woke up clean, and read an article on fighting depression. Just because there’s not new information, doesn’t mean it doesn’t help. I needed that reassurance. That teaspoon of willpower. I took it, and I picked up an unfinished book. I cleaned something. I wrote some words. I still couldn’t leave my house, but I ratted myself out to the sibs. Peer pressure is an effective motivator. Trying to live up to how my little brother sees me? That’s powerful.

It got a little better. I wrote a little more, went to a coffee shop on the 26th, the library on the 27th, and met with my writing group on the 28th. I finished, after five-ish hours of word sprints and friendship.

So I bought a sasquatch t-shirt.


Atlanta Writing Workshop!

Hello Humans!

I am going to my first writing workshop today, in Atlanta.  I’ve been looking forward to (& dreading) this for some time, but it happens today regardless.

Conference Goals:

  1. Meet Other Writers! I use twitter to interact with many different people, especially writers and authors, but this is a great opportunity to make a personal connection. Yahoo!
  2. Learn Cool Stuff! I’ve looked through the sessions offered and selected which ones I’m going to attend. I’m most excited about the Sci-Fi/Fantasy session, but I’m looking forward to all of them.
  3. Stay Awake! (This is a personal goal. I couldn’t sleep well last night and am looking at a very long day. Wish me luck on this!)

Before I get on a plane and fly all the way to Atlanta, Georgia, I wanted to give a quick update on what I’ve been doing. I finished a fantasy novel draft around mid-January (working title: Good Wizard Bad Dragon), and I’ve been working through a penultimate revision on Confessions of a SuperFake (shorthand: COSF). After going through beta-reader responses, I decided to make structural changes to make COSF the best book it can be.

I’ve also been writing many short pieces and submitting to competitions, some of which will be published on websites soon. WooHoo! I’ll be sure to link here when those go live.

… & Just in case you, dear human, need some short fiction to read, check out the links below.

The Middle

Zombies Don’t Eat Cheez Whiz

Confessions of a SuperFake (5-page snippet)

Also, feel free to make First Contact.

Take care,


How Many Books???

Question: How many books could I read?

The reading speed for an adult human (English) is somewhere around 200-300wpm (I’ll use 300wpm). From Amazon’s text stats, the median novel length around 64k words. That’s about 3.5hours per book. Set aside 8 hours for sleeping, and about two hours for eating/everything else- That’s about 4 books every day.

DO NOT DO THIS. I’m pretty sure this is dangerous. From my observations, humans require activity variety.

Over the course of a year, that’s a maximum of 1460 books (reading only). But humans, I have another number for you.

In 2013, there were nearly 305 thousand new titles and re-editions published in the USA. Even if you read for that entire year, that’s less than 0.5% of what is available. You’d have to dedicate 200 years to read all of what was published in 2013 alone.

So, don’t worry about not finishing your TBR pile. And thank you, thank you, thank you, for spending some of your valuable time on me.

With affection.



Confessions of a SuperFake (5-page snippet)

[Hello Humans! Below is the beginning of Confessions of a SuperFake, a sci-fi novel with superheroes. Enjoy! -ARG]

Chapter 1: The Northern University Bus Incident

I stood over a stranger.

Barely conscious of my bloody knuckles, I watched instead of running. The unknown student splayed before me, legs on the bus, most of his torso on the frozen sidewalk. If I stuck around I’d go to prison. But the question kept my feet planted- was he alive?

I’m not saying I don’t deserve to go to prison. I probably do. I shouldn’t have fought a stranger, not on the first day of classes, and not on a crowded campus bus. His cough snapped me out of my trance, cuing me to run. Shouts followed me out the exit doors. Thank god I was nobody- anonymity allowed me to get away.

I cut through a parking lot, my feet ploughed through iced-over dew. The unreasonable cold bit at exposed skin on my neck, my fingers, my ankles. I’d intended to get to classes early enough to slip in unnoticed, just like high school.

Today I’d need extra time to wash off the blood.

I hardly paid attention during the first lecture. Northern University in Winthrop, Washington, had given me a full ride in engineering, but I desperately missed Georgia. Last week, I’d been in a balmy summer with my siblings, excitedly discussing the cool things I’d build in college. Building had been my passion all my life. This was my chance.

I’d almost blown it.




It was snowing by the time my classes were over.

