The Walking Dead Season One Retrospective

Last week, I was doing a bit of Christmas shopping with the family, and came across a couple gifts for myself–Walmart had huge bins of television seasons on DVD for ten dollars, and unlike the hit-or-miss bullshit in most cheap bargain bins, this was all good stuff. So, I’m watching Walking Dead again from the beginning, the week after the season five mid-season finale.

I think this is actually my first time watching season one straight through, though I watched each episode as it aired in 2010 (I’m an old-school fan of the comic, since 2003). I find myself wondering all over again why AMC let Darabont go. Season one was a great, self-contained miniseries, that would have surely become an instant classic had additional seasons never been picked up. Instead of a huge essay, I’ll offer a few quick thoughts:

— T-Dog actually had a decent part in season one, for a supporting character. It’s all relative, of course, and I’d have rather seen IronE Singleton playing a more prominent character, but he did have speaking roles in more than one episode.

— Darabont Andrea was Best Andrea. She pulled a gun on Rick the first time she met him, and again when he tried to come between her and her dead sister–a far cry from the copious mistakes she made in season three. I honestly don’t remember much of her season two arc other than her being pissed at Dale and (I think) talking Beth (!!!) out of killing herself. I do know that Season Three Andrea is not much like Comic Andrea. The promise of Comic Andrea has been pretty much fulfilled in Show Carol, though.

— I did NOT know until today that Nicotero himself actually played the zombie who bit Amy. Yay for DVD bonus features, especially for the season that didn’t have the benefit of Talking Dead.

— Darabont zombies, though…not so much. Nicotero’s effects were great, but I wasn’t really down with the fast movements, the rock-wielding or the fence climbing the dead sometimes exhibited.

— His human threats, though, were spot on. We had Merle, a hint of the Shane-issues to come, and of course, Jenner. Jenner was a great warm-up for the likes of the Governor, the Claimers, Gareth and Officer Lerner.

— It’s been great to revisit all the characters who’ve been gone for the past few seasons, and to see the bright beginnings of the wonders that are Daryl and Carol, all over again.

Now, it’s time to dig into season two. Of all the seasons, it’s the one I like the least, but I’m sure I’ll find some gems in there. Most of all, I’m looking forward to revisiting the farm, and meeting the Greene clan again.

Skinjumper: Behind the Scenes

Good design and layout can really make a book stand out from the other fifty or so you might read throughout the year (if you’re like me, anyway). The brown (as opposed to black) ink used in Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker still sticks out in my head, as do the movie-review style introductory pages preceeding each of the stories in Weston Ochse’s Multiplex Fandango

I like a little peek behind the magician’s curtain, whenever an artist or designer behind a book I’ve enjoyed offers one. So it goes without saying that I’m particularly pleased to offer such a look for my readers, courtesy of Skinjumper’s cover artist and design djinn, Shawn King. Click the photo of chapter one’s first page to see the rest of the portfolio.

Georgia On My Mind

GADamn. It’s been almost…two months…since I got back from Korea. And I’ve been back at work since this time last month. It’s good to be back. Now that my year overseas is done and the dust of the place has been thoroughly knocked from my boots, I don’t mind telling you folks that out of almost fourteen years in my chosen career, August ’13-August ’14 was the most challenging twelve-month stretch ever. And I don’t mean “challenging,” like Basic Training was challenging. I mean that I swear to Sweet Baby Jesus that 90% of the people I dealt with all year were “challenged,” if you get my meaning.

So, yeah, I’m real happy to be back in Georgia. My family never left, and I walked right back into the same house I left a year ago. I’m still waiting on my household good to arrive from the port in Savannah, but unpacking is going to be an afternoon’s worth of work, rather than the couple weeks a normal military move entails for my family. I have six years left in the military, and if prayer or magic is real, I’m going to finish out my career in Augusta and move right into a new civilian job–that is, if I can’t make my share of the household money between writing and my pension.

