It was five minutes after the last dish had been scrubbed on Thanksgiving when Christmas made itself known in our home.
"Ah, there it is. My house. And good old Cleveland Street. How could I ever forget it? And there I am, with that dumb round face and that stupid stocking cap. But no matter. Christmas was on its way.
Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas...around which the entire kid year revolved."
The first, of what will be MANY showings of A Christmas Story had begun.
Spent the last few days relaxing--my children (although at 20 and 16 years old, they can hardly be called children any more) were in Boston for a week. No writing got done--but there was a ukulele concert given by my daughter and we all saw Dr. Strange (awesome) and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (also awesome--author Anton Stout posted on FB that "Fantastic Beasts was the best Doctor Who episode he'd ever seen" and my son and I agreed).
Doctors appointments--the "Never Ending Saga of Pain"--continued as well.
So Today (Tuesday) is catch up on business, chores and finally getting back to he writing. I have some work on Scoundrels to do for Emmett and of course I need to finish up Act 2 of Empress. The final edits for my Christmas Nightmares story are done and that anthology comes out in two weeks.
Holidays are always wonderful, but it's now time to get back to the writing. Two deadlines loom in December...and they seem way closer this side of Thanksgiving.
Haven't updated you all in a couple of days so I thought I'd post a quick few words. So the #NaNoWriMo goal I set for myself has been achieved. Over 50k words before the American Thanksgiving holiday. Interestingly enough, I'm only about 3/4 of the way through Act 2. The key will be making the habit of NaNo stick through to the end of Empress.
A few other things going on...Emmett and I are still going back and forth on Scoundrels and it's an awesome thing. We are tossing ideas at each other and the story is nearly there. We expect to have it ready for an editor in December (It'll be a 40k Steampunk/heist story Novella) so I'll need to hit up the network to see if anyone has a bit of editing time near the Christmas holiday. After a week of self-doubt, I sent Ink Washed Cat (originally published this year in Once Upon a Cursed Time) in for jury consideration by the Horror Writer's Association. Just taking the step to submit the story was huge; whether or not it goes beyond the consideration stage is another story entirely.
The as-of-yet-untitled ghost story hums along. It'll be a short one--2,000 words or so. I'd like to have it ready for submission to Gamut when their window opens again December 1st, but we'll see. I'll get Richard to take on one of my stories yet!
A few months ago, I mentioned that Thanksgiving in the Park was accepted into an anthology coming out in early 2017 with Wicked Ink Books. I've just put the final edits in place for the publisher and at long last that story is locked.
What a nice sequel into Thanksgiving--my children arrived last night for the holiday. It's the first time I've seen them both together since last years hospital stay...so I admit I became rather emotional when I saw them at Logan airport last night. We are all heading out to see Doctor Strange shortly so more in tomorrow's holiday post.
Crossed the 40k word count mark...in the home stretch as far as NaNo is concerned. But I'm just halfway through the second act. The Prodigal's Foole was just a hair under 90,000 words and I expect the same for The Empress' Curse.
The second act is having some issues...and I'll need to go back and fix them at some point. It's dragging...and I'm not sure if it's just me trying to info-dump or what.
One of the criticisms I received in the first book was the lack of explanation of how the magic system worked. I did that deliberately--Symon was coming back into a world he thought he knew, but it was very different then he'd been taught. That discovery was to happen more in book 2...brilliant idea except for the fact it's taken me 5 years and counting to get it out there.
So I'm working through that. Anyway, thought I'd share a flashback scene with you this week--although I'm reasonably sure this might become one of the "discarded" chapters. This first bit It takes place in the mid 80's on the frozen planes of Antartica. Tomorrow, a bit from Christmas future. Enjoy!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The American team in this snippet are from McMurdo base and had arrived in time to see a large, transport take off.
The Vostok teams were nowhere to be found.
The Americans followed the rail and came to a natural amphitheater, illuminated by heavy work lights. The room was massive—fifty feet high and nearly two hundred feet around.
But it wasn’t the chamber that caught everyone’s attention. It was the bodies.
Soviet soldiers in heavy winter gear lay dead over the floor. There were dozens of them. Each had an AK-47 or similar automatic rifle lying on or near their bodies. Upon inspection, it was obvious that the weapons had been fired…continuously.
There were bullet holes everywhere and the entire chamber smelled of death and gun powder.
“Jesus H. Christ,” said Rivers. “What the hell happened?”
