Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Human Condition

We're still deciding on the team, so no updates there. But working on this trip into the wider world, going farther and bigger than I ever have before got me thinking about a lot of things.

I've said before that the human race had reached an evolutionary chokepoint. We're a species on the edge of extinction, staring as a unit into the vast gulf of nonexistence. If such a thing came to pass, if the swarms of undead consumed us (which would be almost fitting--philosophers have been saying for centuries that the only true threat to humankind is itself. This is just a more literal translation of that) then what would be left?

Cities are already crumbling. The process will take years, but eventually the broken windows of the skyscrapers that act as tombstones for the human race would fall. Our bridges will collapse, our monuments retaken by the earth, weathered down to smooth stones. Should we fall, there will be precious little to tell our story. Humanity would be just another species that failed Darwin's test.

Eighteen months it's been now, and still we hold on. More than that. Though we struggle and our numbers dwindle, there are children being conceived and born. What was unthinkable for most of us in the first weeks after The Fall is now happening on a wide scale: a new generation. More people, ones that will live their entire lives in a broken world. Children that will never understand what cable TV was, or be able to simply drive up the road to grab a cheeseburger and a shake.

They won't miss these things. They will only know them in the abstract.

Instead they will live in a world that is a strange hybrid in many ways. We'll have electricity thanks to renewable sources of energy, and our level of technology has taken a beating but hasn't been killed. Eventually we'll have many of the comforts we lost in The Fall. Air conditioning, electric heat. Vacuum cleaners, maybe.

Those kids will also spend their lives learning to survive. To raise livestock, tend gardens not for fun or pleasure, but to live. To eat tomorrow. Every one of them will learn a smattering of skills, from building houses to repairing turbines. They will, by necessity, know the land and trees intimately and with great reverence.

I find this duality appealing, truly.

Pondering a future with those children in it, many of them yet unborn, I pull back mentally and look at the larger picture. The question burning in my mind is the same that many of us ask ourselves time and time again.


The religious sometimes posit that The Fall was the biblical end of days. They may be right, since as I'm not God I have no way to know. The rapture may have come and gone. Yet I wonder: if they truly believe that's the case, then why keep on? They were not the chosen. Are they working toward our goals because their faith drives them to it? Sometimes I'm afraid to ask, but then I remember an important truth.

It doesn't matter.

I personally believe in a higher power, a greater creative force in the universe that exists on such a vast scale that my mind is physically incapable of perceiving or understanding it. My belief is that such a being is too infinitely complex for me to ascribe any sort of intent to its actions. It would work on such a vast canvas that the comings and goings of one race on one planet sitting in the middle of a backwater galaxy would be as far from its notice as microbes are to us.

I don't blame that force for what has befallen the world. Nor do I give it credit for the good I see in people. It simply is, like the sky and stars. We, ultimately, are the masters of our fate.

Because surviving and working toward a better society is not about motive. Human beings as they are now have very few choices in life. You can take the easy route and become a marauder, taking what you want. You can take the harder route and work with your fellow man for the benefit of the group. Or you can die.

That's it.

At this point I don't care why my fellow survivors do what they do. I'm only concerned with the results: a better world for those who come after. Simply going on is not an option for us any longer. It would be the depth of cowardice to merely survive and the worst kind of apathy not to improve what we have. It isn't for ourselves that we should labor, but for the young.

The driving imperative behind every living thing is to propagate the species. Humans are no different. We invent or believe a lot of reasons for doing this, even for going to greater lengths. We're different than the animals because we work to make a better world for our young. That more than anything has been the impetus behind the rapid evolution of human society.

Do not blame God for the situation we're in. Don't expect him to deliver us, either. Not in any kind of miraculous sense. I'm sure that many of you will say that God works through you, and I'm no disagreeing with that. I respect that belief, but I don't care what your reasoning is. You could tell me that inter-dimensional squirrels are driving your body like it's a robot, and I'd be cool with that.

Actions matter. And every one of you out there who've acted with honor and grace are heroes to me. You're what we should be, now and always. Whatever drives you, I respect it for making you the people you are. Because each of you knows it's not about us. It never really was.

So, I just wanted to say:

Thank you. Thank you so very much.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Gang of Six(ish)

If you missed yesterday's post, you might want to go back and read it. Go on, I'll wait here.


Done? Good. then you know I've been asked to assemble and lead a team of people to travel with me all over the country in a repeat performance of Courtney's trip last year. I'm to lead the team, and technically be a sort of diplomat in the field, but the council suggested very strongly that they wanted someone with me who went on the last trip. Someone the various groups of survivors had met, gotten to know, and trusted. 

So yeah, Steve is coming with me. He volunteered, since beside Courtney (his wife) there's no one that went on that journey who was trusted more than him. Little David would have been a good choice had we not lost him recently. While I'm technically the envoy, Steve is the practical choice. He knows these people. They'll listen to him much easier than they will me. 

Becky is also on the list. She's useful in a ton of different ways, and while she's getting more comfortable around the people of New Haven, she's still dealing with a lot of emotional fallout from her trip across the world to get here. She and I have grown very close in the time she's been with us, especially given that she lives with Jess and I. She doesn't want to stay in NH without me. Not to minimize how much her skillset is going to help out, mind you. I'm just glad she's been teaching people how to make explosives, or the council probably wouldn't have let her leave. 

You may have guessed already, but I'm also taking Will Price. I spent a lot of time yesterday basically telling the council that if he didn't get to go with me, I wouldn't leave. They made the argument that Will, who is still technically a prisoner, has been vital to the defense efforts here. That New Haven would be less safe without him. I made the case that we shouldn't be so reliant on a convicted criminal, which was my underhanded way of trying to have his sentence overturned, his punishment ended. Dodger, who is in charge of defense, has a lot of Will's plans and designs to work with. NH will be fine without Will. 

The outcome of this trip will determine whether or not Will remains a prisoner. I'm keen to see him do well. 

Mason is coming with us as well. He's healed up from his injuries, though the process took months. He's back to his normal, scary military man self. Plus, he knows the outside world and safe routes. None of us have gone a tenth as far as him. 

So far we haven't got a sixth person on the roster. I'm looking into it, and maybe a seventh. It'll depend on what the other members of the team think. I need to keep our numbers small for the sake of mobility and making supplies last, but I won't turn away someone who might make our trip easier or safer because it would make seven. 

That's all I have on the trip so far. My brother has outright declined to go, but he's busy making sure all the stuff we'll need for a long haul is ready. That, while he's still managing the completion of the outer wall. His work ethic is almost crackhead-like. 

One last parting word for the day--if you live in a group of survivors that doesn't sweep the main thoroughfares around your base of operations, you should. We've only been doing it for a week, and most of Frankfort is now empty. We still get stragglers here and there, and more zombies are always wandering in, but daily upkeep makes the roads, neighborhoods, and clusters of buildings so much safer to navigate. I'm really glad we started doing this. You wouldn't believe how many places we left untouched because there were too many zombies in or around them. We're finding all kinds of neat things.

Preparations to make, projects to work on. My job is never done. 

I think that's a good thing. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Envoy Redux

Jess is doing well, but she'll be a while in recovery. Her right leg took a brutal hit from the bomb, which is actually pretty lucky considering the damage other folks took. Two men in front of her died. I shudder to think what would have happened if she'd been leading the column...

Her injuries make this next part all the harder for me, but it can't be helped.

I'm leaving.

My duties in New Haven are redundant now, which is a good thing. Where before there were only two people to handle the logistics of running this place, now there are half a dozen and the number is growing. Gabrielle has someone specifically to manage the gathering of supplies for her projects, as do the other major groups of people inside NH who have moved toward manufacturing.

I have a wide variety of skills and talents, many of them honed in the last eighteen months of rigorous and practical use. Apparently my best and most useful one is surviving.

