The Less-Dead

The Less Dead

I’m one of those writers who require background noise while I write. In a perfect world, I’d do most of my writing in a bustling coffee shop in the middle of a vibrant neighborhood. A French Quarter balcony in New Orleans preferred, but I’m currently in my sleepy seaside village of Pass Christian, Mississippi, so I subsidize the lack of noise with music or television.

The other day I had The Thom Hartmann show on Free Speech TV. Full disclosure: In my opinion, Hartmann is one of the brighter social contemporary minds there are and I highly recommend his books.

While I only half listen while working, I was riveted when he said, “We still practice human sacrifice in America…”

I was like, “What? Come on, Thom! You’re really living up to your ‘shock jock’ reputation!” Then I sat back, listened, thought about it, and almost called him, but the idea is too complex. It’s too maniacal and nuanced for a short conversation. Here’s the clip. http://www.thomhartmann.com/bigpicture/we-still-practice-human-sacrifice-america-and-why-and-how.

Here are my thoughts: About 12 or 13 years ago, I took an undergrad victimology class. It was one of the most interesting classes I have ever taken. The title of the text book was The Killers Among Us: An Examination of Serial Murder and its Investigation, 2nd Edition by Steven A. Egger. Gotta love that! Now you know why I got a Behavioral Science degree to augment my writing!

In his book on page 88, Egger introduces us to the idea or the theory of The Less-Dead. In other words, people deemed less meaningful or valuable in life by society are, therefore less valuable or meaningful in death aka, the Less-Dead. To Egger’s way of thinking, the Less-Dead are targeted more by serial killers and other serial criminals because we, the people as a society deem them less valuable or even bad. They are mostly female, but not limited to that particular gender; prostitutes, LGBTQ, addicts, homeless, people of color, and generally poor people. Egger refers to these “marginalized groups of society who compromise the majority of the serial killer’s victims” as the Less-Dead because “before their death, they ‘never were’ according to society.” He goes on to explain that as a result, law enforcement feels “less pressure” to investigate properly. “They are not ‘like us’, so their deaths do not matter.” Which, to this writer’s way of thinking perpetuates their societal devaluation and continued disadvantaged victimology; a horrendous and vicious cycle. It also goes a long way to explain police brutality in certain neighborhoods. Incidentally, the 2nd edition of Egger’s book was published in 2002, so this explanation is nothing new. It’s just been devalued to great travesty.

Think about it. If a victim is white, affluent, and especially beautiful, the media will spend days reporting on the crime. Where is the media when that victim is poor or black or from an urban environ? Where are the media if the victim is a member of the LGBTQ community? How about if the victim is homeless or addicted? Are these people somehow less deserving of the attention? If so, why?

Ours is to ask why and have the courage to learn. In essence, to become more human.

In this context, Thom is very much on the mark. He’s on to something too when he mentions economic disparity as well as mass incarceration and the death penalty that are part and parcel to our Criminal Justice System. These contemporary issues illustrate how we sacrifice millions of our fellow Americans every day. They may not be quick bloody sacrifices as in our past, but slow ones are oftentimes more brutal.

This begs the question. Are we the killers among us?

I continue my work on The Zombie Company Series. I’ve just finished the final rough draft of Part 3 of Book 2, Illusion of Power. My collaborator, Thad David wrote some phenomenal action scenes. He creates a visceral distinct line between the living and the not-so-living that draws us in and makes us think about what it means to be alive, to fight every battle every day to not be the Less-Dead.

As the zombie hordes grow in Illusion of Power and the political collapse and ensuing intrigue mounts, I can’t help but think of the reality of today’s Less-Dead. After all, in the time of The Zombie Scourge, they will be the first to succumb.

In the post zombie apocalyptic world, who will become the new Less-Dead?

Be mindful, my friends. Life is precious and so very short for too many.

J.

Pass Christian, MS

 

This female’s perspective.

at work _resized

 

I came across this HuffPo tweet today. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/07/mark-ruffalo-joss-whedon-feminism_n_7231636.html?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067 I have to admit that I have not seen Age of Ultron yet, so I can’t comment on the actual depiction of the Black Widow character in particular. It’s really beside the point of this post, anyway.

