Archive | August, 2013

The Difficult Second Book – Part II

31 Aug

Last November I posted an article about the difficulties of writing your second book. That was when I was just starting it. Now, 9 months later, and about 6 months behind my intended schedule, I’ve finally finished the first draft and passed it on to the Lady With The Big Red Pen (a.k.a. my long-suffering girlfriend) to go through with a fine-toothed comb, picking up the problems, pointing out where the plot doesn’t really work, marking where the characters are a bit flat and the dialogue doesn’t really work.

There’s two times in the writing a book when I find getting some outside editing advice is most vital. The first is right at the end, just before submission or publication to catch all those little grammatical errors and typos, and is fairly obvious, but the second is less so. This is when the first draft has been completed. This is because this is the time when it’s easiest to fix any problems with the plots and characters; and there will always be problems with these aspects of a book in the first draft. If you don’t get these sorted early, you may find yourself having to throw away chunks of text you’ve spent hours honing to perfection simply because you’ve got rid of a specific plot line or character and they are no longer needed and that’s just soul-destroying. It’s so much better if you can shake all the problems with the plot and characters when the text is, quite frankly, still a bit of a mess (and this is true of all first drafts).

So, I’ve printed out all 86,184 words which make up my first draft and will wait with bated breath while my girlfriend reads it, red pen in hand. I know there’ll be some bits she likes, and I know there’ll bits she won’t. I’m okay with that because these will often be the very bits I struggled with myself and that I know don’t really work, and she’ll be able to tell me where I’ve gone wrong and what I need to do to fix it. In many cases, the problems and solutions will be obvious the moment she points them out, but without her input I’d have difficultly spotting them because I’m too close to the book – after all it is my baby.

Once her thoughts are in, it will be on with the next stage, because finishing the first draft isn’t the end, it’s not even the beginning of the end, it’s only the end of the beginning. This bit will be the editing, where I’ll start tightening up the plot lines and clipping away at the extraneous descriptions; new set pieces will be added where the first draft is a bit slow and events mentioned in passing will be expanded to fill out the story line; dialogue will be pruned and polished; characters will be fleshed out and made more real (some may even get a sex change if that’s what’s needed to make them work). At some stage the title might even get changed because I’m not too sure I like the working title I’ve given it so far (which is, incidentally, On The Edge Of The World). By then my 86,000 words will probably have grown somewhere closer to 100,000 and it will be time to move onto the next stage: running it passed my handful of specially-selected readers to get their thoughts, before the final session of editing and re-writing.

So, all in all, there’s still a long way to go, but with the first draft now, after many months longer than I intended, out of the way, I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere with this second book. There’s still bits I’m not entirely happy with, but there are others where I feel it’s coming together nicely. I can finally see that I have something which I think will work and which will be a worthy follow-up to For Those In Peril On The Sea. Happy days!


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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

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When Zombies And Free Running Meet …

30 Aug

I’ve long argued that parkour, or free running, would be a really useful skill to have in a zombie apocalypse, and finally someone has put together a video which proves it! They’ve done a really good job and it’s well worth watching, and it only lasts for four minutes so you don’t have the excuse that you haven’t enough time. Of course, the only problem is that some of the zombies seem to know how to do parkour too …



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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

What Would You Do If … Dilemmas In A Zombie Apocalypse: No. 25 – The Hotel Guest’s Dilemma

30 Aug

You’re on holiday on your own when there’s a zombie outbreak in your hotel. According to the local news, the authorities have the hotel sealed off but it will take them several weeks to clear out all the undead which now infest it. You’re safely locked in your hotel room so you’re not in immediate danger, but there’s no food or water in it. There are, however, vending machines in the corridor by the lift which are full of snacks and drinks. Through the spy hole in your door, you can see a lone zombie lurking outside your room and stopping you getting to the supplies. Then you hear a noise and realise there’s someone trapped in the room next door. You start talking through the wall and find out they have nothing to eat or drink either, but between the two of you, you come up with a plan: if you both open your doors at the same time, the zombie will be distracted, giving you the precious seconds you need to kill it, meaning both of you can get to the vending machines. However, there’s a risk that one of you might get injured or even killed, but you agree to the plan as it seems like the only possible solution to your predicament.

