Archive | May, 2015

The Thing That Arrived In The Mail Today …

21 May

The Island At The End Of The WorldThere’ something I’ve been waiting for, both eagerly and nervously, for the last week or so, and it’s the first proof copies of The Island At The End Of The World, the third book in my For Those In Peril series of post-apocalyptic survival novels. Then, today, it finally arrived. It was with great anticipation, and more than a little trepidation, that I tore open the package to get my first glimpse of how it looked, and even if I do say so myself, I think it looks great. The cover looks brilliant, with the profile of an island against a black and red apocalyptic sky, and while it’s a little skinnier, it fits nicely on the shelf along side the other books in the series.

Flicking through it, I can tell you that the layout inside is great, too, but seeing how everything looks and feels is only one of the reasons why I get proof copies printed out at this stage of the novel-writing process. This is also the first version of the book that I’ll share with my carefully hand-picked cohort of readers (well, actually it’s a rag-tag bunch of friends, former students, colleagues and relatives whose arms I can twist into reading my books before they’re finished). These readers are ones I trust to give me honest feedback on what they like and what they don’t, on what works and what falls flat, on whether they care if the characters live or die.

Over the next few days, these lucky (or possibly unlucky, depending on your point of view) few will find a small package drop through their letter boxes, and then it hopefully won’t be too long until I find out exactly what they think. Although this is the third time I’ve gone through this process now, I’m still rather nervous about what their responses will be. This is because The Island At The End Of The World is a quite different beast from the first two books in the series. It’s less about surviving, and more about how to start rebuilding a life and a community with some semblance of the luxuries the world used to have (like electricity, flushing toilets, and warm and cold running beer!). The infected still play an important role, but they are more of a residual background threat than the ever-present, fear-inducing creatures they were in the first two books (at least at first at any rate, but more than that I cannot, at this stage, say).

There’s also the fact that the narrator of the third book is neither Rob (the narrator from the first book in the series, For Those In Peril On The Sea) nor Ben (the narrator of The Outbreak, the second book), but instead, while it’s someone who readers of the first book will already be familiar with, it’s also someone who some readers will find quite unexpected. You see, the book is told from the point of view of CJ, the nineteen year old British girl who was one of the original crew of the catamaran from For Those In Peril On The Sea, along with Rob, Bill and Jon. Choosing to write from this perspective was a difficult decision to make, but looking back, I think it was the right one as it gives the third book a feel that is very different from the first two, without being so different that it doesn’t feel like it’s part of the same series.

Of course, as a forty-something man, writing from the perspective of a teenage girl, even one that would be considered an adult, was, I have to admit, tricky, but it’s been interesting to have to look at the world I’ve created for the series through a very different set of eyes than the older male characters that I’ve used to tell the first two books. For them, I could rely on my own experiences, but, as you’ll undoubtedly not be surprised to hear, I have absolutely no experience of being a teenage girl, let alone one caught up in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.

Worse than that, I’ve never even known many teenage girls. Certainly, when I was a teenage boy, I lacked the social skills to talk to the few girls I vaguely knew, and by the time I was old enough and confident enough to do so, I was well beyond my teenage years, and so were the girls I was mixing with. This meant that I’ve pretty much had to rely on inferences, and hints and suggestions from my girlfriend as to how a teenage girl might think or act in certain situations.

This was certainly the situation when I started writing The Island At The End Of The World, but then an opportunity arose that means I now know much more about how a girl around CJ’s age might react to the situations I was placing her in. This opportunity was teaching my best friend’s daughter how to drive. While I’ve known her since before she could walk properly, for various reasons (mostly to do with me moving to a different city for close to a decade and just not being around as much as when she was younger), I hadn’t spent much time with her in the last few years. Now I’m back living in my native Glasgow, it seemed only right that I should make the effort to spend some time with her again, and driving lessons seemed an opportunity that would suit both (any awkward silences, and there was likely to be many, could be filled simply with talking about driving, and occasionally me screaming at her to stop – although thankfully those situations are now much fewer and farer between than when we started out!). The end result is that we’ve been going out for driving sessions two or three times a week for about nine months now, it’s been fun to reconnect with her and see how the child I once knew so well is developing into the adult she’s well on her way to becoming.

