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.

 

Resolution

New Year, New Me,

Or so I always say,

I have numerous resolutions for the year,

But New Year’s Eve reminded me of one of them,

Surrounded by friends,

Forgetting all of my troubles until I came across a single woman,

Then my mind shifted to other thoughts,

Thoughts shared by other friends,

Who held the woman’s interest better,

Happiness slowly evaporated,

Bitterness and self-doubt came in to take its place,

While everyone else kept enjoying themselves,

I spent too much time reflecting on my friend’s good fortune,

And reflecting on all my past failures,

I came across as miserable,

Pathetic even,

Which only hindered my appeal even further,

I find myself caught in this cycle too often,

Letting any perceived rejection drown out all the things I have to celebrate,

With a new year,

I want to work on being the master of my own happiness.

Looking to 2017

Happy New Year to all my readers and followers.

This year has been a rough one in a sense but there are some things to celebrate.

This year marked the continuation of my desire to blog regularly, with a goal of posting at least three times a week. I have been able to maintain that output for the most part, amidst working full time, writing books, exercising, job-hunting and learning how to play the guitar.

I finished a novella and started working on my second novel. I am currently 40,000 words into Alive, and have now committed to writing 1000 words a day. I may not be writing today but the limit will be in place from here on out. Hopefully I should be done a rough draft by March, or April at the latest.

I am attempting to make a career switch to teaching, and will be doing a guest lecture for a college class in February. The time I need to prepare for this may cut into my writing but I want to do my best not to make excuses and commit to writing everyday.

I have been able to grow my social media presence, as well as the presence for comicommand. I am hoping that this can result in more visits to the site as the new year progresses. One issue with my social media, specifically the @moviegrapevine instagram, is that I cover a wide array of topics. I have noticed that engagement and followers seem to drop off when I drift from a focus on comics. Posts on politics, movies, tv etc. all seem to suffer and alienate followers who only want a certain kind of content. The same trend applies to the site. The posts with the most views, judging by Google Analytics, are ones on popular topics such as The Walking Dead. I like discussing shows too but I don’t want to have to limit what I discuss for more views. I want people to be able to engage with more than one type of subject matter.

Moving forward, I will have to see if I can continue to build my base of readers. This year marked the first time that a reader commented on one of my posts, showing that there are some people who are enjoying the content and engaging with it. Either way, I can’t blog just for them. Writing helps to stretch mental muscles, and blogging is a key part of that exercise. I can’t just be someone who wants to become a published writer: I have to truly be a writer, creating content everyday, whether it is writing 1000 words of a book, blogging or posting poetry pieces to @wmoviegrapevine. Some days, I’ll do all three.

Writing full-time is a distant goal at this point but I know that it is a goal, not a dream. I have given up on the idea of being published next year, or the year after. Like a former teacher told me “there is no rush in this game”.

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.

Alive-Work In Progress

I have previously shared the first five pages of my third book, Alive, which was in turn inspired by my poetry series. I originally committed to writing one page a day, then I bumped the number to 1000. I was consistently writing 1000 words for a few weeks, but I am now aiming for 500. There are days when I do more, but 500 is a new minimum that allows me to write at least twice as much as I used to. I’m currently at 22,000 words, and as I continue writing I realize the final product could be near 100,000 words. Typical novel length is anywhere from 60,000-100,000, but for a new author agents will be wary of anything over 90,000.

When I was querying agents about my first book, Elseworld, one of the few agents who agreed to review the book said it started too slow. Correction, she was worried that the editors of the big publishing houses would think it starts too slow. The opening of Elseworld was much improved from my original draft, which made me more resistant to altering it again. However, I realized I needed to put my pride aside and accept constructive criticism. That need becomes more clear as I continue writing Alive. The book takes place in a fictional medieval world where the main character, Mason, is bitten by a werewolf. As a black man in this society, Mason’s subjugation continues when he is used as a weapon to attack Alexandria, a village that is systematically annexing others.

After his attack on Alexandria, Mason meets another werewolf, who wants to use their power to eliminate the people who have oppressed them. The book begins after the character’s first werewolf transformation, and he is now imprisoned in his village. As I near page 70, the main character has not transformed for the second time yet. It is clear that the book probably does start too slow in this case.

