Walking Dead/Smoky and The Bandit crossover fanfiction. No, really.

So, I saw a familiar semi trailer on an episode of The Walking Dead last year:

Turns out it is the very same trailer that was part of Bandit's semi (although if you ask me, it should have been called Snowman's semi, since he drove it through most of the movie). Well, that got my creative juices flowing. How did that trailer end up on the side of the road, during the zombie apocalypse?

Which, for some reason, seemed to erase the comparison photo above after I sent it out. So people are saying, "What's that funny little icon, and what semi trailer are you talking about?" And I apparently can't edit my newsletter once it's sent, which kinda makes sense since it's been sent since (say that three times fast), so I'm posting it here, too.

One of the fun things about fanfiction is that you can merge two worlds that would otherwise never exist. My old fanfiction can be found under Ozma914 over at fanfiction.net, and includes such things as a meeting between Doctor Who and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


“Bandit, this is the Snowman. Looks like those deadheads got the highway backed up all the way up to the 360. C’mon back.”
Snowman released the mic before letting his frustration out with a series of curses. Not that anyone cared about cussing on the radio anymore, but old habits, and all. He braked the eighteen wheeler, looking for a way around the sea of walking dead that stretched across the two lane highway as far as the eye could see. Suggesting the herd stopped at the 360 mile marker was wishful thinking.

“Snowman, we’re working on it, son. But the interstate’s a no-go—full of parked cars to the Carolina state line. We gotta find a way through ‘em, even if you dent my rig.”

Well, then. Attracted by the truck’s rumbling diesel engine, the walkers had started moving his way. Snowman put the rig in reverse and started backing slowly, while considering his options. This was the part where he’d talk to Fred, if his poor old dog hadn’t passed away years ago.

Maybe it was for the best.

He was down to an eighth of a tank. The trailer, still decorated from the glory days with its bandit and stagecoach d├ęcor, was empty after a failed supply run to the south. He could always abandon it and try to hike around the herd, to get back to his friends and family.

It would take forever.

For a moment Snowman rubbed his three day stubble, then picked up the mic again. “Bandit … you find a place for the group?”

“I did, but we used up about all our gas getting there. Safe place, Snowman—I already dropped off your wife and kids, they’re fine. Guy in charge there’s got a tiger. A real tiger! You gotta see it. I picked up some more friends, too.”

Snowman chuckled, but he also understood Bandit’s underlying meaning. He had to see it. Had to get there, and with their fuel about out, that would be their last stop. No more long hauls across the countryside. Well, they were getting too old for that, anyway.

But first he had to get there.

“Now, son, don’t do anything stupid. We’re on our way.”

“Heh. Bandit, son, I think ‘stupid’ and ‘get through’ might be connected.” Snowman backed up more, being careful to stay between the lines. No tow trucks, not anymore. After some mental calculations, he backed up another hundred feet. It was all about force versus control.

There were thousands of them, shambling toward him. Thousands. And what if they someday turned north, and headed toward his family’s new sanctuary?

“Bandit, you make sure they get taken care of, y’hear?”

“Snowman, now, we’re almost there--!”

Almost there in what? That light little Trans Am? It wouldn’t make it past the first row. Snowman checked his safety belt, jammed the truck into gear, and hit the gas.

As he worked through the gears, the empty truck picked up speed quickly. He barely even felt the first impacts, as bodies flew right and left, but soon the rig began to shudder and lose momentum. The steering wheel jerked as bodies piled up beneath the semi. Snowman gripped it harder, his foot still hard on the accelerator.

There were so many dead. He got only a glimpse of one before it hit the corner of the cab—the guy was a giant, probably this biggest man in Virginia, or maybe the whole Southeast. At least, that was the instant impression Snowman got of him—six foot eight easy, closing in on 400 pounds. He must have been an easy target for the walkers, but he looked freshly dead … or as close to fresh as the dead got, these days.

