Cause That’s Just The Way it Goes

It’s quarter past eleven at night — quarter til midnight at the time of publishing — and I’m still writing. About to head to bed when I realized I haven’t posted in a while. Got to throw you guys something before you forget about Grim Curio. I feel so great about this novel, better than I’ve felt for anything I’ve ever written. I feel it, this one is going to make a splash.

Anyway, here’s a few snippets from the novel. I hope you enjoy them.

1.

In the dark of this hole, their faces are cloaked in hoods, disrupted but shadow, lenses, cloth. Only a green glint in their goggles, the reflection of the abused computer monitor, betrays their eyes. Even so, James reads their emotion in the constance of their stair, the stiffness in their shoulders, the way they contemplate the first words that might tidy this strange situation. He bristles when he see’s the sidearms strapped to their thighs, see’s the military precision in the packing gear.

‘There’s got to be an easier way to make a buck.’ The phrase springs to his mind, and he almost smiles. It’s not the buck’s he’s after. Anxiety runs down his back in a skittering of pinpricks, and suddenly the world is hyperreal. It’s moments like these — when the only thing between him and consequence is his tenacity — when he finally feels in control of his destiny. No system brought him here, no misguided ideology. He walked upstream, against the current like a boss, and now he’s ready to see how close he come’s to oblivion.

Then he’ll pull himself back out again. Cause that’s just how it goes.

2.

Note: Each chapter begins with an excerpt from a piece of writing within the world of Grim Curio. These are emails, journal entries, propaganda, and in the following’s case, a poem.

Girlies an’ Boy’os, do not break a rule,
Sit straight, listen, when ya go to school,
Them cleary* bastards won’t stand none’ya fight,
Mark ya in they ledger, ya stupid little fool.

Girlies an’ Boy’os, do not break a rule,
Just ya wait’n listen, soon come the ghoul,
Them cleary bastards’ll get’ya come the night,
Dis’pear ya to nothin, ya stupid little fool.

Mind all ya manners
‘Member who they was
When top ‘comes bottom and bottom the top
Show ‘em then what we lil’ shit’s think of ‘em,
Cut ‘em, gut ‘em, hang them from the rafters
That is all.

– Untitled Poem from The Outlaw’s Book of Rhymes

*cleary is a derogatory term for people who live in the undercity. After hundreds of years below ground, their skin has gone opaque. The undercity residents tend to be the elites, politicians, artisans, scientists, teachers, students, and stability officers.

3.

Note: Last bit. This is just a snippet of a conversation that is currently in chapter 6 between James and the student Gretchen. James is from the surface, Gretchen from the undercity. I’m trying to make their cultures very different and their confines tight. Ok, here it is:

Gretchen frowns thoughtfully. “There’s an empty hut up the hill, I’ll ask an elder if we can use it. If he says no, though, there’s nothing we can do. Fringes Protocol states we follow tribal rules.”

“Fine. Do what you can. Introduce me as a spiritual healer. Stress that I use natural methods to expel spirits and demons, lift curses, that sort of thing.”

“You mean lie?”

“I mean embellish. Just a bit.”

“But protocol—“

“I’m above protocol and I herby grant you permission to rise above the protocol with me and get shit done. Temporary leniency granted, congratulations. When you talk to whoever… who will you be talking to?”

Suddenly preoccupied, she says quietly, “Probably Elder Nevin.”

“Tell Elder Nevin that I’m not with associated with you. Call me weird or something, point to my skin, the way I talk and move, make sure he can see as clear as day that I’m an outsider here. That’s the only way I can build my own reputation at this point. Also, mention how strange it is that I don’t use tech.”

Gretchen studies the ground, contemplates the lies she’s been ordered to pass along.

“You alright?” asks James evenly.

She nods.

“I know they’ve taught you’ to follow protocols your entire life, and what I’m asking you to do feels wrong, but you asked for me and now you’ve got me. Do you want to help this village? Their children?”

She nods.

“Then what we’ve got to do is create a scenario with the greatest chance of success, and this is what I’ve got. If you’ve got a better idea, name it. How ‘bout you, at the computer. Any killer ideas?”

Ryan shakes his head.

Back to Gretchen, he says, “This is what I do every single day. Stick with me, and we’ll have you breaking protocol left and right, and trust me it’ll be the best you’ve ever felt. But if you don’t feel comfortable, I’ll manage.”

 

That’s all for now. Hope to be sharing more soon 🙂

Grew up among the Nihilists in East Oasis. My parents taught me to burn the world around me, to finish the job of the Great Cleansing.

