I’m working my way through the self-editing of the first draft of “Enduring Armageddon” (currently on page 141 of 182 single-spaced 1″ margin pages/101K words). When I’m complete with this edit, I’ll be sending it off to the talented Aurora Dewater for editing! Can’t wait to share it with everyone.
- Category Archives Unclean Wonderland
It’s been a huge night. I just completed the first draft of “Enduring Armageddon”! Now I’ve got several weeks of my own editing ahead of me before I send it off to my editor to make it presentable.
For fun, here’s the first and last paragraph of the book:
We made our way towards the open community of Virden, Illinois. People still maintained the state’s name for prosperity’s sake, but no one really cared about states or boundaries anymore after the nuclear war had devastated most of the major cities and all of the military bases. Becca and I left our apartment in the suburbs of Chicago when the radiation freaks and scavengers became too dangerous to ignore. We fled with the few supplies that we could cram into our backpacks and abandoned every other possession that we’d worked our whole pathetic lives for.
As the gates of Balmorhea slammed shut behind us, we set out on the first leg of our journey. This was our next great adventure. Out there in the mountains lay either our salvation or our death. I’d come to terms with the fact that we would never be totally safe and that our lives would always be difficult, but we would endure the Armageddon and I’d make every moment count for something. We owed that much to each other. I owed it to my new family.
“That’s amazing,” I mumbled. “What else don’t we know about?”
“You said that you’ve been cooped up for almost two years, so there’s all sorts of stuff that you probably don’t know,” Jason said. “Did you guys know that they tried to re-establish a U.S. government last summer?”
I shook my head and glanced at Alejandro. He hadn’t heard because he was staring intently at Marcus. Every so often he’d tilt his head a little to the side like he was thinking. Jason followed my gaze and said, “Oh yeah, he’s already learning how to do it. Before long they’ll be able to have an entire conversation without looking at each other and we’ll be non-the-wiser.”
“What happened with the government?” I asked.
“Word in the wasteland is that Indianapolis survived the nuclear war intact. The government moved the entire operation there and a large part of what was left of the army. They had almost established order in the city and surrounding area when food started to run out and the troops began fighting with the civilians. Before too long, some big mercenary army from Illinois moved in and wiped ‘em out. Every one of them.”
My head whipped back around at the mention of a mercenary army in Illinois. “Crazy shit, huh?” Jason said, misinterpreting my surprise.
“Where was the army from?” I asked.
“Somewhere in central Illinois. Word is that they have some crazy lady that drives them all over the area fighting everyone for control. She’s making a little kingdom up there.”
Surely it was impossible, but I had to ask. “Do you know her name?” I felt nervous and my voice actually quivered a little.
“Oh, I don’t know. Jennifer? Jessica – Wait that’s it. It’s Jillian. They call themselves ‘Jillian’s Villains’.”
My stomach dropped. That crazy bitch had survived and now she had a legitimate army. “I know her,” I said.
“Oh yeah, sure you do!” Jason said with a slap to my shoulder. “I knew the president before she chopped his head off and mounted it on the hood of her truck too.”
“No, I’m serious,” I said as I shrugged off his hand. “She lived in our town and I was forced to kill her lover Dustin. She left town and somehow ended up with the army that destroyed our community. She tried to kill me the last time I came anywhere near her.” I stopped and thought things over for a second. What if the reason that army from Springfield had even bothered to travel to Virden after they kicked our ass was because she made them go? “And then her group destroyed our town. I just don’t understand how she took power so quickly.”
Jason’s smile never left his lips as he said, “Well, she’s a long way off now and no bother to any of us.” He gestured towards the grill and continued, “Squirrel?”
“No thank you,” I replied sullenly as I tried to shake the knowledge that she was still alive out of my head.
“Ok, your loss,” the merchant replied. “Like I mentioned, we travel around looking for stuff to trade. We’ve currently got a case of working water purification systems, a big stash of double-A batteries that still have a lot of juice in ‘em, some weapons – mostly knives and such – oranges from way down in Mexico, a lot of seasoning spices, three wagons full of canned goods, hell a lot of stuff. What do you need?”
I thought about it for a moment and decided that even though I couldn’t make a decision for the entire town, I did know of a few things that would be helpful. “Balmorhea’s mayor is a man named Pedro Hernandez, so he’d be the one to make all the decisions. I do know that we need medicine and soap or hand sanitizer. Do you have anything like that?” I asked.
