I’ve been writing intermittently all my life jumping from magazine stuff to commentary. I first trained on screen plays long ago. Never thought I’d be writing about the Zombie Apocalypse.
I’d hit a patch of rough road, when a friend came to me and said he’d dreamed I wrote a musical about the Z-poc. At first I thought he was just trying to give me something to do to get me back on track – but he handed me a song he’d written – that he’d remembered from the dream. So – I wrote the musical and included his song. I quickly put together another fifteen songs to work into the phases of the musical with a script and some ‘glue’ music and six months later I had something.
It was to be, or should I say, is to be (God willing) a multi-media production with a sixteen piece orchestra plus a band playing what I call ‘Southern Symphonic Metal.’ Short version – I couldn’t scrounge the resources to pull it off. What to do eh?
So I have derived a novel from it. I call it “Red Dirt Zombies: The Fight for the River Line.” I thought I was writing a simple zombie-apoc story where the twist was one state, Georgia, fighting and winning. Nothing to it I thought, since I had the script as a starting point; a sort of rough draft. A musical is much harder, right?
Then I started to really engage with my characters and the challenges they would face. No matter what else, I was determined I would not add to the glut of literature concerned with lone survivors scrambling for a can of beans while using exotic weapons they just happened to find, to fight bandits and zombies.
With the premise that Georgia would fight and win I had to figure out what gave the state an edge and how my characters would exploit that edge. I started considering the social implications, mental health crisis, and interaction with central government, at least until central government no longer existed.
Particularly harsh, for me, was the realization that while I’m very much a 2A type, that somehow I would have to reconcile Martial Law with the very real need for all to be armed and the fact that everyone would be suffering from extreme PTSD. Because of the mass insanity, despair and paranoia, suicides and shooting accidents could actually threaten human viability. How would this be handled post war?
One of the solutions is a place called the Q-Zone. It’s based partly on the Austrian Grenzers of Hapsburg times – part time farmers who patrolled the frontiers. In Georgia – the frontiers are called The Final Line – the trace where our forces halted their attacks and declared victory. We’re not sure what is out there really, and comms are shot since the US government went down in a nuclear frenzy early in the war.
The Q-Zone is a place for mind blown soldiers to “Come Down Slowly,” which I took from the musical, which has a video add with a smarmy recruiter noting that chill pills and ammo are free in the Q-Zone and no mental health exam required. It’s a place where two young kids who have been lovers try to figure out what that means since they’ve forgotten how to be ‘normal people.’ I base it on a song called “Life in the Q-Zone: PTSD for Lovers.”
Not clear yet if the Q-Zone will fit in this first volume which centers around the fight my central characters are involved in – for the North River Bridges defending Roswell as the Zs flood down from ‘Pill Hill’ where the hospitals are. It’s where we take a stand and it’s do or die on the river line. There the Armed Citizens, National Guard and State Defense Force people have the fight of their lives. And the first two battalions of the upgraded SDF earn their ‘Whispering Death’ patches.
Somewhat to my surprise I have found that all the work I’ve done will not fit in one volume so I’m probably looking at a trilogy. I’m working on a much different nonfiction piece I’d like to get out the door as well, plus I have to push all my new plotting back into the musical, but I learned as a contractor it’s always better to have too much work than too little.
I’ve submitted a short story / novella version of this first volume to ATZ and would be very pleased to be published there. It’s called “Alice’s Posse” and introduces most of the key characters and the story line.
This will be no surprise to other writers but my characters took control of this work and ran with it. Sometimes I couldn’t believe what was coming up – I’ve grown to love them in a way and it certainly took me off on some strange paths.
One strange path was my zombies. My characters assume not surprisingly, that it is some sort of bio-warfare bug. Perhaps it is, perhaps not; but they cannot isolate it or identify it. All I know is that when these corpses rise they are the nastiest daggone critters you can image. They are fueled by hate for the living and a simple head shot may not do the job – you shoot these things to pieces. They are so full of hate and rage they don’t even mass up tightly because they can’t stand each other. This is about evil.
Research was fascinating – I walked all the North River Line along the Chattahoochee – Roswell is truly a beautiful place. Went to the (fictional) Battle Headquarters at the Roswell Courthouse, the Cultural Center and visited the Governor’s Mansion. Talked to all sorts of folks and found that among police and soldiers you will find many zombie fans!
Atlanta has this massive store of people who almost seem to hope you’ll ask them for assistance. A very genteel Southern lady at the Mansion nodded politely but sternly reminded me not to let my zombies get on the antique furniture!
I need a book cover. I know what it looks like – I can see it in my head. I need a “Whispering Death” shoulder patch – crossed rifles with a skull pointing left with a bony finger extended in the universal ‘shhhhhhhh.’ I need a web site and I have to decide on some publishing options – all that seems very daunting some times. But as our spec ops types like to say, “The only easy day was yesterday.”
Most all, I have to finish this ‘final’ edit. So far I’m on track for the end of August. I hope everyone likes it. It’s been a trip.
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Michael Peirce (Talbot)
As a writer I originally apprenticed under a screen writer through five screen plays. When in Hollywood eh? I wrote much of the dialogue for those and for the sports script, a song called ‘Here’s Johnny Thunder.” Years later I turned on a baseball game and saw Chipper Jones for the first time and exclaimed, “It’s him! Johnny Thunder!”
My personal study guides at the time were “Rolling Thunder” and “Alien,” both of which became well known movies. I read the screen plays, I read the novels, saw the films – it was a blast. A great learning experience but it didn’t take me very far.
Ultimately I’ve published in several formats including “Soldier of Fortune,” “Rockwell-Rothbard Report,” and “Destiny Magazine” off the top of my head. I was also a columnist at LewRockell.com, the libertarian website, for four years.
Being published and paid for it is a trip. I remember living in a cheap motel in Bell, California, where my landlady and her friends were all rooting for me! My first check was photo-copied on their wall!
Additionally, I have been a restaurant manager, a musician/songwriter, a soldier in an African war, a private security agent / bodyguard, a bouncer, a programmer and project manager. I’m self-educated since I’m easily bored and college seemed silly to me as a young know it all. I’ve studied military history all my life.
I’m currently working on my Z-poc books and another called “Observations” about the sort of bizarre situations and people I encountered in Hollywood and Africa.
This link will take you to some of my music. The two songs that are part of the Z-poc Musical are called “I See My Death in Your Faces” and “Life in the Q-Zone: PTSD for Lovers.” I play the instruments and my friend Courtney Hamlet does the vocals. http://www.bandmix.com/miketalbot/