The survivor journals om.., p.65

The Survivor Journals Omnibus [Books 1-3], page 65

 part  #1 of  The Survivor Journals Omnibus Series

 

The Survivor Journals Omnibus [Books 1-3]
 



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  One woman I spoke with wanted to shoot the whole movie in Georgia. I told her the first book really concerned a long, Wisconsin winter, and she thought about it for a while. “Maybe that’s not the best thing for us right now, logistically-speaking,” she said.

  Maybe not.

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  II.5.e: I was in a tin shed during a hail storm once. I don’t know if there is anything louder than that. I have been in front of the speakers at several concerts that did not feel as loud as that hail storm.

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  II.5.f: One thing that always fascinates me is when people buy an old house to renovate it, and then they find stuff hidden in the walls, or they find an old, forgotten floor safe with money or jewelry still in it. I think of it as the perfect metaphor for You can’t take it with you. Sure, you might feel good hoarding that cash in your sock drawer, but if you get hit by a bus tomorrow, it does you no good.

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  II.6.a: Like most authors, I’m very guilty of using things I like to flavor stories. Pretty much every author in history has done it. Little background details that are inconsequential to stories are almost always something the writer enjoyed. I’m a big progressive rock guy (particularly Marillion, Rush, ELP, and Pink Floyd—in that order), and I love Queen and Cheap Trick. I blame most of my love for Queen and Cheap Trick on my buddy Scot (one T—not two). A lot of mornings during my senior year of high school were spent listening to music with that big idiot, and a lot of my best memories concern going record shopping at Cheapo records in Minneapolis with him.

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  II.6.b: While I was in the middle of writing Long Empty Roads, an opportunity came up to attend a family reunion in New Jersey. I could not think of a reason to avoid it, and I knew my Dad would be happy if I showed up, so I made plans to attend and surprise him. The drive out there was the highlight, though. I wanted to make the same drive that I knew Twist would be taking just to get a feel for the roads and sights beyond what Google Maps could provide.

  I actually got a chance to stop in Clintonville for gas and breakfast (after a harrowing all-night drive through a snowstorm in Cleveland), and I really liked it. I was hilly and forested. It looked like a place I would not mind living. A lot of the rural areas of Pennsylvania are beautiful. If you’ve never been out there, I recommend driving through it.

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  II.6.c: I got a lot of questions about Bigfoot because of this chapter. I love the idea of Bigfoot. I don’t really believe that Bigfoot exists, but I want Bigfoot to exist, because weird things like that make the world a much more interesting place.

  When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was called The Boy Who Saw Bigfoot. It was in my elementary school library, and when you looked at the check-out card in the back of it, it was just my name in painstaking cursive over and over again. The book was a nice story about a woman adopting a young boy who needed a family in backwoods Washington, and how he saw Bigfoot. It really captured my imagination, and I remember becoming obsessed with all things paranormal: ghosts, cryptids, UFOs—you name it, I wanted to know about it.

  I would have loved to stick a real Bigfoot into this story, but I don’t feel like it would have fit with the overarching reality of the story, so this was as close as I could come. Plus, it gave me a nice way to play up the theme of fear.

  As an aside, I watched Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet for a couple of seasons. Every episode was exactly the same thing, and I watched them! Four idiots out in the woods in the middle of the night hooting at the moon and claiming that every noise in the forest was Bigfoot. I’m mad at myself for doing that now. They should not be allowed to do another episode until they can call it Found Bigfoot. I’d go back to watching, then.

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  II.6.d: Chaucer did indeed say that.

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  II.7.a: Throughout the series, I’ve really tried to use real locations for most things. I wanted the series to be something where you could go on Google Maps and find the things I was talking about, even if you were unfamiliar with the location. The Poconos was harder for me to do that with because I am generally unfamiliar with them, so most of my research was cursory. This lodge does not exist in reality, but I cobbled it together as an amalgam of a lot of the lodges in the area.

  As an aside: When you see a word like kill in this instance, it does not mean death. Kill is the Dutch word for river. You find a lot of place names in Pennsylvania and New York that end in kill because of this. A few years ago, PETA tried to get Fishkill, NY to change the name of the town because of the connotations to fish death, but it is really about water.

  The more you know…

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  II.7.b: If it hasn’t been evident by now, I’ve always considered one of the underlying themes of the book to be the futility of struggle against entropy. I find the process of entropy both beautiful and tragic, and I know that in the end, entropy will win. It is undefeated in the history of time and space. The notion that these monuments of wealth that we have constructed over all the world will eventually return to dust is strangely comforting. Shelley said it best in Ozymandias:

  Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

  Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

  Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

  The lone and level sands stretch far away.

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  II.8.a: I don’t know if anyone is prepared for New York. It truly is a different sort of place. I think what impresses me most about it as that it has to build upward, not outward. It’s pretty well reined in at this point in terms of space. What can be used is used. To an outsider, it’s hard to tell where New York ends and anything else in that area begins. I’m sure it’s obvious to locals, but to me—it’s all just one concrete landmass.

