Tag Archives: Sailing

‘The Outbreak’ – The First Official Review Is Out And It’s Five Stars Out Of Five!

29 Jul

The Outbreak Cover DesignJust over a week after The Outbreak was published, the first major review is out … And it’s five stars out of five!

It’s a Foreword Clarion Review and you can read it on their website by clicking here, or you can download it as a PDF by clicking here.

To give you a taster of what the reviewer said, here’s some excerpts:

Now, here’s a zombie apocalypse that really knocks ‘em dead.

With zombie apocalypses occurring across all media at an alarming rate these days, it is difficult to find a new spin on the catastrophe. But Scottish marine biologist Colin M. Drysdale’s second book about the walking dead, The Outbreak…, adds a refreshing new twist to the genre: a small group of Glaswegian survivors finds safety at sea. Tackling themes such as uncertainty, not judging people by appearances, and the importance of living for the moment, Drysdale’s seafaring tale makes a splash in the postapocalyptic genre. …

…The thriller moves at a fast pace, with each chapter ending in a cliff-hanger designed to ratchet up suspense while keeping the audience turning the pages. Another brilliant coup occurs as it becomes impossible to predict who will die and how death will occur. As with the Game of Thrones series, The Outbreak also possesses no qualms about killing off characters one has become invested in. The alacrity with which some die only reinforces the horror of it all. …

Needless to say, I’m chuffed not only to have got a much coveted five star rating for the second time from Foreword Review, but also to get such a great review.



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


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

Why Sharing Your Skills Is Important

20 May

We are often told that in today’s world, the key to success in life is making yourself indispensable. If you can do something that no one else in your work place can do, then when it comes to down-sizing, you’ll be the one kept on. This means we’re encouraged to specialise in ever-smaller niches; we learn to do one thing well and then hoard the knowledge, not showing anyone else how to do it. In this way, we think we can protect our livelihoods.

While this might be a good strategy for our work lives, when it comes to surviving an apocalyptic event (whether it’s the dead rising or a natural disaster) this is an exceedingly dangerous attitude. You might think the best way to ensure your survival is to be able to do something no one else in your group can do, but it’s just the opposite and it might even get you killed. This is because at some point you may find yourself incapacitated and in need of someone with your own specialist skills. If you’re the only one with those skills, you’ll be well and truly screwed. You don’t believe me? Think of it like this: if you’re the only one with any medical knowledge, who will treat you if you get injured? If you’re the only one who can navigate, what happens if you fall ill? If you’re the only one who can drive your transport, what happens if you get knocked out and those around you need to get you back to your safe house? The same goes for making traps to catch food, fixing engines, keeping your solar panels working, handling guns, making more ammo and so on.

This means it’s important that you share around any useful skills you happen to have. If you know which mushrooms are edible and which aren’t, teach this knowledge to those around you; if you know how to do CPR or set a broken bone, train others to be able to do the same; if you can read a map and use a compass to navigate, show others how to do it too. By sharing your knowledge, you’ll not only be helping others, but you’ll be increasing your own chances of survival. There’s also a flip side to this, if you come across someone with a skill you don’t already have, get them to show you how to do it too. It will expand your knowledge and you never know when you might find it useful.

This attitude of sharing skills isn’t just something that applies to post-apocalyptic survival, it applies to everyday life too. If you know how to do something, don’t just keep it to yourself; instead share your knowledge with those around you. In particular, if you are the only one in your group of friends happens to know something which could help when things go wrong, make sure you show at least one other person how to do it, or even better make sure everyone knows, just in case. Similarly, remember you can’t always rely on your friends, so if they’re the ones with the skills, get them to teach you. These needn’t be complicated skills, instead it can be very basic stuff, such as how to drive a vehicle or how to stop a deep wound bleeding. You might not think it, but this could be the difference between life and death for you or for others around you.

I can actually give you an example of this from my own life where I did something that, looking back, was exceedingly stupid but that at the time I did without pausing to think of the consequences. It was one tiny misjudgment but it could so easily have turned out to be fatal. I was out on a motorboat with a friend and her brother. While the friend had been out with me before, and so also knew how to drive the boat, her brother hadn’t. The day was going fine until my friend’s hat blew off into the water. This was in the Bahamas, so the water was warm enough that she chose to go in after it. However, she had trouble finding it because it had sunk. This is where I did the stupid thing: I turned off the boat’s engine, grabbed my mask and dived in.

