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Monthly Archives: November 2015

For this week’s WIP Wednesday, no long introduction.

Last week I shared a small sample of “Blooded,” my short story for the upcoming Dryden Nightmares anthology. Here’s another sample from the draft….

            The pile he’d landed on was composed of a disgusting palette of refuse and morbid waste, huddled somewhere along a vast plain of lifeless dirt. As he shifted to gain his footing, Samartin pushed aside shredded pieces of decaying wood, torn bits of cloth stained a rusty red, and what he belatedly recognized as a collapsed rib cage with a patchy covering of gore attached. He saw more of the debris when he stood, in particular a remarkably intact ship’s wheel made of oak, a long beam that he suspected had once been a mast, and several lengths of rope, some held together with intricate knots. He’d managed to fall into the remains of a large ship, including its former crew and cargo. He couldn’t imagine how it got there, but that seemed rather inconsequential given his current location.

Low fires burned all across the terrain, sending up indiscriminate exhalations of black smoke. He watched the dark clouds rise and disperse, seeing their dissolution as they broke up a fair distance from where he stood at the zenith of the wreckage. The climb down was ripe for catastrophe, more likely fatal than not. He followed the movements of wispy trash flying everywhere, gusts of burnt air sweeping by to disturb the heap’s outermost layer. Standing had taken a significant push from his legs, which meant gravity would surely hasten any fall and deposit him in the middle of whatever unknown circumstance awaited.

All he could discern for sure was the steady presence of a steel wall, reaching as far as the horizon in either direction.

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Six authors. Six stories. In the year 2700, one event that will change everything.

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This fantastic promo image was created by Gavin Revitt.

Rise of the Europan is the bridge to a new era in Dryden Universe, a moment in history. We brought together six authors to tell stories about this game-changing event and explore the possibilities of an expansive science-fiction shared universe. This is Creative Commons in action. The result is a collection of short stories showcasing half a dozen unique visions of a dynamic storyworld.

The book features stories by Eugene Kelly III, Daniel B. Hunt, Kitty Sarkozy, Don van Ausdoll, Tracy Vincent, and me, Damian Roache. Each of us picked some part of this event that we wanted to write about. It could have been six different stories, filled with other characters and locations. The details were up to us, as long as we respected the established timeline of Dryden Universe and wrote a story involving the Europan, the powerful, sentient life form for whom the book is named.

When Joel put out a call for stories, I jumped at the chance to be involved in this project. Why? The idea of authors sharing their talents to weave together a collection of unique stories was exactly what I’d been looking for–a collaboration that was more than just, ‘You submit a story, and you, and you.’ No, this was something else, something way more interesting than that.

We had the spark for our stories: the event happening on Europa. And we had our space to work in: Dryden Universe, in the era known as the Primer. With those elements set, we were free to write what we envisioned. However, all of us wanted to write stories that meshed together, stories that felt like they were happening in the same universe–because, dammit, they are! We talked about the setting, discussed our ideas for characters and plots, and held regular online meetings to keep each other informed. This release is more than just a new book coming out in Dryden Universe. It represents a triumph of our collective will to make something bigger, and it’s proof of concept.

The stories are written, the book is on its way, and you know what? We accomplished our goal.

This is what The Dryden Experiment is all about.

It’s available for pre-order on Smashwords, and release is November 30th. Less than two weeks to go!

SCR PRIMER

RotE front cover

 

This week’s WIP Wednesday deals with a story I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. “Blooded” tells the story of Samartin’s quest to enter the heart of Izuntu and become one of his high priests, a group known as the Blooded.

If you haven’t read the primer on Izuntu, here’s the short version: Izuntu is an ancient dark god trapped in a remote region of space, and his followers seek to accumulate enough power to eventually free him and bring about his reign.

So, in “Blooded” we’re following Samartin, a devoted priest of Izuntu who’s spent years acquiring the power and knowledge needed to venture into Izuntu’s realm (which is also his body–I swear, this all makes more sense if you’ve read that primer…). The bulk of the narrative tracks our protagonist as he works his way through a bizarre landscape that’s been warped by the dark god’s influence, but there are also some short interludes involving Samartin’s dream-visions.

