Tag Archives: Zombie stories

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.

I’m With The Band – A Short Zombie Story

3 Jul

A PDF of this story can be downloaded from here.

‘You know I was in a band before all this happened. God, it seems like such a long time ago, almost a different life time. We weren’t exactly world famous but we had our fans, and we did pretty well in our home town. We were playing the night it all kicked off, we were actually on stage. It was the largest gig we’d ever done, in an old cinema which had been converted into a club. It had this massive glitter ball in the middle of the roof, and I mean massive. It must have been like three feet across, maybe four; supposed to be the biggest one in Europe or the country or something like that. Anyway, we were up there on stage just finishing off our set. We were doing our signature song, a real anthem which always brought the house down. I was knocking out this crazy rhythm on the bass while Baz was doing his thing on the drums. Mickey was noodling away on his guitar while Leon had both hands on the microphone; he was leaning on it, nodding along. Leon wasn’t his real name, that was Donald, but he didn’t think it was the right name for a rock star so he changed it. He chose Leon, after Trotsky, because he thought it was all left wing and right on; he didn’t really know anything about politics though, he was just doing what he thought was cool.

‘Anyway, everyone seemed to be really digging the music, jumping up and down, moshing along, but then something changed. At first it was hard to put a finger on it, just a slight shift in the energy in the room. I looked across at Mickey and saw he’d noticed it too. He shrugged and tipped his head towards Leon. He was still nodding along at the mike trying to look cool but I could see by the tightness in his shoulders he’d noticed the change in the atmosphere too. Baz, as usual, hadn’t noticed a thing. When he got really into it, I swear you’ve could set a bomb off right in front of him and he wouldn’t have missed a beat.

‘Then I noticed people weren’t really paying attention to us any more, instead they were looking round, showing each other their phones. I’d got used to people having phones at gigs over the last few years, holding them up in the same way people used to hold up cigarette lighters, or filming us as we played but I’d never seen this before. I felt my own phone go off in my pocket, but I just ignored it, letting it go straight to voice mail. It rang off just as we came to the climactic ending of the song. It was this great crescendo, with Baz and Mickey and me all giving it laldy* while Leon faced us, arms held out, mike in hand, head thrown back. We ended, expecting the usual rapturous applause, but instead all we could hear was people talking. I could tell from the look on his voice Leon was really pissed off at this reaction. He always was a bit of a diva, but then what lead singer isn’t, and I’d seen him lose it with audiences before. I glanced across at Mickey, wondering if we should do something to intervene but he wasn’t paying attention. Instead, he had his phone out and was staring at it with a confused look on his face.

‘As I stepped towards Leon, he turned and faced the audience, his face like thunder and just started yelling at them. Saying how disrespectful they were being; that we deserved better. That was when my phone when off again, this time telling me I had a text message. I looked around. Baz was sitting there behind his drums, arms crossed, watching Leon with this amused look on his face while Mickey, unbelievably, was now speaking to someone on his phone. That’s when I realised there must be something big going on so I pulled out my phone and opened the message I’d just got. It was from my Mum and all it said was that my Dad was at the front door, trying to get in and that I should come home as soon as possible. This really confused me because we’d buried my Dad the week before. I was just as I was about to call home to find out what was going on when I noticed a movement at the back of the room. Two bouncers rushed through the double doors, and were trying desperately to pull them shut – yet they couldn’t because of all these people trying to get in. All around the room, I could see other security guys speaking frantically into their radios and running towards the doors but before they could get there, they flew open and all these people started pouring in. Except they didn’t really look like normal, they were all, like, beaten up and disfigured.

‘I glanced round at my band mates but none of them seemed to have noticed these new arrivals. Mickey was still talking urgently into his phone, while Baz pissing himself laughing as he watch Leon. Leon was getting more and more angry as the crowd continued to ignore him and was now in full rant mode just screaming and swearing at them, threatening to jump off the stage and take them on, all of them all at once. Meanwhile, the odd-looking newcomers were surging through the audience. At first I thought they were just pushing them out of the way, then with horror, I realised they attacking them, biting them, tearing at their clothes and their flesh. People were trying to fight back, but they were out-numbered as more and more of these dishevelled, dirty people streamed into the room.

‘All I could do was stand there and watch in disbelief as this carnage unfolded in front of me. There was blood and guts spilling everywhere as people fought for their lives, all surreally lit by the spotlights glancing off the giant glitter ball that hung above them.

‘Then the first of them, a woman, made it to the stage and started to drag herself onto it. Still it seemed I was the only one in the band who’d noticed what was going on in the audience. I stared at the woman: her hair was lank and streaked with dirt, her skin grey and sallow, and it was clear she wasn’t alive. There was no life in her eyes, instead they were just these dark holes which seemed incapable of seeing anything, yet she knew we were there, or at least she knew Leon was. Reaching forward, she grabbed his left ankle and started pulling him towards the end of the stage. Leon finally stopped ranting and looked down. One glance at the woman holding his leg, and Leon recoiled in disgust and fear, only her grip was firm and he’d managed to get the microphone lead wrapped around his body while he’d been yelling abuse at the audience. As he fell, another of the newcomers, this time a man, grabbed him and together the two of them pulled Leon, struggling and screaming, off the stage and into the audience. This was when Baz finally noticed something was wrong. There were more and more of these dead people pulling themselves onto the stage and before I could even shout a warning they’d surrounded Mickey and were biting and tearing at him.

As the first one approached me, I pulled off my bass and, grabbing the neck, I swung it as hard as I could. I felt it make contact, crushing the skull of this old man who was staggering towards me, half his face already missing. Behind me, I could hear Baz trying to make a run for it, but he must have tripped over his high hat because I heard it crashing to the floor. This seemed to attract the dead people away from me and towards him. For a moment I thought about trying to help him, but looking around, I realised that if I was going to get out alive, I’d need to leave there and then. I heard the sounds of the dead people crashing through the drum kit and Baz shouting as he tried to fight them off, but there was nothing I could do for him. Still clutching my bass, I fled off stage and towards the back door. Behind me, I could hear the sound of the dead chasing after me.

‘I know I should have done more to help the others but the way I see it, if I’d done anything differently, I’d have ended up dead too. I still think about them sometimes, but most of the time I try not to. I think it’s the only way I can cope, trying not to think about how the world used to be, trying not to dwell on the past. Instead, I try to focus on keeping myself alive and fighting the dead as we try to take back the land that once was ours. There’s no music in the world any more, no one has time for it, instead there’s just the sound of battle, of destruction, and of death. That’s why I’m in here drinking when I should be trying to get some rest before I head back to the front line. So here’s to how the world used to be and may it be like that again someday.’


*Laldy is a great Scottish word which, if you’re not familiar with it, meaning to do something with great gusto.

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.