Horror, Balloons, and Chekhov’s Gun

One of the most frequent questions I get from people is, “How can an innocent person who loves balloons write such graphic horror?” I’ve heard it from other writers, my buddies, and sometimes reviewers. So how can I write graphic horror? Balloons and horror fiction go together like spaghetti and meatballs.

Think of Pennywise the clown in Stephen King’s It. It had a lot of balloon scenes and King wasn’t trying to be cute. Pennywise lured his victims by popping through the gutter, brandishing a bouquet of balloons. “C’mon, Bucko. Don’t you want a balloon?” he’d ask his victim Georgie in a leering voice. “When you’re down here with me, Georgie, you’ll float, too.”

Jonathan Maberry’s book, Fire & Ash, features a scene where a character was getting bored blowing up balloons. I remember smiling until I found out the purpose of those balloons. They had a darn good reason being in the story. I don’t want to say more lest I give away spoilers.

Steel Rose has a balloon scene…or two. The balloons enable us to know Yeron better and how helium will affect people like him. I guarantee you that the helium from a balloon will poison someone later in the story. Ditto for “Echoes of a Distant World” in the Alien World anthology Tom Johnson and I cooked up. Why? Because the helium in the balloons are deadly to the alien attackers. You can also find balloon scenes in City of Brotherly Death (“Darkness Rising”). The balloons symbolized the protag Brianna’s humanity. Much as I like balloons, I would not use them in my tales without a reason.

Why? Because of Chekhov’s gun. I learned about Chekhov’s gun at the first writer’s conference I attended, and that information has stayed with me. Chekhov suggests that if you introduce a loaded gun on stage during the first act of your play, the gun should be fired during a later act. Otherwise, the gun shouldn’t be shown at all. Basically, he’s warning the writer not to put too much emphasis on unnecessary details. You can have guns, knives, balloons, or any other object, but they had better go into action before the story ends.

I’d also like to mention the MacGuffin. The MacGuffin is a goal, object, or person that motivates the protagonist in the beginning of the story, but becomes less important as the struggles play out. In It, Bill Denbrough decides to battle the monster that killed his brother Georgie, but as the battles continue, and the characters mature, Georgie’s death starts to fade into the background. If you’re not sure of your ending, you can use the MacGuffin to create a delightful story. But the Chekhov’s gun can be tricky. After you’ve finished your draft, go through it for any Chekhov’s guns, in case something you focused on turns out to be unimportant. Ask yourself, will the details advance your plot or tell us something about your characters?

Do you use the Chekhov’s gun and MacGuffin in your writing? How has these techniques influenced your tales?

Barbara Custer loves her Mylar balloons and zombie fiction.

Joseph Spencer’s Inspiration for Wrage

Joseph Spencer's Wrage features crime fiction.I’ve written a lot about the influences that mythology, religion, and historical lore have had on the supernatural aspect of my Sons of Darkness series books Grim and Wrage, so I thought I’d touch on the crime aspects of the novels and their influences today. There are parallel threads running in both books. There are events occurring in the supernatural realm which affect the afterlife and there are events which affect everyday life in Prairieville. The supernatural realm and the realm of men have become interconnected thanks in large part to the corruption in Prairieville caused by the influence of organized crime.

Though I’ve read a lot of crime fiction and it’s one of my favorite genres, I’ve gathered part of my inspiration for the characters which work for the Prairieville Police Department from my real life experiences. I work as a manager at a 9-1-1 emergency communications center for my full-time job, so I work alongside police officers every day. My center handles between 300 to 400 9-1-1 calls on a daily basis and even more non-emergency calls. Our job is to gather information such as location, types of crimes being committed, description of victims and suspects, description of the direction these suspects are travelling away from the scene of the crime, a medical disposition for those who are injured and any officer safety information such as weapons being used by suspects. After we’ve gathered that information, we relay it to police officers, firefighters and paramedics on the radio to respond to the scene of active and previous crimes.

