Archive | November, 2013

What Would You Do If … Dilemmas In A Zombie Apocalypse: No. 30 – The Astronaut’s Dilemma

29 Nov

It’s the middle of a crew change-over and you’re the only astronaut on the international space station, circling some 220 miles above the Earth. You’ve just received a consignment of food and other supplies which will last for the next six months, and you’re waiting for word of when the next new will arrive. Suddenly, your radio crackles into life. It’s ground control and at first what they’re saying isn’t making any sense. There’s a lot of noise in the background, which sounds like people running around in a panic, but you definitely heard the word disease. You also thought you heard another word, but you can’t have. Did ground control really just say something about zombies? You ask for clarification, and they repeat that they said: there’s a new disease which is turning everyone into zombies, and that it’s spreading fast. Before you can get much more information, ground control stops transmitting. You try every other channel, but there’s nothing on any of them. It might just be a technical glitch, but it seems there’s no one left broadcasting anywhere on Earth. You look out the window, and you can see what looks like New York burning in a massive fire. A few minutes later over China, you see what looks like a nuclear explosion in Shanghai. There’s clearly something very wrong going on down there, but without any communications, you don’t know exactly what. You assess the situation: you have plenty of food, water and air, at least for the time being, but you also have an escape capsule which could take you safely back to Earth. 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 was posed to me by my girlfriend after we’d been to see the film Gravity. If you haven’t seen this film yet, I’d strongly recommend you go and see it on as big a screen as possible, and in 3D. There’s no zombies in it, but still a great disaster movie…

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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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Living In The Now…

15 Nov

It’s only mid-November and I’m fed up of Christmas already. This is because, if I’m to believe all the adverts on the television, it’s already been happening for at least a month. I heard the first Christmas song being played in a shop on the 1st of this month, and Christmas decorations started to make their appearance not long after.

Call me old-fashioned, but I’m a traditionalist and I like my Christmases to be in December, when the trees are bare and there’s a hint of snow in the air, rather than when the leaves have yet to even start their annual change into their autumnal wardrobe. Yet, this seems to be increasingly out of step with modern society, or at least the one the advertisers and businesses tell us we should be living in. Nothing can be kept as special any more and we’re continually bombarded with messages telling us we need to start concentrating on the next big, money-spinning calendar event even before we’ve finished enjoying the current one. We’re told we must start getting into Christmas mode even before Hallowe’en, Bonfire Night (if you’re British) and (if you live in North America) Thanksgiving have come, let alone gone.

The moment Christmas is over, they start telling us we need to be planning our summer holidays. Easter eggs start creeping into the shops while we still have our hangovers from New Year’s Eve (or Hogmanay as it’s known in these parts). Spring fashion lines appear on the first of February when we still haven’t seen the last of the snow. The barbecue displays come out at the vernal Equinox despite the fact it won’t be hot enough for one until at least the summer solstice. As soon as the kids start their summer beak, it seems that every business goes into full ‘back to school’ mode with adverts and sales. How can they possibly enjoy their time away from the classroom when they’re continually being reminded that soon they’ll be going back?

And if you question this continual push to be thinking about tomorrow rather than enjoying today, you’re called a kill joy, a misanthrope or, in the case of Christmas, a Scrooge. Yet this misses the point. It’s not that I don’t like any of the special events we have spread throughout the year, it’s the way that they are foisted on us long before we’re ready for them by people whose aim isn’t to make them more enjoyable, but to guilt us into spending more money on them than we can really afford. They know that if we see it often enough, they’ll eventually wear us down and we’ll eventually give in. They become richer, but we’re the ones who get ever-increasingly stressed out because we’re not fully prepared for Christmas by the end of November (not realising of course, that the sell-by date on those mince pies we just brought means they’ll go off before we’ve opened more than a few doors on the advent calendar – leaving us no choice but to bin them on the 24th and make a last-minute dash round all the shops to try to find some more).

