A Novel Commentary #4: A Slice of Death
This early version was called Carmichael Nickel, and the name came from a soldier named Carmichael. She asked me for advice, and much like the Charlie Brown cartoon where Charlie paid $0.05 for a therapy session. This would have been in 2007 when we were stationed at Fort Lee, Virgina. The course was wrapped up, and she handed me a paper towel with a nickel wrapped up in it that read, “Carmicheals Nickle.”
In 2008, when I was stationed in Georgia, I started drafting a story. I found the old paper towel, having long since spent the nickel, and thought, “Carmicheal’s nickel. That's got a good ring to it.” By that point, it was a title in search of a story than anything else. I called the main character Winston Doral Carmichael because at the time I smoked Winston cigarettes and Doral cigarettes. At the time, the biggest defining moment in my life was a failure of mine, I had just recently flunked out of Combat Medic School. Carmichael's nickel served as a sort of wish fulfillment for me, where the character graduated medic school and deployed as a medic. His career was on track. In Carmicheals Nickel, the intrepid Winston Carmicheal comes off deployment to a zombie infested wasteland. There was a Zombie King that controlled other zombies and could fly. Winston’s old friends from the trailer park showed up, and everyone defeats the zombies outside of the River Center Mall in San Antonio. The biggest problem with Carmichaels Nickel was the writer. I didn’t understand myself enough to create fleshed out characters. I was too inexperienced a writer to support such fantastic elements like a zombie king and a multi-verse. So the story went on ice for a few years while I learned how to be a better writer.
2. A Tale of Two Carmicheals
In 2012, we began work on what would become The Thin Line of Life. It consisted of five short stories set in a zombie invested world. I took elements from Carmicheals Nickel and reworked it into a more grounded zombie universe. The story became A Tale of Two Carmicheals. A Tale of Two Carmichaels was much more grounded. At that point, the defining event in my life was an engagement that didn’t work out. Winston Carmicheal runs into his ex-fiancée after the zombies come, this time in Indianapolis instead of San Antonio. They still fought the zombies, but this time the Zombie King did not make an appearance. I took the more fantastical elements out of the story and left it a melancholic romp through the end of days. It was just people trying to figure out how to be humans again. When humanity was in such short supply, it was easier to be monsters.
3. A Slice of Death
In 2015, we were wrapping up the final Thin Line of Life book. I wanted to create a spin off called, “A Slice of Death.” I wanted to take that early concept of “Soldiers fight zombies in the mall,” and do it one last time. I was in this whole other place when I wrote it. Failure wasn’t driving the narrative. I wanted to write a book that emulated the 1990’s sci-fi show, “Sliders.” I was a stronger writer by then and could pull off the high concept madcap insanity of a multi-verse. At the time, I had taken the summer off from college. I lived in my cheap downtown apartment and spent most of my days across the street at the local pub writing. That’s where A Slice of Death came from, the sheer joy of experimentation. It was set up as a sequel to A Tale of Two Carmicheals, beginning eight years after the zombie war. Winston has to race to San Antonio to save his ex-wife. The Zombie King, much like in Carmicheals Nickel, makes an appearance in A Slice of Death. But this time I got it right. I could write a story with fleshed out grounded characters a add all the fantastic elements of a talking zombie and multi-verse. It was everything I wanted it to be, so I could put it aside.