The first portion of the book has detailed Mason’s time in prison. I didn’t spend the time on mundane details, but I have developed his relationship with an older father figure and chronicled the development of Mason’s new abilities, such as a healing factor and enhanced senses. Prison serves as a sort of library, where Mason has the quiet and the time to experiment and strengthen his new body. Although I enjoyed writing this part of the story, I have to realize that these developments may not be as interesting for prospective readers or might be too dull if consumed in one long stretch.  I am not going back to rewrite at the moment. I figure I will finish it, and then edit the beginning as necessary. I’ll likely just be cutting the opening fifty pages or so and inserting them throughout the book as brief flashbacks. This way, I can begin with a part of the book that editors will hopefully deem more exciting. It’s just one of the small changes that I hope can contribute to finally getting an agent, and then getting published.

Stay True

As I continue writing Alive, I get closer to approaching the most controversial part of the story. When I started writing the novel, I knew I wanted to create a werewolf set in a medieval fictional society with a black protagonist. I knew I wanted him to live on an island with warring villages, where one village was systematically annexing all the others.

More brainstorming led to a more fleshed out story, and I realized I wanted the protagonist to meet another werewolf on the island; a black woman who wanted to use their gift to eliminate the people who oppressed them. Like Elseworld, a story of interplanetary slavery, the book doesn’t shy away from exploring discrimination.

I remember presenting Elseworld year to a literary agent at the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York. I was able to successfully pitch the book to four agents, although this ultimately didn’t get me anywhere. One agent honestly didn’t seem that intrigued by the idea after I described it, but she also said she didn’t want to represent a terrorism story. At the time, I was interning a few blocks away from The World Trade Center and it clicked to me that maybe my subject matter could be one of the reasons I am having a harder time getting an agent. I never truly considered this since there are so many recent films and books that explore the topic. However, being a nobody always makes it tougher to sell something.

As I get ready to explore black supremacy in Alive, I start to wonder if those two words might scare any agent away from my work. My problem is that I am writing the story I want, not just a story I want to sell. Maybe it will come at a cost, but a part of me believes that I will still be able to see my work published someday.

The Next Five Pages of Alive

Hello everyone,

As I have mentioned before I started writing my third novel at the end of October. It is inspired by my poetry series, Alive. Set in a fictional medieval world, Alive tells the tale of a villager who’s curse is used to attack another village. Instead of writing one page a day, which usually equals about three hundreds words. I am now committed to writing at least 500 words a day. It is a small change but will allow me to cut the expected completion of a rough draft down from June to April. I am excited about where the story is going but I also realize that the direction I am taking it in could be very controversial. However, the controversial story is the one I want to tell. Below I have the second excerpt from the novel. Along with the first excerpt, these pages account for chapter one.

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

werewolf_tattoo_idea_by_spdmngtruper-d6gwr9b

About ten minutes passed before the cuts healed. Mason was doing a rough count in his head, to satisfy his own curiosity. He knew the cut was starting to heal before William left the cell. It was a sensation he became familiar with over the past five weeks. He could feel his skin stretching to sew up the holes that William created. It started with a burning sensation that gave way to a prickling one as the skin stitched itself together.

Mason peeled off the bandage and used his sleeve to wipe away the blood, revealing unmarked skin. He then put the bandage back on. He didn’t want to give William too much information yet. The longer William had to spend doing his tests, the longer Mason would stay alive.

These tests made it clear that Mason could heal quickly, but he was sure he could still be killed. There was a good chance his body might not heal from a severed head, and the village council must have thought the same thing. Maybe Mason’s head would reattach itself, but there was only one way to find out and Mason was eager to avoid it. He was also hoping that William didn’t have that test on his agenda.

About twenty minutes in, Mason heard footsteps approaching the door. Either his count was far off or William was eager to see his patient. The footsteps continued to the door, and then stopped for a few seconds. Mason heard the tell-tale clink of a key ring, then the sound of a door unlocking. The sound emanated from the base of the door this time though.

The straps pulled taut as Mason rushed to the foot of his bed, with his eyes fixed on the door. A panel slid open along the bottom, reminding Mason of the door he made to allow his dog to get out of the house. The bottom two feet of the door now revealed a food tray that was pushed into the room, sliding until it hit Mason’s feet.