I've been asked by the council to lead a team in a cross-country journey. Late last year, Courtney did the same, moving across the remnants of America in a mission of mercy. To say her trip was a success would be to understate the issue to a huge degree. Courtney and her team kept going long after the original goal had been met, building ties and ferrying people and supplies all around the country. Every trader that came here was either a person she had worked with before or someone who'd heard of what she had accomplished. All of them gave her team's actions as a primary reason why they felt they could trust us.

The bazaar was so successful that the council wants to reach out to as many others as possible in order to keep trade going, and to build on what we have. We're in the harvest times now, and winter will be here before we know it. The idea is to personally meet and encourage as many people as possible to open themselves to trade. Not only to enrich themselves, but also to help others.

There's not much left of the human race, and every life counts. Every man, woman, and child is vital.

I get to pick my team, which is a relief. Ideally I'd take Jess with me, but she'll be weeks in recovery if not months. The council wants us to head out in the next week to ten days, so that's not a possibility. I can't take Courtney, either, which makes sense. She's our diplomat, and I'm going to be doing her job out in the field while she continues to build bridges at home. Risking both of us out there would be foolish.

I'd like to take Steve with me, but given how much I hate the idea of being away from Jess, I don't know that I have the heart to take him away from Courtney. Patrick is also a no-go, since he's vital to New Haven in his own job as a metalworker and blacksmith. Not to mention he's only got the one hand now. Unless it's a serious emergency, Pat's days as a front-line fighter and scout are long over.

I'll be picking my group in the next day, and I'll keep updating.

I feel a curious mixture of things when I think about being asked to make this long, long commitment. I've been asked, but really I was told. With the strengthening of our people, the politics of the place have begun to resurface. We took an awful hit from the homesteaders, and the council is worried about anyone who could be seen as a gathering point for opposition. Not that I'd do that, but I was the one who founded this place. If a faction of our people ever decided to do what the homesteaders who became exiles did, I could be used as a rallying point.

Not to mention...well, it was made clear to me during the council meeting the other day that some of the things I wrote on this blog about the homesteaders probably didn't help the situation with them. I think that's probably fair: I have a long history of shooting off at the mouth in anger.

The general idea is to get me away, let things solidify and calm down here, and at the same time accomplish a needed goal. I can't argue with the logic of it, though I hate to leave at such an exciting time. I'll miss this place. More than I will ever be able to say.

On the plus side, I'll be provisioned heavily, and I'll have plenty of time and opportunity to study zombies in the wild. I've put that to the side for a long time now, but my interest in the undead that blanket the land has never wavered. Silver linings and all that.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Victories are relative, and almost never cut-and-dry. The day before yesterday was all we could have hoped for. The trades went well, and New Haven is stocked up for a long haul, with more food and supplies in the pipeline contingent on production of our medical supplies.

We're also getting more requests for medical treatment from survivors around the country. We'll take them, for the trades being offered in return as much as to help out. We'll take them despite the overload our medical personnel are under right now.

While the day before yesterday was good, yesterday was awful. The exiles left some surprises for us, and a group of our hunters paid the price of discovering one of them.

Six of the eighteen people that were hit by the bomb died instantly. Turns out Will wasn't the only one to experiment with building shrapnel bombs. Where his were made to destroy vehicles, these were designed to inflict maximum fatalities on a group of people.

The other twelve are being seen to right now, and they're a mess. A couple of them are probably going to die, and the rest of them could be months in recovery. God only knows what complications will hit those poor people.

We've got people out searching for more of these things. It's amazing the damage that can be done with a few pounds of explosives and some roofing nails. It's a blessing and a curse that human ingenuity for destruction has survived the end of the world. It keeps us alive, but keeps us killing one another.

I have an announcement to make, an important one, but I don't want to eclipse this tragedy. I'll pass it on tomorrow. For today, we care for the wounded.

Jess is one of them. I'm trying not to think about it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

*A Holiday Push*

[This is an out of character post]

There won't be a LWtD post today. I'll be writing the next four days, finishing up this "season" of the story, and after that I'll start off the next arc in early September. The first nine days of September may be here and there as posts go, as I'll be on vacation. Just fair warning. 

Now, to the meat of this post. 

First I want to share a link to my author page on Facebook. I'm setting a reasonable goal to have 150 likes by the end of October, though I'm hoping to beat that. I'm aiming to solidify my fan base (that's you guys!) a little more and make it easier to inform folks about my new work. 

The reason is simple: the holiday season is approaching. Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords are going to be seeing an intense sales rush, especially as the first two will almost certainly be putting out new eReaders at lower prices. Many insiders suspect a Kindle for $99 is just over the horizon, and that will be a game-changer. 

The holidays will probably be a better time for me, sales wise. I published for the first time last year a few months before Christmas, and all through December and until the end of February I saw my sales increase. The last several months have been very slow, as it is for most retail this time of year. I don't have the name recognition or sheer sales volume to keep momentum going. Not yet. 

I expect to see a sharp upswing in sales toward the end of the year, especially given I'll have a new volume of Living With the Dead for sale by mid-Sept at the latest, and the sequel to "Beautiful" published by no later than December first. 

For as long as I write LWtD, it will be offered for free on the internet. I will never put it behind a paywall of any kind, though I will always give people the option of supporting the story and my writing by purchasing the eBooks. All I ask in return is for you to take a moment and Like my author page, share a link, or just share the word any way you can. 

You, the readers of this blog, are my primary fans. You're my audience. I write for me equally as much as I do for you, but you guys are the ones that can make my career full-time. You've always been supportive and awesome, so if you have a few minutes, help spread the word. My facebook author page, my amazon page(s), this blog, my author blog. Hell, just telling a friend about it. 

Ultimately my goal is to be full-time by the end of 2012. I think it's doable, but it will take a lot of effort on my part to get my name out there and manage sales large and consistent enough to make that possible. You're the first step, my lovely readers! 

As always, my thanks simply for reading. Anything more is icing on the cake. 

Author page on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter
Author page on Amazon
My author blog

And whatever else you can think of would be fine.

Friday, August 26, 2011


I write our lives here so much and so often that sometimes it's hard to remember that it's not a story. The heroes don't always win. The villains don't always get their just desserts. In fact, the line between the two is never as clear in reality as it is in my mind. We're not archetypes. We're people. 

We are each of us a curious mixture of good and bad, smart calls and rash decisions. We all have moments of selfishness and grace to varying degrees. None of us are perfect saints, and none of us soulless devils. We're complicated and layered, and that makes it hard to understand each other. It makes us regret some decisions. It's hard for us to kill those we once called family, but in the last day we've done it. We know the exiles were good folks at one point, which made it that much harder to do it. 

We also know they're capable of terrible acts, which makes it that much harder to deal with the fact that most of them got away. The survivors are out there. After the events of the last day, I don't know if they'll dare come here again, but the threat is there. 

Here's how it went down:

It wasn't like a video game. There was no definitive boss fight at the end. There wasn't really even a battle. 

As the inner wall was being put out by yesterday's rain, the smoke intensified. If you've ever put out a campfire with water (and if you read this blog, you almost certainly have) then you know what this means. The exiles saw the clouds roll in, same as we did. They knew it wouldn't be long before the fires were out. They knew their time to attack us was limited, since the rain would also replenish our dwindling water supplies. 

They came for us. About half of their armored vehicles moved for the weakest point, which was the unfinished section of outer wall. The inner wall there was hit hard, little more than a fragile shell. The exiles knew we'd defend it heavily, so they did the smart thing and formed a semicircle outside, their gunners taking aim at our folks inside. A few of them shot at the watchtowers, but we'd emptied them out. 

I imagine the circled exiles would have really cut loose on us then, but they suffered a small distraction as four of their assault vehicles exploded, killing all inside them. 

From there, it was pretty much a clusterfuck for the exiles. The circled vehicles backed away and fled when they realized we'd killed so many of their people, and our gunners lobbed explosives at them. They had to do it from far inside New Haven's walls, which made the shots inaccurate and wild, but that didn't matter. All the fleeing exiles saw behind them were massive bursts of fire and earth. 

