Tuesday, August 14, 2012


This month, much like on my plate as a child, the Peas have been scattered. We miss each other terribly and look forward to getting back into the swing of weekly meetings again. Alas, we have just been too busy with vacations and various other things for that to happen yet. Which means convening to discuss upcoming blog posts has been, well... impossible.

In fact, M and J don't even know they've left me unattended in the pod today. *mischievous chuckle* And since I have the run of the place, I thought I would share with you the progress I've made in my latest story -- one you might be familiar with -- as a look into the creative process of beginning a novel.

As you may remember, a while back the Peas had a game pod: flash fiction using story dice. For that flash fiction, I imagined a boy with a very strange shadow. I had no intention of going any further with it at the time, but J and M {and others'} enthusiastic response to it spurred me to look deeper and see if there was a novel-length-sustaining plot inside it. About 10 minutes after my plot investigation began, I had the whole thing mapped out. And so I started writing it.

Interesting to note... I've read numerous times about how every story an author writes is different -- has its own set of challenges, comes about in different ways -- basically, that a new story can completely wipe out a writer's perceived "routine" in the way he or she writes. But I had no idea how true that was until I began writing this story. In The Onyx Vial {the novel I'm currently shopping around}, the words abounded. The world filled in with vivid colors and sparkling details and characters whose voices flowed onto the page with ease. But the plot tripped me up far too often, morphing many times over several years. This new story, however, handed over the plot without a fight. A startling and welcome change. And while the main character came fully realized, writing him -- with his distinct voice -- has caused me to plod through my writing, usually allowing me only a paragraph or two at a time. For whatever reason, the words come slowly. Which means that while there is progress, it's small.

Now, to the good stuff. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you {the rough first draft beginnings of}:


No one ever tells you to be wary of your shadow. Why should they? It’s your constant companion. Trustworthy. Reliable. With you through everything, even when you can’t see it. So, what happens when it peels itself from the ground, grows claws and horns, and starts hissing fork-tongued whispers in your ear?
No one ever tells you to watch out for you shadow because no one has ever had one possessed. Until now.
My name is Finnegan Lonan, and I have a demon tethered to my skin.
In fact, it’s sitting beside me right now, watching me write this to you.
Having a demon shadow isn’t painful. Not physically, anyway. The only harm it can cause is psychological.
Lucky me.
Hey, after all, my shadow is the one possessed. I’m just fine... aside from the fact that it stalks me, lurking, murmuring, reciting my fears over and over and over.
Such a joy to have around, my shadow.
But don’t be fooled by how well we get along. I’ve tried to force it away. I’ve planted myself directly in the sun, where only happiness could possibly survive -- where darkness withers under my feet -- and allowed myself to believe this is all some dream. But time -- like the sun across the sky -- passes, and soon my shadow drags itself up and faces me. The truth is painfully clear. I will never be free of it. Not until I find the key to unlocking the shackles that bind us.
I can see it even now -- the demon’s keyhole tattoo on my wrist, marking where the shackles appeared those first few hours. It will never leave me, and we both know it.
So loyal, my shadow.
I can feel the weight of the ancient book in my lap. It gets me wishing I could read the language, wishing I could use it to do more than send the demon hissing and recoiling into the farthest recesses of my shadow’s edges.
“What did I do to deserve you?”
My shadow flashes a razor-sharp grin and sticks out its snake-tongue.
It doesn’t know. Even now, after all I’ve learned, I don’t think I know either.
Let me catch you up to speed.

