Archive | October, 2013

Six Uses For Duct Tape In A Zombie Apocalypse

30 Oct

Duct tape is widely recognised as one of the most important tools for making rough and ready repairs, and you find it in use everywhere, but is duct tape also something you should think about packing into your survival bag in case there’s a zombie apocalypse? In my opinion, it’s a resounding yes, and here’s six reasons why:

1. Makeshift Armour: Human teeth aren’t well-adapted for biting and tearing through flesh. This means that even fairly thin armour can offer you a lot of protection. In fact, using duct tape, you can make a pretty effective zombie proof armour out of something as simply as empty cardboard boxes. How? First, open up the cardboard boxes and lay them flat on the floor. Cut out a piece which you can wrap around your torso and then cut holes for your arms. Next, cut sections which will fit snuggly round your upper arms, your forearms, your upper legs and your lower legs. Now, use duct tape to tape these pieces in place around your body. This will already provide a lot of protection, but you can do better, Run strips of duct tape across the gaps between the different pieces, but remembering to leave enough space to allow yourself to move freely. Finally, wrap duct tape around the cardboard until it’s fully covered. This both water-proofs the cardboard and re-enforces it, making it almost impossible for human teeth to bite through (go on give it a go, see if you can bite through it!). Finally, make yourself a helmet in a similar manner (making sure you have a long flap at the back to protect your neck), and use duct tape to connect it to the torso. Again, make sure these are loose enough to allow you to turn your head. There you have it, a fully zombie-proof set of makeshift armour thanks to duct tape.

2. Taping Zombie’s Mouths Shut: Okay, this one is risky, but if you can neutralise a zombie’s nashers, then they can’t bite and infect you. A strip of duct tape strapped across its mouth, and wrapped around its head, and a zombie can’t hurt anyone. Great for when you need a zombie to study so you can learn more about their habits, or as a last line of defence – but not really recommended under most circumstances!

3. Improvised Tripwires: Imagine this, you get caught out in the open and you need to set up camp for the night. How will you be able to tell if any zombies are coming? Easy. Find a wooded area and set up your tent. Next, walk 30 metres out into the wood and tape out a circle around your camp by wrapping the duct tape around the tree trunks at about knee height. Repeat this again at about chest height. Duct tape is tough enough that most zombies won’t be able to break through it either quickly or quietly, and you’ll be alerted to any that blunder into it in the night. This will give you plenty of time to get away.

4. General Repairs (To Your Equipment And Yourself!): In a zombie apocalypse, speed is of the essence, and duct tape can be used to repair anything from your shoes to your backpack, or even a flat tire, in seconds. I suspect you could also use it as a quick way to stop blood loss from cuts and injuries which might otherwise result in death and buy you enough time to get somewhere safe where you can deal with it properly. Duct tape is also the perfect thing for making rudimentary splints to help fix broken bones. Just get a couple of pieces of wood and fixe them in place on either side of the afflicted limb with your trusty roll of duct tape.

5. Restraints: While it may seem unpalatable, there will be times in a zombie apocalypse when you need to restrain someone. This might be someone who’s been bitten or it might be someone who’s causing trouble. Either way, duct tape is the perfect thing to securing them quickly either on their own or by securing them to an object such as a bed. Do it well enough and they won’t be getting free any time soon.

6. Re-Enforcing The Windows Of Your Vehicle: At some point you’ll almost certainly have to move from one location to another, whether it’s because you’ve been over-run, or whether it’s because you need to find food or supplies, and when you’re on the move, you’re always at risk from those pesky biters. Moving around in a vehicle will reduce that risk, but all vehicles have a weak point and that’s their windows. Duct tape is the perfect thing for reinforcing them. Simply stick strips across the windows to form a grid and you’ll find the window is much less likely to break, and even if it does, the tape will hold the shards in place, stopping the zombies reaching in.

