2013 Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers’ Showcase

2013_MNSpec_Writers_ShowcaseDo You Like Fiction?

Then you’ll want to mark this event on your calendar:

On Sunday, November 17th, members of the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers’ Group (aka: MNSpec) will be reading stories at Acadia Cafe in Minneapolis.

Come and enjoy Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Steampunk, Paranormal Romance, and much more. All Fiction. All Speculative.

The fun starts at 12PM, and each writer will have approximately ten minutes to read from their current material.

Fiction Fans, this is your opportunity to experience a large number of local writers in a short period of time. Find a new local author to add to your “must read” list!

Here’s just some of the talented folks who will be entertaining us with tales of the un-real:

  • Joel Arnold
  • Kelly Barnhill
  • Rob Callahan
  • Eli Effinger-Weintraub
  • Terry Faust
  • Catherine Lundoff
  • Michael Merriam
  • Margaret Taylor
  • …and more!

All hosted by yours darkly.

How, you may ask, did I ever get such talented folks to volunteer to read their works?  Let’s just say I know people who know people who run S&M clubs, and leave it at that.

Why, you may ask, did I ever agree to host an event like this? Let’s just say I paid a lot for my cool steampunk hat and goggles, and if there’s an event where I can wear them… then I’m wearing them.

Hope to see you there! And if you want to help share this event with others, feel free to download the jpg graphic above, or here is a link to the pdf version of the event flyer:

2013_MNSpec_Showcase Flyer

Mystery Writers Police Academy – 7 Sept 2013

Four crime scene specialists give authors valuable insider info in this one-day workshop.

What do these four people have in common?

  • A Bloomington MN Police officer
  • A Retired FBI agent
  • A Licensed Private Investigator
  • A BCA Forensic Scientist

They will all be presenting at this year’s Mystery Writers Police Academy on 7 Sept 2013. Topics will include crime scene investigation, first responders, fingerprinting techniques, and… well, more things than Dan Brown could fit in a novel.

This sounds like a great opportunity to feed your inner writer all kinds of great ideas to make your thriller novel more realistic.

The 9AM to 4PM workshop includes coffee, lunch and snacks for $89.

Download Details Here  (pdf)

Click here for website with more info, directions and registration info –  http://artescapesmn.com/mystery_writers_police_academy

Neil Gaiman Live!

Neil Gaiman 2013 Book Signing In MinnesotaNeil Gaiman has been a writing inspiration to me for years. But he isn’t just a good writer. He’s smart. He’s humble. He’s well-spoken.  He is grateful and respectful to his audience.

And he wears black.

He’s become more than just a writing inspiration for me. He’s someone to look up to in many different ways.  I gave Neil Gaiman the Ubercool Seal Of Approval back in 2007, so you can imagine my excitement when…

I met Neil Gaiman for the first time today. [Read more…]

Voltage 2013

Voltage Fashion show 2013After a hiatus, Voltage: Fashion Amplified returned to First Avenue, Minneapolis. The combo of up-and-coming local bands crossed with up-and-coming local fashion designers was the brainchild of Minneapolis fashion maven, Anna Lee. While Anna is no longer involved with this project, the fashion committee she gave birth to, MNFashion.org, hopes to carry on the 8th installment in the tradition of runway fashion show crossed with a rock concert. [Read more…]

Arts of Darkness – The Shadow of Approval Award

Arts of Darkness Shadow of Approval Award for Dark Arts and Artists from conradzero.com Since 2003 I’ve been writing blog-reviews here about dark and beautiful things. I’ve used the category Ubercool to reference arts, artists, events and things that I think are glorious. And I never once worried that anyone would read them.

But now, my site traffic and ranking have increased to astonishing levels. My inbox is filled with requests for reviews and offers for paid advertising. You read that right. Paid. Advertising.

“You should have an award. You know, like a seal of approval!”

Ten years ago, I felt like the weird kid sitting by himself and reading Lovecraft while listening to Marilyn Manson.  Now I feel like some kind of Dark Fiction Authority. The Goth Guru? The Hipster of Darkness? [Read more…]

Review of the 2013 Bloomington Writers Festival and Book Fair

Conrad Zero and Author Friends at 2013 Bloomington Writers Festival

From Left To Right: Terry Faust, Michael Merriam, Jason D Wittman, Conrad Zero

Last Saturday I attended the 2013 Bloomington Writers Festival and Book Fair  along with fellow Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers Group members: Terry Faust, Michael Merriam, Jason D Wittman and Joel Arnold.

We attended the writers festival last year, and we learned that this is not a large event, nor an awesome event for sales of spec fic. “Low maintenance, Low payoff,” is how I reported it to the other MNSpec group organizers. We decided to get a table anyway, and use this event as a practice for developing our marketing/promotional clout for larger events coming this summer.

Some numbers: [Read more…]

2013 Bloomington Writers Festival and Book Fair

This Saturday, 23 March 2013, myself and many other authors from the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers Group are attending the  Bloomington Writers Festival and Book Fair. We’ll be celebrating stories, the authors who write them, and the readers who enjoy them.

