Tag Archives: fun

Yeah, But When I Do It…

 

Photo by Flickr user Nicola Preti

Photo by Flickr user Nicola Preti

It’s been a difficult weekend in Australian politics, so please excuse the short post. I’m just dropping in to let you know that I’m over at Writer Unboxed today talking about breaking the rules to explore your creativity.

But When I Do It, It’s Really Stylish

I grew up on 80s British comedy. (Which possibly explains everything you ever need to know about my writing style.) Yes, Minister taught me about politics. Blackadder taught me about history. Are You Being Served? taught me about… well, lots of things. And Red Dwarf taught me about science fiction.

In fact, Red Dwarf taught me a lot of lessons, and one of the ones I come back to time and time again is from the most feminist episode I’ve ever seen in any TV show ever: ‘Parallel Universe’.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching Red Dwarf, the two main characters are Arnold Rimmer, a socially awkward, sexually repressed hologram, and Dave Lister, a slobbish, easygoing lad’s lad whose skills include drinking lager and eating vindaloo spicy enough to melt through plastic. In ‘Parallel Universe’, they’re accidentally transported to a parallel dimension where everything is the same… except that women are the dominant gender. There, they meet their female equivalents who, obviously, try to get them into bed.  <read more>

Head on over and have a read — and don’t miss the comments. Unlike pretty much everywhere else on the internet, the comments on Writer Unboxed just enhance the reading process.

 

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WU UnCon: A Conference of Connection

WU UnConIt’s ten days since I arrived back in Australia after attending the Writer Unboxed UnConference in Salem. Ten long days, and I’m only now posting about it. Why? Because if I’d posted sooner, my whole post would have consisted of a disjointed list of unrelated adjectives interspersed with exclamation marks and the occasional unsubstantiated claim that the UnCon changed my life.

But now, ten days later, I feel I’m ready. I’m ready to say that it was a phenomenal, transformational, life-changing, brain-expanding, emotionally-charged hot-pot of creative energy and connection, built around a series of inspiring, enlightening, and incisive workshops.

Or something like that..

Actually, I’ve pondered long and hard about how to share the experience of Salem with you. And as I’ve pondered, I’ve consolidated the things I learned in a deeper and more meaningful way. And thus, I’m ready to share.

I could tell you about the amazing workshops I did — particularly Lisa Cron’s “Wired for Story”, Donald Maass’s “Writing 21st Century Fiction” and John Vorhaus’s “The Comic Toolbox” — and the ways those workshops have improved my writing and expanded my thinking.

But I won’t.

UnCon Group 2I could tell you about the deep connection I felt with the other writers I met there, many of whom I knew as icons and names online, and the long-lasting bonds that formed during those five days.

But I won’t.

I could tell you about the dinner we had as a memorial to Lisa Threadgill, my dear, dear friend who passed away earlier this year, and how laughing and crying with other people who felt her loss so keenly reopened old wounds and yet helped them heal so much cleaner.

But I won’t.

I could tell you about hanging out in a bar at 1:00am on the first evening with a group of people I’d only just met, drinking picklebacks (the most revolting shot I’ve ever tried), and then asking the bartender for his shirt.

But I won’t.

I could tell you about the Poker Cabin, and how it felt to be playing poker of an evening after a long day of brain-expanding workshops and conversation, and the surreal feeling of sitting next to an inspirational (and possibly super-human) NY literary agent as I confidently bluffed my way to a winning hand.

But I won’t.

UnCon GroupI could tell you about sitting at dinner on Friday night, after the UnCon was technically over, and collaboratively building a back-story for our surly waitress using all the techniques we’d learned from Don Maass during the full-day workshop we’d just attended.

But I won’t.

I could tell you about Bob Stewart.

And I will.

Before the UnCon, I knew WriterBob Stewart as a name and an icon on the Writer Unboxed FB page. We interacted once or twice, in an oblique way, and I admired his dedication and persistence, but I didn’t know much about him. As the time for the UnCon grew closer, I learned more about him. He was much older (75, I later learned), and had some health issues. He was an accomplished playwright, journalist, and novelist. And, above all that, he was funny and kind and a good and genuine human being.

WriterBobOn the Saturday before the UnCon was due to start, he was bitten by his cat. Due to other health complications, the bite got infected, and he ended up in hospital. The first thing he did was message Therese Walsh to find out if it was okay if he arrived at the UnCon a little late. Which, of course, it was. He checked himself out of hospital early, and flew to Salem, and arrived on Tuesday afternoon.

