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Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Geography of 'Diary of a Second Life'

Because so much of the novel takes place on the road, as it were, geography is pretty important.  I explained in previous posts why I chose the places I did (Fort Lee, Pentagon, etc.) so this is just me showing you where, exactly, they went.

Click to enlarge, of course.

This is the real Fort Lee.  On the map, I've (crudely) drawn the lines where the walls will be in a few hundred years' time.

After Wess and Remi leave, they camp out near a river, surrounded by the ruins of an ancient bridge:
That's the Varina-Enon Bridge.  A tall and beautiful structure that spans the James River southeast of Richmond.  You can see the columns stretching into the north in my drawing.

Quite a bit further north as our heroes near New Jerusalem, they find the Great Mound:
This is just south of the Springfield "Mixing Bowl"; a morass of off-and-on ramps.  The Mound is built up between two bridge supports, which, as you can see, were modeled after the supports in use along I-95 near Springfield.  (Altered and maintained by the people of New Jerusalem, natch.)

And here's New Jerusalem itself:
The "ridge" of New Jerusalem's border follows the path of I-495.  I've (crudely) drawn the path of the ridge, as well as the roads of New Jerusalem atop a map of today's northern Virginia.  You can see that the villages are situated where current towns and cities are now (Capernaum for Alexandria, etc.).  Also, note that Fort Myer is the Holy Guard's base, Arlington National Cemetery is the orchard for the Trees of Life, and so on.

And here's Detrick:
Pretty straightforward, I think.  The buildings that I drew as still standing in the Detrick of 2355 you'll be able to find on the actual map.

And here's the journey, from beginning to end, with red representing Wess' flight north and the blue representing Wess' path when he returned to New Jerusalem:
Start at Fort Lee.

1. The Varina-Enon Bridge.

2. Richmond International Airport.  That's the long open space they cross and soon after, come to an old interstate.  Wess looks west into Richmond from I-64.

3. Fort A. P. Hill.  This is the place Wess and Remi find a wall, not unlike their own at Fort Lee.  They get a bad vibe and flee.

4. The place where Wess and Remi are taken by Mountaineers/Rogues.  They're camped out in one of those long valleys between trees where huge power line towers stretch toward the horizon.

5. The place where they emerge after escaping the Mountaineers' compound under Quantico.

6. The Great Mound and Southern Gates of New Jerusalem.

7. Great Falls.  This is where Wess crosses the Potomac to get on the Maryland side to stay away from all the terminals:

8. As I wrote, I kept a window open with Google Maps and I scrolled north and traced a path for Wess.  Sometimes I found things in his path that I could use in the book.  Creeks, fields, large buildings, power stations ... here at the number eight, there was a large quarry.  That whole scene with Wess falling in came from me just stumbling across it as I scrolled north toward Fort Detrick:

9. Point of Rocks bridge.  This is the place where Wess and the others cross the Potomac on their return visits to New Jerusalem:

10. Leesburg, VA.  The town where Pol turns left on the return trip.  The group travels along Route 7 back to the Western Gates.  Ditto for the military mission later on.

And that's pretty much that.  Unless I get a bunch of requests for me to outline the origins of the theology of New Jerusalem, I believe I've finished with Diary of a Second Life's special features.

If you haven't bought it already, you can do get it at Smashwords HERE in multiple file formats (use coupon code EC76Q to get it for just 99¢) or at Amazon HERE.

Stick around.  There's more to come, of course.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Waiting for the Restlessness

I haven't posted in a while and that's because I'm not actually writing at the moment.  Other than a big post on the geography of Diary of a Second Life (which, I guess, I need to get crackin' on), I'm done with my previous works.

Please do download them:
Diary of a Second Life (Smashwords/Amazon)
Displaced (Smashwords/Amazon)
Lords of Kobol series (Smashwords).

That's six books.  Over the last three years, I've been writing.  When I haven't been writing, I've been editing.  When I haven't been doing either of those things, I've been pimping what I've written and edited.  Of course, I can't do it every hour of the day and every day.  I take days off in between books, too.  That's where I am now.

I'll divert my attentions by annotating episodes of MST3K, watching movies, playing video games, etc.  I keep this up for a while until I begin to feel something gnawing at my thoughts.  It's like that feeling you get when you're leaving for a big trip and there's that nagging sensation that you've forgotten something.  I call it the "restlessness."  When I begin to feel it, I'll know it's time to start writing again.