The experience I’ve gained in public safety has helped to humanize these responders and given me a window into their personalities when I’m working on character development for my novels. Over the course of my five-year career, I’ve dealt with calls reporting to suicides, bridge jumpers, homicides, bank robberies, fatal fires, fatal car accidents, airplane crashes and almost any situation you can imagine. I’ve also had front-row access to see how people are first on scene at some of these tragic events handle the situation. In my experience, most of the public lauds these responders as heroes and rightfully so. But there’s more to their stories, and that’s what I try to capture when I create that sort of character. The stresses of the job are difficult to handle, and that’s resulted in some of the gallows-type humor I’ve incorporated in Grim and Wrage. That’s why some of the characters are heavy drinkers or womanizers. It’s a release from the pressures and stress of a stressful job which I’ve observed.

Another advantage to working in the public safety sector is that it allows me to become familiar with jargon and procedures used by police, fire and ambulance personnel. Did you know officers have specific radio codes to let each other know there’s a suspect armed with a gun or a business has received a bomb threat? Unlike what the movies and television shows would have you believe, you can report someone missing without waiting 24 hours. Did you know that when a fire department refers to a RIT team that it’s a specially-designated group called a Rapid Intervention Team with the sole purpose of evacuating fire personnel in case there’s some sort of accident while fighting a fire? These are all intricate details that I try to weave into my writing to add some authenticity.

Organized crime is another prominent aspect featured in Grim and Wrage. Even though most communities don’t have larger than life villains like the ones featured in my books or in movies like The Godfather, organized crime is still a pervasive problem in our society. Gangs traffic people, weapons and drugs every day, and I didn’t fully realize the severity of the problem until I worked in public safety. That’s why I chose to make gangsters such an integral part of the decay of Prairieville. I think gangs plague their surroundings wherever they are allowed to gain a foothold.

*************************

Joseph Spencer's Wrage features crime fiction.Blurb:  

Sometimes the toughest fight lies within yourself.

As more dark secrets come to light, the battle for souls pushes Prairieville to the brink of war in the living and supernatural realms.

Jeff Wrage swears a blood oath to Abaddon, the supernatural avenger of murder victims, to hunt the crooked cop who butchered his wife. Jeff wonders whether he can be the executioner Abaddon requires. Their pact throws the supernatural realm in chaos and threatens to trigger an apocalyptic fight for control of the afterlife between the Sons of Darkness and Sons of Light foretold in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Orlando Marino sees the death of Cyrus Black as his opportunity to restore the Marino family’s stronghold in Prairieville’s organized crime scene and become a mob kingpin. He unleashes a plague, turning its victims into mindless followers. Cyrus’ heir is busy rooting out a traitor and is unable to stop the coming turf war in the realm of man.

The fate of all rests with Homicide Detective Anna Duke, who steps into the shoes of her mentor while coming to terms with unrequited love. As she tries to clear the fallen hero’s name, she takes on a case where corpses go missing. Her new partner is reported dead. She learns the truth about her true identity and uncovers a trail of secrets questioning her tragic past. She journeys to avert the destruction of all creation.

Joseph Spencer's Wrage features crime fiction.Author Information:

As a boy, Joseph Spencer immersed himself in the deductive logic of Sherlock Holmes, the heroic crime fighting of Batman and Spider-Man, and a taste for the tragic with dramas from poets like Shakespeare and Homer.

Before Joseph took to spinning his own tales, he pursued a career in print sports journalism, graduating summa cum laude from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He covered such events as NASCAR’s Subway 500 race in Martinsville, the NBA Draft Camp in Chicago, the Junior College World Series, and Minor League Baseball’s Midwest League All-Star Game during a ten-year career throughout the Midwest. Now, he works as an emergency telecommunications specialist with an Illinois police department. The combination of years of writing experience with a background working with law enforcement professionals gave rise to his writing aspirations.

Joseph was married to Dr. Amy (Waggoner) Spencer, an accomplished veterinary doctor, on March 14, 2012. He received word his debut novel was accepted by his publisher, Damnation Books, the next day. Joseph is hard at work on the rest of the series. Book 2 – Wrage – was released June 1, 2013.  The Spencer family enjoys reading Charlaine Harris, George R.R. Martin, Mary Janice Davidson, and most paranormal stories. The Spencers also enjoy quoting movie lines from “The Princess Bride”, “Rain Man”, “Bridesmaids”, and “Office Space.”

