Thursday, June 25, 2015

State of the Apocalypse, Semi-Immediate Post-Solstice Edtion

This was originally titled “The Ides of June Edition.” Then the Ides of June became the next week’s summer solstice, and then that became three days after. I just haven’t been in a bloggy groove for a while. I’m too busy rewriting, retconning, and going on a general murder spree regarding all my narrative tics. 

I suppose I could have written about current events in the news. I would have picked up one audience while alienating others. As it is, I post nothing, there’s nothing for anyone to read, and I have no audience at all.

Still, it’s better this way. As I used to tell my children (now grown and done with me), drama belongs on the TV. Or, more to the point, in a book. And I really, really want to finish this last book in my SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER series and send it off with a gooey, gruey bang.

Here’s just a small taste of what I’ve been working on. Check out everything that’s going on here:

I walk up to Smug Young Thing, groaning in the dirt alongside the road. “Hey,” I say, nudging his ribs with the tip of my boot, “how long have you been working these checkpoints?”

His expression is the closest thing to an undead rage face I’ve seen on a living human. “I’ve been in charge of perimeter security since February, you ass,” he says.

Smug Young Thing jerks to one side in a heroic effort to retrieve his AR-15, but my heel catches his operative shoulder as it comes up. I push him back to the hardpan between the road and the drainage ditch. My foot still on him, I lean over to retrieve his rifle.

“So, you’re aware of what happened that night when a young man came by looking to get the midwife.”

“Aware, shit. I was the one who turned him away. I heard the cow and her sprog died. You gonna send the whiny faggot over to finish me? I’ll be impressed if he has the balls to do it. He begged like a bitch.”

I yank him up by the front of his shirt. “Justin Driscoll is one of our best warriors. That he won’t waste his talents seeking revenge on trash like you shows a strength of spirit I hope to understand some day.” I shove him back to the earth. “I should live so long.”

Smug Young Thing does a fine job of suppressing his pain. That is, until he lands on his wrecked shoulder. I notice another odor in the air as I strip him of his sidearm. His phone—it’s in a bright green protective case, but it’s the same Provisional Government-issue model Dietzen issued us. I wonder how long he’s had this

Not that I need to know that badly. I step away from Smug Young Thing and look towards the woods on the opposite side of the road, then towards Elyssa’s and Brother Christopher’s convoy. 

“Heads up!”

The shotgun blast that distracted the checkpoint crew rang like a homing beacon to the local population. The smoke from the burning live bodies has to be attracting them, too. And now Agnes, who can see them coming from her perch high up in the truck, has already started the engine.

“Wait,” squeals the former chief of perimeter security for the Abundant Life settlement. “Aren’t you going to shoot me?” He struggles to get up, but it’s hard to do with one arm.

“I just did.” I put my heel out again and push him back down, again to his bad side. Although I missed the artery, the little psychopath sustained serious trauma on his right shoulder. The round scooped the entirety of his upper deltoid clean from the bone. Gotta love those hollowpoints.

I don’t want to spoil the moment by walking away too fast. I have to trust that the woman in the filthy, blood-rotted shift will settle for the easy meat moaning and weeping behind me. The high shrieking I hear over the chatter of Mom’s Taxi as I begin climbing confirms that she did just that.

There’s no sense wasting time trying to look smooth while scrambling up the ladder, though. A man wearing the black ribbons of a white T-shirt and the ruins of boxer shorts shuffles up behind the woman. It won’t be long until the rest of the Diner’s Club gets here.

Weapons porn, check. Revenge porn, check. A Great Evil we will have to deal with down the road. (Check that phone!) Zombies. Zombies eating people. A flame-thrower, and burning bodies. The kind of truck you climb into via rope ladder. Plucky survivors who have the evil living and the amoral dead to contend with. It’s all here.

Readers may recognize this passage from a few months back. It’s streamlined, yet with one added feature. It’s been one hell of a grind going through all these pages and making sure everything ties together, that everything has a purpose.

I’m still haunted by a passage I read in a popular, perennial zombie book series, in which the hero encounters a newcomer to his survivor’s camp whose speech and attitude promise trouble to come—only to have the author forget we met this person as the drama builds into the third act. 

The name of this book isn’t important. Nor am I judging the author, because I know how easy this is to do. In this case, it simply looked like a good confrontational scene; he might have left it in there for just that reason, while missing how this character has defined herself as someone who will be trouble later. Maybe he dealt with this person in the next book. 

What I know for certain is that, as there was no resolution to this conflict addressed in the book at hand, it created a discordant note in the narrative. It was a classic violation of Chekhov’s dictum that, if there is a rifle over the mantle in Act I, that same rifle needs to be discharged by Act III. 

Again, though, it’s easy to do, especially if the narrative has been going on for a while. Fortunately, the fix is just as easy. It will, however, require going one page at a time to find these scenes, and either tie them together with something before or after the scene in question, or omit the scene altogether.

When will I be done with this? I wish I knew. It’s going to be a short summer, Charlie Brown.

If you’re looking for some slam-bang zompocalypse action to read in the meantime, and you missed the link above, here it is again. I’ve got to get back to work.
Assume the position, son. It ain’t gonna write itself.