I spoke to Bob briefly. Just enough to say hello, and I was glad he could make it. But he was there — real, and solid, and not just an icon and a name. He participated in groups, and stayed for evening sessions. And Wednesday evening, after everything was winding down, he complained about feeling a little funny, returned to his room, and passed away.

We found out on Thursday.

I wasn’t having a great day on Thursday. I finished the day with an amazing session that hit me like a brick wall and made me question the validity of everything I’d ever written in my life. Then, mired in self-doubt, I found myself flicking through the memorial book that had been created for Lisa Threadgill. A book that was full of my words. A book that brought all the grief and pain I’d felt at her passing back to the surface. And so there I was, weeping in the lobby of the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, when Therese approached and told me about Bob.

WriterBob Stewart. A man who spent his last days exactly where he wanted to be — with a community of writers he’d only known online, in a beautiful little hotel in Salem.

And so I found myself, on that Thursday evening, telling the other attendees that our evening plan had changed. That instead of a discussion of craft, we would be sharing a toast for Bob, and hearing some of the pages from his latest work. And as I told them, I found myself breaking the news of his passing over and over and over.

Some people cried. Others told me stories. One person looked like she was going to faint. Another told me that he’d lost a number of family members recently, and then excused himself to find somewhere private to sit and reflect. And through it all, I hugged and comforted and listened and was present.

UnCon Group 3But once the toast was said, once the memorial was underway, I couldn’t be present any longer. To coin my own phrase, my heart was a new helium balloon floating through a cactus forest. The slightest brush — skin against skin, mind against mind — would break me. I had too much grief, too much emotion, coursing through my body. I had to escape. And so I fled the room. Quietly. Hoping not to be noticed.

But I was.

John Vorhaus*  — a man equally funny and wise — saw me going and followed me out. He rejected my claims that I was ‘fine, just fine’, and he sat with me, and we talked. We talked about loss and grief and self-doubt and pain and all manner of things. We talked until my skin no longer felt electrified, until I no longer felt I was going to explode, until I felt grounded again. And during that talk, during that conversation, he said a phrase that resonated with me both then and now, and defines the UnCon experience for me.

“Cherish your emotions’.

When JV said it, he was referring to the grief and shock I was feeling — that we were all feeling — in the wake of Bob’s death. But it means so much more to me.

he entire UnCon for me.

Cherish your emotions.

Think about it for a minute. How often do we truly cherish our emotions? Conversely, how often do we feel shame or guilt about our emotions? How often do we attempt to hide them/ To wall them away, or move on from them, or pretend they’re not there? What would happen if we truly cherished our emotions — accepted them, not as being bad or good but just as being. How would that feel?

UnCon Group 4How would that inform our writing?

How would that inform our lives?

Cherish your emotions.

It ties in to what Lisa Cron said about specificity and back-story. It mirrors Donald Maass’s talk of finding emotional resonance between our lives and our character’s experiences. It touches on Meg Rosoff’s discussions of voice. But, more than that, it is a model, a mantra, for life.

And so when I think about Salem, and about WriterBob and Lisa Threadgill, and about the close connections I forged, and the games of poker I played, and the fun and hi-jinks I was part of, and the way I got lost every freaking time I walked out of that hotel building, I think of that phrase.

Cherish your emotions.

And when it all gets too much for me, when the homesickness for an event that lasted only five days and yet a lifetime threatens to overwhelm me, I take a deep breath and cherish my emotions. And then I write.

* JV has a new book coming out. I’ve read it. It’s brilliant. And you should totally go and buy it right now. Tell him Jo sent you.

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How (Not) To Write A Story in 8 Days

About a year ago, I made a decision to focus on writing novels (my real writing love) and the occasional piece of flash fiction for my blog when the Muse overtook me. The one exception is the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge.

This writing competition works in a particularly unusual (and thus exciting) way. You see… No, I’ll let them explain.

There are 3 rounds of competition.  In the 1st Round (February 7-15, 2014), writers are placed randomly in heats and are assigned a genre, subject, and character assignment.  Writers have 8 days to write an original story no longer than 2,500 words.  The judges choose a top 5 in each heat to advance to the 2nd Round (March 27-30, 2014) where writers receive new assignments, only this time they have just 3 days to write a 2,000 word (maximum) short story.  Judges choose finalists from the 2nd Round to advance to the 3rd and final round of the competition where writers are challenged to write a 1,500 word(maximum) story in just 24 hours (May 2-3, 2014).

