Tag Archives: For those In Peril On The Sea

Waiting Up For Santa Claus: A Cautionary Tale

22 Dec

This is a very short story I put together for my blog readers to mark the holiday season (after all, nothing says Christmas like zombies – or is that just me?). Be warned, it’s not your usual happy festive tale. Then again, since it features the undead, this is probably not surprising! As you might have guessed, and despite its title, this is not a story for a younger audience. It’s just a quick piece I wrote to explore an idea that popped into my head a few days ago, but hopefully you’ll still enjoy it. If you’d rather read this story offline, you can download a PDF from here. Merry Christmas!

Waiting Up For Santa Claus: A Cautionary Tale

‘Look!’ The girl pointed excitedly, ‘It’s him, it has to be.’

The boy glanced at the clock on the wall, slightly confused, ‘But it’s not midnight yet.’


‘So it’s not Christmas Day, is it?’

‘But it looks just like him. And besides,’ the girl said knowingly, ‘It’s already Christmas somewhere. Maybe he’s just early.’

The two children were peeking through their curtains, trying not to be seen. Despite their mother’s frequent warnings that he wouldn’t come unless they were asleep, they’d been determined to catch a glimpse Santa Claus. They tried every year but they never quite managed it. This year it seemed they might have finally succeeded. At five minutes to twelve, they’d heard a noise and had scampered from their beds to investigate.

Outside, their front yard was covered with snow, the snowman they’d built earlier in the day still staring off into the distance. Beside him was a new figure, his red coat stretched across his portly belly. They couldn’t see his face, but curly white hair hung down below a hat edged with fur. Beside the man lay a large sack from which spilled brightly wrapped packages. He stood slouching, one arm around the neck of the snowman. The man wasn’t really moving, just swaying slightly from side to side.

The boy looked up at his sister. ‘What should we do?’

The older child scratched her head as she surveyed the room they’d shared for as long as either of them could remember. A Christmas tree stood decorated in one corner while home-made streamers were strung across the ceiling. Finally, her eyes landed on the stockings that hung expectantly from the ends of their beds and an idea popped into her head. She grinned at her brother, ‘Let’s go out and see if he’ll give us our presents now, before we go to sleep.’

‘Yeah, that would be really cool.’

‘We’ll need to be quiet though. We don’t want Mom waking up.’

The younger kid rubbed his backside, remembering how it had felt when he’d been spanked for getting into a fight at school. If she’d been mad because of that, she’d be madder if she caught them out of bed on Christmas Eve. She’d already shouted at them earlier in the evening when they were still bouncing round their room long after they should have been tucked up in bed. Twice. But this was an opportunity not to be missed. After all, how many other kids would be able to say they’d got their presents from Santa Claus himself rather than just waking up on Christmas morning and finding he’d visited them in the night?

They grabbed their stockings and crept to the door. The elder child inched it open, making sure it didn’t squeak. Once there was enough room, they slipped through and snuck down the stairs, remembering to jump over the loose one at the bottom, the one that always creaked loudly when anyone stood on it. At the front door, the girl turned to her younger brother, ‘You sure about this?’

He nodded enthusiastically.

She reached up and took the key from its hook before sliding it into the keyhole. It first turned smoothly and silently, then there was resistance followed by a quiet click that told her the door was now unlocked. The girl pressed down the handle and pulled it open, letting in a blast of frigid air. The two children shivered in their thin night-clothes. Outside the street was silent, the snow muffling the usual noises of the night. The man had moved away from the snowman and now stood on the far side of their front yard with his back to them. The snow round his feet was messed up as if he’d been shuffling through it rather than walking across it. His sack still lay open on the ground by the snowman, seemingly forgotten.

Leaving the door open, the girl stepped forward, feeling the snow crunch under her weight, the cold shooting up through the soles of her feet. For a moment she thought about going back for her shoes but that would take time and he might be gone before she got back. She’d just need to be quick. Running forward, she called out quietly, ‘Santa, don’t go, we’re here. Can we have our presents now?’

