It was on a series of requests, and almost a ‘dare’, that I attempted to write my very first zombie apocalypse themed story, “Shelter”. The first chapter was, basically, a one-shot. Maybe it would work out for the best, and maybe it wouldn’t. But I gave it a champion effort in the hopes that readers would like it, and I could enjoy the challenge of doing something a little different. Luckily, the response to the story was really favorable and a great deal of people were looking for it to continue on from there.
Now, at the time, I wasn’t exactly sure if I had a game plan in place to go any further with that particular project. I deliberately kept the story down to a few chosen moments, taking place in a short amount of time, so I could tell a story…be done with it…and leave the rest up to the readers’ imaginations. But…I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t intrigued by the idea of moving forward and possibly turning it into a series. Even if it was just a short series with with ten chapters or less.
I let “Shelter” rest for a while, existing only as a mild possibility in the back of my mind while I worked on other stories for the site. Sometimes, audience reactions fade over time, and interest in any new chapters wanes. But “Shelter” held its ground, and fans of the first chapter continued to ask if I was going to keep going with the two main characters that they had invested time and emotion into so far. My answer was that I would only do it if I could put a unique spin on the zombie genre as a whole. If I could maybe do something different with the idea. Zombies, vampires, werewolves…they’ve been done a million times by a million different authors and filmmakers. The last thing I wanted to do was become just ‘another one of those stories.’ And even with “Gone From Daylight” and “Savage Moon” as site favorites, the stigma of writing stories with those themes keep a lot of readers at bay for long periods of time before they even give the story a chance. I really wanted to avoid making a generic zombie splatter fest with a little bit of coming-of-age homoerotic goodies thrown in for good measure. Hehehe!
But how was I going to do that? That was the one question keeping me from even getting started on the next chapter of that story. How did all of these teens, adults, and military soldiers, come to this local high school and make it a fortress?
Well, obviously, I was going to need a few more characters to start things off and tell a three dimensional story beyond, ‘we’re good, they’re bad, let’s fight!’ I’ve always found that an ensemble cast of characters is a great way to add some depth and variety to any story that you may be writing. And when creating new characters, I’m forced to ask myself a series of questions. Who is this character? Where did he or she come from? How will they be relevant to the plot? What role will they play when interacting with the characters I’ve already established as the main focus of the story? Once I got into that frame of mind…building a story around that group of selected misfits became a lot easier to deal with. I took pen to paper, and started building my new world!
A few years ago, I took a great deal of time to put together an exciting video trailer for the NEW chapters of “Shelter” on the ComicalityShack YouTube Channel to let the site know that the series would definitely be coming back with a vengeance, and would hopefully take audiences on the terror filled ride that they had been clamoring for! What they didn’t know at the time…was that there was an entire collection of individual pieces of a much bigger puzzle that were coming along with it for support! I made sure that all of the new characters were represented in the video, grabbed some dark and relevant music for the theme of the story (What better song could there be for the end of civilization than a darker version of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World”?), and I secretly set readers up for what was to come.
Now, the actual ‘Shelter-Verse’ was born by me making the decision to give each of these new characters their own ‘space’ when it came to the context of what was going on. This is a zombie apocalypse! It affects everybody, right? So how was I going to explain and show everybody’s individual experience with the total breakdown of society without simply glossing over it in a few sentences? It can’t be done in a single story. Not the way that I wanted to write it, anyway. All of the ‘Shelter-Verse’ tales are prequels to the main storyline. They all show a character’s life before the disaster, and how they reacted during the earliest events of a city wide panic. I wanted every single character to be the star of their own experience, and I wanted every reader that dove into “Shelter’s” newest chapters to have the bonus of knowing what happened before all of these characters came to meet each other for the first time. That moment of, “OH! I know what’s going on here!” Or “I understand that character’s motivation, because I read the story leading up to this moment!” Sure…you can read “Shelter” just fine without reading any of the prequels at all. But, I can guarantee you that there are some really cool extras involved if you read the prequels first!I didn’t want to drag the main story down with pages and pages of backstory for each member of the group. And I didn’t want long paragraphs of exposition dialogue, ‘telling’ readers what they needed to know about these new characters before I could move towards the real meat of the story. So separate miniseries seemed to be the best way to go. We were re-launching Imagine Magazine, and since the series started here…what better way to keep things moving by making this place “Shelter’s” monthly exclusive home online from now on? The idea was to have a new spinoff story finished before the next chapter of “Shelter” was posted and new characters were introduced. And I was going to make an individual video trailer for every last one of them! Hehehe, ambitious, I know…but I thought it was possible.
It was not possible. LOL!
Not in the way I had planned it, originally, or within the short time frame that I had to work with. But now they are all finally coming to completion, and the ideas are coming together just like I imagined they would! I wanted every story to have a completely different ‘feel’ to it. A different tone. Stories that anybody could read in any order and still get the same effect. All of these worlds are connected, and the tragedies that each character has to deal with gets brought into the main “Shelter” series along with them. So everybody gets some much needed details, some character building, and a little man vs zombie action to boot! I had a LOT of fun writing these! And there are still two or three more on the horizon! So keep an eye out in the future as the ‘Shelter-Verse’ expands even further!
I knew, right away, that I wanted “Walker Road” to be the first prequel story that I wanted to tell. No doubt about it. This story follows Walker, who has convinced himself that he has discovered true love for the first time in his young life, and is sneaking out to a party with older boys and girls on a night when the city is on alert and people are being told to stay inside. I won’t give any spoilers here (You’ll just have to read it!), but the events that take place in this first story reflect the shock and horror of what is taking place here in this world, and how the sudden ‘drop’ can hit at any time, without any warning at all. “Walker Road” sets the stage for all of the events that happened before the first chapter of “Shelter”, and hints at how people got to their safe place in general. It was the first of the five, and I REALLY like how it turned out! It made me confident for the next one, and I started working on it right away!