I had a great time with the challenge last year (although I didn’t make it past the first round), and participated again this year. So for those of you who are curious about what my writing process looks like, I thought I’d share my experience of writing a 2500 story in 8 days.

Note: I do not suggest, recommend, or in any way endorse the following as a sane or reasonable method of artistic creation.

Day 1:

The genre/subject/character assignments were released on Friday night at midnight EST. Which means that over here in FutureLand I got the email at 3:00 Saturday afternoon. My assignment looked something like this:

Genre: Fantasy
Subject: A Funeral
Character: A Gambler

I emailed, messaged, texted, and otherwise contacted everyone who knew I was taking part in the challenge, and then… Well, then I went about my normal life. Time to let my subconscious spend some time working on the story details.

Day 2:

What interesting thing could happen at a funeral? Thinking… Thinking… Thinking… A heist!

Someone has to steal something from inside the coffin at a funeral!

My mind went into overdrive. A heist! I love heists! But what would be so important, so crucial that someone — a gambler, in fact — would go to great (and non-violent) lengths to steal from inside a coffin at a funeral?

And the answer was obvious.

Luck.

I would write about a gambler stealing the Luck of a Gambler from inside his coffin in the middle of his funeral.

Well. After all that thinking, I was exhausted. So I went and spent a day with a friend, watched The Newsroom, drank wine, and snacked on cheese and chocolate and other extravagances.

Day 3:

After a busy Monday, I sat down to start writing and… nothing. I got nothing. So I did some brainstorming, ate some more chocolate, and wished I wasn’t quite so tired.

Day 4:

By this evening, I knew I really had to pull out all stops and get the story written if I was going to have any chance of actually submitting it on time. It was due back by 3:00pm Sunday (Technically day 9 or an 8 day challenge… Gotta love time zones.) and I hadn’t even started yet.

Plus, when I ran into my writer-friend this morning, she was all jazzed because she’d already finished the draft of her entry.

So I sat down to write and…. I managed 300 words. And realised I was setting the story in a Wild West-inspired fantasy world. Time to do some research.

Day 5:

A crazy-busy day was topped off by the receipt of emails delivering bad news. I couldn’t even get my head into my life, let alone my story.

Day 6:

Thursday. The deadline was fast approaching, and I had a grand total of 300 words written. But I was still thinking — still letting my subconscious do its thing — so I wasn’t worried. The shape of the story was starting to reveal itself to me, and the character (who still didn’t have a name) was telling me her life story.

Day 7:

I wrote another 400 words, bringing my grand total up to 700. And in those 400 words, a whole new theme presented itself. I threw out all the plans I’d made for the ending, and turned the protagonist into someone a little less despicable, and a lot more likeable. And then I went to sleep.

Day 8:

Despite all the promises I’d made to myself that I wasn’t going to leave it until the night before the story was due to start writing it, here I was. The night before the story was due. With only 700 words written out of approximately 2500, and no energy to write. So I drank two cups of coffee, sat down on my bed, and…. fell asleep.

Day 9:

I woke up in the middle of the night and set my alarm for 4am, so I’d have a couple of hours of writing time before the boys woke up. And then I slept through my alarm and woke up at 7:00.

I’m not going to lie. Expletives may have been used.

I had six hours to write, edit, and submit a 2500 word story. And all I had was 700 words and an idea of the shape of the story.

I considered whether it was time to panic yet, and voted ‘no’. But I did get down to work. By 11:00am, I was 2000 words into the story, and had just got to the funeral scene. Plus, I had to pack up to take my son to dance class.

I decided that now was a good time to panic.

So I fretted while I got the boys ready to go out, and I worried while I drove 45 minutes to the dance studio, and I stressed while I kissed him goodbye. And then I jumped back in the car, and zoomed off to a nearby park so I could keep writing.

At 1:45pm, I finished the first draft. It had 3515 words. So, that’s 1000 words more than the maximum length.

I kept panicking.

Not least because it was time to pack up and drive back to the dance studio to pick up the boy. Which is what I did. Because, writing challenge or no writing challenge, being a Mum doesn’t stop.

When I arrived at the dance studio, a friend (whose daughter also dances) met me with the question: “Did you finish?”

“No,” I said. “I still have to–”

She interrupted. “How about I take your boys to my place so you can get it finished and submitted? You can catch us up.”

Best.

Friend.

Ever.