Just as the girl reached the snowman, the figure in the red suit turned and she saw his face for the first time. She skidded to a halt, causing her brother to crash into her from behind, and stared at the face beneath the fur-trimmed hat. The man’s pale, sallow skin was splattered with red and his white beard was stained by a thick dark fluid that dripped slowly onto the snow. His deeply sunken eyes were a dull black with no spark of life in them.

‘That’s not Santa Claus. Is it?’ There was a frightened tone in the young boy’s voice. He clung to his sister’s arm. He didn’t know why but the man scared him. Maybe it was something to do with the eyes and the way they seemed to stare right through him.

‘No.’ The girl was frightened too. She tried to think of what to do next, but it seemed her brain had stopped working. She wanted to run, but couldn’t; she was rooted to the spot.

Then the man started towards them, slowly at first but becoming faster with each faltering step. Suddenly, the girl was no longer frozen with fear. She turned and fled, pulling her younger brother with her, but it was difficult to run across the snow in bare feet. She glanced over her shoulder and saw that the man in the Santa outfit was gaining on them. As he moved, he let out a moan that sank deep into her soul.

The kids were almost back at the house when the girl’s foot slipped on a patch of ice. She tumbled to the ground, pulling her little brother with her and landing heavily on her back. She pushed the boy onwards, towards the safety of the front door. As he disappeared inside, the girl rolled onto her front. The snow crumbled beneath her as she desperately struggled to get back onto her feet.

The girl yelled when she felt the man’s hand close around her leg and start dragging her backwards through the snow. But it didn’t feel like a real hand. While it gripped her so tightly it hurt, there was no warmth in it. Instead, it felt as cold as ice. She turned and saw the man’s face again, this time much closer. His red hat had fallen from his head, but he didn’t seem to have noticed or even to care. While his eyes looked lifeless, maybe even soulless, his jaw moved back and forth, causing his teeth to gnash against each other.

The girl kicked out, trying to break his grip, but even though she hit him as hard as she could he didn’t seem to notice. She heard someone screaming. It seemed distant at first, but quickly grew closer and closer. For a moment, the girl wondered who it was, then it dawned on her that it was coming from her own mouth. She struggled frantically but it was no use, she couldn’t get away. As the figure in the red suit loomed over her, blocking out the stars, the girl felt his fetid breath on the side of her face and realised she was going to die.

The man sank his teeth deep into her neck, ripping at her flesh. Although the girl could see her own blood spraying across the snow-covered yard, turning it a deep crimson red, she felt no pain. As the life drained from her body, the girl wished she’d listened to her mother. She wished she’d gone to sleep instead of trying to stay awake until Santa arrived.


For those who have read this far, here’s a quick reminder that between the 26th and 31st of December, I’ll be posting extracts from the first three chapters of my new book, For Those In Peril On The Sea (available in the UK from the 3rd of January 2013 – I’m afraid it won’t be available outside the UK until March) on this blog. It’s a tale about post-apocalyptic survival in a world where the land is no longer safe, so if you liked the above story, you might like it as well.

‘The Island At The End Of The World’ – New Post-apocalyptic Survival Thriller From Colin M. Drysdale Out Today

23 Oct

The Island At The End Of The World is the third novel in the For Those In Peril post-apocalyptic survival series by Colin M. Drysdale. It is now available as a paperback and as a Kindle eBook. While a PDF preview of the first three chapters is available here, the first three chapters will be serialised on this blog over the next three days.

Set amongst the rugged and beautiful islands of Scotland’s remote west coast, this book weaves its tale of post-apocalyptic survival into a landscape where people have struggled to survive for thousands of years. With its evocative use of real locations on both land and sea, and atmospheric depictions of the trials faced by those trying to survive in a world which has changed forever, The Island At The End Of The World further expands the new and unusual take on the traditional post-apocalyptic genre provided by the first two award-winning books in the For Those In Peril series, as the characters struggle to move from just surviving to trying to rebuild their lives in the hostile and unforgiving world they have found themselves suddenly and unexpectedly thrust into.

