Alive: Part II

For any new readers or those who haven’t trawled the archives, I have begun working on my fourth book again. It is a continuation of the werewolf story I told in the third, “Alive”.

Due to numerous things I am looking into at the moment, especially hunting for a new place, my time has become more limited and I’ve had some trouble writing one page a day as I originally intended. Now I aim to write an extra page a day for everyone missed (e.g. miss 5 days, write 5 pages the next day). I began working on “Alive: Part II” months ago, beginning with writing 500 words a day. I continued with this pace for a few weeks until I eventually stopped, due to a tighter schedule and excuses on my part. I realize that I can’t use a busy schedule as an excuse not to write. One week without writing can quickly morph into months. I originally intended to finish a draft of Part II  by the end of this year, but that will likely have to be moved to March 2018. I now realize that committing to a smaller amount and staying consistent can still pay bigger dividends than aiming higher and falling off earlier.

I began watching Hemlock Grove recently, mainly because I wanted to see more of Bill Skarsgard after his performance in It.  The plot involving a vampire (Skarsgard) and a werewolf teaming up to investigate a series of grisly murders was also appealing. Basically, it seemed like an awesome concept that Twilight could have been if it wasn’t bogged down by teen love and Mormon wish fulfillment.

I nearly gave up on the show, mainly due to the acting. Skarsgard has apparently developed a lot as an actor since the show’s first season at least. Famke Janssen’s performance is hampered by an English accent that either comes and goes, or is just overdone. Four episodes in, and one of the strongest actors is the actor who plays the werewolf, Landon Liboiron. Hearing about the mythos again actually motivated me to make sure that I stick to the task of completing Alive: Part II. The transformation scene is also a memorable and painful looking one that makes me wish I could have thought of it first.

Hemlock Grove fortunately is focusing on its fantasy mythos early on in the series instead of the high school drama that the character’s ages lends itself to. I’ll stick with the series and see how it goes, and will probably revisit for inspiration as I try to craft a werewolf story that someone aside from myself will also read and enjoy one day.

Alive: Part II Progress

For any newer readers, you may not know that I have written three books, which I am still trying to get published. This blog was created as part of my effort to build an online platform and further hone writing skills through my blog posts. My most recent book is Alive, a werewolf story. I have always loved fantasy tales and it was exciting to craft my own. With Alive complete I began working on the second and final part of the series.

I completed a few thousand words of Part II but regret to say that I haven’t touched it in almost a month now. Work, where I have done most of my writing over the past year, has become much busier and my life outside of work has become much busier as well as I take on more responsibilities, such as looking for a new place. Along with some part-time work, the gym, guitar etc. it has been tough to find time or energy to write. However, I don’t want to keep embracing excuses. I’ll get back to writing by this end of the week, with my goal of 5oo words a day. Originally I wanted the book to be completed by September but now I will have to settle for completing it by end of the year.

Then the work of editing and continuing to seek publication for my other work will continue. I contacted ten agents about part I but have received no responses so it looks like I am back to square one in my journey to getting published. It can be disheartening, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse to quit either. I have now accepted it won’t come quickly. I used to think I’d be published by the time I was twenty-five but now I can accept it might not happen until I’m fourty. It’s a long climb, but I’m looking forward to it.

Continuing The Pursuit of Writing

I am currently working on Part II of my third book, Alive. So far, I am only a few thousand words in, making sure to write at least 500 words a day. By September the complete Alive story should be completed. What I don’t know, is if I’ll have an agent by September.

I’ve sent out queries to ten agents, some of which have already rejected it (evidenced by the lack of response after their stated response deadline). If I manage to get interest from any of these agents I will finally be able to take my first actionable step towards a career as a writer, editing and polishing Alive into a finished product. Which would likely be followed by Alive: Part II, and then Elseworld. There is no guarantee that the books will sell well, but we’ll cross that bridge if/when we get to it.

Even if I do get an agent, it could be 18 months to 5 years before my book is published. In the meantime, I need to take other steps towards crafting a career as a writer. My current tech support role has helped to develop many skills, but I wouldn’t say writing is one of them. I have been thinking of where I want to be in ten years, a self-employed author and blogger, and I know that I need to take more action towards making that happen. Even if I can’t support myself completely with creative writing, I want to find a career that lets me embrace my interest completely and complements it. Journalism is one of the biggest contenders but it is a very tough field to get into, especially for the topics I wish to write about, entertainment and race. Aside from a career as a journalist I am also pursuing other jobs with magazines and newspapers, trying to streamline my job hunt and find work that I find stimulating and rewarding.

As Mark Manson points out, all work will require sacrifice, and all work will be unenjoyable sometimes. The question is what type of unenjoyable experiences are you willing to put up with for your career?

“If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times, then you’re done before you start.”

I have had my work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times. I am still writing and still trying to get published. I am willing to receive constructive criticism, and fine tune and edit over and over again. The peers who have read Elseworld complimented me for the imagery, which is something that was lacking in previous drafts according to an agent. I applied the negative feedback I received and was able to create something better, ultimately enjoying the experience and remaining grateful for it.

I believe that the struggles of trying to be an author are something I can tolerate. I’m sure I will be tested more as time passes. If I do get an agent, their criticism will undoubtedly be more severe than anything else I’ve received. If I can satisfy the agents, then I will have to deal with the editors at the publishing house. I may be forced to debate about certain changes to the book; ones that they view as more marketable. Those are debates that I look forward to having.

“It’s 2017”

I recently started working on part II of Alive, which continues my story of werewolves and racism. The first one followed my black protagonist, Mason, adapting to his new abilities and breaking off from a radical sect that wanted to use their power to wage war against the people that oppress them. The second part will lead to all out war between Mason and the radical sect, but also has more of a focus on Mason’s attempts to oversee the implementation of new policies that will empower his people. A key theme of the second book is that laws are not enough to change how people think, which reminded me of an oft-cited mantra.

“It’s (current year)”. This can be used by conservatives to shut down the talk of discrimination or by well-meaning liberals who think that the passage of time is enough to ensure equality. Whatever side it comes from, the sentence demonstrates a child-like naivete of how the world works.