Twitter Link: https://twitter.com/josephspencer00

Facebook Link: https://www.facebook.com/joe.spencer3

Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/7881659-joe-spencer

Book Video Links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJMdOhL-Qrg  (Grim trailer)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3Z-ECZw3AE  (Wrage trailer)

*************************

Joseph will be awarding a $25 Starbucks gift certificate to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.

Joseph Spencer's Wrage features Crime Fiction.Excerpt:

Thunderclaps from high above jolted Jeff out of his slumber.

Something hard and cold with jagged edges pressed into his back.

When he tried to move, iron shackles strained against the skin of his arms and legs. Chained to a rock in a dry stream bed, he knew he’d become a helpless prisoner who could do nothing more than wait for his captor. Stormy skies threatened from directly above him with bright flares of lightning snaking among sooty clouds and disappearing. Out of the corner of his eye, he could detect that the sun was shining brightly on the other side of the rock.

Scant rays of brilliant sunshine peeked over the rock, reflecting bright light off a magnificent golden shrine on a bank not far from where he was chained.

This can’t be real. He’d never seen a place like this in his life.

Large wet drops crashed against his skin. The coolness of the rain streaking down his body caused steam to rise from his skin, which he noticed had turned a dark shade of crimson. The only being this red was….

“Lucifer,” a calm voice echoed from above Jeff on the shoreline.

A giant, dressed in white armor sparkling like diamonds in the spare sunlight, stepped into view. He wielded a golden-hilted silver sword in one hand and a silver shield with the Latin inscription “Quis ut Deus” (I am like God) on the front in the other hand. He loomed above Jeff. A large gold cross ran down the center of the giant’s breastplate. A second inlaid golden cross glinted at the center of his white helmet. The helmet obscured his face, save for flawless ivory skin which radiated a blinding light. There was something across his back casting a large shadow, but Jeff couldn’t see what it was.

“You were thinking of Lucifer, whose skin is often portrayed as red,” the giant said. The ivory giant stepped into full view. From his back a pair of massive wings spanned over ten feet wide and five feet long majestically fluttering in the breeze, yet didn’t cast a shadow. The rain pelting Jeff in the eyes didn’t touch this giant. He certainly was no man. The only thing Jeff could compare it to would be—

“An angel,” the giant completed Jeff’s sentence again. “You are correct.”

Angel of Syn Author Shares Thoughts on Outlining

Angel of Syn features paranormal thriller.Outlines are the Zombies Eating my Brain

As a writer, I’m constantly striving to improve my craft. There’s a ton of information and advice out there. But it seems everywhere I’ve looked lately has led to experts and/or seasoned writers talking about outlining stories. They lecture the need to lay the bones of the plot in the right sequence so elbows are attached to arms instead of legs and heads sit atop necks, not hip bones. I have no doubt that this is very desirable when building a person-shaped thing. But what if the thing is story-shaped?

I confess to being the type of writer than sits at the keyboard with only the barest wisp of an idea before plunging ahead. The voices in my head tell me what to do next. Wait. That didn’t sound right. My story characters’ voices in my head tell me what to do next. Better.

My attempts at outlines feel like Doctor Frankenstein’s creation but not as handsome or talented at tap-dancing. I’ve tried to create outlines. Really. Many times. In different mediums and multiple colors. I’ve built my skeletons, even grown some flesh on them. But what comes shambling out is not what I intended at all.

And they all want to eat my brain.

Okay, maybe it just feels like they want to chomp on my gray matter. The theory of outlining a story is a solid one. It makes perfect sense, and seems like an exceedingly logical way to proceed. The problem is that, like zombies, outlines are scary, partially formed things chasing after you with serious noshing on their minds or stomachs, whatever. To me, the thought of writing to an outline is like that of a zombie eagerly sucking brains through a straw sticking out of a hole in my head – akin to a coconut husk cocktail on Tiki night at the Luau.

