What if a catastrophic disaster destroyed the nation's electrical infrastructure? Would survivors band together to help one another or resort to lawlessness?
That scenario is played out in a new novel, "Borders Crossing" by Archie Borders. He and his wife, Kelli, are promoting the recently released work with a book signing and sale 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at Paper and Ink, 98 S. Washington St. They are hoping Holiday Happenings patrons will stop in to meet them.
A military veteran and musician, Archie also is a self-employed contractor who says he became an author "by accident."
"My mother got pretty ill and she came to stay with us about four winters ago. She needed around-the-clock care, so my wife and I split our time," he said.
During his watches, Archie needed something quiet to keep him occupied without disturbing his mom. He wrote a short story that mushroomed into a 420-page novel. Basing the characters on his family, he places them in a survivalist setting in the present day or the near future; however, the book is not science-fiction.
"There's no zombies. There's no ridiculousness like that," Kelli said.
"No supernatural things, no magical powers, just regular people caught in really bad circumstances," Archie added.
Early in the story, the author describes an electromagnetic pulse attack and its effects on the Borders family, who live in northwest Ohio. Flashbacks come into play at some points to add extra details.
Archie asked Kelli to read each chapter and express her opinion.
"I would read maybe two or three chapters at a time as he was writing them. There was one part where something happens with our son, and I said, 'You can't leave him like that,' like it was real or something," Kelli said. "It's a very realistic story."
Archie had a client who was a literary professor, and he had worked on a number of her rental properties. He asked whether she would take a look at his manuscript and give him feedback. She accepted the draft, cautioning him she was known for her brutal honesty.
Archie was not expecting the reaction she gave.
"She was very impressed. She told me it was the best unpublished fiction book she had ever read, including those by all her colleagues and fellow professors. She told me, since it was the first draft, I should polish it up," Archie said.
Her positive response changed his expectations for the novel. It went from being a hobby to something other people could buy, read and enjoy. Taking the professor's advice, he spent the downtime of four winters doing seven rewrites and five edits. He calls it "a very exhaustive labor of love."
"It's very suspensful. It's very surprising," Kelli said. "I read a lot. I've always read a lot, so I was very skeptical. The more I read of it, I was really surprised."
Kelli calls the story "a family saga." Archie emphasized his choice of language is suitable for readers of all ages. He felt the story was strong enough to be told without profanity.
The action follows a family forced out of their home because it no longer can protect them after widespread devastation.
"There are no resources left. There will be no more deliveries of fuel. Terrorists are taking over all the oil refining facilities, so there's a lot of oil but no way to refine it. There's no electricity, no food," Archie said.
Without law enforcement, people have resorted to robbing and killing to survive. With wildlife decimated, survivors are turning to cannibalism. The family decides to take their chances living in the woods where the threat of human violence is lower.
"They try to separate themselves from the rest of society by going out in the wild and trying to live out there. It's a hard, cold winter," Archie said.
Based on his knowledge of northern Ohio and southern Michigan, Archie did additional research on the sites mentioned in the book. As the travelers make their way on foot, they decide to head north and cross into Canada in hopes that country has not been hit as hard.
"It's very interesting what happens when they get to the border," Archie said. "It's a nighttime crossing on the river up there, so the cover depicts that."
Friends and relatives who have read the book told Archie they became engrossed in the story and characters. He chose to self-publish the book rather than go the traditional route. Having invested four years in the book's completion, he just wanted to put it out there and test the waters.
"The publishers want so much money as their cut, but if you do it yourself, you're in control of everything," Kelli said.
Archie chose Morris Publishing and Blue Juice Publishing. Marbee Printing and Graphics in Findlay did the cover art, based on Archie's design. Archie said online sales have been strong so far.
"Borders Crossing" also is available as an e-book.
Originally from rural Findlay and Carey, the Borders have completed book signings in Marion, Mansfield and Fostoria. After Saturday's session in Tiffin, they plan to make stops in Bucyrus, Fremont, Bowling Green, Findlay, Lima and Kenton.