However, there’s also been a happy side-effect of these driving lessons which I’d never intended to happen when I first offered to teach her to drive. This is that I now know a lot more about how someone like CJ, and especially a girl of her age, would see the world and respond to it. This is not to say that CJ’s character is based on my friend’s daughter, which she isn’t (although, and I’ve never actually told her this, there are more than a few elements of her from her younger years in Sophie, one of the main characters from the second book the series who also plays an important role in this third one), it’s just that these experiences have hopefully allowed me to create a much more believable view into CJ’s mindset than would have been possible without them.

So, now the book’s been written, I’ll spend the next couple of weeks wondering what people will think of it, and whether they, too, will think that I’ve got CJ’s character and point of view right or not. Once I get their feedback on this, and on all the other elements of the different characters, the plots, the twists and, of course, the zombie set-pieces, which are one of the most characteristic parts of the For Those In Peril series, then I’ll be ready to enter the home straight. This will involve working through the book again, incorporating their thoughts and suggestions where I agree with them, or amending the text where I don’t, but where it clearly needs work to get what I’m trying to say across. After that, it’ll be off to the editor I work with for a final proof-reading before sending it off to the printers. All this takes time, but at the moment, it’s looking like it will be on the shelves and ready to purchase by mid-September, and I’ve got the autumn equinox in mind as the actual release date (when you read the book itself, you’ll understand exactly why I find that such a fitting date for it to finally be published).

Hopefully, during this time, I’ll also find the time to get back to blogging on a more regular basis, and I’ll even see if I can get back to writing the odd short story or two. There’s been a growing pile of ideas for these that has been building up since last Christmas, and I’m looking forward to a point where I can get the time to dive into them so I can see how they’ll develop.

There’s one idea in particular that’s a spin-off from The Island At The End Of The World that I’m really keen to work on. Just like The Girl At Little Harbour (a short story spin-off from the first book in the series), it’ll fill in the back story of a character who, while dead by the time their paths cross with the characters in the book, still plays an important role in how it develops. It’s a back story which I think is just dying to be fleshed out (no puns intended there), and it’s one which I think will be both fun and interesting to write. Of course, once it’s written, I’ll be posting it here, so if I’ve piqued your interest, then just watch this space.



*****************************************************************************
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.

Advertisements

Is Being Naked Better For You? Not In A Zombie Apocalypse, It’s Not!

13 May

I was struck by the title of a blog post today in a way I haven’t been for a while. What was the title? Is being naked better for you? Being zombie-minded, my instance mental response was: Not in a zombie apocalypse! After all, the last thing you’d want to be when being pursued by a horde of undead, hell-bent on tearing you to shreds, would be to be naked. That was my immediate response, but thinking about the implications of this post further, two other of my personal interests were piqued.

Firstly, until reading that article, I’d never realised that there was both a Naked Gardening Day AND a World Naked Bike Riding Day. I’m not too sure about either of them, and both sound like they could go horribly wrong, but it does fit into my general interest in the fact that everything seems to have its own dedicated day these days. I’ve covered this before on this blog, so I won’t go into details here, but I think I’m much more likely to take part in International Talk Like A Pirate Day than either of the above.

Secondly, and this is something I’m planning on touching on in the upcoming third book in the For Those In Peril series (called The Island At The End Of The World – watch this space for further details!), in a post-apocalyptic world, what on earth would we all do for clothes? For a while, we’d be able to scavenge from the existing stocks (or should that be socks?), but eventually these would run out and our last pair of pants would finally fall apart. What the heck are we all going to do then? Gardening naked might be fun to do once a year (and I’m guessing it must have been established by someone in the northern hemisphere so that it was early summer rather than the middle of winter), but it would be hell to have to do all year round!