  What I find amusing is that the overwhelming sensations of New York to a county kid like myself works in the other direction. When my friend from Chicago was out in Nebraska, he couldn’t get over it. “Man, you mean I can just like…walk up and pet a cow?”

  I tried to play it cool in New York. He just lost his mind over something that outnumbers people in Wisconsin 22-to-1.

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  II.8.b: Pretty much any Bill Lawrence show, I’m a fan. I’ve watched every episode of Scrubs so many times, I can put them on like background noise when I write. They still entertain me, but I don’t have to pay attention to them because I know most of the lines by heart. There are a handful of shows that, for whatever reason, I do that with: Scrubs, Cougar Town, M*A*S*H, Parks and Recreation, and Community are probably the five that jump to mind first. Star Trek: The Next Generation, too. I would love a chance to write for television sometime, and if I do, I would love it to be for Doozer Productions. Something about the comic sensibility of that team lines up perfectly with my own sense of humor.

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  II.8.c: I feel like ablutions is a word we don’t use enough in this society. It’s sort of gone by the wayside. I’m starting the campaign to bring it back. Feel free to insert it into your own vocabulary.

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  II.8.d: Someone asked me why I chose to give Twist a traveling partner in this book. I think it’s because it is human nature to gravitate toward others. Most of us partner up in some way, shape, or form. We need someone to talk to, to help us put lotion on our backs after showers—that sort of thing. It was always the plan in my head for Twist to find someone with whom he could travel. I’d briefly considered letting Meri, from After Everyone Died, live and take on that role, but I she did not fit Twist’s world in my head. Her losses of her children and her life in Canada, plus the trauma she endured at the hands of Adam seemed insurmountable to me. She was happier dying. Looking back, I think it would have been interesting to explore her further, but I’m at peace with how she ended. She needed to move on from this world.

  The character of Ren came to me from multiple sources. First, her being a nurse is a tribute to my mother. My mom was an OR nurse for more than thirty years, and she was
in the Navy Reserves as a nurse, as well. She met my dad because she was one of the nurses in the hospital where he was recuperating after being wounded in Vietnam. Secondly, having her be a nurse was practical. I wanted someone with medical training.

  Making her Venezuelan was just something that fit the diversity of New York. I knew that I wanted her to be blue-collar, from a poorer family. I just feel like people who grew up poor know struggle better and would probably survive better in an apocalypse because they’re already used to scraping and scratching to get by.

  Her name came out of two things: Firstly, I liked the name Ren (because of both Ren McCormick from Footloose and the character of Renfield in Bram Stoker’s classic, Dracula). And, as a writer, I like giving characters short, simple names that are easy to type and remember. Strong, single-syllable names are easiest for readers to remember. (And I say that as a fan of fantasy novels where often the readers foist unpronounceable names onto their readers with apostrophes and strange vowel-consonant combos—but more on that in a bit.) Renata, although three syllables, is a rhythmical, musical name in a way. And shortening it to Ren gave her an easy to remember Mad Max-style name. For her surname, Lameda, I looked up Venezuelan surnames online and found one that fit with Renata. Renata Lameda, six syllables, but all compact, flowing and musical. It worked. Hence, Ren was born.

  Now, as a completely different topic: The fantasy names thing. When I was in high school, I used to love the complex fantasy names, but as an adult and a writer, I have grown really tired of them. Maybe I’ve seen them done too much. Some writers (Mercedes Lackey and Anne McCaffery, I’m looking at you) have abused that sort of thing to a breaking point. Tolkien did some grandstanding with names, but kept them pronounceable at least.

  I also have some issues with people who take common names and spell them differently. (George RR Martin does this a lot.) There isn’t a big difference between Kevin and Kevan, but Martin opts for the latter. Why? Just to be different, I guess.

  Names are hard. They’re important, but it can be difficult to name a character. I liked JK Rowling’s approach to it—simple, common British names for most of them: Harry, Ron, Neville. Occasionally, she went fancy (Hermione, Luna, etc…), but it fit within her world.

  I have quit reading, or been unable to start books with a character whose name I cannot stand reading (Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse jumps to mind—her books are well written, but I couldn’t look at the word Sookie over and over again. It bugs me.) I once picked up a book in a bookstore and glanced over the back cover. The writer (who I forget now) had chosen an interesting premise, and the back cover copy made the book seem interesting, but the three main characters were named on the back of the book as something like (and I’m not certain of them anymore, but it was something similar to this) Anastasia Van Fancyname, Dex St. Ford, and Superfancy Ultrafancyname. Just looking at the pretentiousness of those names made me cringe. I put the book back on the shelf.

  I constantly worry about naming characters. I worry about the name Twist a lot. I hope people like it, I hope they think it fits his character. I hope they understand what I was trying to do with it. I lose sleep over naming characters. I think most writers do.

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  II.8.e: I think I would spend a lot of the apocalypse talking about things I missed. I talk about stuff like that a lot now! I remember restaurants I used to like when I was a kid, places that haven’t existed for thirty years, and I wish I could go back to them just once. I think we would all do a lot of I-wish-I-could-ing in a post-apocalypse world.

