How to Braaains! Storm your Zombie Novel

GIRL-Z-My-Life-as-a-Teenage-Zombie-zombie-bookWant to write a cool zombie novel? Great— but first you will have to plan a number of things so your novel will be unique and interesting both to zombie fans and to others.

There is a preliminary step before you begin your brainstorming. READ ZOMBIE NOVELS. It doesn’t help if you have watched every zombie novel that has ever been released, or if you watch every ‘The Walking Dead’ episode over and over again. Novels are different. Read those.

If you don’t know of any zombie novels, try some of these:

Girl Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie by C. S. Verstraete
Neeta Lyffe: Zombie Exterminator by Karina Fabian
World War Z by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks)
INFECtIOUS by Elizabeth Forkey

OK, with your reading done, it is time to get started with the brainstorming. Get out your writing implements, set a timer for an appropriate amount of minutes, and start brainstorming on one or more of the following:

  • The rules of your zombies— how do they function, how do they behave, what are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Your zombie infectious agent— where did it come from, how does it work, is it a virus, bacterium, prion or other, is it natural, alien, or the result of germ warfare, and what is it called?
  • Your world before the zombie epidemic— like our own or different? In what ways?
  • Your survivors— what are they like? Typically in horror fiction the characters are somewhat traditional people leading somewhat normal lives— think of Rick Grimes and family from The Walking Dead. This makes their struggles more compelling to us than would be the struggles of gay male prostitutes or Colombian drug lords. Though the gay male prostitute and Colombian drug lord might make interesting sidekicks for a Rick Grimes character.
  • Your villains or opposing forces— government, political extremists, or just the zombies?
  • Your survivors’ weapons and survival strategies— think of Daryl Dixon’s crossbow and his hunting skills. (Another ‘The Walking Dead’ reference.)
  • Your survival location (if your characters are not nomadic throughout the novel.)
  • Difference: in what way is your zombie fictional vision different than others you have read or watched? In what ways is it similar?
  • Genre: Zombie fiction is not all horror. ‘Neeta Lyffe: Zombie Exterminator’ is a comedy, ‘Girl Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie’ is juvenile fiction (YA), and “INFECtIOUS” combines the zombie apocalypse with the Evangelical End-Times Apocalypse in an original way. What genre or genres is your novel going to be?
  • Why do you what to write a zombie novel? What is it about a zombie novel that really appeals to you? And don’t say that zombies are popular and your novel will sell if it has zombies in it. You have to be inspired by the topic to make a go of it. (For example, I’m quite obsessed with ‘The Walking Dead’, it is one of my ‘Special Interests’, and when the season is running you don’t want to hear all the minute details of each episode that I analyze to death.)

Please give us feedback in a comment— do you have any other ideas for brainstorming a zombie novel? Is brainstorming a technique that works for you? And, who do you think that Negan killed on The Walking Dead?

Z is for Zombie-Proof Fence #zombies #AtoZChallenge

ZRemember all the trouble Rick Grimes and friends had with keeping up the fence around the prison on The Walking Dead? The ability to erect zombie-proof barriers is a key to surviving the zombie apocalypse. But city folks don’t know thing one about fences.

You know who does know about fences? Premier One Supply. They are the nation’s leading supplier of unique livestock fencing options, such as electrified netting fences to contain sheep, goats, poultry and other critters. They also have an electronet designed to keep raccoons out of your garden. And their annual fencing catalog is a virtual textbook on the fine art of fencing to keep livestock in their place, and not in the neighbor’s rose garden (goats love roses, but not in a good way.)

The Premier One catalog features their unique solution to a common rural problem— fencing gardens and orchards to keep deer out. In my area the usual solution is an eight foot fence. These fences are expensive, hard to install since the posts have to be deeper, and more vulnerable to wind and other stresses (like zombies) because of their height.

The Premier One solution is what they call a three-dimensional fence— one electric fence of normal height, and a second outside it of one (or two?) electrified strands. It works for deer. And I believe a similar solution would work to fence out zombies.

Not with electric fence, of course. Zombies are insensitive. An electrical fence jolt, which is like an extra-strong static electricity shock, might not be noticed by a zombie. (How do I know what an electric fence shock is like? Well, when I first put up my electronet, I did the stupid thing and touched it to see if it was really on. It was. I’ve also touched a cat which swished its tail into the fence, and proved that cats conduct electricity.)

Electric fences, according to Premier One, are a fear barrier and not a physical barrier. And zombies don’t feel fear. So even if you HAVE electricity, don’t bother with electric fences for zombie control. You need a physical barrier. The interior fence should be a good solid fence— chain link, woven wire (NOT welded wire), or stock panels, four or five feet high (since zombies don’t climb fences.) The external fence should be barb wire— one strand would work, two or three are better. While zombies may not fear getting cut to shreds with barb wire, the more damaged a zombie gets, the better. Until we get around to double-tapping them, we want them to become as nonfunctional as possible.

As for Rick Grimes’ fence problem at the prison, the solution was super-simple. The chain-link fence was topped with razor wire. They should have taken the razor wire OFF— no zombies are capable of climbing a fence that high— put up some fence posts, and attached the razor wire at about waist height to an adult zombie. That would shred the zombies pretty good, and keep them from getting to the more vulnerable chain-link fence (which they eventually pushed down on the TV show.)