After reading the article, I began to wonder how many women actually create and direct female roles. My hunch was that maybe if more female characters were created by females there’d be fewer complaints about how female characters are depicted. I’m not a screen writer, or a director. I’m just a character-driven fiction writer who, at times wrestles with trying to figure out how a character of the opposite sex would react in a given situation.

Feminists, don’t hate me, but here’s the reality. Men and women are different because of our biology and our shared culture. Being different from men doesn’t make women inferior, though. In fact, it can be empowering. This scares some men, which is part of the problem. I think it’s this fear that drives men and women to do terrible things. Men that I know don’t call me a bitch anymore because I am a bitch. I embrace it and am free to exercise my bitch potential anytime I see fit. What are you gonna do about it? Is calling me a name all you have? How about stop being afraid and hear me? I don’t think you’re an asshole, yet. Women ought not be so quick with their epithets, either.

Men, when you appreciate feminism, it means you’re getting it, or at least trying to. My hat’s off to you with all due respect! Thank you, but your understanding is limited because you’re men. Now wait. Don’t hate me, fellas. I love you guys, and I appreciate your struggles as you do mine. I try to empathize, and even sympathize with you. I think I do a decent job of it, but I don’t know what it’s like to be you any more than you know what it’s like to be me, but I love the challenge of it, don’t you?

My hunch proved to be correct. There aren’t enough women involved in the creative process in the film industry. http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2015/01/13/study-93-percent-of-top-films-in-2014-lacked-a-female-director

http://blogs.indiewire.com/womenandhollywood/women-directed-17-of-the-top-250-grossing-films-of-2014-20150108

We need more women writing, directing, and taking on other leadership roles. To me, this is the only authentic way to bring realistic female perspectives to the table. Men who are courageous enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with women and women who are equally courageous to stand with men should be commended (and rewarded equally) no matter what kind of work they do. Let’s not vilify each other for our attempts at understanding, even if they aren’t up to snuff. Everyone flops once in a while, no matter their gender.

How about we all get over ourselves, muster some courage, stop the nonsense, celebrate and explore our differences, and make them work for us to create awesome stories? Sounds pretty cool to me. I know it’s possible. I do it every day that I work with Thad David on The Zombie Company Crusade Series. It’s not difficult. It starts with respect…from both genders.

J.

 

Springtime in The South

Stella and Daisy take a rest near Pass Christian Harbor in Mississippi.

Stella and Daisy take a rest near Pass Christian Harbor in Mississippi.

I feel as though I’m in a sort of suspended animation lately. Thad and I decided to take a few days off from The Zombie Company Crusade Series this spring so that he can concentrate on releasing the Zombie Company Crusade mobile game app and I can concentrate on my other writing and research projects.

It’s been a rainy spring, but a lovely respite! I’ve spent time with family and taken time to read. I love being able to curl up with a book and just read. I’ve read all my newspapers every day and my magazines from cover to cover. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline and Adultery by Paulo Coelho. Right now, I’m just diving into Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In two weeks, I’ve been to the rugged 1930’s era great plains of the United States tracing a harrowing, heartbreaking orphan’s journey, contemporary Geneva, Switzerland as a wife and mother struggles with her internal dissonance to save her marriage and her sanity, and Marquez is introducing me to early twentieth century colorful and romantic Caribbean. Great stuff!

I’ve been riding my bicycle, lovingly named Daisy, with my neighbor Carole whose cruiser is named Stella. I’ve posted a couple of fun things about Stella and Daisy on my Facebook wall https://www.facebook.com/jodi.koszarek and I toy with the idea of creating a children’s book from those posts. We’ll see, though. They’re a lot of fun to write and those rides have helped center my mind and spirit so I can get back to writing. I am not a voracious tweeter, but you can also find me on Twitter at Jodi Koszarek@JLKoszarek1, but be forewarned. I am still trying to get the hang of Twitter!

Thad is incredibly busy working the Zombie Company Crusade mobile game app and I encourage you to read his blog at http://www.thaddavid.com for updates and his amazing personal story. He is a remarkable man; a courageous young entrepreneur who, I think you will find interesting even outside of his creations. He and I have completed Divide Then Conquer, Book One of the Zombie Company Crusade Series and will soon offer preorder options tied in with the release of the mobile game app. We will keep you posted.