As with the first two books, this is a first person narrative, but it is told from point of view of 19-year-old CJ, rather than the narrators of either of the first two books (Rob in For Those In Peril On The Sea and Ben in The Outbreak), providing a new and different perspective on the world of the For Those In Peril series.

From The Back Of The Book:

Civilisation has collapsed, the land has fallen to the infected and the few who remain unturned are left wondering if there’s anywhere left that’s truly safe …

A mutant virus has turned humanity into savage, cannibalistic killers who roam the land in search of prey, and only a few scattered groups survive uninfected, clinging to life in the furthest corners of the Earth. CJ and her crewmates have sailed their forty-foot catamaran across the Atlantic, searching for a safe haven that’s beyond the reach of the infected. Now, they’ve arrived in Scotland and are heading for the remote island of Mingulay, but when they get there, will they find the uninhabited paradise their captain, Rob, remembers from his youth? Or has it, too, been lost to the disease? And what of the others who might be out there, clinging to life, amongst the numerous islands of Scotland’s western coast?

Final Cover Design For ‘The Island At The End Of The World’

22 Oct

It’s been a while since I posted anything here, and that’s primarily because I’ve been struggling to get the third book in my For Those In Peril series of post-apocalyptic survival/zombie novels finalised for publication. The publication date was originally set for the 21st of September 2015, but due to problems with formatting the Kindle ebook edition, it’s now going to be released tomorrow (the 22nd of October) instead. This means that for three days, starting tomorrow, I’m going to be posting first-look extracts from The Island At The End Of The World on this blog.

In the meantime, I thought I’d take the opportunity today of posting the final cover design. In some ways, of the three books, this is my favourite cover. Partly because it’s relatively understated, but also because the island featured on the cover formed a major part of the view from my Grandparents house, situated as it was high above the sea on the west coast of Scotland.

So, what does the final cover look like?

Well, here’s the front:

And here’s the back:

And this is the full cover design.

I have to say, sitting on my shelf next to the previous two books in the series, these three covers from a rather nice set (even if I do say so myself!). And if you’re interested in reading the extracts from The Island At The End Of The World, which will become available tomorrow, 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.

‘The Outbreak’ Wins Horror Category Of The 2015 Best Indie Book Award

5 Sep

The Outbreak BadgeAfter a rather disappointing day yesterday (I won’t go into the reason why), I arrived home and opened my Inbox to find an email from the Best Indie Book Award. This is an award which aims to help support Independent authors. There had been a slight delay in the announcement of this year’s awards, but then the email I’d been hoping for finally arrived. I opened it with anticipation and found, to my great pleasure, that The Outbreak had won the Horror category of the 2015 Best Indie Book Award!

This makes it the second year in a row that I’ve picked up this award (my first book, For Those In Peril On The Sea, won the same category last year).

Pleased as I am with this, it does put some pressure on the third book in the series, The Island At The End Of The World, which will be coming out in the next couple of weeks, to do the same in the 2016 awards. This, however, I think might be somewhat unlikely, not because it isn’t as good as the first two books in the For Those In Peril series, but because it’s quite a different type of book. Rather than being a full-on zombie novel, The Island At The End Of The World moves the story arc on from simply struggling to survive to rebuilding some sort of a life in a world which has been changed beyond all recognition by a virus that has turned most of humanity into zombie-like, cannibalistic killers. It still has some killer zombie scenes, but it’s more a tale of post-apocalyptic survival, and this makes it hard to fit into any one recognised genre.

Technically, post-apocalyptic survival books are science fiction, but few view them this way, especially when they contain zombies (or even zombie-like creatures). Unlike the previous books in the series, there’s not a strong enough element of death and destruction to be considered horror, and there’s too many zombies for it to be considered a straight-out thriller, and it’s this lack of easy categorisation which, I think, will make it struggle to do as well as the previous two books in any book competitions which I choose to enter it in. Not that I’m too bothered by this, after all, I write because I want to write, not just to win prizes in book awards, although it’s always a nice surprise when this happens – especially when you find out you’ve won at the end of an otherwise disappointing day!

