Post-Apocalyptic Fascination

Ever since I watched Maximum Overdrive when I was a kid, I have been fascinated by post-apocalyptic fiction and drama. Developed from a short story by Stephen King, Maximum Overdrive explores how a group of survivors come together after machines start turning on the humans who made them. Not your usual post-apocalyptic concept, but it still explored how a small group are left when everyone around them has perished. I remember pretending it was real when I walked my dogs around the fields where we lived. I’d pretend I was the only soul left alive in the area and I’d pretend to be grossed out by dead bodies and gruesome finds, while I plotted in my head how I would continue to survive in this new world.

Image by George Tudor from Pixabay

As a huge Stephen King fan I inevitably went on to devour The Stand – a thumping great book about an apocalypse caused by a virus. I found it so fascinating I read it twice! Everything about it intrigued me. From the outbreak of the virus and the horrific details of how quickly it spread and decimated the population, to the individual stories of the people who survived and how they came together, to the rise of good people and bad people and the ultimate battle between them.

Currently, I am watching The Walking Dead for the first time and I am almost at the end of season 10. I’m utterly addicted! A zombie apocalypse is an even more gory and frightening one, but again, it is the human stories that fascinate me – from survival of the early outbreak, to the hopes and fears of groups trying to find safe places and barricade the walkers out, to the inevitable bad humans who are arguably more revolting and dangerous than the walkers, to the fascinating survival skills the humans pick up or develop along the way. I genuinely feel like should a real end-of-the-world situation arise, I would be better prepared thanks to watching this TV show!

I am also currently writing my own post-apocalyptic series and it’s been great fun but also incredibly challenging. I have delved into dystopia before, with The Tree Of Rebels set far in the future after wars have nearly obliterated the human race, but this is the first time I have attempted post-apocalyptic fiction that starts as the tragedy unravels. It’s challenging because it’s been in my head for so long and I have read and watched so many post-apocalyptic books and films, that I feel a bit intimidated. I so want to get it right that sometimes I struggle to write it at all!

I have however written the first two books and I am half way through book three. Because there is a good chance I will want to go back and alter things I am not releasing any of them until all four books are ready. But writing it, and watching The Walking Dead got me thinking – what is it about this particular genre that fascinates us so much? It’s hugely popular – you only have to look at the various Walking Dead spin-offs in action or in the pipeline, to see that the end of the world as we know it is a big business. Here are a few reasons I think the genre is so popular:

  1. Dissatisfaction with this world – I don’t think anyone would swap this world for one over-run by walkers, deadly viruses, or rampaging robots, but even so, I do think a dissatisfaction and anxiety about the society we live in fuels our interest in post-apocalyptic fiction. Characters in post-apocalyptic dramas tend to find a new way of doing things. Once they have survived long enough to start rebuilding, they tend to rebuild in a different way as if they have learned from the mistakes of the past, and I think we are curious about this. If everything was razed to the ground and we had to start again, what kind of society would we work to build? I think most of us would opt for a kinder, fairer more environmentally friendly one and that’s interesting to think about.
  2. Curiosity about how we would react – they say you never truly know how you would react to extreme danger, pain, fear, or the threat of death. We simply have no idea whether we would die easily or become a true survivor. Would we hide away crying, or would we come out fighting? In post-apocalyptic fiction and drama, the weak don’t tend to last long. Characters make stupid mistakes and fall victim to all kinds of terrible deaths. We like to think we would do better. We would be smarter, faster, stronger and more adaptable, but would we? Wondering about this fuels our need to watch and read the genre.
  3. Fascination with survival skills – in a post-apocalyptic world, characters are forced to go back to basics. Walking instead of driving, using horses instead of cars, building shelters, hunting animals for food, fishing, setting traps, filtering water so it’s safe to drink and so on. In our modern lives we don’t need to do any of these things and we tend not to worry about food or oil running out, but maybe we should. We used to be better connected to nature and we used to do all those things to survive. Things are far too easy for us now and we are softer because of it. Watching post-apocalyptic shows and reading the genre makes us more aware of the need for such survival skills. Anyone with these skills is going to have a better chance of survival and I think we enjoy picking up a few tips, just in case!
  4. Boredom – I think to a certain extent us humans grow bored of the society we live in. Once you are in the never ending circle of work, pay bills, work, buy food, work, work, work, you wonder if a different kind of life is possible. In post-apocalyptic situations, the characters are freed from the drudgery of the work/money hamster wheel and they can do whatever they like. Life might be dangerous, but it’s certainly never boring.
  5. Disillusion with the human race – now, I would obviously never advocate population control or the mass death of humans! But like a lot of people, I am endlessly disappointed with the human race. I am frustrated and saddened that they continue to vote for selfish, rich people who continue to wreck the planet. I hate to see our wildlife being decimated, our continuous consumption pushing the planet to the brink. If we are not careful, we’ll have a post-apocalyptic situation on our hands sooner than we think. Human beings can be wonderful, but they are also frustratingly stupid and selfish. I see this more and more around me and I weep for what we are doing to Mother Nature. I can’t help thinking she would be better off without us here. I think we enjoy the genre for this reason too. In books and films where the majority of the population have perished, we get to see what the world would be like without most of here, without us wrecking and polluting, using and abusing it.
  6. The need to go back to basics – I’ve blogged before about my strange desire for a far more basic life. If I could, I would withdraw from society almost completely. If I could live in a little house or cabin far away from humanity, with woods and fields and a stream around me, I would go in a shot. I would go off-grid and get back to nature. I enjoy watching and reading this aspect in post-apocalyptic shows and books. People living basic lives, at one with nature, far away from anyone else.
  7. Preparation for the future – sadly I think this might be one of the main reasons the post-apocalyptic genre is so popular. We are faced with climate change disaster and ecological disaster, not to mention soil disaster, and the possibility of more pandemics. Wow – sometimes I wonder how any of us get up and get through the day with all that hanging over our heads! It plays on my mind constantly. I have no idea what will happen but I have very little hope that the powerful people in charge will do the right thing. I think millions of us will suffer and die as things get worse in the coming years and for young people, the situation is even more dire and depressing. Maybe we are fascinated with the genre because we are trying to prepare ourselves for what may be coming our way.