So that’s how I found myself sitting in a cafe at 2:15pm, with 45 minutes to cut 1000 words  from my story, read the formatting instructions, and get it submitted.

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard the phrase “kill your darlings”. It’s the suggestion that any piece of prose you’re too precious about should be removed. Well, in this case, I can assure you that over the next 35 minutes, I not only killed my darlings, I killed their darlings, as well as their flatmates and their pets.

I cut 1000 words from my story — most of them from the first 2000 — and made it shorter and sharper and, most importantly, valid for the competition.

I had just less than 10 minutes to get it formatted and submitted.

And that’s when my internet stopped working.

Gotcha. Not really.

No, what really happened was that I was so freaked out that I only had … checking clock … eight minutes left, that I kept clicking the wrong links, and couldn’t find the page that detailed the required font or size or format or… well, anything.

I found it, adjusted my file, and realised two things. (1) I had three minutes left until the cut-off, and (2) I needed to include a two-sentence synopsis.

Two-sentence synopsis coming right up. Boom! No time to think about how good it is. Barely time to type the words. And then…

And then a helpful waitress appeared at my table and said, “Is your coffee okay?”

“Yeah. Thanks,” I managed. And that was no easy feat, because I was trying to find the darn submit button, and had less than two minutes left.

“Oh, good,” she says. “And would you like some water?”

“No,” I snapped. And then felt immediately guilty that I wasn’t being nice to her when she’d done nothing wrong except approach me when I only had…

One minute!

I hit the submit button. My story whirred away into neverwhere.

And then I realised I’d sent the wrong file. I sent the .docx instead of the .doc.

So I sent it again. I’m 99% sure the second time was past the cut-off. And then I waited… And waited…. Worried that I’d missed out… Worried that I’d submitted too late…

Yesterday, I got an email from them.

Dear Jo Eberhardt,

This e-mail is to let you know that we have received your Short Story Challenge 2014 1st Round submission titled“Luck of the Gambler”.  You will be judged in Heat31 – Fantasy / A funeral / A gambler.  Judging will now take place and we will announce the results by 11:59PM EDT on Monday, March 24th, 2014 via e-mail and through our facebook and twitter pages.

And that, my friends, is how to write a story in 8 days.

Well, assuming you like heart palpitations, adrenaline rushes, and living life on the edge, anyway.

Do you leave your writing to the last minute, or get it done well in advance?

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Family Holiday Fun

Well, we’re back. We had a great time at the beautiful Gold Coast last week, taking a break from our usual life as well as all our electronic gadgets. We went swimming in the hotel pool, walked along the beach, jumped waves and made sandcastles, walked around town, ate lots of good food, and generally had a blast. We also celebrated my husband’s birthday while we were there by taking a ride on an amphibious bus and eating highly over-priced cake.

Does it get any better?

So before I lose myself in the great joy of 125 new emails, 42 Facebook notifications, blog comments, Twitter feeds, and all the news I’ve missed while I’ve been away, I wanted to share some of our happy snaps.

(Click on the pics to enlarge.)

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The Music of Youth

When it comes to music, I’m pretty eclectic. My playlist is just as likely to include Metallica as Lily Allen, Wolfmother as Kate Miller-Heidke, and The Killers as Manowar. I love music. Like many people, I can define whole swathes of my life by the music I was listening to at the time.

Moving across the country when I was 16?

Terrible, ugly, angry break-up?

I could go on, but I’m sure you know what I mean, and you’ve got your own songs-as-memories to fall back on.

One of the things I’ve struggled within since having kids is the need to play music that’s “age-appropriate” for them. For quite a while, that meant I just didn’t play music while they were awake. Then I went through a phase of playing “Kids music”.

(Do you have any idea how soul-destroying The Wiggles are after you’ve heard the same song for the thirty-seventh time in one day? Yes? You’re clearly a parent.)

Then one day I had an epiphany.

My parents didn’t play “age appropriate” music when we were kids.

They played the music they liked, and we either “got it” or we didn’t. Either way, we turned out just fine. In fact, I still remember how incredibly excited I was when I was about five or six years old, and my Mum decided to make me a tape of all my favourite songs. Both my brother and I got to choose the songs that would go on our own special cassettes, that we could then take it in turns to play throughout the day.

I don’t remember every song that was on my very first mix-tape, but I remember some.  The selection included:

And:

And even:

I know. I was clearly a melancholy kid. But oh, I loved that mix-tape! I had no idea what the songs were really about, I just knew that they touched me deeply, and I wanted to fall into the music and live there forever and ever.