Hehehe, with an unorthodox title like “Rotting Apples”, I wasn’t sure how people would react, and didn’t know if they’d want to give this story a try. But a voice in my head kept telling me, “Do it! Name it ‘Rotting Apples’ and see what happens!” LOL! Where “Walker Road” has more of a creepy horror element to it, this story of character, ‘Donovan’, has more of an angsty family drama feel to it. Donovan is coming from a very different place than a lot of his literary co-stars. He’s a bit older, a bit more conflicted and bitter, but not without reason. Taking this prequel on before tackling “Shelter” may end up giving readers an entirely unique perspective on who Donovan is. And why he does the things he does. I’ve noticed a very different reaction to his character from readers who have read “Rotting Apples”, and those who haven’t. So give this one a try!
I can’t help it! Hehehe, I LOVE ‘Preston’ as a character! hehehe! He’s so much fun to write! And with the darker tones submitted with the first two prequel stories, it was cool to give this tale a much more lighthearted feel. Don’t get me wrong…bad things are still going down when it comes to this miniseries! But “Miles To Go” has a lot of cute and comedic moments within it to make it stand out among the rest. Preston Miles was a home schooled boy who may feel a bit awkward at first, but is SUPER excited and determined to experience public school and making new friends and his first unsupervised party at a nearby farm. He’s been practicing his ‘cool guy’ techniques, and he’s really hoping they’ll pay off. Now, Preston is a small guy. He’s a runner. When trouble surfaces, don’t even think about trying to catch him! Much like a deer in the forest…his speed and his cunning, unpredictable, maneuvers are his best weapons! But…will that be enough in the long run? He’s never faced anything like this before. This series quickly became a fan favorite. I’m glad! Thank you! ((Hugz))
Now here…where the first few stories were mostly just about hiding out, running, and trying to survive, this horrendous outbreak…”Safehaven” does a complete 180* turn away from all of the others. The prequels were tinged with horror, then drama, then comedy…but this one is my action movie! Hehehe! This series has someone running INTO the burning building and fighting the fire, head on! We have an officer of the law, and an ex-soldier, who is present for the sudden crash and burn of society when it happens. But his only son is sick and stuck in a hospital that is located in the center of this madness. Rules have already been thrown out of the window, and he’s a father that’s willing to force his way through the chaos to reach his son and get him to safety. By any means necessary! This was another one that I had a ball writing! Hehehe, it’s so over the top in comparison with the others! But if you’re looking for the ‘Summer Blockbuster’ type of story out of the bunch, “Safehaven” would be it!
(By the way…I know that ‘safehaven’ is supposed to be two words and not one. It was actually supposed to be the name of the hospital, but I changed my mind. And everything else had been finished by then. So…sorry about that. Hehehe! It’s TWO separate words, kids! Don’t run them together. You’ll get points off of your English test!)
Status: In Progress
The last story on the list (So far) was “Release Me”. This one reads more like an erotic thriller. JUST in case readers thought that Comsie forgot how to be extremely ‘naughty’ with his stories when he needed to be! LOL! Seriously, though…”Release Me” was the last offering for a reason, and it serves a purpose. By the time the first two chapters of this story showed up on the site, the “Shelter” series was already in full swing. Characters had been introduced, plot points were building, and everything was already set in motion, plot wise. However…people who were used to reading “Shelter” were comfortable with the evolving safety that was being portrayed in the story. They were locked in a high school, well guarded, well protected, by heavily armed soldiers. What was there to worry about, right?
“Release Me” was meant to flip that idea on its side and let readers know that I don’t plan to make things THAT easy! Hehehe!
From earlier chapters, there were whispers and rumors about another high school across town that tried to save civilians and build a shelter of their own in the same way. But…as it turns out…that was a failed experiment. A total bloodbath! While earlier chapters only mention it in passing, it’s apparent that something went extremely wrong at Hillside high school! “Release Me” is the story of an openly gay teen at that high school who was scooped up and brought there for the sake of safety and security. However, the tables turn…and they’re not safe at all. This is a peek at what really happened there, and how it could happen again in the main story…putting “Shelter” fans in an uncomfortable position again. A position that they thought they had left behind once boarded up in the safety of the school they were in. This story is only a few chapters deep right now, but keep reading. The mystery of the Hillside Massacre…won’t be a mystery for much longer!
Status: In Progress
So, THIS is the ‘Shelter-Verse’! You can check it out any time that you like! You can read the stories in any order you want…or maybe not read them at all. It’s up to you! And after its all said and done? head on over to the site and read “Shelter” (Including the new chapter posted in this issue!) from beginning to end, and leet me know what you think! It’s fun to know where all of these boys come from, what their personal stories are, and then watching them interact with one another all at once! I had a blast writing these! I hope you have a blast reading them! And look for conclusions to your favorites, as well as a few more prequels that are waiting in the wings until I can post them without giving any spoilers away. ::Wicked Grin::
Take care! I love you all! And thanks for the love and support you’ve given me on a story that I simly took a chance on in the very beginning! Hearing your compliments and knowing that you were following along, made “Shelter” and its offspring the successes that they are today! Stick around!A storm is coming! Don’t you DARE miss a minute of it!
Status: In Progress