Our projected start date for the Zombie Company Crusade Series Book Two is in June, so rest assured we have more adventures to offer. Please feel free to download parts 1-6 individually today and catch up before we begin releasing Book Two. Currently, Thad and I are discussing the possibility of creating hard copies of Divide Then Conquer, Book One of the Zombie Company Crusade Series for those of you who would like a collector’s edition. Please stay tuned on that bit of news as we review our budget and explore our options.

My husband and I will begin preparing for our semi-annual migration to northern New Mexico over the coming weeks even as our gulf coastal engagement calendar keeps filling up with fun things we need to do before we leave.

There are lots of things going on, but most of all, I’m surrounded by great friends, a loving family, and abundant natural beauty. I get to keep writing and reading, too! My passion is alive and well never faltering and for that, I am eternally grateful.

J.

Are we spiritual zombies?

Spiritual Zombie

Yesterday, Tony London, a childhood chum of mine posted a photograph of a church advertising “drive-thru prayer” on Facebook. Tony’s comments on this were a lament for living in a place and time where “instant gratification and technology are against the law.” OK, Tony, I’ll give you an “A” for hyperbole regarding the “against the law” part. You can’t really mean that where technology is concerned (?), but “instant gratification”? I can dig having less of that and there is no doubt that technology brings “instant gratification” to a whole new destructive level.

We all know how well our bodies have done with drive-thru food, now we have drive-thru prayers! Yea! Our spiritual lives can now be malnourished, too! Becoming cynical and snarky, I went outside to prune my roses and ponder the implications of drive-thru prayer. There is just too much going on here not to write about it.

I’m not religious. I’ve honestly tried to be. I really have. You name it, I’ve probably tried it, but it hasn’t worked for me. I respect it all, and appreciate people’s choices and practices. If it’s good for them, it must be good for all of us. I like “goodness”. I’m sure the Pastor at the drive-thru prayer place is well intended. He, no doubt makes people feel good by offering this service. I wonder, though, about the intentions of the people participating in drive-thru prayer. What propels someone to pull off the road, go through a drive-thru and pray? How does it work? Do they have set hours or are they open 24 hours like Taco Bell? Is it like a thirty second Lord’s Prayer; put your dollar in the plate, and drive off kind of deal?

I try to get passed the mechanics of it to explore the idea of intention, which another friend, Melinda Potter Bloom chimed in about and she is absolutely spot-on. If it’s all well-intended, then surely this is a good thing, right? I just can’t get around the mechanics of it, though because it is so surface oriented; so convenient. Where is the depth? Where is the meaning?

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” Start your engine, put ‘er in gear and move along. “Next?”

Weird.

Maybe this gets to why congregating to pray has never worked for me. I’ve never viewed prayer as something you do “on the surface”. I’ve participated in a lot of different kinds of group prayers and mostly they were quite mindless, at least for me; a monkey see, monkey do kind of thing. I just couldn’t dial into it. I’ve never viewed the concept of prayer through the idea of consumerism, or convenience, either, which brings me to my current literary project, the iconic classic symbol for mass, mindless, lazy, convenience driven consumerism, the zombie. Please read the blog on Thad David’s, my collaborator, website for some more insight on this literary symbol: http://thaddavid.com/2015/03/11/zombies-without-prejudice/.

Are we spiritual zombies?

These issues run deep. They’re personal and yet universal. I think of Joshua Blair, one of the main characters in Divide Then Conquer. He’s a young devout Christian with a huge personal secret. He’s handsome, educated and his community, Savannah Safe Zone is surrounded by zombies. Now, he is faced with having to come to terms with the concept of the spiritual zombie. He sees it in himself and witnesses it all around him. As his physical world crumbles, will Joshua be strong and honest enough in body as well as spirit to forge a new more authentic life for himself and awaken the spiritual zombies around him, or will he follow the spiritual zombie horde and remake what’s left of his world in the image of the time before the Zed invasion when spiritual zombies ruled?

J.L. Koszarek
Pass Christian, MS

Innocence in apocalyptic times?