“I’ll put soap and sanitizer on our shopping list, but we do have medicine. Standard drugstore stuff like aspirin and cough syrup, but if you want specialized drugs you can talk to Mikey. He’s our resident drug addict and can probably either hook you up with things from his stash or knows where to find it. It’s the only reason we keep the guy around. He was a pharmacist before all this went down, so he’s a walking encyclopedia of helpful shit with medicine when he’s not wasted.”
“Good to know,” I replied. I thought about Balmorhea’s population. Several people were losing their hair, our fingernails were very brittle, most people’s blood didn’t clot very fast after a wound and abnormally dry, cracked skin was prevalent. Maybe it was the radiation, but I was willing to bet that it was some type of vitamin deficiency that we couldn’t make up through our crops alone. “What we really need is multi-vitamins and probably some pain relievers.”
“Mikey!” Jason shouted towards one of the wagons. “Oh, for Pete’s sake! Hold on a minute Chuck.”
With that he stormed over to a wagon and threw open the flap. “He’s always passed out and worthless,” Marcus startled me by saying. “Oh goodie, here he comes,” he finished as he pointed towards Jason who was dragging one of the most pathetic excuses for a human behind him by the arm.
He deposited his cargo in front of me and sat back down on the picnic table. “Here we go Chuck. What was it that you needed from our pharmacy?”
Prior to the war, Balmorhea had been a state park with a lake and a small forest. The water was pretty rare out in this part of the country and if we were going to try to farm, it would be of utmost importance. There were many vacant homes, both from years of a down-turned economy and from the initial wave of the creatures coming from El Paso. The residents had already figured out that the best way to deal with them was noise reduction and putting up lots of fences, so the knowledge that we had about the infected wasn’t as important as it had been to Jasper’s group.
What worried me was how quickly the townspeople accepted us with little to no questions. When we asked them about scavengers or marauders, they’d never seen any. I’d been able to impress upon the town’s mayor the need for security through our stories of what had happened to us during our journey from Illinois. While there wasn’t much between here and where El Paso had been, there were sure to be groups forming who would eventually begin expanding their search for food and resources.
The townspeople even accepted Alejandro for what he was. Initially a few of the residents had been against us because we traveled with someone who looked just like the creatures that had killed so many in their community and we thought we would have to continue moving west. But the local pastor, a man named Emilio, had helped everyone to see past the surface and recognizing that he was just a normal person who’d been injured. Now Alejandro was a treasured part of the community because of his knowledge of farming and how to use our few horses to help plow the ground without injuring them.
The weather wasn’t nearly as bad down here and according to the residents who’d lived there a while, the winter wasn’t really any worse than what they usually experienced. Of course, we all hoped that it was a sign that the clouds were settling and that the temperatures would return to normal, but there was no telling what would happen. We were in totally theoretical territory here. In fact, one of the theories was that after the nuclear winter, the earth would right itself by super-heating and that would throw us into a nuclear summer. Only time would tell what would actually happen though.
Until then, we had to make do with what we had. My little group had wisely liberated a livestock feed store of just about every vegetable seed package that it had. For the umpteenth time on the trip from the cannibals’ camp, I was thankful for the horses. Without the water and food that they allowed us to carry we wouldn’t have made it very far across the cold dry west Texas plains.
Now that we were here and the winter had given away to a pseudo-spring, it was time to plant the crops that we hoped would survive and help to provide sustenance for us. The vehicles in the town still worked since we were far enough away from El Paso to avoid the EMP, but over the course of the year all the gasoline had been siphoned off for use to help heat people’s homes so the horses had again proved invaluable to us once again.
Alejandro helped the townsfolk develop makeshift plows to speed up the digging process. The first couple of designs weren’t necessarily failures, but it took a lot of work for little gain. He’d been able to perfect his plow design over the last month in preparation for the spring. What he’d come up with was to remove the blades from lawnmowers and using normal, everyday shop tools he bent the blades into a U shape, then secured them to a metal frame made from the rear axle of small cars. The wheels were necessary to keep the blades at the right height instead of digging too deep or too shallow. After that, he’d mounted a small platform and bolted a lawn chair to it. Voila! It was an instant plow that could be pulled by two horses and increased our ability to farm.