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  II.9.a: This is another bit from my real life. I try not to smile in photos ever. It just does not work for me. I cannot make a smile look genuine if it isn’t genuine to begin with. It bothers me to see people with smiles plastered to their faces, too. Cheerleaders, beauty pageant contestants, car salesmen—it’s hard to take someone seriously when their mouth and their eyes don’t agree with each other.

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  II.9.b: I have always enjoyed how some people can lose their minds over a cat or a dog. I get it. I do the same thing.

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  II.9.c: I think this would be a natural reaction in a crisis like the Flu. People would be angry. They would be distraught. They would want an outlet to direct their anger. What better outlet than the representation of the government that failed them in their hour of need. I’m not saying it’s right, but I’d bet dollars to doughnuts in a scenario like the Flu, that is what would go down.

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  II.10.a: As a former McDonald’s employee (three years of it), I don’t see how you work there without gaining weight. The constant access to carbs and sugar pretty much guarantees it.

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  II.10.b: I wrote this scene as a comedic exaggeration, but in truth, I’m a little shocked this isn’t a real thing. Going back to my reference of my time at McDonald’s—I cannot remember selling a lot of plain hamburgers. Tons of cheeseburgers, though. Literally hundreds of cheeseburgers for every hamburger. I’m always amazed when cheese just isn’t automatic on something. That’s the Wisconsin in me, though. People make jokes about Wisco and cheese, but sometimes stereotypes are real. This is one of them.

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  II.10.c: Once when I was a kid, I remember going to the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison. This was back before they had the nice, natural-type enclosure for the big cats. You could walk through a little hall and see the big cats in sterile, horrible enclosures. They were treated well, but you could tell that they needed something better. Anyhow, one trip, I remember the big male lion they had hauling off and dropping a terrifying roar. In my memory, tainted from being four or five years old, I remember it being a terrifying sound. It hurt my ears. It echoed forever off the stone walls and floors. I will never forget it.

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  II.10.d: I don’t know why, but I always enjoy it when a book uses its title in a nonchalant way. I think it’s more fitting.

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  II.10.e: I took this moment from my experience of living with my sophomore-year roommate, Big Tex. His real name was Dan, but he was a large man and liked country music, so he got dubbed Big Tex. Big Tex and I kind of went through a long period of feeling each other out as roommates, as you do. Then, one night, he was flipping channels on the TV. He made a joke about Pamela Anderson on Baywatch that cracked us both up, and after that we were much more easy-going around each other. Good dude, Big Tex.

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  II.10.e: I have seen the Northern Lights precious few times in my life. I live in Southern Wisconsin. The atmospheric conditions have to be just right for me to see them in SoWis. Up north, I’m told it’s more common. The best I’ve ever seen them was in the Boundary Waters in Minnesota. They are a sight to behold, that’s for sure.

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  II.11.a: The Georgia Guidestones exist. They’re real. Everything I wrote about them in this chapter is factual. If you’re a fan of the post-apocalypse genre, you should already know of them. When I first saw them on one of those Unsolved Mysteries-type shows (I forget where I first saw them), I knew that I wanted to know more about them, and maybe even use them in a book someday. When I started After Everyone Died, I immediately knew I wanted to eventually write a scene where Twist goes to the Guidestones. At first, I had wild, fantastical thoughts of him finding some sort of secret there, but I realized that was too far-fetched, and I scrapped it.

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  II.11.b: This is another Little House on the Prairie reference. It’s one of Ma’s catchphrases, invoked multiple times throughout the series.

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  II.12.a: My grandmother had a needlepoint plaque with this saying on it. It hung over her stove. She also had another needle point plaque that read:

  It’s not my drive to drive the train,

  To take the tickets, or ring the bell

  But let the damn thing jump the tracks

  And see who catches hell.

  My grandma was funny.

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>   II.12.b: I think I would have been remiss if I’d put a scene in the South without including a Waffle House.

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  II.12.c: This is something that I have problems with. Good things are never solid in my mind, only bad things. Every miserable experience I’ve suffered is concrete in my mind, but the rare victories, the good moments—they no longer exist in my mind. I have to really work to dredge up those memories. It’s one of the reasons that I try very hard to never read reviews of my books. I never believe the good ones, and the bad ones will sit in my consciousness for years.

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  II.13.a: For those of you reading this NOT from the Greater Madison area, or those of you from Wisconsin unfamiliar with it, Freakfest is an annual Halloween tradition in Madison, mainly for the UW college students, although many people participate. It basically involves a horde of people getting drunk and clogging up State Street. It’s so popular, it actually has a Wikipedia page. It used to be free. And, at times, attendance was over 100,000 people. Once the city started charging for attendance, it quickly shrunk it to more manageable sizes (mostly around 30,000). This is probably a good thing. In years past, it got wild. Like, riots wild.

  Me, being an introvert and someone who hates being in crowds, I have not attended. I think I went down once to gawk when I was in college back in the ‘90s, but that’s about it. The pictures from the event are pretty crazy, though. They are readily available online, if you are interested.

 
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