Grim Curio, from Badass Writing Day

Badass Writing Day #1

Recently I made a major career change: I went from being an internet marketing guy to a programming dude. One of the many benefits programming has over my last job is more vacation time, which in turn means more writing time.

This year I’m setting aside four full vacation days which I’ll dedicate to writing Grim Curio, and I’m calling them my badass writing days! Not very on brand or whatever, but it’s fun to say.

My first BWD will be this Friday, and I’m really looking forward to it. I haven’t been able to set aside full writing days since college, so I plan to take advantage of it.

BWD: The Plan

A day like this will be most effective if I have a plan, so here are my priorities:

1. More words on page.

This is a simple but important one. No book was ever written without putting a substantial amount of words down. Depending on my other focuses, I’d like to write at least 1,000 green field words – meaning these are brand new sections of the narrative, not words added through rewriting.

I can often get 1000 words in about an hour and a half, but I run out of steam once I reach that point. To combat this, I plan on working on some other aspects of Grim Curio once my momentum slows.

This initial sprint of writing will focus on Chapter 2. Chapter 2 introduces us to the two other protagonists: Simon and Julia (not sure I’m happy with the name ‘Julia’ yet). These two scientists have succeeded in punching a hole through the veil that separates our reality with the Base reality.

If that’s confusing, no worries. It’s all layered reality stuff, a concept that runs through the core of Grim Curio. The more I post here, the more I realize that I really need to write a post on the layered universe, otherwise you’ll likely get lost. Another time.

[what follows is more spoilery than usual] In this chapter, Simon and Julia attempt to repeat the experiment and punch another hole in reality, but something slips through the hole. It dives into Simon’s eyes. This entity then begins mapping itself to Simons neural network, and slowly begins taking control of his body.

So it’s not good times for Simon, or Julia for that matter. Anyway, I’ll be working on that bit.

2. Determine whether to cut chapter 3.

This is a toughy. Chapter 3 was the original piece I wrote when I thought up the concept of Grim Curio. Because it was the first thing written, it’s also the part the stands out the most as potentially not belonging.

This may not make sense, so I’ll explain. I’ve found when I come up with a new idea I’ll write it a quick as possible, often getting 5 – 7,000 words written before I need to recoup. In this burst, my ideas are usually simple and direct. 

But as the story grows, these ideas break down for one reason or another. Maybe a character isn’t working as well as I had hoped, or maybe the setting isn’t as cohesive as I had thought, or add other thing here.

As I continue to write, the ideas begin to bloom. I’m able to adjust for the weaknesses in the original concept, and the writing style of the piece has been solidified. So when I go back to read the original pages, they don’t really fit with everything else.

In the case of Grim Curio, the idea behind Chapter 3 was to introduce the reader into a day in the life of James Bartlebee. You follow him through a particularly gruesome case that ends poorly for him. Along the way you’re introduced to the narrative universe.

Since writing this, I realized that Grim Curio needed a better introduction, so I started working on what is now Chapter 1. In this new chapter a similar thing happens: James goes out on a case, solves it, and comes out worse for it. It also does a far better job of introducing the world.

I can revise Chapter 3 to be congruent with the rest of the story, that’s not a problem. But do we really want a second case of 7,000 or so words before diving into the guts of the plot? I really don’t know. 

Part of me thinks “yes we do want this chapter because it shows us James’ rhythm, and gives the reader a formula to expect”. This could be good because it’ll make the rest of the story feel bigger as the story zooms out from the day to day life of James to a reality splitting attempt to stitch the universe back together (or something like that).

On the other hand, it may feel too repetitive. Grrr. I don’t think I’ll know until I rewrite this chapter and read it in the context of the rest of the book. It’ll be very painful to cut if it doesn’t work out, but I could also release it as a stand alone short story if that’s the case. We’ll just have to see.

3. Rewrite Chapter 3?

If I choose to keep it, then I’ll still need to do some major rewrites. This will likely take me a significant chunk of time. Still, I don’t loose steam while doing rewrites like I do when I write green field, so I’ll be able to devote myself to this for a good long while.

4. More words…

And of course, I’ll want to end the day with another sprint of green field words. I’m not sure if all this is realistic, so even if the second sprint is 500 words, I’ll consider it a success.

So that’s what I have in store for my Badass Writing Day. What do you think of the idea? Have you ever devoted a day to a side project? If so, tell me about it in the comments. If you’ve never had a project day like this, then tell me what you would work on if you had the time.

Until next time.