When slavery was abolished, racism persisted. When Jim Crow was abolished, racism persisted. I wonder if people used to say “It’s 1970”. Laws may ban people from certain actions, or maybe even certain words, but laws can’t change what is in their minds. If someone holds the racial mindset of the 1950s near and dear to their heart, they will teach those values to their kids, and so on. Time itself is not a cure for racism. This is perfectly demonstrated by the current climate of right-wing backlash, where pretty much any comment or act that doesn’t endorse bigotry is labelled as “political correctness” or the work of “social justice warriors”. People are upset that they, and society as a whole, are being called out for bigotry now more than ever. Instead of adapting to changing times, it is easier to reminisce of times when you could say whatever you wanted without worrying about consequences or criticism. At worst, these people support bigotry. At best, they enable it. Yes, sometimes people do cry racism, misogny etc. where it does not exist, but I don’t believe that these instances account for the majority. I do believe that these instances get lumped in with all of the legimate ones, especially by people whose views are already intolerant. They get a smokescreen for hiding bigotry: “I’m not racist. I just hate it when these social justice warriors get offended by everything.”

I want to know what these people consider “everything”. Is it something as simple as Madonna referring to her son as “dis nigga” or is it a case where another unarmed black man got killed?

Alive: Complete

Alive began with one poem I posted to the site. That poem then grew into a series of poems as I fleshed out the concept and began brainstorming for a novel.

After completing Alive: Part V I committed to writing a novel. The time period changed, and many details of the plot were altered, but the basic premise remained. I have always loved werewolf stories and I was excited about writing my own.

Like the poems, I originally began the book with my character as a captive. Although I brainstorm when I write, I usually only do a general one to generate basic plot elements e.g.

  1. Mason will be in prison
  2.  Mason will be transported to second prison
  3.  Mason will escape from the second prison

I find that I can fall victim to procrastination if I spend too much time thinking about where the story will go, instead of writing. I am not saying this is the correct process for writing. After all, it did lead to numerous rewrites of my first book, Elseworld. I learned from that process and made sure to take some more time flesh out my character’s general arc prior to typing the first word.

I began writing, using the poems as a springboard for the other ideas and concepts I wanted to explore in the book. The first fifty pages originally focused on Mason as a captive in prison, where he spent his days discovering and honing the abilities that his curse bestowed on him. These pages helped me to flesh out my own werewolf mythos and develop my character’s backstory, but I also realized that they would create a slow start for the reader. One of the few pieces of advice any literary agent gave me about Elseworld is that it opens slowly.

To remedy my slow opening, I cut some parts completely, and re-inserted some as flashbacks. As a result, the word count is a relatively short 75,000 words. I know that a second part will follow, and I was tempted to try to cram both parts into one book. However, I know the word count would then take the book closer to the 150,000 range, which will make it a very tough sell as a first time author. I am hoping a word count that is short of the 80,000-100,000 range doesn’t hinder me too much. I could add more to the story simply to pad it out, then I could end up with parts that are clunky and add nothing to the story. As I edited Alive, I came across paragraphs or sentences that I cut, sacrificing length for fluidity.

If an agent advises that they want something fleshed out, I am more than willing to take criticism and adjust the work. However, this assumes I will get an agent. Numerous edits and resubmissions of Elseworld got me nowhere, which is why I am now committed to championing Alive, with the hope that I can get it published and then use that success to also retry with Elseworld.

I have been advised to get professional editing for my work and after my continuous rejections with Elseworld, I am eager to get impartial feedback. I have been caught in the trap of thinking of the feedback family or friends give as being truly impartial. My only issue now is that professional editing will cost thousands of dollars and I can’t afford to do it now. However, I don’t want to get impatient and send my work to one agent after another, quickly getting rejected by all of them and being back to square one.

For the moment, I wish to try and try with a few agents; less than ten.  If one is interested, I will work with them to make Alive better. One of my favourite YouTubers said he doesn’t have dreams, because the word “dream” implies the task isn’t possible. A “goal” is tangible, actionable. If not, I wait until I can get professional editing. There is still a lot of uncertainty ahead but I want to keep trying to pursue my biggest goal. As one of my former teachers said, “There is no rush in this game.”

 

 

 

Alive

As I’ve discussed previously, I completed a draft of my third book, Alive. I am now in the process of editing it. This edit encompasses everything from spelling and grammar, to fleshing out some characters more and making sure that I am showing, not telling.

Another part of the editing is ensuring that the book doesn’t start too slowly. The one time I was able to get an agent to review my work, her only criticism revolved around the novel’s pace. Her two sentences of feedback made it clear she took months to give my work a cursory glance, but I still want to acknowledge the feedback I was given.

Alive begins with an origin story of sorts, detailing my character coming to terms with the new abilities that his werewolf bite gives him. Although these parts were interesting to me, I realize they represent a slow start for my potential audience. With that said, I have begun to think about what I want the book to start with. Below is an excerpt I am considering moving to the front of the book, before using flashbacks to fill in the gaps.

*********

Mason’s head was pounding as he rose from his slumber. The sensation reminded him of nights where he drank himself to sleep, waking dehydrated and red-eyed. Mason eyes weren’t open yet, they felt like they were weighed down with miniature sandbags. He tried to bring his left arm to his head, but it was being held down by something. Mason tried again, but was barely able to move his arm an inch before it was pushed down again. It was the same story for his right arm, and his legs. He could feel the surface beneath him, definitely not a cot. His senses were slowly waking up as his brain did. He could feel stiff, cold metal on his skin, it reminded Mason of an unpadded stretcher.

Keeping his eyes closed, Mason tried to listen to the world around him. He was sure that six days of drugging would dull his senses, but he needed to start using them as soon as possible to escape his mental rust. The room felt colder than his Torville cell. He was likely underground again. Sounds came first. Like the Torville cell, there weren’t many to speak of yet. Mason’s headache worsened as he tried to focus, picking up on the sound of water dropping somewhere behind him. He heard one drop at a time, with each one sounding like a firecracker going off. It was likely a tap with a leaky faucet.