The giant disappeared, and the big rig veered to the right.

The steering wheel spun out of Snowman’s hands. Without the seatbelt he’d have been thrown across the cab, as the semi launched itself across a ditch and into a field. Cursing, he hauled the wheel to the left and hung on as the truck jounced its way back toward the road, losing speed way too fast. Suddenly it surged forward—he’d lost the trailer in the grass behind him.

For a moment he thought he’d get control back, but now the engine began stuttering as he steered through a grassy area, looking for a good place to regain the pavement. When the front wheels hit the ditch again, they stayed there. Somehow he’d kept the truck upright, but as its engine went silent Snowman knew this was the end of the line.

He’d made it maybe three-quarters of the way through the herd. Now those that could still walk did, headed toward where they’d last seen noise and movement.

“Took a lot of 'em with us, though.” He had a knife, strapped to his belt. There was the metal bar by the door, the same one Bandit had used to check tire pressure since he hauled his first load, all those years ago. But when Snowman reached for it, it was gone, maybe bounced somewhere behind the seat.

“Well, now.” Snowman scooped up the mic. “Bandit, this is the Snowman, you got your ears on?”

“Snowman, you keepin’ the sunny side up and the bloody side down?”

Snowman gave a short laugh. “Son, I’m still up, but the rig’s down for the count. Didn’t quite make it through that crowd of deadheads, they’re worse than hittin’ Atlanta at rush hour. Don’t think I’m gonna make our rendezvous.” So close. His hand closed over the knife hilt, but already the dead were approaching the cab door, clustering up by the dozens. At least Bandit and Frog would take care of his family.

Then he heard a sound he’d never imagined hearing again. A sound he used to hate.

A siren.

“What?” Far ahead, through spatters and streaks of blood on the truck windshield, red lights flashed. A truck engine roared as it plowed into the herd. It moved forward relentlessly, the gore collecting on it blending with its red paint job.

A fire truck.

“Okay, Snowman, if you can’t make the rendezvous, we’ll just have to bring the rendezvous to you. Ten-four?”

As the truck got closer Bandit’s grinning face—how did he keep that handsome mustache in this mess?—appeared behind the wheel. He had two passengers, a small female in the front and someone he couldn’t make out in the back. The truck knocked down the closest walkers, then stopped in line with the semi cab. Bandit had to keep a little distance to allow for door clearance, and a few walkers stumbled forward until the figure in the back opened his door and drew a revolver.

Holy crap. It can’t be.

“What are you waitin’ for, you sumbitch? Get your ass in the truck!” Hanging from the cab, Sheriff
Buford T. Justice took one-handed aim and blew a hole in the nearest walker’s head. Three more shots, three more dead-on hits. Then he scooted across the back seat—pretty quickly, for someone his size—to give Snowman room.

It was an easy jump from semi to fire truck. Well, easy when you didn’t want to touch what was jumbled across the pavement between them.

As soon as the door closed, Bandit put the truck into reverse. His legendary driving ability served him well as he backed up in the same path he’d entered, using only the side mirrors to navigate. A few more walkers had stumbled into that route, but proved no problem for the fire engine’s powerful motor. Through it all, Bandit still had time to flash his friend a grin. “You all owe me for that truck!”

“But how--?” Snowman flailed his arm toward the uniformed man beside him, who he now
realized had lost a lot of weight. “How--?”

Justice made a dismissive wave, then realized he still held the gun and holstered it. “You think the gol-durn apocalypse is gonna keep me from tracking you and the Bandit down?”

Snowman glanced at Frog--no, Carrie, since CB handles hadn't mattered for a long time. She'd turned to kneel on her seat so she could see them. He saw the sympathy in her eyes, which made him look at Justice more closely and see the hangdog look, the dark bags under his eyes. His hat was gone, his hair pure white. “Sheriff … um, where’s Junior?”

Justice made a scoffing noise. “After my wife passed on, Junior wasn’t worth a bag of hair.” He squared his shoulders. “He went down fightin’ though, I’ll give him that.”