So why even try to outline if it doesn’t work for me? I have a guilty little squirmy feeling that I haven’t really given outlining a chance. And I might be missing out on a really good thing. The zombie might not be irredeemable. Like the zombie guy in Warm Bodies, there might be a heartbeat under the disintegrating skin of its chest. So, I want to believe. I want to believe that the magical properties of outlining will be able to transform the zombie into a hot guy, uh, I mean, into a useful member of society (no, I really meant hot guy). I’m going to try outlining my third novel to the Synemancer trilogy (tentatively titled Dark Syns). And if I have any brain matter left after that, I’ll call it a success and be enlightened to the joys of outlining. Unfortunately, just typing that last sentence made something dribble out of my ear. Well, let’s see what happens.

********************

Angel of Syn features a paranormal thriller.BLURB:

Contemporary witch Cara Augustine goes international and inter-dimensional, from San Francisco to France to an alternate Eden-like dimension, in this second book of the Synemancer series.

Cara is a fugitive, pursued by the Portalkind police for breaking a major covenant. When she accidentally made a werewolf her witch’s familiar, it amounted to enslaving a human. And the punishment is death. On the run for her life, she and her companions stumble into a strange paradise dimension. But they quickly find the dangerous world is filled with strange creatures, deadly and beautiful. And, because she’s quickly learning a Synemancer’s life is never simple.  Cara has to deal with an amorous Nephilim (half-angel half-witch), a dangerously deranged French werewolf, and the darkly handsome Nightkind she just might love. Each powerful supernatural man has his own reasons for wanting to possess Cara, body and soul. But if the Portalkind police catch her, she’ll be in a fight for her life.

********************

The Angel of Syn features a paranormal thriller.I currently live with my husband and dogs in northern California.  I have a son who attends college in San Francisco. After years of working in the business world while secretly wishing I could be a writer, I finally took a leap of faith and started writing. My first book, SYN IN THE CITY, was published in 2010 and I haven’t looked back since.  Well maybe a few glances in the rearview mirror, just to see if anyone was tailing me, but not many.

Website:  www.mertianna.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mertianna-Georgia-Books/155028037896400?fref=ts

Buy Links:

Amazon Print:  http://www.amazon.com/Angel-Syn-Mertianna-Georgia/dp/1610261186/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1359358824&sr=1-1

Amazon EBook:  http://www.amazon.com/Angel-Syn-Synemancer-Series-ebook/dp/B00B5EGYA0/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1359358824&sr=1-1

Mertianna will be awarding a canvas tote bag printed with the book cover on one side and a saying on the other (“Are you a syn-er?”), and filled with goodies plus a $20 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour (S ONLY).

********************

Excerpt:

Bart straightened from his defensive semi-crouch, still eyeing the Hounds warily. I glanced around the room to see if the orbs were here, but they were nowhere in sight. The mirror chimed and shimmered for the umpteenth time since I’d come into the room. A tall, pale man dressed in black and wearing a black backpack walked into the room. Azrael stood silently on Amelia’s hardwood floor, and by the expression on his beautiful face, he was angry enough to chew spells and spit out hexes.  He quickly scanned the room.   His ice-blue eyes focused on me and I had his full attention.  All Hades was about to break loose.  With two weres, two Hellhounds, and a Nightkind in the room, the situation was about to get bloody.

Angel_of_Syn_Book_Cover_Banner_copy

 

When a Witch Hides to Survive…M. Lathan’s Hidden

M. Lathan's Hidden features a paranormal thriller.I am delighted to host M. Lathan as a guest blogger. Before reading her post, I thought I was the only writer reluctant to release her tales. Do other writers tend to hover? I think so…

The hardest part about writing is…

Writing is difficult work. Enjoyable, but difficult. Plotting, creating compelling characters, and editing are just a few of the tough tasks writers are faced with. But to me, the hardest part about writing is releasing a story.

While the technical issues of putting your work out there – querying agents or self-publishing, marketing, designing book covers, or writing a synopsis or description – are daunting tasks on their own, to me, releasing a book is difficult for one major reason: writers care and are personally connected to their work.

The story started as a tiny thing inside of your head and you’ve slowly developed it, nurtured it, and with great effort, brought it out of your mind and put it into words on a screen. Like a new mother or father, you’re hovering, being cautious, or screaming at it when you haven’t had any rest. You’re polishing polished scenes and making excuses to why it’s not ready to be out on its own.