It was a dark and stormy night…
Actually, it was the following morning.
The point is, it had been raining.
The sky was unusually dark for two-thirty in the afternoon, the sidewalks were slick and the crappy, uneven roads were choked with deep puddles. Despite my natural grace, there was no avoiding soaking the hems of my brand new pants (not that they were anything special when dry) as I made my way to the public library.
I love the library. There are so many books, I could never plausibly read them all in my lifetime. So the entertainment is unlimited. It’s also cheap. As in free. Which is perfect, because I’m always broke.
Anyway, so, it was March third, and I was walking to the library, lost in thoughts of… well, it’s not important who what I was thinking of. What’s important is that it was March third, a completely regular -- albeit damp -- and utterly forgettable day. Except that when something like a possession occurs in your life, you tend not to forget it.
Like I said, March third.
When I reached the library steps, a chill drove through me. At the time, I accounted it to the errant gusts of the reluctantly dispersing storm clouds. I should’ve taken it as a warning. No. An omen.
Instead, oblivious to my looming future misery, I entered that damned library’s giant gothic doors and made my way to the librarian, Hilda’s, counter.
I shouldn’t blame the library. It wasn’t damned any more than I was. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
You see, I’d been going through this giant, six-story library for years, level-by-level, stack-by-stack, shelf-by-shelf, picking out any and every book that caught my interest. So it was a great and terrible misfortune that on March third, at three-thirty-three in the afternoon, I was standing on level three, in the middle of aisle three.
There I was, perusing the titles on shelf three, when I heard the ear-piercing shriek of the librarian. I turned to see what was wrong, except that I didn’t.
Despite my mind’s commands, my body wouldn’t move. I felt a thick, icy sludge fill me -- as though I were a mold and it was anti-lava pouring in the empty shell of me. It happened so fast my heart literally stopped beating.
I gasped for breath. I swear it. But my lungs sunk in on themselves and my eyes inflated, threatening to pop out of their sockets. And then I sneezed…
Seriously. I couldn’t make this up.
…The feelings were gone, and I was turned around, facing the balcony. I ran straight to it, peering over the edge at Hilda’s desk.
“She’s dead,” a voice in my head sneered.
But even as it spoke my eyes locked on her. As always, she was leaning on the counter, nose buried in a book, humming softly.
I started to ask her why she’d screamed, but my voice stopped short.
A cloud passed, letting a thin stream of sunlight fall through the glass dome ceiling -- casting my shadow on the floor two stories below me, where it thickened like tar and peeled itself off the clean marble floor, staring at me with hellfire in its blood red eyes.
At which point, I -- Finnegan Lonan, a boy well through puberty -- screamed like a five-year-old girl.
My proudest moment.
The sound startled Hilda right off her chair.
I meant to back away, but my legs were locked in place. My shadow swelled with the changing light, cackling softly as Hilda righted herself and whirled on me.
If she felt any concern for my well-being, it must have passed her face when I wasn’t looking. The moment her eyes met mine, she was seething. “What is the matter with you, Finnegan?” she screeched.
I looked into my shadow’s eyes, then back at hers. For a minute, I would argue, they were both possessed.
“Yes. What is the matter?” my shadow asked, tilting its head with mock concern. A gesture only half as frightening as the mirth that smeared across its face a moment later… The moment I realized two very awful things:
One, that this fiend had made the sneering inner voice of mine its own. And two, that it was only visible to me.
“That’s a startlingly simple question,” I muttered.
“Well then?” Hilda pressed, oblivious to my sarcasm.
My shadow swirled on the floor as a cloud obscured the sunlight, and then it was beside me, stretched lazily across the banister. I looked at it, at a loss for words, and still -- I’ll admit -- scared out of my soggy socks.
It lay there, chin in claw-like hands, feigning innocence and interest with wide, cartoon-deer-like eyes.
I’ll give it this, my shadow is one hell of an actor. I swear, that thing conjured a sparkle in its freakishly cute red eyes, and may have even piped Disney music into my skull.
But it didn’t mask its pointed teeth when it smiled, and I shuddered -- released from my frozen state of fear.
Able, once again, to function, I returned my focus to Hilda. “There’s a demon on the banister.”
My shadow snickered, but I ignored it, praying that Hilda might take me seriously.
Her eyebrows got all scrunchy, her lips caught between a frown and a laugh. “You’re reading too many books, Finnegan,” she said.
Yes. The Librarian said that.
“Scream like that again,” Hilda went on, “and you better be buried under a fallen stack. Otherwise, I will ban you for life.” With that, she turned her back on me.
I was on my own.
Well… but not.
I didn’t know what else to do. So I walked away from the banister. From my shadow. Hoping, foolishly, that it wouldn’t follow.
As I drifted toward the stacks at the far corner, away from the sunlight, my shadow crept behind me. Sunlight winked from my left arm, directing my eyes to the second-most unnerving sight of that day: white-gold shackles, the weight of heaven’s light -- ironically -- hung around my scrawny wrist. My eyes followed the chain, each link growing darker, less reflective, until it was nothing but a fuzzy matte-black blur disappearing into my shadow’s turbulent shape.
I stopped. Tugged at the shackles. The edge of my shadow shifted, puckering where the chain attached. I waved my hand. My shadow gave me a rude gesture back. I jerked my arm up above my head, yanking my shadow like the corner of a bed sheet. The fiend growled.
“What you think you’ll accomplish with that?” I could hear the smugness in its -- my -- voice.
“Irritating you, at least.”
Oh, how much simpler things would be if I’d just been talking to myself. If I’d gone crazy. But, no. I had my wits about me.
I was staring a piece of Hell in the face, and instead of running, instead of looking for a way out, I was having a conversation with it.
It’s no wonder things with haven’t worked out.
“What in God’s name is this?” I asked, pointing at the shackles.
“What the Hell it is, you mean,” the fiend replied.
A sense of humor. Boy, had I lucked out.
I scowled. “What. Is. It?”
My heart sank into the roiling acid of my stomach. I may have looked up in desperation.
My shadow chuckled.
I chose to ignore this. “Why?” I asked, still looking at the underside of the floor above me. I may have been asking God, but it was the devil’s minion that answered.
“Wouldn’t want you wandering off without your shadow.”
I dropped my gaze to the fiend’s.
Looking back, I recognize the terror that washed so slowly over me, building in feather-thin layers, not yet powerful enough to radiate through my skin, but enough to rattle my insides.
“Not these,” I lifted my shackled-wrist. “Why any of it?” It was the middle of the day -- in a quiet, well-lit library. For all accounts this wasn’t when possessions occurred. “Why… the shadow?” I was hesitant to bring this up. Afraid this would be misconstrued as an invitation for it to abandon my shadow and jump to my body. But I was being ridiculous. That was Vampires and houses.
Fear is so unaccommodating to intelligent thought.

*Title subject to change.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for picking up the slack, A! I love this story. Any progress is good progress. ;)