“I’m sorry, Sheriff,” Carrie said. “He was a good boy.”

“Yeah, well. After that, seemed like there wasn’t anything left but pursuin’ you all. So that’s what I did.”

“You caught us, sure enough.” Having made it through the horde, Bandit turned the truck around and accelerated away. “We’ll be out of gas by the time we get back to that crazy king and his tiger, so looks like our chasing days are over.”

They were all silent for a moment, as the truck roared down the road. “Guess my wife will be glad about that,” Snowman finally said. “So, how did you find that place, anyway?”

Bandit laughed. “Got waved down by a guy who looks exactly like Jesus, he pointed us that way. Said we’d fit right in.”

“So—you let Jesus take the wheel?" Snowman couldn’t help laughing. "Ten-four."

"I'm not going down there. I hear zombies down there."

Sinus Sickness Sucks, or: Noxious Nose Needs Neti

So I recently got my annual sinus infection, which is kind of like that annoying relative who shows up once a year, gives you a headache, and doesn't seem all that eager to leave, and I'm not talking about you, Uncle Sid.

(I totally am. Don't tell.)

My sinus infections are kind of like Godzilla tromping around in my Tokyo head, causing chaos, completely impervious to over the counter tanks and rockets. Only a Mothra-sized dose of antibiotics can drive it out, and ... well, you Japanese monster movie fans, you get it.

Mothra is a giant moth. I really shouldn't need to explain this.

But this time I decided to try something a little different. Since sinus infections can be cause by either bacteria or a virus, I figured there was a good chance antibiotics wouldn't work. Since the antibiotics themselves make me feel crappy, why not just treat myself? It's not quite the same as treating myself to chocolate, but what is?

I used hot compresses, which was nice because it's winter, and something called a neti pot, which is never nice, ever, in any season, under any circumstances. The proper name is sinus irrigation, which sounds so much nicer than it is.

I took extra vitamin C, tried to sleep more and sometimes succeeded, increased my fluid intake, and increased my waking-up-for-fluid-outflow, which seemed to defeat the sleeping thing. There was also the need to humidify the house, which is hard to do during winter. This was accomplished by sending the dog out to do his thing whenever it snowed, which this year has been often, then letting him shake all over the living room. It resulted in a nicely humid house that smelled like wet dog, but luckily I'd lost my sense of smell, so only my wife had to suffer. And she was already suffering, anyway.

I had sinus surgery years ago, after which the dog nursed me back to health. The health part was temporary.

The result? Instead of suffering for two weeks and then calling the doctor, I suffered for two months and then called the doctor. I'm nothing if not stubburn, except for when I'm nothing if not stupid.

After an examination my doctor said, "It's like your head is Tokyo, and Godzilla is tromping around in it". She gets me.

So now I'm taking the antibiotics, and they make me feel awful, and pretty much nothing changed from the last fourteen times. As we speak my main goal is to keep a proverbial stiff upper lip and not make everyone else suffer with me.

It turns out allergies are a common contributor to sinus infections, so it seems to be all in my genes. Thanks, Dad. My advice is this: If you get sick, just go to the doctor.

If nothing else, maybe you won't have to use a neti pot as much.

My neti pot is not an actual pot, but that doesn't make it any more fun.

Is it long winded, or long typed?

You know that photo book about the Albion Fire Department, and how it was going to be easy for me because there wouldn't be many words in it?

Well, I just finished the framing document for it. I wrote 12,000 words. It's possible I need to ponder the term "long winded".

When it comes to writing non-fiction, "easy" has never really worked out well for me.

Booting Up the Carpocalypse

Remember when cars didn't have starters, and you used to have to crank them to start?

Okay, neither do I. But I'll bet a lot of you remember a time before cars were mostly computers. On my first car, the starter was about the only thing electric, let alone electronic. On my current car, you quite literally can't operate it without the help of a little brain.  No, not that little brain.