If you’d told my ten-year old, dyed-in-the-wool, New Yorker self that I was going to fall in love with a Southern state and decide to hang my hat there, I don’t know if I’d have believed you. But it stands to reason–when I was a kid, I was locked down pretty tight by an over-protective mother, and we were poor, and we lived in the ‘hood (so really, my mother probably had the right idea, after all). So it’s not like I really had a chance to fall in love with Rochester–I love a fair amount of folks from there, mind you, but I don’t even know if I’d find my way around the city without GPS, these days. Meanwhile, in Augusta:

  • I live five minutes away from a great, downtown, indie arts community with coffee shops, galleries and places to hear local musicians–and perform, if the bug hits me. That my wife has a ten-minute drive to work and my son’s school is the same distance in the other direction isn’t too shabby, either. There’s also a fair amount of regional-level geek activity, so I’ve begun looking for more closer, smaller conventions to attend in addition to some of the larger ones that draw people from all over the US and beyond. Combined with my increased output this year, I’m hoping this takes my level of readership to another level.
  • I’m able to get involved in local doings more than I let myself during my first three-year stretch. Military families tend to not get very close to the communities they’re living in, simply because they know their stay is temporary. But now, it’s not impossible for me to stay right here until I retire. Six more years isn’t a statistical improbability, especially given a few of the duty position shifts I can make across different units, with help from human resources folks. So my wife can pursue a career without worrying about pulling up stakes, and we’re buying a house early next year. I’ll be able to build strong relationships with folks and parlay that into a second career once I get my honorable discharge. I didn’t have this sort of “normal life” when I was growing up, much less as an adult in the military.
  • I’m settled back into an accustomed routine, with resources to help me learn some new tricks. I’m right back in the unit I left when I moved to Korea, but doing a different job. So I’m stimulated by new things to learn and do, but not completely lost at sea because I’m still training new recruits. Being able to jump right back into something familiar has helped me get back to work on the new novel, which I’m loosely describing as “a serial killer’s memoir.” And, while being in the Army means I’m not guaranteed writing time at the same time each day, I’ve been working with a psychologist, through a military program, on establishing particular habits and behaviors that will let me get into the “writing zone” on demand, no matter the time of day. I’ll be writing about that in more detail at some point, either here on my blog or for one of the larger websites I’ve pitched a column to, but for now, let me just say I’m already seeing results.

So, as much as last year sucked to the max, I’m kicking off Fiscal Year 2015 in one of the most heightened states of hopefulness I’ve ever been in. Augusta’s grown on me, and now, I figure I have a chance at growing on it.

Upcoming Appearances

I’ve started putting some things together now that I’m settled back home in good ol’ ‘Murica. Right now, I have three four appearances scheduled; two this fall and one next spring. If you’d like me to show up at your convention, library event, barn-raising or Bar Mitzvah, drop me a line.

      • 1 SEP ’14 — AGAMACON’s Labor Day Geek & Eat. I’ll have copies of QUEEN and a few other books. There’ll be free  food and a parking lot full of other vendors. Level Up Games, 378 Martinez Blvd, Augusta GA from 10-5.
      • 25 OCT ’14 — AGAMACON’s Geek & Treat. I’ll have copies of my brand-new releases–SKINJUMPER and HOODOO, VOODOO–as well as QUEEN. There’ll be free  food and a parking lot full of other vendors. Cavalry Comics, 4387 Ridge Trail Rd, Suite C, Augusta GA from 12-Whenever.
      • 31 OCT – 2 NOV ’14 — HALLOWCON 2014. I’m an official guest, along with several other authors. Convention theme is Stephen King movies. I’ll be hosting panels on King Books That Should Be Movies and The Writing of Joe Hill. Econolodge and Convention Center, Dalton, GA
      • 7-10 MAY ’15 — Bram Stoker Awards(r) Weekend and 25th Annual World Horror Convention. I won’t be an official guest, but will likely be participating in panels, reading from Skinjumper and participating in the Mass Signing. Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel, Atlanta, GA