It seems we’re not longer allowed to enjoy the now, and instead we must always be looking forward to what’s coming up next. Even the words have started to change their meanings. When a television voice-over announces what’s coming up after the program you’re currently watching, they refer to the following program as ‘coming up now’ when it’s still a good 15 or 30 minutes away from starting, while for them ‘next’ means the program after that. This bears no resemblance to what I understand these words to mean.

I think this is one of the reasons I’m so drawn to post-apocalyptic fiction and films. In a zombie-filled world, you never know what’s going to happen next, so all you can do is think about what’s happening now. Enjoy the little moments of rest and security when you can, eat whenever you find food, sleep when you get the chance. There’s no little niggling voice in your head, put there by advertisers, whispering that you can’t enjoy today because you haven’t yet finished planning for another one which is still almost a quarter of the year away. With all the flesh-munchers around, life might be difficult, but at least it will be current, and so it’ll be more meaningful. If only we were allowed to live like that in the real world, but I guess that doesn’t make those who run (or is that ruin?) it enough money?



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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.

Of Movember And Zombie Apocalypses

11 Nov

It’s that time of year again when men everywhere start synchronously sprouting hair along their upper lips, all in a good cause, and it has reminded me of something which really annoys me when watching zombie apocalypse films. The same issue also arises in The Walking Dead. So what is it that gets on my goat, and what on Earth does it have to do with Movember?

Well, it’s facial hair. Somehow in amongst all the melee and confusion, men within these zombie apocalypse stories somehow manage to remain almost universally beard free. At best, they, like Rick in The Walking Dead, grow a bit of designer stubble, but nothing more. It seems they manage to have an unlimited supply of all the accoutrements required to keep male facial hair at bay: razors, shaving foam, electric trimmers and shapers, and so on. Even if they somehow managed to keep themselves well-stocked with all that’s required, there’s the issue of getting the warm water needed to use them. As a rather hirsute man myself, I can tell you that shaving with cold water is, at best, a painful experience and, at worst, a rather bloody affair.

I first learned this when I was twenty and spent a month on a yacht in the waters off Labrador on the east coast of Canada chasing humpback whales round icebergs. Don’t worry, the aim wasn’t to hurt them, but to photograph the unique pattern each individual has on the underside of its tail so we could tell who was who and to use a crossbow to collect a small skin sample from their backs for genetic analysis. The yacht we were on was very much a working boat and fuel was sufficiently limited that warm water was viewed as a luxury, so was fresh water. As a result, bathing and shaving were done using buckets of water plucked directly from the sea. Within days, I learned that shaving and ice-cold, salty water do not mix and it quickly disappeared from my daily routine. The result was a surprisingly full and rather fetching beard which has remained within me, in various guises, ever since.

From this experience, I can tell you that regular shaving will be one of the first casualties of a zombie apocalypse and any man of sufficient age will quickly start to develop facial hair. The exact extent will vary from person to person, with some being full and luxurious and others being little better than patches of peach fuzz, but you cannot escape the fact that facial hair will be a feature of almost any post-apocalyptic world.

If you wonder how long it would take for facial hair to start making an appearance, simply find the man nearest to you whose participating in Movember, and watch the whiskers appear as the month progresses. Now, I know some of you might not be aware of what Movember is, so to give you an idea, it’s a challenge where normally fresh-faced men (and a few very brave women) stop shaving their upper lip for the month of November.

This is done to raise awareness of men’s health and, in particular, male cancers. This is a cause I very much support, and I’d participate if it wasn’t for the rule which says you have to start the month clean-shaven. The last time I chose to shave my beard off was when, early in our relationship, my girlfriend urged me to get rid of it so she could see what I looked like underneath. The response from all around me was immediate and unanimous: grow it back as quickly as possible (the six year old daughter of my best friend pretty much burst into tears and told me she didn’t like what I’d done).