Sometimes, a lot of times with me, it isn’t ready. It needs more love and discipline. It needs more time. The difficult part is distinguishing the times when you’re hovering and when your story baby really can’t make it in the world on its own.

I’m constantly trying to find a balance with this. In the past, I’ve tended to brush off my concerns and rush. Now, I’m becoming a bit of a hoverer. If I had to choose a side to be on, I think I’d rather hover than rush. However, if you hover too long, you may never take that leap.

Of course this isn’t the only aspect of writing you have to master, but, in my opinion, learning how to balance being cautious and trusting your story is the biggest hurdle writers will face.

********************

M. Lathan's Hidden features a paranormal thriller.BLURB:  

Sixteen-year-old Leah Grant has given up on being normal. She’d settle for stopping the voices in her head, intrusive visions of the future, and better odds of making it to her seventeenth birthday.

That’s the thing about pretending to be human in a world where magic used to exist – at any moment, her cover could be blown and she’ll be burned to death like the rest of the witches.

Everything changes when she loses control of her powers and flees the orphanage she grew up in. She desperately wants to be invisible but finds her face plastered on every news channel as humans panic over the possible resurgence of her kind. And now the hunters won’t give up until they find her.

Making friends for the first time in her life and falling in love with one of them drives her to discover why she is unlike any being she’s ever met – human or otherwise. The dangerous powers inside of her that would repel Nathan, her new, handsome reason for living, are priceless to some. The locked up forever kind of priceless. And to others, they are too dangerous to allow her to live.

Let’s hope she can stay hidden.

********************

M. Lathan's Hidden features a paranormal thriller.Author Information:

M. Lathan lives in San Antonio with her husband and mini-schnauzer. She enjoys writing and has a B.S. in Psych and a Masters in Counseling. Her passion is a blend of her two interests – creating new worlds and stocking them with crazy people. She enjoys reading anything with interesting characters and writing in front of a window while asking rhetorical questions … like her idol Carrie Bradshaw.

 

Links:

Website: mlathan.com

Twitter: @hiddenseries

Buy links: Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=B00A6301BO

********************

Excerpt:

Sienna snatched last week’s Chemistry test from my desk. I hadn’t turned it over. I knew it was a D minus.

She cackled and passed it around.

“Leah, you would think someone who spends most of her time alone would have better grades,” she said. Her birds laughed on cue. “What do you do all day? Obviously not study.” She gasped slowly like she’d gotten a revelation in that blonde head of hers. “You fantasize about us, don’t you? You probably sleep in Whit’s old bed to feel close to her.”

Laughter spread around the room like an airborne disease. Disease. I shivered. That was an intriguing thought; I could almost hear the sound their bodies would make against the floor when it hit.

“Leah, come on. Say something. Scream at me, it’s been a while. At least cry,” Sienna said, laughing and leaning into my desk, closer to danger.

I didn’t cry. I never cry. And if I were going to, it wouldn’t be because of Sienna. I had bigger problems. I’d just broken a promise I’d made to God to not think about hurting His people, His children. And today was not the day to piss Him off.

My old roommate, Whitney Nguyen, graciously returned my test as she cackled with the rest of the birds. She liked the idea of me pining over her, but she knew I didn’t spend my free time thinking about her or sleeping in her old bed. After fourteen years of hard labor as my roommate, she’d given up on being friends or me being remotely normal. The current theory to explain my oddness was that I was in love with all of the girls and consumed by lust.

As long as they didn’t know it was magic.

********************

One randomly chosen commenter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card.

M. Lathan's Hidden features a paranormal thriller.

Critique Groups: Debra Dunbar, Author of Eleven Blood

Elven Blood is Debra Dunbar's answer to fantasy fiction.I’ve never been in a traditional critique group, but last year I signed up for a short-term one at our local college. The class met for four session, one each week, and we discussed the first twenty pages of each student’s novel of their choice. We wound up with 2 critiques per week, so there was a bit of work involved.

