Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A little flash fiction for you

A few months ago, before I started the stretch run in GLORIOUS SLIP, I needed to get my fingers back into fiction mode after X amount of time away from it. This flash fiction piece was the result; I had seen a cartoon on Facebook depicting this scene, and I figured it was a good exercise to get the writing muscles re-attuned.

Hope you enjoy.

Copyright 2019, Sean Sweeney


Death Meets An Alien

Passing the TV, Bob flicked the porn off as he returned to his bed, feeling plenty lighter in his groin. He had just left the bathroom, content with his clean-up abilities for the present, the tissues wadded and sent to his septic tank. Traces of his seminal fluid remained on his skin, matting the thin hairs between his groin and navel to his body. He didn’t care about that; the cleaning job was to make sure that his baby-making goo didn’t coat the inside of his underwear and turn it into a crusty mess; the rest, he figured, would come off in the shower tomorrow morning.

“Ah, lesbians are like plumbers,” he said as he slid under the covers again. “They never cease to help clear my pipe.”

Bob’s head hit the pillow a heartbeat later. As soon as he closed his eyes, the scenes from the porno replayed over and over again as he drifted off, a dreamy smile tracing along his lips. He saw their bodies collide together, their legs scissoring as they mashed their groins against the other. He didn’t remember anything else after the duo separated and approached him; two pairs of breasts, full and fake and coming to rest alongside each other, came crashing down across his conscious self before sleep claimed him.

The heavy clunk of metal against the wall jolted Bob from his heavy slumber hours later, the breath catching in his throat as he jerked from the mattress. He didn’t make a move for the slick goop lingering in the corner of his eye, focused he was on the open door and the darkness beyond it.

“Hello?! Who’s there?!”

No answer came. Bob ground his teeth together.

“I’m calling the police!” he shouted.

“The police won’t help you.”

Bob felt the blood draining from his face, replaced by cold clamminess. The voice came through high-pitched and Arctic, and with such force that it felt all the air in the room had departed. He couldn’t help but notice just how his body shivered from hearing it; he clenched his buttocks almost on instinct, as if preventing his bowels from voiding its contents into his jammies.

The creature slipped into the bedroom a moment later, and Bob didn’t hear his floorboards shifting under the being’s weight. He heard nothing over the sound of his blood thundering in his inner ears.

But the being’s voice sliced through the din with utter sharpness, with the force of a razor grating against Bob’s nerves.

“I have come for you, Robert Wellington,” it said half a moment before the door closed of its own volition. “Your time has reached its end.”

Bob tried to speak. He did his best to pry open his jaws and let sounds flow, but the fright at the being’s presence — a long black cowl shielding its face from anyone’s gaze, along with the scythe it held in one bony hand — reverted him to mere babble. His throat felt as if a python had slithered across and held him within its mighty grasps, for his breath felt choked. His chest ached from the fierce beating his heart gave the inside of his sternum. He continued his lengthy shiver, even as he did his best to shrink underneath the heft of his comforter.

“Why?” Bob squeaked. He thought he had shouted the word, but it came through his lips like a whisper.

“Do not ask why,” the specter of death hissed. “Accept.” It moved forward, easing itself toward Bob’s left foot. It lowered the scythe, almost bringing it parallel to the bed. “Accept. Your soul is mi—”

Crack. The door flung itself open again, the knob driving into the wall. This time, the angel of death spun to see who dared intrude; Bob glanced that way and saw rays of bright light streaming into his room — along with fog rolling and rising.

Bob blinked.

What the f—? he thought, his mind spinning.

The fog cloud grew in size and density until it filled the threshold to Bob’s bedroom. Bob blinked again, then glanced at the specter; it kept whatever served as its gaze fixed on the doorway.

Can I get away? he wondered. Its concentrations are now elsewhere; surely I can slide out of bed, open a window, crawl out, and shimmy down the drainpipe. And without making a single noise.

The thought disappeared as eerie tones resembling a long, throaty whistle purred from the hall. The resonance made Bob recall the times he watched War of the Worlds, right before —

He sought out the bedclothes and grasped them, hard, until the cartilage in his knuckles popped.