So there you have it, six reasons why I’d make sure I always had some duct tape in my post-apocalyptic survival bag, and I’m not the only one who sees how useful it could be. Joerg Sprave (he of the toilet brush gun which featured in a post last week) thinks so too, and he’s posted a nice little video titled How To Weaponise Duct Tape on his You Tube channel. Watch and learn.



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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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A Helpful Pie Chart Showing How People Might React To A Zombie Apocalypse

29 Oct

Just a bit of fun – and because the scientist in me I likes making charts and graphs…

A pie chart showing how people might react to a zombie apocalypse. The larger the coloured slice, the greater the proportion of people who might react that way.

A pie chart showing how people might react to a zombie apocalypse. The larger the coloured slice, the greater the proportion of people who might react that way.






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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.

How To End A Zombie Apocalypse Story

28 Oct

As is the case every now and then, the inspiration for this post has come from search terms which people have used to find their way to this blog. In addition, one of my most popular posts is my article on How To Write A Zombie Apocalypse Novel. Taken together, these two things suggest there are quite a few people out there who are both interested in writing zombie stories, but who are stuck when it comes to working out how to end it. This perhaps isn’t too surprising because ending a zombie story in an effective way can be difficult.

However, when you think about it, there’s five basic categories of endings for zombie apocalypse novels. These are:

1. Fade To Black: A ‘fade to black’ ending is where either all the characters or, in the case of a first person narrative, the narrator of the story dies, usually at the hands of a zombie horde. While this type of ending can be effective, there’s two potential problems. Firstly, it’s very bleak and most readers want there to be at least some glimmer of hope when they reach the end (this is something the editor I work with from time to time is always saying to me). Secondly, it’s a very final ending and doesn’t really leave any room for a sequel. This is not necessarily a problem, but rather it makes it much more difficult for you, as the writer, to revisit the world you’ve invented, and you may find at some point you might want to do this (this something I find quite common amongst zombie authors). This is pretty difficult to do if you killed everyone off the first time round. However, I’ve found the ‘fade to black’ scenario can be very effective as the ending to one-off short stories. If you do decide to use a ‘fade to black’ ending, you need to be careful how you do it. In particular, you can’t simply have the character(s) die completely out of the blue on the last page. Instead, you need to build up to it slowly so that the reader is aware that this is how the book might end and can prepare themselves for it. If you do it suddenly, and with no advanced warning, your readers will most likely feel cheated because it wasn’t the ending they anticipated.

2. Victory: A victory ending is where all the zombies have been killed or have disappeared leaving the remaining survivors to start putting the world back together. This is not a common ending for zombie stories (although World War Z uses it very effectively) , and I suspect this is because most zombie book readers are looking for something more dystopian meaning that victory over the zombies just won’t cut it. In addition, most zombie stories focus on a small group of survivors, and there just isn’t any way for such a group to actually defeat the millions of zombies which are required to infest the world of any zombie apocalypse novel. This raises another issue with a victory ending, it need to be plausible within the zombie world you’ve created. This means you can’t suddenly find a cure or have all the zombies disappear without having developed this as a plot line.

3. Co-existence: The main focus of a zombie apocalypse novel is often the struggle to survive, especially in those which focus on the initial outbreak and its immediate aftermath. Stories with such a focus often finish with a co-existence ending. That is, an ending where those who have been fighting for their very lives throughout the story find some way to be able to live in a world filled with zombies. This often involves finding some sort place where the survivors can safely hole up either temporarily or for the long-term. This can range from a place which is still zombie free (like an uninhabited island or a remote mountain valley which is inaccessible to the undead) to a community which has somehow managed to keep the zombies at bay. Co-existence endings have the advantage that it makes it easy to revisit the characters at a later date if you so wish. However, as with other types of endings, you need to develop the storyline throughout your story and you cannot simply have your characters finding a way to co-exist with the zombies in the last couple of pages. In addition, the co-existence ending has to be consistent with the rules for your particular zombie apocalypse, otherwise you will leave your reader feeling cheated of the ending they were expecting.