As Mason thought of the water he realized how dry his throat was. He tried to lift his arms again, exerting more force this time. He felt the resistance again, probably leather straps. The straps slowly stretched on either side of him as he continued to push. He didn’t feel as strong as he did six days ago, but it seemed like he was still stronger than the average man. His body wasn’t immune to drugging, but perhaps its rapid healing was helping him to recover faster.

Mason opened his eyes, seeing a concrete ceiling about ten feet above him. The concrete extended to the surfaces all around him, forming a cage that was about fifty feet wide. There was a metal door ahead of him. Metal bars, which allowed someone on the other end to peek in, broke up the last few feet of the door. There was no one there now but Mason was sure that there would be soon. Mason’s red uniform contrasted with the brown straps that were holding him down. Craning his neck, Mason could make out the gold crest on his left breast and the golden belt across his waist. He was a soldier now, being sent to do someone else’s bidding.

There was an opportunity to escape now; nothing was tying him to this cell. He had no loyalty to Torville or Alexandria. He and his mother travelled to Alexandria when he was fifteen. For his mother it was a vacation, for Mason it was the possibility of a new life. Mason was at the age when his naiveté was quickly being assaulted by reality. He started to realize the real reason that teachers advised him to aim for a realistic career. By this time he already suspected that it played a part in having few friends and no girlfriend. Even his few friends were never comfortable inviting him into their home. He and his mom were always given the worst seats at restaurants, even when others were free. People crossed the street to avoid them whenever possible. Mason went to Alexandria hoping that things would be different. That idea alone demonstrated his naiveté. For some reason he thought that a location was enough to change people’s beliefs.

The only thing Mason was sure of now was that he was going to transform again. Actually, Mason couldn’t even be sure of that. It was the council’s educated guess at this point, educated by folklore. If that guess was wrong Mason could be in for days of torture before he was beheaded. The problem was what he would do even if he escaped. If he got away and transformed in the wilderness he would still be as mindless as if he transformed in Alexandria. Of course there would be more casualties in Alexandria, but Mason didn’t really care. He found that there was normally a tendency to romanticize strangers, imagining that they have the personality and values you admire. Mason learned to stop doing that long ago, mostly because his fantasies rarely came true. William was one of the few exceptions, but Mason didn’t want to overestimate how many Williams there were in Alexandria. It was easy for his anger to justify casualties, especially since he wouldn’t remember, but Mason’s conscience was more powerful. He knew he wasn’t a murderer. Let alone a mass murderer. He had to escape.

His head continued pounding, with the pain emanating from the center of his scalp. His throat and mouth felt dry. He licked his lips and felt chapped skin. He felt something pushing at the base of his throat, and tried to take deep breaths to alleviate his nausea.

Mason heard a door open somewhere in the hallway outside. There were footsteps now. Mason didn’t need his enhanced senses to hear boots making their way towards the gate. If someone saw him trying to escape while he was still locked in the room he would have to break the door down to escape. He doubted his strength would allow him to do that. He laid back and closed his eyes just enough to make out the doorway. Hopefully anyone looking in would think he was sleeping.

Someone appeared behind the bars a few seconds later. Mason could only make out a bearded face from his angle, someone who looked to be about fourty.

“Still sleeping,” the main said as he turned to his right.

The man lingered for a few seconds before Mason heard a key at work. The door swung open, with its hinges screaming in protest, revealing a stocky figure enclosed in a gridded leather uniform. The black, long sleeved shirt was stamped with Alexandria’s insignia, a red wolf’s head. Mason knew that was Alexandria’s military uniform. As the bearded man entered, two more followed behind him, who were likely prison guards. They were wearing blue uniforms with armoured chest plates comprised of a thin sheet of red metal that wrapped around their torso.

From what Mason learned in school, many armies no longer used such armour, preferring to craft their uniforms out of thickly padded leather. The armour posed too big a sacrifice for mobility in close quarter combat, and still left the head and neck too vulnerable to attack. It was possible to armour soldiers from head to toe, but even Alexandria probably didn’t have enough metal to afford that. In long- range combat, a hail of metal-tipped arrows could pick up enough velocity to tear through armour like butter. The armour only made sense for prison guards, who would only need an added level of protection as they attempted to restrain one unruly prisoner at a time.

The trio moved closer and Mason had to shut his eyes completely to make sure they didn’t realize he was awake. He could hear two people moving to either side of Mason, until they were both standing by his shoulders. The one to his right placed his hand on Mason’s neck, and Mason felt it rest on his pulse.

“Still alive, pulse feels stronger than it did yesterday.” The man said.

“It’s been a day now; I guess he’s in some kind of coma.” It was the bearded man’s voice; he was still standing close to the door.

“How long do they want us to keep him here commander?” The voice was from his left now.

“Don’t think they were expecting him to be unconscious this long. We’ll have to see what they say. Doubt it will be more than two days. Week’s almost done; any info he has on guard rotation won’t be much use after that. We don’t need much else from them at this point.” The bearded man said. He was in charge of this group, but it seemed like he still reported to someone else. The ranks were probably similar to the ranks in Torville, where commanders held rank over prison guards and a small group of soldiers, while also reporting to a Marshal.

“Are we done here then?” The guard on his left said.

“Almost, I want to rule something out,” The commander said.

Mason heard the commander walking over to him, with his steel-toed boots clicking off the concrete. There was the unmistakable sound of a weapon being unsheathed. It didn’t sound as loud as it did when Lance drew his. Maybe it was quieter because the commander was further away or because Mason’s senses were still recovering. However, he hoped it seemed quieter simply because the blade was smaller.

The commander got closer, Mason tried to isolate his heartbeat, finding it and tracking it until he was right beside Mason’s feet. The commander pulled up the left leg of his uniform, and Mason stopped himself from shivering as cold air hit his calf. He knew what was coming next, and braced for it.

The commander tore through his skin with his blade, making a shallow ring around the left side of Mason’s calf. Mason’s own experiments on his body caused him to barely feel the cut. The commander was convinced he wasn’t playing dead, but now there was a bigger problem. His body would start to heal itself in a few seconds, and he’d either be experimented on again or promptly burned.