We also had a few sharpshooters pinging them with bullets just to drive the point home. 

If you're wondering how we managed to blow up those four vehicles, it's not all that mysterious. Will is a fucking genius. He's been working on a lot of different ways to weaponize the dynamite Becky has been making round the clock for the last two weeks. The air-powered launchers work, but aren't all that accurate for firing in an arc with no line of sight. There are other, more secret things he's built I can't disclose, but the mines are ok. They were a stroke of genius. 

Will rigged up a bunch of explosives to be remote detonated. I don't know the details, but it involved walkie-talkies. Will and a few volunteers managed to sneak out in the middle of the night and place them. The tall grass helped there, since they didn't have time to bury them. Will marked the grass where they mines were, and tried to put them in areas we knew the vehicles would be likely to traverse. 

Not that it was hard. Will put a lot of those things out there, and all it took was a few watchful sentries with the detonation switches. The explosives themselves were carefully designed to funnel the force of the blast straight up, propelling shrapnel right into the undercarriages. 

So, the exiles lost some people. Not many, but it was devastating enough that the rest of them gave up the fight. 

For now. They didn't get the result they wanted, experienced losses worse than they expected and probably much sooner, and they retreated. They didn't flee in terror, though. All reports indicate a pre-planned, orderly retreat. 

That implies backup plans. We'll see what the future holds. We're all wondering when and if they'll come back. Today, though, is a lovely one. We've already resumed trading, even as we clean up the blackened remains of the inner wall. We'll rebuild it over time, better than it was before now that the outer wall will protect us as we do so. 

From every hurt, from every injury we sustain as a people, we'll rebuild better than before. Death is the only way to stop us. We'll never give up. Never again. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Through the Fire and Flames

We're in a lot of trouble here. One thing we honestly didnt' think about was how badly the smoke has limited our visibility. We spent yesterday soaking the parts of the inner wall that hadn't caught fire yet as well as the ground around it. That would have been helpful if the exiles hadn't come back and hit us with a second round of firebombs. 

The inner wall is burning still. Slowly, but as inexorably as ice melting in the spring. I don't know how long we can stymie the process, but it's just a matter of time before it breaks down completely. 

So far everyone here, including our many guests, are taking the attack well. One good thing about dealing with other groups of survivors--they don't lose their heads easily. Nor do they blame us for this. They came of their own free will, knowing the exiles were out there. Really, the hardest part is keeping everyone from attempting to go out and find the exiles. We know they're staying close, since they've been able to hit us so very hard at a moment's notice. We didn't hear them until it was too late on this second round of attacks. Our spotters in the towers couldn't see where they came from or went.

Which sucks. 

There's no sense of despair here, which is amazing. Everyone's spirits are dim but not yet dark. We'll figure something out, it's just a matter of time. 

Oh, shit. I think we just got lucky. I'm pretty sure I just heard thunder. 

I don't know what the next few days will bring, but I'll do everything I can to stay in touch. I'll post when possible, and try to update all of you on how things are progressing. 

I can hear the patter of raindrops on the roof. Hopefully we'll get a good drenching, enough to put out the inner wall and maybe enough wind to give our spotters some ability to see outside the walls. This smoke is maddening. 

There are ideas being worked on. That's all I can say for now...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Just as dawn broke, the traders from around the country who braved the open roads with their swarms of zombies and roving marauders came together in our theater. The start of the day was also the beginning a new era of cooperation and a new economy.

Naturally, that's when the exiles chose to attack.

I don't have a lot of time, but I'll give you the gist of it: they must have positioned themselves at night. They were close. They swept in driving their armored vehicles and firebombed the hell out of us. Oh, not the homes. That would have destroyed them. They hit the inner wall, the wooden one.

The North Jackson soldiers were inside, since work on the outer wall hadn't begun for the day. No time to react, no time to stop them.

The inner wall is still on fire. I don't know what the exiles used in their concoctions, but whatever was inside those bottles is almost impossible to put out with water. And we've used a lot of water.

It's brilliant, don't you see? They'll burn down the inner wall and have an open way in through the unfinished section of the outer one. They might kill some of us with the smoke that hangs inside New Haven like fog. Even if we put the fires out and escape choking to death on smoke, they know we'll have used up the majority of our water. Without rain, we'll dehydrate in days.

All they have to do is sit tight where we can't sight them through a rifle scope (not that it would do much good with them behind bulletproof glass...) and wait for us to come out.

That's the state of things.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


So far, three groups of envoys from other communities of survivors have made their way here. I have to assume our extra patrols and watches along the routes into town have done what we intended, as there have been no zombie sightings or attacks from the exiles. So far, so good.

Trading isn't going to begin until all parties have arrived. That's a change from what we'd planned on doing, but everyone we've talked to has agreed. We all feel that the interests of everyone are best served by creating as open and even a playing field as possible. After all, we're trying to establish some kind of economy here. It helps that we here in New Haven have more to offer than we originally thought--there are lots of calls for fuel trades, but not gasoline. They want ethanol to mix in. Turns out we aren't the only ones to use flex fuel vehicles.

Lucky for us we have way more of the stuff than we can use. In fact, we're even looking into different sorts of wild plants to ferment to make more. We've certainly got the facilities for it. Chalk one up for Frankfort being a huge booze capital of the south. That's long term, though. Right now there are tens of thousands of gallons of alcohol just waiting to be distilled down into a purer form. We won't run out any time soon.

In a world filled with the walking dead, the last thing you'd think we need is another daunting stress factor hanging over us. We've got one with these new trade agreements. It's a good stress, because we're innovating and encouraging others to do so, and everyone gets to walk away better than they started. The stark truth remains: the more you build, the more you have to lose.

Today is going to be an even busier one than yesterday, so this post will necessarily be short. We're in a short window between arrivals, but Jess and I are going out on scout duty in about twenty minutes. The soldiers from North Jackson are helping bolster our numbers, but the majority of them stay behind to protect the folks still working like mad on the outer wall. It's shaping up very well. We've run through an insane amount of diesel fuel managing it, and we've scoured every drop we could find in town, but we should have enough to finish the rest of the project. There are a lot of empty gas tanks out there now...

Guess we'll have to send people out to scout for more diesel. Not a priority, but we should at least plan for it. Fuel may grow to be a major trade item for us. That gives me ideas.

Fifteen minutes to go. I need to grab a snack and make sure my armor is sound. There might not be too many zombies out, but that's always when they hit you in the movies: when you least expect it! I won't be caught off guard.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Today's the day. I could barely sleep for the excitement of knowing the lingering problems we've had since the major zombie attack many weeks back will be over. The representatives from the various groups of survivors will begin to arrive this morning, and everyone in New Haven is buzzing about the possibilities.

It's been a rough time lately even though things have gotten better. We've had enough to eat, or at least enough to keep us from hunger pains. Our hunts and luck finding small caches of food here and there have been enough to allow us to stockpile for the winter. Well, that's more of a best-case idea. Really, our stocks were put to the side in case our luck ran out before then. Plentiful game and good fishing in the streams and rivers aren't guarantees. We could have run out of luck any day and been forced to use the canned and cured food we've managed to build up.

Today is a turning point, though. We're going to play host to many people who wish to trade with us. Some of them want to trade food, others have supplies and pieces of technology we might be able to use. The first rounds of trading for us will mainly focus on food, and if we can get hold of some useful items that we need, so much the better. Or, we might trade them in the second round for more food, which I think most people in New Haven would prefer.

It should be several hours before the first of them begin to arrive, which gives our scouts and hunters a bit more time to make sure the ways into town are as safe as possible. The total count of zombies cleared from the various roads in yesterday was seven hundred thirty four. Most of them in ones and twos, though there were a few pockets of a dozen or more that had to be cleared carefully. The number seems so high, partially because we never see so many undead together unless they're attacking. We usually leave small groups of them alone, as it's not worth the risk to our people to kill a few of them.

