I Am One of the Infected

When I started writing, the goal was to write YA. The reason behind it stemmed from my reading of, The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. That was the first book I ever read. I was fourteen at the time. I wanted to write about teen angst and stuff Hinton covered in her novels.

After that, I stumbled onto a Stephen King novel. Firestarter. From then on, I was a horror-reading maniac. I gobbled up all King had written, moved on to Dean Koontz, John Saul, Robin Cook and the like. I found I watched only horror movies.

The first book I sold was Mind Play. It was released in February 2000. A thriller. I went on to write many more suspense novels. It wasn’t until my marriage began collapsing, though, that I switched it up. In 2007, The Molech Prophecy, was released. It was written under a pen name. Thomas Phillips. And believe it or not, it was Christian Fiction. Dark. Edgy, but with a message.

That, as they say, was how it began.

The next book I knocked out, (after The Molech Prophecy), was a vampire novel. Pulse of Evil. I tried to take a different approach. I made the vampires more like a Mafia family and took away some of the vampire-stereotypes given to them by Hollywood. Some. Not all. But what came next, after Pulse of Evil, was where I’d found my true passion.

Zombies.

As a longtime fan of Joe McKinney (Bram Stoker Award Winning Horror Author), I decided to try my hand at a walking dead tale. Working as a dispatcher at 911, I had all the initial inspiration needed. I wrote a trilogy, Vaccination, Evacuation and Preservation. All released by Severed Press. On my own, I wrote a mash-up, Treasure Island: A Zombie Novella. And coming soon, the first in a new zombie trilogy I call, Damn the Dead. (In Damn the Dead the zombies are referred to as The Infected. It is a continuation of The Vaccination Trilogy, picking up where Preservation left off, but taking an entirely different turn, an unexpected turn. The idea is fresh, more apocalyptic — in a dystopian kind of way. I am very excited about the tale, the characters and the unfolding plot that I pray will engage and engross readers).

The thought behind referring to the zombies as the infected instead of calling the zombies is simple. They may be monsters, they may eat flesh and stopping their hunger might only derive from destroying the brain, but guess what? They’re sick. They were people once. They were fathers, brothers and sons; mothers, sisters and daughters. They are the infected. Whether there is a cure or not, it is hard to forget they once were “normal.”

I try to divide my time appropriately. My day job (even though I work midnights) is stressful, and trying. Taking 911 calls, dispatching fire trucks and ambulances is challenging and oftentimes thankless. At the end of the day, however, I go home feeling as if I’ve made a difference. Many mornings, I know I have. This is what makes the job worth it.

I am divorced, with three kids. My days with them are my priority. Even more so than my job with the city. Family comes first. They are what are most important. I am blessed. I know it. When I have time off from work, I spend as much of that time as I can with my kids.

When I am not working, or with my kids, I write. When I am not physically writing, I am thinking. My mind never slows down as I map out scenes and flesh out characters. I have notecards and torn pieces of paper and napkins filled with jotted down notes and names and concepts. My apartment is littered with them!

Sometimes I think I am one of the infected. I find myself involved in conversations. I want to listen to what’s said. I try to. But most of the time I am giving half my attention. I feel awful about that. My characters are always talking inside my head. They demand a lot of me. They want to be heard. They don’t want me to forget what just played out like a movie inside my head. They want me to grab a pen and find somewhere to write it down. Assuring them I will remember doesn’t work. They know me too well. They know I will forget.

And if I am honest, I know I will, too. At forty-four years old I know I will forget.

The infection spreads fast. I’ve succumbed, mostly. I hang on to my life as much as I can. I am not sure how much longer I will be able to keep it together. How long can someone hold on? Sounds dramatic, right? It isn’t. I am being honest. The voices are real. Constant. They fill my thoughts, filter into my dreams, and are always talking. Talking. Talking.

It’s not just zombies I write about. I have a paranormal thriller, First Fragments, in the works. And a contemporary novel, When The Wind Blows, outlined. I have the notes for a new zombie mash-up novella, and another for the second Rick Stone novel (Blood River, the first Rick Stone book, was released by Severed Press in September). And let it be known that I did write a young adult novel. Barking Rain Press published, Sounds of Silence, in late 2013. It is not about teen angst. Instead, it is a heartwarming story about a boy who becomes deaf.

The blessing is that I do not have writer’s block. The curse is that I do not have the time to write as much as needs to be written.

It becomes like a 12 Step Program, in a sense. I live by a motto adopted from the group: Live life one day at a time. Will I get better? Become un-infected? I have no clue. I am not sure I want to. I think a little infection is helpful. Creative. My muse.

… This blog has been a bit of a ramble. I started talking about when I was fourteen, finished at age forty-four. I covered books I’d read, books I’d written, books I’ve yet to write. And I’ve talked about my personal infection. TMI?

If this, my line of thought, doesn’t scare you –then I don’t know what will. You know what? Happy October! Enjoy my favorite times of year!

Take care,
Phillip Tomasso
Author of Blood River and The Vaccination Trilogy

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