“Rayner, get a medic to patch up this…”

Mason felt the burning itch spreading across his calf. The commander’s heartbeat was accelerating like a horse freed from its gate. A hand grabbed Mason’s ankle, and Mason could feel warm breath blowing on it.

“Everything okay commander?” The guard on the right said.

“Rayner, go get Marshall Talbot. Tell him this is an emergency.” At this moment, Mason missed William’s curiosity and excitement. The commander barely made it through his sentence, pausing and stuttering like a toddler trying to read a book. Burning or beheading seemed like a more likely fate by the second.

There were footsteps to Mason’s right as Rayner ran to the door. Mason focused on the footsteps and heard Rayner make a left turn. If Mason wanted to live much longer, he’d probably have to follow Rayner soon. He tried to follow the footsteps for as long as he could, but they disappeared ten steps outside the door, and his headache intensified to thank him for his effort.

“What’s happening commander?”

“Raleigh, come here.” The commander said.

Raleigh walked over beside the commander, and Mason now had two people staring at his calf.

“Do you see a cut?” The commander said. His voice was a little steadier now.

“No, but I saw you make one. I saw it bleed.” Raleigh said. Now his heart was joining the race.

Something cold touched Mason’s calf, likely a sleeve. It wiped away the blood and left his calf truly bare again.

“I saw the cut heal, right in front of my eyes.” The commander said.

“How’s that possible?” Raleigh said. Now his voice was starting to shake.

“These people like witchcraft, probably learned how to do it from his parents.” The commander said.

“I’ve heard that too, we can’t keep him here.” Raleigh said.

Raleigh was giving orders now, but the commander didn’t seem to notice.

“Of course not, I’ll convince the Marshal.”

“How do we kill him though?” Raleigh said.

“Beheading, fire, maybe both.” The commander said.

Maybe the marshal would insist that Mason be kept alive, but that was a long shot now. Mason couldn’t play dead anymore. Either he tried to escape now or risk getting killed when the Marshal and more soldiers made their way to this room. The straps felt like they could break, but if they didn’t the two men with him could panic and end his life.

He was tired, dehydrated and nauseous, but he couldn’t let that stop him now. Mason clenched his fists, pushing himself up from his torso. The straps went taut as his arms pushed against them.

The commander and Raleigh both stepped back, with their gaze averted from Mason’s legs to his face. The commander stood a few inches taller than Raleigh, and he still had an unsheathed knife in his right hand. It was Mason’s turn to panic as the straps around his arms held taut for a few seconds before they mercifully snapped. As they did, the commander rushed forward, with his long arms guiding the knife toward Mason’s neck. Mason legs tore through the straps and his right leg connected with the commander’s elbow. The knife sliced through Mason’s left shoulder, grazing flesh but missing bone. As the commander’s arm followed, Mason grabbed the wrist and twisted it as hard as he could.

The knife fell to the floor but Mason barely heard it over the commander’s scream. Looking at the hand, Mason realized that the palm was now facing the opposite direction. The bones in the wrist were shattered, leaving the hand flopping around like a dead fish. Mason grabbed the commander’s graying hair and slammed his head against the stretcher. He could hear the commander’s nose break and caught a glimpse of blood spatter on the stretcher before he threw the man aside, hearing the body crash to the left of the stretcher.

There appeared to be a reason Raleigh was only a guard. Mason’s eyes darted back and forth between the commander and Raleigh for the past few seconds, and Raleigh stood rooted to the spot, with his hand on his sword’s hilt. He probably wasn’t even used to having a sword; it could be a liability when dealing with some prisoners since they could try to take it. Whenever Mason was brought to a cell in Torville a squad of unarmed guards, who basically served as glorified orderlies, accompanied him.

Now Raleigh was in a situation where he needed to be a soldier, and he was struggling to make the transition. Once the commander’s hand was broken, Raleigh finally sprang to life, unsheathing his sword. Mason grabbed the sides of the stretcher, using it to anchor himself as he pulled his left leg free. He jumped off the stretcher before a blade came crashing onto it. While Raleigh raised the sword again, Mason rushed towards him and tackled him to the ground.

This time, Mason heard bones breaking in Raleigh’s chest. Raleigh didn’t scream but the air rushed out of him, sounding like a draft from an open window. Raleigh collapsed, with his arms around his chest and Mason stumbled to the ground. It was already obvious to Mason that he wasn’t going to cope with sound well if he got outside. Not to mention the nausea and fatigue that was still plaguing him.

His shoulder burned as the cut sowed itself back together. As Mason got to his feet again, he felt his stomach squeezing its contents upwards. He kneeled forward and a stream of green, acidic vomit hit the floor, splattering onto the door and the walls. It was as if a pair of hands was wrapped around his stomach, desperately trying to wring out its contents. The vomit continued pouring out in one painful burst after another.

When it stopped Mason collapsed backwards, with his hand on his stomach. There was pain there now; making him feel like his stomach was stepped on. He probably only lost a minute or two, but every second counted now. Mason realized he was barefoot, and tried to tiptoe through the puddle of his own making. He felt the acidic vomit on his toes as he reached the door and turned left.

There was a dead end to Mason’s right, but the concrete labyrinth continued for about one hundred feet to his left. The concrete was jagged, and threatened to cut his feet as he ran, but Mason knew that a few cuts were the least of his worries now. As he came to a stop at the end of the hall, Mason felt his head spinning. The hallway looked like it was doing a cartwheel. He rested against the wall on his right, trying to regain his balance.

Peeking around the corner, he saw two guards flanking a single stairwell about fifty feet ahead of him. Both guards were armoured from head to toe. One sheet of armour wrapped around each leg, another around the torso, the arms and a helmet for the head. The helmets had metal flaps at the front, which were currently raised as the two guards talked to one another.

Despite their mundane conversation about food, their costumed figures still filled Mason with fear. The dark red metal evoked the image of a bloodied knight. Even though the armour would hinder the guards’ mobility, the narrow hallway wouldn’t offer Mason much room to maneuver either. This was the type of environment where such bulky armour would give someone an advantage.