I think our outlook on that is changing now, too. With five working vehicles outfitted specifically to kill zombies, taking them out is a lot easier. The idea floating around is to run regular sweeps around town to keep them from joining together into large swarms. They don't like the smell of their own kind burning, either, so pyres all over the place might do some good in the long term.

Today we're all on high alert. Though we haven't had any more signs of our exiles, we're keeping a watchful eye in case they try something with the incoming envoys. We're worried about that, but not consumed by it. We'll deal with what comes, if it comes, and not waste too much energy needlessly fretting beforehand.

In a few days' time, we'll be flush with edibles again, have trade agreements set up to keep that food coming, and will be able to start taking in the sick and injured to treat them. Gabby thinks we can do a lot of good by utilizing our medical personnel to work out trades, just like she, Evans, and Phil did during our own exile.

It's a beautiful morning outside. The sun is painting the clouds, the breeze is brisk and strong, and our futures all look a little brighter. You can't ask for better than that.

Funny. Today is my mom's birthday. A part of me is glad she missed so many of the awful things we've experienced. She was a strong woman, and to lose her as we did after she survived The Fall where so many others didn't was tragic. She made it through what should have been the worst, and a simple fire took her away from us.

The other half of me is sad that she isn't here to see how far we've come. I know she'd be proud of us, and would have been the first to congratulate everyone on our determination to stick together. She's laud Gabby's creativity and ingenuity and the craze for special projects it spawned.

She's gone, though. I know if she'd survived, my mother would have been so happy to see communities coming together like this. Her children survive, and their children. And because of our efforts, all of them will have better lives than they would without them. If she's watching right now, I know it's with a smile on her face.

That's enough for me.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Free Market

Tomorrow we're expecting several of the envoys from other communities of survivors to arrive. We tried to plan everything out so that everyone arrives within a day and a half of each other. We've prepped the theater by putting up stalls for each set of representatives to operate from.

Of course, the whole thing is a huge pain in the ass. I mean, anything worth doing is usually difficult and frustrating to the point of driving you insane. Here we are, on the cusp of building a new system of trade for the betterment of mankind, and I'm having to help figure out how to keep everyone safe. It's detail work. I'm good at that.

We've got teams clearing the roads and sweeping zombies as we find them. It's not so bad right now, since the local undead have learned New Haven equals death. Real death, not the walking about type. We know eventually the locals will starve or wander away, and new ones will migrate in. That's long term. Right now we want to keep the roads safe for out incoming guests.

Our teams have seen a lot of fires around Frankfort as they've cleared the roads. Campfires, small ones. We've been idiots about our exiles. We assumed they were moving around in a large group, maybe two. It's like they don't care if we see their camps after they abandon them. From the tracks we've seen and the other signs they left behind, it looks like no more than four to a group.

And, they have vehicles. Big, heavy ones. Will and Dodger are certain they must have brought them into town very recently, or we'd have seen signs.

All in all, not very encouraging. No one in New haven is exactly thrilled to find out the exiles are still here, much less apparently escalating their activities. It's damn annoying.

So, I want to give them a message. Exiles, Homesteaders, this bit is for you:

I suggest you stay away. If you come after us, we won't hold back. We gave you a chance to live by forcing you out of New Haven, and you should take it. Walk away. Don't contact us, come near us, or threaten our allies. Do those things and there's no reason why we can't all continue with our lives, happily untouched by violence. 

If you come, the consequences are on you. Not us. You've been warned. 

So, yeah. That's going on. You'd think after all the shit we've had to put up with lately, the exiles' activities would be worrisome and frightening. Our recovery is still fragile and young.

It's just the opposite. We've seen hell, lived through it, and come out stronger. Anything short of actual violence is a background thought. An annoyance. Our thoughts are for the future, on building. Not on simply waiting always for the other shoe to drop. Prepare, train, and be ready for the fight.

The fight can't be our only reason anymore. Human beings have to become something better than that.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Moment in Time

Have you ever felt like the world was holding its breath? Today's like that for me. Nothing is going on at present. No attacks by the exiles. Not even any sightings.

Not that we don't have some excitement to look forward to. There are people headed here for trade from several places, and we're setting up a section of the residential area of New Haven for them. Sort of a bazaar using the gathering area where our tiny theater resides. There are many interesting items coming that will surely prove useful for us over the long term. I'm jazzed to explore the possibilities.

We've been in touch with the folks in Shelbyville who left here a few weeks ago to settle in the small fortress there. They're doing well, and have discovered many more hidden caches of food and supplies. Their late-season crops are thriving, and as several of them are pregnant women, we've invited them here to receive as much prenatal care as Evans, Phil, Gabby and the medical staff are capable of providing. It goes without saying our docs and nurses will handle the births if at all possible.

Our visiting friends from North Jackson have received good news from home: large swathes of wild grain and other crops discovered near NJ. Well, relatively so. Within a hundred and fifty miles. NJ is doing well with food production and management considering the huge number of people they've got to provide for. They're looking to use this new boon of extra edibles for trade as well. The more, the merrier. I hope the representatives from NJ can harvest and get here in time. I'd hate to see such strong allies miss out.

Overall, the outlook is good. None of us have dismissed the threat the exiled homesteaders pose, but we won't live under constant worry, either. Well, yeah, we will be constantly worried about it. Hard not to be concerned with people who have guns, know how to use them, and think your head would look extra snazzy with a few new holes in it.

We just won't let them dictate the terms or our lives. The zombie swarms mean we already live in constant danger. We already worry about attack all the time. It's manageable if the proper attention is given to defense and keeping a keen eye open for danger. The exiles are just one more threat on top of a stupidly dangerous world.

So, life will go on. We'll deal with them when and if the time comes, but we won't let worry cloud our excitement over the ties we'll build with the other communities in on the trading. Not to mention the benefits of trading things we make for stuff we need. Until now, the barter system wasn't doing much for us. Transportation will be harder down the road, but we'll cross that bridge when it comes, too. For now we're happy to make friends, make profitable trades, and enjoy the sunshine while it's here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Human Question

I can't help but notice the remarkable rebound we've been able to make in the last few weeks. It's strange to think we've come from the edge of destruction to a state of growth and strengthening. What's most surprising is that I'm surprised.

The Fall gave us all the worst possible conditions to survive in. Indeed, the initial spread of the zombie plague killed most people and left behind a struggling and devastated population. We persevered, even prospered, in the wake of the near-extinction of the human race.

Once the zombies had killed out most of humanity, what was left were people who for one reason or another had managed the impossible--survival. I ask myself every day if Darwin had a hand in this: that is to say, was it the strongest of us who survived, or the smartest? Do each of us have qualities that set us above those who perished in the terrible onslaught of the living dead? Or was it luck, plain and simple? Could that have been the major factor, just being in the right place at the right time?

I don't know. Honestly, I don't think I want to. We're here, and we have suffered, and it's enough for most of us to enjoy the new energy flowing through New Haven. I used to read that people who've had brushes with death would find a new interest and zest for life. Each of us had been there before, but clearly the same works on a larger scale. Our community came as close to annihilation as it ever has, and we made it through. Damaged and starving, but we did it.

Then this miraculous thing happened where people began to look at the long term in ways we've never really done before. Not just the basics of food, water, shelter. No, some of our number, spearheaded by Gabrielle and her work on making new medicines and items for wound treatment, have looked toward what we'll need to truly rebuild.

I haven't had the energy of late to go off on one of my philosophical tangents, but today is a good day. I have this ever-changing view of people that occasionally needs an outlet, or my brain will explode, and nobody wants that.

See, the strongest and smartest animals out there right now have managed to avoid the zombies that grow more and more hungry as time goes by. Not only that, but they've learned to avoid us. They are the best of their various breeds, no doubt about it. Evolution is getting a hard test right now, and from what we can see, many species are passing, even as they suffer tremendous losses.