Mason quickly gripped the tray with his feet and dragged it until it was at the head of his bed. From there, the straps allowed him to bend and lift the tray onto his lap. He looked to his right to see that the panel was already closed. The guard probably figured his job was done once the tray was in the cell, it didn’t matter if Mason could reach it or not.

The tray held three chicken legs and nothing else, which suited Mason fine. He knew meat was in shorter supply due to the recent raids, but it seemed like William also wanted to test Mason’s appetite. Mason could see the marks made when the guards deboned the legs, but he didn’t mind. Mason finished eating in a few minutes, leaving nothing but the tray. The tray itself was made from parchment, molded by a printing press into a single, thick sheet that folded up and formed a wall around the food inside. Mason tossed the tray back to the foot of his bed and washed his hands, barely able to reach the sink to his left.

By his count, he had another five minutes before William returned.

#

The door opened again in three minutes, by Mason’s count. William didn’t wait for the door to be closed behind him before he rushed to Mason’s bedside. The guards rushed to catch up to him, standing only within arm’s reach of William this time.

“Do you mind?” William said, as he reached for the bandage.

“Like you said, I don’t have a choice. Go ahead.” Mason said.

William offered a wan smile as he peeled the bandage back. He pulled a cloth from his robe and wiped away the blood, revealing the unmarked skin underneath.

“Amazing,” William said.

While William was fascinated, the guards both looked horrified. They both took a step backwards; as if they were worried the curse was contagious. It was, in a sense. A bite had apparently transferred the bite to Mason, but that appeared to be the only way for anyone else to get it. That didn’t matter to the guards at this moment. Protecting William was the least of their concerns.

“Not a single scar. Like anyone, smaller injuries heal faster. Took a few weeks to recover from your attack. What makes you special is that your injuries don’t leave a single scar. So many of our men have died in battles from injuries far less severe than yours. It’s possible that you could still die from old age, but I believe that if that does happen, it would happen much later than the average person. You weren’t affected by any of the diseases that normally kill someone after an animal attack. It’s possible that your body is able to resist infection completely. If we could find a way to transfer your healing to others, we’d never have to worry about raids again. If you work with me, you can save this village.” William said.

“How can you transfer it to others? Does the council want an army of…people like me?” Mason said. He still couldn’t bring himself to say the word.

“They want people with your abilities, without your alternate persona of course. Trying to create that is the greatest challenge.” William said.

Mason knew an army of soldiers that could heal from injury could protect Torville, but they could also turn against their people. The risk of coups and abuse of power would be amplified from people that didn’t fear death. As expected, there was something else that William wasn’t telling him. Probing for the truth wouldn’t get him anywhere right now. Mason kept focusing on the next full moon.

“Thanks again for your cooperation, Mason. It truly makes things a lot easier for all of us.” William said. Mason knew another test was coming.

William reached into the front pocket of his robe again, pulling out a syringe. The glass tube was about four inches long, with an iron handle and needle protruding from either end. The tube itself was filled with blood. At least that is what Mason guessed; he didn’t know what else the dark red liquid could be.

“I’m going to inject you with this; it will serve as one of the most important tests.” William said as he approached Mason again. “Is that alright with you?”

The second sentence seemed like an afterthought. Maybe William needed to maintain the charade of friendliness in order to sleep at night. Mason was smart enough to realize that the blood in the tube was altered somehow. Maybe it was tainted with some sort of chemical; a type of weapon that William was developing to kill Mason’s other half. Maybe William already had everything he needed and was now worried that the guard’s weapons wouldn’t be able to end Mason’s life. Mason realized that even if he was right, there was nothing to be done now.

Mason could feel his heart beating faster as it pumped his own blood. He extended his right forearm, seeing the veins bulging against his skin. William wasted no time finding his target and injecting the payload. The alien blood flowed into Mason’s body, and he held his breath as he waited for his body’s response. By the time Mason exhaled William was by the cell door.

“I’ll check on you tomorrow morning, good night Mason.”

Mason’s arm trembled as he brought it back to his lap. He knew the trembling was from fear. He was fine for now, but he worried what the future would bring. If he was injected with some sort of disease that could kill him from the inside, he might go days without seeing symptoms. William mentioned that Mason didn’t get any of the diseases that could normally result from an animal attack, and that was the only thing stopping Mason from panicking. He started counting again.

