Best wishes for Christmas

I want to wish you all a happy holiday and Merry Christmas! Whatever you do, I hope you get to spend the festive period surrounded by the people you love and love you, doing all the things that give meaning to your lives!!

And myself?

I’ll be spending it with my family, trying hard to relax and stressing as little as possible with work related things.

I have noticed a serious decline in my productivity the past few months, which I believe is a direct result of me working non-stop for the past 3-4 years (including summers). My prediction for 2019 is that it will be a difficult and stressful year for me, so I have decided to take some much needed vacation. The plan is to abstain from all writing activities from Christmas day (which is also my nameday, so if you remember to wish me Happy Nameday, I will respond with a thank you message) until January 2, or January 6 (depending on how fast my internal batteries will recharge).

Whatever you do, however you do it, have fun and enjoy yourselves!

10 things you’ll need to survive the apocalypse

It’s been a month since my debut post-apocalyptic horror novel, The Darkening, hit the electronic and physical shelves (you can check it out here and here), and I’ve been looking into things that one should do to survive an apocalyptic event. Now, a few months back, I wrote a list with the 10 post apocalyptic scenarios most possible to happen. Inspired from these, I thought I should come up with a list of things one should do to be prepared for such an event.

Please note, though I have written a post apocalyptic novel, that does not mean I am a prepper, or that I have done or tried any of the following things. So don’t take my word for any of these. You see, I’m more like this:

Keep in mind that everything depends on the type of the apocalypse you’ll be dealing with, however, there are a few things that will prove helpful no matter what the scenario is. With the following list, I tried to take into account as many different scenarios as possible.

1. A satchel or backpack

Imagine this: something catastrophic happened a couple of days ago on the other side of the planet. The effects spread rapidly and are not too far away from where you live. Others have seen it too and are acting accordingly.

The local infrastructure is already ruined because… panic, and from whatever the effects of the apocalypse may be. You’re going to have to leave, but you should take some items with you. No, grocery store bags are not ideal for something like this. You need something to carry your gear, and it had better be something that will last you a long time. Bug out bags, as they’re often called, are lightweight and can carry provisions and items that you will need for the first couple of days. Some of them come pre-stocked with items like water purification tablets and other useful items. Make sure you keep it somewhere handy, and that its provisions have not expired.

2. Knife

This one should be pretty self-explanatory. Skin your food, hunt, or defend yourself out there. In an apocalyptic scenario, you’re not going to be the only survivor (hopefully). However, usually, when things get really ugly and resources necessary for survival become too scarce, people tend to look after themselves. Survival instincts and desperation kicks in. What you have and I don’t, I can try taking it from you. So make sure you keep your knife sharp.

3. Stormproof matches

I don’t know about you, but I suck at lighting fires. And I don’t mean trying to light a fire out there in the wilderness (Chris and the wild don’t mix together, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post). I’m talking about trying to get a fire going in a fireplace. If you’re like me, and for some reason you have yet to master evolutionary basics, like getting a fire going in a warm, summer day for a barbecue, imagine how much harder it will be to light a fire when it’s raining outside your shelter, you’re miserable, cold, and drenched to the bone from hunting the foul beast of Caerbannog in the rain.

Your hands are shaking. You strike the match, and just as it lights up, a gust of wind puts it out. Meanwhile, you’re still freezing, and you’re also one match shorter than before. Still no fire. Bet now you wish you had bought stormproof matches, huh?

4. Flint and steel

Eventually your stormproof matches will run out. Then what? Well, time to go old school. Flint and steel. I’ll leave the pros do the talking for this one, so watch the videos and mimic them.

If you want to know more about how to start a fire, you can check this site out. Please don’t do it in the middle of forests or in your homes, m’kay? This knowledge should only be used in case of emergency.

5. Flashlight

We take electricity for granted nowadays. Just over a century and a half ago, in some places, the streets at night were dark, and unless the sky was clear and the moon big enough to shine, you couldn’t see where you were going. Modern power grid requires constant monitoring and maintenance, so if an apocalyptic situation occurs and civilisation collapses around you, the power will be one of the first things to go. And if the scenario forces you to leave the city (assuming you live in one), you’re going to have to see where you’re going in order to avoid falling and breaking a bone. Make sure you have plenty of batteries with you, but bear in mind that they won’t last you forever. For that you may want to consider a solar-powered flashlight.