I think it says something amazing about my own species that any of us managed to live. The more I ponder, the more I believe it's not a matter of being strong or smart that did it. I think the baseline human, being self-aware and capable of rational thought, has what it takes to overcome most odds.

Frankly, I think we got lucky the first time. The Fall should have been the curtain call for our species. With a bang and a whimper, we should have been consumed by ourselves, or at least the dead versions of ourselves, like an Ouroboros devouring its own tail. If the zombie plague is a thing made by us, as many believe, then The Fall should have been our suicide as a species.

I say that not because I think humanity deserved such a fate, but by looking at the sheer numbers. There were almost seven billion people alive at the time of the outbreak. By our best estimates, the plague and the violence that followed left only one in a hundred alive. Think about that. Surrounded by such overwhelming odds, how in the world did we manage survival longer than a few days? It seems crazily impossible.

So yeah, I think our initial survival borders on the miraculous. But since then, I chalk it up to good old human nature. We want to live. We have a tremendous capacity for ingenuity, creative thinking, and learning from our mistakes. We've taken the horrible shit we've been through and turned it over in our minds, extracting all the data we can from our experiences and turning it into ideas for better survival. We've become a society of experts on the subject by virtue of necessity.

All that being said, I begin to see why we've begun such an upswing in our fortunes. With the help of friends and allies, we went from the worst conditions possible to better ones in small but fast improving increments. More than a dash of luck with out hunting helped out a lot there, I won't lie, but deciding on trading with others and innovating in the creation of new products has been a huge boost as well.

Hmm. We've come so far, so fast, by doing what people have always done: pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and putting the work in. It's so simple, yet so amazing.

People. Infinitely complex and always surprising.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


It seems almost impossible, but for once Kentucky seems to be having a Fall season. Usually it's stupid hot day and night up until it starts dropping below freezing. The last few days have seen the mercury drop into the mid fifties after dark, and the highs during the day have become more manageable with the huge drop in humidity.

Which is a strange sort of segue into the small project I'm going to be working on, assuming our exiles don't manage to kill me and the zombies don't eat me. It's good to know those options are out there if I ever get tired of this whole 'life' thing.

The project itself isn't a huge deal, but it will be labor intensive. Fortunately I won't have a lot of work to do on the design front, because there's already a century of that laying around to work with.

Still, building a functional refrigerator that doesn't use electricity won't be easy.

It's not that the pieces and parts of it are that hard. Many people have designed and built them over the years. It's only that what I'm looking to build will have to be large to meet the needs of the community, and there will be a hundred details and problems to work out. Patrick and Becky are with me on this, so I won't have to deal with them alone, but it's still daunting.

Even while worrying that the zombies will suddenly lost their fear of New Haven and return in numbers, and while living under the fear that the exiles roving around town have something terrible in store for us, I feel excited. It's been a strange few months, but I finally think I'm hitting my stride again.

First I felt so overwhelmed by my job, coordinating the entire community, that I was given many people to help me do it. Then the homesteaders rose up as a faction and the huge zombie swarm attacked, and even after we exiled the homesteaders and managed survival I felt rudderless. Directionless.

The council has spread the pieces and parts of my old job around to all those I trained. I still do some of it, but I have so much more free time now. I needed a project to grab hold of, if for no other reason than to give me focus.

This whole refrigeration project is just the first step on what I'd like to do. Before The Fall, I was always a politics and policy nerd, with a focus on infrastructure. I always found it fascinating how the basic units of society like roads and the electrical grid all fit together to make commerce and just everyday life possible. I want to explore the possibilities of taking the hodgepodge systems we have here in New Haven and improving them. Make them more rugged and efficient. Instead of having electricity sometimes, all the time. Large storage capacity for it, too...

It's a lot to think about, but I've had a long time to ponder. It may take years, but the recent troubles have proved something important to me.

We saw this place almost razed to the ground by the zombie swarm. As a community we almost went extinct, but the compassion of good friends kept us from dying out. We hit rock bottom, and have begun recreating ourselves. No more half-assing it. If we're to have power, it will be accessible to all. If we're going to store food, it won't just be by canning and curing it.

No more half-measures. Now is the time to set in motion how New Haven will grow and change from here on out. Our mistake before was accepting mere survival as a minimum level of existence. Now we have to aim higher. It's time to rebuild, but also to improve.

In spirit, the compound has become a haven. We want to make New Haven one in reality. We will.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Decoy Act

I hate it when smart zombies (smarties) test our defenses. I've mentioned that recently. But you know, I hate it when live humans do it even more.

Our construction crew and the visiting soldiers giving us protection were working on the north end of the wall yesterday, right by the main gate. The gunshots I heard came from the south, which conveniently wasn't surrounded by a group of well-trained and heavily armed and armored soldiers.

Our sentries and guards caught a glimpse of the shooters as they fled. Apparently their entire purpose was to gauge our reaction to shots fired, then run. Again, I have to wonder if they're seriously gonna take a shot at New Haven, or if they're just playing with us in some childish revenge game because we kicked their asses to the curb.

Either way, we're on the alert.

I've been canvassing people as much as I'm able about the possibility of facing our own exiles in a fight. So far the response has been reassuring: most people are so pissed they've come back that they don't seem at all upset over maybe having to kill old friends.

If it were up to me, I'd be spending my days right now hunting down wherever they're staying. I'd love nothing more than to definitively end the threat on our terms. I won't, because we already went looking for them the other day with zero success. Plus, they'd expect that. The exiles know how we work, and it would probably be impossible to catch them off guard.

A piece of good news this morning, though: a medium-sized group of survivors from Pennsylvania are sending a convoy this way with some food and other supplies, as well as a carload of sick and injured people that need medical care. The food is coming in a refrigerated truck, so the mixture of meat and veggies will stay fresh on the trip. It's the other supplies I'm excited about, though. Food is wonderful, but our hunting goes well, and our gardens are producing better than expected. Not to mention the other caravans we're expecting soon...

The other supplies are for a project I've been pondering for a long while now, but haven't had the time or materials to follow through on. The folks from Penn. have access to what I need, which came out during my talk with them. It's going to work out well, I think. I'll give details tomorrow.

Today, I have to go out and get working on prepping the area I'll be using for my project. It's a mystery! Muahahahaha!

Monday, August 15, 2011


One thing about hunting people that used to live and work beside you: those fuckers are hard to find.

We spent hours looking, but they stayed ahead of us the entire time. I don't know what their goal is, honestly, because I can't honestly believe our exiles expect to be able to force their way into New Haven. To take this place from us, they'd have to kill every citizen as well as all the people from North Jackson that are still here helping out.

I guess the silver lining to the whole expedition was not being shot at. I remember a time in my life where it would have seemed out of place to consider a good day one where bullets weren't fired.

We're certain the exiles are still out there, but we have no idea where. They're familiar with our search patterns and habits, which is endlessly frustrating. Bah.

They haven't made any other strikes against us, but no one here thinks the shot they took at the supply truck was a one-off attack, either. We're making preparations to deal with an assault, though I can't imagine them being stupid enough to try a frontal assault on our walls. If there's any news on this, I'll let you know. On to other things.

The second wall is coming along well, only slowed down by the need to manage our water supplies. Fortunately it rained like hell yesterday, and we had a lined trench ready to catch it.

Fuck. I just heard gunshots. A lot of them.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Seventeen Wheels

The supplies from North Jackson got here about an hour ago. The delivery was successful, but not without incident. Since I'm about to head out with a group, I'll have to keep it short and simple.

One of the truck's tires was shot out on its way in. We don't have any doubt at this point that it's our exiles, mainly because the truck took an alternate route through a bunch of back roads and rarely-used bypasses. No one outside New Haven and North Jackson knows it, except the exiles.

Watching us is one thing, but shooting at an ally's vehicle (however ineptly) is another. We won't stand for that. So today, I go hunting with a group. If we run across game, all the better, but our main goal walks around on two legs.

