Faeries and zombies

Bones of Faerie is five years old this spring! I’d get all sentimental, only Liza isn’t really the sentimental sort, so instead here’s a Book Smugglers’ “Old School Wednesday” review.

“Bones of Faerie is an unexpectedly lyrical and beautifully written book – I am an immediate fan of Janni Lee Simner’s haunting prose, which captured me from the first eerie chapter. It’s a poignant, elegiac novel about a world ravaged by magic and the children who have grown up in its ruins. It is Liza’s world that is so captivating, that draws you in and defines Bones of Faerie …”

Also, the Zombies, Run! episode I wrote is now live! Specifically, it’s Season 3, Mission 6: Career Day: “Mysterious giant footprints have been spotted–could this be related to the Phantom of Abel?” I had a blast writing this, and of course, I jumped ahead and ran the mission out of order just so I could hear it. It was a blast, running to my own words–but of course, the real blast is thinking of other people running to my words.

Because, after all, we are all Runner 5.

In which Idina Menzel and Patti Griffin help me flee from zombies

I talk to Naomi Alderman about writing for Zombies, Run.

The Zombies, Run! app chooses songs from whatever playlist you feed it, and in that post, I talk about how my favorite moments are the ones when something comes up that’s wildly inappropriate for the narrative.

Today’s episode was filled with those awesome moments.

First, just as a friend has gone gray (turned into a zombie) and I’m fleeing from them, my playlist urged me to “Let It Go.”

Then, just another character was revealed to have secret zombie blood inside them, I was told “Something has changed within me. Something is not the same.”

And then a traitor was unmasked to strains of, “Don’t bring me bad news, no bad news, I don’t need none of your bad news today.”

And this is why I run from zombies.

Along the way, I’m pondering the fact that said traitor’s unmasking was utterly expected, and yet nonetheless satisfying. The discovery isn’t the only thing that makes a reveal satisfying–this is a craft thing worth thinking about some more.

Got a routine mission for you today

So, you all know by now that I’m a huge fan of Zombies, Run! right? That app that’s been keeping me running (or, this month, getting me back to running) by (in theory) giving me something to run from while (actually) making me want to know what happens next so badly I have no choice but to run? That app that I first downloaded because I thought it was had clever gimmick but kept playing because it’s really well written and has all sorts of cool and compelling story things going on? That app I geek out about to pretty much anyone who will stand still long enough to listen?

Yeah, that app.

Well, season 3 starts up this month, and I can finally tell you that …

… I wrote a guest episode!

I had so much fun writing this, you have no idea. It turns out writing about running from zombies is as much fun as actually running from zombies. Who knew? And the thought of other Runner 5s getting to run to it just fills me with glee.

I won’t say anything else now, except that I was a Girl Scout for 12 years and a Girl Scout leader for 8 years and these things just might have had a … teeny tiny bit of influence on the episode.

Writing lessons from the zombie apocalypse

While running today’s Zombies, Run! episode mission, I ran into some children who’d been turned into zombies. It’s a rough apocalypse, so pretty much everyone is a potential zombie, children included, but of course, all the Runners around me were nonetheless horrified. (I, Runner 5, was presumably horrified too, but one of the amazing things about this game is that it’s actually written in a way that doesn’t tell me what I’m thinking as I play it.)

Anyway, often when children are put in peril in stories it doesn’t work for me, because too often–especially in stories aimed at adult readers–children are only put on stage in the first place because they represent helplessness or innocence or an opportunity for painfully transparent emotional manipulation. That is, they’re only in the story at all so they can be in peril.

That didn’t happen here though, and the big reason it didn’t happen here is that these aren’t the first children we’ve met in the story.

In earlier episodes I’d already met children who kicked and screamed as zombies grabbed at them. I also met a troop of utterly awesome Girl Guides who are among my favorite characters in this game, and who save the day and roll their eyes at the clearly-less-competent-than-them adults who keep wanting to protect them and get them to safety. In other words, I’d already met child characters who clearly had agency, so meeting child characters who were denied their agency by being turned into zombies didn’t feel like manipulation. It felt like bad things had happened to happen to otherwise sympathetic characters not because they’re children but because, well, this is a zombie apocalypse.

I’ve felt the exact same way when female characters have come to bad ends. There are enough awesome female characters on stage (enough that you might think we were, like, half the population or something) that when a female character does die, it’s not like she was put there to be a convenient victim. She was put there because women are part of this world, and it’s a dangerous world and a dangerous story, and things happen–to everyone.

One of the best ways to keep a character from turning into a token victim is to make sure they’re not token–not by removing them, but by making sure that whatever group they’re a part of, they’re not the only representative of that group.

It’s awesome that when I go out for a run as Runner 5, I’m entering a world that has this down cold.

Spoilers for Zombies, Run ahead

Specifically, spoilers for Zombies, Run, season 2, mission 13. Highlight to read.