Now I know what you’re thinking, how on Earth could that have fatal consequences? Well, what I hadn’t considered was the fact there was a 20 knot breeze blowing and because I hadn’t bothered to drop the anchor, the boat was gradually drifting away from us. By the time I’d retrieved the hat and the two of us started to swim back to the boat it was already a good 30 feet away. After five minutes of swimming, this distance between us and the boat had increased to about 50 feet and my friend was tiring (swimming through choppy seas is not as easy as swimming in the still waters of a pool). This was when I realised we could be in deep trouble: we were three or four miles from the nearest land, a distance neither of us would be capable of swimming, and since this was the Bahamas, there was always the worry of sharks, especially if you’re floating around in the water for a substantial period of time..

At this point, you’re probably wondering why the guy in the boat didn’t simply drive over and pick us up. There were two reasons for this. The first was that not having really been around boats before, he didn’t realise we were in trouble; after all, to him it just looked like we were swimming back to the boat. The second was more critical: he didn’t know how to do it; he didn’t know how to start the engine, let alone how to put it into gear and manoeuvre it. Before that, I’d always figured that as long as two people in the boat knew how to drive it, we’d have everything covered, and we would have if I’d simply dropped the anchor before quite freely and intentionally jumping over the side but I hadn’t. I figured I’d only be in the water for a few second at the most, and simply didn’t take into account of how quickly the wind would carry the boat away from us.

In the end, I left my friend to tread water (which is much less tiring) and swam ahead. By the time I finally caught the boat, I was close to complete exhaustion but once I was back on board I circled back and picked her up. That was when it occurred to me quite how lucky we’d been. If the wind had been just slightly stronger, I’d never have been able to swim fast enough or for long enough to catch it. From that point on, I’ve always made sure that whenever I take a boat out, everyone who comes with me knows at least three basic things: how to start the engine, how to stop it and how to drop the anchor. Beyond that, I also try to make sure I give them a go at driving it as well as other basic things like navigation and what to do if someone ends up in the water. By sharing these skills, I hope to avoid ever being in the situation again of ending up in the water watching my boat floating away from me.

These events were brought back to me recently when I heard about a similar event with a much more tragic ending. A British couple were sailing in the North Pacific some 500 miles from land when somehow the man, who was the experienced sailor, ended up in the water. He was wearing a life jacket so this shouldn’t have been a major problem, but his partner apparently didn’t know how to drop the sails or manoeuvre the boat meaning all she could do was watch as the boat sailed on, with the man disappearing off into the distance. The woman was rescued by the coastguard but despite an extensive search her partner was never found.

The critical point to take home here is that you should share around any skills you have which can help if things go wrong. Similarly, remember that you can’t always rely on others to be around to help you if you get into trouble so if you come across anyone with a potentially useful skill, get them to show you the basics in case you ever need them. Finally, if you ever go to sea, always make sure you at least know the basics of how to drive a boat because you never know when you might be called upon to do it.



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

May Book Giveaway: Winners Announced

11 May

To mark the 5,000th visitor to this blog since I started it at the end of 2012 as well as my 100th post, I ran a competition to win five signed coped of the first edition of my post-apocalyptic thriller For Those In Peril On The Sea.

Having been running for two weeks, this competition ended today. The correct answer to the question ‘Where is For Those In Peril On The Sea primarily set?’ was ‘the Northern Bahamas’. One hundred and ninety-two of the people who entered got this answer right.

I’m pleased to say that the five randomly selected winners are:

1. Tracey Peach
2. Mark Palmer
3. Karen Barrett
4. Michelle Williams
5. Sarah Parker

I’ve emailed the winners with details of how they can collect their prize.

So congratulations to the five winners and thanks to everyone who entered. If you weren’t lucky enough to be a winner, you can purchase For Those In Peril On The Sea from Amazon as either a paperback or as a Kindle ebook using the links on the right-hand side of this page.