6. A compass

– Does it need batteries?
– No.
– Good. Will it save my life?
– Yes.
– Approved!

Seriously, if you have to travel and you’re miles away from any roads, or even if you find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere, a compass will save your life, provided you know the relative location of wherever it is you wish to go to with respect to your current general location (in other words, “I’m in Pennsylvania and I want to go to Florida. Florida is south of where I am now”). The only chance a compass will fail you, is if you fail yourself and mistake north for south, or if something happens to the Earth’s magnetic poles. Of course in the case of the Earth’s magnetic poles disappearing, going in the wrong direction would be the least of your worries…

7. First aid kit

Regardless of the apocalyptic scenario, if you’re one of the survivors, your primary objective is to keep yourself safe. Yes, our bodies can cope with a lot of things, but would you be willing to test your limits during an apocalypse? Potentially, even a scrape from a rusty piece of metal can be fatal, so do make sure you have a handy first aid kit with you. And keep it safe. Even if you’re Superman in disguise and viruses and diseases run away from you in terror, you can always use it to barter for something you don’t have. Not that I advise you to trade away your medical supplies.

8. Hard Currency

Speaking of bartering, remember the time when banks and politicians created money out of nothing and gave us all thin plastic cards that supposedly represented equal value to hard currency, like gold? Now let’s imagine a situation where the world’s banking system has collapsed. Power and telecommunications are also no more, so no internet or electricity. And you need food and water. Lucky you, there’s a store across the street with a couple of walking mountains-for-guards keeping an eye on things, that still has some food. Of course prices will be inflated, but who cares? You have your mighty plastic card! Gold or platinum coloured!

When was the last time you tried trading plastic strips (with fancy colours) for food or water or anything valuable? Mine was in kindergarten or maybe early elementary years. So, do consider grabbing and holding onto some hard currency. Gold, silver, jewels. Things you can actually barter with. Depending on the crisis at hand, food, water, or antibiotics may be even more precious than gold and silver. While we’re looking at alternative forms of currency, and if the apocalypse allows it, consider seeds from plants that bear fruits. Preferably not from genetically modified plants, since seeds from most of these cannot grow after a couple of harvests.

9. Warm and sturdy clothes

Imagine surviving whatever apocalypse befell the world, only to succumb to a cold or hypothermia. That would really suck. So, the next time you go to a shopping spree to buy the latest awesome and fashionable clothes, you may want to consider adding something less fashionable but more durable and warm.

 

Honourable mention

10. Guns

Yeah, that also goes without saying, however, how long will it be practical for? Assuming the apocalypse at hand is here to stay for the foreseeable future, how many bullets will you be able to carry around? And how much weight will that add to your backpack? What will you do with the gun once you have no more bullets? Throw it at the enemy? Maybe, if it’s heavy and reliable.

And there you have it, folks. Now, I tried my best to take something grim that potentially could scare a lot of people, and turn it into an enjoyable read. A lot of people take the end of the world seriously. Even if the end never comes during our lifetime, it’s always best to be prepared, right?

ARC readers needed

For a little over a month now, I’ve been trying to build an ARC team for my debut novel, The Darkening. If you’re unfamiliar with the term ARC, it’s an acronym that stands for Advanced Review/Reader Copy. What this means is that an interested party receives a copy of the book (in this case, a digital copy) in the hopes that he/she will be willing to review the book when it launches, regardless of the review being positive or negative.

It’s not easy. I’m going about it the hard way. That is, I scour the internet for book bloggers and reviewers, looking for those who would be willing to consider my book for a review. For those who enjoy reading horror and post apocalypse. When done like this, it’s incredibly time consuming. But when someone starts out and doesn’t have a strong fan base, I think it’s unavoidable.

In order for a book and its author to compete with the big names of traditional and self publishing, authors with thousands of fans who hit the bestseller lists almost on day one, it’s crucial for the book to come out with as many reviews as possible on release day.

