Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cooking without fire

A central problem my characters have to worry about is a lack of fire/gas. They are in essentially a large refugee camp whose every resource comes from outside. How do they prepare food without fire? I burnt a couple hours researching this (for a 2 page scene...kind of a waste).

While researching this, I came across some interesting things:

1) It’s not an easy topic to find information on. Virtually all survival guides assume fire, or the ability to make fire.

2) A thriving industry for pre-packaged survival kits:

On-line shop specializing in survival:

Food pills (really):

Home/office/car/plane survival kits:

3) Some things that were interesting and started to paint a picture:
  • Raw Foods -- this goofball branch of vegetarianism (and the experts who prove it is an unwise choice) have a lot of data on the health effects of eating uncooked food.

  • Starvation -- thought perhaps there would be information if I looked at real-world starvation. Found nothing useful.

  • Famine -- this proved an interesting thread. Looks like I will need to spend some time reading detailed individual accounts of dealing with famine.

  • Famine Scales (means of measuring famine):

4) Alas, this topic will need more research. Looks like the best bet to get this right will be to read some personal accounts of starvation (holocaust survivor accounts, some African accounts and some prison camp accounts), as well as starvation in literature: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road for example.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Why Zombies?

I never really liked zombies. They’re slow. They’re gross. But they’re not particularly frightening. Nor are they very dangerous, not unless they mob you or you do something particularly stupid. It can be argued that a sprinting crazy person (a fast zombie as in 28 days later) is dangerous, but let’s be honest here, those are not technically zombies--they’re still alive, that’s why they can run. Most zombie fiction seems to fall into one of three categories: cheesy, intentionally humorous or allegorical. None of these categories appeal to me (though I enjoy some of the allegories).

It all changed when I read World War Z. This was the first book I read in which zombies were treated seriously, with honest, insightful speculation into how the world would react if the dead rose up and tried to kill the living. It was also the first place I saw a zombie apocalypse addressed as a war, which, if you think about it, is exactly what it would be. World War Z also had an epic scope, spanning the first sign of outbreak, all the way through to final push against the zombies and the rebuilding afterward and it gave every step along the way serious thought. Great read.

After WWZ, I saw zombies as a serious speculative element instead of a farce. I started thinking about them and rather than just rolling my eyes whenever another zombie movie came out, I would watch it, analyzing the response portrayed in the film, the defenses and survival tactics used and the failure modes which inevitably doom the characters.

The inevitable conclusion of this thought process was my realization that a zombie apocalypse would be survivable (a conclusion Brooks reached years before when he started his Zombie Survival Guide), it would just be uncomfortable, require great sacrifices and would forever change our civilization. In short, it was a perfect backdrop for any number of serious stories.

WWZ Woke me up to the potential of zombies as a serious spec element and put me on the path to writing Zombie Proof Fence, but that story is for another time. So, thanks Max. As for the rest of you, if you have not read WWZ, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.

ZPF Progress:
Wrote the first scene in the Crumble (making an official start on the second half), in which Kayla meets a scavenger kid and passes along Casey’s message about the Lowe Street Tunnel.

ZPF Soundtrack for today:
28 Days Later soundtrack
Tangerine Dream: Phaedra
Midnight Syndicate: Gates of Delirium

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Where I am now

Thanksgiving is over, so I now I have a few precious hours to write. First, a blog entry (as this is new and exciting), then some writing on the story. I made good progress yesterday, tackling the problem of too many characters and too many story arcs (by eliminating several from the middle).

Today’s topic: Where I am now
As of this moment, I am about 1/2 way done writing the rough draft of the book. I hit this point a bit ahead of schedule and have spent the last couple weeks reviewing and revising what I have written to incorporate some feedback and make sure it lines up with what is planned for the second half.

No one will read this rough draft, but I will quickly work it into a 1st draft which my first readers and local critique group will read. These folks have already given me feedback on the first four chapters and I have revised those to a 2nd draft. Before shopping it around, the whole thing will probably hit a 3rd draft, maybe a 4th if readers find any major problems.

Here are the vital statistics:
  • Rough Draft 27587 words

  • 1st Draft 22618 words

  • 2nd Draft 15314 words

  • Total: 65519 words

And some stats on the support files:
  • Outline: 16862 words

  • Brainstorming: 19615 words

This is great, except that I’m trying to keep it under 85K words, so I have some cutting and compressing to do.

I thought tidbits on the book might be entertaining, so here is one for this entry:

Tidbit on the story
I just reworked the outline for the middle 2 sections of the book, removing a whole story arc to get the word count down. Now, instead of going to work for Mr. Sham (which could be a book in itself), Mr. Sham is going to kidnap Molly and the girls will have to find a way to get in and rescue her. This is shorter, a bit more exciting and we still get to see what goes on in Mr. Sham’s place.


Well, I'm writing a book titled "Zombie Proof Fence" and thought it might be interesting to blog about the experience. My goals for doing this and what I hope to accomplish are listed below, but my personal driver is just to try it out and see if blogging is something I enjoy and find valuable.

The Zombie Proof Fence Blog Charter:
  • Share the creative process
  • Share writing tips, tricks and anecdotes for other writers
  • Share the experience of writing a book
  • Provide content to interest readers in my writing
  • Indulge in an occasional off-topic rant
It is NOT for:
  • An online diary
  • Posting about my family, friends or life outside of writing
So, if that seems interesting, read on.