For Those In Peril On The Sea

For Those In Peril On The Sea available from http://www.amazon.com/For-Those-Peril-The-ebook/dp/B00BRLF8PS/

*****************************************************************************
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’ Named As A Finalist In ForeWord Firsts Winter 2013 Competition

1 May

For Those In Peril On The Sea

For Those In Peril On The Sea available from http://www.amazon.com/For-Those-Peril-The-ebook/dp/B00BRLF8PS/

The finalists for the ForeWord Firsts Winter 2013 competition have just been announced and I’m very pleased to be able to tell you that For Those In Peril On The Sea is one of only five novels on the list.

The ForeWord Firsts competition is run quarterly and is for independently published novels from new writers.

The winner will be announced on the 30th of May 2013, so it will be a nervous month until I find out if it will come out on top or not. Either way, it is good to see a novel that combines my twin loves of zombies and sailing being given some mainstream recognition.

You can read the full announcement and find out which other books made it into the final five by clicking here.

If you want to find out more about the ForeWord Firsts competition, click 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.

Book Giveaway: Win A Signed Copy Of ‘For Those In Peril On The Sea’

27 Apr

***UPDATE 11th May 2013: This competition has now closed. You can find details of the winners here***

To mark the 5,000th visitor to this blog since I started it at the end of 2012 as well as my 100th post (two landmarks that passed this week), I’m giving away five signed copies of the first edition of my post-apocalyptic thriller For Those In Peril On The Sea in a contest I’m running over the next two weeks. There’s no restrictions on where you live (although since the prizes will be mailed from the UK it may take some time to reach you) and if you wish you can choose to have your prize as a Kindle ebook rather than the first edition – but obviously ebooks will not be signed.

Apologies to any younger readers of this blog but have to be 16 or over to enter. Only one entry per person is allowed. While you’re required to enter your email address, this is only so I can get in touch with you if you win. You will receive no other emails and I’ll not store you email address anywhere once the competition is over.

To enter, simply visit the Amazon listing page of For Those In Peril On The Sea and answer the question below (only entries submitted using the form provided will be accepted).

Five names will be randomly selected from all the correct answers that reach me by the 15:00 BST on the 10th of May 2013 – that’s two weeks today (any entries received after that will be deleted). I’ll contact the winners by email to arrange delivery as soon as they are selected and will post the names of the winners here shortly after.

So here’s the question:



For Those In Peril On The Sea

For Those In Peril On The Sea available from http://www.amazon.com/For-Those-Peril-The-ebook/dp/B00BRLF8PS/




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

Life On The Ocean Waves…

22 Apr

Much of my writing is influenced by the sea. Lighthouses turn up regularly in my short stores (such as When Death Came To Flannan Isle and The Lighthouse At The End Of The Road) while sailing and life on the ocean waves are very much at the heart of both my debut novel (For Those In Peril On The Sea) and the sequel which I’m currently working (or at least that I should be working on but at the moment I keep getting distracted by other things – such as writing this blog and indeed the Maths With Zombies one I’ve just started). Here, I’d like to give you some idea of why the sea and sailing are so important to me, and it goes deeper than the simple fact that I’m a marine biologist.

Sailing is something I loved from the moment I first did it. Not sailing on a dingy but proper ‘big boat’ sailing. My first time was on a 72 foot ketch called Taikoo owned and run by the Ocean Youth Club (or Ocean Youth Trust as it’s now known), a charity which aims to introduce sailing to young people. I’d grown up pottering around on the ocean’s edge but at 16 it was the first time I’d taken to the sea on something other than on a ferry, which hardly counts. Soon I found myself in thirty foot seas at the heart of a near-hurricane force storm. It was hard, physical work and pretty much everyone was sea-sick to a greater or lesser extent as we cowered in the cockpit, clipped onto the safety lines and clinging to each other to stop ourselves being thrown all over the place. At one point we ended up almost ship-wrecked when the engine gave out at a critical moment. Through all of this I discovered something: I loved every bit of it.

The only trouble with falling in love with sailing was that it wasn’t something I really had many opportunities to do. This meant it was a while before I got to do it again. When I was doing my undergraduate degree, I went to do an internship in Newfoundland and within hours of stepping off the plane in St. John’s, I found myself, quite unexpectedly, on a yacht bound for Labrador in search of humpback whales. I spent a month dodging icebergs, fighting storms, photographing whales and drinking moonshine offered to us by the locals (after all it would have been rude to refuse their hospitality!). I also learned a huge amount about life at sea from the Captain, an ex-Maine fisherman turned professional yacht skipper (I’ll confess here that there’s more than a little of him in the character Bill in my book For Those In Peril On The Sea).