I’ve argued before that knitting is a core post-apocalyptic survival skill, but knitting is only part of the process of making fleece from sheep into something warm and wearable. You’d also need to know how to get the fleece off the sheep (and, indeed, how to catch the sheep in the first place in order to do this) and how to turn it into yarn (which is not nearly as straight-forward as you might think and involves a whole heap of specialist tools you’ve probably never even seen before, let alone know how to use) before you could even get going with your knitting needles. Do you know how to do any of this?

Animal skins might make an alternative to clothes made from yarn, but again, how many of us actually know how to turn an animal inside out in just the right way so we can wear it as a jacket, or a nice warm pair of trousers, that doesn’t end up stink of rotting meat after a couple of days? I tried this type of thing once as a child, and it was a long, slow and rather disgusting process that required a lot of things you probably wouldn’t have close to hand in whatever post-apocalyptic world you found yourself in.

So what’s left? Not much really. This is one of those occasions where I don’t have a smart answer, and really, if the worst were to happen, we might find that acquiring the just right clothes to keep us warm and dry would actually be almost as critical as finding enough food, especially in the longer term. After all, as anyone who has ever gone camping with small children, or teenagers for that matter, knows, there’s nothing that saps morale faster than continually being cold and wet.

The only solution, really, is to start pulling the knowledge together now so that if you ever do find that you need to, you’d be able to make your own clothes from scratch. That way, if civilisation ever collapsed, you’d undoubtedly find your skills in great demand, and you’d probably never have to risk your neck going out and foraging amongst the marauding zombies ever again. After all, if you’d been out in the woods for many, many weeks, living hand-to-mouth, what wouldn’t you give for a nice pair of warm, clean woollen socks to keep your feet warm and toasty for the first time in what would seem like forever?

And with that, I’m off to learn how to turn sheep into woolly jumpers. I may be some time!
*****************************************************************************
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.

Keeping Fit While Fighting Zombies …

6 May

As a writer, I spend a lot of my time sitting in front of a computer, sometimes writing, sometimes just staring at a blank screen waiting for inspiration to hit me around the back of the head with a baseball bat. Either way, it’s not a particularly active life style, and it’s certainly not one that will help you develop the level of fitness you’d need to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Herein lies my conundrum. I know I should try to keep myself in shape, but dragging myself down to the gym is too disruptive to my writing when I finally get into the zone and the words and ideas start flooding out. Running works, and is easier to fit in, but pounding the streets is ever-so-boring. If only, I often wonder, there was a way to keep myself inside the zombie zone while keeping fit and making running a lot more fun?

Well, it turns out I’m not the only person who has wondered this, and others have not only got there first, but they’ve actually done something about it. What have they done? Created an app, of course! The app is called Zombies, Run!, and it allows you to play an interactive zombie apocalypse-based game, including running away from pursuing zombies, as part of your regular (or, in my case, irregular) running routine.

I haven’t had the chance to try it out yet, but if it lives up to its promise, then I could see this being something I’d use on a regular basis as it would be the perfect way to enliven an otherwise boring activity. The fact that it would help me stay fit would be an added bonus, and you never know, it might also inspire me to write better zombie scenes as it’ll give me a more personal experience of what it’s like to be pursued down the street by a zombie horde.

Of course, I’ll need to make sure I don’t get too drawn into it as I don’t think ‘I thought she was a zombie!’ would work as a defence for accidentally knocking a little old lady over when she came up behind me unexpectedly during my cool down session. Maybe it should come with its own t-shirt bearing the slogan ‘Danger: Runner In Zombie Apocalypse Mode – Approach At Your Own Risk!’, just to make sure others know you’re immersed in a very different world from the boring, everyday one they’re inhabiting.

Anyway, once I’ve had a chance to give this app a go, I’ll report back and let you know if it really does live up to expectations. In the meantime, it’s back to writing. After all, there’s a lot more scary thing than a zombie horde pursuing me at the moment, and that’s a deadline for getting my next book finished. It’s rapidly approaching, and there’s still a lot of work left to do, but at least the end is finally in sight.



*****************************************************************************
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.