So…if you’ve been reading the UNEDITED posts that I periodically put up for my upcoming book “Enduring Armageddon” then you’ve come to like certain characters. Well, one of them dies in the section that I’m writing today. Horribly. Stay tuned true believers!
The first few days of travel from Jasper’s hotel in Seminole were spent bumbling along the narrow corridor of land between Oklahoma City and McAlester. Both of those cities had been bombed, OKC because of its population density and the Air Force base on the edge of the city, and McAlester because of the huge Army ammunition plant there.
We didn’t have a way of determining what was extremely radioactive versus just radioactive, so we tried to go as directly between the middle of the two as we could. Jesse wanted to swing completely around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to the south, but everyone else agreed with me that adding another hundred miles to our already long trip wasn’t worth the effort. That meant shooting south towards Ada, Oklahoma and then working our way southwest between DFW, which Alejandro confirmed had been nuked, and Wichita Falls.
We knew that a lot of the military bases had been whacked, so we also had to assume that the Lawton, Oklahoma and Wichita Falls, Texas areas had been also because of the Army and Air Force bases located there. We decided that our best route after Dallas would be to once again thread the needle between two fallout zones and eventually make our way towards western Texas or New Mexico.
Once we crossed the Red River into Texas, there was a noticeable climate shift. The snow was still present, but it was only about ankle deep instead of the calf-deep variety that we’d become accustomed to. I couldn’t be sure, but I also thought that it wasn’t nearly as cold. The area to the south of the river was flat, but there was a lot of debris hidden in the snow and that caused all sorts of problems for us. My biggest fear was that someone would break a leg or step on some weird irradiated nail or something unforeseeable like that. If we had a true medical emergency, I didn’t know what we’d do, but we’d have to figure it out quickly.
It was rough going as we worked our way just north of DFW. I’m not sure how much warning the people down here had, but the outbound roads from the city were littered with vehicles that no longer worked. The EMP must have wiped out the electronics on all these nice cars and their owners had to simply abandon them. I wondered if the vehicles would always be on the road or if they’d eventually be taken apart for scrap by various types of scavengers.
The few people that we saw along our trip were from far away and they disappeared into the snowfields long before we ever reached where they’d been. There was a different vibe down here, that’s for sure. It was hard to explain, but it seemed like everything was simply paused, waiting for something to happen. I wondered what it was that made me feel this way.
On the ninth day after we left Jasper’s we were walking down the vacant side of the road and topped a slight rise in the highway. On the reverse slope of the hill we ran into a large camp of people spread out over both sides of the roadway. They’d used old vehicles to form a large perimeter and there were several of the dead creatures surrounding the camp. If anything else, it just confirmed my belief that they couldn’t climb since even a small child would have been able to make it up and over the barrier. I consulted with our group about how to bypass the area, but the people in the camp had already seen us.
There was a flurry of activity in the camp and I watched in amazement as one of the vehicles was put into neutral and manually pushed out of the way. Five riders on horseback galloped through the opening and up the rise to meet us. I cursed at our stupidity for foolishly silhouetting ourselves on the hill. There was nothing to do but unsling our weapons and have them accessible, while trying to remain unthreatening to these people.
The riders were at our location within moments. They wore heavy duster jackets and cowboy hats, with scarves over their faces and each carried a rifle across his lap. I was reminded of a hundred different westerns I’d seen over the years.
“What are you folks doin’ on the road?” one of them asked.
I stepped forward a half step and replied, “We’re making our way southwest to try to get below the snowline. Get somewhere warmer where we can try to grow some crops.”
“Good luck with that buddy, the snow’s everywhere,” another of the riders answered.
“You some kind of farmer?” another rider snickered. “Ain’t got no use for farmers.”
“Yeah, well, it’s already much better here than it was where we came from so we’re hopeful that we’ll…”
I never even saw the rider kick his horse forward. The big beast’s chest slammed into my body and sent me spinning away. I heard shouting and saw a flurry of movement all around me but my head was spinning from the blow. I tried to get up on my hands and knees but was kicked in the side and I crumpled over. I tried to make sense of what was happening and started to pick my head up again. A shadow fell over me and I looked up in time to see the butt of a rifle come crashing down into my face.
