Fermat’s Womb: A Zombie Parody

Britney vs. Bloodhound Gang – Unusual Uhn Tiss mash-up…

“It’s a trick,” Luke gasps, before I can open my mouth to protest. “They still want the information on the clockwork hand. He’s here to deal with Homer – or any alien squid-monster that pops out – if it looks like there’s any chance I can tell them what they want first.”

Carvery just grins.

“One possibility,” he agrees. “What do you think, Sarah?”

I pull ineffectually on the chain securing my arm behind the dirty sink.

“I think you’d jump at any chance to be the only armed man in a room with two restrained prisoners and an unconscious zombie,” I reply. “It’d give you the opportunity to live up to your name, Carvery Slaughter.”

“Could be, could be,” he nods, turning the page of the tiny diary. “Could be all of the above. Where did you get this copy of Mr. Dry Senior’s diary?”

“That was given to me to look after!” I hiss through gritted teeth, half-truthfully this time. “And you shouldn’t be reading it – as usual…”

“It’s all in code anyway,” he shrugs. “Code and little drawings. Like he was playing Draw My Thing online. On his own, in a little notebook. Or Hangman. Anyway, you missed one. I might be down here to defend Homer, in case you two manage to get loose.”

“Still sounds like a win-win for Carvery,” I grouch.

“Well, unless you’ve got anything on either of you that beats a chainsaw, it’s not exactly an evenly weighted contest, is it?” Carvery sighs, and sounds almost bored. “They could have let me down here unarmed and I’d still have the upper hand, no pun intended. I think they gave me the chainsaw just because they like a bit of theatrics. Plus it deters any onlookers considering a bit of treason after breakfast.”

Luke starts to twitch. It’s slight at first, but gradually becomes more spastic and uncontrolled. I wonder if he’s being bitten.

“Are you okay?” I gulp, wondering about the size of fleas or body-lice that might be encountered down here.

“Maybe he got the Ex-Lax treatment after all,” Carvery remarks. “You might want to turn your head away, in that case. And maybe tuck your feet in.”

“Let me out!” is all Luke screams. “It’s not what you think!”

“Maybe he’s got a Squidmorph too,” Carvery suggests. “Keep your legs crossed, Sarah. It might look for somewhere new to hide after getting flushed out prematurely…”

“Why are we chained up anyway?” I ask suddenly, as something occurs to me. “In a completely inaccessible underground room, beneath a glass floor in the public square above, with everyone watching? Surely there’d be no need to chain us up – unless it’s ‘torture by withholding use of nearby toilet’…”

Carvery looks down between his own legs at the offending piece of bathroom furniture, which he is currently employing as occasional seating in our stinking, subterranean tiled cell.

“Maybe there’s a way out, is what I’m saying,” I continue. “Maybe they’ve had people escape before.”

“Maybe it’s fear of whatever imaginary magic they think Luke himself is withholding,” Carvery replies, nodding towards the spasmodic Mr. Lukan. “He doesn’t look too happy now. I can picture them placing bets on something exploding out of him fairly shortly, laxative or no laxative.”

The worrying silence seems a bit more hollow for a moment, and I’m sure a sense a distant rumble. Like an earthquake.

“Did you feel that?” I ask. “I’m sure the Earth just moved.”

“Sarah, I’m nowhere near you,” Carvery grumbles. “Control yourself, for God’s sake.”

Before a retort comes to mind, there is another judder, closer this time. It has a mechanical edge to it.

And then a horrible fingernail-on-slate noise – and Homer’s metal bunk scrapes two inches inwards into the room.

“That wall just moved!” I exclaim.

The scraping sound is still echoing away as Carvery gets to his feet, crosses the cell, and crouches to inspect the floor under the steel bed.

“There are scratch marks here,” he reports, after a moment’s dark silence. I can see his eyes follow the direction of the scoring, across the width of the room. “It looks like it’s been moved before…”

“It’s their Joker,” Luke pants, rejoining the conversation from his current delirium.”Or their ace – whatever you want to call it. If the zombie fails – or the squid-monster – or the psychopath in the room – the room itself is the final device…”

“Ah,” Carvery muses. “And there was I, thinking that being stuck in a room with a hormone-riddled idiot necrophiliac was going to be the definition of Hell. And what an incredible smell you’ve discovered down here, Sarah? I can see that not improving, over the next hour or so…”

The distant rumble vibrates along the plumbing again.

“We have to do something!” I cry, trying to suppress some very real hysteria now creeping up on me. “And God – what’s wrong with him??”

Luke is shaking again, and suddenly lets out a stifled scream – this time with no words.