Though I haven’t checked my browser’s history, I know that each day since I started building the ARC team, I visit more than a hundred book bloggers’ sites. There were a few days where I found a list of two hundred of them, and I went through it in one day.

Cartoon of man with messy hair, bags below bloodshot eyes, and stubble on face and chin

Yeah, that’s me after all the searching is done, minus the hair, plus the exhaustion from the heat (go away summer, I’ve had enough of you).

So this post is a call for ARC readers. Does any of you enjoy reading post apocalypse and horror? Here are the book’s details.

 

Title: The Darkening (standalone book)
Genre: Post-apocalyptic horror
Available format: epub, mobi (pdf upon request)
Release date: Sunday, 28 October 2018
Trigger Warning: mention of dead animals and humans. Moderate violence.
Audience: Adult
Similar books (in terms of mood): The Road (Cormac McCarthy), Children Of Men (P. D. James).
Excerpt: Available upon request.

Description: Don’t fear the dark. Fear the light.

The end came when light changed. It decimated humanity, leaving scattered bands of survivors stumbling in the dark.

Faced with saving himself or his family during the apocalypse, John Piscus made the wrong choice, and has been living with the guilt ever since.

When a glowing girl shows up at John’s shelter begging for help, his instincts tell him to kill her. After all, light kills.

But when masked troopers tasked with capturing survivors come after them, it’s up to John to protect himself and the girl. Not only may she hold the key to reversing the lethal effects of light, she could also be the one who can save his soul.

———————

The book’s launch is scheduled for the 28th of October. I can only hope that, should you decide to join my ARC team, there will be enough time for you to read it before that date. When I started building the team, I thought it would take me a month, perhaps a little more than that, to assemble a group of about fifty (brave) readers. Alas, this newbie was wrong.

If any of you wants to receive an ARC, please use the site’s contact form, or post a reply here with your email, or tweet me (@c_sarantopoulos), or message me on Facebook. I welcome all reviews, both positive and negative.

Thank you!

Book Tag

I got the idea for this Book Tag from Kevin Hurtak’s blog and thought it might be interesting to get to know me a little better. Also it seemed like fun, so here goes.

 

E-Book or Physical Book?

Definitely physical. HOWEVER, since I have no space to put my books (those currently owned as well as those I hope to own), I have to concede and tolerate using ebooks. I’m not happy about it though.

 

Paperback or Hardback?

I have a few hardbacks, but I really like paperbacks. Especially the ones that are no bigger than 4×7 inches. Pocket-sized books. You can take them with you wherever you like.

 

Online or In-Store Book Shopping?

Online to be honest. I have a really hard time trying to read the spines from books. Also, since I’m a short guy, craning my neck back to get a vague glimpse of books packed tightly in shelves that are 6 and 7 feet high gives me a headache. Not to mention they are always so tightly packed (crammed, to be more precise) that is impossible to take them out and flip through them. I’m not even going into how hard it is to put them back. On the other hand, you can’t meet and chat to people in an online store.

 

Trilogies or Series?

A few years back, I would have said series. Now it’s more standalones. Don’t get me wrong, I recently finished reading a scifi series (finished, because the next book comes out in 2019, I think, so bummer). It’s hard for me to take the leap of faith any more. I blame writing for this. It has ruined reading for me in so many ways. I can’t read a book without trying to edit it. It sucks! So for the most part the order is standalones, trilogies, and at the very end, series. But the distance between standalones and trilogies is vast.

 

Heroes or Villains?

I don’t care really. I do enjoy reading the occasional villain who actually wins, but it all comes down to whether or not the character is well developed. By well developed, I mean realistic. That’s why I have loved reading A Song Of Ice And Fire (Game of Thrones); the characters behave in a realistic way. And because Martin realises there are more bad things happening in life than good. Thus, his characters end up missing their heads. But no preference whatsoever.

 

A book you want everyone to read?

Disclaimer: shameless plug follows *clears throat* MINE, MINE, MINE, MINE…
Seriously, though, for writers, I think Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is a book everyone should read. As for readers, this question is impossible to answer. One person likes one genre, the other likes a different. Scifi lovers, read Altered Carbon (the whole trilogy – each book is pretty much stand-alone). And my book. Horror fans, read It. And my book and my short stories.