“Looks like they were all firing at this,” called one of rivers men. Stevenson looked and the man and saw what he’d missed upon arriving amidst the carnage. A large carved box, a sarcophagus maybe, sat in shadow near the middle of the chamber. The work lights that had been near it had all been smashed and glass mixed with the frozen blood of the Soviet military men. Dr. Stevenson hurried over to take a closer look. He knelt down a saw that there were intricate carvings on the outside of the box, chipped away by high caliber weapons fire. The top of the sarcophagus lay ten feet away and the inside was smooth and very empty.
“What were they shooting at?” mused Stevenson. But before he could think any more about it, Rivers called to him from the left.
“Doc, come here.”
Stevenson hurried over, his brain still trying to wrap around the chaos and mystery. Rivers was kneeling at one of the bodies.
“Yuri,” muttered Stevenson.
“L-T!” called one of the SEALS “We need to get out of here!”
Both Rivers and Stevenson swung around toward the voice. The lieutenant was looking at a point about ten feet off the ground. The light from his gun-mounted torch illuminated a grayish rectangle mounted on the wall. There was a little blinking red light.
“The place is wired!”
“Out,” shouted Rivers “Now!”
“No time doc. We have to move!”
The men ran for the elevator. Once they’d all scrambled inside, Rivers slammed the button and the lift began to rise. They never made it. There was a blinding flash, a roar of sound and tons of rock collapsed, flattening the elevator and the men inside.
The Australians arrived an hour later to find an abandoned American plane, an empty Russian base and a smoldering scar in the rock face that might have been an entrance to a mine. It would take the Americans, Soviets and Australians three months to find the bodies. All the archeological treasures in the amphitheater had been obliterated in the blast and subsequent cave in. No one knew about the sarcophagus, or the Soviet transport that had escaped with the tomb’s occupant.
Sorry about no post last night. Thought I'd do two to make up for it.
Crushed it yesterday with over 4,000 words--best day in a long, long time. Really excited going into Act 2, very pleased with the draft of Act 1 now completed. There will be editing...but that's a December thing. For now, propelling the story forward is the goal. So let me give you a taste of what's been written over the past few days...
I awoke in a dark, damp...space. I had no idea the size of the room, as the darkness was so complete, it didn't really matter if my eyes were open or shut.
A dirt floor lay beneath me, and the coolness of it felt wonderful against my temple. Somewhere in the distance I could hear the slow, echoing reverberations of water dripping at a constant rate--three seconds between drips, I counted. I sat up, and regretted it immediately as my headache spiked. I sat, rocking for a few minutes as the pain subsided to a dull ache, willing the urge to vomit from the pain to recede with headache. Finally, I was able to move. I felt around and came upon a rock wall. It felt fairly smooth, as if it had been mostly carved from the bedrock, but never finished.
"Not sure if this is real, or another dream," I muttered aloud. My voice sounded slurred, like I'd finished half a bottle of Jack.
There was and electrical sound--a pop and hiss. "This is real Symon. Sorry for the accommodations, but bringing you here hadn't been the original plan. And we were followed..."
I know I promised you all a #NaNoWriMo update today. I have something a little more important on my mind, and I hope you'll bear with me.
See, a year ago today I died.
Weird, right? I mean if I were still dead it would be kind of hard to use an iPad to make this blog post.
I've been in recovery mode for nearly a year--people who don't really know me that well have been saying things like: "This is a big week...it might be tough. Are you ready?"
Fuck yeah, I'm ready.
I got a second chance at life. Of course I'm fucking ready. I don't have time to wallow in self pity.
I got to see my son's first year a college and my daughter participate in Water Polo at Harvard. I got to say "I love you" to my wife quite a few hundred more times. I quit cigarettes. I got to learn more about writing and to actually write--publishing three stories with two more already under contract for 2017. I read 65 more books. I lost 30 pounds. I spent more time with my family. I played with my cats. I worked at a shelter. I hugged a lot of people.
I got to see my dad one last time before he left us in March.
In short, I lived. Probably more than I have in years.
Yes, there are still challenges both physically and neurologically.
But I'm getting better.
So many people have been a part of this recovery...the list would go on for pages. Twenty doctors worked (and are still working on) my case, family and friends visited and encouraged me, work colleagues stayed in touch, author-friends who have been my inspiration...
...thank you all. You have no idea how grateful I am to have you in my life.
Today I celebrate the first anniversary of my passing.
May there be many more anniversaries in the future.