What about you? Are you a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction and drama or is it something you avoid? Do you have a favourite post-apocalyptic TV show, film or book? Let me know in the comments!

Guest Post #3 Hello Home…

Welcome to another guest post for my ‘Hello Home…’ pandemic themed feature. It would seem all of us have experienced or are still experiencing a lockdown of some sort while the corona virus continues to blight our lives. Although we are all in the same situation, we experience it differently because our homes are all so different. Thinking about this inspired me to write a piece a few weeks ago dedicated to my house and what it has meant to me during these strange and unsettling times. This week, please welcome author Paul Waters to the blog with a wonderful piece about a lockdown project that really brought the local community together. Enjoy!

The Blue Book House

During Covid my second home has kept me connected to the world. It’s not what you think. I don’t spread my life between two properties. But I do have a home-from-home with essential creature comforts and it sits on my front fence.

My other house is wooden, double-fronted and painted blue. My carpenter friend, Mick, made it watertight and solid for me. My friend, Wink, friend carefully painted it. My Mum, Patricia, did the lettering. And the creature comforts it contains are a selection of one of life’s essentials – books. Hence the name, the Blue Book House.

It all started before the pandemic when I realised that I had far too many books. It seemed like putting a book house in front of my human house would be a good way to share my surplus and spread the book love. But it has not turned out as I expected.

The message written on both sides of my book house says: “Choose a free book. Read it. Keep it forever. Or pass it on.” And people do. They look through the windows or open the doors for a rummage while standing on the pavement.

But far from reducing my book stock, the book house has boosted it in volume and variety. That’s because people passing by also do two other things. They return books they’ve taken and they kindly add books of their own. Sometimes they slot them in. (I try to keep children’s books on the left and other on the right – though that system and any themed displays I attempt quickly become higgledy-piggledy.) Other times I open my front door to find a pile or bag of books in my porch. Which is lovely, though it wasn’t quite was I was aiming for.

I love books. I read voraciously. I write books – you’ll find my debut historical crime thriller Blackwatertown in shops in the UK, Ireland, France and Spain, and online. I like talking about books – I co-present a books and authors podcast called We’d Like A Word with fellow author, Stevyn Colgan. And I love sharing books and the love of reading. So the Blue Book House fits right in.

But it has also become something else – a point of contact with other people when we are restricted in where we can go and what we can do. It’s a connection at a time of social distancing, loneliness and alienation – and reduced hours or closure for local libraries. Most of the time people dip in and out of the book house without me noticing. The only indication is the books rearranged, some gone, others arrived.

But sometimes I happen to be passing a window when people are browsing. The book house is a reason to pause and rest when walking the dog or getting some exercise. Or perhaps I happen to be coming or going myself and have the chance to exchange socially distanced hellos with neighbours.

Sometimes a note is posted through my letterbox or left inside the book house saying thanks for a particular book. They’re usually anonymous. Sometimes with the handwriting and crayon drawings of a young reader. And that is lovely.