And so that is the end of my A to Z challenge zombie epic. I hope somebody out there enjoyed it. I will start May by alternating between three themes. There will also be a mystery element at the end of each post. Stay tuned. Especially for my upcoming post ‘John Wayne, Radioactive American.’

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Y is for (time of) Year

YThis is a post in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

How many people could survive a zombie apocalypse depends a lot on the time of year, and how the seasons affect different places on Earth. Why? Because humans will very quickly have to get over relying on grocery stores for their food supply, as they will be looted clean in the first two weeks. They will have to learn gardening and crop farming, livestock care, hunting and gathering, and these may take a while— I’ve lived in the country for about 26 years and I only learned how to garden recently, after I read the Square Foot Gardening book. http://www.amazon.com/Square-Foot-Gardening-Second-Revolutionary/dp/1591865484  [Zombie prepper hint: stockpile a bunch of copies of Square Foot Gardening, as well as Belanger’s small livestock book and books on edible wild plants by Euell Gibbons. These will become valuable trade goods once the apocalypse hits.]

Where I currently live, in the southern part of Upper Michigan, is a better place as regards water supply. In my own rural home, I have a well If that fails, I have a cedar swamp. I can dig down there and get water from seep holes.

Survival here would be tough if the apocalypse hit in fall. There would be some hunting opportunities— official deer hunting season is in November. But folks around here store their venison in chest or upright freezers. If we lost our electricity, those freezers would be useless. Hardcore preppers who have the cash might get solar or wind gennies that could handle a freezer and a few other items, but the rest of us would have to master alternative ways of preserving our deer harvest. Fall is also a good time to gather mushrooms and some other wild edible plants, and I suppose one might grow a few garden crops like radishes that have really short growing seasons.

A Winter apocalypse would be hell on survivors. Snow would limit movement and there would be little to forage. But the snow would inhibit zombie movement even more. If your home had a wood stove or furnace, you could survive. You could also sprout alfalfa and bean sprouts if you had sprouters and a supply of mung bean and alfalfa sprouting seeds. The snow and ice would help you preserve your meat supply.

Spring is probably the best time for a zombie apocalypse to hit around here. The stores would be full of gardening supplies and seeds. There would be time to establish a garden. You might be able to score some chickens from panicking neighbors— in these days, even well-to-do folks in cities are keeping small flocks of chickens. And out in the country, chicken keepers may hatch out eggs for their less fortunate neighbors. [Prepper hint: a woman can hatch out two or three fertile chicken eggs in her bra, using body heat. A guy could probably do the same if he had a bra in his size available. It would be annoying, wearing a bra full of eggs 24-7 for the 21 days until hatch, but it can be done.]

Summer is also a decent time for survival. You can still have a garden, you can possibly get a goat or a dairy cow from an abandoned farm, and you’d have time to hand-harvest enough grass for hay in order to keep the critter alive.

W = Weaponized (Zombies), X = (SE)X

WBiological warfare began when some wise guy got the idea to use a catapult to throw dead men into a besieged enemy city— dead men who died of the plague preferred. It got more sophisticated in recent centuries. And the causative organism that makes zombies would make a dandy weapon.

You become a zombie by being bitten by a zombie. So there is some infectious agent in a zombie’s mouth that transmits the disease, whether virus, bacteria, prion or something else.

Scientists could identify this agent and grow it in a lab, aerosolize it, and create bombs or other weapons that spread the agent in the air where people could get it in their eyes, noses and mouths and become infected. This could be lobbed into enemy lines, and in a few days or hours you would have many dead soldiers reanimating and infecting their comrades.

If the side using weaponized zombies has spies in the enemy capital, those spies could have zombie bombs smuggled to them. The bombs could be activated in subways or other crowded places for maximum effect.

Of course, these possibilities depend on the enemy being wholly unsophisticated about zombies. Otherwise, the enemy would retaliate with zombie bombs of its own. Most military forces are smart enough to know that bioweapons— zombie or other— are no fun at all when both sides use them, and would not use them unless the enemy had used them first.

XThe zombie organism is in the bloodstream of zombies, and of those bitten by zombies. What happens when a zombie bite victim, in the time period before death, gets lucky in a sexual way?

The scientific answer would seem to be that the sexual partner runs the risk of a fatal zombie infection. In most zombie movies, EVERY bite results in a fatality, no matter what treatments are tried. So one might expect that a large percentage of zombie victims’ sex partners get infected, even when safer sex practices are used.

If one grants the possibility of slow moving zombie infections— perhaps mainly in people who got the infection through sexual transmission— you could have lots of people who are infected and don’t know it spreading the infection on. So— life in the zombie apocalypse is going to be a lot less sexy than you’d think.

This is a post in the A to Z Challenge: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

Note: I’m planning next month’s blogging. I am thinking of picking 5 topics or so and rotating between them. If you have any suggestions for topics, drop me a comment.