 

Recommend an underrated book?

Before I started writing, I was introduced to R. Scott Bakker’s fantasy work. If you like dark fantasy, settings and scenarios that are based on real history, and you like or don’t mind reading philosophy, I suggest you read The Second Apocalypse series (yeah, I know I said I don’t read series, but that was before I started writing. Back then I devoured them).

 

The last book you bought?

The one I’m currently reading, Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

 

Weirdest thing you’ve used as a bookmark?

Cable. Really thin one. No, you may not ask for more details on that.

Used Books: Yes or No?

No. I like the book I’m holding to be in pristine condition. Mintier than mint. My heart sinks a little when I get a paperback that has even the slightest (I mean negligible) sign of frayed corners. Of course that doesn’t mean that the book stays as pristine once in my possession. I’m a bit weird in this: I can’t stand having a book with bent or frayed corners (I protect my books like treasure), but I also can’t stand reading a book where the spine hasn’t been popped wide open. I know it’s weird. When I open the book and place it on a table I want to see the pages stay flat. I can’t stand having pages rising. It literally drives me nuts. So I make sure I open the spine as wide as it takes, without destroying it. I told you I’m weird.

Top three favourite genres?

Cyberpunk, Horror, Fantasy.

 

Borrow or Buy?

Buy. Look at my answers for Used Books: Yes or No for a more detailed explanation. I want to have a mint-condition book in my hands. Not to mention that it helps the writer 😉

 

Characters or Plot?

Characters interesting enough to drive the plot forward through their actions. If that’s not possible because the genre tropes don’t allow that, then plot. The key element for me is plot.

Long or Short Books?

I’ve read books that were over 1000 pages long and I’ve read books that barely reached 150. I have liked and hated books on both ends of the length spectrum. What I don’t like are books that end up showing me things and events that are completely unrelated to the main plot, or are not interesting enough to make up for the lack of relation to the plot. A very well-known fantasy writer comes to mind with his highly acclaimed fantasy trilogy that so far features only two books (hint: I’ll probably be eighty by the time he releases book 3), but I will not name him. The prose in book 1 was perfect. I mean, exquisite prose. BUT, the stuff that happened from a few chapters before the middle all the way to a couple of chapters before the end were a waste of paper. They were completely unrelated to the plot, in my humble opinion they didn’t develop the character at all, and as such they should have been deleted.

 

Long or Short Chapters?

I don’t mind. Whatever works for the story and pacing.

 

Name the first three books you can think of

Bag of Bones (Stephen King), Game of Thrones (G. R. R. Martin), Altered Carbon (Richard K. Morgan).

 

Books that make you laugh or cry?

I don’t like reading comedy, and I also don’t like crying. So I’ll just say the same old thing: as long as it creates the necessary emotional connection, it’s fine.

Our World or Fictional Worlds?

As a tourist, a visitor of sorts, I wouldn’t mind fictional worlds.

Audio books: Yes or No?

I’ve only listened to one and I can safely say they’re not for me. I like taking notes on things that interest me during my read, so audio books are not ideal for me.

Do you ever judge a book by its cover?

Of course! Who doesn’t? That’s why we have sayings like, don’t judge a book by its cover. It’s because people do it, and it’s perfectly all right to do it. Why should I be an exception to that? I said I’m weird, but not that weird.

A Movie or TV-Show You Preferred to its Book?

I quite enjoyed watching The Children of Men rather than reading it. Still, the book was good, but I think the movie was better. Much bleaker, which is what you want and expect in an apocalyptic book.

How about you? How would you answer these questions? Feel free to tell me in the comments or consider yourself tagged and do your own version of the post.

10 post-apocalyptic scenarios most likely to happen

Since my upcoming début novel release (a post-apocalyptic horror story, The Darkening, if you’re new here – welcome aboard, by the way) is only a few months away, I figured I might give you my personal and small list of possible doomsday scenarios. These include both civilisation collapse scenarios as well as end-of-human-species scenarios. The order is arbitrary. I don’t think anyone can argue that scenario 7 is much better and preferable than scenario 2. I’m not saying you couldn’t, just that you’d get some raised eyebrows, and you’d probably notice people getting away from you (hint: they’d be avoiding you).