When there’s so much doom and gloom and disruption, the notes and conversations prompted by the Blue Book House bring light into my life.

You’re welcome to look inside and see if there’s a book that tickles your fancy. Or if you’re not in the neighbourhood, you could visit virtually via Twitter @bluebookhouse or Facebook @LittleBlueBookHouse

Even better, you could create your own book house. Just don’t expect it to help you cut down the number of books in your home.

Thank you so much to Paul for contributing this wonderful piece to Hello Home…feature. If you would like to find out more about Paul and his work his bio and links are below!

Bio

Paul Waters is the author of Blackwatertown, published in paperback/softcover and ebook by Unbound and audiobook by WF Howes. His website is http://www.paulwatersauthor.com

Books

 Blackwatertown: Amazon.co.uk: Paul Waters: 9781783529254: Books or www.amazon.co.uk/Blackwatertown-Paul-Waters/dp/1783529253/ref=sr_1_1?crid=4G0MXWZ5E4EO&dchild=1&keywords=blackwatertown+paul+waters&qid=1611069602&sprefix=blackwatertown+%2Cdigital-text%2C140&sr=8-1

2021 Reading Challenge

Hi everyone,

This is a post to correspond with my Christmas Calendar Countdown. Every day since the 1st December I have been providing a festive treat for my readers and followers, so far including: win an ebook competitions, win a paperback competition, name a character in my current WIP, sneak peek of a new book cover, me reading from my WIP and much more. I hope you have been enjoying them! This post is for Day 13 and behind the door today is a reading challenge for you to get your teeth into throughout 2021. I’ve taken part in a few reading challenges myself and they are really good fun and often force you to try genres and styles and authors you maybe would not have otherwise. I haven’t taken part in one for a few years though, so rather than search the net for a suitable challenge I decided to come up with one of my own. I tried to challenge myself with this, so I hope you like it and if you want to take part, just tag me in any posts you share!

So here is the challenge;

  1. A book where the location is paramount
  2. A book set in a country you have visited
  3. A book set where you live or as close to it as possible
  4. A book with a title at least eight words long
  5. A play
  6. A book whose title is also a song
  7. A book aimed at adults where the protagonist is a child
  8. A fictional book based on real events
  9. A book with a one word title
  10. A book where the protagonist is a different ethnicity than you
  11. A short story collection
  12. A book with a black front cover
  13. A book with a dual narrative written in 1st person
  14. The first book in a series
  15. A book with an illustrated front cover
  16. A book about climate change
  17. A non-fiction book about a serial killer
  18. A post-apocalyptic book
  19. A classic you have always meant to read
  20. A book you wished you had studied at school
  21. A book you have seen the movie adaptation of but have not read the book
  22. A book where the main character is an animal
  23. A book from your least favourite genre
  24. A book from your most favourite genre
  25. A book aimed at children which focuses on nature
  26. A book from an indie author you have never heard of
  27. An award winning book
  28. A book where the main character has your dream job
  29. A book with the most colourful cover you’ve ever seen
  30. A book where the main character has a disability but the story is not about it

I’m quite excited to give this a go! I don’t know what to call it though – any ideas?

Indie Author Of The Month; Paula Harmon

Welcome to another Indie Author of The Month post! This time please welcome the marvellously versatile and prolific indie author Paula Harmon. As well as writing fantastic novels and short stories, Paula was also one of the wonderful people behind Blandford’s first ever literary festival last November. I was honoured to be asked to get involved and it was a fantastic event I hope they are all very proud of. I can’t wait for the next one! Here Paula talks about where her ideas come from, what her writing process is and more. Enjoy.

  1. Tell us about your latest release. What is it about and who is it aimed at?

The Wrong Sort To Die’ will be out as an e-book on 30th June 2020.

It’s a historical mystery set in June 1910.

Fighting her corner in a man’s world, Dr Margaret Demeray works as a pathologist in a London hospital for the poor. Suppressing her worry that she’s breaching confidentiality, Margaret gives a stranger called Fox information about a dead down-and-out, in the hope he’ll use it to raise awareness of bad working conditions.

But when a second man appears to die the same way, Margaret starts to wonder why the enigmatic Fox keeps turning up to ask ever more complex questions.

She decides to work alone, uncertain of his motives and wary of her attraction to him.

Once she starts investigating however, her home is burgled, she’s attacked in broad daylight and a close friend becomes distant.

Fox offers the chance to forge an alliance, saying he knows why the men have died but needs her to find out what is killing them and who is behind it.

Yet how come the closer she gets to him the more danger she faces? And how can a memory she’d buried possibly be linked to the deaths?