My next sailing experience was around Scotland on a beautiful gaff-rigged ketch, again looking for whales and dolphins (it was all part of my training as a marine biologist). I sailed on her a couple of times, enjoying the amazing scenery and the changeable weather. That was how I ended up visiting the remote and beguiling island of Mingulay. It’s now uninhabited and is somewhere you can only get to with your own boat but with it’s white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’m going to be drawing on these memories a lot as I continue my work on the sequel to For Those In Peril On The Sea as it’s set amongst the islands of western Scotland.

From there I moved onto the Bahamas. I didn’t get to do a huge amount of sailing there, but I spent a lot of time on the water and got to know almost every inch of the beaches, bays and islands around the Sea of Abaco. Again, I was there because of work yet I also had plenty of free time to just head off and explore. It was there that I bought the first and only sailboat I’ve ever owned, an old North Star 1500 called Gone-with-the-Wind. I loved that boat more than almost anything else in the world and spent ages doing her up (she wasn’t in good shape after she’d got damaged in Hurricane Floyd). She also holds a special place in my heart because it was while I was living on her that I met Sarah, the love of my life. I sold her a few years later, the boat that is not Sarah, and it broke my heart but that was how I learned that owning your own yacht can be an extremely expensive business!

Since then while I’ve spent time more time at sea, it’s been on motorboats and ships rather than sailboats and I have to say I miss it. I long to get back to it, to feel the deck heeling under me again as the sheets strain and the sails fill. I think this was one of the reasons I enjoyed writing For Those In Peril On The Sea so much. It gave me the chance to re-live my memories of times I’d spent under sail and places I’ve visited. While the infected aren’t real and nor are any of the characters, much of the sailing and all of the places are based on my own experiences. The same is true for the sequel I’m currently working on, although it’s focussed closer to home than the Bahamas, it will again be fun to revisit the memories of my younger days.

As I have grown older, my career has taken me away from the sea and more behind a computer (both in terms of my academic life and my more recent ventures into writing fiction – well rather the sharing my fiction with the rest of the world). I will, however, take to the water under sail again, of that I’m certain. It’s simply a matter of time and circumstance and, if I’m ever to own my own boat again, a not insubstantial lottery win! Until then, I’ll have to just settle for writing, whenever I can, about life on the ocean waves.



*****************************************************************************
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 – Paperback Currently 1/3rd Off At Amazon.com

20 Apr

I’ve just noticed that the paperback version of my debut novel, For Those In Peril On the Sea, is currently available from Amazon.com for US$9.98. This is 1/3rd off the usual cover price of US$14.99. This discount is being offered by Amazon so I’m not too sure how long it will last but it’s a good opportunity to pick up a bargain. And the best thing is since Amazon are the ones offering the discount, I still get the same amount for every book sold!

For Those In Peril On The Sea.

For Those In Peril On The Sea.

Primarily set in the northern Bahamas, For Those In Peril On the Sea weaves its tale of post-apocalyptic survival into the local sub-tropical seascape and the sailing culture that can be found there. With its evocative use of real locations haunted by zombie-like infected and atmospheric depictions of the trials of life at sea drawn from the author’s own experiences, this debut novel from Colin M. Drysdale provides a new and unusual take on the traditional post-apocalyptic and zombie genres.

What The Official Reviewers Say:

‘… For Those in Peril on the Sea is not a mere imitator of currently popular zombie books and films. Drysdale’s novel proves different and superior in concept as well as content. The infected are unusual in ways that make them seem terrifyingly real, and the idea of the survivors being trapped offshore is an imaginative and effective twist. While some scenes in the book can be graphic and brutal, Drysdale never allows them to become gratuitous, and each disturbing moment serves a purpose in the plot. The tone of barely suppressed terror is emphasized by the author’s willingness to write as ruthlessly as his story demands: readers will quickly learn that even those who seem most deserving of survival can quite easily fall victim to the infected. …’ ‘Five Stars (out of five).’ – Foreword Clarion Reviews (click here to read the whole review).