Carvery clicks his tongue disapprovingly.

“That’s what happens when you don’t breathe through the contractions, dude,” he warns. “Take your time, and let the suspect chocolate-flavoured medicine do the hard work for you…”

“I think he’s really sick!” I interrupt, but a new scraping sound joins in – this time a metallic, hurried skittering noise over the tiles. “Oh, no – what’s that now?!”

“Where?” Carvery asks, reaching for the chainsaw.

“Something’s running around on the floor…” I begin, and the noise increases in volume.

And then I scream in turn – as something hard and unyielding snaps around my ankle like a clamp!

“It’s got me! It’s got me!” I shriek, kicking out at first, not brave enough to reach down with my free hand – not wanting to risk losing that as well.

“Great!” Carvery enthuses, cheerfully. “Which bit of you do you want cut off?”

But it doesn’t feel like a Squidmorph tentacle. Not this time. Homer is still supine on the metal bunk. Luke is shuddering on the end of his manacles, his violent spasms now reduced to a trembling shiver, as if from non-existent cold.

The Thing seems to latch itself shut around my right leg.

“I can’t see what it is,” I moan.

“Pull your trouser-leg up, Dumbass,” Carvery says, leaning down to look – chainsaw at the ready.

Shaking in fear, I tweak the sweat-drenched fabric up a little. And something glitters…

“Cover it up,” Carvery snaps. “Quick. Before they see it.”

“Why?” I squeal, dropping the fabric from my fingertips at once. “What is it?”

“Well, it’s not an electronic tag,” he grins, tapping his own ankle in indication and winking. “Looks like Luke was hiding the clockwork hand on him all along.”

“Like I said,” Luke manages to whisper. “It doesn’t belong – to anyone. It chooses you.”

What? What does he mean?

“It’s chosen you, Sarah,” he adds, rolling his bloodshot eyes towards me.

“Maybe it knows you were meant to be looking after it.” Carvery squints up at the glass ceiling. “I wonder if Crispin guessed that too, and threw you in here for that reason?”

“I was planted in here?” I conclude, shocked. “To get the clockwork hand back?”

The metal bunk scrapes further inwards on the tiled floor, with another mechanical groan. Homer stirs flatulently and mutters again, in his convalescent slumber.

There is a sudden whiff of battery acid in the fetid air…

“I don’t think they’re going to let us off that easily,” Carvery grins.

Fermat’s Room, trailer – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

Now that’s what I call a cover…

This one broke my world speed record for deciding whether or not to buy the book when I saw it in the bookstore. I think my exact decision-making process was “FWORRR!”

It’s staying where I can see it while writing. I might even read more than those pages in the middle when I get time…

Send him round. I’ve never had a real live muse before 🙂

Hot on the Trail…

Living Hell trailer - final slide

Having spent a week chilling after my eye op, accumulating housework to do over the weekend, and working – yes, working – doing that thing that I left my last job to do! …I’ve introduced DS10 to Youtube as part of her birthday treats, and she’s torn into it like a bat out of Hell on a mission, churning out some jaw-droppingly awesome stuff in less than a week.

And I’ve realised, holy crap – that’s my audience, in some part at least. Anyone writing for young adult, teens, or even children’s fiction now has to realise that this market are using computers, creating their own content, deciding on their identity and choosing their entertainment, much faster than JK Rowling can say “Let’s have a meeting to discuss the strategy.”

Some friends on Goodreads invited me into their YA Lit group, and one of them has set up a (stunning) YA trailer website purely for the posting of trailers for teen fiction, and it is really inspiring. I’d done one trailer previously, a slideshow, for Living Hell, my current major YA work – an alternative-history stab in the dark at a fantasy dystopian contemporary society – written originally when I was 18 years old – which actually functions rather well, considering (it’s called social evolution, baby – no vampires or werewolves here, not that any are admitting to). But when I saw the work already on the site, and the material that DS10 is creating, I decided things needed cranking up a notch (or ten) and using a bit more imagination, even with only a scanner, WinXP and MS Paint at my disposal at home. I guess ‘disposal’ is a good choice of word – but it’s got me through publishing everything so far, and will darned well continue to earn its keep until I can afford myself one of those fancy offices and staff, with a water-cooler for equally cool people to brainstorm and flirt with each other around. 🙂

Okay, so I plug in the scanner and grab my notebook, and basically make this up as I go along. I had some idea of what I was doing, but not until I was actually holding a pen did I know what was going to come off the end of it:

Living Hell trailer - slideI remember writing lists, essays, and occasionally angry letters to imaginary Points of View presenters in my schoolbooks, and also doodling and drawing, which was where I wanted to head with this ‘animation’.

