Tag Archives: zombie apocalypse

Like an angry George R. R. Martin

I have to get to the root of why you take all my favorite characters and kill them faster than an angry George R. R. Martin!” Said Christopher Smith on his Writing Process blog post.

I know why my characters lead mostly brief and sometimes inglorious lives. What I wanted to know was why Mr Martin is also a maniac parent. Like the gods of old who ate their children. As it happens, our penchant for literary murder stems from an event in our childhood.

No, it’s okay. No creepy uncles, who weren’t really uncles, are involved. For Mr Martin, it was Wonder Man. Apparently (and it must be true because I read it on the internet), the death of Wonder Man in his first “Avengers” appearance in 1964  was extremely moving for the young George.

In my case, my formative reading years were filled with The Famous Five, and The Hardy Boys. There wasn’t much killing in either of them, and if a body did turn up, it was a plot point and not a “I’m breathing and talking… oh and now I’m dead.” shocking event.

Then I read William Golding’s ‘The Lord of the Flies’. My innocence was blown out with Piggy getting his head smashed in and his brains floating away on the luminescence in the surf. But that wasn’t really it. Ralph didn’t really show any grief at the death of his friend (the symbol of stability, consciousness, and learning) he just basically went “Bloody hell, they’re going to kill me! RUUUUNNNN!” And then the army arrives. Hooray.

No conclusion, nothing. The. Army. Arrives.

For a while, I kept going over the events as if thinking about them would have saved Piggy. I came to the realisation that Golding killed Piggy because otherwise he would have had to have killed Ralph as well. Piggy, as the name would imply, was the fat kid who wasn’t good at athletic type endeavours and, from the point where Piggy goes splat, Ralph gets right into his cardio. Running, climbing, swimming. He does them all, free of the weight of his Piggy friend.

At that point I didn’t feel so bad about Piggy any more. He stopped being a ‘person’, and instead became a plot vehicle. My feelings for him, gone.

Then I started reading James Herbert and Stephen King. James Herbert’s characters seemed to die because it was their time, and that was fine. I’d be reading, and as the scene unfolds I could tell that this person or that was going to expire by the end of the chapter. Stephen King was slightly different in that his main characters didn’t usually die unexpectedly. The main character stayed alive for the whole of the story, and then he kills them at the end – especially in his short stories. I don’t think Stephen King writes ‘The End’ at the conclusion of his stories. He should put ‘And then they all died’ just to be sure that he didn’t miss anyone out.

Now the wheel turns and we come back to George R. R. Martin. Until I started watching ‘Game of Thrones’ I’d never heard of him. Yes, that’s tantamount to blasphemy (but I haven’t heard of a lot of authors). And I didn’t realise that what I was watching was actually a huge book series. What I was seeing influenced my writing hugely though.

It was counter to everything I’d seen or read before: the good guy, the just guy, the person of virtue would be struck down, while the scum and vermin continued to squirm their way to the top. It was just like real life! And it was compelling.

Bad things happen to good people (it would seem more often than bad things happening to bad people), and people die. Unexpectedly. Plans are thwarted by action and inaction, plots and stabbed and back stabbed with alarming regularity. There were no main characters. These were lives. Lives that were being lived out, right there in front of me (and now in the books which I’m currently reading).

That was what I wanted to put in my writing. I wanted my characters to be alive. But to be alive they also had to be shadowed by the spectre of death. And that IS a problem for me. Those characters that you like, that get killed? I like them too. I’m writing them and we’re having a good time and then I get to the point where someone has to die. It’s at that point that the character in question looks down and realises they’re wearing the red Starfleet uniform from the original Star Trek series…… and they know.

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That Moment When….

That moment when…. you discover that the title you’ve taken ages to decide on is already in use.  You get the idea for a story, mould it in your mind, plot out the structure, then a title.  It needs a title, even if it’s just a working title.  A flash of inspiration, maybe a path along a number of different title avenues and then you have it: The Title.