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V is for (Zombie) Vulnerabilities

VWill zombies take over the world? Has the human race no hope? Actually, there is hope, and that is because zombies have vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities limit what zombies can do, and can be exploited by humans. Here are a few of the vulnerabilities.

Low Intelligence – Zombies cannot think. Even mentally retarded humans can outsmart a zombie. Heck, a good border collie can out-think a zombie.

Clumsiness – Zombies have poor motor skills. They don’t walk, they shamble. They can’t climb fences. They can’t open car doors. They have trouble climbing stairs. If they break a window to get at humans, it is an accident caused by a zombie crowd pressing against the glass.

Non-healing – Zombies either don’t heal at all, or they heal very, very slowly and perhaps incompletely. Wounded zombies are less effective at harming humans, especially if said zombies have lost limbs.

Soft skulls – On The Walking Dead at least, it seems like zombies have softer skulls. That’s why even women are able to kill a zombie by punching a short-bladed knife through the skull. With humans, you can shoot them in the head with a .22 and it might not crack the skull.

Attracted to fire and gunshots – This is a rather silly addition to zombie lore made by The Walking Dead. If zombies will walk into fire and toward gunshots, it’s fairly easy to dispose of them in large numbers with a little pre-planning.

Eat their ‘children’ – How do zombies reproduce? They bite humans, who die and turn. What do zombies eat? Humans. On The Walking Dead we’ve seen zombies swarm a person, eating away, pulling out intestines— what kind of zombie will that person become when reanimated? Zombies just can’t think about the future.

Decomposition – If zombies are really decomposing, they are a self-limiting phenomenon. They can’t digest food if their digestive system is rotting. And in time, a rotting zombie will fall apart and ‘die.’ All humans would have to do is lock themselves in bunkers for a few months and the zombie problem solves itself. (I would opine that the apparent decomposition of zombies is either limited to some external parts or that it is some other phenomenon altogether.)

Zombies are vulnerable. Even The Walking Dead acknowledges it— the only time zombies are a real threat is when they come in large groups so even the experienced zombie-killers can’t keep up with killing them.

This is a post in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/ I’m not doing so well keeping up. I’d like to thank the folks that have commented on my posts. It makes me feel like my blog matters, and maybe I even matter.

I is for Infected

I

In the popular television series The Walking Dead, zombies are never, ever called zombies. Mostly they are called walkers, though other groups of people use other nicknames for the undead menace. In the spin-off Fear the Walking Dead, zombies are called ‘infected.’

I forced myself to watch episodes of Fear the Walking Dead yesterday, along with the season 2 opening episode. It still sucks. How can the same people that produced The Walking Dead produce this dreck? (Pardon my Yiddish.) They seem to have forgotten how to create compelling characters. Or they outsourced the character-creation job to some elderly Hollywood hacks.

Think of The Walking Dead, which from the first was centered around Rick Grimes. He was working for the Sheriff’s department and got shot in the line of duty. He woke up in the hospital, with no one around him except walkers. As a man with a wife and a child his first goal is to find his family. It’s a setup for a legendary epic struggle.

Fear the Walking Dead, on the other hand, starts of with a slew of stereotypical Los Angeles characters. The central ones are two school teachers— yeah, people who stay in school for their career and don’t know much about the real world. Each of the teachers is head of a fragmented family with one or two out-of-control teens. Neither parent seems to have been effective in training values or responsibility into the kids. These two families are connected by the fact that the parents are in a LIS relationship (cohabiting.)

This sounds more like a family melodrama made for the Lifetime channel than a zombie epic. Worse, after having watched the whole first season and the start of the second, I haven’t made an emotional connection to any of the characters, except for a vague interest in the junkie. They don’t seem like people to me, they seem like cardboard.  And the zombie menace doesn’t seem as real in this series, even the characters haven’t perfected their zombie-killing techniques.

What about you? Have you watched Fear the Walking Dead? Are there any characters YOU connected with? Do you think the characters will improve over time?

This is a post in the Blogging from A to Z challenge— yeah, I missed a few days. But I’m hoping to get on track now.  If YOU are also participating in the challenge, please give me your blog URL in a comment and I will visit you.

E is for (zombies, the ideal) Enemy

EThis is a post in the Blogging from A to Z challenge: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

Enemies. We used to know how to have enemies. In WW2 we called the Japanese the Japs or the Nips. We called the Germans the Krauts or the Jerries. We didn’t care what they thought about it. Even though in the US the German-American seg

Now we get attacked by Muslim fanatics, and we force our public school kids to learn the Five Pillars of Islam and recite a Muslim prayer— even though our own majority religion is still off limits in the public school and ignorance of the simplest aspects of the faith has led to a rise in ignorance-based atheism.

So if we want to have an old-fashioned war story, we have to turn to zombies. They are the perfect enemy. They don’t have their own culture, society or religion. They are less intelligent than the average frog. They are not people, but have transformed into a walking, biting disease germ.

We don’t have to worry about what our zombie enemy thinks of us. Zombies don’t think. So when we want to have war fiction that doesn’t offend the political correctness rules, we use zombies.

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What Windows 10 did for me:

Killed one computer

Slowed my productivity to a crawl on the new one.

So: be warned.