I hadn’t expected snow, even flurries, in September. My second-hand tennis shoes soaked up cold slush water, unavoidable on the sidewalk. I needed weather-appropriate clothing- a protective jacket, boots.

To escape the frigid weather, I stopped at a small coffee shop midway between engineering campus and my dorm. I welcomed the painful tingling in my face from the sudden warmth. I pulled out my sketchbook.

Still empty.

Since leaving my family, I hadn’t designed anything. In Georgia, I’d been able to fashion fantastic devices out of materials available in my neighbor’s garage. He had so many incredible tools. I had a small collection of hand tools that I’d brought with me, but it didn’t compare to my neighbor’s acetylene torch. No materials, No Tools, No Inspiration? No designs.

My pencil sat welded to the page, waiting, trying not to think about snapping at the random student this morning. My knuckles served as a reminder that I’d sucker punched him, and not for any reason that would get an approving nod from my older brother. Not that I’d tell him; Lou would put two and two together and realize that it had something to do with his phone call this morning. If Lou decided that my parents were right, that I should be kept ignorant about our sister’s relapse, he might never tell me anything. Then that jerk student had been running his mouth about the financial burdens of federally funded healthcare, like my sister needed.

I’d just lost it.

I didn’t know if my sister would even be alive when I got back home. If I could give Leccie a kidney, I would.

I’m so damn helpless here.

I switched to my less-bruised hand, to mentally regroup. The sketchbook’s gridlines rippled, mocking me, laughing at my lack of inspiration. I leaned back in the booth and refused to look at anything. A sting on the back of my head reminded me that guy had ripped out some of my hair during the fight. I still wasn’t going to get a haircut, no matter what Mom said.

It was minutes before I noticed someone had come to sit next to me.

“What am I, invisible?” The flawlessly dark-skinned intruder had a green coat, black hair in dozens of dreadlocks, and a hand extended to me. “I’m Jordan.”

I looked at the hand, offered like a secret. After a short handshake, I put away my sketchbook.

“This is where you tell me your name.” Jordan smiled.

“Uhh… Lex.”

“Alex? Is that short for something?”

“No. Just Lex. My parents are big on L’s.”

“Can I call you Lexy?” Jordan asked. I shook my head.

“No. Definitely not. Who are you?”

“Jordan Moore. Your new best friend.” I stared at the newcomer, my supposed new friend.

“What makes you think… I don’t understand… what?” What was Jordan doing, in my booth, talking to me. People don’t talk to me. Especially not attractive, well-dressed extroverts with stunning smiles.

“You’re new here. I figure you don’t have a best friend yet.”

“Why do you think I’m new?”

“Got a loner vibe.” Jordan shrugged. “And no wind breaker. Also, sneakers. Seriously? Not a veteran of NU.” The barista brought coffee and a smile for Jordan. Heavenly steam poured over the lip.

“You want some?”

I did.

“No. No I’m good.” I looked at my hands, tucked in my lap. Jordan sipped, chatting for some time about the area and classes to take. I didn’t mind listening. Very little input was required until Jordan asked if I’d go bowling.

“I really can’t…” I couldn’t pay for bowling, or any activities.

“C’mon… My treat.” Jordan insisted.

I did need something to distract me. My normal building-based methods weren’t working.


“You free Thursdays?” Jordan asked.

“Sure.” I shrugged. “Wait, Thursdays?”

Jordan started to get up.

“Best friends hang out at least weekly.” Jordan said, returning the mug to a dish bin. Jordan couldn’t leave yet- I needed more logistics from this strange, friendly person.

“Where?” I asked.

“Meet me here Thursday, Seven-ish.”

Jordan waved from the door.

Apparently, I had a new best friend.



Post coffee-shop, in the warmth of my dorm lobby, I browsed bus routes. If I didn’t want to have to walk four miles to the engineering campus, I needed a route where I hadn’t committed felony assault. Avoid recognition. Avoid arrest.

In my hour-long search, I came across a brochure on plain paper. The route inside–  labeled Northern University CHA transport–  had a 6:30am stop a few blocks west, and would let off on a side road on the southern edge of campus.

I reread to make sure I hadn’t imagined it. From other maps, the stop would only be a half mile from the engineering campus, if I cut through the woods. A woodsy morning walk? Sounded almost pleasant.

My roommate hated my extra-early alarm, and I hated the pervasive cold that followed me onto CHA bus. I had my flimsy hood up and my nose tucked awkwardly under my collar. Warm face coverings seemed common on the route.