If all the computer stuff in my car stopped working I'd not only be out my radio (excuse me, entertainment system), but I'd have no way of knowing my speed or how much fuel I had. I mean, I could get a dipstick, but don't we have enough dispsticks on the roads? My car's abilities are awesome, but also scary to a science fiction fan like me.

So it should have come as no surprise when I got into the car awhile back and saw this:

Yeah, my car was installing updates. I kept waiting for it to restart all by itself.

And how do I know what new program was loading? Cylon? Terminator? Didn't Stephen King write a whole story about this? Someday I may not be able to escape from my Escape. It's the carpocalypse.

I suppose the survivors will have to go back to the crank start.

50 Authors from 50 States: Oh My! I Think I Love This Place in Connecticut: ...

The story behind a Connecticut bookstore on 50 Authors From 50 States

50 Authors from 50 States: Oh My! I Think I Love This Place in Connecticut: ...: Here’s what I took from RJ Julia Bookseller Website and I’ve got to go.  This story in itself makes me love the place.  It’ll be on my list...

Valentine's Day, or: Epic Fail

The fact that I'm reposting this from three years ago tells you all you need to know about how well I handled Valentine's Day this year. Turns out it's on the 14th. Who knew?
Unfortunately for me, Valentine’s Day comes during a time of year in which I don’t do well. I’ve said before that the only good thing about February is that it isn’t January, but let’s face it: they’re not all that different.

The best way to describe most men on this dedicated-to-love holiday is: epic fail. This is two steps beyond complete fail, which is itself three steps below just fail. As a result, any store that’s open the morning of Valentine’s Day is sure to see an influx of desperate, rather dazed looking men, searching for flowers or chocolate. If they can’t find a place open with Valentine chocolate, there’s always the corner convenience store.

“Let’s see … what’s more romantic, Baby Ruth or Milky Way? Say, do you have any wrapping paper here? No? I’ll just use the real estate listings, they’re a little colorful.”

My wife is not a fan of flowers, and is allergic to milk chocolate. She also doesn’t like to go out to eat, citing the expense and the crowds on a holiday. At first glance that seems like a great thing. But it takes away all the emergency “I’m in trouble” backups.

Now, you may be thinking, “But Mark, what does she get you for Valentine’s Day?”

If you’re thinking that, you’re a man.

Valentine’s Day, like weddings, is for the woman. The man’s job is to show up, look fairly nice, and make her the center of the day. With weddings men can usually focus just well enough to handle that for a day, having been around the planning stuff for months beforehand. With Valentine’s Day, the word “planning” puts them on life support.

I love my wife. I wouldn’t have married her if I didn’t love her. The idea of marriage for convenience ignores the fact that making a successful marriage isn’t convenient at all. And yet, as each holiday approaches, I utterly freeze up. I stink at shopping. I stink at picking out cards. And—this coming from a man who actually writes romantic comedies—I stink at being romantic.

The fact that most men have the same affliction is in no way an excuse.

At least, that’s what I assume my wife would say, if I was dumb enough to ask her.

My conclusion—and guys, you can all benefit from my hard-won wisdom—is this:

Being a man is no excuse. Suck it up, fellas. If, like me, you can’t seem to function during winter, try this: Go out in the summer and buy a bunch of generic presents. It’s your job to find out what your wife likes, I can’t help you with that. Figure it out, buy a bunch of them, and hide them away somewhere. When you hit that inevitable panic point—and you will—and realize the holiday happens to fall on a Sunday and there’s no store close enough for you to sneak out to, don’t gift her a zippo lighter from the Sunoco station. No, break into your horde of presents, and—surprise!—you’re a hero.

That’s what I’m going to do. Next year. This year, wish me luck.
"Yes, I promise to try to remember ... what was I supposed to remember?"

Book Review: Odd Thomas, By Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas sees dead people. Walking around like regular people. They only see what they want to see. They don't know they're dead.

