It’s amazing what a writer can discover while researching for a book. Writing a post-apocalyptic story for the past few years made me look into the whole survival thing. Now, I’m not much of a survivalist myself. In fact, I’m such a city slicker, that I feel I’m in an alien and hostile environment even if I’m left in a park. You know, one of those big parks, with lots of trees and flying critters buzzing all around me. Chances are, after a couple of minutes there, you’ll probably see me running half crazy, arms flailing, and screaming in utter panic.
True story, by the way, on more than one occasion, but let’s not get into that right now, shall we? Moving on…
Even though I’m not too fond of nature (I think the right word is incompatible), I couldn’t help but timidly start researching things about survival in the wilderness (like a park). After all, you never know when an apocalyptic event will occur with you as one of the survivors. And yes, this includes a zombie apocalypse. You’ll still need to eat during a zombie apocalypse, wouldn’t you?
One of the first things I came across was a video that showed how to create a stove to cook food. Of course, that implies you already know how to capture your food, how to overcome any mental barriers you may have about killing your food (preferably before your food kills you – always a good idea to do things in that order), how to prepare your food for cooking, and other various important things for survival.
Now obviously I haven’t tried this at home, so in the case of an apocalypse, I can’t guarantee it won’t turn the world’s or humanity’s leftovers into cinders,
but it may be something that could help you survive. And yes, why not, have a party with your friends in the middle of a zombie apocalypse (word of advice: your plus one should NOT be muttering “brains” all the time and should NOT be part of the mindless horde. Nobody likes a party pooper). If you do want to try this, be mindful of any harmful and/or toxic substances that may or may not migrate to your food from the makeshift stove. On the other hand, if a zombie apocalypse occurs or fiery mushrooms of doom burn the atmosphere, toxic substances from your makeshift stove may be the least of your worries.
If only John Piscus, the main character in my debut novel, The Darkening, knew this… man, oh man!
Ground Floor, Second Room To The Left is a week old. I was so stressed the past few weeks with this release as well as the production of my debut novel, that I actually didn’t think I would make it in time. But at last, it happened. It’s out!
Those of you following my page on Facebook or are in my newsletter, had already had a chance to read an excerpt of my latest short story. Below you can read the first couple of pages from Ground Floor, Second Room To The Left.
In case you missed it last week, this is the story of Joe and Lucy, a married couple of scavengers, who enter a derelict building to steal copper pipes, only to realise they’re locked in. Things take a turn for the worse because Lucy is claustrophobic and can’t stand the idea of being trapped. But the real problem is the messages that begin to appear on the walls, floor, and ceiling. More importantly, what the messages tell Joe and Lucy they need to do for freedom.
The Second Empire-style house has stood since 1947, but no one has ever lived in it. To the left of the structure stands a pair of dead poplar trees, their branches entwined like Graeco-Roman wrestlers. To the right is a pair of desiccated oaks, also with entangled limbs. The trees dominate the yellow-brown jungle that once was the garden.
An old Ford F-100 pulls over not far from the rickety wooden fence. In it, Joe takes a photo out of his pocket and looks at it. It’s a photo of the house, taken shortly after its construction, but it’s one without the trees. His brow arches up and he lifts the photo next to the house to compare the two. He nods and puts it back in his breast pocket. He then places his hand on Lucy’s knee and gives it an affectionate rub.
Now that the rain has finally stopped, Joe switches the wipers off, allowing Lucy a clear view of the building. As she examines it, a small knot forms at the pit of her gut that chases away the fake excitement she had up to now. Under the racing lead-coloured clouds, the house stands dark, barren, and wind-bitten. Almost on the verge of falling in on itself.
A small bulge on her throat goes down once and rises slowly, but she gives her husband a smile and hopes he doesn’t notice her discomfort. She takes his hand into hers to give it a soft kiss, and rests her head on his shoulder for the last bumpy and mud-filled stretch of road leading to the house.
They park the battered Ford in the overgrown gravel driveway.
“Looks ancient,” Lucy says. “No owners?”
“Nope. Unclaimed property for over three or four decades. Locals said no one has set foot here except one or two demolition crews.”
“Well, it’s still standing,” Lucy says.
Joe smiles. “Yeah. Crews stayed one day, then left and never came back. According to the locals, the place is haunted.”
She arches a brow. “Haunted?”
Joe waves a hand as if shooing a fly. “Rumours. Old people’s tales. I mean, really old, with more snow on their pates than teeth in their mouths and brains in their heads. They said the architect and his assistant vanished, like some of those who came to tear it down.” He opens the driver’s door and places one foot out. “You ask me, I say they all ran out of money, packed up, and left.” He gives her a toothy grin and steps outside.
Lucy takes a two-piece folding mirror out of her pocket and stares back at her curved nose, her complexion with as many imperfections as there are exes in her past. Ex-hairdresser, ex-phone saleswoman, ex-wife to an online scammer she married after a wild weekend in Vegas with a ton of booze and several snorts of the good white stuff. His treat.
Her gaze drifts back to the way they came, to the barely visible tree line that defines the main road. Then she eyes the dilapidated structure before her, and a weight settles on her chest.
If that enticed you enough to want to buy the story, you can do so from Amazon or if they’re not your favourite place to buy ebooks, try any of these retailers instead.
And if you do honour me with your purchase, why not share your thoughts about the story with other readers out there? You can do it by leaving a brief and honest review of what you read. Not only will it help me, but it will help others to find a story they might like (or stay away from, if you think it was bad).