Before I start, though, I have to engage in a palate cleanser.  Usually, it's watching a favorite movie, like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  Once I've mentally reset myself, I can sit down and begin the work.

I haven't felt the restlessness yet.  Judging from the past, it'll be a few days, at least.

"When you do sit down," you're asking, "what will you write?"

Well, it'll either be the "male romance novel" (meaning: all sex, no romance) or it'll be Lords of Kobol - Book Zero: Of Gods and Titans.  Frankly, it depends on my mood and if I'm feeling particularly inspired.

Sorry if I'm being disingenuous but that's the long and short of why I haven't done much lately.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Original Outline for 'Diary of a Second Life'

My supplemental materials for my post-apocalyptic zombie coming-of-age novel Diary of a Second Life continue.  If you haven't yet, please snag it at Smashwords for just 99¢ with coupon code EC76Q or at Amazon for the usual $1.99.

A little history first.  Some years ago, I was watching the 2006 Legend Films release of Night of the Living Dead, featuring commentary with MST3K's Michael J. Nelson.  (This is not, by the way, the 2009 version that was riffed on by Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett.)

Now, the version with only Mike is not, frankly, that great.  I'm guessing he hadn't decided to give it the full Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment yet so there were gaps in the riffing and, at one point, he even read the recipe for a drink called a zombie.

It was during these longer portions that my mind wandered and I thought, "Has anyone ever done a zombie story set years after the zombie apocalypse?"  I did some half-hearted searching and didn't find anything.  Later that night, I wrote up an outline.

I'll present lines from the outline itself in italics with my comments in normal text.

Split narrative: 200-300 years after the onset, teen reads logs of scientists trying to fight the disease 
What did I mean by "split narrative," you're asking?  Well.  Allow me to present my severe dork card.  Ever hear of a British four-hour drama titled Longitude?

Jeremy Irons plays a man in the first half of the 20th century who finds and restores a series of clocks built in the 18th century by Michael Gambon to help sailors solve their navigation problems.  Godsdamn, that sounds dull, right?  Hells no!  I love it!  It's a true pleasure of mine.

At any rate, that's what I'm referring to.  Splitting the drama between the past (Gambon/scientists) and the present (Irons/teen).  That's what I wanted to do then ... but when I sat down to write a few months ago, I decided it wouldn't work.  Why?  Threefold.

1. Science!  Following scientists around as they look for the cure could be interesting, but I'd have to delve deeper into scientific concepts than I'd feel comfortable doing.  Sure, there would be the occasional breakaway to soldiers at the front but that brings me to ...
2. Apocalypse Overdone!  In 2007, sure, the zombie thing hadn't really kicked in.  But now, with World War Z, The Walking Dead, and so on, the zombie apocalypse has been pretty well documented.  Again, it was the idea that no one had really done a post-post-apocalypse story that drew me in.
3. Resolution!  As in, half the narrative (the past bit) would be about finding a cure and hoping a future generation can finish their work while the other half (the present bit) would be kind of a letdown, because our hero wouldn't be finding the cure.  After all, having a teen find the cure to the most deadly infection of all time would be cheeky, to put it mildly.  There wouldn't be a real resolution, at least not in the traditional sense.  Setting it up as though there would be one would be misleading and disappointing.

I reserve the right to employ the split narrative in case someone wants me to write a screenplay in the future.  In a visual medium, I might be able to make it work.  Maybe.

Back to the outline:

Teen grows up in closed community (former military base?); inbreeding becomes a problem
Finds research logs from the past; decides to leave to find people who are working on the cure
No surprises.  Nothing really changed.

Finds clues in the logs and heads for the Pentagon
Don't know why I fixated on the Pentagon as a destination so long ago, but I did.  I guess I figured the structure could hold up.

Along the way, encounters zombies and roving bands of cannibals.
I liked the juxtaposition of having both the living and living dead eating human flesh.  My aim was to have our hero dodging these folk throughout the whole thing.  Then I saw The Road.  Woof, that's a dark film.  Good, but dark.  Anyways, there were cannibals in there, too, and they were confined to just one scene.  That made me realize perhaps they could be used to better effect if I minimized their appearances.  Once I started writing, I pushed the cannibalism into the background and made the horrors wrought by the Mountaineers/Rogues a bit different.

Find communities ruled by pleasant-but-dumb 'cavemen' ...
I had a small village in mind of nice, rock-stupid people who would help the main character but show him the need to press on in light of their bewildering ignorance.