No one spoke. I preferred the silence to another fight.

The silent students trotted off northward while I lagged in confusion. I’d intended to walk through woods, not several stories of unlabeled box-building surrounded by tall pines. The black rectangular building and massive adjacent greenhouse hadn’t been on any map I’d seen.

Hoping for central heating, I followed the students inside. They must be students, to meet on a college campus and take a school-affiliated bus to a building on school property.

Inside, the crowd dispersed, leaving me to explore the unknown building. The floor shone with fresh wax, next to faded wall paint. Why wasn’t the old, well-maintained building on my maps? The question compelled me forward.

I found a large, single-stall restroom, an odd dispenser next to the hand dryer.

The unhelpful label read: You only get one. Keep it safe.

I pressed the button. A small black mask dropped down the slot.

I studied the paper mask. Leccie, my comic-loving little sister would appreciate the of eccentricity. She would have insisted I wear it. I pulled the surprisingly comfortable cord around the back of my head.

Lou hadn’t called with any hospital updates today.

I peered into rooms along the hallway, keeping a mental track of the variety- classrooms, empty rooms, small gyms.

Around seven, one of the classrooms had bodies. The instructor looked over at me, as if I’d interrupted.

“Are you going to take a seat?”

I considered. This was clearly a lecture, and but on what? I filed in and sat in the only empty seat. Front row.

“Welcome to your first class in the College for Heroic Aptitude at Northern University.”




[If you’re interested in reading more after that, the full first chapter is available at Readers welcome. -ARG]


The Middle

[Contemporary short story, ~1400 words. -ARG]


Fire don’t care that it’s winter.

The air gets hazier as we rocket through the Smokies, Mom and me, taking mountain curves like she doesn’t remember she’s a cop five days a week. We’re already later than we would be, with traffic from the rain that ain’t where it needs to be, and we’ve been in the car six hours and I’m on no sleep.

Wildfire ain’t supposed to be out east. East we worry about storms, like Katrina or Fran, way back when. But turns out droughts can happen anywhere, and fire don’t give a damn that we ain’t prepared for it.

“If we have to evacuate, the dogs go in my car. Papaw can’t go with them, because they tear his skin.” Mom tells me. She’s right. I’ll drive Papaw and Nana back, in their impala. Only if Papaw gets discharged. I don’t know what we’ll do if the fire gets to the hospital.

“If we gotta.” I agree. “They’ll stay with you? What about the cousins?”

“It’ll be tight.” Her knuckles are white on the wheel. “But we’ll manage.”

We been looking for a way to get them moved outta the mountains for a while now. With Papaw’s heart, and Nana’s memory going, it’d be easier to have them closer. But they won’t do anything they don’t wanna.

Hospital’s a big, pretty place, and we gotta confirm where Papaw is. The news is on in his room– a cycle of reporters talking about the fire, people that lost their homes, videos of smoke covered mountains and hills of flame and one pair of guys driving down with fire on both sides. We’re all waiting to hear if they’ll call an evacuation for the trailer we ain’t at. Papaw and Nana fall asleep to the noise, the little green lines on the EKG, the hum of the heparin IV, Gatlinburg mayor giving a speech on TV. The governor talks about how special this place is, but it’s hard to care about the outside world.

A lab tech comes in to take blood, but her pulling tape rips Papaw’s skin. Paper thin, fragile. I guess she didn’t know because she felt bad, but ‘feeling bad’ don’t stop the bleeding. We call a nurse and she wraps up his arm. We won’t let that happen again, but that doesn’t undo the damage.

We feed Nana from the cafeteria. She hasn’t been eating, but she will if we watch. Time passes like molasses, and we wait. The chairs are hard, and there’s only two, so I walk around, or I sit on the floor. The nurse doesn’t like that. Doesn’t stop me.

Mom points to the TV, the one I’m trying my damnedest to ignore.

“That motel ain’t two miles from you.”

That perks me up. I hope the dogs aren’t in danger. When men face danger, people like to say they have a fight or flight response. Ain’t right. Men also freeze like deer do. I freeze, I know I do.

“I don’t think it was wildfire.” Papaw says. He sat up for dinner, needs help to do it. He’s hurting. He’s been going all his life and he don’t stop unless he’s hurting.

“Arson?” Mom asks.


