Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A little bit about me (Part 1: Book 1)

So, in my last post, I mentioned that I had just recently finished (or pretty much finished) my first novel. Its a fairly large part of my life at the moment, and hopefully my future as well, so I thought for this post that that is what I would talk about for abit.

So, have a seat, quiet down... settle... settle...

Ahem...

My book is called: Gunslingers of the Apocalypse. Its 180,000 words long, which is insane, I know, but I figure that I'll cut if I must and until then, screw it. Besides, I wouldn't know where to begin and so far none of my couple dozen or so readers have been able to help me out either and they have no reason not to. Basically, I figure that I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. It took me a year to hammer out the first draft and a year-ish plus to pump out the 2nd and 3rd and right now, today, I am so close to sending out my packets to begin to solicit agents for representation that I am practically salivating. Rejections or not, I am totally ready to get started. Also, if I had my druthers, the cover would be along the lines of a slightly more apocalyptic and zombified homage to this poster:


So yeah... lets just get that out of the way from the start... yes, my book is about zombies, or more appropriately, its about the people who have survived the zombie apocalypse.

Meaning: My book is set in a world where the Dead have risen with an insatiable hunger for living flesh and crushed the whole of society before their rotten, nightmarish tread. In my book, its six months after the fact and the scattered clumps of survivors are now huddled down in their various camps and trying to eke out a new life amongst the ruins of the old world.

And we basically go from there...

In a sentence: Its Mad Mad meets Dawn of the Dead.

The order that those two references appear in that sentence are important to me. See, I'm not so big on the whole horror aspect, its just supposed to be an adventure book... with zombies. Because, for the most part, I'm more a fan of the survival, post apocalyptic aspect then the horrifying horror of the undead. So, survival first, zombies second. I think the thing that would bother me the most, should I ever get published, would be if my book were to be shelved in horror. I don't want to be pidgeon holed like that, plus, I'm not a big fan of that "scene".

Its my intention that the zombies are not used as the main threat or purpose of the book. I mean, yes, they ARE a threat, they do want to eat the main characters after all, but more so, the zombies are there as an ever-present and mobile obstacle. I want them to determine situations, I want them to force characters that don't really get along into close quarters with one another with few options available, if any, and then I want the zombies' presence to act as a constant pressure that frays nerves and ups the tension until it finally all explodes. Plus, a zombie apocalypse forces folks to become gunhands and bandits and brigands and tiny emporers with their ad hoc armies in that fanciful, not really reality based kind of way where they all drive armored cars and were leather outfits and all that other Mad Max-y kind of stuff that the reality of a nuclear apocalypse just doesn't really allow for any more these days... thanks alot Cold War...

Anyway, thats not to say that there aren't scary/gross parts, of course there are, its just that I'm not the kind of guy who creams his pants over gore or "horror" in general, nor do I expect a slow, singly focused and unthinking antagonist to be able to maintain itself as a threat throughout the whole of a story . Especially when its a threat that really is, argueablly, a pretty easy one to stay ahead off, at least once your characters learn a few rules and gather a few supplies, that is.

My story follows the adventures of a man named "Black Magic" Jack El-Hai. Its all told from his point of view in a noirish, first person, post-apocalyptic neo-western kind of way. The idea for the book stemmed from a few places: a writing excercise in a class, a really, really sad bus ride one night mid winter a few years ago, plus the classic kind of ways that all noir P.I. novels seem to open up with and the fact that Land of the Dead made absolutely no sense, as far as world building goes, and really kind of sucked and that upset me... so I mixed that all together and...

Wah-Lah!

Gunslingers of the Apocalypse
a "Black Magic" Jack El-Hai adventure

So... after the Collapse of the world, Jack managed to find refuge in a small, fenced off little town tucked away in the far corner of southwestern Minnesota. Now, He's one of the crazy few whose job is to venture out and grab much needed supplies from the ruins of the surrounding cites and towns, all the while dodging the ravenous dead and the equally vicious rival scavengers as well. Jack and his disparate and rowdy team of scavengers hunt down everything from gas, to clothes, to ammo, to food, anything, all the way down to books and booze and even yarn, all for their town's consumption. Now that the world has ended and the survivors have realized that they are still amongst the living, life has to go on, so scavenging is not just about the big nessecary-for-survival kind of things, its also about the little things, the tiny comforts, the things that let people feel alive again.

And thats what Jack does, out beyond the protection of the fence, he's a ruin runner, a fence hopper, a scavenger by trade and a gunslinger by nessecity. He is a killer of men and zombies. The one bright spot in his life is his girlfriend, his other half, his constant companion and fellow team member, Noelle Easter. She's a slim, little punk rock smart ass and togeather, the two of them are walking trouble, a restless pair of ne'er-do-wells, a post apocalyptic Bonnie and Clyde. They're fuck offs, but they are very good at what they do.

Lately, though... lately things have been off.

Noelle has been pushing Jack to re-examine their lives and purpose, she's started to question their daily grind. Plus, other scavenger teams have been dying out there in the Wild beyond the Fence, and not by the Dead either, they've been ambushed, gunned down and because of this, the truce between the rival camps and their little town is beginning to fray. Jack suspects that a new mysterious group is behind all the recent unrest, that someone out there is slowly and surely minipulating the local camps towards war. Worse yet, there may even be a few of their spies already in place behind the town's walls, in fact, there may already be a conquering army on the way... And when things finally begin to crash down around him, threatening his town, his life and his love, Jack quickly realizes that the true monsters are not the dead and rotting masses locked outside those walls, its the living breathing people locked within...


So, I'm probably going to talk about this thing alot, if you're planning on being a regular reader then you should be prepared for that. Like I said, its a big part of my life and I'm really proud of it. Here's why. See, I think I did good, you see, because I take these continuing ed classes, writing and blah-blah-blah and all that kind of stuff and for the most part, genre work (sci-fi/horror/fantasy/westerns) is pretty surprisingly under represented in the classes. Most of the time, on that first day of a new class, I usually find myself surrounded by the usual writing class suspects:

The middle aged, recently divorced ladies writing books about middle aged, recently divorced ladies going to Tuscany to re-discover themselves.

The gay guys writing about their mother, the pain of coming out and/or both.

The vegan hippy chicks, with their strangley silent tag-a-long boyfriends, writing very blatant lesbian erotica about teenage girls and usually containing the line: swaying to the music.

The old guy whose story is either indeciferable or kind of creepy.

The wordsmith.

The writing-for-therapy person (handle with care!)

And then they get to me.

"Whats your story about?"

"Zombies."

And like wolves over a fresh carcess, they can't wait to savage me, they can not wait. You see, THEY are all artists, while I am merely writing "fiction" but said in a voice as if I had handed them a used kleenex. They have no reason or desire to be nice to me. Artistically speaking, in their eyes, I am the wounded and limping deer.

And yet... so far, out of all the classes I've handed this out in, out of the fairly good number of readers who have either read a good sized portion, a major portion, or all of it... Not a single negative review. Really. I've gotten good feedback, thats been very helpful, but as far as anyone hating it, destroying it? Hasn't happened. Almost every time, they all start with: I would never, ever buy a book like this, BUT... I really found myself enjoying yours..." And I've seen these people just tear other authors to pieces, often unfairly so, in my opinion, and yet some how me and my little (big) zombie tale has emerged pretty much unscathed.

And that gives me hope.

Wish me luck.

Jon

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