Divide Then Conquer cover art PT 5 (2)

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. -Martin Buber

By J.L. Koszarek
http://www.JLKoszarek.com
Words and Ideas
January 3, 2015

Martin Buber was born in Austria in 1878, he was over 60 years old when the German crack down on the Jews was at its worst. I often think of people like Martin Buber and his younger contemporaries like Viktor Frankl while writing Divide Then Conquer. Both men were Jewish and experienced a real apocalypse, the holocaust that shaped their thinking and life’s philosophies in very different extraordinary ways, which in turn, helped shape contemporary thought about the human condition in general.

Divide Then Conquer, is apocalyptic fiction, but I never lose sight of those who suffered real ones, and so I guess my point is that I strive to respect them, and everyone else who has experienced a real form of apocalypse and there are so many kinds of apocalypses, aren’t there? Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning said of his time in a Nazi concentration camp, “When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single unique task.” Such a noble statement!

I am a character driven author, so once my character is introduced to his or her set of circumstances, they write their own story; their “single unique task”. I’m only the medium by which they tell it, so don’t hate me when one of my characters upsets you! Their behavior is their choice driven by their circumstances, not mine! And as humans, we are destined to upset one another. These days it seems like it truly is our “single unique task” to be angry, fearful and choose blame and denial instead of the hard work of acceptance and overcoming obstacles together. After many hours of working together, I have come to believe this may have been a central driving force behind Thad David’s inspiration for this story. This is where I draw on the works of Buber and especially Frankl. Their words, ideas, and actions help me create realistic characters.

There is very little, if any, innocence in the apocalyptic land of basic survival.

Wrapping Divide Then Conquer Part 5 got me to thinking about Albert Camus and his vast work surrounding the human conscience and moral philosophical issues to guide my thinking in understanding why my characters do the things they do. I want my characters to appear real to you, my reader. I want them to be people of conscience, awareness, selflessness, and selfishness. I want them to love, hate, create, and destroy, but most of all, I want them to live.

If each of us creates our own meaning, as Frankl proposes, then the characters in Divide strive to do the same. They must find meaning to survive and as Martin Buber says, the secret destination is yet unknown to them. It is unknown to this writer as well.

J.L. Koszarek
Pass Christian, MS

Are you the jealous type?

By J.L. Koszarek
http://www.JLKoszarek.com
Words and Ideas

January 14, 2015

Happy New Year! The holidays are always such a wonder-filled whirlwind of love and activity, but I have to admit that I am relieved they are over. I finally have a little more time now to concentrate on work. That is, get caught up so I can look to the rest of 2015 and manage my time according to my goals. I’m sure Thad David, my collaborator and his team at Recon Jack Media are glad to hear it.

A Recon Jack Media Tweet last week got me to thinking about the elements that make up a good dystopian novel and come to find out, I’ve been missing a big one.

It’s difficult to find the time to sit down and read instead of write lately, but I came across a great review by Diane Johnson of Peter Toohey’s book, Jealousy and Valerie Trierweiler’s memoir called Thank You for This Moment in the January 8th edition of The New York Review of Books. The title of Johnson’s review is Who Is Not Guilty of This Vice?

The title grabbed me. The words “Guilty” and “Vice” always grab me. It’s just my nature. I had to read the article a couple of times before I could be completely honest with myself about feeling jealous at times and I had to read it again to begin to explore how I manage those feelings. It’s pretty powerful stuff and in the literary world, jealousy is at the center of it.

Johnson begins her article telling us that “Love makes the world go round, says the poet, while the cynic says it’s money; and Peter Toohey, professor of classics at the University of Calgary, constructs an entertaining argument for jealousy . . .” The things that make you say, hmmm, not to mention make you want to buy Toohey’s book.

This also made me think about jealousy in my own literary works. In retrospect, it is almost nonexistent. For this, I apologize and, I suppose like anything, ya live and ya learn, or maybe I’ve just become more confident and honest about addressing scary feelings like jealousy in my own life, therefore, more comfortable expressing it on the page.

Johnson explores, through her review of Toohey’s work, the poignancy of jealousy in classic literature from the great Greek works, to the Bible on to Shakespeare all the way to the present, which brings her to the review of Trierweiler’s memoir, within which Trierweiler is apparently very honest and open about her jealous feelings concerning Francios Hollande and his ex. From what Johnson writes, it seems to me that Trierweiler (Hollande’s latest ex) experiences extreme jealousy. This is just my opinion based on what someone else has written about her memoirs, though. I’ll have to read it for myself, but at any rate, Johnson illustrates well how jealousy in the literary world has been the catalyst for epic tales of war and destruction and terrible personal suffering.