Yes!  You start using it.  It sounds good, it flows, it describes your story, it’s already in use.  Wait!  What?  It’s a sad fact that nothing is original now, only the approach to it, and as time goes on the order of words will soon run out.

I’ve just discovered that the series title (rather than the story title) of my next work is already in use.  I can honestly say that I’ve never heard of the series, or games that the title is in use with, and I did wrack my brain when coming up with it.  My next book was titled ‘Dead Reign: Lament for the Living’.  ‘Dead Reign’ being the series title, ‘Lament for the Living’ the first book.  I had ‘Lament for the Living’ first (actually, the working title was ‘Sackcloth Versus the Undead’) and then went in search of the series title.

Zombie film titles are very familiar to me, and I know quite a lot of book titles too (despite not reading most of them) and so I was thinking of something that was different to them.  I wanted to avoid the use of Zombie, or Z, or ‘of the’ in there, so I got to thinking about what the story was about.  Set about three years after the zombie apocalypse when zombies rule the earth.  Rule. Rulers. Kings. Queens.  What do they do?  Reign.  They’re dead.  Dead Reign!  YES!  I’d done it.  Never heard of it, and it’s fairly cool.

Now today I idly Googled ‘Dead Reign’ which is something that I’d never done before as I was so convinced that it was mine, all mine.  And there it was: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Reign Dead Reign by Palladium Books, but not a book, an RPG.  But not any RPG, a zombie survival RPG add-on for something called Rifter.

I considered my options at this point.  The story is still in development and the last thing I want is to release it and then have copyright or trade mark issues rearing their ugly heads should it do well.  So there really is no option, I’m going to have to drop the ‘Dead Reign’ suffix.  Now for another round of series title brain storming combined with a more judicious use of google.

Interestingly, ‘The Deluge of Elias’ was going to be called ‘Deluge’, or ‘The Deluge’ until I searched those titles on Amazon and so decided to base the title on the name of the main character.  Meanwhile, ‘Hannibal House’ was so called because of the association with a strong, single-minded leader and it’s only one letter away from ‘cannibal’ (although there are no cannibals in the story, that was part of my naming convention).  After I wrote it I discovered a building in London that I’d seen many times while living there is also called Hannibal House.

Oh well.

Available now:

The Deluge of Elias by David NicolLong after a cataclysm that destroyed humanity had been forgotten, the descendants of the original survivors live in a protected Dome governed by a set of rules known as ‘The Orders’.

The rigid enforcement of The Orders now threatens the people they were designed to protect. Elias has a solution, except it puts him on a course of action that is at odds with the rules that he has been charged to rigorously uphold. On top of every thing else, the solution came to him in the form of a dream; in a time and place where no one dreams.

Can he save the last vestiges of humanity, or even himself?

The Deluge of Elias from Amazon US

The Deluge of Elias from Amazon UK

Hannibal House by David Nicol‘Sometimes you don’t choose the house, the house chooses you’.

The supernatural story of a house that attracts lost souls. Set in South West Wales, Hannibal House tells the story of Troy who leaves Seattle in search of his roots.

Unsure of what he’s really looking for, Troy comes across Hannibal House. Immediately infatuated with the building he sets out to possess it, or is the house aiming to possess him…

 

Hannibal House from Amazon US

Hannibal House from Amazon UK

Catch me on twitter: @davidxnicol
Check me out on Amazon: David Nicol Author Page
See what I’m up to on GoodReads.com: David Nicol on GoodReads

Sneaky Peeky

I’m in the processing of writing a full length book. It’s set three years after what can only be described as a zombie apocalypse. Although there are zombies in it, I wouldn’t classify it as the typical zombie story. It’s more about the societies that continue, and get destroyed. The people who live, and die. And how people develop.

Here is the opening scene:

The early evening light pierced through the pine forest. As the dark shadows edged away from the sun on the thick carpet of pine needles two sets of feet made their way through the half-light. One set, oblivious; the other, fixated. One pair of feet wearing tired and muddy shoes, the other wrapped in sack cloth. The shoes clumsy and slow, the sack clad feet swift and sure. At one time the shoes had obviously been expensive; the type worn by a banker, accountant or other office dwelling professional. The feet wrapped in sack cloth would, in the past, have indicated desperation; someone with no alternative way of protecting their feet from the elements. Today, the sack cloth was worn for another reason: stealth.

