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 🙂

Grim Curio Preview – The Story of How The World Ends

It’s been a while since I shared anything from Grim Curio. There have been some significant updates since the last scene I shared a couple of months back. My dad is about to head out on a three-week business trip for Boeing and before he left he asked if there was anything ready to read yet. So I figure now’s a good time to share something. This one’s for you dad, the first scene from Grim Curio.


Check out this preview of the first scene from Grim Curio. #fantasy #scifi #novel Click To Tweet

 

This is the story of how the world ends. It’s not pretty or even necessary, but it happens and so it will be told. It begins and ends with James, who walks along the narrow empty streets of Refuge, the last city on earth. He breaths through a filter on his mask, the sound rushing in his ears, mingling with his footfalls against the disintegrated road. Black lenses block out his eyes. On either side of him are patchworks of rusted steel walls welded together with thick seams like veins. On some walls, groaning air filtration systems struggle and cough. On others, the systems aren’t more than dead metal boxes, tombstones.

James marches a fixed path toward Grievances with a few ill earned dollars in his pocket. He never set out to con anyone, not originally. But things happen and a guy’s gotta make a buck. Guilt isn’t an emotion he feels anymore, or so he lies to himself, hurrying his pace.

At night, streets are usually empty, so when he passes three figures — each masked, carrying heavy duffel bags — he passes on the far side of the street. The black, emotionless masks follow him as he passes. Before rounding a corner he pauses, looks over his shoulder. They stare intently. What mischief are they up to? Doesn’t matter. Not tonight. Tonight he has only one goal, to drink and forget for a little while. He continues on.

He arrives. A hand drawn sign next to the entrance chamber reads “Grievances”. The last few letters are squished together as the artist ran out of space. Below a smudged charcoal sketch of a masked stability officer pointing a sting box at the viewer has been ineffectively erased.

James knocks against the thick steel door. It clicks. He spins the hatch, pulls it open, and enters. Air is sucked out in a rush and his ears pop. A fine mist coats his clothing for a second, then the next door clicks open. Entering anywhere is always uncomfortable.

The room is dim, the air thick with fungal smoke rising off steel pipes. Sweet sounds of the beautiful Astira Lockhart’s crooning makes James smile. He removes his mask, takes in a deep breath and sighs. Graying stubble, wrinkles around his eyes. He’s not old, but he looks it. Sometimes he feels it. He takes an empty seat, places a couple bucks on the table, and watches Astira sing.

“Drink?”

James nods. A cup of frothy brown wine is set before him. He drinks, savoring the mossy flavor. He listens and time melts. The mild hallucinations make his brown and gray surroundings shimmer at the corners of his eyes.

Mal takes a seat next to him. Light brown-red hair and skin off-white with freckles, and a hawkish nose. She’s cute if you don’t know better. But James knows her, so he tenses and ignores her. She looks at him, savors the discomfort for a second. “Haven’t seen you in a while, James,” she says in a matter of fact way. James nods. “Things must be good for you lately.”

“Yup,” he says humorlessly.

“I bet. Guy with your credibility, you’ll be doing well for yourself by now. Business treating you well?”

James lets the question hang, tries to focus on the way Astira swivels her hips and winks from time to time as she sings, but Mal lingers like a cancer so he turns to her and says, “Is there something you want?”

She smiles, leans back and puffs on her pipe. The smoke is thick, rising to mingle with the rest of the haze. “Solve any doozies lately?” Mal holds a straight face for a few seconds before she snorts. “I have a hot tip for you. I hear North Commune has ghosts. How much do you charge to take care of ghosts?”

“More than you can afford.”

“Ha, I bet.”

“Look, you need something or are you just here to be a nuisance?”

“Yes actually,” she replies. “You owe money to Silke Thomas.”

“So. What’s that got to do with you?”

“A lot actually. Hired me last week to settle his debts. Your name’s on his list. You might be a small fry compared to some of the communes, but you know me. Thorough. Lucky for you I’m off duty. I’ll give you another day before I collect.”

“If?”

“If you buy me a drink.”

James laughs, looks at her sideways. “I’ve got two bucks and change.”

“Put it on the table, I’ll cover the rest.”