Divide Then Conquer provides the unique opportunity to illustrate feelings of jealousy and envy as a centerpiece for character motivation and plot enrichment. My aim is to explore Toohey’s idea of the validity of envy as a positive energy that propels people to higher heights; jealousy as an evolutionary necessity for humans to thrive rather than the all-consuming evil we have come to recognize. Is it possible to channel this powerful emotion toward positive ends? In the apocalyptic world, maybe Jealousy is necessary for survival. Maybe jealousy is, indeed, our undoing.

Divide Then Conquer is a story about people who are sometimes greedy and power hungry; people who fall from lofty social and political heights while lonely disenfranchised people suddenly find themselves in the middle of the human mission to survive. The physicality of the zombie apocalypse it is easily explained, but what goes on in the minds and hearts of those who fall; how about those who rise? Jealousy and envy are very present because without it, the struggle to find a new way could not take place, but what does it mean? How will the new world be considering the prevalence of the “guilty vice” we call jealousy in the struggle to survive?

Are you the jealous type?

J.L. Koszarek
Pass Christian, MS

What’s your apocalyptic ride?

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By J.L. Koszarek
http://www.jlkoszarek.com
Words and Ideas
December 29, 2014

Andrew Hard at Digital Trends wrote an informative article called Zombie-proof rides: The top 5 vehicles to get you through the zombie apocalypse. He has some pretty cool videos and photographs embedded in the article, too. Check it out at http://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/top-5-zombie-apocalypse-vehicles/

By far, my favorite on his list is the 1988 Toyota Hilux because my friend, John has a similar Toyota truck that simply will not die. When I came across Hard’s article, I sent John a link to it and told him it’ll be a sad day when the “old Toyota” dies. Maybe it’ll be a sign of the impending zombie apocalypse! You never know, really. And with most end-of-day scenarios, the writing was on the wall all along, but no one noticed until it was too late.

I will keep a sharper eye on my buddy’s old Toyota from here on out.

I’m serious, though. You all have to check out the cars and trucks Andrew Hard listed. They are seriously more bad-ass (this is a new term for me, by the way) than the old Toyota, but the old Toyota is still cooler because you can see the road running beneath you as you drive down the highway because part of the floorboard is rusted away. If my friend, John ever gives you a ride, here’s a tip: Make sure to put a thick rubber mat on the floor on rainy days to prevent mud splatter all up and down your legs, torso and face). The little truck WILL NOT DIE!

Back to Andrew Hard’s list. I like the idea of the solar powered car called “Stella” and the super duper armored awesome “Black Shark”, especially when I imagine Daniel Craig driving it, but I think my favorite one on Hard’s list from a pragmatic useful standpoint is the Gibbs Humdinga Amphitruck. It seats six people, you can take it on the highway, off-road and in the water. It’ll get you almost anywhere you need to go unless you want to fly, but that’s another blog for another day.

Finding the right apocalyptic ride is very, very important. I won’t give any spoilers, but over the holiday, Thad and I wrapped Part Four of Divide Then Conquer and one of our discussions was about whether or not Jack Mason should abandon his ride. In the end we both decided he’d never do such a stupid thing. He’s Jack Mason, after all and his apocalyptic ride is pretty smooth.

The reality of the Zombie Apocalypse is that solar cars, James Bond cars and amphitrucks aren’t available to the average Jane or Joe and fuel will become scarce, therefore, I am disappointed in Andrew Hard’s list of apocalyptic rides because he missed the most obvious one to me, and to Jack Mason, by the way.

If you’ve already read the Three Box Set of Divide Then Conquer, you know what I’m talking about and if you haven’t, get on it! You’re missing out! Don’t fall behind! It’s bad-ass!

Part Four is set for release this week for your e-reading pleasure.

Follow me on Twitter at Jodi Koszarek@JLKoszarek1 and don’t forget the crew at Recon Jack Media@ReconJackMedia and like us both on Facebook. Let us know what you think of Jack Mason’s apocalyptic ride.

Have a great New Year reading, gaming, and enjoying the world around you.

Cheers,
J.L. Koszarek
Angel Fire, NM