The exiles should have stayed away. They better hope zombies get them before we do.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Eyes

We're being watched. This has happened a few times before. Sometimes marauders observe us for a while before either attacking or deciding we're too strong to risk an assault. Once in a while it's just a group of survivors looking to join up with us, who want to get an idea of how we function before committing.

My first thought when I heard one of our snipers caught a glimpse from our southern tower was of our exiles. We haven't heard anything since that first email, but no one around here has forgotten. Out there someplace, they've found a stronghold full of weapons, food, clothes, and other things. They're outfitted to fight.

We didn't send anyone out to try and catch the person watching us. There's no point in risking the lives of New Haven's citizens to pursue someone that probably knows the area as well as we do. Some of the soldiers from North Jackson offered to go, but they've already done enough. The council doesn't want any of them away from the walls. If we're attacked, we'll take any help the NJ soldiers offer. Until and unless that happens, we'll sit tight.

The only real concern we have is for supply runs. The crews from NJ have been resupplied twice by buses ferried between here and there. Another one is due tomorrow, and the concern right now is that someone out there waiting might see it as too good a target to pass up. That's totally ignoring the first round of trading we're about to do, which will involve us getting a massive shipment of food and sending out barrels of homemade antibiotic ointments and other supplies in return.

Things are tense, but not overwhelming. Trade is going to be vital, and we've got to make sure everyone is safe. Steps are being taken.

It's never comfortable knowing there are strange eyes watching. Privacy aside, it makes people uncomfortable because the innocence of observation is now gone. Every time we catch people watching New Haven, it's because they're measuring us. Judging something about this place. Most of the time, they're enemies.

Maybe a larger part of why it's so unnerving is because zombies always watch. It's one of the creepier aspects of living in a world plagued by the living dead, and one we don't talk about often. It's bad enough to see the dumb ones out there beyond the wall, staring with almost no comprehension at our walls. They watch our sentries move back and forth. They stare at the guards on post. They see with hungry eyes.

Worse are the smarties. It's one thing to see a mindless, hungry zombie gazing at you with one thing in mind. That's straightforward. Easy to predict and deal with. Smarties, never know what they're planning. And they're scarily vicious. Regular zombies will kill you, sure. Smarties will kill you slowly, painfully. Keep you alive longer. I guess it improves our taste.

Okay, well that was dark, wasn't it? I'm gonna go enjoy the amazing weather outside. One good thing about an epic struggle for survival is how much more you appreciate the little things.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pale Shadows

A band of marauders came into town last night. We went on alert, and the soldiers visiting from North Jackson were more than willing to help us out, but it turned out we didn't need them.

There were twenty of them, men and women. All of them were thin and scarred, something missing from the way they moved. They had prisoners with them, three people bound and chained to the bed of a pickup. The running theory is that they'd been without any kind of communication since The Fall, just traveling around and taking what they need from wherever or whoever they could find.

Clearly, they had never heard of the compound, and certainly not New Haven. If they had, they wouldn't have stopped their vehicles outside. I would have called it a stupid decision if it weren't so obvious they were in dire need of food and water. I mean, there is a wall being built outside and many other clear signs of habitation by a large number of people.

Over the last few months it's become a lot more clear to me how some people ended up as marauders. I won't reiterate the terror and agony we've been through, but suffice it to say we've gained some perspective from it. Starvation ignites a powerful urge to survive, and the people that came to our gates yesterday were starving.

That much was obvious, because they'd started eating their prisoners. The three that were still alive hadn't been cut up, but in the back of the truck with them was enough blood and viscera to make clear what they were being saved for.

Cannibalism isn't something we've really dealt with so far. Nature provides a huge number and variety of animals to eat, vegetables and fruits to pick, and, worst case scenario, bugs and grubs that are edible and nutritious. Our sentries made a goof guess when they saw the butcher's block and knives strewn around the truck bed, and they passed the word.

Our shots were measured and careful, since no one wanted to hit the prisoners. After we searched the bodies and released the captives, we found no guns, no bows, no long range weapons of any kind. These marauders, we decided, were pale shadows of the ones we'd faced off and on since The Fall.

We burned the bodies to keep the smell of blood from attracting too many zombies. We took the prisoners in, fed them, and are giving them time and space to deal with the new reality that no, they aren't going to eventually be dinner. For humans or zombies.

They asked what the name of this place was, and I was there as one of the soldiers told them, "New Haven". The look on their faces was a priceless thing, as if they had died and gone to heaven itself, it was so hard for them to believe they'd found a refuge. A safe place.

Little David would be proud.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Beautiful" Redux

 [Hey, all. This is obviously an out of character post.]

Beautiful: The Blood Divided Book One

That ^ is the link to my new novel Beautiful. You can also find it over there > but I thought I'd point it out. I've taken the day off from writing LWtD to work on the sequel to the colorful book above, but I wanted to put this out there again for those of you who missed it.

The book is an interesting blend of magic, sex, action, adventure, love and comedy. There are vampires, werewolves, gods, dragons, even unicorns. I'm asking you, my loyal readers, to check it out. Buy it if you like my writing. It's $2.99, which is less than a cup of java at Starbucks. I think you'll like it, and by purchasing it, you'll be giving to a worthy charity since I donate 10% of my royalties to Patrick Rothfuss' Worldbuilders.

Also, these are tough economic times, and sales have gone flat for everyone. I'm hoping that you'll support your indie author so I can keep giving you (almost) daily free stuff to read. Getting a little bump on amazon (also available on Nook and Smashwords, which then distributes to most other platforms--just search my name and the book title, you'll find it) might help build sales. I'd also appreciate any sharing of this link, and any word of mouth if you enjoy the book.

I'm happy to get reviews as well.

I love every one of you, and want to once again say thanks for being an awesome audience. You guys keep me going. I know I've said that before, but it never stops being true.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Haven, New Ideas

As I mentioned yesterday, the compound has been renamed. New Haven is what we're calling our community, though I have to admit to a little apprehension. We've weathered a lot of storms (literally, as of yesterday, since it finally started raining) but as much as we want to meet the expectation that comes with such an auspicious name, some of us are worried that we'll fail.

Not that we aren't trying, of course. We've just seen what happens when people get too comfortable with their achievements and stop thinking as cautiously and creatively as they once did. I know it might seem silly to some of you out there, but the concern around here isn't that we can't meet the expectations we've set for ourselves, but rather that we'll grow lax and careless.

That being said, we've got some really impressive things going on right now. The outer wall (as we've begun to call it) is going up at a good pace now that we've got water to spare. Will is working on new defenses that are, for lack of a better word, fucking NUTS.

He arranged a small scale demonstration for us this morning. Basically, his idea is to defend the walls with a series of, well, potato guns.

Will is a redneck in ways that are vast and mysterious.

For those of you who don't know what a 'tater cannon' is, it's simple: you take a length of PVC pipe, about the size you'd need to fire a potato out of. You screw on a larger section at one end with a cap. You jam in a spud, fill the large section with hairspray or some other flammable compound, and light that bitch up. Most folks used to drill a wee hole in the reservoir section and install a flint lighter, like the ones that ignite gas grills.

Will's design is similar, but so much more awesome. His prototype uses an old propane tank filled with pressurized air, hooked up to a piece of pipe that gets filled with gravel rather than vegetables. He and Becky worked together to make a sabot that would keep the air from going around the rocks (sabots are basically just sheaths for projectiles to accomplish this) and showed us as soon as they finished testing it themselves.

The zombie they hit, one of just a few wandering a hundred yards or so outside the walls, didn't have a chance. I got a little worried when Will and Becky carried their contraption through the front gate and the zombie came toward them. They might be afraid of coming near this place now, but not enough to turn away an easy meal.

Twenty feet away, and shotgun blast of pointy rocks later, no more zombie head.

This is just one small demo of Will's larger idea. We've got a lot of old propane tanks lying around, and we can bring in many larger ones. We use a lot of propane, and still haven't used up the supplies from the closest facility we take the gas from.