But it wasn’t all tragic. Just to break it up, I also included this:

(And for the record, my brother’s tape included The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s theme) and Wake Up Little Susie.)

I started thinking about my childhood mix-tape this afternoon when I posted this status update on Facebook:

“Shot through the heart, and you’re too late. You give gloves… a bad name.” — My 5yo songmaster.

It actually makes me incredibly happy to know that if five-year-old Big Brother made his own mix-tape, there would barely be a “kids song” to be found. It would be more likely to include a bit of the Who:

“Talkin’ bout my gena-a-tion”

And a bit of Queen:

“He’s just a poor boy from a poor family, Spending his life with this one sausagey”

A bit of The Doors:

“Hello, hello, what is your name?”

Maybe some Vanilla Ice:

“Ice, Ice Baby. Too cold, Too cold.”

And, of course, the aforementioned Bon Jovi:

“Shot through the heart and you’re too late. You give gloves a bad name.”

What were your favourite songs as a kid? Do your kids like the same music as you?

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An Affair to Dismember

On Friday I packed Big Brother and Little Brother into the car after school and drove 500km (310 miles) to my parent’s house. (Sadly my husband had to work all weekend and couldn’t come.) Sunday morning, we climbed back into the car and drove home. By the time we got back last night, I was exhausted. It’s a really, really long way to drive for one day. Especially with two children and no other adults.

But we did it for a really important and exciting event.

Today is my Dad’s 60th Birthday. 

On Saturday the whole family (minus my husband) gathered to celebrate it in the only way we know how: with a loud, exuberant game, plenty of alcohol and not a lot of sleep.

 

We started the celebration with presents and a cake.

(The cake was delicious.)

One of the presents was the evening’s entertainment.

We’d chosen characters a couple of days in advance, and organised our costumes. (All except Dad. This was a surprise to him, so Mum had organised his costume for him.) Once dinner was mostly prepared, we all went to get ready. Then out came the drinks, the cameras, and the posing.

Allow me to introduce…

Glumda, the Wicked Witch of DePressed:

Dr. Angela Deth, Psychotic Dentist at Large:

Madame Garlique, the Flamboyant Clairvoyant:

Lizze Bordeaux, Goth and Bride-to-be:

The Mummy of King Aldrinktotat:

The Monster of Rogersandhammerstein:

and Hannibal the Cannibal:

With my husband unavoidably absent, we needed an eighth person. It wasn’t easy, but we managed to rope in a dummy.

(Big Brother was there too. He was dressed up as The Boy Who Really Wanted to Play But Was Forced By His Mean Mother to Go To Bed Even Though It Wasn’t Fair.)

We had a great time. We ate, we drank, we solved a murder. It took us until 2:30 in the morning, but by gum we did it!

(Also, we ate pavlova.)

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Sixty years young today.

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Flash Fiction: The Brains for Fame

It’s over three months since I last participated in one of Chuck Wendig’s weekly flash fiction challenges. To be honest, I was a little worried I’d lost the groove. But then I saw his challenge for the week and I was immediately inspired.

That’s My New Band Name: Write a story about a band.The name of that band? Well, click here to choose one. There you’ll get a buncha random band  names. Choose one. That’s the band. You’ve got up to 1000 words.

So, here goes. Hit me up in the comments and let me know what you think!

The Brains for Fame

“We’re Nerve Complaint, and that was Ain’t Gonna Drag Us Down.”

The lights in the studio snapped on and Jimmy and the rest of the band squinted. “Jimmy! Baby!” a booming  voice exclaimed. “You’re good, you know that. You’re outta this world.”

“Thanks, Charles,” Jimmy said, focusing on the newcomer. “We’ve been practicing, and—”

“And nothing!” Charles waddled across the studio and stood in front of Jimmy. “You’re good, but you’re not listening,” he said, emphasising the last word by tapping a meaty finger against Jimmy’s ear.

Charles looked at the rest of the band – Mick on lead guitar, Jenny on bass, and Chaz on drums – and Jimmy followed his gaze. “You have a great sound, Kids. But you just don’t have… It.”

“It,” repeated Mick.

“Yeah, It,” said Charles. “A thing. Something we can sell. A gimmick.”

“We don’t need a gimmick,” said Mick. “We’re the real deal.”

“Ha!” said Charles. “You know how many “real deal” musicians starve to death? Alone and unknown? A lot. If you—”

He was interrupted by blaring sirens and flashing red and white lights.