4. Departure: A departure ending can be view as the opposite of a co-existence ending. Rather than ending with the survivors finding a safe place, a departure ending involves some or all the characters having to leave a place which they had previously felt safe and which they viewed as their new home. This departure is often initiated by one of three things: The safe place being over-run by a swarm of zombies; the safe place being over-run by raiders; the development of a rift between the survivors which means some of the group (often those who have been the main focus of the story) have to leave. Again, departure endings allow you to return to the characters and the world again if you so wish. However, as with co-existence, this ending has to be consistent with the rules for the world which you have created for your book.

5. Cliff Hanger: A cliff hanger ending is never a good way to end a zombie novel. Your reader expects resolution and you need to give it to them or they will be annoyed. This doesn’t mean you need to resolve everything, as you might want to leave some things open as the starting point of a sequel, but at the end of a story, you have to give your readers some sort of closure. While they may not to be to everyone’s taste, one of the best examples of this J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. While there’s a common thread and storyline across all seven of these books, each one has a well-defined ending where individual storylines from each book are wrapped up and concluded. In this way, the end of each individual book is closer to a departure ending rather than true cliff-hangers.

As you read through these categories of endings, you’ll have probably noticed two commonalities across them. Firstly, your ending cannot come out of the blue. You may think it’s edgy and different to have your main character died suddenly and unexpectedly in the final paragraph, but it’s not. Instead, it violates the expectations you have built will your readers and they will left feeling cheated and unfulfilled. Secondly, the endings have to be consistent with the rules for your world which the reader have inferred from what has come before. For example, you cannot have your characters find a zombie free island where they can live safely and happily if you haven’t introduced this as a possibility earlier in the book. Similarly, you cannot end a story with someone finding out they’re immune to the zombie virus unless you’ve already made it clear that such immunity is possible.

So how do you avoid falling into these potential pitfalls? Well, quite simply it’s careful planning and plot development. You need to introduce all the building blocks for your ending well before the actual end. This allows your reader to have that ‘Ah-ha!’ moment when they get to the end rather than ‘Huh?’, ‘Oh…’ or worst of all ‘Wait, that doesn’t make sense!’. In addition, it allows the reader to anticipate what is coming and this will help build suspense as they try to work out exactly how the characters will get to the ending they think is coming.

You can add unexpected twists and turns (such as exactly who lives and who dies) and you have to be careful not to sign-post things too much, but you cannot veer too far away from what you have led your readers to believe might happen. It’s a difficult balancing act, but it’s one which is worth spending time on because if you get the ending right, your readers will love it, but if you get your ending wrong, no matter how well they’ve liked the rest of the book and how well you’ve written it, your readers will turn against you in a heart beat, and this is something no writer wants to happen.


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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.

The Rocking Chair Test

25 Oct

When I was younger, I used to spend a lot of time worrying about whether any decisions I made were the right ones or whether I should’ve done something else. I’d also spend a lot of time worrying about what would happen if I tried something and failed. This meant I often ended up doing nothing rather than something, and while it might have stopped me making a few mistakes, I probably also missed out on a lot of great opportunities too.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised this isn’t a good way to lead my life, and looking back, I’d say some of the biggest regrets are over things I haven’t done rather than things I have. This has led me to adopt a rule which I call ‘The Rocking Chair Test’. I’m sure this isn’t very original and I’m sure I’m not the first to have come up with it, but it does provide a remarkably good rule of thumb and a much more positive way of viewing your life. Without it, I’d certainly not be writing this blog (which, as it happens, was a year old this week), and I would probably never have got round to starting, let alone finishing and publishing, For Those In Peril On The Sea.

You see, for as long as I can remember, I’d wanted to write a novel, but the thought of putting it out there for others to read and potentially criticise really had me scared. After all, what if I put in all that effort, and it turned out that I couldn’t actually write? With perverse logic, I justified doing nothing with the thought that if I didn’t write it, this could never happen so I wouldn’t have to risk failing. This simple, and quite logical, thought process was blocking me from even attempting to do something the rest of my brain really wanted to do. As I was heading up to my fortieth birthday last year, I realised that I shouldn’t be letting that one little thought have so much control over my life. Instead, I decided to look at the book-writing issue from a new perspective, that of The Rocking Chair Test, to see if that might allow me to make some progress.