Shoes stumbled over the uneven ground, splashing in staggered steps through shallow puddles of rain water and rotting pine needles. He stopped, as if unsure which way to go. Sacks continued silently through the carpet of bracken and mud, halting when she saw that Shoes had stopped. Crouching down she pulled her hood back, her raven hair shorn on one side almost to the scalp so it wouldn’t impede her sight or the drawing of her bow. Shoes remained oblivious to her presence. She removed the bow from her back, its lightweight composite recurve design betraying its previous life as the choice of champions; a Rolls Royce in the world of target archery now pressed in to service against a different kind of target. Sacks narrowed her hazel eyes, gauging the distance to Shoes, looking for signs of any breeze that could affect her shot. She nocked an arrow. The carbon fibre shaft slid back noiselessly as Sacks drew the bow, taking aim at Shoes. The distance was about twenty metres, half the effective range of the bow, a straightforward shot. Sacks slowed her breathing, eyes concentrating on the distance from the end of the arrow to Shoes. She made minute adjustments as she finely tuned her aim. Centre mass? Vital organs, heart and lungs: a nice large target, but not good enough this time. The neck and spinal column? A good kill zone, but too tricky under these conditions. The head? Perfect.

Sacks breathed in, drawing back the bowstring to full extension. Finessed the aim and let the arrow fly. She felt the bowstring brush the short hair at the side of her head, the sensation sent a shiver of excitement down her spine. In the Before Times, before the outbreak, before life had changed, Sacks had never shot an arrow. Never killed anything. She had enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle in a comfortable suburban home, eating pre-packed foods that were as far removed from the animals from which they originated as you could get. Spending her time watching inane television shows that concentrated on the shallow existence of celebrities. Whenever the Before Times crossed Sacks’s mind it was like watching a film of someone else. That person was gone. She watched the arrow arc through the air, flashing as it crossed shafts of sunlight that broke through the gloom of the forest. The arrow hit its mark a little high and to the left of where Sacks was aiming, there must have been a breeze after all, but the outcome was not affected. The arrow smashed through the back of Shoes’s skull, destroying what was left of the brain with a mixture of steel tipped arrow and shards of cranium. The arrow partially exited below the right supraorbital foramen, the eyeball already partially decayed, popped from the socket like a horror mask. What remained of the life of Shoes was extinguished before his body splashed down on to the muddy ground. The noise of Shoes hitting the ground was louder than Sacks expected. She frantically looked around her to check that nothing else was coming to investigate the sound.

When all was clear Sacks retrieved the arrow before searching Shoes’s pockets. Before she reached his body the familiar odour of the infection almost overwhelmed her sense of smell, it was something she knew she would never get used to. His suit had been ‘off-the-peg’, he had probably been some sort of middle manager. There was an open packet of chewing gum, a wallet, a mobile phone with a broken screen, and a set of house keys. Sacks looked through the wallet, discarding the money and the credit cards. There was a photo folded in half. Sacks unfolded it carefully and looked at the family smiling back at her. A man who was probably Shoes at one time, a woman and a child. They stood smiling in the sun, the background showing some tourist destination near a beach. The woman smiling down at what must have been their daughter as Shoes grinned towards the camera. A happy family. In a side pocket was a driving license. The driving license named Shoes as “Anthony Redfern”. Sacks looked at both the family photo and the drivers licence for a while before pocketing them. “Sorry Tony” Sacks said quietly. As she got up she pulled the hood back over her head before moving off silently.

Catch me on twitter: @davidxnicol
Check me out on Amazon: David Nicol Author Page
See what I’m up to on GoodReads.com: David Nicol on GoodReads

Sci-Fi short story ‘The Deluge of Elias’ is available now on Kindle:

Available from Amazon.com
Available from Amazon.co.uk