I decided to use a transition rather than painstakingly draw each letter (the ‘invisible hand’ writing across a screen style, which has been used to good Living Hell trailer - slideeffect many times).

What was fun was how organic this process was – I let my gut dictate each stage that I scanned, without really knowing what I was going to draw or write on the page next, just sticking to themes in the book and keeping the schoolbook graffiti style. Just like drawing at school, or in my room when I was a kid. Frequently I’d Living Hell trailer - slide 6start a picture or painting back then not knowing what it would end up becoming – those often turned out more pleasing than the ones I’d planned and could see clearly in my head.

I haven’t got to the stage of constructing a ‘formal’ book trailer, where titles take the place of Hollywood movie voice-over (“A man.  A woman. A ship. An iceberg. A date with destiny”). My style leans more towards the ‘teaser’ type of advert, at the minute. Maybe because those voice-over styles don’t work on me so well… I have seen some great ones on the trailer site, however, so I may give traditional trailer composition a shot at some point.

But for me, hearing a teenager say “Cool!” is as good as it gets, feedback-wise. 🙂

Here’s the finished trailer. Tell me it doesn’t make you glad you’re not still in school, LOL! 🙂

The Great Cover-Up.

Had a discussion about book covers yesterday after getting some constructive criticism on mine. As an indie author – covers were the last thing on my mind. Until seven or eight months ago, I seriously never intended to self-publish.

But as an artist, over the years I used to think a lot about covers. Covers on published books attracted me all the time, although it was blurbs and first paragraph reads which dictated whether or not I bought a book. I realised that as well as covers, I’d never really thought about blurbs either. For me, the important thing was getting my interiors up to scratch, spellchecked and edited. Rarely when I do a drawing or painting does it come up to my own expectations, and sometimes themes in the books require more than a flower, a puddle of blood, or a cleavage…

My favourite book covers of all time always contained real art, especially fantasy art – science fiction book covers in particular featuring spaceships, alien landscapes and adventurers. Some of the best artwork on covers appeared in the 1980’s, mostly on historical romance covers, oozing classical portrait talent and dripping with Fabio.

Fabio LanzoniI could look at just the covers for hours, purely for the artist’s skill – I would study Boris Vallejo and attempt to imitate every line in pencil form. Nowadays, sadly, those style of covers are considered ‘cheesy’ and it’s all about graphic design and branding, creating a cover more simplistic and iconic, like a Coca-Cola label. I can recognise many of those ‘designer’ covers, but could tell you nothing about the story between the covers, or the genre, or the author – but with realist fantasy art, it was easy to understand what the genre and story was – especially if it was science fiction, romance, a pulp detective novel, or an early Ian Fleming.

In a way, these ‘brand’ covers tap into a form of label marketing which goes along with clothing, soft drinks, and fragrances. You don’t have to know what it stands for, what the story is. It’s an accessory, a lifestyle choice. The reader who buys Alexander McCall Smith might also wear Alexander McQueen (ahem, if they’re lucky). The same goes for movie posters – but luckily, movie posters haven’t moved on as far as book covers. The most iconic artist posters include Star Wars and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, and the films represented didn’t disappoint. You saw the poster, and the film lived up to it.

In Death & The City, the protagonist Lara has issues with personality and the way people market themselves, and their motives, and likens it to book covers. You see a big title and it represents a catchy blockbuster title, or a big author name and it represents a celebrity author. Pathway at dusk equals mystery. Pastel colours equals chick lit. Fangs and cleavage equals vampire horror. She compares the way one of her subjects of investigation was drawn unawares into prostitution by saying: Like she’d unwittingly bought a book about the sex trade, based on a misleading cover claiming to be a supernatural spy detective novel.

So I was aware of this ability for covers to be ‘misleading’ when designing my own, and also didn’t want to misrepresent myself as a publishing-house-style author while I’m currently an indie – no quotes from reviews on the covers or in the introduction, although I’ve had hundreds of comments from friends and peers, none that would qualify with the job description ‘Guardian Books’ or ‘TV Book Club’ – so I left them out.

Although I only have MS Paint to cobble them together, luckily Lulu.com on the hardcovers had an online formatter in which you simply upload images of the right quality – had a fun time searching for some I could use – until I can get the right images and artwork out of my head and onto paper, I’m happy with what I’ve done and feel that although amateur, it’s not misrepresenting anything.

But going by my taste in art, I have a feeling my own ideas brought to life won’t have any place in the contemporary market. 🙂