Just so we’re clear, the following express personal views, peppered with a tiny touch of humour (to lighten the doomsday mood a little). Most of it, if not all, is speculation, and in some cases, fiction.

10. Man-made virus going wild

A lot has been said about research labs creating (others would use the word toying) new virus strands. Even though all of these labs have strict rules for the pathogens they handle, one can only argue that their safety measures are as strong and sound as the minds who one day said, “hey, I’m curious! Let’s create a new virus the world has never seen before and has no defence against.”

And since in order to create a vaccine one first needs to use inactive or attenuated (weakened) viruses, it pretty much implies (for the uneducated in biology, like me) that you first create the killer virus, then you get the treatment. Am I right to assume that? Probably. So what if something happens between the two steps? Bioterrorism? Accident? All of these can happen. Now, considering how easy it is for people to travel around the world these days, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if this thing spreads. Take into account that a great deal of the world’s population lives in cities, which means a large portion of human population is packed into a very small space and you have a potential recipe for bad news. And don’t get me started on the possibility of a virus mutating into something new.

9. Vaccine to man-made virus

Let’s assume the previous scenario. A man-made virus goes free. People die. Perhaps the virus mutates, and livestock dies too, threatening food supplies. Riots begin. Scientists hurry to make a vaccine. No time to run all the necessary tests to humans to ensure the vaccine’s safe. After all, it takes years of testing before a drug gets approval for humans. I’m not a biologist/biochemist, but I imagine vaccines follow the same procedure before they become available to the public. In this scenario, however, the vaccine has to circulate to the public immediately or there won’t be any public left. So people get vaccinated. The vaccine works… sort of. There are side effects. Lethal kind. Oops.

8. Dormant virus/bacteria in ice caps

Okay, all the above may happen because of a man-made virus (or vaccine that could act as a virus – scary!). But naturally occurring viruses and bacteria have been around far longer than humans have, they have been thriving all over us, and they don’t need our help to be lethal. Also, it’s possible that we haven’t discovered all of them. In fact, it’s possible that there may be virus strands or bacteria out there that are dormant, possibly lying in the polar ice caps. Perhaps our immune system is not able to deal with all of them. And since we’re still coming out of the last Ice Age (if I remember well from my Geology studies, it ended around 12,000 years ago, but the planet is still experiencing lower-than-normal temperatures) it’s only normal to see rises in global temperature. That’s what the planet wants after all. The planet having ice caps has not been as common in the past (geologically speaking) as it is now. In fact, in the last 100 million years Earth has experienced one third of the total amount of ice ages it experienced from its creation up to that point.

It’s all about balancing the system. So, it’s possible that once the ice melts, something nasty and invisible to the naked eye could slip into the food chain and eventually reach us. Or it could affect a species we are depended upon, like wheat or corn or, even worse, bees.

7. Existing virus/bacteria becoming super-resistant

I know people (and I mean people I interact with pretty much on a daily basis) who will gladly take antibiotics the moment they get a sniffle or if they sneeze (don’t do it, kids. That’s bad for you, mkay?). But what that does is strengthening the bacteria we’re trying to kill (no antibiotics for viruses, by the way). Not to mention they weaken our natural defences against them. And since bacteria have been around for almost 3.5 billion years, if not more, (cyanobacteria were probably among the first ones to appear, if anyone is wandering – also known as Stromatolites in Geology),

and have survived pretty much everything the universe has thrown at them (extensive basaltic/igneous activity, meteors, ice ages, humans), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that at some point they may have the potential to wipe us out. If not wipe us out, then decimate us. Or another link in the food chain that we depend upon. And since we’re doing everything we can to make them stronger in our attempt to weaken them, there may come a point in time when they will no longer agree with us or our civilisation being here.

6. Extra terrestrial body colliding with Earth (and, yes, possibly carrying a dormant strand of virus or bacteria with them. Why not?)

Poor T-Rex was having one of his best days, warming its skin in the hot and humid climate of the Cretaceous period (way hotter than today, by the way), when a ball of fire crashed somewhere over the horizon. I can almost hear him saying, “Ralph, I had a doozy of day. You won’t believe what I saw. A fireball! It was so small, I could probably hold it in my hands! Yeah, Ralph, of course I could. My arms and hands are bigger than yours, man.”