This event is FREE and open to the public, although the seminars and workshops require registration. There will be plenty of freebees handed out. You’ll be able to buy books directly from the authors and have them signed.

See below for more details. I hope to see you there! [Read more…]

Conrad Zero On KFAI Radio This Sunday!

radio_wavesNo seriously. My voice will be riding the radio waves this Sunday!

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013 at 10 a.m. –  KFAI’s Wave Project will host the Writers Reject Sack with guests: Abra Staffin Wiebe, Joel Arnold, Dana Baird, and myself.

Not sure which I like less: the word “reject” or the word “sack”. Nevertheless, I’ll be there.  We’ll be talking about writer stuff, traditional publishing, self-publishing, podcasting and the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers’ Group.

Tune in to:

  • 90.3 FM Minneapolis, MN
  • 106.7 FM West St. Paul, MN

The show should be recorded and listed on the KFAI website, I’ll be sure to link back to it when the recording is posted!

2012 Zombie Pub Crawl in Minneapolis and St. Paul

Steampunk Zombie and Flo The Zombie Insurance Girl at the 2012 Zombie Pub Crawl, Minneapolis MN

You already knew that Minnesota was the coolest state on neither coast, but Zombie Pub Crawl  (ZPC) is just one more reason why. On 13 Oct 2012, around 30,000 people dressed as zombies and painted the “Twin Cities” of Minneapolis and St. Paul red. With fake blood.

The Zombie Pub Crawl is like Mardi Gras crossed with Halloween for adults. It’s a combination of several things:

  • A Halloween costume party
  • A block party
  • A reason to eat, drink, dance…. and drink some more.
  • A bloodbath

Streets were blocked off, food trucks and portapotties set up along the block, bands and DJ’s blasted, and bars made a literal killing. Music acts included the Gin Blossoms, DMX, Exodus, The Sex Rays and more. A shuttle bus trucked loads of zombies back and forth between the two locations. August Shell Brewing Company, local brewers of Grain Belt Premium Beer and sponsors of ZPC, released a limited edition beer called Brain Belt Cranium just for the event. There was a giant slide, a gigantic inflatable zombie, and even a foam pit.

OK, so maybe it was the foam pit, but there is definitely a point where you realize something has gotten out of hand. Just ask Taylor Carik, who thought it would be fun for him and his handful of friends to theme out their annual pub crawl by dressing as zombies. Eight years later, the Zombie Pub Crawl has grown to “zombie apocalypse” proportions. Estimates are between 30,000 and 40,000 people attended. They should have  no problem breaking the  Guinness  Book of World Records for the “Largest Gathering of Zombies”.  A recent interview with Taylor in the City Pages shows the level of planning needed to pull off an event of this  magnitude.

Tips for Attending the Zombie Pub Crawl

Zombie Pub Crawl Tip 1 – Dress for Success

Technically, you don’t HAVE to dress like a zombie for this event, but if you don’t, there are people who will find you and spray you down with fake blood. Or cover themselves with fake blood and hug you. Or drag you into the foam pit. (true story, btw…) So at the very least, do not wear anything you care about. Some of the fake blood does not come out of cloth, and takes a while for the color to fade away on hair and skin. However, ZPC is a good way to get rid of unfitting, unfashionable or unwanted clothing. Shred em, douse them with fake blood, and you are in. Paint your face white, eyes black and lips blood red. Seriously, you cannot overdo the makeup.

It’s even better if you can theme your zombiness. Last year, I was a hit as a zombified “The Dude” from the Big Lebowski. This year, I was a dignified zombie steampunker with cane, tophat and monocle. I saw a Zombie Elvis, Paramedics, Police and Firemen. Even a zombie Spongebob Squarepants, if you can imagine such a thing. Lots of wedding dresses, and lots of people in cleansuits. I’ll point out that my mother dressed as a zombie bride back in Halloween 2007 and had talked about the idea for years before that, so I think it’s safe to give her some credit for the fashion trend. And sexy zombies are always in fashion. There was a gigantic zombie donkey that dubsteped through the crowd. A good costume or makeup will get you asked for lots of pix.

Zombie Pub Crawl Tip 2  – Buy Tix in Advance

Anyone who’s been to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival can tell you – buy your tickets early. Pre-event tickets are cheaper and you bypass the line to buy tickets at the door. I heard that ZPC came close to selling out of tickets this year, and you definitely don’t want to get all dressed up only to get shunned at the gate.

You might want to grab a bite before heading down there too. The food trucks are an interesting combination of foody and spendy meaning you’ll pay a lot for very little.