Mason thought back to his escape from his cell. The commander looked like he was at least two hundred pounds, and Mason remembered how he was able to toss the commander to his side. He remembered the commander’s feet actually leaving the ground before he crashed to Mason’s right.

With that memory in mind, Mason took a few deep breaths, relieved to see that the hallway stopped spinning in front of him. There was no more time to waste. Mason planted his legs and bolted around the corner, feeling like he was running faster than he ever had before. He was three strides in before the guards turned to face him.

The flaps on their helmets went down and their swords came out of the sheaths. One guard held his sword out to his left, the other to his right. If they were to swing, the swords would create an arc that would cover the entire length of the hallway, cleaving Mason’s torso from the rest of his body. The stains on the concrete made it clear that some unlucky prisoner met that fate previously, and Mason was determined not to join them.

Even with his enhanced vision he could barely make out their eyes staring out from above the metal flap, four orbs encased in metal. The stairway behind them led to a closed door. It would be another hurdle for Mason if he got by the guards, but it also prevented them from calling for backup.

The swords were about four feet long, so Mason waited until he was just out of their range before leaping. His jump took him over the swords, leaving them sweeping through the air, and he landed at the foot of the staircase as the guards tried to reorient himself. A quick look at the door showed there was no way to open it from the inside. Before the guards turned around, Mason grabbed the top of their helmets, hooking his fingers in the eye slit and pulling the helmets off. The guards turned to face him as their helmets hit the ground. Their swords started to swing in his direction but the swords fell to the ground as Mason slammed the guards’ heads together.

As their bodies hit the ground, Mason grabbed the man on the left, hooking his fingers under the armoured torso and lifting the man onto his shoulder. Another bout of dizziness hit him and Mason’s knees buckled for a few seconds, but his balance returned and he started carrying the man down the hallway and back to the cell. The soldier probably weighed at least three hundred pounds with the armour on, but he only felt slightly heavier than a bag of wet concrete.

Turning the corner, Mason dropped the body on the floor, where it wouldn’t be visible from the doorway. He then ran back to the other soldier, and repeated the process. By his count, his whole escape took about ten minutes so far.

Mason stripped one of the soldiers of their armour, and then grabbed one of their pairs of boots. The boots were too small for him and felt like they would crush his toes with each step, but they would do for now. Between the armour’s weight and the boots, Mason was forced to slow his pace as he walked towards the door. With every step, he was worried that the door at the end of the hall would swing open and reveal the Marshal with a squad of soldiers behind him. That thought got Mason’s heart racing more than anything he’d done in the past ten minutes.

Mason’s legs were shaking as he reached the top of the stairs and banged on the door. His metal covered fist hit the door three times before a portion of the door slid aside to show someone’s face on the other end. Mason noticed the sounds that filtered in, chatter all around him. There was wind coming in from windows, the shuffling of paper, the clicking of boots. The panel was a few inches below Mason’s face, and the majority of its length was taken up by a face leering up at him.

Mason took the armour from a guard who was about the same height, but he was worried his skin would give him away. The guard below would only be able to make out a thin sliver, but it could be enough.

“What is it?” The man said. He looked to be about Mason’s age, probably a young guard hoping that he’d be able to move up the chain soon. He’d be eager to impress, and Mason’s experience told him these were the worst guards to deal with. However, he realized he could manipulate the guard’s eagerness to impress.

If Mason had any luck left, the guard wouldn’t notice that his voice sounded different. The door seemed to block out most noise so maybe this guard didn’t hear the other two speak much.

“The prisoner’s up. The commander’s worried he might wear down the straps if he keeps pulling on them. He just wants a third person to help hold down the prisoner while he loosens the straps and reties them. You need to come quick though.”

The words barely left Mason’s mouth before he heard a lock come undone. The door swung open and the guard stood revealed in front of him, forcing Mason to look back down the hallway to hide his face.

“Just head down there, they’re waiting for you.” Mason said.

The guard rushed past Mason, nearly becoming a blur as he jumped down the flight of stairs. Mason quickly stepped out of the underground cavern and pushed the door closed. The guard looked back at him as he got halfway down the tunnel, but it was too late by then. The metal panel slip closed and the guard’s voice would be drowned out until the marshal came by.

As Mason turned to face the room he was greeted by another guard. The man was standing at a wooden desk about twenty feet ahead of Mason, staring back at him. The desk spanned most of the length of the floor, leaving only about ten feet on either side. Orange brick boxed it in, leading to an open door that was about one hundred feet away. Mason could make out doors on either side of him, leading to other areas of the station. Most of the chatter he heard before was coming from that direction. The regular holding cells were likely back there. It seemed like Alexandria also treated him like a special prisoner. He only had one hundred feet separating him from freedom now. There were two more guards stationed by the door ahead,

“Your break isn’t for another twenty minutes. Get back in there.” The guard said as he quickly resumed his review of the papers in front of him, making his sword bob in its sheath. He appeared to be in his thirties, with a fatigued voice that made him sound much older. Days of monotonous work were taking a toll on him.

Meanwhile, Mason’s senses were taking a toll on him now. Six days of drugging, six days without practice honing the senses. Everything was coming in a flood now, especially his sense of smell. There was the scent of vinegar from the mixture used to wipe the floors, onions wafting off of the guard’s breath. His stomach started to feel uneasy again, like he might festoon the station’s floors for a second time.

“The commander told me to send the other guy in and go on break now. You can ask him if you want.” Mason said.

Mason knew he made a mistake before he opened his mouth. This guard would definitely be well acquainted with the people working for him. He would know that the voice sounded different. The guard lost interest in the papers in front of him and quickly turned back towards Mason. Mason looked at the ground to hide his face but he could hear the guard walking towards him.

“Don’t hide your face when you’re talking to me,” the guard said.

Mason heard the guard snap his fingers, and soon there were two sets of footsteps coming towards him.

Three pairs of boots came into view as he examined the white tiles beneath him. There were three armed men less than ten feet away. Mason knew what he had to do. He rushed forward, pushing through the phalanx ahead of him. He heard someone’s bone break on impact, and heard two more cracks as the trio landed on the ground. Even if he didn’t have enhanced strength he doubted the three soldiers would stand a chance against his armour.

