When he started working on his first book four years ago, Joe Coggiano discovered a fear he didn’t know he had.
“I’ve been deployed to the Middle East and worked on dangerous jobs, like as a welder,” he said. “To me, this is scary because it’s out of my wheelhouse.”
Coggiano’s new project was born from conversations he had with a coworker. In an apocalyptic event, where would he go?
“My parents live at the end of Fort Smallwood Road,” Coggiano said. “You have resources here. You have fuel and food.”
In “Taking Back Tomorrow,” Coggiano’s self-published work released on November 23, characters face that dilemma. One of them works for the National Security Agency and learns that a viral outbreak in Brazil is spreading across the globe.
“The story starts a couple weeks after the power plants are shut down,” Coggiano said. “They run off generators and siphon fuel out of cars.”
While the group members combine their skills to find resources, they also have to thwart off zombies that emerge during the pandemic.
“The type of zombie isn’t like in ‘The Walking Dead’ where you can just cut off its arm, or like ‘World War Z’ with zombies flying around like they’re on PCP,” Coggiano said. “They can run, but they still have to sleep. You can kill them if you hit an artery.”
Armed with the power to create or end life with a few keystrokes, Coggiano learned throughout the writing process that he needed more than action for a compelling story.
The 1998 Chesapeake High graduate had no formal training other than Anne Arundel Community College classes he took after his Navy days. He solicited help from two editors and a friend who majored in journalism. They all told him to cut unnecessary information and put emphasis on character development.
“I wanted it to be more than a run-around-and-shoot-them-up,” Coggiano said. “You need action and that type of stress, but you also need relationships to be fractured.
“If you’re describing two people, you have to give them different quirks,” he added. “One might talk in double negatives or use certain phrases. I also wanted to keep the tension going, both physical tension and psychological.”
Thinking from the viewpoints of different characters was another challenge.
“They think about what would be the most sensible thing, but they still have to make impulse moves,” Coggiano said. “One guy might hesitate whereas one guy might run.
“The main goal at first is just survival. They live in different places but all around Fort Smallwood Road. They start to clear out Pasadena, but people start getting hungry and desperate. The population density is less than in Curtis Bay, Brooklyn Park and Baltimore, so it makes more sense to hunker down than to get stuck on a highway in a pickup truck.”
Readers will recognize Route 100, Hog Neck Road, Fort Smallwood Park, the Stoney Creek Bridge and other landmarks.
“I think for Marylanders, it will have an authentic feel,” Coggiano said.
While he anxiously awaits feedback on his book, he is celebrating the result of his hard work.
“I’m stoked. It’s a huge accomplishment,” Coggiano said. “I got a blue belt in jujitsu and that was exciting. Finishing work on my third house was exciting. This is exciting.”
“Taking Back Tomorrow” is available on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon. A sequel is in the works