What Readers Say:

‘As a long term fan of post apocalyptic fiction (The Stand, The Passage, World War Z etc.) I’m always keen to try out a new author. However, I must confess to a growing weariness with zombie fiction as it so often involves the same old stereotypes and locations – it’s been done to death – no pun intended. So I was pleasantly surprised that “For Those in Peril” served up some genuinely fresh ideas. So often tales of the zombie apocalypse centre around a group of survivors trapped in some urban location trying to escape to some safe haven, quite often the ocean, and when they finally get their hands on a boat they either suffer some cruel last minute attack or sail off into the sunset. But what happens next? Well that’s where this book comes in, exploring the consequences of life after the apocalypse. …’ Four Stars out of Five. Click here to read the whole review.

‘This is a quick read and fun for those into the zombie genre … I found I couldn’t put the book down and whizzed through it, while sitting on a sunny deck with a drink in my other hand. The author has obviously thought a lot about the practicalities of being stuck on a boat during a zombie infestation. …’ Five Stars out of Five. Click here to read the whole review.

Preview The Book:

Extracts from the first three chapters can be downloaded as a PDF from the book’s website (www.forthoseinperil.net) by clicking here.

From the back of the book:

After a six week voyage across the Atlantic, they couldn’t wait to get to shore. When they got there, they found the land would never be safe again…

There was nothing to suggest it would be anything other than a routine delivery. Four people thrown together by chance, sailing a newly-built catamaran from South Africa to Miami. But while they were away, something happened, something none of them could ever have imagined. When they get back to civilisation, they find it no longer exists. The land is no longer safe. Their only option is to stay on the boat and try to survive.

Join Bill, Rob, Jon and CJ as they travel around their frightening new world. One where they must struggle against the infected that now rule the land, the elements and each other.

 About The Author:

As a marine biologist, Colin M. Drysdale has spent plenty of time at sea with no land in sight but he is always glad when he finally gets back to shore. This novel is inspired by a thought that often plagues him during his voyages. What would he do if something happened while he was away and he could never go back?



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

Zombies Can’t Swim – A Short Story About Escaping From The Undead

27 Mar

A PDF of this story can be downloaded from here.

The first time I saw the sign at the entrance to the boat yard I laughed so hard I almost crashed my car but once I regained my composure I figured it was nothing more than a great bit of advertising. Now as I smash through the gates in a stolen SUV, I wonder if the old man who ran it had somehow foreseen what was going to happen. Right now, it doesn’t matter if he did or not, only whether he was right. I shoot past the sign with it’s faded black letters standing proud against a once-white background that’s now a dull, dishwater grey, proclaiming its message to the world: Zombies Can’t Swim, Buy A Boat!. I glance nervously in my rear-view mirror to make sure I’m not being followed: zombies might not be able to swim but they sure as hell can run.

***

When the zombie apocalypse came it didn’t happen in the way it was portrayed in the movies. Rather than the dead rising from their graves, it was, instead, caused by a virus that infected the living, stripping them of everything that made them human and leaving a body ruled by one single urge: to infect others. That in itself wasn’t a problem rather it was the way they spread the virus – not through coughs and sneezes but by the infected attacking and biting others. If this reminds you of rabies that’s because it was rabies, only it had mutated. It no longer killed; instead it just drove people mad, whipping them into a frenzy where they’d attack anyone who was near. It also acted much faster than rabies used to, taking over infected people’s brains in hours or minutes rather than weeks or months.

It had built slowly, almost without anyone really noticing. It started with just a few cases in Haiti but with everything else going on there it was hardly surprising that no one pick up on what was happening until it was too late. After all, at first, it was hard to tell the difference between attacks by those infected with the virus and the violent protests against the US biotech firm that had sprung up across the country. The locals had found out it had been illegally testing it’s new and highly controversial vaccine in the capital’s slums and they weren’t pleased. Then again, maybe the two weren’t really that different since it was the vaccine that had caused the virus to mutate in the first place. Regardless of what going on in Haiti, the virus didn’t really take off until it reached Miami. I still wasn’t quite clear about what had happened there but then again, it seemed no one else was either. All I knew was that the infected and the infection had swept through the city within hours, forcing those who survived to flee. Some of them were carrying the infection but were as yet unturned and that just spread the disease further and faster across the country.