Twenty minutes passed, with Mason staring at the ceiling as he counted. Although he knew how much time passed, he realized he had no idea what time it was. He was losing track of hours and days. He only knew of the date for the next full moon because William told him, and William’s daily visits were the best indicator of time moving from day to day.

The cell door was never open wide enough for Mason to get a good glimpse outside. He only ever made out white walls. There appeared to be a hallway that led straight ahead, with no other cells in sight. Lanterns hung along the wall and there was one window carved into it about fifty feet down. There wasn’t any light filtering in from the window this time. It was dark out now, so it was probably at least seven o’clock already.

There was one lantern hanging from the ceiling, about twenty feet high and far out of Mason’s reach. The lantern wasn’t going to be in the room originally, William said it was only there due to his requests. Mason couldn’t be sure if William was telling the truth. Otherwise, the room would be shrouded in darkness for the entire day. There were no windows or openings of any kind, except the door, which was open for only a few seconds at a time.

This was his life now; Glimpses of sunlight, followed by one test after another.

 

First Five Pages of Alive

Hello everyone,

While I work on posting The Visitor to Wattpad, I am also working on my third book. Alive is inspired by the poetry series and will expand on the werewolf story. The book is set in a fictional medieval society where the protagonist’s curse is used as a weapon to attack other villages. I have always loved werewolf stories so it is great to finally start creating my own. I am writing one page a day, and should have a rough draft done by June of next year. There are days when I have written more, but committing to just one a day helps to ensure that I write consistently. June may seem far away, but I have developed plenty of patience for the pursuit of publication. Once my rough draft is completed, and edited by September, I will then seek publication for Alive.

The first five pages are copied below.

********

Mason could still move his fingers. It was the only sign that the restraints weren’t cutting off his blood flow. The leather straps were digging into his skin, branding my flesh. Their tightness felt intrusive, but he knew he’d get used to it soon.

He heard what happened the first time he transformed. The villagers stood in front of him, telling him what he did to their cattle, their pets, their loved ones. He didn’t want to believe them. He couldn’t remember any of it. He could only remember awaking in a field, naked and bloodied. He wouldn’t be in prison if the blood was his own.

Ten cows, five people, three dogs. There were no torches and pitchforks, but there were fists, knives and guns. Imprisonment saved him from death. The village leaders promised their people that they would be safe. If these straps failed, they would break their promise.

The straps were looped through metal rings screwed into the wall, and it was likely that the straps could be broken without breaking the rings. It didn’t seem like the leaders thought this through. Mason wasn’t complaining, if the leaders were sensible he’d be dead. Why keep him alive?

Mason was still in denial, but he’d know if the claims were true in three weeks. It would be the first full moon since the incident. Either he would be released, or he would be living proof that folklore could hold a kernel of truth.

There were paranoid whispers when he was bitten. Word spread fast, and soon everyone knew he was attacked by a wolf. People also knew his wounds healed much faster than expected. It wasn’t the elderly that were the most paranoid. They lived through more superstitious times, they outgrew it. It was the younger people who embraced the novelty of a potential new threat, even though there were plenty of threats already.

The last raid drained most of the food supply, and prisoners had the lowest priority for being fed. Mason’s stomach was rumbling, and although he wanted to deny it, he was only craving meat. Folklore continued to intrude on his life.

There were so many witnesses, but he knew most of them could be lying. They lied about his mother too. Witnesses came out of the woodwork, saying she had cursed them. Saying they saw her fly. Proof wasn’t necessary then, it might not be necessary now. Mason could still smell her skin burning.

Her skin was like Mason’s, so much darker than everyone else’s. They were never truly accepted here. The village did what they could to get rid of his mother, now they found their excuse to get rid of him. If he wasn’t in prison, he would probably be working on someone’s field. His mother owned a shop, but it was burned just like she was. Mason knew the shop was doing well for a long time, better than a lot of the other stores. Maybe that is why she was singled out.

It took being chained to the wall for Mason to realize he should have left Torville a long time ago. Yet the burden of starting over always seemed to great a hurdle. His mom always said that it is better to stay with the devil you know. Maybe he would have had a better life; maybe he never would have been bitten.

Mason’s reverie was broken as he heard the door being unlocked. The metal door was the only thing that broke up the orange brick all around him, and Mason caught a glimpse of white, stone walls as the door swung outward. Three men rushed in, and the door was quickly shut again.