Wait, I thought the kid's name was Cole. The Sixth Sense, right?

But no, this is a novel by Dean Koontz, and also a great example of how there are no new ideas: Just new, unique, and fun ways of examining old ones. Odd Thomas does indeed see dead people, but that's one of the more normal aspects of Odd, and of Koontz's amazing novel.

My adventure came when my wife brought home a stack of used Koontz novels. I've seldom read his books, and had no real opinion about them, one way or another. The first I liked; the second I didn't much care for. Then came Odd Thomas, which kept me enraptured in a "do I really need to sleep? Do I have sick days available at work?" kind of way.

I was late to the party: There are six Odd Thomas books and a movie version of this one, dating back fifteen years. To demonstrate whether I liked it: I've already finished the first sequel, Forever Odd.

In the best "strange characters in a small town" fashion, Odd is surrounded by the unique occupants of Pico Mundo, California. Koontz's idea of a small town is a population of forty thousand, which really small town people like me regard with amusement, but never mind. Also in the best entertainment fashion, Pico Mundo seems to have a very high percentage of murders and other violence--where's Jessica Fletcher when you need her? As the story opens Odd encounters a little girl, who seems perfectly normal except that she can't speak.

In Odd's world, the dead don't talk. By the end of the first chapter he's used his psychic powers to identify the girl's killer, and the chase is on.

Despite his talents Odd is a short order cook. Because of his powers, really, because he's an unusually aware twenty-year old and knows that without order and routine, his ability would overwhelm him. He's madly in love with his childhood sweetheart, Stormy Llewellyn, he's the helpful sort you'd dream of having as a neighbor, and he's known around town as a great--but strange--young man. Only a few people, including the Police Chief, know of his psychic talents.

But in the course of one day his life is disrupted even beyond his own experiences. Odd finds himself chasing after a suspicious newcomer, and it leads him to supernatural madness, murder, and the knowledge that in less than a day something horrible is going to happen to the town he reluctantly protects.

I just realized how impossible it is to actually describe Odd Thomas. You have to experience it. To a large extent it's all about the style, in a book written as an after-the-fact account by Odd himself.

Odd Thomas is a weird and wonderful mix of action, thriller, and humor, the kind of well-crafted work that reminds one of Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman. It makes fiction writers like me insanely jealous. It's the kind of book that only established writers can get away with, especially when Koontz fills in backstory by having Odd just tell you what the backstory is. Yeah, he gets away with it, and also with that kind of colorful description that's gone away a little too much in today's literature. But what he gets away with is awe-inspiring.

No, I have no idea if the movie is any good ... but I'll probably watch it, anyway.

My Funny Valentine

Let me run this scenario past you. Your significant other says, "You never use your imagination when you get me gifts!"

So Instead of flowers or chocolate, this year you give her flower-shaped chocolate.

Let me know how sleeping on the couch works out.

Or, you can get them a book about Valentine's Day! Now that I think about it, maybe you should have it delivered with flowers ... just in case.


A bunch of us got together a few years ago to write this humor anthology, and it could save your romantic life ... unless you got a copy last year, too. In that case--unless you have a different significant other--you might want to consider lingerie. Or, um ... chocolate flavored lingerie in a flower print.

Or you could gift them one of my romantic comedy novels. But a book that actually has a Valentine on the cover is pretty appropriate.

Website updates, and print books available!

Emily has updated the website and yes, Coming Attractions is up and ready to order in both print and e-book versions. Check it out and read a sample here:


(You know, after all this time I still have trouble getting used to the idea of a website with my name on it.)

She sent in a print order, and there's a form you can use on the website to order one straight from us, signed or unsigned. ('Cause do you really want graffiti in your brand new book?) And hey, just let us know if you want her to sign it! You can pay with PayPal, or a credit card, or a debit card ... but my scheme to take payment in large blocks of milk chocolate didn't work out.