Margaret must discover the truth before someone – known or unknown – silences her for good.Margaret Demeray was a minor character in the Caster and Fleet series set in the 1890s where she first appeared as feisty teenager. There was no chance she was going to let her older sister get away with all the fun. It would be suitable for anyone who enjoys writers like Ann Granger, Anne Perry, Clara Benson and like a strong-minded female lead.Tell us about your publishing journey so far.

2. Tell us about your publishing journey so far.

I published two collections of short stories in 2016, followed by a memoir about my father in 2017. In 2018, I published my first novel ‘Murder Britannica’ which is a historical mystery set in Roman-Britain in AD190. The sequel ‘Murder Durnovaria’ set the following year in Roman Dorchester came out late 2019. I published a joint collection of short fantasy stories called ‘Weird and Peculiar Tales’ with Val Portelli. With Liz Hedgecock, I co-wrote the Caster and Fleet series – six historical mysteries set in 1890s London which start with ‘The Case of the Black Tulips’. They’re about two young women, frustrated with the restrictions in their lives who end up in partnership solving mysteries.

3. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was very small, if I was sent to bed early as a punishment I was always quite glad as it gave me the chance to tell myself stories. (For as long as we shared a bedroom, I used to drive my younger sister up the wall by doing this under my breath when she was trying to go to sleep.) Creative writing was my favourite subject at school and I’d always meant to be a writer. Earning a living, then having a family got in the way to start but I thought I’d finally have time and space when my youngest child started school.  However, a relocation and change of working pattern meant my dream was dashed. Then in 2015, someone encouraged me to enter a competition and join a writers’ group. After that I sort of thought ‘if I don’t just get on with it whether I have time and space or not, I’ll never do it’ and I did.

4.What is your typical writing day like?

I work full-time and writing tends to have to fit round work. I try to write for one day at the weekend as well as fitting in an hour a day otherwise. I’d write on train journeys as I did a lot of commuting up till March. The current Covid-19 situation makes things less easy since, although I’m still working, I spend that ‘hour after work’ catching up by video with my mother and sister. But on the other hand, I’ve had nowhere to go at weekends and been able to get on with writing instead. Although, as for many, the coronavirus situation itself has a scrambled my brain a little.

5. What is your writing process? (how do you plot a book, come up with characters, find motivation etc)

I tend to start off with a short scene in my head – a person or people in a location doing something apparently ordinary and then I have to work out who they are and what’s extraordinary about it or what’s going to happen next. I usually start with two characters and seem to end up with a million – really not sure why! Once I know who the people are, I then work out where they are, when they’re living and what time of year it is. If it’s set in another era, I’ll do a little light research to find out what was going on at the time in case I need to factor that in.  Generally once I find the ‘shape’ of the story, I know how it will start and end and roughly who wants what and what is stopping them from getting it. I usually write that down and then an outline of what ought to happen roughly at each stage of the book. Then I just start and see what happens. I quite often end up completely reorganising the middle, though the beginning and end don’t usually change. I find out more and more about the characters as I go long – they become ‘real’ and that sometimes alters what the core of the story is about in terms of what they learn about themselves or their world.

6. What has been the most positive thing about your publishing journey so far?

Hearing that people enjoy what you’ve written – that it’s touched them or made them laugh – is wonderful. But for myself, even if I write something that not many people read, somehow tapping into the part of my brain that demands to write stories is a wonderful mental release.

7. What has been the most negative thing about your publishing journey so far?Marketing is very hard work. Most writers by nature are rather introverted. I’m not sure I always come across that way at work, but the minute I start talking about my books, I’m overwhelmed with shyness. It always feels like I’m exposing a part of myself, which I suppose I am – since most characters have elements of the author in them. (That’s a little alarming when I think of some of my characters.)

8. Who is your favourite character from your own books and why?

That’s really hard to answer and tends to depend on what I’m working on at the moment! Margaret Demeray’s outgoing and determined nature leads her to want to make the world a fairer place, but it hides a vulnerability. She’s drawn in part from some of the rather feisty women in my family, none of whom let anyone tell them what they could or couldn’t do. But I confess her tendency to lose her temper and say the wrong thing when she does is definitely me.

But I can’t help loving Lucretia – one of the main (and from her perspective) most misunderstood characters in the Murder Britannica series. It never ceases to astound her that people don’t realise just how important she is, but she remains full of hope that not only will she become even richer very soon but that she’ll find if not love then passion – it’s just annoying that people around her keep dying in suspicious circumstances.