Wow, I’ve been so busy lately! I attented my first convention as an author this past weekend and the experience was very positive. While the attendence was WAY down at the convention from what the organizers expected, literally every person that stopped at my table and talked to me bought a book. I consider that a HUGE compliment. There were even a few people there who said that they’d heard of me from my online page and from others talking about good books…WOW! Humbled.
I also submitted GNASH to a traditional publisher today. I would love to one day see it on store shelves, but I’m also a level-headed guy. I know that the majority of people don’t get picked up by a publisher. That’s fine if I don’t because I’ve been doing really well with the word of mouth from the web, but it would still be pretty cool if it happened!
Stay tuned, I’m going to be putting my nose back to the grindstone beginning tomorrow and setting a daily word count goal for “Enduring Armageddon”. I’m at 69K words right now, so I’m somewhere around 2/3 of the way done, but there’s so much more I want to do with the book…we’ll see where it ends up!
Ok, I’ve went back and forth on the title of my upcoming book. I never liked “Unclean Wonderland: The Apocalypse, so I’ve thought long and hard about what to call it… I’ve finally decided on the new title and did the obligatory search online to ensure there’s not another book in this genre with that same name. I’m actually very excited about the title I’ve chosen, but until I get the copyright, I’ll continue to refer to it as “Unclean Wonderland”
// This blog is 100% unedited, I post portions of what I’ve written and once I’m done with the book, I’ll go in and edit at the end… //
Alejandro looked back and forth between Jesse and I. “Do you think the people inside would be alright with me? I mean, look at me. I’m a freak. Just like those other ones…and I know what you do to them.”
“You’re different. The ones we killed would have attacked us and tore us to pieces,” Jesse said.
“How do you know? You killed them from the roof without any interaction with them at all. I mean, these ones would have, but what if there were a group of people like me traveling together?” Alejandro asked.
There it was. I’d been thinking the same thing myself. What if we’d inadvertently killed people who were just sick and not some type of twisted creature like those others were? I didn’t like to dwell on it, but it was definitely a possibility, but it presented us with a sticky problem. Undoubtedly, the majority of the ones we’d seen were lost beyond reason, however, now I might hesitate before killing one of them. That hesitation could get me or Rebecca, or anyone in our group for that matter, killed.
Then it hit me. “Alejandro, can you tell if people are like you or if they’re like the things that we can’t reason with and want to kill everything around them?”
He paused with a spoonful of tuna halfway to his mouth. “I don’t know. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. I did recognize Harley right away. I saw her walking in the ruins of Dallas one day and I knew she was different than the others I’d seen. I also knew the group I joined up with wasn’t totally like me when I first saw them. Maybe I can sense it or something,” he said.
“That’s really interesting,” I replied. “We’ll have to be very careful how we deal with the infected from now on. Now that we know that people like Alejandro exist, we can’t just go about killing indiscriminately.”
“Well, except for the few we’ve hit on the road with the truck, I can guarantee that every one of them that I killed was crazy as hell,” Jesse stated. “Come to think of it, the ones we hit were because they tried to jump onto the truck as we drove by, so they were just like the others.”
I thought back all the way to my very first interaction with those things, to the one that ambushed me while I was taking a shit. For each of the ones I personally killed, they were trying to attack me. “I’m in the same boat,” I said out loud. “For the most part, I’ve always had to defend myself against these things from up close and personal. Obviously, I’ve survived to dread another day.”
“I’m definitely not defending what they do, far from it. Just, maybe, I don’t know…ask it a question before you kill it,” Alejandro shrugged.
“I think we can figure something out,” Jasper said reassuringly. “Are you sure that you want to stay outside? Aren’t you worried about frostbite since you can’t feel the cold?”
“I think I’m beyond that, but…ok, I’ll come inside if I can stay on the opposite side of the room from the fireplace.”
“Deal. Let’s go back,” I said. “I think that Jasper and I should go back inside first and talk to Mark about you, maybe take his gun away. He’s our group’s resident hothead,” I said as an aside to Alejandro.
“I don’t want to be the source of problems for your group,” Alejandro said.
“Nonsense son,” Jasper said. “That guy needs to learn that we don’t know anything about our environment anymore and that people like you exist. He’ll just have to leave all of his preconceived notions behind or he can leave my hotel.”
/// Want to read more? Continue to check back here for portions of Unclean Wonderland! I expect to be complete and published by late summer/early fall 2014!! ////