Friday, October 18, 2013

A New Book (with excerpt)

I'm currently writing my first contemporary since Xylophone. Tentative title: Resurrection Man. It's about a young guy whose first love was a victim of urban gun violence. To honor a promise he made, the youth, sporadically homeless himself, tries to look after his boyfriend's now-homeless stepfather, an aging black man who goes by the name of Dizzy and shuns shelters. 

I've worked out most of the details. Never fear, the young MC and his elderly companion will NOT be a romantic couple. 

So . . . here's Elijah Colter, introducing his story.



Prologue

“Dust is soil with the life sucked out of it.”

My great-grandpa Cyrus, born in southwestern Kansas in 1921, spent the early years of his life discovering this truth. He whittled away at the huge, shapeless horror that was the High Plains in the 1930s until he got down to something he could recognize, something that made sense to him. When he was in the middle of his growing-up years, Cy didn’t see anything as pure as what he thought Truth should be. He only saw mountainous dark goblins of grit fill the sky, over and over again. They lumbered in from whatever direction the wind determined, bearing down on homesteads and wheat fields, shedding scales of thick misery.

One typically parched afternoon beneath a typically brown-veiled sky, the local men gathered in town to consider hiring a rainmaker. Cy was at the meeting with his pa, although he wasn’t old enough to have too many opinions about too much of anything or to open his mouth and expect anyone to listen. By then they were three years into the invasion. The goblins kept coming with dismal regularity, kept dropping their deadly freight. A roller had just passed through a few days earlier. Each building looked gray and beaten. Even cavorting tumbleweeds were scarce. Farmers had been hoarding them to feed their withered cattle. And even to feed their families, when worse got to worst.  

But trying to bust water out of the sky with dynamite? Cy’s pa was dead-set against making so risky an investment. The Depression had settled in along with the dust. Money was tight. Besides, “The drouth ain’t the real problem,” he said to his neighbors. “We kilt the land. Dust is soil with the life sucked out of it. Dust is the earth’s haint.”

Bonanza Bill Lawton spoke up. “So what we s’posed to do? Persuade Jesus Christ to breathe life back into it?”

“We’ve all tried contacting him a thousand times,” a wag named Pokey Stiles drawled. “Seems he ain’t takin’ our calls.”

After their meeting, while the farmers jawboned a little more outside the feed store, Cy squatted and scooped up a handful of the powder that covered everything in sight. He let it sift through his perpetually dirty fingers as he thought of his father’s words. Finally, Truth appeared, right there in his palm.

The stretches of prairie his ma described so wistfully, the waving buffalo grass and rustling bluestem and nodding flowers, had lain belly-up for years. This dust was its ghost, relentless and punishing.

“’Spect you got every right to dog us,” he whispered.


So what form does the haint of a ruined life take? Maybe this form, blotchy-ink and smeared-pencil scrawls on mismatched pieces of paper. But they’re better than nothing. They’re better than the hole in my soul, and better than oblivion.  

Maybe.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Wow.


Winners will be announced in March.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Machine

Is finished (51,200 words as it stands). I sent it off today.

This final story in my fantasy-steampunk trilogy centers on Fanule Perfidor, the central character in Mongrel. He must confront unsettling truths about himself. They have to do with his illness (bipolar disease), strengths, weaknesses, and, most significantly, an aspect of his past he's never come to terms with. In the process, he puts his relationship with Will Marchman, and Will himself, in jeopardy.

Simon Bentcross goes through a similar ordeal. Although his storyline is secondary in this book, it mirrors Fanule's in many ways.

Most of Machine takes place in Taintwell. However, the Marvelous Mechanical Circus makes a farewell appearance, as does its "Gutter" or Caravan Park. Fanule's ghostly healer friend, Lizabetta, plays a significant role. More of her past, too, comes to light.

Throughout, things are not always what they seem. Villainy comes in unexpected forms; redemption, in unexpected ways. In the end, Lizabetta tells Fanule, "You know, dear Fan, you've not only earned your title, you've infused it with meaning. 'Eminence of Taintwell' no longer sounds pompous and silly. It sounds majestic. And it suits you." What's much more important to Fan, though, is being the finest man, and partner, he can be.

Here's an unedited excerpt.

The plaza was all but deserted by mid-afternoon. Sellers and speech-makers had begun trickling away just after lunch, when the throng of browsers thinned. Some visitors sought further entertainment within the Marvelous Mechanical Circus; others, their appetite for novelty sated, went elsewhere.
The affable inebriant Ernest Muggins simply got up, walked away from his table, and never returned. All he’d taken with him was his tin.

Will had just finished closing and locking his cart when a shadow fell over him, chilling the air. He looked up. Instantly, his breath caught.

The owner of the Spiritorium loomed beside him. As if that sight weren’t unnerving enough, the man fixed him with intense violet eyes. “You exude the scent of Quam Khar,” he said without introduction or preface. “It’s faint but still detectable. Yet, you’re not Quam Khar. You haven’t the depth or complexity. You haven’t the dark corners where broken wings beat.”

What on earth was he talking about? Dumbfounded, Will stared. He tried to assume a neutral expression, but he’d always failed miserably at concealing his reactions. “I… no, I’m not Quam Khar.” Surely, Will thought, he looked far too ordinary to have such an unusual name.

The man didn’t answer, didn’t move. “Who’s your wife?” He stated the question quite unabashedly, as if he had every right to ask it.

“N-no one. I’ve never been married. I’m a bachelor.”

The man’s eyes narrowed. Will’s insides shriveled. Coldly slicing into him, layer by layer, that surgical gaze seemed to go on forever. “Not lawfully wed, eh? Then you’re a fornicator who preys on Out-dwellers. That’s what you are. A user of the Bless├ęd Damned.” He took a step forward. “What’s her name?”

Will blinked as his befuddlement, and his discomfiture, deepened. “I beg your pardon?”

“The woman. What’s her name?”

“I’m afraid I have no idea to whom you’re referring.” Or what the hell you’re talking about! Trying to still his quaking hands, Will pulled up the handle of his cart. “Now I must take my leave of you, sir. I have other obligations.”

“No doubt.” The man inclined his head. “Perhaps we’ll meet again, Master Marchman.”

Not if I can help it, Will thought as he hastily pushed his much-lighter cart toward the Circus’s employee entrance.

He couldn’t wait to get home.