You’re in position with your hand on the door when a thought occurs to you. The person in the other room can’t see you, you could just not open your door on the agreed signal. They would open their door, with no choice to distract it, the zombie would rush into their room and attack them. You could then shut the zombie in the next door room and get to the vending machines with absolutely no risk to yourself. Then you realise the other person might be thinking exactly the same thing and it could be you that’ll get attacked if you open the door and they don’t. Yet, if neither of your open the door, there’s a good chance you’ll both starve to death before you can be rescued. You hear the person in the next room start the count down: Three, two, one … What do you do?


As always, this dilemma is just here to make you think, so there’s no right or wrong answer. Vote in the poll to let others know what you do if you were in this situation, and if you want to give a more detailed answer, leave a comment on this posting.

This dilemma is based on the prisoner’s dilemma much love by those who study game theory. The basic premise behind it is that the best option for each of you as an individual is to screw over the other person, yet if you both do this, you’ll both lose out. It all comes down to whether you can trust the other person to do what’s in the best interest of the pair of you as a group, or just for themselves.


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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Silence – A Zombie Flash Fiction Story

28 Aug

I listen intently, but hear nothing. I glance round, wondering what caught my attention enough to wake me but not enough to have me grabbing my axe and leaping to my feet. Once sounds in the night would have been the sirens of fire engines or the rattle of the last train pulling into the station behind my house; now they’re more likely to be the low guttural moans of the dead as they hunt the living. I hear the sound again, and realise what it was that woke me in the first place – just the cry of a fox out seeking a mate. I fall back onto my mattress, trying to get some rest but knowing I’m now too much on edge to get back to sleep before dawn.

I lie in the dark, thinking about how the world sounds different now: no more jumbo jets roaring overhead as they start their descent into the airport across the river; no more taxi engines idling below my bedroom window while they disgorge their laughing passengers; no more car doors slamming in the night, or car alarms going off in the small hours of the morning; no more kids kicking an empty tin can down the street or drunks screaming at each other outside the pub across the road. I’d hated all those noises before everything changed, but now I’d give anything to hear them again. Now all I hear is the silence of the deserted city, weighing me down, stifling me, only broken by the occasional cry of an animal or, more frequently, by the sound of the dead as they stagger through the streets in search of flesh. I don’t know why, but every now and then they let out a groan or a snarl, each one setting off the next in some ungodly chain reaction. If I didn’t know they were dead, I’d have sworn they were communicating, letting each other know where they are and whether they’ve found anyone to feast on or not. If they could communicate, it would explain how so many turn up so suddenly the moment one of them works out where you are, but surely being dead they couldn’t be doing anything as purposeful as that, could they?

The fallen city surrounds me, fencing me in on all sides and this means I must keep quiet too: never speaking, being careful where I tread so I don’t send the creak of a loose floorboard out into the night and towards those long dead but ever-listening ears, making sure I make no noise at all. All I can do it cower silently in my attic, where I’ve been since it all started, working my way through my ever-dwindling supplies, hoping against hope that the dead will somehow disappear before the last of my food is consumed and I’m forced out into their world by the need to find more. If I have to do that, I know my silence will no longer be enough to keep me safe, as it has done all these months, because even though their eyes are dead, somehow they can still see, and it’ll be only a matter of time before I’m spotted. Then, as they descend on me, heads thrown back, roaring to let others of their kind know food is near; the chase will begin, and it’s one I know I’ll never win.



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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Preserving Knowledge …

26 Aug

Do you know how to change the alternator on a car’s engine? What about how to weld two bits of metal together? How about amputating a gangrenous limb or making antibiotics or turning the wool from sheep into nice warm clothing? The chances are you don’t, but in a post-apocalyptic world these are all things you might find yourself needing to do. So how would you find out how to do them? In the world of today, you’d almost certainly turn to the internet and all the wonders it holds, but where would you go if this was no longer available to you?

This is an interesting conundrum. Nowadays we have become so used to storing everything electronically that we barely give it a second thought. Here I’m not just talking about your favourite songs or your holiday photographs but the very knowledge on which much of our world now runs. We may know more than we, as a species, have ever known before, but that knowledge is also now uniquely vulnerable because of how we store it. If the world were to fall apart tomorrow, there’s a good chance much of this precious information would be lost. If we’re lucky, the people who have the skills will survive long enough to record it again in some more permanent format; if we’re not, the information will die with them, plunging the world into a new dark age.

There are others who have foreseen this possibility and who seek to archive as much information as possible and there are many great libraries around the world which act as massive store houses of human knowledge. Yet, due to constraints of money and space, many of them are shifting towards storing their information electronically rather relying on paper and ink. However, this is short-sight. To read an electronic document you need a programme and a computer. You also need something to store it on and something to read it back. Then you need power to run the whole system. This means even if the electronic records somehow survive, there will be little chance of being able to access the information contained in it. With a book, you just need to open it and start reading.