Dear Zombies, Run Writers,

Don’t you dare kill Archie. Don’t you dare rewire Archie. Don’t you dare do anything but return Archie to us completely and absolutely unharmed.

That thing you did with Chris McShell season 1 was bad enough, and I barely knew him.

I don’t know who sent you that memo the writers of all my favorite books seem to get, the one that says it’s all right to kill the characters I like best first and get to the others later, but that memo is no longer in force.

Really, it isn’t.

Just take my word for it, okay?


Finding balance, looking up

Today in yoga class we were focusing on balance poses. One of the wonderful and challenging things about balance poses is that, when you’re focused on keeping your balance, you’re forced into the moment–forced to be fully present in the pose and in your life.

While in one of those poses, our yoga teacher said something very simple yet very useful: “Look up.”

I hadn’t realized I was looking down, but I very much was, instinctively following the bending of my body as I folded forward on one foot to get into the pose.

Both the pose and staying in the pose got easier, when I did that one thing: looked up.

I remember how when my very first short story sold, I discovered there were two ways I could respond, when someone asked, “what do you write?” The first involved looking down and saying, in a sort of mumble/apology, “Oh, it’s just one story, and it’s only in a shared world anthology anyway …”

Those conversations were pretty awkward. Both I and the person I was speaking to would try to get out of them as quickly as possible. And I realized there was another way I could answer.

I could look up. Meet the other person’s eyes. Speak without apology–and with honest pride–as I said, “I’m a new writer, and my first story just appeared in an anthology.” If I had the book with me I’d hold it up. With or without the book, I would definitely smile. And the other person would generally smile too, and congratulate me, and there’d be nothing awkward about it at all.

When we look down, my yoga teacher said today, we draw our energy down with us, which can make some poses harder.

I’ve learned and relearned this throughout my writing life, and throughout the rest of my life too. It’s remarkably easy to forget. Even when you remember, sometimes it’s harder than it sounds.

But things go better if you just look up.

“First by mind, then by music / You’ll make this all less confusing”

Today in yoga class we did a simple partner pose, one we’ve done before. Basically, it involves facing in opposite directions, letting palms and forearms touch (right to right or left to left), and then pushing against each other while turning in opposite directions.

This results in a great stretch through shoulder and chest, but like all partner poses … like all yoga poses … it’s more complicated than that.

Because you’re constantly adjusting, figuring out how much your partner can/wants to push, adjusting how much you can/want to push in turn. Figuring out how strong each of you are that day, and so respecting not only your own edge, as one does in all yoga, but also someone else’s.

Needless to say, this can be tricky.

Outside of yoga class, in human relationships of all sorts, it’s even trickier. Knowing your own boundaries, knowing other people’s boundaries, knowing how to make adjustments both when you’ve pushed too far and when you haven’t pushed enough. It seems on the surface that pushing too hard is the real danger, but pushing too little, or not at all, is just as problematic. One means you topple other people over. The other means they topple you.

Two-person poses require trust. Trust that the other person won’t knock you over, but also trust that they’ll let you know when you’re about to knock them over. Trust that when you push, someone will push back, because otherwise you both just wind up on the floor.

Though in yoga, winding up on the floor, or falling out of a pose in any way, isn’t all that big a deal. More than one teacher has reminded me that wobbling and losing your balance is as much a part of a pose as staying in it.

It’s by falling out of poses that I’ve learned (and forgotten, and learned again), that it all goes better if you can fall down laughing.

A bit more Zombies Run! geekery

Runner 4, meet Coffeeem. Coffeeem, meet Runner 4. Runner 4 just risked my life on a training run in order to get herself … well, you’ll see. Suffice it to say, I think you two would get along.


Well, okay, maybe not all that risky in the end. But still and all.


It occurs to me that when one is learning/relearning to run, one gets a sense of exactly how long a minute is. Except for those occasional moments when one actually isn’t thinking about it. Funny, but I have more of those when zombies are chasing me, too.


Also, it’s so much easier to run in the Southwestern U.S. in autumn that summer. If the zombie apocalypse happens in summer, this whole part of the country is doomed. Unless the zombies consent to chase us all on treadmills. This seems … unlikely.

Maybe that’s why running on a treadmill never feels quite right, after all.

Ravens and zombies

Thanksgiving morning, at the end of the latest session of Zombies Run 5K Training,* I found what may be the big piece I need to make all the little pieces of the current revision fall into place.

I don’t have the how and why of it yet. But it’s … a thing that the rest of the story can begin to shape itself around, and so is making me very happy.

And of course, once thought of, it was an obvious thing, too. :-)


*Somewhat to my surprise, the Zombies Run 5K app isn’t just a way to get a watered-down story fix until the regular Zombies Run Season 2 is released, but also what may be the best constructed 5K training program I’ve tried to date, from an actual running perspective. It’s certainly the most interesting.