Sunday, May 18, 2014

What's in a Chapter Title?

It's always interested to me when a novel contains a table of contents. Seeing all of the chapter titles before I've read the book always makes me speculate and try to predict what I'm in for. Of course, some chapter titles contain obvious spoilers, which isn't a good thing. But sometimes you can get a vague but intriguing sense of what's in store from reading the chapter titles.

To that end, here are the chapter titles for my forthcoming post-apocalyptic novel, Fading Man. What sort of sense do they give you about the story contained inside?

Chapter One - Admiral Vinegaroon
Chapter Two - Pradeep
Chapter Three - All Places Are Bad Places
Chapter Four - Hasty Retreat
Chapter Five - Desperate Measures
Chapter Six - A Warm Welcome to Tulsey Town
Chapter Seven - Secrets and Souvenirs
Chapter Eight - Shadows and Substance
Chapter Nine - Kingdom of Sickness
Chapter Ten - Cities of Ruined Flesh
Chapter Eleven - A Brutal Philosophy
Chapter Twelve - Hell to Pay
Chapter Thirteen - Break It All Down
Chapter Fourteen - A Fearful Gathering
Chapter Fifteen - Standing in the Way
Chapter Sixteen - Dead Inside
Chapter Seventeen - The Heart Gives Up
Chapter Eighteen - From Water to Dust
Chapter Nineteen - The Desperate and the Dying
Chapter Twenty - Pieces
Chapter Twenty One - Darkness and Light
Epilogue - A Place beyond the Horizon

There you go. There's your table of context for a novel you've never read. But based on those chapter titles, what sort of story would you expect to encounter?

In other news, here is a recent article about Children of the Mechanism. You might as well check it out, unless you've got other business to attend to. In which case, go right ahead and attend to your business.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Don't Get Too Excited or You Might Burst into Chunks

So I just finished the first pass through my latest novel, Fading Man. That means revisions and rewriting, which means fixing typos, filling in plot holes, deleting unnecessary or repetitious text, adding things here and there. I also added an epilogue to tidy up the story a bit. The ending was too dark for my taste, so the epilogue gives a little burst of light right at the end to send the reader skipping merrily on his way.

As it turns out, 2014 is shaping up to be a rather prolific year for me, in terms of writing and publishing novels (if not so much in terms of sales or publicity). I have already published two novels this year. First came Mary of Starlight in February, the third volume of my young sdult series. Then came Children of the Mechanism in March, a science fiction story. In September, the fourth and final volume of my Young Adult series, Mary of Cosmos, will come out. And then hopefully by the end of the year, Fading Man will also come out (assuming I get the revisions done in a reasonable amount of time).

That's a whole lot of writing and publishing in between bouts of playing MMOs. I'm not sure what I'll work on next. I've got a couple of novels sitting in a folder that I've started. One of them is a young adult novel about a kid living in a trailer park who one day befriends a strange super-dimensional being that lives under the trash in a corner of his bedroom. Yep, you read the right. It's called The Figment Tree, and I've already written the first 20,000 words or so. The second novel is perhaps even weirder. It's about a boy who lives alone in a giant gray house with a sentient robot toy. Outside of his bedroom window, he sees only endless fog stretching out forever. That one is called Voices in the Gray House. I've only written the first chapter of that, but it's based on a short story I published a few years back. We'll see if I feel like finishing either of them. I always have to work on something that lines up with my current mood. I'm weird that way.

Anyway, let me give you a tiny sample of each of the novels I've either written or published this year, just so's you'll get a taste of 2014. Here we go.

Mary of Starlight
Chapter 6: A Sea of Blue and Red

         Pain stabbed into Mary’s shoulders and down her back, that old familiar pain, and with it, a great wave of exhaustion washed over her. A million twinkling lights filled the black canopy around her. Stars like she’d never seen before, the great hazy trail of the Milky Way, constellations she had no name for, and the sliver moon resting in the midst of them. She would have sailed up there forever, two hundred feet above the earth, with the wind in her face, and her hair whipping out behind her, but she could only fly for so long. She needed rest, so she cast her gaze to the dark landscape below and looked for a safe place to land.
          She was in the middle of nowhere on the eastern edge of Texas. She had passed a tiny one-stoplight town some miles back, but there was nothing now but a hint of trees and hills. On the horizon, she saw lights, a kind of shifting haze of red and blue, very far away but beautiful and strange. She knew what it was, of course. How many times had she seen such lights? Police cars, possibly other kinds of emergency vehicles, stopped somewhere up the road. Mary came down gently in the middle of the empty highway, touching down on the asphalt so softly that she did not make a sound.