Mason realized how wrong he was as the central guard managed to slide his sword into the thin groove between Mason’s torso and his legs. It was what they were trained to do, another reason that heavy armour wasn’t that practical anymore. Mason wished he’d remembered that tidbit earlier.

All three guards were sprawled on the ground, one was clutching his arm, one was clutching his chest and the third appeared to be dead from landing on his neck. The damage was already done. The sword was nearly at a ninety degree angle, with the tip lodged somewhere in his chest, but fortunately missing his heart. Mason could see another foot of the blade hanging down from his torso, with the hilt hovering halfway down his thigh.

The pain reminded Mason of the mauling that got him here, the pain of having chunks of flesh torn out of his body. However, he realized that the mauling was far worse. He could still stand, and as he made his way around the desk it was clear he could still walk. The sword missed his spine. Some of his organs were probably skewered but strangely, it didn’t hurt as much as he thought it would. Mason knew he could just be in shock, but he also knew that Torville’s testing increased his pain tolerance and his curse seemed to increase his pain tolerance. Each step brought increased pain, causing the blade to shift and tear through more veins and muscles.

Although the pain might be dulled, his body was still struggling to cope. He could feel another wave of nausea hitting him. The coppery taste of blood was haunting his throat, and he saw that the sword’s blade and hilt were being baptized by their new home. Looking ahead, Mason saw the open door. He couldn’t see any people ahead of him.

The stone path outside seemed forked to the left, where it likely led to the front entrance. Mason could make out horses neighing somewhere behind him, the stable would be too far behind to reach without being spotted. The horses were almost drowned out by the sound of footsteps and Mason knew that at least ten other soldiers were making their way towards him.

He grabbed the sword’s hilt, feeling it bury itself deeper as he leaned forward. With his hands on the hilt, Mason pulled downward, feeling the sword leave severed veins and punctured organs behind. By the time the sword crashed to the ground Mason could feel the burning itch running from his chest to his hips. The pain from the stab would be temporary, but beheading was permanent. Mason made his way over to the side of the desk, knowing that his blood was creating a trail right to the door. He looked back, seeing the door on the left side of the desk.

The brown tiles continued into the next room, where five guards were now running towards him. They were all armed, and they didn’t have bulky armour slowing them down. There were likely more men coming from the other side of the station as well. The hall continued down for hundreds of feet but it wouldn’t take the guards that long to cover the distance. Once they did, there was a good chance they would turn Mason into a kebab.

Mason tried to run again, even with his strength, the armour and the injury prevented him from getting anywhere close to his full speed. A light jog got him to the outside. The path forked to his left, where it led to a wooden gate where two more guards were standing in wait. The gate was about fifty feet high and continued all around the station, where the moonlight was reflecting off the barbed wire at the top. The doors on either side of him were held open by nails bolted into the earth in front of them and as Mason expected, the door could only be locked from the inside.

Going back wasn’t an option, and if Mason tried to go around to the stables the gate would still trap him. Trying to go straight through the gate would likely result in death, the guards at the door already had their eyes on him and trying to cover that distance would give the other guards more time to catch up and surround him.

The gatekeepers didn’t know anything was the matter now, but they would once they saw men chasing after him. The shortest distance to cover was to Mason’s right, where the gate was only about fifty feet away. Mason hurriedly started pulling the armour off, hoping to make a run for the fence and climb over. The torso would take the most time so he didn’t bother trying to remove it. His helmet came off first. Then his arms, boots and the armour over his pants. By this time, the guards could tell his skin was darker than theirs and they were making their way over. They would have about two hundred feet to cover.

The guards in the station were moving past the desk when Mason took off for the wall. The guards by the gate were about fifty feet away. He could feel muscles and organs in his body stitching themselves back together. The burning sensation made him feel like his heart was on fire. The blood flow from the injury was slowing down already, morphing from a spring into a leaky faucet.

Even without the armour, he was only able to muster a light jog as he made his way for the fence. His legs felt heavy, as if he was trying to run through wet sand. His wound was healing fast, but it seemed like it was stealing more energy from him in order to do so. There was little chance of making the gate in time and Mason didn’t feel like he had the strength to fight all of the men off.

Images started dancing through his head. His head flying after a slice to the neck. His intestines hanging loose after a slash across the stomach. After everything he’d been through, Torville still managed to send him to his death. He always thought he would go down fighting if a day like this ever came, but like a lot of his other dreams, it seemed like it would remain a fantasy. He might be able to fight off a few of the soldiers, but their numbers would overwhelm him quickly. He’d be hacked to pieces and likely follow in his mother’s footsteps.

Warm tears cut through the dirt on his face, cascading over dry skin before they hung off his cheek and fell to the stone path. They sparkled briefly under the moonlight before they splattered beneath him. The guards from inside the station were now outside, and the men from the gate were just a few feet behind them. Despite the danger in front of him, Mason’s eyes were suddenly drawn upward.

Alive-Third Book Completed

I am happy to announce that I completed a rough draft of Alive on thursday. I will be returning to the story to add, cut, delete, edit etc and have a polished version ready by July at the latest. Once I have an edited version, I will then look into editing services that can give me impartial advice on the book. Then I will pursue an agent. However, I wish to take a break from it for a week so I can return to it with fresh eyes.

Alive follows Mason, a young black man in a medieval society who is bitten by a werewolf. After surviving an attempt on his life, Mason meets Ayda, the woman who bit him. Ayda offers him a sanctuary in a society that rejects their kind, but informs him that she plans to use their power to eliminate the people who discriminate against them. Torn between his conscience and a desire for vengeance, Mason must confront a society that wants him dead and a woman who wants to use him to wage war.

I am especially proud of this book since it began with one poem that I posted to this blog. I built on that on poem with others and was able to craft a full novel from it. It has demonstrated the value of blogging and the creative benefits that it can bring.  I am also debating doing a second part, since the ending to this first book is open ended.