Two men stood by the door, with unsheathed swords hanging by their sides. They both wore the plain red uniforms, but the armour they normally wore on top of it was nowhere to be seen. Mason allegedly tore through armour like butter when he transformed. It seemed like speed was the greater priority now.

Neither guard made eye contact. They both focused on the man a few feet in front of them, William Reddick.

“How are you feeling Mason?” William said.

“How do you think?” Mason said.

“I am sorry that you’ve been imprisoned, but I’m sure you understand why. I can already see that most of your wounds are healed. Men twice your size have died from losing that much blood. I don’t listen to rumours, but my own eyes tell me there is something special about you. All I ask is that you help me understand it. This is for your safety and everyone else’s. You already know what the alternative is.”

“I am grateful to be alive, and I thank you for all you’ve done for me.” Mason said. The words made him sick, but he knew that resistance wouldn’t help him at this point. He learned a long time ago that people liked to see him beg.

“I’m glad to hear that Mason. Since you healed so quickly I just want to run a quick test.” William reached into a pocket of his white robe, withdrawing a scalpel. The blade was only a few inches long but it seemed much bigger to Mason.

“Please don’t be scared. The warden wanted me to bring more guards with me, and have them hold you down for this part. I told him that won’t be necessary. All I want to do is make a few small cuts on your forearm, and monitor how quickly you heal.” William said.

“Why are you doing this? This isn’t just about other people’s safety. What do you want from me?” Mason said.

“Your body could hold the key to prolonging life. If I can test its abilities, its limits, that could be the first step towards understanding it and maybe creating some type of serum that can give your abilities to other people.” William said.

William’s voice was brimming with excitement, which did nothing to make Mason more at ease. William wasn’t talking to a human being; he was talking to a tool, a test subject.

“Test my limits? So you give me a few cuts this time and if I heal fast enough, you’ll take an arm off the next time?” Mason said.

“Of course not,” William said, with his words lacking the conviction that was present before. “I want to make this easy for you, but remember that you don’t have much of a choice here. Can you work with me on this?”

Mason knew he was being manipulated but he also had to admit that William was one of the few people who genuinely showed him respect. If Mason could bide his time until then the next full moon he may be able to figure out a way to escape.

“Alright,” Mason said as he slowly extended his forearm.

He was able to reach the foot of his bed before the straps went taut and restricted any further movement. The guards both gripped their swords tighter and took a step forward. They were only about five feet away, if Mason did manage to get his hands on William he could probably grab the scalpel and do irreparable damage before anyone touched him. Although William wasn’t really a friend, it was clear that he was putting some trust in his test subject.

William smiled as he moved closer, in a weak attempt to comfort the person he was about to cut. He leaned in with the scalpel and made two shallow incisions halfway between Mason’s elbow and hand. Mason knew the cuts wouldn’t be too painful but he still braced for pain. He saw the scalpel pierce his skin and could see the blood snaking down his arm before William wrapped a bandage around the cuts. The sensation was no different than being poked, he knew something touched his skin but there was no pain. The most striking sensation was the feeling of flowing blood.

“Sorry, one more thing. Would you mind lifting up your shirt? I just want to check on the scarring from the attack.” William said.

William was choosing his words carefully, making it seem like he was a friend asking for a favour. Of course, if Mason refused he would be given an ultimatum again. For that reason, he didn’t hesitate to pull his shirt up. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d done that today. Mason didn’t need a doctor to tell him that he healed much faster than normal.

When Mason was carried to William’s office five weeks ago, his arms and torso looked like ground meat. Only a few shards of skin remained; overshadowed by ruptured veins and blood-drenched muscles. Mason’s organs were still contained, and his bones seemed to be intact, but that was the only good news. Mason drifted in and out of consciousness that night. He remembered his blood staining the hospital bed and forming a trail a mile long that stretched back to the woods. Bandages were soon abandoned in favour of towels. That was the last thing Mason remembered before waking up the next morning.

His muscles were still damaged, but they looked better. The deepest tears were already closing up. There was still plenty of pain, but the sensation was dulled. Mason assumed that he was given a painkiller, but William told him he never gave him one. Mason was in no condition to swallow one, and William was hesitant to inject a needle into Mason’s gored flesh. It was a miracle that Mason’s skin grew back at all. As Mason lifted his shirt, he was still surprised to see new skin, and not a single scar.