I gotta say, this one is fun to write. Sometimes a story turns out to be a real pain in my ass once I’ve gotten into it; this is not like that at all. I have a feel for the character as I’m writing, which is always helpful, and I started with a partial outline of the plot. I think I managed to find a good mix of planning and room for inspiration on this project, too. I’d be lying if I said it’s been easy so far, though difficult doesn’t always mean dull. Even when it’s giving me trouble, I’m still enjoying the process. I’ve got almost 5,000 words of the first draft written.

Time for an excerpt from the draft. Remember, this is unedited and likely to change by the time the final draft is done.

Early in the story, we see Samartin entering the god’s realm. This requires him to complete the rite of entrance, which in this case involves an offering to Izuntu. For those of you who’ve read the primer on Izuntu, you might recognize some of this from what I wrote about it previously. Read the excerpt below to learn about the items that Samartin has brought for the ritual.

The rite of entrance required three offerings. First was an oblong flask, sealed tight with a knotted cork, containing a drop of blood from one-thousand of Samartin’s enemies. The fluid held a potency that many a practitioner would seek to harness: the collected samples mingled together and shared their life-energies. He’d only taken blood from the slain, seeking to prove himself further to Izuntu, and so the contents represented victory over a great many foes.

Next was a handmade cloak, every piece of which he’d gathered from one-thousand beasts he’d hunted in his travels. A thick layer of hair and feathers formed the fabric, woven in tight patterns to create a sturdy covering that shimmered under light, reflecting the many hues of its sources. The edges he’d lined with a thin, scaly covering cut from the hide of a sleek reptile. An assortment of sharp teeth and jagged claws were worked into it, displaying the breadth of Samartin’s prey. He’d fought and killed so many fearsome creatures to obtain the parts, everything from werewolves to giant squids, but making the cloak from so many disparate components had proved almost as difficult as the slaying itself.

The final item was one he’d spent years searching for, its existence something of a legend. The memory extractor resembled a long syringe on one end, constructed from a crude mixture of ancient materials that nonetheless provided a sturdy frame for the device. Intricate scrollwork and series of runes snaked around the barrel, leading up to heavy plunger of hammered copper. The needle, when inserted through the victim’s ear, was long enough to reach through and puncture the opposite ear drum. An opaque bulb sat atop its other half, where the memories of one-thousand lives swirled in perpetuity, held fast by the magic of the artifact. He would miss it a great deal, but all of his possessions were expendable in pursuit of the high priesthood.

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RotE Cover Reveal

Title: Rise of the Europan

By: Various Authors

Release Date: Nov. 30th, 2015

RotE Syn

For 500 years human exploration of space has gone largely unchallenged. Now, deep in the ocean beneath the crust of Jupiter’s moon Europa, something is stirring…a power both ancient and wholly alien, moving in the dark places. Its power is unimaginable, its rage inexhaustible and its goal clear; to eradicate humanity.

RotE front cover

There’s the cover. I’ve already seen it before today, but I still get a rush of psychotic joy every time I look at it. Huge thank you to Gavin Revitt for designing that. It’s an awesome piece of art to set the stage for this collection.

Do you have any idea how excited I am for this? DO YOU?!

Well, just in case it isn’t clear by now, I am over the moons (yes, all of them) about this book. Now that we’re almost there, I find myself having tiny moments of spontaneous HOLY-SHIT-ITS-REAL-AND-ITS-SOON, sometimes accompanied by spastic arm-flailing and/or crazed laughter. It’s a good thing no one sees me when I get like that.

Here’s some teasers for a few of the stories in the book, including mine, courtesy of Tracy Vincent…

RotE teasersRotE_teaser_dan1RotE Damian1RotE Don2

The ebook version of Rise of the Europan is available for pre-order on Smashwords. The paperback will be out on the official release date.

I’ll be posting more about the release as it approaches, so check back here for updates and features on the book ahead of  November 30thDryden House Publishing.SCR PRIMER

The Dryden Experiment

 

 

 

November 5, 2015 marked the two-year anniversary of my blog. To celebrate, both “Specimen 25” and “Catch and Release” are free on Amazon on Nov. 6 – 7!

Thank you to everyone who’s followed this blog and read my ramblings. I know it’s been an inconsistent couple of years here, sometimes I went months without posting anything. That’s going to change, though. I have a new weekly feature on Wednesdays, I’ll have more book reviews coming soon, and a whole bunch of extras for the release of Rise of the Europan. Here’s a question for people reading this: Is there anything you’d like to see on this blog? If you got anything, let me know in the comments.