Once I heard the rumours that the infected had reached Virginia I’d started getting myself prepared. At first I stayed put, after all it was what the government was telling us to do, and I set to work collecting the recommended supplies: canned foods, bags of rice, water, medicines. I also joined the ill-tempered crowds that queued for fuel at the town’s only gas station and at the hardware store for plywood to board up the windows. It was just like what happened whenever a hurricane threatened, only ten times worse. With hurricanes people at least knew what they were dealing with, with this disease no one really knew what to expect.

As the virus and the infected that carried it grew ever closer, things started getting out of control. One evening as I was driving home, I saw the town’s two deputies threatening a woman with their guns as her terrified kids huddled in the back of her car. It was clear they were after the food that filled every available space in her vehicle. By the time I’d passed, I could see her standing at the side of the road holding her kids and crying as the police officers drove off: one in their patrol car, the other in hers. That was when I started thinking it might be an idea to get out before things got any worse but I wanted to make sure this was the right thing to do. I figured I should sleep on it for the night before moving on. That turned out to be a big mistake and I woke in the morning to find the first of the infected among us. I was lucky, my apartment overlooked main street and I’d glanced through a crack between the boards I’d hastily nailed across the windows before going outside. What I saw shocked me. There were two people lying in the street with others huddled round them. At first I thought they were trying to help, then I realised they were clawing the peoples’ torsos with their hands and ripping off strips of flesh with their teeth. I watched, horror-struck, as the abdomen of first one person and then the other was torn open. Blood and guts spilled onto the dusty pavement and I had to fight hard not to throw up.

Suddenly, a man appeared out of a side street carrying a small child on his back. He had his head turned, talking to the toddler so he didn’t see the infected before they saw him. With a speed that was almost unbelievable, they leapt to their feet and raced towards him. They must have made a sound because his head suddenly snapped round. Seeing the infected racing towards him, he froze for a moment before turning and running but with the child on his back he barely moved faster than if he was walking. Glancing desperately over one shoulder then the other he saw the infected rapidly closing on him. Then he did the only thing that gave him a chance of escape: he dropped the child. Unencumbered, he finally started to draw away while two of the infected descended on the screaming child, biting and tearing at it until there was little left but scraps of blood-soaked clothing and scattered lumps of flesh. The only thing that was still recognisable was the head and I could see the child’s eyes frozen in terror as one of the infected gnawed on it’s left cheek.

At that moment, I knew if I didn’t leave soon I’d never get out but I needed a plan. I wracked my brains trying to think of somewhere I could go where the infected wouldn’t find me. Then, as if out of nowhere, the sign popped into my head. I knew these weren’t really zombies but surely if the virus wiped out everything human within them, they mightn’t remember how to swim. After all, swimming’s not like walking or running, it doesn’t come naturally; it’s something you have to specifically learn. With no other options coming to mind, I decided it was the best chance I had.

***

I slam on the brakes and the SUV skids to a halt at the end of the dirt track leading from the gates to the boat yard’s single dock. I sit there with the engine idling, my eyes darting round nervously, trying to work out what to do next. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around so at least I shouldn’t have to worry about infected. I don’t really know anything about boats so I don’t know which one I should choose or how I’m going to drive it but I figure it can’t be that much different from driving a car.

A movement in the rear-view mirror catches my eye; it’s off in the distance and little more than dust being kicked up into the air but it means something’s coming this way. It might just be people trying to escape but it could just as easily be infected and I’m not going wait around to find out. Leaving the engine running and the door open, I leap from the car and run down to the wooden pontoon that stretches out into the water. Boats of all shapes and sizes are tied up there and at first I’m at a loss as to which one to take. Then I see it: a long, sleek speed boat with two huge engines on the back, and I know it’s the one for me. I run to it and jump onboard before racing over to the steering wheel. When I get there I’m surprised to see that you need a key and there’s no obvious way to hot-wire it. I climb back onto the dock and scratch my head, wondering what I’m going to do now. As I do, I become aware of a noise that I can’t quite place. It’s like the sound of water rushing over the edge of a massive waterfall and crashing into the pool far below; then I realise it’s the sound of people, or more likely infected, pounding along the road towards me.