James shakes his head, unsure if she’s extorting him or coming on to him. Either way, he’s not in the mood for a fight. He puts the money up, she tosses a couple more dollars down. Wine comes and she raises the glass. Mal talks occasionally, and James answers when prompted, but the conversation is stilted. He can’t remove that barrier he’s built up over the years, that distrust. Eventually she quits and they both just listen to the music with tension between them.

She leaves and James grows agitated. Did he want her to stay? Not really, but he didn’t want her to go either. He downs the last of his wine, then rises, puts on his mask, and exits in a bad mood. Outside, the wind blows, the gusts cut through his jacket. He curses his rotten luck as he walks back in the direction of home. His eyes adjust to the night and soon he see’s them again, three masked figures with duffle bags hovering around the walls of Grievances. They pause, watch him, and this time a shiver runs up his spine. He ignores it, continues on till they’re out of sight.

Then it hits. From a quarter-mile away, James hears the boom! He spins around in time to see the glow, a plumb of smoke. Eyes wide behind his mask, he stumbles, breath caught in his throat. He rushes back to Grievances, see’s the twisted metal, the still standing hatch, rubble strewn about his feet. It’s eerily quiet, only the sound of flames.

He looks for anyone. Beyond the flames, a glint catches his eye, and there they are slinking away. He’s alone with the wreckage, the too afraid to see the bodies inside but he steps forward anyway. He stops short when he realizes what will happen if he’s found here by the officers. Stability must be preserved, the city survives on a knifes edge, and he’ll feel the edge of that knife if he’s implicated with this. He turns and hurries back towards home.

I just read a preview of the first scene from Grim Curio. Check it out! #fantasy #scifi #books Click To Tweet

Change log: Chapter 1 Part 1 Revised

Last week I shared my critique ready version of Grim Curio Chapter 1 Part 1. It was 3600 words long and was the first piece I shared online. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of feedback and felt compelled to revise it right away.

Well the revision is done, and a lot has changed, including the addition of nearly 1000 words! If you want to read it, follow this link to the critique page on Reddit.

So what is the difference between the two versions?

There were a few points of feedback I received which resonated with me, but one overshadowed all the others: the setting is too vague. Readers seemed to picture a British gentleman when they pictured James, not exactly what I was going for. Clearly something was off.

It makes sense why that is. While writing the first 10,000 words, I’d never formalized a setting. There was something vague in my head, but I was having trouble solidifying it.

But once the feedback started coming in, the setting began to develop in my mind. This story will be cosmic in scale, involving the ripping apart of the boundaries between multiple realities. So not typical. For this kind of story, I need a setting equally not typical. And now I’ve got it!

The new setting

The concept of this setting is: 500-1000 years in the future, the earth is a husk of what we know today. It’s been ravaged by scientific progress. A multitude of events have shaped the world to it’s current state: ecological devastation, nuclear war, chemical weapons and more have made the planet an inhospitable place.

What little of humanity remains are packed within relatively non-toxic safe havens. Spores linger in the air, and spore storms are a ever looming danger.

Factions

Of course, humanity has divided into sects, as is always the case. Two of these sects are the Scientists and the Naturalists.

Scientists are devoted to furthering scientific progress above all else, even treating sciences as a religion. They believe that those who do not embrace Science will eventually be swallowed up by the desert. So it has been projected by their analytical analysis of the planet and her patterns.

Naturalists are devoted entirely to nature, living simply off the fungi that surrounds their villages. They believe that the only way to survive on this hostile planet is to embrace what little nature we have left, as toxic as it is.

These factions are just subtext. They only have a little baring on the story, but they flesh out the world and expand on some of the themes I’m working on. 

Weird Fiction

This new setting moves the genre closer to the weird science fiction genre, which is the realm of authors like China Mieville. If you haven’t read his work, I highly recommend it. The nice thing about this genre is it offers nearly unlimited freedom to explore the ideas I want to dive into.

That’s all I have for today. There’s a lot more I want to share with you, but it’ll be information overload if I just spill the beans all at once. Here are some hints of things to come: character profiles, the meat factories, how spores affect the environment, and how the layered universe works (plus more).

I’d like to hear from you. So what do you think of this format? Do you find these kinds of posts interested? Is there a topic you’d like me to cover in a future post? Let me know by leaving a comment.