Once Alive is completed, I want to begin working on a novel for Hazard.

Alive

The idea for my second novel started with a poem from December 2015. I am currently 70,000 words into my werewolf tale. Alive revolves around a recently bitten human who becomes part of a black supremacist plot led by Ayda, the woman who bit him. The book is not an endorsement of black supremacy, it is only a tale using that vehicle to ask questions about identity and belonging.

The protagonist, Mason, is a man who has always felt like an outsider among his own people or others. Although he harbours resentment for the lighter-skinned people who hamper his rights, he is hesitant to take part in violence against them. His choice is taken from him when the other werewolves on his island, initiate a war with the island’s army. The first book focuses on their conflict with the island, while also exploring Mason’s conflict with the new black community that becomes his home. The second book will focus on the power struggle within the community and Mason’s attempt to prevent Ayda’s planned genocide.

As the story progresses, I now realize that this tale will need at least two parts. I am hoping to have part one wrapped up by March. The book begins with an origin story, but I will either be deleting those sections, changing them to flashbacks, or saving them for part II.

 

Stretching Writing Muscles

As I continue working on Alive, I’ve tried to keep a set deadline for its completion. Like my previous books, I set my original goal as one page per day. A typical novel’s length is 60,000-100,000 words and I figured that Alive would be at least 80,000 words. One page is typically about 300 words. That would mean the book would take at least 266 days to write, plus the time I would need to edit it before I can start submitting it to literary agents.

A friend told me about National Novel Writing Month, which challenges writers to write 1,000 words a day. Although I didn’t officially compete, I set the goal of 1,000 words a day for myself and this allowed me to craft the first 15,000 words of my book in a relatively short period of time. I read an article by James Altucher where he says that trying to hit a new daily limit is like stretching a muscle. I stretched the muscle to 1000, but then fell back on 500. With simple math this means that writing the book will likely take twice as long.

However, I also don’t want to fall into the trap of writing only to hit a word limit. This could lead to rushed plot developments or poor dialogue that I have to spend a lot of time editing anyway. I finished my first rough draft of Elseworld pretty quickly but then had to spend plenty of time editing dialogue, plot holes, removing characters and completely rewriting the book from start to finish. Elseworld was a great learning experience but I also don’t want to use it as an excuse to stick to 500 words a day.

As I write Alive, I brainstorm the next few pages of the book. This allows me to have a clear idea of where I am going with the next 1000 words to hopefully avoid time consuming rewrites later in the process. I’m currently at 30,000 words and if I can commit to 1000 words a day I can have a rough draft completed by April. Alive feels like it will be longer than Elseworld, and I am predicting the rough draft will hit 100,000 words, which will need to be trimmed. The main areas I will trim will likely be the first thirty pages.

In some ways, Alive is a superhero story, about a regular person being bestowed with superhuman abilities. The origin story might be taking up too much time. The one time I got any personalized feedback from an agent, they advised that they were worried the story started too slow. Alive has a slower start, so I think it is a good idea to cut it down for the final draft. I don’t want to remove all of the content but I will likely reformat it into condensed flashbacks. Until then, I want to keep taking it 1000 words at a time.

Five Pages of Alive

I’ve reached 29,000 words for my third book, Alive, and am excited about where this story is going. The five pages below, along with the previous two excerpts, account for the first fifteen pages.

*************

Chapter Two

 

Mason awoke to the sound of the door opening again. He sat up, with his vision still blurry with sleep. The last thing he remembered was lying in bed counting.

William walked in, followed by the same two guards. He ignored them as he rushed to the foot of Abel’s bed.

“How are you feeling?” William said.

Mason was getting sick of the routine, but tried to sound polite as he responded.

“I’m fine.”

“Any nausea, fever?” William said.

It seemed like Mason’s suspicions about being injected with diseased blood was right.

“No,” Mason responded.

“Great. Mind if I just check something?”

“Not at all.”

William moved in closer, and the guards followed suite. He pulled white gloves from his robe and put them on.

“I want to check your glands. Can you please tilt your head back?” William said.

Mason lifted his head slightly, with his line of sight now dominated by the wall above the doorway. He tensed as he felt cold leather on his skin, prodding below his jaw and searching for signs of swelling. William applied light pressure to the two sides of Mason’s neck, before moving his fingers to Mason’s jaw.

William’s face then appeared in front of Mason’s, separated by a few inches. Prisoners didn’t deserve personal space. William’s eyes met Mason’s, apparently scanning them for any irregularities. Mason had all the information he needed.

“You injected me with saracin.” Mason said. It wasn’t a question.

William’s hands left Mason’s face.

He moved back to the doorway and removed his gloves.

“If you really are trying to look out for me there’s no point lying to me now.” Mason said.

“Leave us,” William said, as he turned to the guards.

“Can’t do that sir.” The guard to his left said.

“I wasn’t asking. Either you leave or your wife might find out about the rash you got from someone else.”

The guard on the right laughed, but tried to convert it to a cough midway through. He opened the door and quickly stepped out, holding it slightly open for his partner.

His partner was still rooted to the spot. It was as if William had reached into his soul and stolen his pride and confidence. His chest and shoulders seemed to shrink inside his uniform, retreating away from the fabric to dwell in obscurity.

“You can’t do that…it’s supposed to be between us.” His face reminded Mason of a child that awoke to a wet bed.

“You’re right. Tell the council what I did and I’m sure they’ll relieve me of my duties.” William said.

The guard’s mouth was still ajar as he left the room and closed the door.

“I’m not supposed to tell you. The council didn’t think you’d be smart enough to figure out what was going on, but I give you more credit than they do.” William said. For once, his voice lacked the enthusiasm of a child playing with his favourite toy.

“Like I expected, seems like your body is able to resist diseases. Symptoms normally show by now, but we’ll have to wait for three more days to be sure.”

“What if I end up dying from this? The key to longer life would be gone.” Mason said, his tone made it clear what he thought of the council’s plan. As Mason thought of it, he wasn’t even sure that the council was the one who suggested the idea. Maybe William pushed for it. Mason didn’t want to ask him though. That line of questioning would only make him more defensive, and give Mason fewer answers in the long run.