Children of the Mechanism 
Part Four: Feeding the Grong

          Kuo sank his hands into the meat trough and scooped up a large mound of the damp, gray paste. He brought it up to the lid of the trough and dumped it into the plastic bucket on the floor between his feet. Some of it slopped onto the floor, but Kuo was careful to pick up every little bit and flick it into the bucket. The grease ran between his fingers and dripped onto his feet, tickling his toes. When the bucket was full, he grabbed the rope handle in both hands, set his feet farther apart, and rose. The bucket was heavy, but Kuo was strong. The only risk was losing his balance.
          Kuo turned, saw the line of feeders moving across the room, saw the Watchers beyond them with their mouthless faces and bent arms. Oh, the Watchers were always nearby, weren’t they? Always staring, staring, staring, and sometimes Kuo thought he knew what they were thinking. They looked past the other feeders and fixed their black eyes on Kuo alone.
          “I know what you’re doing,” Kuo muttered. “I can read your minds. I know you’re playing the game with me.”

Mary of Cosmos 
Chapter 1: The Long Awakening

          It took five days of healing to get her right eye open, another three for the left. Five more days passed before her hearing returned, and the first sound she became aware of was the creaking of her shattered bones coming back together. She had the unfortunate pleasure of listening to the bones mend over the next two days, and only then did she manage to raise her right arm. She held the hand over her head, trying but failing to flex her fingers. The ring finger and thumb were still broken, pointing in wrong directions. It took another couple of days to fix that. And finally, a week after her fingers mended, her spine came back together and she managed to sit up.
          She had fallen a hundred feet and slammed into the side of an oak tree. That single blow had shattered most of her ribs, snapped her spine and broken her right arm in three places. It had also sent her spinning wildly another thirty yards into the forest, until she finally hit the ground and rolled, fracturing her skull, eyes sockets, breaking her legs and feet and her other arm. After that excruciating ordeal, she had finally come to rest under the low branches of a pine tree, buried under a mound of debris that her tumbling had kicked up.

Fading Man 
Chapter Thirteen: Break It All Down

          Joe hurried to catch up to the others, though his back and ribcage still hurt from the fall. But the terrible sounds blasting out of the open vent suddenly quieted, as if someone had covered the hole. Joe glanced back and saw a misshapen lump squeezing itself out of the opening like some formless flesh struggling to be born. The shape shifted and revealed a crooked head, shiny gray skin swelling out of what might once have been a human face. A single eye, pale as a chip of ice, rolled about until it found Joe. Then the gray skin parted to reveal a toothless mouth, as red and angry as a wound, and the scadgling began to wail. The mournful sound carried out across the river and filled the empty lands beyond.
Joe drew the .38 out of his pocket and pointed it at the scadgling. It ceased thrashing, and the wailing sound faded out like a siren running out of batteries. The wound-mouth closed, but that single eye kept staring.
“Don’t follow us,” Joe shouted. “We don’t want to hurt anyone. We just want to leave.

So there you go. A delicate sampling of everything I have thus far either written or published in 2014. And which one, O Reader, piques thy interest most? In other news, here is a recent interview I did with Ten Minute Interviews. Go check that out for no particular reason, if you don't mind. I mean, you read all the way to the bottom of this blog entry, so you're clearly someone who is willing to read long, rambling things. And I applaud you for that. I truly do.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Fading Man Has Faded

Well, I recently finished the first draft of my latest novel. I am currently in the middle of The Great Slog, aka revisions. Here's the thing, sometimes when I finish a first draft and I go back to do revisions, I am greatly disturbed at the low quality of the prose. I mean, it's never as good when you go back and read it for the first time as you thought it was when you were writing it. However, Fading Man turns out to be better than I expected. At least in terms of the prose.

We'll see how the story plays out. I'm a little concerned at the bleakness of it. Yes, the man who wrote Children of the Mechanism, where kids are being dragged down refuse holes by dead-eyed robots, is concerned about the bleakness of his latest novel. But here's the thing, I always want to give some amount of hope in anything I write. We'll see if I managed it this time around.

What is Fading Man about, you ask? It is the story of a guy named Joe Mund and his troubled wife, Eleanor. Joe has memories of a place he's never been, a city called Verum. He has spent years trying to find this place, and his journey has finally taken him into a plague-ridden wasteland called Tockland, where the water is poisonous and scadglings roam the ruins.

That's not the official blurb of the book. It's more like the set-up. Now, as I mentioned in a previous blog entry, this novel is based on a short story I wrote when I was 20 years old. It is interesting to see how the 40 year old version of me approaches the same story. In the short story, the theme was all about trying to find yourself and figure out who you are. In the novel, it's more about the long-term damage caused by an obsession with self discovery. Perspectives change as we get more decrepit, I guess.

Anyway, I should have a free sample in a few weeks.