The appeal was that the class gave me feedback from a broad swath of readers – all ages, both male and female, writers of fiction and non-fiction. I was finished with the draft of my second book in the Imp series and hoped this would be a great opportunity to have fresh eyes give the novel a review. My hope was that other writers would be articulate enough to let me know any issues they had with the early part of the novel.

And, of course, there is the dreaded “series” conundrum. Is the recap too much? Does it read like an info-dump of what happened in the first novel? Is it too little? Are readers thrown unprepared into a new world and characters, drowning in references they don’t understand? What is critical to bring readers up to speed in the first few pages, and what can be sprinkled in throughout the latter parts of the novel?

I went into the critique group thinking to learn more about my own novel, but it was reading and giving feedback on everyone else’s work that really brought me the most value. I tend to be a rather forgiving reader, skimming over the rough spots and concentrating on what works well. Having to comment on these other works helped me to look closer, to realize that each word, each sentence provides a sense of unity to the flow and tone of the book.

Among the many novel excerpts I read a funny memoir, a promising quirky thriller, a rather convoluted dark drama, and a stream-of-consciousness psychological fiction. And I got feedback on Satan’s Sword– feedback that helped me tighten up the beginning, give my characters more emotion, and balance action with a slower paced descriptive scene. Not bad for a four-week class and a twenty page review!

I’m again taking the class, this time with many new authors participating. Personally, I like this type of critique group far more than the dedicated participant model. I love that each time I get a whole new perspective on my writing, and I love exploring and learning from another author’s work.

Others may work better with a set group that sees their novels and writing style as they evolve, but, for me, this was the best model. Maybe your local college has one, too. If not, perhaps you’re just the person to set one up!

**************************

Author’s Biography and Links:

Debra Dunbar lives on a farm in the northeast United States with her husband, three boys, and a Noah’s ark of four legged family members.  Her urban fantasy novels feature supernatural elements in local settings. In addition to A Demon Bound, Satan’s Sword, and Elven Blood, she has also published a short story erotica series titled Naughty Mom. Connect with her on Twitter @debra_dunbar, on Facebook at debradunbarauthor, and on her website at http://debradunbar.com.

A Demon Bound:  http://amzn.to/MK6nxD

Satan’s Sword: http://amzn.to/Tsi1Wr

Debra will be awarding an e-book copy of A DEMON BOUND (book 1 in the Imp Series) to a randomly drawn commenter at every stop, and a grand prize of a Kindle Fire with an ELVEN BLOOD book cover skin to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour (US ONLY). E-book copies of A Demon Bound and Satan’s Sword and a basket of awesome swag will be awarded to a randomly drawn host.

**************************

Elven Blood is Debra Dunbar's answer to fantasy fiction.

BLURB:

Sam may be the Iblis, but she is also an imp with a price on her head.  The powerful demon Haagenti won’t rest until she’s dragged back to Hel for “punishment”.  Sam knows she can’t face Haagenti and win, so when an Elf Lord offers to eliminate the demon in return for her help, Sam accepts.  It’s a simple job – find and retrieve a half-breed monster dead or alive.  But finding this demon/elf hybrid isn’t proving easy and time is running out.

**************************

EXCERPT:

The hiss of Wyatt’s shower penetrated through the fog of my pre-caffeinated brain.  I was still sprawled on the bed, hidden under a heap of covers, wondering whether I could sneak in a few more minutes of sleep. It was rent day, and I was already late in making my collection rounds.  Stretching, I poked my head from under the blanket and watched a small lizard cross the floor.  It had a scorpion tail, pointed ears and crimson eyes that darted intelligently across the room.  Those red eyes locked onto the bed just as I realized this wasn’t a lizard.  It was a demon—and not the usual Low one either.

There was a flash, and I rolled across the bed and onto the floor just before the mattress sliced into two smoking sections.  Unfortunately I was trapped in a tangle of sheets.  Instinctively I converted my form, deconstructing my usual human one into basic atoms and re-assembling into a creature that was small and hard to kill.

I heard a muffled curse, and I felt the sheets snatched from above me.  The demon was no longer a lizard; he was bipedal with furry, clawed legs and a scaled torso.  Arms hung down past his knees, ending in sharp hooks.  His head twisted and turned, forked tongue tasting the air as he searched for me.