A full list of this year’s winners of the Best Indie Book Awards can be found here.

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.

Schematic Of The world Of The ‘For Those In Peril’ Series Of Post-apocalyptic Novels

28 Aug

With the planned publication date for The Island At The End Of The World (the third book in my For Those In Peril series of inter-connected post-apocalyptic survival novels) rapidly approaching, I’ve been turning my attention to where the characters (and indeed other as yet unmet characters) in these books will go next.

To help me get an overview of the whole world that I’ve created so far, and that I’ll add to in the future, I’ve put together a schematic that shows all the different elements which I’ve created so far, and those that are still in the planning stages, fit into the overall timeline for the world, and indeed how they are all connected to each other, both directly, through the main storyline, and indirectly through shared minor characters, incidents and concepts.

So far, there are three books in the series itself (with the third one due out later this month), and two more planned: The Rise Of The Infected – a prequel to the whole series set around the original drug trial gone wrong that creates the infected in the first place – and The Voyage Of Salvation – which will be set across a time span reaching from the end of The Rise Of The Infected until a few years after The Island At The End Of The World).

In addition, there are a number of short stories, such as The Wall and The Girl At Little Harbour, which provide additional detail and exploration of elements in the world, some of which are included in my short story anthology, Zombies Can’t Swim And Other Tales Of The Undead.

I’m also intending to write a few more of these to flesh out a few plot points which, while tangential to the main story line of the series, I think are work exploring. This will include one titled The Last Log Of The Mingulay Seabird Research Station, and once you read the upcoming The Island At The End Of The World, you’ll quickly see both where it would fit in, and why it would be so interesting to write.

There are also a few additional short stories which, while set in the same world of the series, are not directly connected with any individual book. These include the connected pair of stories Rendezvous and The Need To Know, which along with The Girl At Little Harbour, are amongst my favourites of all the zombie-based short stories I’ve written.

Finally, there are other little spin-off projects which are connected to this world in a number of different ways. These include my Maths With Zombies blog, and the accompanying book, which should be out by Christmas, called The Little Book Of Zombie Mathematics, and the Moral Dilemmas In A Zombie Apocalypse series of posts from this blog, which I’ll wrap up into a book at some point next year. In addition, I’ve managed to slip the basic zombie disease scenario from the world of the For Those In Peril series into an academic textbook I’m working, but I’m not quite to sure that really counts as part of the world itself.

How do all these different elements fit together? Well, here’s the schematic that will hopefully help explain it all (although I haven’t included the textbook in it as that’s not written under the same name):

Schematic of the world of the 'For Those In Peril ' series

As you can see it’s quite a world that is gradually building up, especially when you consider that it all started out with what was meant to be a single stand-alone book (the titular For Those In Peril On The Sea).

What’s more it might not even stop with this schematic. I’m tempted with the idea of writing a Young Adult book which would view much of the story lines of The Outbreak and The Island At The End Of The World from the point of view of the fourteen year old Sophie, and similarly put together a graphic novel which would tell the same events from the point of view of the seventeen year old Daz (one of my favourite characters from the whole series). In addition, it is very likely that more short stories will be added in due course as story ideas occur to me. However, whether I’ll actually get to complete all these projects, only time will tell!

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 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.

‘For Those In Peril On The Sea’ Wins Best Indie Book Award

17 Aug

BIBA2014InPerilA while a go, some of you will remember I posted about the importance of book awards for independently published books and writers.

As it happens, my first book For Those In Peril On The Sea has just been announced as the winner of the horror category in the 2014 Best Indie Book Award. As always, it’s great to get some recognition for my work. If you’re interested, you can find the official announcement here.

This award comes with a nice little statuette (although that might take some time to reach me), and a review on Jelly Bomb Review, which can be found here.

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.