Growing ever more desperate, I try motorboat after motorboat, while all the time the noise grows louder and louder, but I can’t get any of them started. Finally, right on the end of the dock, I see a sailboat, no more than twenty feet long, and I realise it’s my salvation: I won’t need any keys because I won’t need to start the engine, all I’ll need to do is raise the sails and I’ll be away. I’ve never sailed before but I figure it can’t be that difficult. I jump onboard and just as I start untying the ropes I glance up to see the first of the infected entering the boat yard. At first they don’t know where to go but they must have sensed my movements because before I know it, they’re hurtling towards the dock. By the time I get the last rope free and have pushed the boat away from the shore, they’re streaming along the pontoon, mouths open, roaring and snarling. I feel a gentle breeze on the back of my neck as I stare at them, both terrified and hypnotized by the sight of the infected sweeping towards me. The first of the infected reach the end of the pontoon and stop while the ones behind them keep going, pushing those ahead of them into the water. I watch as they thrash around before sinking from sight. Just as the sign predicted, zombies can’t swim.

Then I notice something: little by little I’m drifting back towards the dock. I’m not too sure what I should be doing but I figure I need to get the sails up. The mast seems a logical place to start since that’s what the sails are attached to so I run forward but find there’s ropes everywhere and I can’t work out which does what. I try randomly pulling on them but nothing happens. I glance desperately back to the pontoon; it’s only ten feet way now and the closer I get the more the infected are being whipped into a frenzy. I turn my attention back to the boat and I realise there are straps tied round the sail. I figure these are what’s stopping me from pulling it up so I frantically undo them one by one and stumble back to the mast and I pull randomly on ropes again. This time I find one which raises the sail and I start pulling on it as hard as I can. The sail goes up and fills with wind but it pushes me towards the land I’m trying so hard to get away from. I let the rope go and with a crash the sail drops onto the dock. While the boat slows, it’s still drifting inexorably towards the dock and the infected that wait for me there. That’s when it finally dawns on me: while zombies can’t swim, I can’t sail so it’s not really going to help me survive after all.

***

Author’s Note: This story was inspired by a photograph of a real sign I came across in the web that was genuinely used as advertising in a boat yard and proclaimed ‘Zombies Can’t Swim, Get A Boat’. Looking into this a further it seems such signs are not as uncommon as you might think. I don’t know if several people have independently come up with the same slogan or if there was one original that all the others have copied but either way it struck me as a great title for a story, and it was one I couldn’t resist writing.


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

Release Of Interactive Map To Accompany ‘For Those In Peril On The Sea’

23 Mar

For Those In Peril On The Sea is a novel about survival in a post-apocalyptic world that’s set in and around the northern Bahamas. Since this is not a part of the world many people are familiar with, I’ve put together an interactive map based around Google Earth which allows the readers to explore the real world locations and the landscapes where the book is set. Using this map, you can see where key events take place and also look at the routes the characters take between these locations.

The map (which can be found here) comes in different sections, each of which is specific to an individual chapter. For example, this is the map section for chapter two (this and the other screenshots for this post were taken on my Nexus 7):

Map Section For Chapter Two

Map Section For Chapter Two

This shows the locations mentioned in this chapter, as well as the route the characters took as they move from the lighthouse at Hole-in-the-Wall, where they first realise something is wrong with the world towards their intended destination of Miami. You can also zoom in and look at what happened at a finer scale. For example, you could zoom in on the area around Hole-in-the-Wall lighthouse (at the right-hand end of the above map) and examine the events that happen there, like this:

The Events At Hole In The Wall

The Events At Hole In The Wall

If you click on any of the symbols, an information window appears that provides a brief summary of what happened in the book there (warning: these may contain plot spoilers, so it’s better to look at the map section for each chapter once you’ve read it). Here’s one example of an information window for one of the locations at Hole-in-the-Wall:

Information About The First Attack

Information About The First Attack

Different colours are used for different groups of characters, so you can tell what each of they are doing. For example, blue is always used for events involving the central characters in the book (called Bill, Rob, Jon and CJ), while green is used for another group that they meet up with near Miami, as shown below in the map section for chapter three.

Events At Miami

Events At Miami

You can find the full map here on the website that’s been put together to accompany For Those In Peril On The Sea. I hope you find this a useful addition to the book itself and that it increases your enjoyment of the story told in it.

If you want to find out more about creating interactive map layers to accompany your stories, you can click here to find another post on this subject.

If you would be interested in having such layers created to accompany any of your own work, please email me at info[at]forthoseinperil.net and we can discuss it further.

*****************************************************************************

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