Yesterday, I shared my first experience at a book signing. I actually just wanted to share the fact that, even though my sales have done well enough that I am able to claim "being a writer" as my source of employment, I still have a lot of room to grow. Not only did I receive several comments here at the blog, but I also was hit with a few emails sharing similar experiences and words of encouragement. To each and every one of you, thanks so much. My intention was not to seek pity. I really did just want to share the experience and be truthful. I could have said "a hundred people or so came to the store." Which would be true, just not all of them there for me. It was a learning experience and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
So, for those of you waiting...the forecast for tomorrow is Snoe. Dress accordingly. And now...a little taste to whet your appetite.
It has been a crazy road when I look over my shoulder at the Zomblog series. Considering that the very first book was never intended to be published, I would have to say that I have very little to complain about. For those who didn’t know, I actually began work on Zomblog as a daily writing exercise that was supposed to get me warmed up for writing my first real zombie novel—Dead: The Ugly Beginning. When a small publisher found it (as an actual blog), I was asked if I had considered publication. Long story short, a last minute email with a “deal change” that meant less money for me and more for the publisher brought the whole thing to a screeching halt. That year, my wife Denise presented me with the physical copy of Zomblog.
As time went on, due to the ledge that I left readers on with Zomblog, I wrote a second book, creatively titled Zomblog II. Since trilogies are fairly common, I eventually penned Zomblog: The Final Entry. In my heart and head, I was satisfied with the series and prepared to put it to rest. Some of my readers were not exactly happy with that decision. I’ve always claimed that I am in this for the readers and see them almost as my boss. After a few very adamant “requests” from some very dedicated readers, I agreed to return to the Zomblog universe. The question I had for myself was this: What the heck are you going to do now?
Fans of the series know (and many asked) about Sam and Meredith’s daughter. So it seemed logical that Snoe be the central figure for the new book. To that end, I had to put the world on fast forward and then introduce the readers to a world almost twenty years after the first zombie got up and took a bite out of some poor unfortunate individual. Snoe grew up in a world where zombies are a way of life.
The biggest challenge was getting inside the mind of an eighteen-year-old girl; being a forty-seven-year-old man…that was quite a task. I had to go back to all of those excellent History Channel shows, Life After People, to get my brain around how the landscape would be changed. Also, I wanted this to be something different. I did not want it to be “just another zombie story.” Also, I had to take into account that some folks may pick this book up without having read any of the others in the series. I had to balance giving new readers a good story with rewarding the fans of Zomblog. One thing I have learned when it comes to a world that you create…your readers know it far better than you ever will.
I guess if you take anything away from this before you set off on your little adventure with Snoe, it is that this is NOT a “zombie” book. Yes, there are a few zombie appearances, but after twenty years, they really have been managed as far as being a threat. I don’t delve into biology, so just assume that whatever freakish event (like those giant rat-type animals discovered in Indonesia back when I wrote the original Zomblog) that has turned people to zombies is also keeping them from all turning into decomposed piles of goo. What I want to do over this three book story arc (and them I am OFFICIALLY done with Zomblog) is delve into the people. What makes us tick?
I’m no shrink, but I have studied people. I catch some flack about how negative I can sometimes portray humanity. The thing is, if something like this were to happen, it would devastate our infrastructure. First responders would be decimated and hospitals would be a nightmare. Those who are always the first to offer help would also be the first to fall. What would that leave? Cowards? Those people who tend to look the other way? The bad guys? Would some decent folks survive? Sure…but just pick up your paper or watch the evening news if you don’t think there is some legitimate evil right in your own back yard. People out for themselves would outnumber the rest. And with nobody to enforce the rules…have you ever been in a citywide blackout? How about watching some footage of the Los Angeles riots? How much worse would it get if ALL law and order were wiped out? These are the things I considered when I sat down to write Zomblog: Snoe.
Above anything else, I hope I entertain you. When it all comes down to the bottom line…a story should entertain. If I accomplished that one task, then I have succeeded in my ultimate goal. I don’t have any lofty ideals that I am trying to push…I am not into being symbolic or trying to make some grand statement. When I sit down to write, I have one goal: entertain you.
Friday, June 1st
Five years ago, I received my mother’s journal. Now, at age nineteen, I think I have the discipline to begin one myself. Sure, I tried a few times in the past, but it just never took. I would forget, and then, once I remembered, so much time had passed that I would just give up and say why bother.