I’ve been busy with work, so this caught me off-guard. I wouldn’t have even recognized the occasion without the little reminder notification on my dashboard. I probably should have planned something for this milestone, but it’s way too late for that. My hope is that you’ll take this opportunity to download a story or two, if you haven’t already read those yet.

Please help spread the word, and if you miss the promotion this weekend, you’ll have another chance later this month before my new story comes out on the 30th.

Look for more on Rise of the Europan soon…

In order to provide more regular content for my blog, I’m going to take some advice from Tracy Vincent, the editor of Dryden House and a fellow author in Rise of the Europan. So, it’s Work-In-Progress Wednesdays. Obviously, I didn’t invent this practice; plenty of other authors have been doing this kind of thing on their blogs for a while. If you’re not familiar with concept, though, it’s pretty basic. I’ll talk about one of my current stories or writing projects every week, giving updates and samples from various stages of the process.

A majority of my posts on the blog here lately have dealt with my stories for The Dryden Experiment. However, I’m still working on my solo projects, including a handful of stories for The Aldirnföld Cycle.

One of those stories is titled “New Jobs,” and it’s a first look at some of the other characters, whose stories are set in an entirely different world than the one introduced in “Specimen 25” and “Catch and Release.” The action takes place in a world where science and technology have grown beyond what is logical and into the realm of fantasy: humans there have discovered the existence of other universes, they harness insane amounts of energy to fuel their latest experiments, and they’ve learned to create fully-autonomous AI that regulate their daily life in high-tech supercities. There’s one nation that refuses to grow in regards to its culture and social structure, living under a hybridized form of oligarchy in which powerful ruling families act as the representatives for entire populations. The rule of law is enforced by these generational constructs, with the oldest families having more influence throughout the land. Enemies abroad have kept the worst of their internal rivalries to a minimum, but secret alliances and shadow wars are routine.

When we meet the new faces in this story, it’s not immediately clear how their lives and their universe share a connection to what’s happening with Carter and Imaðir, or to the series’ eponymous locale, Aldirnföld. There’s a twist at about, eh, the halfway point, that makes those connections a little clearer.

The premise: Stearn is a former assassin and trusted adviser to Harmen Trunk, an accomplished investor, CEO, and leader of an international organized crime family. When Harmen invites him to a meeting at one of his private warehouses and tells him there’s a new assignment waiting, Stearn is excited for an opportunity to increase his payday–he’s got two kids that are almost ready to start their specialized schooling. He’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that his children don’t have to live the same violent lifestyle he did.

Even though I’m still writing the first draft, I thought I’d share some of the rough text with you. Consider this a window into my raw story material, and be aware that any and all of it might be cut from the final story. This is part of a scene early in the story, just after Stearn has arrived at the warehouse.

Read on below, let me know what you think. Comments and criticism are welcome!

“Let me try that again,” I said. “What does the portal have to do with me?”

“Ah, a much easier question. You’ll be using it to get to your destination. Part of that new job I mentioned to you.”

I was afraid he’d say that. “Somehow, I knew you were gonna say that.”

“This won’t be a problem, will it?’ he said, as if my having a problem with it would matter one bit.

“Have you tested it?”

Harmen nodded at me. “It’s safe. You’ll come out the other side feeling just fine.”

I glanced up at the tendrils of electricity running across the portal’s face. Standing so close to it, I found it difficult to focus on anything else—I’m pretty sure the thrumming sound it produced was causing my teeth to vibrate some.

“Feeling fine?” I said. “Or actually fine?”

“You might get a headache, but that’s about it.”

I grunted in reply. I got worse than headaches just from taking a day off and staying at home with my wife. “It won’t be a problem, then.”

“Good,” he said. “Do you remember the first one I built? You and I took a little trip to that world where we got lost in a park and had to ask the pigeon-lady for directions?”

“How could I forget?” I’d wanted to smack him that night. Dragging me over to some foreign universe, without even knowing what we’d find on the other side. “That’s where this one goes, right?”

“Yes.”

Why did he always insist on making me drag information out of him? Nothing short of pseudo-interrogation would produce the answers I needed to get.

“So, what am I doing over there?” I said. “Will I need to bring any of my gear?”

By gear, I meant weapons. I was never the type to carry around a hundred gadgets. If you couldn’t get the job done with a pistol or a pair of fists, I probably wasn’t the right guy to call.