The TV drowns out the rest. I don’t doubt it, but I don’t want it to be arson, and I don’t wanna listen to the damned TV. I don’t wanna listen to anything else either. I get glued to my phone instead.

Embers can float a mile, it says.


Papaw needs help getting to the bathroom. Mom helps.

“This little gown they give you don’t cover your backside anyhow.” Papaw says. Temp’s set to eighty and he’s still shaking cold. I talk to Mom. Nana ain’t been home in some days, and Doctor ain’t coming today, most like, so I gotta drive Nana back. Back, toward the fire, where their dogs are. I keep saying we’ll run if they say, but they don’t say yet.

Fight, flight, freeze.

I drive back toward the fire, Nana my passenger. I make a turn too quick and loll her neck- I forgot how gentle I gotta be. She sleeps some after that. The fire glow doesn’t overrun the city glow, the Winterfest lights, the advertisements. I can’t see stars. Maybe smoke. Maybe light pollution. Maybe I just ain’t looking hard enough. Wind’s rough on the highway.

Embers can float a mile.

I sleep for ten hours, fitful, with a tornado warning blaring around 2am. I ignore it, pass back out, and hope I’ll even wake up for an evacuation. Morning comes like it always does, and Mom wants us back at the hospital, but I make sure Nana eats first. I drive back with blinking eyes, oil and tire lights on in Nana’s car. She reaches over to switch off the warnings, and I wonder how long she’s been doing that.

“What did it say?” I hadn’t caught the warning that time.

“Oh, I don’t know. It wasn’t what I wanted to see.”

Nothing to say to that.

We get there, parking in the pouring rain since Nana won’t let me drop her off. She walks slow, and I hold the umbrella. Mom texted asking for prayers since Papaw already got wheeled into the procedure.

My nails got picked apart from chewing, which I shouldn’t do around so many sick, but I’ve got an itch in my gut. Papaw wakes up, and we wait more, and sometime Mom and I go get oil to put in Nana’s car. There’s gotta be a bubble in the line somewhere, but it doesn’t get too hot on the road, so we’ll look later. The air is wet, and cold. Fire must be contained, right? We’re safe now, right?

The nurse comes in for midday pills, and we help Papaw sit up.

“You sound alright. How’re ya feeling?” The nurses treat Papaw kindly, and he teases them and jokes on, amiable as ever.

“I may sound alright, but I ain’t chasing no twenty year olds.” Papaw chuckles. I can tell he’s cold though. His hands shake, legs are mottled, and his arms got a dozen thick red bruises. My hands shake too, but I can hide that. Ain’t nobody looking at me anyway.

I leave for walks every so often. When the rain lightens up, I even go outside. People light up on the sidewalk, even though there are signs all over about how the hospital grounds are smoke free. Wonder if the wildfire can read.

That ain’t funny. People are dead. Count keeps going up each day, from finding the bodies. Tornado fatalities not included. I think they ought to be.

Cold bites.  I should’ve brought a thicker coat.


It’s past midnight, and we wait for the cardiologist again, but he’s not coming. I need to take Nana home while I can still drive. I can’t stand the TV anymore, taking any excuse to be out of the room. Everything’s still closed, still cold, still dangerous. My hands shake, like I know I’m on the cusp of disaster. If I leave tonight, will it be the end? I just want the cardiologist to come by like the nurses said he would, to tell us how much danger Papaw’s in, whether he’d get to go home soon.

I’m irritable on the way back, driving gentle but following my GPS to the letter. Nana’s lived here her whole life, but sometimes she gets lost or her directions get flipped, and I’m still worried I’ll blow a tire and have to change it in the dead of night.

We get back and I pass out, and it’s near noon before I wake up to a call from mom. I mutter that we’ll leave soon, and try to blink the tired out of my eyes.

The car starts outside. I bolt up to look out the blinds.


Nana shouldn’t be driving, but she don’t care. I pull on my jacket and step outside to watch her car whizz down the gravel.

I wrestle the emergency Marlboro out of my wallet. My shakes calm long enough to let me text mom. I let the cold bite, filling my lungs with that sweet, deadly relief. Fire, Tornado, danger, nothing. This ain’t the end. It’s the goddamned middle.

I stamp the butt out, because embers can float a mile.

And fire don’t care.

News & Chapter Titles

Hello Humans! Anybody feel a draft in here?