A few days ago, Mama Lindsay came back from her unit’s escort of the Rose Colony’s president out to the Ten Pacific Nations Confederated tribal lands, something to do with a renewal of a bunch of treaties.
Anyways, she sent a messenger for me to pick her up after her DECON certification. (Everybody who ventures out of the confines of a Safe Zone has to be tested before they are allowed in general population.) It seems she found all my old failed attempts at starting a journal when she was loading out for her trip. She didn’t want to bring it up until she got back just in case we had a blow up over it.
I should probably come clean with the fact that I supposedly have a hot temper. Mama Lindsay says it is proof of genetic influence on personality.
So I guess she decided to wait until she got home to have the big conversation about me keeping a journal. I think she was being a little silly. After all, it was just a little scribbling on paper. We have a rule…no arguing before a patrol. Nobody wants to have their last memories of a loved one be of some fight over something stupid. We started that rule after Mama Janie and her entire farming group were wiped out by a Mega Herd—some reports claim there were over twenty thousand undead that day. I was only five or six at the time, but I think Mama Lindsay and Mama Janie had gotten into it over something like taking out the trash or sorting the compost; basically they had an argument over something mundane. To this day, I’ve never had the heart to ask what exactly they had quarreled over.
Mama Lindsay says the only reason she didn’t kill herself in those rough days that followed was because of me. She said I was her sole reason to live for almost two years after Mama Janie died. A few days later, Mama Lindsay sat me on her lap and we made a pinky promise to never let ourselves separate if we are angry at each other. I am proud to say we kept that promise all these years,
When I met her at the DECON station, I could tell she’d had a tough run. Half of her weapons were either missing from their sheathes, or visibly damaged. Her eyes had dark circles under them and her forehead had those two deep creases that it gets when she is either exhausted or pissed.
I took her field pack and we headed to the supply depot for groceries. At first, she didn’t say a word. Since she had called for me, I knew she would get to it when she was ready. Finally she just stopped walking and turned to look me in the eye.
“Are you leaving?”
When Mama Lindsay asked me that question, I guess I was shocked. More than that, I realized that I guess I’d known for a long time that anybody who knew me, or better yet, knew my birth mother, waited to see if I would leave on some crazy journey.
That is the price you pay when your birth mother is famous for being a Traveller. By the way, that’s as close to an insult here as you can get. Here in the Rose Colony, a ‘Traveller’ is somebody who refuses to be a part of the community.
In the world we live in, not being a part of a community carries the same stigma as the Old World welfare whore. I learned in one of my history classes that there was a small sub-culture of women who had babies, lots of times by different men, and lived off of checks they got from the government. I came home from school with a lot of questions that day.
The problem with Travellers is that they don’t even try to help anybody but themselves. They scavenge the Old World and sell anything worthwhile to the highest bidder. Sure, they risk their lives—not many Travellers live past twenty-five according to the statistics—and usually have some amazing artifacts to show for it, but it all self-centered.
It hurt me a little that, after all these years, Mama Lindsay could think I would do anything like that. I was raised to be a part of the community effort. I can’t really remember much about Mama Janie, but the images I do have are one of a person who always helped others and worked very hard. I have one clear memory about how when she would come in from the fields, she would always have something from the garden hidden in one of her pockets for me to find when I helped take them for washing.
It is sad that I know more about the father who died before I was born and the mother who abandoned me than I do about a woman who loved me, told me bedtime stories, and taught me to read and write.
Seeing how worried Mama Lindsay was at that moment made it that much more nerve-wracking about what I had to say. When the words came out of my mouth, I was not sure how she would react.
“I want to join the Escort and Expedition Force.”
Mama Lindsay has been the commander of the EEF for three years. I still remember how proud I was the day that the colony president handed her the sword and crossbow. I knew on that day that I wanted to follow in her footsteps. I also knew that she wanted me to choose a safer profession.
I honestly believe that one of her biggest concerns over me was that I would get outside the walls and feel drawn to explore the world. After all, it is what made my birth mother famous.
That brings me to my birth mother. Meredith Gainey. She and my birth father, Samuel Todd, have the three best selling books of all time in the ZE (Zombie Era). You might think it is neat to be the daughter of two celebrities.
No. It’s not.
You see, there are a few different sorts when it comes to people and my parents. With Sam, it goes one of two ways; there are the creepy ones who see my father as some sort of demi-god, they get all weird when they meet me and it is actually kinda scary. And then there are the ones who have basically memorized his writings and feel the need to tell me about how “deep and philosophical” my father was as a writer.