On a side note, I have made some changes to my mailing list. Now, anyone who signs up for my monthly newsletters will receive a free short story! So, sign up here or try the link to the right (near the top of the page, under the search bar), and download your copy. Naturally, I won’t hold it against you if you choose to spread the news far and wide about the free story so others will know… 😉
My fourth short story, Ground Floor, Second Room To The Left, is now available worldwide. This is a horror short piece that tells the story of Joe and Lucy, a married couple of scavengers, who enter a derelict building to steal copper pipes, only to realise they’re locked in. Things are getting heated up because Lucy is claustrophobic and can’t stand the idea of being trapped. But the real problem is the messages that begin to appear on the walls, floor, and ceiling. More importantly, what the messages tell Joe and Lucy they need to do to get out.
Here’s the blurb.
Be careful where you venture.
When Joe and Lucy, lovingly married, enter a derelict house to scavenge, the door locks behind them, trapping the couple in a half destroyed room. Lucy is claustrophobic and needs to get out. When Joe tries to break the lock, unnerving messages written in blood appear on the walls, asking the same thing from both. The price for freedom in steep, and unless they act fast, they will die trapped.
Yep, you guessed it right: it’s a haunted house horror story and it already got a five-star review.
You can also read the review on Wickedjr89’s book blog here and Inkandblotting’s review here. Featured there, you will also find a review of my previous short story, Wisps of Memory.
And as a personal request, if you do read it, please consider taking five minutes of your time to review it. It will not only validate my efforts and my work (regardless of whether you like the story or not), but it will also add to the necessary attention my work needs. Your reviews matter, because they are the most important way a writer (and that’s true for indies even more) can build and strengthen his/her career.
Quick reminder that the giveaway, Bad People With Guns, will end on September 5, so if you intended to read one of the available books but haven’t obtained one yet, you should hurry, especially if you’re a fan of thrillers, suspense, mystery, or crime fiction in general. Go here and download stories from Anna Willet, J. L. Stowers, Sara Cobb, and Simon Royle.
In other news, I’m happy to announce that the last of my betas got back to me. Unfortunately, they didn’t manage to finish Through Stranger Eyes. In their words, “I haven’t had the chance to start it yet. Sorry, but I can’t do it.”
It happens. Life always gets in the way of things and sends our best intentions down the drain. That’s why it’s important to reach out to more than one beta reader, and to have a decent personal relationship with them, so that they don’t feel that they’ve put themselves in an uncomfortable or awkward position when they have to tell you, “sorry, I don’t think I can make it.” Remember, betas are hard to find, they want to help, and perform an important task for us writers for free. Cherish them and understand that they too lead demanding lives.
So, what this means is that as soon as I get back to my computer (still waiting for you, summer, to bugger off and let me enjoy some cool days), I’ll go over the notes the rest of the beta team returned (I was lucky enough to get (feedback from four people!). I expect to have a hard time going over one beta’s notes in particular, since they gave them back handwritten, which means I will have to transfer them into my digital copy. And I have their thoughts recorded on a couple of audio files, so I’ll have to transcribe them too. Which is good, ’cause I can’t make out most of their handwriting. Oh well.
This is one of those moments where I sympathise with all editors out there.
However, here’s the thing: the first thing I noticed, from almost all the betas who gave me feedback, was that they enjoyed one of my secondary characters more than the protagonist. In fact, they liked that character TOO much. I’m not sure if there’s an underlying problem with this. What I mean is, I’m not sure if my main character is badly written or if that secondary character is so dominant that overshadows everyone else in the story. If the latter is the case, I’d have to figure out a way to trim her dominance a bit, which I’d rather not do (the truth is, I too enjoyed writing her scenes). If the problem lies with my main character and he is badly written, then I have the feeling I’ll need to rewrite A LOT of my story in the next months.
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever read a book that, to you, one of the secondary characters stood out far more than the protagonist? Did this bother you at all? I’ve made a poll for your convenience. I would appreciate it if you could share this with your friends, as this will save me not only time, but part of my sanity.
Who are you? What are you doing here? Wait, wait, don’t kill me! I just want some food, that’s all. Stay back, don’t come closer. I’ll… I’ll… I’ll stab you, I swear it. The glass will cut you in no time, you hear? Stay back. That’s better. I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if I have to. All I want is some food. Do you have any? Look, I’m not going to hurt you, unless you attack me, okay? What’s that? What’s that in your hand? Is it… is it food? Just that? Half a raw rat? Okay. I’m so hungry. Feels like I haven’t eaten in days.
Why are you looking at me like that? No, I don’t know why I am like that. I just am. Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you. You’re the first person I’ve seen in days. Everything is empty. Not a single soul for miles. What’s going on? I saw houses and farms on my way here, but there was no one living there. It’s as if everyone vanished. I thought this place was empty, was looking for something to eat and a place to sleep. I didn’t mean to scare you.
I came by a house on my way here. It was a big white house, with two rows of windows, all of them smashed though, and the place looked like it was about to fall apart. I went inside, called for help. I was hungry. They had a pen but there were no animals. Some chickens ran around free, but I couldn’t catch any of them. Fast birds. I saw… I saw remains, bones and… and… What happened? On my way here, I saw a wide road, full of rusted cars and everyone in them…
There are big structures to the east, I saw them on my way here. Maybe we could go there and look for food or other surv –
What’s your name? I… I don’t know my name. I can’t remember anything, except the last couple of days. I woke up in the middle of nowhere, and I’ve been walking since then, but nothing before that. As if I didn’t exist. Don’t go! Please, don’t go. Are you the only one left? Why are you afraid of me? What is wrong with me? Are we going to die too? Am I going to die? Are we the last ones? Help me, please!