Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Starting Over the Bridge (Progress notes, and a teaser ...)

Crossed what I currently presume to be the 10% mark of the novel this week.  It's starting to come.  I'm still on the upslope of the process, and not quite at the tipping point, where the story gets its hooks in me and I start writing on napkins, receipts and parking tickets, but I feel that point is out there, and I'm closer.

With that - I'm doing two things here - one is to temporarily shelve plans for the "Dumb writing" thing I mentioned in my previous post.  I'm still convinced it'll be fun to do, but with progress happening in the big story, I'd be an idiot to be the author of my own distraction.

Secondly, I'm happy enough with the story so far, that I'm posting a small taste below. 

What you need to know to make sense of this: Bad things are happening on the Titan-Atlantic Bridge.  Jack Becker has been hired to investigate the bad things.


"Bridgetown" - Chapter 5 (excerpt)

At the centre of the scene, Jack saw two men in long raincoats that read “Coroner” standing by a rubber-wheeled robot cart. The cart was stopped in front of the open storehouse door. Jack lifted his arm in a wave of greeting, but the Coroners ignored him, engrossed in their own conversation.

Just inside the storehouse was a short, stocky man in an expensive looking vinylette coat, looking along the ground with a flashlight. Without looking up, he said, “Took you long enough Kensit. I called over a half-hour ago.” The voice was high-pitched and nasally. It instantly grated on Becker’s nerves.

Kensit stiffened, “Ah, yes, Agent Maxwell, but you see, I was just that moment collecting your colleague here. As that was the reason for your call, I thought arriving without him would have been ... counterproductive.”

Maxwell’s response was terse and immediate, “He’s not a colleague – he’s one step away from a psychic. But it’s your company’s jurisdiction, so we’ll play by your rules, for the time being.”

Becker flushed, and began to step forward, “Just wait a second,” he said, “I was told my help was needed out here.” He was standing next to the trolley now and looked over at Kensit. “If you and the ‘big boys’ don’t want to share your sandbox, I’m happy to turn around. The playoffs start this weekend, and I’ve got a fridge full of beer with my name on it.”

Kensit coughed nervously, “Mr. Becker, please. My employers have already gone to considerable expense to bring you here. Your assistance is most assuredly ...”

“Stay and help, Becker, or go,” said Maxwell, “But can we please stop talking about it and get something done while the day is still light-grey?”

If I had a voice like yours, Jack thought, I’d talk as little as possible too. He was standing next to the trolley now, and for the first time, he looked in. His breath escaped in a low moan.

“Lovely, isn’t it?” said Maxwell, finally walking over. Jack looked up, and the sight of the agent’s face almost forced out the scream he’d stifled on seeing the ruin in the cart. Maxwell was a fair-skinned man with sandy brown hair, meticulously styled in slicked back finger-waves. The shirt under his jacket looked immaculate, and expensive. From the neck down, and hairline up, Maxwell was a stylish, even dapper looking man. However, the effect was torn to shreds by the gigantic metallic iris that opened and closed where his right eye should be. The hard metal cylinder filled the top-left quadrant of the man’s face. As Becker watched, the eye opened and closed in quick succession before seeming to narrow focus on him.

“Take a good look,” the man said, “It’s as useful as it is ugly.” He tapped once on the casing, “I can process the entire spectrum of light, including infra-red; and record images with gigapixel clarity. Now, let’s see what they’re paying you for.” His tone was light, but Jack could see that the good humour didn’t extend to the man’s one normal eye. Maxwell joined Becker beside the cart and they surveyed the carnage together.

Becker stated the obvious, “That doesn’t look like a shipwreck victim.”

The mangled body inside the cart was recognizable as a fisherman only by the remnants of the olive green slicker that he was wearing. His features, and every other bit of exposed skin were obscured by viscous, clotted blood. The body was resting on its back with the legs shoved in after it. Becker pulled on a pair of inspection gloves from his pocket, and Maxwell said, “What are you doing? You’re not going to be able to move anything, rigor has already set in.”

“Then why is the body still here?” asked Becker, trying to keep the annoyance from his voice. “What have you been doing?”

Maxwell looked up at him, the servo-motors in his eye whirred as the iris narrowed to a pinpoint. “Let’s get one thing straight here, ghostbuster. I’ve been on this barren pie plate for over two months now, my entire wardrobe smells like fish, and sycophantic jerks like this guy here,” he nodded at Kensit, “are what pass for intelligent discourse. Not to mention the fact it took forty of the last sixty minutes to get the civilians out of here. No crowd control at all.” He directed that in Kensit’s direction as well, before picking up his tirade at Becker once again, “I know damned well how to run a murder investigation, Becker, and seeing as how this cart rolled out of that storehouse not sixty minutes ago, I was checking inside for evidence that may possibly degrade.” Maxwell slammed a hand down on the cart; Jack heard the thud of metal on metal and made a mental note. The eye wasn’t the man’s only prosthesis. The agent continued, “This body’s not going anywhere.”

Jack indicated the two men from the Coroner’s office, “You could’ve let them take it.”

That sent Maxwell off again, “Look, you parasite, I’m here under authority of the U.N. and Interpol. You’ve been brought in as someone’s pet idea to help the real police along. I will not have my methods questioned by the likes of you. You’re a tick on the dog’s ass.” He advanced toward Jack, who retreated one step, but no more. Maxwell pushed his finger heavily into Jack’s chest, “I’m going to say this one last time, in case you’re as slow as you look – either assist me, or get out of my way. There’s no third option. You are not running this investigation.”

Jack rubbed his chest. Maxwell’s hand was definitely metal. Kensit was staring at him, expecting him to explode probably. They’d known each other just long enough for his temper to be a known issue. Instead, Becker looked calmly at Maxwell and grinned broadly. “You’re pretty testy when you’ve got no leads, huh?” Clapping Maxwell once, lightly, on the shoulder, he leaned over the cart and said, “It’s a ritual killing; probably it’s starting up to either encourage or pacify someone’s god. Look at the way the flesh is ridged there and there. Someone’s been carving away at him. Hard to tell more than that right now, unless that thing,” he indicated Maxwell’s eye, “sees through blood too?”

Friday, May 7, 2010

The "Dumber Than a Bag of Hats" Event - Preliminary Phase

So, I'm working the novel, and taking time now and again to check with some of the masters of the craft (vis-a-vis some really great books), and the idea of "exercises" struck a note.

Once, I was in a writing class where the assigned exercise was to "write a story with no meaning whatsoever".  The point was to try your best to be as nonsensical as possible; with the result being that it is nearly impossible to keep meaning out of your writing; so it's best to just go with it.

I started to wonder recently, if this might translate to something else - what if you were instructed to write the WORST piece of fiction you've ever penned? I mean awful.  Use every cliche, stilted metaphor, and hackneyed expression you can get your hands on.  If I'm right, by forcing yourself to use all these, you become acutely aware of them, and the stuff you really want to write can only get better.  My second theory is that the stories will be funny as hell.

Interested? Leave a comment below if you'd like to give this a try, and pass it around as you see fit. If we get 5 or more, it's a go, if not, then this post may be dismissed as the ramblings of a writer working on a chapter-transition problem.  If it goes, I'll post more info, including how to send the stories.

For structure's sake, we'll say a hard cap of 500 words (remember, we're going for awful, so that's about as much as you'd want to see.)  As a prompt, we'll go with "Hats."

Prizes? Probably not; though I've got access to Photoshop, and could likely whip up a blog badge for the winner (and participants).