Events like the meteor that wiped out most lifeforms 65 million years ago don’t happen every day. But they do happen. And not just once. Considering all the debris left behind from the formation of our solar system (Kuiper Belt), the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter (most likely an event that took place long after the formation of our solar system), and all the other bits and pieces floating around us, it’s not a very far fetched probability that one of these will be big enough to cause a similar event. For the record, the next encounter with a big one will be in 2028. Meteorites of much smaller size penetrate the Earth’s upper atmosphere on a daily basis. Remember that meteorite a few years back that burned over Russia?

You don’t have to panic. Like I said, bodies large enough to cause extinction events don’t land too often. Just do what that Russian driver did. Relax and carry on.

5. Nuclear war

This scenario was more prominent back in the 50s and 60s, but that doesn’t mean it will never happen. It’s all about those who control the red buttons, and ultimately how much we respect others near us. For the record, there are about 15,000 warheads out there.

4. Increased volcanic activity

The mechanism for this scenario is active and it’s the thing that keeps the planet alive. This scenario involves super-volcanoes (Yellowstone – USA, Santorini a.k.a. Thera – Greece), mid-oceanic ridges, large igneous provinces etc. Volcanic activity is something that directly affects the climate. The Santorini eruption that wiped out the Minoan civilisation in Crete ejected material more than four times that of the Krakatoan eruption back in 1883, and many researchers believe that its effects were seen all the way to China. I remember watching a documentary once many years ago where geologists claimed that there is evidence of a rock layer in the Eastern United States that may be related to that explosion. That’s half a planet away, folks. Now imagine all of them going boom together.

In the past (about 250 million years ago – end of Permian period) there was extensinve basaltic activity across what is now the northern hemisphere that covered a great deal of the land in basaltic material (like the Siberian traps, for example). This went on for a very long time. And, you guessed it, it’s associated with another massive extinction event, aptly named “The Great Dying.” 96% of all species died due to a chain of events that originated from that particular eruption. Make no mistake folks, volcanoes are the driving force behind Earth’s climate. Particularly, those on mid ocean ridges. If they go super excited, almost everything on Earth will become super extinct.

3. Increased solar activity/super nova/solar storms

Everything in the universe changes and tries to come to a new state of balance. The Sun is the same. From time to time, its activity increases, and we end up having solar storms. The sun ejects part of its corona, which in turn hits the Earth’s magnetosphere. Sometimes, this is a more violent event than usual. Back in 1859, one such explosion fried the telegraph poles. Now imagine either a similar or an even stronger one hitting our network-depended society. “End of the world” doesn’t necessarily mean end of life. Sometimes it means collapse of civilisation.

2. Modern infrastructure shutting down

Since our modern civilisation is depended on networked systems and technology, one or more nasty individuals or groups of people (or even a natural event), could potentially trigger something that would disrupt (meaning destroy) the very technology we so much depend upon. That could send us to the stone age. Keep in mind that we purify our water in our water treatment plants with computerised systems. Electricity is distributed safely thanks to computerised systems. Let’s not forget the banking system. Again, this is a scenario that has more to do with civilisation collapsing than end of all living things or end of the human species.

1. AI (war for resources)

Apparently the new rave is artificial intelligence. When will we build one, a lot of people ask. Why don’t we build one, others say. Some claim that it will help us live a better life. Easy there, chump. Have you considered the possibility that the AI will realise that it needs more energy not only to evolve but to sustain itself and its higher functions than we allow it to have, because we too need energy for our everyday activities? What will happen when it comes down to I need it more than you do? Do you think a sentient existence will simply step aside and let us have all of it? Especially since we have a proven track record of wasting energy? If it reaches the point where the AI considers itself as part of the natural processes taking place (like consuming energy, which is something every living organism does), what’s to stop it from following the simplest pattern exhibited in almost all living things: I’m stronger, you’re not. Especially, if we have allowed it full access to all the things we desperately need to survive. Like clean water.

Honourable mention

Overpopulation + lack of land to cultivate food. I will not go into that. It’s pretty self-explanatory.