I'm interested in the idea that Becky had, which is to turn some of these things into mortars to fire dynamite from if needed. Will wants to build a huge system of these homemade guns on the inner wall, though he's having some trouble overcoming the need to pressurize the tanks. After he modified the one he used, it took him an hour of pumping to get it to lethal pressure.

I go off on tangents a lot. I meant to talk about how we're trying to make something new and better out of our community, and all the other jazz that comes with it. But frankly, I can't think of a better example of that idea than this. A whole new wall, defended on every side by these terribly effective weapons. Capable of launching stupidly powerful explosives into whatever swarms of undead may come. Using materials we have plenty of or at least easy access to. It's a wonderful instance of taking plentiful resources and using pure human ingenuity to make something useful out of them.

Gabrielle has made headway into making medical supplies and medicines. Becky has done wonders with chemistry in creating explosives from animal fats and whatever she used to make the final product (I don't ask. I really don't want to know.) Others are taking heart from those examples and are trying new things. People look at the unused junk around them and they're starting to see possibilities where none were clear before.

There isn't better proof that we'll break new ground and become better than we were. I only hope that once we cross that horizon, we can stay the course and never forget the path that took us there.

Monday, August 8, 2011


I want to dedicate this post to a lost friend, one of my closest. Last night, we lost Little David. 

David and I met years ago. We worked at the same factory, and though I was several years older than his own eighteen, we clicked. We had the same dark sense of humor, the same geeky love of comics and fantasy of all stripes. He dug death metal, while I was in my Johnny Cash phase. David had the same snarky reaction to stupid behavior as me. We never got in fights, never stabbed one another in the back, never let disagreements be anything other than civilized. 

When The Fall came, he was one of the first to join us. His family came with him, and though he hasn't always been at the forefront of activity, he's always been a reliable and stalwart defender of this place. 

He suffered a lot of heartache in his life before The Fall, and more after. He watched as many loved ones passed, as all of us did, and found new hope with Darlene. When the compound fell to the Richmond Soldiers, she was killed, and David was devastated. 

Though he healed, David was never the same. He spent his time alternating between periods of depression and times of reckless risk. Yesterday was, ironically enough, a good day. A normal day. He was putting in a shift hunting with one of our many crews, and a zombie came through the area he was in. It should have been a simple kill, then back to the hunt. 

He was found before he had a chance to reanimate, and I didn't ask which member of his team made sure he stayed gone. I don't want to know. 

All of us who knew him are saddened by his loss. He was funny as few people are, sarcastic and biting, but was always a sympathetic ear when you needed him. We who were close to him feel more than sadness for his passing, but also a deeper pain at how hard he had it. To have lost so much and gained hope only to lose it all over again...that's what all of us fear. That deep, hollow worry that what we've salvaged from our prior lives will be gone in an instant. David lived that, and fought, and hurt. He dealt with it for a longer time than I think most of us would have been capable of. He was tough.

All of us know how quickly we can lose what little we have. Cherish each moment, pleasure and pain, as something precious and unique that may never come again. 

A wise man once said that even when we're with others, each of us dies alone. 

I say that we may always die alone, but the best way to live is together. With each other, for each other. David understood that on a very deep level. He was the essence of this place. He dealt with his own pain privately so that he could show a strong face for the rest of us. So he could better give his quick mind and strong arms in the service of the community he was so instrumental in building. 

It's fitting that David was the one to suggest the name that was eventually chosen to replace "the compound". He read over some of my recent posts, and one struck him. He pointed out to me that while this place was no longer a haven after the split among our people and the massive zombie swarm that nearly obliterated us, we were on the path to recovery. More, we were actively building new and more powerful hopes from the ruins of the old. 

His contribution to the compound is many-faceted, in service and many other ways. The one that he'll be most remembered for is giving us a name. A real name. 

Everyone will know that Little David was the first to call us "New Haven". 

And yes, before anyone gets snarky and mentions that there was a town of the same name in Connecticut, I am aware. David believed, as many here do, that using old names was a fine thing as long as they fit. We're staring down a future full of possibilities we couldn't have dreamed of two months ago, and it gets bigger and brighter every day. We are growing strong and fit, and people have already expressed interest in traveling here again. 

It's enough for me. We've got a way to go, but a name with such resonance just means we'll have to try that much harder to meet the expectation it creates. David would have done his best to, and we will do no less.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Subtle Art of Naming

The title of this post is a reference and tribute to Patrick Rothfuss, who was a rising star among fantasy authors before The Fall broke humanity. I've mentioned him before, and as far as I know, he's still safely tucked away with his family. I hope he's been safe from the hordes or undead, and has found time to keep writing. When and if society rises from the ashes, people will need stories to uplift them again. 

The reason Pat and his amazing book, The Name of the Wind, come to mind this morning is because the citizens of the compound are officially voting to rename this place today. I'm excited. I think we all are. 

We're considering several options, but I've been asked not to mention them here. While communication with the rest of you out there is usually limited, nobody on the council wants any outside influence. Names are important things. This is a decision that has to be totally ours. Even the visiting NJ soldiers and workers aren't being told. 

It almost feels like we're approaching some kind of renaissance period. We've been through such awful times lately, and though the storms battered us, the clouds are breaking and sweet sunlight is on the horizon. 

So much is going on without my input now that it's hard for me to keep track of it all. Gabrielle's efforts toward manufacturing medical supplies have, as I've mentioned, spurred a flurry of creative energies around the compound. She's got a dozen people working with her during the day, and there are shifts of people producing antibiotics and other medical supplies around the clock. 

I also said that people have become more open to trade now that they know we've started making very desirable products. What we didn't realize, and what I didn't know until a day ago, was that this would spark a wave of trade among many groups of survivors. 

Basically, some of our people have taken up the mantle of managing trades between the different groups. While we need to trade our goods for food, some groups don't have any extra to barter with. Maybe group A has food, but group B only has spare weapons. Group C has clothing, which group D needs. Several of our people ( proudly, I can say that three of them are my former trainees) are working out trades among them so that every group manages to get something they need, and get rid of stuff they don't. 

Such simple ideas wouldn't have seemed extraordinary before The Fall, but humankind has become even less trustful since the zombie plague began. I guess it took a truly desirable and rare set of goods to precipitate the whole thing, but there you go. I can only imagine what will happen when Gabby is able to produce penicillin. Oh, yes, she's working hard on that. Unfortunately it's a complicated, finicky process that involves a lot of specialized equipment to do right. 

We've got people putting feelers out there, trying to find it. 

I went wide of my intended topic, which was names of things. Specifically, the name of this place, but I think this post pretty well sums up why this is so important to us. We've gone beyond being a bunch of people living together behind a wall. That's a compound. 

We've suffered as one on a scale none of us imagined possible a year ago. At least, I don't think any of us would have seen us surviving the things we've gone through. Somehow, we did it. Add to that new innovations, working on unifying survivors from all over with trade, trying to act as a neutral party so everyone ends up a winner, and "the compound" seems dull, utilitarian, and wholly inadequate as a descriptor for who we are. 

Names can mean everything or nothing. Everything if you choose the right one, and nothing if you fail to live up to that choice. 

We'll do our best. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Grinding Halt

Construction has come to a stop while Dave and his crew come up with a way to ferry water here. We've been cautious about how much we've been using to mix the cement for our concrete, as it takes a lot and we don't have infinite supplies.

Fortunately, it looks like rain this morning, so that may help. I really don't have much today, just two pieces of good news. The first is that Dave thinks there are enough materials at the yard down by the river to allow us to build the entire wall with concrete. We'd resigned ourselves to simpler large stones held together with cement, but with the extra fuel and help we've gotten from our friends from NJ, we've got the resources to haul gravel and other aggregate material from the depot.