So what is this test? Well, it’s quite simply this: When, in the twilight of your life, you’re sitting on your porch (or wherever it is you picture yourself spending your final days), rocking slowly back and forth on your favourite chair, thinking about all you’ve done in your life, will you regret not having done whatever it is you are trying to decide whether you should do? If the answer is yes, then you should do it. If it’s no, then you should probably shouldn’t.

When I applied this test to writing a book, I realised that if I got to the end of my life and hadn’t at least given it a go, then I would almost certainly deeply regret it. In this sense, I realised, it was the trying, rather than the succeeding, which was important. If I wrote a book and it turned out that I had absolutely no story telling talent and it was truly awful, I could always just bury it in the back of a drawer and no one need ever know except for me. That way, the worst that could happen was that when my future self sits in his rocking chair, he’ll be able to chuckle himself about that time it tried to write a book rather than regretting never having given it a go. This gave me a new way to look at the issue, and it was one which gave me the confidence to sit down and start write.

As it turned out, when I finally showed the book to other people they quite liked it, and so now my future self can rock back and forth, remembering about that book he once wrote, and the present me is much happier knowing that I’ve got one less thing to look back on and regret later in life. However, if I hadn’t used The Rocking Chair Test, I still be stuck in the negative head space which had hindered me for so long, and I’d have nothing to show for it but regrets. I think this is why it’s such a useful test. It doesn’t focus on success, but rather on trying, and that is a much more positive way to lead your life. Once you start using The Rocking Chair test, you’ll find it’s addictive and you’ll find yourself applying it to all aspects of your life from your career to relationships, and it’s definitely a better way to live than forever worrying about the possibility of failure or of making the wrong decision, and, as a result, missing out on things.



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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 Do You Do When You Run Out Of Bullets In A Zombie Apocalypse?

23 Oct

The head shot. We all know it’s the key to killing zombies, but sooner or later you’re going to run out of bullets; then what will you do? You could get up close and personal, and smash their heads in with that old favourite, the baseball bat, but that involves a high risk of getting bitten and it should always be a last resort.

You could try using a bow and arrow, or a crossbow, but they’re not exactly common so it’s unlikely you’ll find one just lying around. So what other options do you have? Well, how about using a toilet brush gun? Yes, you heard me right, toilet brush gun!

You might think I’m joking here, but I’m not. There’s a guy called Joerg Sprave who has created a revolver out of nothing more than bits of wood and rubber hose which can fire four slightly-modified toilet brushes in rapid succession with more than enough force and accuracy to kill a marauding zombie from a nice safe distance. And it’s almost completely silent too so the zombie won’t even hear it coming (and, more importantly, nor will it’s friends). If you don’t believe me, you can check out the video below.





This isn’t the only type of gun that Joerg has created using the basic principles of the slingshot. He’s also built a machine gun which can fire 32 rounds in five second, and what does it use as ammo? The humble HB pencil! It’s not exactly portable, but it’s pretty impressive.





If you don’t happen to have any pencils or toilet brushes, you could just make a gun which fires machetes! This means you can safely kill zombies with your faithful blade without having to get too close.





Or you could fire chainsaws!





So what’s the point I’m trying to make here? Well, I think there’s two important take home message here: Firstly, the humble slingshot is a greatly overlooked weapon when considering what weaponry would be useful in zombie apocalypse. They’re simple, they’re silent, they’re easy to make, and, with a bit of ingenuity, you can turn almost anything into a lethal projectiles. Secondly, if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, I’d want Joerg Sprave on my survival team!



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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 One Day You Woke Up And Found You Were Dead?

18 Oct

Having read the title of this post, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of “that might be an interesting question in theory, but be honest, it couldn’t actually happen, could it?” Except it can, it does and it even has a medically-recognised name: Cotard’s Syndrome.