Anyway, the crux of the matter is this: when they stop shaving, men grow facial hair surprisingly quickly, and when men stop having easy access to hot water to shave, most will give up shaving pretty much immediately. So it’s a simple fact of male biology that zombie apocalypses will be populated by hairy-faced men and not clean-shaven ones, and this won’t simply be trendy designer stubble, but full on facial fuzz. Frustratingly few portrayals of zombie apocalypses reflect this, what some might consider, ugly little fact and it breaks the illusion that it could be real. It’s a small thing, and you could rightly accuse me of being pedantic, but gets to me every time I notice it.


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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.

If Civilisation Collapsed Tomorrow, What Would You Miss The Most?

8 Nov

Imagine something were to happen, whether it’s the dead rising from their graves, an unforeseen epidemic or just plain old nuclear annihilation, and that by this time tomorrow you found civilisation had collapsed: what do you think you would miss the most? By this, I’m not meaning anything associated with the basic struggle for survival, such as food, water and a safe place to hide, or people you might have lost, but rather those little luxuries of civilisation which we take for granted each and every day.

Would it be the warmth of an electric blanket on a cold winter night? Or maybe it would be the ability to pull out an album and listen to the voice of a long-dead singer? How about a still-warm batch of freshly made chocolate brownies, or lying back on a sofa with slice of pizza and a cold beer while watching your favourite movie for the umpteenth time? Would you, like Tallahassee in Zombieland, dream of finding a stash of uncontaminated Twinkies? Or would it be that extra special cappuccino from your favourite coffee place which you treat yourself to whenever you’ve had a really bad day? Would you miss going to see a live band at your favourite venue? Or to a theatre to see a play? Or laughing yourself silly at a stand up comedian? Would the thing you’d miss the most be a long, lazy breakfasts in bed on a Sunday morning? Or Christmas dinner with your nearest and dearest? What about the luxury of a long soak in a hot bath? Or curling up in your favourite chair to watch the latest episode of the TV series you’re currently addicted to? Would it be driving too fast down winding country roads in your beloved sports car? Or would it be dropping into your local pub after work on Friday afternoons to catch up with your mates and have a couple of drinks to get the weekend started? How about intimate dinners in little neighbourhood restaurants? Or dancing all night in dimly-lit nightclubs to the latest tunes? Or would it simply be a large slice of chocolate cheese cake served on a clean white plate?

For me, I think it would be books. There’s a point in the movie 28 Days Later where Selena says to Jim ‘You were thinking that you’ll never hear another piece of original music, ever again. You’ll never read a book that hasn’t already been written or see a film that hasn’t already been shot.‘ It’s almost a throw away line, but whenever I hear it, it resonates with me. While I could survive without books, I couldn’t live without them. They are what I turn to when I can’t sleep, or when I need to escape from the real world for a while. Reading books helps me develop ideas and learn new things. They cheer me up when I’m feeling down, and some are so often revisited that they feel like old friends. Books are a simple pleasure in an increasingly complex world, and if everything went wrong tomorrow, they are the things I’d miss the most.



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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.

Eating Well While Escaping From Zombies, Or How To Cook A Hot Meal On A Car’s Engine…

4 Nov

When you’re running for your life, trying to escape those pesky marauding zombies that are somehow everywhere all of a sudden, you don’t really have time to stop and cook. Yet, having your belly full of nice warm food will be a great morale-booster, so what do you do? Well, if you are fleeing in a motor vehicle, the answer is quite simple: use all the heat from your engine which is otherwise going to waste to cook a nice tasty meal. Now, you might this is a stupid idea, but it’s actually something that working drivers have been doing for as long as engines have been around. There’s even a book on the subject by Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller with the great title of ‘Manifold Destiny: The One! The Only! Guide to Cooking on Your Car Engine!‘.

Once you’ve mastered the art of cooking while on the move, the question then becomes where do you get the food? Well, luckily the road might just be able to provide that too, in the shape of road kill. Now, when you think of road kill you’re probably thinking of some smelly, rotting scrap of flesh that’s been there for weeks, but think about it for a moment or two: when it was first killed, it was lovely and fresh, and would have made good eating.