The other good news is actually really awesome: the folks out west who have been promising us a shipment of food have hooked up with a newly discovered group of people not far away from them, and will be bringing a load of edibles to us shortly.

Combined with the fear the zombie swarms seem to have for us now and the prospects we have for trade, things are looking good. Not great, but better than we could have expected a month ago.

Ah, I hear the raindrops now. Need to set up a few of the water catchers.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Side Jobs

I may not talk about it in great detail, but most people around here have some kind of project going on that is somewhere between a hobby and an obsession. For some it's working on the compound itself, making sure things are in repair and functional. For others, like Will, it's an obsession for creating offensive and defensive ideas and strategies. Gabby, of course, has been digging deep into the realms of chemistry, herbalism, and medical technology. Many people have been inspired by that.

Becky, who has been useful in a hundred ways but absent from the house because of that, has been working on her own project: homemade dynamite.

If your stomach went cold as you read those words, that's okay. It's a sign that you've held on to your sanity.

It should be mentioned that Becky has a ludicrous amount of training and experience in practical chemistry along with many years of learning the theory of it. I've said she's one of the smartest people I know, and that's still true. She's also very careful, meticulous, and cognizant of the danger in what she's doing.

Rather, what she's done. Because this morning, Becky brought a dozen sticks of the stuff to the house. She even made blasting caps, though none of them were actually inserted into the explosives. She's been talking to Will about ways to weaponize the explosives that won't endanger any of our people.

The zombies won't know what hit them. Bring on another five thousand of them, right?

Maybe not, but at least we'll have some heavy artillery to throw at them if and when a large group comes. One positive thing about the apparent constant evolution of the undead is that they have some capacity to learn, at least when it comes to the very basic things like threats. Enough explosions ripping dozens of them apart might lessen their desire to attack us.

Will is working on a defense system that is brilliantly simple and easy to construct, but at least in theory devastatingly effective. He's arranged a small-scale demonstration. I'm off to attend right now.

So much going on at the moment, such a dramatic turnaround from how terrible things have been. We're facing a new dawn of creativity and willingness to try new things, and it's awesome.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Shell Shock

This morning, our guests from North Jackson gave us a present. In all the activity and general business going on it was forgotten. Or maybe they just wanted to really surprise us by not handing it over straightaway.

Bullets. Capital  'B'.

We've been totally without any ammo for a few weeks, and the last of it was only for the big guns Will managed to get working. The soldiers that joined the community at North Jackson brought literally tons of supplies with them, but many of the higher-ranking among them had managed to stockpile ammunition in dumps around this part of the country as they traveled.

You know, just in case.

It was a little disturbing to see the joy in Jessica's eyes as she cradled a dozen boxes of ammunition for her rifle. It was like watching a mother cradle her child.

Most of it is military issue stuff, which works well since we've got a shitload of military weapons lying around unused for lack of bullets. A few of our sentries armed themselves appropriately, and for the first time since the soldiers from NJ were here a few weeks ago, the crack of gunfire rang out. We are going to be rationing the ammo very strictly, but one or two shots at a group of zombies won't hurt.

The interesting thing is, the zombies turned tail and ran at the sound. I guess the surviving locals have learned their lesson in that area. We've got a lot of rounds at our disposal now, but we aren't planning on wasting them. Even the few men who fired their guns this morning got a stern warning about it.

The NJ soldiers also brought us thirty compound bows, really nice ones, complete with arrows. They've been using similar weapons to pick off the odd zombie as they stand guard over the folks working on the new wall. We'll have to get a group of folks together to screw the heads onto the shafts, but that's no problem. I mean, free stuff, right?

It's funny, but even though we'll save the bullets for dire need, it's comforting to know we have them. I'd forgotten just how reassuring it can be to know there's real firepower at your disposal. I don't know what the future holds, what kind of trouble we'll face, but our confidence is slowly growing. We've been managing good hauls with hunting, stretching the food very far by making more giant batches of stew, and we're putting a little away each day.

Things aren't rosy and wonderful, but they're getting better. I think that more than anything is interesting. I've gone back over the last few months' entries, and what I see is our story being told in flashes and still images, each one adding to the total to make a moving image. We struggle day by day, we scratch for every victory and hold on to them for dear life, but it's not some epic tale.

It's life. Our collective experiences as we live them. I'd love to tell you that some miracle fell out of the sky and blessed us with endless plenty, but that's not true. We've had help from good men and women that risked a lot to do so, and we're thankful for that. The extra bodies around right now are a blessing, but they aren't a panacea. Long after our NJ friends have gone, we'll be dealing with hard times and nervously eyeing the horizon from our posts along the wall, ready for the next threat.

The struggle can be overwhelming at times. I'm incredibly happy that we've got allies to help us through the toughest parts.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Letters in Exile

Today's post is, at best, ominous. I got an email from one of the exiled homesteaders. That they have access to computers with a functional internet connection is worrisome. I'm just going to post the contents here:


We wanted to send you a message since we know you're all probably worried about us. We're alive, at least most of us. We lost fifteen people on the way to where we are now, but the rest of us are safe. We're doing very well, thanks so much for asking. 
Just letting you know we're still out here. Far away from home, but the place we're living in right now works. It has lots of things. Like trucks and fuel. Supplies, like food and clothes. Medicine, even. It also has weapons. 
It just doesn't feel like home. The compound, that was home. 


I changed the names, because they used specific names to greet us and end the email. I don't want to be accused of starting shit by naming names, so I just made them general.

I'm worried about this as well as frustrated. We have guests here helping us work on the new wall, and the zombies are staying clear of the soldiers. None of us wants to take human lives if we can help it, and we're barely on the path to recovery from our last war. We don't have the resources or strength for another.

I haven't got any idea where the exiles could have ended up, though the only places I can think of as well provisioned as the one they describe is a military installation. That's assuming they're telling the truth and not just trying to rattle us.

Either way, exiles: thanks for giving us warning. The time where we become intimidated by threats is long gone. All you've done is remind us that some people will never stop being threats to others, regardless how much you try and help them out. We may not be at the top of our game at present, but we won't lay down for you or run, either.

I've got hunting duty today, so I'm out. I'll keep everyone informed if I hear more about this.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dawn Riders


Jess came in about two hours ago and woke me, and in my half-sleeping state I couldn't tell if she was excited or if something was terribly wrong.

There were several school buses of people waiting outside the compound's main gate. With them, two semi trucks and a fuel tanker. She gave me this news while I was pulling on clothes, and we ran as fast as we could to the gate.

As it turns out, the people of North Jackson aren't done helping us out. Their community is strong and growing, flush with extra people and an abundance of materials. With several hundred folks without duties to draw on, they've managed to scour southern Michigan clean of just about everything useful.

The soldiers that came down this way and eliminated the zombie swarm that nearly overran us in a blaze of coordinated gunfire had to take a detour on the way home. They took a trip through a small town whose only industrial center was a truck stop. A really big truck stop. There were two diesel tankers there, and they managed to siphon hundreds more gallons of fuel from abandoned trucks.

Since they had the means, the leadership of North Jackson contacted the council to arrange a mission of mercy. They couldn't bring any food, as they're on tight rations themselves, but we've been doing okay in that area. Instead they brought people: engineers, workers, and soldiers to guard us. They want to help my brother build his wall. One of the trucks carried a stack of panels to make concrete forms with. Dave says this will allow us to set up forms for a hundred feet of wall at a time.

That's fucking NUTS.

With all the extra help, we can get this thing built fast. Maybe in a few weeks if the fuel holds out as we move materials here. Everyone here is excited.

The only thing that bugs me is the fact that I was caught off guard by this. I would have thought someone would have mentioned it to me, since I...

Well, I don't really do much in the way of my coordinating job anymore. My trainees have all graduated to fully capable of doing the job themselves, and I've been doing other things. I'm still a councilor, technically, but I bounce around the compound so much doing what I can to help everyone at least a little that I don't get to many meetings.

I guess I've become obsolete. I'm strangely fine with this.