... religious types who worship Zombie Jesus ...
Well, obviously this bit became greatly enlarged.  I put it in there almost as a joke but once I got writing, the "logic" of this belief became more "sensible," I guess.  Lock a bunch of religious people up in a basement for a few years and they might latch onto the stories in Revelation as well as Jesus' own post-death awakening for some sort of comfort.

... a matriarchal society ...
I didn't have much of an idea here.  Just that there'd be a village run by women.  The idea sort of survives in the Rogues because their leader is a woman.

... good salt-of-the-Earth agrarian types and so on.
Survived a little in both the people of Lee and in the citizenry of New Jerusalem.

Gets to Pentagon and finds it overrun with zombies
Well, this survived in the final version.  Sort of.  In the climax.

Encounters horseman from one of the (good) villages he visited before and he helps guide him to other villages/facilities
This stranger became Captain Ward Jogo, the rider from New Jerusalem.

On horse, encounters other villages and encampments before he reaches a scientifically minded stronghold in Denver?  Canada?  (some place cold)
By now, you're seeing the same flaw in this outline that I realized a few months ago when I dug it out.  Too much riding around; too many different villages (and therefore different characters, settings, etc.).

Plot-wise, that was the end of the outline.  Yeah, I know.  No real ending, huh?  (If I ever do a sequel, I'd probably use part of this outline and have a grown-up Wess head for Canada or somewhere to discuss his research with others.  I'm not writing a sequel, though.  Sorry.)

I did have a few notes on how I wanted my zombies to act:

Everyone becomes a zombie once they die.  Maybe all animals, too?  Move faster the "fresher" the body is.
I won't go into details on that here.  If you're interested, read this post: Terminals & Zombies: Compare & Contrast.

And that's the end of the outline.  I put the notebook away and pretty much forgot about it.

Fast forward to last year.  Watching The Walking Dead, I remembered I wrote that outline.  Then I remembered the reason it was attractive to me in the first place: no real zombie stories set far, far after the apocalypse.  I did a search and found that it was mostly the case.  An author named Carrie Ryan began a series in 2009 called The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  I didn't read it (I didn't want to "poison" my thoughts), but I perused the synopsis enough to know that I wouldn't be covering the same ground.

I did a little updating to the outline and got rid of much of the travel, beefed up the "Zombie Jesus" worshipers, adjusted the Mountaineer bits, etc.  I thought about centering much of the action in southern Pennsylvania, including Gettysburg.  This would allow me to keep things close enough to the Pentagon, too.  Later, of course, I chose Fort Lee for our hero's home.

The only other major idea I had that changed completely involves the climax.  Click away if you haven't read the book yet.

Still here?  Fine.  The eclipse idea came to me back in December and I wanted to tie that into a major battle near the Pentagon.  Two sides: the soldiers of Detrick vs. the Holy Guard of New Jerusalem.  One side (Wess') would know the eclipse was coming and would enjoy that element of surprise.  Here's the cool bit: the forces of Detrick would sneak electrical generators into secret tunnels under and around the Pentagon.  As the Holy Guard were killed in battle, the generators would excite the microbe and make them rise again almost instantly and wreak havoc behind enemy lines.  Sounds rather badass, but I couldn't come up with a logical and internally consistent reason to have our educated researchers at war with another city.  I think it worked out better this way.

When did I decide that Diary of a Second Life was going to be a "coming-of-age" story?  Umm ... I'd love to say it was always in my mind, but it wasn't.  It just sort of happened while I wrote.  I started with the intent of writing a zombie epic from the perspective of one teen.  That it evolved into a more personal story about that young man was only natural, I guess.

And that's it for now.  I'll be posting an article on the real-world geography of the book soon, so be on the lookout for that.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Art of 'Diary of a Second Life' Part II

We're getting into the really spoilery stuff now, so you'll find the rest after the JUMP.  (All pics are embiggenable.)  In the meantime, go ahead and buy Diary of a Second Life  for just 99¢ at Smashwords HERE (coupon code EC76Q) or for the regular low price of $1.99 at Amazon HERE.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

GREAT NEWS! (Not really)

So, there won't be a Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome series ...

... but there will be a Lords of Kobol miniseries!

Thanks to everyone who made this possible (you know who you are), and thanks to Mr. David Eick for thinking so highly of my work.

While you still can, go and download my FREE Lords of Kobol books here:
Pre-production starts soon!

Yes.  Look at the posting date.  April 1.  Yep.  Sorry.