9. Where do your ideas come from?

I really don’t know! They just turn up. I’ve always had very vivid dreams and quite often that’s where they come from, and I’m also a terrible day-dreamer. I love places of transit like stations where you can think ‘what if I got on a different train and went somewhere else entirely? or what if the train went back in time? or what if an old friend/enemy sat down next to me? or…’ I sort of apply that in other contexts and see what unfolds. ‘Murder Britannica’ started as a paragraph where Lucretia is having a snide and critical conversation with her daughter-in-law. It just came to me one lunch-time and I wrote it down. It was years before the rest fell into place. With ‘The Wrong Sort To Die’, I started knowing that Margaret had qualified as a doctor in about 1898 and wondered what she’d done after that. I knew she’d have a thirst for justice and equality but also suspected she wouldn’t be much good at bedside manner, so wondered what she’d do and decided she’d probably work in a charitable hospital in the pathology department. I decided what year the story would take place in and by chance, saw something on TV about that era which gave me a germ of a background for the plot – most of the general public thinks they’re living in a golden age of peace with new inventions and social change but meanwhile, the government is preparing for war. What might that mean for the people Margaret wants to help?

10. What can we expect from you next?

Next on the list will be the third in the ‘Murder Britannica’ series. While ‘Murder Durnovaria’ was set in Roman Dorchester, the third book is set in a small town near a river which is roughly located where modern day Blandford is. It’s midwinter and Lucretia’s nephew Fabio will do anything to avoid being forced into an arranged marriage, even look into strange goings on in a small town where it’s hard to know who’s on whose side.

11. Tell us three fun facts about youI can make something out of next to nothing whether it’s a meal or a costume; I don’t take myself remotely seriously; according to family legend I have a medieval ancestor who caught a ‘whale’ off London bridge.

12. What is the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?

Don’t give up. Keep writing things even if you don’t finish them, they may come into their own one day and if not then they’re worth it just for the practice. Maybe today is the right day and maybe it’s not. One day you’ll just get on with it, regardless of whether you really have the space or time. Everything you experience, witness and live through can inform your writing whether it’s serious or funny or thought-provoking. Within legal limits – be a people watcher!

Thank you so much to Paula for agreeing to be interviewed on my blog! |If you would like to find out more about Pauls and her books, her bio and links are below!

Paula Harmon was born in North London to parents of English, Scottish and Irish descent. Perhaps feeling the need to add a Welsh connection, her father relocated the family every two years from country town to country town moving slowly westwards until they settled in South Wales when Paula was eight. She later graduated from Chichester University before making her home in Gloucestershire and then Dorset where she has lived since 2005.

She is a civil servant, married with two children at university. Paula has several writing projects underway and wonders where the housework fairies are, because the house is a mess and she can’t think why.

https://paulaharmondownes.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/pg/paulaharmonwrites

viewauthor.at/PHAuthorpage

Murder Britannica

It’s AD 190 in Southern Britain. Lucretia won’t let her get-rich-quick scheme be undermined by minor things like her husband’s death. But a gruesome discovery leads wise-woman Tryssa to start asking awkward questions.

Murder Durnovaria

It’s AD 191. Lucretia last saw Durnovaria as a teenager. Now she’s back to claim an inheritance. Who could imagine an old ring bought in the forum could bring lead to Tryssa having to help local magistrate Amicus discover who would rather kill than reveal long-buried truths.

The Wrong Sort To Die

London 1910. Dr Margaret Demeray is approached by a stranger called Fox to help find out what’s killed two impoverished men. How can a memory she’d buried possibly be linked to the deaths? And how come the closer she gets to Fox the more danger she faces herself?

The Cluttering Discombobulator

Can everything be fixed with duct tape? Dad thinks so. The story of one man’s battle against common sense and the family caught up in the chaos around him.

Kindling

Secrets and mysteries, strangers and friends. Stories as varied and changing as British skies.

The Advent Calendar

Christmas without the hype says it is – stories for midwinter.

The Quest

In a parallel universe, Dorissa and Menilly, descendants of the distrusted dragon people, are desperate to find their runaway brother in a fog-bound city, which simmers with unrest and deceit.

The Seaside Dragon

For 7-11 year olds. When Laura and Jane go on holiday to a remote cottage, the worst they expect is no wifi. The last thing they expect is to be battling strange creatures with an ancient grudge.

The Case of the Black Tulips (with Liz Hedgecock)

When Katherine Demeray opens a letter addressed to her missing father, little does she imagine that she will find herself in partnership with socialite Connie Swift, racing against time to solve mysteries and right wrongs. (This is the first of six Caster & Fleet Mysteries)

Weird and Peculiar Tales (with Val Portelli)

Short stories from this world and beyond.