Cotard’s Syndrome is a mysterious, but thankfully very rare, condition which leaves people feeling like they, or parts of their bodies, no longer exist. Basically, people with this condition feel like they have died, but that their bodies haven’t realised it because they’re still moving around. This is where the disease gets its other name (and I promise I’m not making this up!): Walking Corpse Syndrome. Recently, some scientists put someone with Cotard’s syndrome through an MRI scanner to look at their brain activity and saw, to their amazement, that the man had less activity in his frontal lobes (the bit where our consciousness resides) than someone in a vegetative state. To all intents and purposes his conscious self was, indeed, dead.

So far, so interesting, but it wasn’t until today that a new discovery caught my eye. Cotard’s Syndrome can be caused by (amongst other things) a rare side-effect of a cold-sore treatment drug called Acyclovir (also known by the brand name Zovirax), but only in people with renal failure. This gave scientists the key they needed to start getting an idea of what’s going on in people with Cotard’s Syndrome. As it turns out, in the body, acyclovir breaks down into a number of things, one of them is called CMMG. CMMG is usually found in very low levels in the human body and is normally filtered out in the kidneys of people who take the acylovir. In the people with kidney failure, this wasn’t happening so it built up to much higher levels than normal. This seems to cause some sort of constriction of blood vessels in the brain, which it turn results in people feeling like they’ve died, but no one has quite told their bodies. Interestingly, kidney dialysis filters out the CMMG, causing them to feel like they’ve come back to life.

So, here we have a chemical in the body which if, for some reason, the levels get too high, leaves people feeling like they’re nothing more than walking corpses. Of course, they don’t run around trying to eat everyone’s brains, but they’re still for all intents and purposes, living, breathing zombies.

Now, here’s the interesting (and much less scientific) bit: Imagine if someone got hold of CMMG and tweaked it a little so even normal people couldn’t filter it out of their blood stream, and then found a way to deliver it to an entire city in large and continuous quantities – maybe through the water supply or something like that. Almost instantly, the whole of the population would be left feeling like they were nothing more than walking corpses. What impact would this have? How would someone who was unaffected feel when they found themselves as the only one who felt alive in a city full of people who all though they were dead? It would be a pretty weird and frightening situation.

Think, then, about what if some unscrupulous person, or organisation, or nation did this for their own gain. With everyone feeling like they are dead inside, they could do whatever they wanted: Rob bank vaults, fiddle stock markets, empty bank accounts, steal diamonds, rifle through secret government files, commit unspeakable crimes, take over entire countries without having to fire a shot, and they’d be able to do it front of everyone because they just wouldn’t care because they felt as if they were dead. It’s a strange, strange thought, but then again Cotard’s Syndrome is a strange, strange disease. It’s also potentially a very interesting premise for a novel.


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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.

Six Dos And Don’ts Of A Zombie Apocalypse

16 Oct

Recently, I noticed someone had ended up at this blog using the search term ‘What to do and not do in a zombie apocalypse’. I thought this was an interesting idea, and decided to put together six tongue-in-cheek dos and don’ts on a zombie apocalypse. So with no further ado, they are:

1. When the zombies start to rise, do head for the hills as quickly as possible. Don’t stand in the middle of the road, waving your arms in the air while screaming at the top of your lungs.

2. When the zombies are hammering at the door, do pile all the furniture you can find against it. Don’t throw it wide open and invite them in for a bite to eat.

3. When trying to kill zombies, do aim for the head. Don’t shoot wildly at anything which moves until you run out of bullets.

4. When you see a zombie in the middle of the road, do put the pedal to the metal and mow it down without a second thought. Don’t pull over and offer it a lift.

5. When fleeing from a zombie horde, do run as fast as you can. Don’t stop to re-tie your shoelaces just because they feel a little tight.

6. When hiding in your safe house, do keep quiet and make as little noise as possible. Don’t crank the stereo up and invite the neighbours round for a wild party.

If you have your own tongue-in-cheek dos and dont’s for a zombie apocalypse, feel free to post them as comments on this article.



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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.