Q: What did I end up calling my work in progress?
A: Notes From the Undead
Yeah, it was honestly probably going to be that anyway, although I was looking forward to some audience input that never came. (Wow, that's like the story of my whole time as a blogger in 11 short words!)
Anyway, a few words about this year's manuscript before we take a look at the graph. The story behind "Notes From the Undead" was actually developed before "The Ghoul Archipelago" way back in 2003-2004. Back then it had the working title of "Flesh" and I still think of it as the Flesh Series, although given the naming convention I stumbled upon later, I'm thinking of calling it the Gore and Peace Series if it ever actually gets published.
So, back in the early days, when I was just getting into zombies, when all we really had was the Holy Trilogy and a few other odds and sods ("Dead Alive" and the first "Resident Evil" movie spring to mind) I thought it would be really cool if someone wrote an ongoing TV series about the zombie plague, so we could see, for instance, what happened to Peter and Francine after they got on the helicopter. Clever me, right? Shit, I could've been a millionaire if I had more clout back then. Damn you, Frank Darabont!
Anyway, the sketchy part-prose, part script (I think I went back and forth on whether it had to be a smash hit novel before it became a TV series, but TV series was always the goal) version of what was then called "Flesh" focused on a righteous young Armor officer proving that 2LTs weren't incompetent the way everyone seemed to treat them. I guess I had a chip on my shoulder back then, and you can tell it was old because he wasn't even a Field Artillery officer yet. This must have been 2003, come to think of it, because no character I created would have been a tanker after I got my first taste of redleg life in 2003.
The other main character was a German (or Swiss, I think I hadn't decided) priest. I was still a pretty heavily practicing Roman Catholic back then, and I thought the idea of a badass priest was the greatest. I think the original concept of "Flesh" (now "Notes From the Undead") was a bit of a Catholic apologia, in fact, since there was also some anti-abortion stuff with zombie fetuses and the like. Although the zombie fetus decidedly crawled out of the belly of a personal enemy of mine, so it seems sour grapes as well as the Catechism were driving me in equal measure a decade ago.
Anyway, you can see the fertile ground from whence sprang our heroes 2LT Ojeda and Fr. Daley. (For a little taste of Daley's adventure, check out the "Notes" excerpt here.) And an exciting idea was born.
So what held me up on work for nine years? Well, put simply, pop culture happened.
The "Dawn of the Dead" remake came out in 2004. Then "Shaun of the Dead." Then, well, you know the rest. A whole flood of zombies, a veritable zombie plague of varying degrees of quality. As a fan I was in Heaven, but as an artist I was slowly starting to despair. Suddenly my simple tale of a band of survivors making their way across America in a sort of modern day BSG on earth started to feel stale. And when "The Walking Dead" hit the airwaves in 2010, as a fanboy I creamed my pants but as the one who "had that idea first" a little part of me died.
"Flesh" as a concept was unceremoniously buried and forgotten about, killed by its own instant status as an imitator. And it probably would have stayed that way if it weren't for a delightful character by the name of "Howling Mad" Martigan. And so, like the revenants which it features, "Flesh" staggered out of the grave and back to life.
You see, "Flesh" was always meant to be a TV series, and as a TV series I knew I had to have a plan for a season 2, and potentially seasons 3 and 4. So I sketched out the whole series as I was fleshing out (ha!) season 1, which would eventually become "Notes From the Undead." And season 2, to switch things up, was going to be a nautical-themed adventure. Here are my notes:
High Seas. Sailing island to island they find an enclave of pirates who rule the Pacific.
That's it. That was season 2. That and a picture in my mind of a shipwrecked crew and their scraggly-bearded captain who had missed the whole zombocalypse by being stuck on the modern-day equivalent of Gilligan's Island. And so, as you may already be guessing, "The Ghoul Archipelago" was born.
What was great about "The Ghoul Archipelago" (and still is, at the time of this writing) is that it finally takes zombies to a place where they've never been before. All the tropes of a Joseph Conrad novel or Horatio Hornblower on the high seas haven't been done to death by the undead genre. In fact, except for a not-quite-what-I-was-doing little book called "Dead Sea" by Brian Keene, I'm not aware of any nautical zombie novels. So, for NaNo 2010 I wrote mine, and didn't even feel bad about it.
And, as I've often said on this blog, "Archipelago" may be my magnum opus. It may be the greatest thing I, or any other writer, has ever written. (Take that, Faulkner!) And of course, being as it was meant to be season 2 and a side story to the original "Flesh" story well, those stories had to be told, too, didn't they? Else the tale would be incomplete.
So, there you have it. If "Ghoul Archipelago" (which is now first, chronologically and dramatically) is a big success, "Notes From the Undead" may, nay, will see the light of day. And if not, well, I've still got 50,000 words closer to becoming a publishable writer and got to spend time with some of my favorite characters, including some old friends and some new ones.
So, that being said, here's this year's graph.
I was considering trying for a 15 day challenge this year, at least that was my intent, but I never had any other banner days after November 3, so it never panned out. Also different this year, for the first time ever I had NaNo buddies, and I found I was strongly encouraged the whole month to not let my buddy be nipping at my heels (even if he did beat me in the end, the loathsome slug.)
So, any thoughts on this year's NaNo? Mine or yours?