“What the fuck is that?” Jenny demanded.

Charles waved a hand. “Zombie alarm. They attack this time every day. Something about sound waves and vibrations and… Whatever.”

Chaz ran a hand through his long hair and peered around the room nervously. “Shouldn’t we, like, get out of here, man? Zombies are, like, bad news.”

“Nah, we’re on the third floor.”

Chaz looked blank. Jenny had unslung her guitar and was digging through her bag. A moment later she stood up, a blood-stained baseball bat in her hand and a grin on her face. Mick and Jimmy exchanged looks.

“You have a back way out?” Mick asked. Dragging Jenny away from a fight wasn’t easy, but they’d had plenty of practice over the last few months.

“Don’t worry,” Charles said. “Zombies don’t do stairs. Trust me, Kids, we’re perfectly safe. Security turns off the escalators when they attack. They just wander around the ground floor for a while and then leave.” He paused to smile. “Now, let’s talk about you.”

#####

Three hours and two minor skirmishes with zombie packs later, Nerve Complaint sat around the shabby lounge room of their even shabbier apartment, eating take-away Chinese. The rest of the meeting with Charles Ledder, VP of BrainMush Records, had gone as expected. He was insistent they needed a marketing edge before he’d sign them.

“I know we always said we’d do it our way,” said Jimmy, “but maybe he’s got a point. I mean, look at Blood Night. They’ve got that whole vampire thing going on, and—”

“—and that’s all they’ve got,” interrupted Mick. “Without their fake fangs and capes, they’d be nothing.”

“Have you heard them play?” Jenny asked, pausing to light a cigarette and take a drag. “They’re fucking awful.”

“I know, but—” Jimmy began.

“But nothing,” said Mick firmly. “We don’t need a gimmick.”

“Hey,” said Chaz. “Could you turn zombie meat into curry? Would it taste like chicken?” He broke into giggles, staring down at the curried whatever in his take-out box.

Everyone lost interest in food after that.

One by one, they went to bed. All except Jimmy. He sat on the floor thinking about Charles and Mick and the desperate clawing need in his belly. The need for money and success and, above all else, fame.

After a while he turned on the dodgy TV in the corner of the room. They’d picked it up at a garage sale a few months earlier, thinking it would come in handy. They only got one channel, but it was better than nothing.

“…would have guessed they would be useful?” a reporter was saying, the scene behind him a familiar one—zombies assembling cars on a production line. “But as long as they’re kept well fed, many zombies can keep doing the same work they did when they were alive. Scientists can’t explain why some people react better to zombification than others, but one thing’s for sure: Undeath isn’t the death sentence it used to be.”

The picture cut to the pretty, smiling anchorwoman. “Thank you, Ken. Well, after their whirlwind success and world tour, local band Blood Night is back in town. And tonight, they’re performing live in the studio. Let’s hear it for Blood Night!”

Jimmy hit the off switch as the familiar riff of Mine for the Night began to play. Jenny was right: Blood Night were terrible. But they were rich. And they were famous.

And suddenly Jimmy knew what to do.

#####

It took some convincing. Mick, especially, wasn’t keen to go back to BrainMush Records. But Jimmy promised this would be the last time, and Jenny cursed and said they had nothing to lose, and Chaz said he’d forgotten his drumsticks yesterday, so Mick was out-voted.

They arrived just before dark. The receptionist gave Jimmy a wink and said, “Mr Ledder says he’ll meet you in Studio 1.”

“Huh,” said Mick. “We’re usually in Studio 3.”

Jimmy shrugged. “Guess it’s busy.” He led the way across the foyer to the ground floor studio, and pushed open the door. Inside, it looked much like any other studio. Except for the four, seven-foot tall cages arrayed around the room. Three were closed, the heavy metal doors bolted shut. One stood open.

“What the fuck?” Jenny said. “Aren’t they zombie cages?”

Jimmy didn’t answer. He just walked into the open cage, and pulled the door closed behind him.

“Hey, man, what’s happening?”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Sellout.”

Jimmy wasn’t listening.

He didn’t hear the zombie alarm as it started to wail.

He didn’t hear the cries of panic from his friends.

He didn’t hear the sounds of combat.

All Jimmy could hear was the sounds in his head: the cheering of his fans, the acclaim of his peers, and a pretty anchorwoman saying, “Let’s hear it for Jimmy Lister and his all-zombie band, Nerve Complaint!”

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