Unlike many things on this blog, I can actually speak with some authority on this. Around where I live in Scotland, each year thousands of pheasants are released into the wild to boost numbers for shooting, but since they’ve been raised in captivity, the poor buggers have little road sense. This means at certain times of the year, there’s plenty of plump, fresh birds lying at the side of the road, just asking to get picked up and eaten. And in my student days, when funds were tight, a fair few of these found their way into my oven. After all, when you’re a student free food is free food no matter where it comes from!

Of course, you need to know what you’re doing if you’re going to eat road kill, but luckily there’s a book to help you with that too, and it’s called ‘The Original Road Kill Cookbook‘ by Buck Peterson.

So, as you can see, just because you’re life’s suddenly been turned upside down by the arrival of the undead, there’s no excuse for giving up on eating properly and starting to live off Twinkies. And if you’re really brave, maybe you could even try it before the world comes to an end. After all, whenever you’re on the road, a nice hot meal is just a small bump and a warm engine away!

Obviously, I’m not suggesting you should run anything down on purpose, but accidents do happen, and if they do you might as well make the most of it.



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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.

Active Reading – A Great Way To Develop You Writing Skills

1 Nov

Most of the time when we read, we do is passively. That is, we take in the words without really thinking about them too much. There’s nothing wrong with this, but there is another way to read called Active Reading, and if you want to develop your writing skills, it’s a great technique to use. So what is active reading. Well, it’s when you think and analyse what you read as you’re going along. This includes thinking about which words the author used and whether they could have used other words instead, thinking about the way the words are used, how the sentences are structured and how these contribute to the author’s own unique style of writing. By concentrating on these issues, you can pull apart what makes the difference between good writing and bad writing, and so learn what you should do, or avoid doing, in your own work.

It’s also good to think about how the plot is structured within a book, and how the author leads the reader through it. Is this done in an effective way where the reader realises what’s going to happen just as they get to a twist, or is it done in a way that leaves the reader having to flick back through the book to see what they’ve missed? Alternatively, are there too many signposts as to what’s going to happen, making the story too predictable, or is there so little information that you, the reader, is left struggling to understand what’s going on? Are there any bits of the way the plot is developed that you really like, or that you really hate, or that just leave you thinking meh? Again, thinking about these things when reading the writing of others will help you improve you own plot development skills.

You can also think about the characters and how they are introduced and described. Does this paint a picture in your head of exactly what they are like, or is too much left to the imagination? Are their personality traits consistent throughout the book, or do you suddenly find them doing something which is out of character with what has gone before? Do they change and develop as the story progresses, or do they just remain the same? Do you like them or hate them, and if so, are you meant to like them or hate them?

Then there’s the dialogue. Writing good dialogue is often something new authors struggle with, and I have to say it’s something I find difficult, but thinking about how other writers structure what their characters say can really help develop your own skills. Here, the key is to concentrate on how dialogue is presented and how it’s linked in with the actions of the characters. Does each character have a distinctive voice, or do they all kind of melt into one? Can you tell which character is speaking just from the dialogue or do you need other information? Are there times when you get confused as to which character is speaking, and if so, how could this has been avoided?

With active reading, you can get something useful out of any piece of writing, and in this respect it’s worth reading bad books as well as good ones. This is because learning what turns a reader off is as important as learning what they like. If you read a book and find yourself hurling it across the room in disgust because of the way it’s written, don’t curse the money you’ve wasted on it. Instead, treat it as a learning experience and work out exactly what you didn’t like about it, then promise yourself you’ll never fall into the same trap with you own writing.

Of course, when it comes to writing, not everyone likes the same thing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, in order to develop your own unique voice, you need to know what you like, and then work out how to write in that particular style. After all, first and foremost, you’re writing a book because you have a story which you want to tell, and at the end of the process you have to have a book which you are happy with. Active reading can help you identify just which elements you like in the literature you read, and why you like them. Only once you know this can you writing something which you can look back on and feel rightly proud of having written.


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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.