“I was only willing to test this since you survived that attack. I remember seeing your wounds crusted with soil, probably straight from the wolf’s claws. I tried to remove as much as I could, but between that and the injuries I was sure it was only a matter of time until we had to bury you. The soil and the wolf’s saliva didn’t kill you, so I thought that there must be a good chance you would survive this. I couldn’t be certain but you have to understand that it was a necessary risk. I’m sorry if I come across as cold at times, but I hope you can also appreciate the situation I am in. The council didn’t want you dead, but I don’t like the plans that they have for you. I have to convince them that everything I am doing is for the good of the village and that it has nothing to do with my relationship with you. I am hoping that my tests can steer them in another direction. I know this village hasn’t been good to you, but I need you to trust me.”

It was exactly what Mason wanted to hear, which made him skeptical. William already demonstrated that he was willing to use his knowledge of other people against them. He may have used his knowledge for Mason’s good that time, but it was a weapon that could be used against him too. Mason had confided in William a lot over the past twenty years, in one hospital visit after another. Whether he had been beaten by children from school or by soldiers, he grew to see William as someone he could share anything with. It seemed like William truly was listening all that time, but there was a chance he wasn’t a friend trying to help out. Maybe William was just using his opportunity to put his reservoir of information to use.

“It’s hard for me to really trust anyone right now. I don’t have a choice remember?” Mason said.

“I know, and I’m sorry about that. We have a few weeks until the next full moon and if you can just work with me until then, I think I may be able to work out something that doesn’t lead to life-long imprisonment or death for you. Working with me is truly in your best interest. If you don’t have a choice of trusting me, at least make the decision to work towards your own freedom.”

“I feel like I’ve been fighting for freedom my whole life. This is just more of the same.” Mason’s anger spoke first, but now he needed to temper it with obedience.

“But I do appreciate what you’re doing for me. My mom was right about you. You’re one of the few people I can depend on. Thank you.”

“That means a lot Mason. She was a great woman and I want to do right by her. I’ll check on you tonight.” William’s words exuded nothing but pity, and the same could be said for his smile. That worried Mason more than the imprisonment itself or the tests he had to put up with. If William was confident in his ability to free Mason then he should have sounded more hopeful. William was enjoying the study of Mason, but he was still a soldier fighting a losing battle. His speech to Mason was that of a king trying to comfort his people before their enemy killed them. Mason already hated having his freedom in someone else’s hands. This development just made it clear that he couldn’t bide his time any longer.

By the time the next full moon came the government would have their plans for him solidified and freedom would no longer be an option. Mason tried to remember details of the first attack. Any images he could remember came back to him like paintings from a fevered dream. He could remember running through a field under the moonlight. The flowers arranged neatly along the side made him think that it must be Clark’s Market. Mason knew the market well, and what stood out to him was how fast he moved along its aisles. His peripheral vision was limited and he could remember crossing hundreds of feet in seconds. His vision was a mass of different hues of gray. The field beneath him was supposed to be green, but Mason could only make out green accents among the grey. It was the same for the roses, red accents among a field of gray. His colours were diminished but Mason remembered his other senses being so much stronger.

Mason could make out the scent of different animals scurrying around him. He couldn’t identify what they were by smell alone, but he could trace their movements even though he couldn’t see them. Sound added another layer, giving him the rhythm of the animals’ steps. There were over ten different sets of footprints all around him but Mason was somehow able to pinpoint where each one was coming from. There was an urge to find the animals, consume them. With that urge, the memories came to an end.

Reality returned, and imprisonment returned along with it. The lantern’s dim light, orange brick walls, the cold of his cell, the returning hunger; those were the sensations Mason’s sense could bring him now. If Mason didn’t act this is how he would spend his prolonged life. His power would be in the hands of people who never truly wanted him to be free. After what this village did to his mother, Mason refused to let them succeed in breaking him.

Mason realized he didn’t even know if he needed a full moon to transform again. All the folklore told him that was a condition of the curse, but the folklore never mentioned that the cursed is immune to diseases. The most popular tales came from a time when medicine was far less understood, so maybe that is why it was never accounted for. Either way, the omission was demonstrated that mythology wasn’t a manual for Mason’s life. He tried to transform before, focusing on his memories, but nothing ever resulted form these attempts.

Mason also wondered exactly what the council had planned at this point. They might be looking into a serum they could give to their soldiers, but that was likely a longer-term plan. Mason wasn’t a doctor but he was sure that successfully creating that would take months, if not years. The soldiers would need to be tested and monitored just like Mason was before the council would be willing to give the serum to their entire army.

The council was well aware that a full moon was coming up, so they either had to kill Mason before then or hope they could contain him when he transformed. Mason couldn’t recall how powerful he was in his other form. He heard that he attacked Mr. Faraday’s livestock, which was normally protected by a ten-foot tall steel fence. Apparently, the fence was flattened, compressed into the earth, when Mr. Faraday found it in the morning. Even if that was true, it would be tougher to break down a brick wall. Mason could probably tear the door down, but he likely wouldn’t fit through it. The door could barely accommodate one person with their arms spread open. Mason didn’t trust the hyperbolic accounts of supposed “eyewitnesses” but William said that footprints found at sites of the attack make it clear that the cursed form was much larger than a man. Mason could attest to that at well. He knew he passed in and out of consciousness after his attack. Its paws were bigger than his head, and nearly broke his arms as they pinned him down. Its body blocked out the sky above him, and in his frightened state he could only focus on the head hovering above him. The red eyes stood out the most. They were small in comparison to the head they were housed in, a head that appeared bigger due to the creature’s bared teeth. White daggers, and red orbs, standing out amidst a field of black fur. The eyes almost looked like they glowed in contrast to the darkness all around them.

Their colour indicated something primal, dangerous. Despite that, they held a strange allure. As Mason peered into them, they seemed to shut out everything around them. Mason’s eyes stayed rooted to them. Even as he felt his body being torn apart, even as his blood splashed in front of him and stained the ground all around him. He remembered that he didn’t register any pain until the wolf’s gaze left his.