Yet, even with books, we may be faced with problems with actually using the knowledge they contain. Take, for example, an instruction which tells you to measure out three feet of some material. Sounds simple enough, but what happens if you don’t have a tape measure or a ruler? How would you know how long three feet was?

This cast iron plaque on Glasgow City Chambers provides a reference for how long a foot is. In the event of the end of civilisation, it will survive long after all the knowledge on all the computer servers in the world has disappeared.

This cast iron plaque on Glasgow City Chambers provides a reference for how long a foot is. In the event of the end of civilisation, it will survive long after all the knowledge on all the computer servers in the world has disappeared.

In the past, before the ubiquity of computers and all the modern accoutrements we’ve become dependent on, these issues were well known and taken into account. For example, on the City Chambers in Glasgow (which doubled for Philadelphia in the recent World War Z movie) is a simple metal sign which provides anyone with the means to be able to accurately measure out units of one, two or three feet. This cast iron device, made in 1882 and provided as reference for the many industries in Glasgow which needed to know such things, will survive well after all the electronic information has evaporated into the ether and provides as permanent a record of units of length as is possible. Yet, in the modern world, such permanence of information is becoming increasingly rare.

While planning for survival in a post-apocalyptic world, we generally concentrate on our own personal survival and that of our loved ones. However, we should also consider how we will preserve the knowledge we’ll need to know not just to survive but to recover and re-build if and when the immediate threats are over. Some skills, such as fixing an engine or spinning fleece into wool, are ones we can learn for ourselves and preserve in our own heads, but others we’ll need to preserve in different ways. We’ll need to protect the libraries, with all the knowledge they contain, and preserve the information we need to use that knowledge to allow us not just to survive but also to thrive in a world which has been unexpectedly upside down. If we don’t we’ll be left scrabbling for survival, picking through the ruins of once great cities, wishing we knew how to do even the most basic things we need to survive. After all, would you know how to grow your own food or make your own clothes? And I’m not meaning from packets of seeds purchased from a garden centre or using material you got from your local haberdashery, I’m meaning would you be able to do these things from scratch?

Knowledge will be key to surviving in the long-term after any apocalyptic event, especially if we are to re-build any sort of functioning society. We’ll need to know how to make medicines and how to stave off illnesses, how to grow food and preserve it, how to smelt iron and forge steel. And we’ll need to know how to do this not on a modern basis, but in the way that it can be done with the resources which are likely to be available to us in a post-apocalyptic world: without electricity and industrialisation. And the only way we’ll be able to do this is if we preserve the knowledge we’ve garnered over hundreds and thousands of years in such a way that we can access it once the power goes and the world turns dark.

In short, we need to halt the rush to the paperless world that the likes of Google and Apple and Microsoft are intent on whizzing us towards and think, instead, of how knowledge needs to be stored so we can still access it if modern civilisation came to an end tomorrow and we were suddenly thrust into a post-apocalyptic world.


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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

A Zombie Apocalypse Venn Diagram …

25 Aug

A Zombie Venn Diagram

Just a bit of fun for a bank holiday Sunday …


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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

What Would You Do If … Dilemmas In A Zombie Apocalypse: No. 24 – The Safe House Dilemma

23 Aug

The zombie apocalypse has come and in the immediate scramble to survive you find yourself alone and holed up in an old house. Looking round, you make a quick assessment of its suitability as a safe house. You see that if you can get the windows boarded up and the doors barricaded, it will be an okay place to sit tight: it will keep the zombies at bay, but only if there’s just a few of them at any one time. Any more than that and there’s a risk you’ll be over-run. Thinking about how best to maximise your chances of survival, you conclude that there must be better safe houses out there, ones which would keep the zombies out no matter how many there are; however there are also a lot worse places you could be and if you set out to search for another safe house, there’s no guarantee you’ll find somewhere better. Worse, you may find you lose your existing safe house either to other survivors or to the undead. And then there’s the risk of going outside where you’ll be exposed to the marauding zombies. Yet, if you don’t try to find somewhere better now, you might not get the chance later and you’ll be stuck in your existing situation, knowing your safe, but only if you don’t attract to may zombies. What do you do?


As always, this dilemma is just here to make you think, so there’s no right or wrong answer. Vote in the poll to let others know what you do if you were in this situation, and if you want to give a more detailed answer, leave a comment on this posting.

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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.