The reactions about my mother are, shall we say, a bit different. There are some who see her as this avenging warrior. Her battle with The Genesis Brotherhood is a very popular story. There are some who see her as one of the early pioneers who blazed some sort of trail. There are others who see her as a selfish woman who stands as a reminder for a lot of what was wrong with the pre-ZE society.
I just see her as the person who abandoned me right after I was born. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful. I had two amazing mothers who loved me and devoted their lives to making me a good person.
I can still see the look on Mama Lindsay’s face. All of that relief that came first…then the typical “motherly” concern. No, her baby was not going to follow in her birth-mother’s footsteps. Yay! Instead, she was choosing the most dangerous profession in the colony. Crap.
Saturday, June 2nd
Jenifer came over today. I guess Mama Lindsay told her about my decision. Jenifer travelled with Meredith for quite a while. She got burned up real bad during the battle with The Genesis Brotherhood.
I guess it is okay to call her “Jenifer” in my journal. Everybody else calls her “Madame President.”
She wanted to congratulate me on my decision to join the EEF. By the big deal she made of it, I could tell she was enjoying Mama Lindsay’s annoyance.
Jenifer used to be the person Mama Janie and Mama Lindsay called when they needed somebody to watch me. I guess they went through a few sitters when I was two or three because I was “a hellion” according to the stories. In an act of desperation, they called Jenifer. I guess they thought a half-burnt young woman with most of her head unable to grow hair because of all of the scars, coupled with her shriveled raisin of a left eye, would scare me straight. Instead, it seems that I formed quite a bond with her.
I was with ‘Aunt’ Jeni when I killed my first zombie. We were out picking wild blueberries when one came out of the tall grass. Creepers are the worst. Missing their lower half, they get through the picket lines more often than a walker. This one had an even bigger advantage: it was a child.
He couldn’t have been any older than six—my age at the time. His clothing had long since deteriorated, and the years had taken their toll on the belly of the wretched thing.
I remember every detail about that boy. The way you could tell his hair had been curly, even though it was so caked and matted with filth, the piece of bone that stuck out from what remained of the left leg—which was missing from just above the knee. The fact that the entire right leg stayed intact and still had a leather boot practically grafted to the foot.
Jenifer gave me a spear and told me it was time that I learned how to put one down. I thought it would be easy. You hear about it or read my birth parent’s journals and think there is nothing to it. Pop it in the head and it’s done.
It took me three tries. The first time, I jabbed and my spear scraped down one side of its face. The second time, I stabbed it through the neck. I got so mad that I kicked it onto its back and stabbed it through the eye.
I remember staring at it for what felt like just a few seconds, but it was noticeably darker when Jenifer took my hand and led me home. I must have counted each of the nine remaining ribs a couple hundred times.
Anyways, it was sweet of Jenifer to come over and wish me luck. I am pretty sure she doesn’t do that for every single person who enlists in the EEF.
Sunday, June 3rd
My last day as a civilian—so to speak. I met with a few of my friends. (It is a bit creepy with how many ‘Sams’ and ‘Merediths’ I know.) We all went out to the corridor with crossbows, sat up on the barricades, and passed around a bottle of homemade blackberry wine while we took turns dropping shamblers with the crossbow.
The parents all hate it when we do it, but kids have been doing this for years. It is some sort of ritual. Nobody knows who started it, but for some reason, if you join the EEF, you come out here on the last day. You and a few friends drink a bottle and shoot the crossbow. The winner is the person who loses the fewest bolts. I remember something in my mom’s journal about her crossbow being fitted with the retriever reel. Of course, that is standard issue now. Nobody has bolts to waste.
I do have a guy that I like…but we already talked it over and decided that we will hold off getting serious until I finish my first tour. We almost ‘did the deed’ a few nights ago, but he was super sweet and it was actually Tim who put a halt to things.
That brings me to my sweetie, Tim Coatney. He was one of the kids rescued from that mansion where The Genesis Brotherhood had their base. He works the farms and is a very BIG boy. He has this baby fine blonde hair that I love to run my fingers through and arms that make the world disappear. I know that I am going to miss him, and I know that it is possible that some other girl will scoop him up when I leave on my first run.
As I lie in bed with my candle and this silly little book, I wonder if I will be able to keep it up. I actually lost it today…it was in the dining hall at the table where I ate breakfast. I am already wondering how my birth parents carried those damn things through all the crap they went through.