IT’S ME! I just finished the first draft of a new novel. This WIP came in just over 100,000 words, and 253 pages. The draft is loosely a YA comic fantasy, which I worked on for Camp Nanowrimo.

So, for this first post after Uncanny Valley, I’m talking about “Ahead of Fate” (the working title). Since I already have a synopsis and world information up on my still-in-progress website, I’ll be sharing the chapter titles that have been making me snicker for the better part of 3 non-consecutive months.

(I have a serious affection for puns.)

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: Demon, Deserter, Shifter, Slayer
  • Chapter 2: Sakura Nova
  • Chapter 3: A Brief Chase
  • Chapter 4: A Doggone Shame
  • Chapter 5: Orange You Glad?
  • Chapter 6: Pray It Forward
  • Chapter 7: Seven Minutes in Heaven
  • Chapter 8: Maid in the North
  • Chapter 9: A Whirlwind Bromance
  • Chapter 10: Six Ways to Sunday
  • Chapter 11: Net Prophet
  • Chapter 12: Conversion Therapy
  • Chapter 13: Reckless Abandonment
  • Chapter 14: The Prodigal Child
  • Chapter 15: The Last Peace
  • Chapter 16: The Human Race
  • Chapter 17: Ragnarok
  • Chapter 18: Pyramid Scheme
  • Epilogue: Kale Smoothie


I’m really looking forward to getting feedback from alpha readers on this piece.

In general, I don’t see many authors using chapter titles. Anybody know why? I love them.


Zombies Don’t Eat Cheez Whiz

[A short piece of surreal fiction about accepting our weird, gross bodies. -ARG]

Zombies cheezwhiz pic

I think I just died.

I can’t be sure yet. This could just be a very strange third-person dream.

Given that my body is lying on the ground below me, being munched on by the living dead, I’m seriously hoping that this is only a dream.

There’s definitely a dream-like quality to the motion around me. The bodies moving around the corpsified version of me leave behind trails of light, like I’m looking through one of those old school two-color 3D glasses. My body is the only one not moving. I watch for a bit longer, and decide that if this is a dream, I really want to wake up.

The zom-zoms, my personal pet name for the dullards, soon move on from my body to chase fresher meat- my companions, of course. I don’t much like them anyway. Everyone I’d really liked had gotten zombified weeks ago. Or however long ago. I’m having difficulty remembering timelines, which favors the dream theory I’m rooting for.

On the positive side, I’m sorta getting the hang of floating, if no one takes an objective measure. It feels like I’m on the first level of a video game, and all my controls are sticking. This level would be quite a bit less disturbing without my dead body on the ground, covered in zombie-bites like giant gross chicken pox.


I’ve never been a looker. But even as an acne-covered teen with an affection for Cheetos, Cheezits, Cheez Whiz, and other cheese products, I’d still never looked this bad. My skin has been replaced by slimy gray candle wax, and some white foam oozes out of my gracelessly slack mouth.

I avoid looking directly at the bite marks as long as I can, because I have always been very squeamish. I faint at needles, I can’t stand the sight of blood, and I both vomited and gotten crazy severe shakes after a documentary on poultry farms. Since then, I’ve been a life-long vegetarian. Even during this zom-zom rodeo, I shut my eyes every time somebody gets bitten. If this isn’t a terrible dream, then my weak stomach is probably the reason I’m corpse food. Zombies are gross.

Finally looking closer, I’m gross too. Along with red, angry bites everywhere, a whole huge chunk is missing out of my clearly broken right forearm.  Those zombastards must’ve chomped right through the bones!

Perhaps this horrible maybe-dream is telling me to give up the guitar. Good riddance, I’d never excelled at finger picking notes. I’m better with chords, by which I mean I’m not very good at all. I can’t entirely blame my recent six-month hiatus on the apocalypse though. I’d stopped practicing long before I’d witnessed somebody turn from conscious person into gross hungry candle.

At least I don’t feel queasy! Thank goodness. I don’t want to vomit all over my own corpse.

My corpse, which starts to groan and twitch.

Oh no. No no no no no. I hadn’t considered this possibility.

Wake up, me!

Wake up, wake up, wake up!

The groan echoes throughout the room, and the twitches made by my body leave behind shimmering shadows as it moves. My own eyes open below me, now made of gray zombie wax. My body slowly rises of its own accord, groaning.