Hey, leggo my foot! Silly Zombie Flo! Good thing I have insurance coverage against being bitten by zombies in a foam pit! (Costs extra. Not available in all areas. Ask your insurance agent.) -Z

Zombie Pub Crawl Tip 3 – Be Fun, Have Fun

One of the great things about ZPC is that it’s in Minnesota. People from Minnesota are joiners, and they are nice unless they are driving. They are especially nice when they dress as zombies, drink beer and listen to dubstep. So come, eat, drink, be bloody. Bring a camera. Take lots of pics and share them. Bring fake blood and apply liberally to yourself and others. It’s one of the few times it’s OK to spray bodily fluids on one another in public.

And never pass up the opportunity to start up the zombie chant:

What do we want? Braaains!

When do we want them? Braaains!

Zombie Pub Crawl Tip 4 – Be Safe

One reason this event has grown so large is simple – its fun for you and your friends to dress and act all silly, and people from Minneapolis aren’t likely to start a riot while they’re having fun. So no hatin’. Save all your ‘come at me bro’ for the country bars.

And do not drink and drive. Minnesota pays the state electric bill with all the fees they charge people for driving under the influence, so don’t do it.

Also, zombies are fairly unsanitary to say the least, so you might wanna bring some hand sanitizer. Just sayin.

Frightmares at Buck Hill

In the winter, Buck Hill is a good place for skiing/snowboarding that’s not far from Minneapolis. But during October, it’s transformed into a community of horrific fun.

Frightmares at Buck Hill is not a haunted house. It is more like a haunted village.  One admission fee ($20 Wed-Sat and $18 on Sundays) gets you a wristband that lets you stay as long as you like and you can keep going through the different attractions as many times as you want till they close at midnight. they stop selling tickets at 11, but you really will want to get there early so you have a chance to see everything. Lines for the attractions are all outdoors and can get quite long, so dress warm and give yourself plenty of time.

The chalet/bar has live music, dancing, food, and drinks. As we were told by our host “A Haunted House without alcohol is just a Museum.” There’s an outdoor stage where Kevin Hall runs down a series of fast-paced magic tricks. Bonfires and spooky lighting enhance the mood of the central courtyard area connecting all the events, and there are monsters that WILL try to sneak up on you. They love the screamers, so if you’re a screamer, be ever-watchful.

There are four primary attractions:

Haunted Hollow

The only outdoor attraction, and my personal favorite. The Haunted Hollow starts with a ride on the “magic carpet” if you are familiar with skiing/snowboarding, the magic carpet is simply a conveyor belt that carries you up to the top of the hill. There were no scares on the way up, but once at the top, you are in for an anything-but-leisurely walk down to the bottom.

Lights, smoke, a corn maze and disturbing characters lie between you and the exit.

We were advised to hit this attraction first, to take advantage of the last bit of sunlight, and to avoid the chill of night. But then again, darkness would ramp up the intensity of this attraction.

Orchard Manor Dead and Breakfast

This is your classic haunted house, and I mean that as a good thing. A quality scare, although I don’t remember anything specific about it except the end which I won’t give away, but you won’t want to miss it.

Inferno (Formerly Bellharm Lovejoy Asylum)

Asylum fireThis attraction was originally created as an insane asylum, but unfortunately it burned down a mere three weeks ago. The organizers have done a marvelous job of rebuilding it, turning it into a series of dungeon laboratories and now called Inferno.

Come and explore  THE INFERNO, where the gates of hell have been unleashed and the tortured souls of the past yearn to share their pain and fear with all who enter.

Doctors, laboratories and inmates behind bars – all the scariness of an insane asylum moved underground. Best part was trying to get through the operating room, where the doctor was persistent that I get on the table for some kind of transplant. I didn’t wait around to see exactly what he wanted to transplant…

Fright Factory

This was a fun surprise, you get a pair of 3-D glasses when you enter. Once you are inside, the neon oranges, greens and pinks really turn the place into a cross between a 3-D movie and a Duran Duran video. There was a spinning tunnel I’d challenge anyone to try walking through it without using the handrails. Those who get motion sickness can simply close their eyes and use the handrails to get through.

Overall a cool effect, but it may not work as well for everyone. If 3-D movies give you a headache, you could certainly go through this without the glasses and still enjoy it.


Overall I give Frightmares at Buck Hill an A. They really have done a great job with the whole event. The entire event is PG-13, and overall scariness  was around 7 out of 10.  And it’s a great dollar value. Keep in mind that you can go through the attractions as many times as you want, so give yourself some extra time to stop off at the chalet for some pub grub and a glass of Mold, then go back and revisit your favorite scare.

I recommend groups of 2-4 people. If your group is larger, break it down into smaller groups and stay close together for a better experience  as you go through the attractions. There is a group discount for groups over 20.

Keep the weather in mind. Although three of the four attractions are inside, the lines are all outside, and you could be standing there for a while.

Get there early. It wasn’t very busy when we first arrived around 8PM and there were hardly any lines at all. By the time we left at 10:30 the lines had grown to a reasonable size, and I’ll bet you could wait for an hour to get into some of the attractions at the peak times. I’d expect it to get more busy as word gets out and as we get closer to Halloween.

Frightmares at Buck Hill
15400 Buck Hill Rd
Burnsville, MN 55306