I'm getting through the final couple chapters of act one. Exciting stuff is happening and I find myself typing so fast I'm forgetting things like conjunctions, spaces and punctuation.
I really should have paid more attention in that typing class in high school.
Last night had a Skype call with a good man. Emmett Spain (a fellow writer and comic book fan) and I are working on an interesting piece. It's a steampunk/heist novella with the working title: Scoundrels of Paradise. I have to be honest--he and I laugh so much during these collaboration sessions that less gets done then we plan.
Spending the rest of the day/evening outlining, plotting, and generally making characters of mine spanning multiple genres rather miserable. Ah well, such is the life of a writer. Blame it on the strokes.
Here is a snippet of today's #NaNoWriMo work. Enjoy and be at peace.
“Symon!” shouted an angry voice with a familiar Irish lilt. “Wake up ye gob!”
My eyes flew open. The ring on my finger instantly transformed into the black staff, Celtic runes came to life with a pop and a hiss, burning an angry red.
I'd just started to get out of my seat when the world turned on its side. There was a horrendous metallic screech and a gut-wrenching lurch. My brian barely had time to register sheer terror as the Green line train jumped the track and plowed into the heavy Boston holiday traffic.
Well, not the end of the writing day, but I'm at a good stopping point on The Empress' Curse. About to start chapter 11 and that will be a wild ride to finish out Act One. See, I'm about to wreck a train.
The connotation and denotation of that sentence is deliciously apparent to me.
This evening, I have some work to do on my as of yet untitled Humans Wanted anthology submission--its nice to be putting together a SciFi short story for a change. Whether it's accepted or not--well, I need to get it in before 31 December before I can think about that. I also have a Skype session about my co-authored Steampunk heist story with the most talented Emmett Spain. And we have a working title already that we'll release when we are a bit further along. That has a deadline of 31 December as well.
Busy-busy. But here is a bit from today's work Enjoy and be at peace...
Again, I saw the seven towers. I entered the middle one, but at a run this time. I took the stairs two at a time, reaching the ornate brass entryway. I grabbed at the massive, dragon-shapped handles and threw the doors open. They swung silently, effortlessly. The first thing I saw was a fireplace, in it a log--it was nearly three feet around and eight feet long, is it still called a log at that point--crackled and hissed, bathing the room in light and warmth. A black stone floor (polished to the point that it resembled the still surface of a lake) reflected the flames.
By the giant hearth stood a man in simple, grey linen robes, his back to me.
“It’s been a while Symon. I’ve missed you. Shall we continue your lessons?”
The man turned around and I recognized, for the first time, that it was a young Eugene McGuire; former Cardinal and late head of the Pontifical order of the Magi.
“How very observant of you,” the young man smiled. “Being dead doesn’t necessary mean I can’t teach you anything, though. Come. Join my other pupil,” he said.
Perhaps you heard. We, in America, had a bit of an election on Tuesday. The results were...infuriating to me. Depressing.
I've been near catatonic since early Wednesday morning.
I have LGBTQ+ friends who have removed themselves from social media out of fear. I have another friend who's daughter was heckled and referred to with a racist slur just because she is black. The kid is eight.
There are other stories. But let me share one about my 16-year-old daughter.
She FaceTimed me last night in tears, terrified--like many of us--at an uncertain future.
"But what can *I* do?" She lamented.
"A lot," I told her. Get involved, learn about what it means to be a citizen of this country. Work hard to fight for what you believe in. Do good.
I blinked after I said that. Why aren't I already doing that myself? I thought.
I told her I loved her and that she is a powerful force, an intelligent, vibrant individual with so much to give. After we disconnected FaceTime, I started my research. I *could* do something. But what?
In Boston, there was an organization called "Crittenton Woman's Union" which is now "Economic Mobility Pathways" or EMPath for short. They work to help people through the fundamental values of inclusiveness, diversity, mutual respect, support, and learning.
I'm calling them in the morning to volunteer my services in any capacity in which they can use me.
Being an American is advanced citizenry. It requires hard work. Sometimes, there are tears involved.
But this is not a time to throw up your hands. This is not the time to "move to Canada." This is a time to roll up your sleeves. It's time to say no to hatred and make sure the worst of us do not get to the best of us. This election was a wake up call for action.
It will be hard, maybe even impossible to fight the threatening darkness.
But goddamn it I'm gonna try.
I'm getting involved. How about you?
‘But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.’