Of course, you could just knock on the front door and ask for a copy, when they arrive in a week or so--but I'd suggest calling ahead, so the dog doesn't get too upset.

"Sorry, I can't get your book right now: I'm out testing my fur coat."

Don't forget to review! Authors survive on three things: Sales, reviews, and caffeine. One can build on the others.

As I've mentioned before, here's the post that mentions all the places you can order Coming Attractions and most of our other books:


And remember: Every time you buy a book, the winter gets just a bit warmer. Help us out of the snowdrifts.

50 Authors from 50 States: A Wide Scope of California Talent

California, where it has to be warmer, on 50 Authors from 50 States:

50 Authors from 50 States: A Wide Scope of California Talent: Patricia Dusenbury’s California Noir:   Winter is a good time for an indoor road trip. Get comfortable, grab a cup of something warm, an...

Whining About Cold Injuries, Or: Why I laid on the couch for three days

Hey, can I whine, for just a second?

Usually when I write about some problem I'm going through, I try to do it with humor. I figure, why bring people down? Better to leave them with a laugh, or a smile, even if they're smiling at your misfortune--better to make life a wee bit better.

Especially now, when, honestly, it got so bad last week. We had a young police officer and his wife killed in a car crash, several bad fires in the region, and general misery for just about everyone, thanks to weather conditions so bad polar bears have been checking local real estate prices.

And that last is partially why I decided to whine. (The cold, not the polar bears.) I want to do a little public service announcement, which I'm naming after a guy I saw the other day wearing shorts. It was snowing, and three degrees. I call my PSA "If you freeze because of doing something stupid, it's stupid".

The title's a work in progress.

When I was about sixteen or so, I went out with a group of kids to play in the snow. Even back then I hated cold; but I had a lousy home life, so maybe I just wanted to get out of the house for awhile. As I recall I had a nice coat, but otherwise it was jeans and maybe some light gloves that quickly got saturated from all that snow-playing.

The thawing out process was excruciating.

So here's my first PSA: Frostbite often sneaks up on you, especially if you're sledding or, say, throwing snowballs at other sledders. And here's my second: The damage can be permanent. (Thinking back on it now, I also had a nice case of hypothermia going on.)

Afterward, once the temperature dropped below forty-five or so I had to wear gloves, or keep my hands in my pockets. Once it got down into the teens it was hard for me to use my hands even with gloves on, and I had the same problem with my toes. My cheeks and ears would burn, and any kind of breeze would give me an earache. Whether that was connected to my sinuses' sensitivity to weather changes, I couldn't say. Basically this body was meant for the desert, as a desert rat writer friend of mine often points out.

What the heck. I got used to it. Or at least, I got used to bundling up.

But wait--it gets better.

The dog doesn't care. He's got a fur coat.

As last week's cold snap arrived, my hands and feet stiffened, hurt, and even burned a little. My ears and cheeks got sore. Inside the house ... with the heat on. That pain and increasing sinus pressure sent me into a headache that lasted three days and devolved into one of my few migraines. The good news is that I was on days off (I hate using sick days), and didn't have to go anywhere; the bad news is that I missed some fire calls, and in minus teens temperatures they could have used the help.

Yes, I know I wouldn't have lasted long in those temperatures, but who can?

Okay, enough whining, here's my point: Frostbite damage can not only be lifelong, it can get worse with age. Guess whose hands tingle and burn (and sweat, which I recently learned was a thing after frostbite)? Guess who gets that pain sooner and faster? Guess who has signs of arthritis that might be connected?

No, stop guessing, it's me. Pay attention.

So my PSA: Protect yourself. Learn how to prevent all those things that begin with "frost".  Because even if you don't lose body parts (or die), you could be in for long term, and very annoying, problems.

Also, my wife wants you to yell at me if you see me outside without a hat and gloves on. She didn't say anything about pants, but maybe that's a given.

That's my wife, bundled like insurance.