Elven Blood is Debra Dunbar's answer to fantasy fiction.

Store Brand versus Name Brand…when Best Laid Plans Float Away

Recently I tried to shave my grocery bill by buying store brand cereals and other items. With cereals, I didn’t notice any difference in the consistency or taste. The store brand ice cream had a flat taste, however, so I continued to pony up the money for name brand. Most store brands are no-frills. You get the same quality and ingredients, but you lose the pretty packaging and designs, especially with paper products. As for tissues…well, my nose didn’t notice any difference. I was able to get manila envelopes at the dollar store for a fifth of what I’d pay in a stationary store. For medications, I’ve stayed with the name brand Allegra because there’s something reassuring about the orange color of the pill. Otherwise, the generic medicines work just as well.

Sometimes, when the store’s offering a great sale and a coupon, I find it cheaper to stick with name brands. At the Giant last week, I bought a box of Eggo Waffles for seventy-five cents. Because I had a decent coupon, I got two Venus disposable razor packs for the price of one. Allegra’s always on sale, and with a generous coupon, too. Today, I found HP paper on clearance, and got two packs for $5.00 each. I recommend sticking with HP or other name brand computer paper and ink because the wrong paper / ink can damage or jam your printer.

Why do I go through all this trouble to save money? Because I have Walter Mitty dreams of getting my bedroom redone. Perhaps I want to save the money for jewelry or a trip. Maybe I saw a Coach purse with my name on it. So the question is, did I succeed in saving money at the supermarket? So far, no.

This past shopping expedition was a case of best laid plans floating away…literally. When I walked into the Giant, a glittery Mylar balloon with bows blocked my passage. I tried running the other way and bumped into a Mylar planter. Going sideways, I headed straight into a Mylar heart with butterflies – all Mother’s Day balloons and pricey ones at that.

“Why?” I gazed at the balloons helplessly. “I’m not a mother. I don’t have any children.”

“Of course, you do.” The balloons smiled at me. “You’ve got 68 balloons and you’ve been a great mother to them.”

So the glittery balloon with the bows went home with me. Cost: nine dollars. What’s more, I drove home with the AC on because I didn’t want the balloon to overheat. I remember shaking my head, thinking I was the first person on this planet to use air conditioning for a balloon’s comfort. But this one is a real beauty and well worth it.

Mylar balloons always find their way into Barbara Custer's zombie fiction.

I couldn’t resist tempting Barbara!

This got me to contemplating my character Alexis of Steel Rose and her buying habits. If Alexis could jump out of the pages, she’d brain me for spending nine dollars on a balloon. She and I make the same salary, but she takes a plethora of expensive medicines that insurance doesn’t cover well. She’s got to stick with store brand items so she can pay for her treatment, although in a weak moment, she might indulge in a CD. In the sequel, When Blood Reigns, things are getting ugly fast. Because of the zombie invasions, traditional mail and FedEx have ceased services to Philadelphia.

Because of this a zombie invasion may preclude balloon offerings at any supermarket. Fewer stores would remain open, if any, and soldiers would police the aisles for walking dead. In Alexis’ world, I’d buy whatever brands I could get and thank God I made it to the store alive. I’d hope I had plenty of food at home because shopping might mean a longer drive. The balloon with the bows might be available through the black market, so I’d better prepare to spend twenty dollars.

This is assuming I can get to the supermarket and back unharmed.

Zombies aren’t choosy where they feed, especially if they’re hungry. A bunch of them might gang up on my car while I’m heading to the store. My option? Shop at a local deli or learn to use a gun. I tried picturing myself shooting zombies so I could get to a supermarket. Yeah, it could happen. You always find a way when you want something badly. An image formed in my mind of me staring at the gun, and thinking, good grief, I’m the first person in creation who shot zombies so she could buy a balloon.

So, do you find buying store brands have saved you money? How would a zombie invasion affect your hobbies and shopping habits? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

How would this zombie affect Barbara Custer's purchase of Mylar balloons?

How would this monster affect Balloon Lady’s shopping habits?

 

  • Subscribe to Blog via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 671 other subscribers