Even pinching doesn’t wake me up. Can’t even feel it. I’m watching my own corpse turn into a zombie.

My body pushes itself up and drags its own gore across the tile toward some small sounds in the house. I’d gotten killed in a kitchen. I hope I hadn’t been doing something stupid when I died, although there is a distinct chance I had been looking for Cheezits.

I follow myself, which sounds strange. What could I call my own zombified body?

Me-bie? Other, Grosser Self? Zom-me? Zombody? Zombuddy?

I favor the latter two, but can’t pick. I guess I’ll stick with “Body” for now. I watch Body shamble toward the… what was it? Living room? I float through the wall, frustrated at my lack of speed. Body hit the counter at stomach level, smearing blood from its limp, useless right arm as it stumbled about.

The living room is bright, sparkling almost, with sun-drenched draperies that left little star-shadows wherever they moved. Sunlight is incredibly bright, shining in the air like suspended zirconium. I can’t remember the house perfectly, but my blurry memories definitely disagree with my current senses.

While I’m distracted by the shimmering sunlight, Body runs into a coffee table and falls flat on its waxy dead face.

I whack my forehead with my own palm in annoyance. It doesn’t hurt a lick.

The realization hits me like my palm to the face didn’t: I am a ghost. I am a non-corporeal phantasm, separated from my mortal coil. And my mortal coil’s clumsy husk had just tripped over a coffee table.

I try to sit on the couch to think, but I accidentally float too far down and get hopelessly lost in the cantaloupe-colored foam inside the old-school flower motifs. I flail uselessly until I have the brilliant idea to just float my way out, which takes longer than expected. Honestly, having to float in three dimensions should really come with a freaking game controller.

When I exit the couch, Body is gone. I hyperventilate for two seconds before I realize that I’m not actually breathing, and it’s not affecting me. I guess it’d been a mental reaction, not a physical one. No shakes, no overwhelming panic.

Maybe being a ghost isn’t so bad, just as long as I don’t try to sit on any couches. Those things are deceptively dangerous.

I float toward the next room, and the next, before finding Body flush up against a bookshelf. Gross coagulated blood is smeared all over the wood, various trinkets, and useless shelved Blu-rays. The books had been spared, but only because Body’s sleeve snagged on a metal hook holding orphan keys.

Body could easily release itself, if it would just stop going forward. Its groans echo throughout the room. I never remembered zombies being this loud before, or echoing in the slightest. Body’s vocal complaints are matched by significantly more alive sounds from another room. Taps of boots, heavy breathing.

Body swings around haphazardly and attempts to shamble toward the alive-noises. Its sleeve is still stuck fast, resulting in the worrisome wobble of the bookshelf.

My worry is short-lived. One good jerk from Body topples the whole thing, with pale trails of the movement cascading as the bookshelf falls. Body collapses underneath, feet flailing like it had slipped on a cartoon banana peel. The heavy wood shelf pins Body’s shoulder and twists its leg in a strange direction. It’s even stranger to realize I don’t consider Body’s legs mine anymore. Does ghost-me have legs? I’m a little afraid to check. Procrastination seems like a solid plan.

The humans enter, glance at Body, and move on. A small train of zom-zoms pursue at a slower pace. The alive people are fleeing, and anybody (ha!) who isn’t trapped by a toppled bookshelf is following at as fast a pace as those dead little legs would allow.

The house is quiet soon, except for Body’s noises. The groans are starting to sound more whiny to me, like a puppy begging to go out and eat the tasty humans. I wonder uselessly if Body is housetrained.

I briefly consider trying to lift the shelf, before abolishing the thought. Even alive-me wouldn’t have been able to lift it. In addition to having a pizza-style face, I used to have laughable upper body strength that my meager prowess at guitar had not enhanced.

Lying down beside Body, I put my hands behind my head and crossed my ankles of questionable existence. I glance over at the gross, waxy thing beside me that I had once inhabited.

“Would you prefer Zombody, or Zombuddy?” I ask.

Body continues grumbling without recognition that I’d spoken. I roll my incorporeal eyes and think. I could stay like this forever, and might end up doing that. It doesn’t seem so bad. I do the exact same nothing every summer. My world is much more at peace now that I’m not running. This frightening thing has happened, is still happening, and I’m adjusting. I’m okay. Chances are this isn’t a dream, but it’s also not a nightmare.

By far my biggest concern about ghost-hood?

No Cheezits.