“You’ll be making deliveries to the other side,” Harmen said. “No need to bring your weapons, unless you’d prefer to.”

“What am I dropping off? Drugs?”

Harmen smiled at me. “You’re so subtle, Stearn. It’s something I’ve always admired you for. Yes, it’s drugs. What else do you want to know?”

“Why did the portal need to be so goddam big?”

He laughed and turned away from the portal. “Follow me, my friend. I’ll show you why I made it so goddam big.”

Harmen led me over to a different part of the warehouse, where he stopped in front of a large object covered by a thick black sheet. “What’s that?” I said.

“Have a look for yourself.”

I pulled the sheet away, sending a thin cloud of dust up, and revealed a gleaming set of wheels hiding underneath. The make and model came from another time, but the parts were all new. I took a step back and examined it. “Is this what I think it is?” I said. “It’s a—”

“A box with wheels,” Harmen said. A huge grin erupted on his face, a rare but true expression of delight from a man not known for his smiles.

He surprised a big laugh out of me: that was an old joke between us. One night, maybe ten years prior, Harmen had asked me what the most important piece of equipment I’d need for a job was, aside from a weapon.

I need a box with wheels, I’d said to him, that gets me where I’m going and back.

Another year is almost over. Really, once we hit November… well, everything’s a blur after that. This post is an early attempt at reviewing my progress of the past year, but it’s not at all comprehensive, because the next two months will probably be my busiest yet. Anyhow, forgive me if this entire post seems scattershot.

How did I do this year? I’d say, at least to this point, I’d probably get a B – or B. Mixed results when it comes to my writing (including this blog) and reading goals, but I do have a new story coming out at the end of this month in Rise of the Europan. I’ve wanted to collaborate with others for a long time, it’s always been one of my personal goals, and I’m happy to achieve that. I got to work on a fun project with a talented group of authors, building a collection of stories set in the same universe and focused around a common event. This is the kind of amazing experience that I’ve always imagined I could have as a writer.

It’s fucking great–I really don’t know how else to say it without using a bunch of boring superlatives. No matter how many things I did or did not check off my to-do list, working on RotE officially made this my most successful year to date. It marks the second time I’m being published this year, which means I doubled my output from the previous year. It’s a small step in the long-term, but I’m taking a moment to appreciate it. I know there’s a long path for me to travel, and that in some ways it gets more difficult as I strive to improve on my craft. However, I’ve gained more experience in the past (almost) two years than I did in the ten prior to those.

In terms of volume, sheer amount of words written, I wanted to do more this year. I understand why it didn’t happen, and I know it’s something I can build on over time. That being said, I still have two months left in 2015, and I intend to write as much as possible before they’re through. My goal for this month is to write at least two rough drafts, one of which I’m chipping away at already and another that I’ll jump into as soon as the first is finished.

I’ve currently got about 3,300 words down for “Blooded,” which is a story I’m writing for Dryden Nightmares. So far, I’m having a great time writing it. Some of what’s in the story: a dark god trapped in space, a blood priest’s quest to achieve a high rank, bizarre landscapes filled with all manner of nasty, and a series of dream-visions.

Once I’ve completed that draft, then I’ll need to make a decision about which one to attempt next. I have no shortage of options, since my writer-brain refuses to stop coming up with more ideas and just let me finish the projects I already have! That’s actually a good “problem” to have. Right now, I’m leaning toward a story I started writing a few months ago and never finished; but I’m not going to say anything else on that subject, because I’ll be starting a new feature on this blog tomorrow, and in it I’ll be talking about that exact story.

I considered trying NaNoWriMo again this year, especially since I didn’t succeed in finishing the novel I began last November, but I’ve decided to set some goals that are more realistic for me at the moment, considering how much I’ll be working during the day for the rest of the year. My daily writing goal this November is to write at least 750 words a day (not including anything I write for the blog), and a really good day is when I exceed 1,000 words. It’s only a few days into the month, but I’ve been able to meet that goal to this point. For me, it’s not about writing a ton every day. I chose 750 words because its very manageable and I am positive that I’ll make the goal most days. Consistency is an important step in producing more, because it provides the conditions for success. If I push myself to write every day, eventually those words will add up to something substantial.

Until then, it’s like training myself to walk, strengthening those muscles. Except it’s one word in front of the other, no feet required.