Then, Bob stared deep into the fog as it shifted, and through the vapor stepped an extra terrestrial, an alien, its ovoid head and beady black eyes seeking one thing — him, its own gaze landing right on him, almost immediately upon entry.

“Robert,” it said, its voice almost sounding computerized, “we have come to take you away from Earth. The information you have garnered for us resides in the probe we inserted into your rectum the last time—”

Bob wanted to scream.

“Which Robert are you looking for?” the specter of death interrupted, gliding toward the alien.

The alien, to its credit, blinked its eyes and turned to face the specter.

“Gilbride. He lives here, right?”

Bob blinked as the alien pulled what looked like a map from hammerspace; the being wore no pants. All extraneous sounds save Bob’s racing heart and that of the paper unfolding disappeared.

“See, our information led us here. Robert Gilbride lives here.”

“No, no,” the specter rebutted. “He doesn’t live here any longer. I took his soul ages ago.”

“Are you sure?”

“Quite positive. Once you’re mine, you’re mine. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.”

The alien threw up its hands, almost in defeat.

“Rats. You didn’t happen to retrieve a probe, did you?”

“That,” the specter replied, “is not in my purview.”

“Damn it. That information is critical to our intended invasion. But onto other matters: Since you are so in-the-know, do you happen to know where Evelyn Bulfinch lives?”

“Why yes, she’s in the next town. Double chimney, satellite dish. Colonial home. Scheduled for reclaiming in October 2025.”

Bob noticed the alien almost grinned when the angel of death gave the month and year.

“We’ll have her back well before that,” it said. “You have my guarantee.”

The alien then crossed its thin arms against its chest and raised its head toward the ceiling. It shimmered into nothingness, almost as if it defragmented itself. The fog cloud fizzled away, and the supernatural light retreated, leaving everything dark — almost too dark for Bob’s liking.

Then, the specter spun again, facing the bed, and Bob knew this was it. The end of the road.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Second draft was -- surprisingly -- enjoyable to write

By a general rule, I do not like to do massive changes to a story once the first draft is written. I just don't. Pulling at a plot thread leads to unraveling, and soon I have a mess on my hands. I prefer to make cosmetic changes -- i.e. grammar, word choice, punctuation, expounding on certain thoughts -- and let the book go from there.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule: I obviously made massive changes to THE OBLOERON SAGA a few years ago; I re-wrote the opening to MODEL AGENT, but didn't do a massive re-tooling of the book. I believe that I'm going to do something similar to TURNING BACK THE CLOCK this summer, and get it out in time for the book's 10th anniversary -- not to mention the 100th anniversary of the Black Sox Scandal and the Sale of Babe Ruth -- in October.

But I couldn't do that with GLORIOUS SLIP. There were some egregious errors -- stuff that just wasn't realistic -- in the first five chapters (well, from Ch. 2 to Ch. 5, and into Ch. 6) that just needed changing. I couldn't let them stay.

And to my surprise, the second draft as a whole was actually pleasurable to write. I believe that it was more pleasurable than writing the first draft. I actually felt more alive during the second draft than I did pulling teeth for the first.

Now don't get me wrong; the first draft read well despite the problems, but now I believe that the book is absolutely solid and I don't believe I'll have much to change when I re-read the book in June. Of course, I could be wrong and that there will be loads to do, putting the kibosh on me working on TBTC's 10th Anniversary edition.

If all goes well and we get a cover that is fire for this book, it is entirely possible that this book will be available for September 2019.

Again, and I keep saying this... I can't wait to show you the book.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

First draft to GLORIOUS SLIP finally done, on to the second draft

Phew. That took a while, didn't it?

This past Wednesday afternoon, I put the capper on the first draft to GLORIOUS SLIP, the first book in my planned men's adventure time travel series. The draft checked in at 189 pages, and at 81,850 words, it is my shortest full-length novel. And with the exception of THE QUEST FOR THE CHALICE, my first novel (part of THE OBLOERON SAGA), the 15 months it took me to complete the first draft was the longest I've ever needed to do so.

Take a bow? Not quite yet.

On Friday, I dove into the start of the second draft, added about 101 words to the prose, tweaking the first chapter and a half. I stopped after coming to a part which will need all my attention in the next few days: a massive re-write of a 1,900-word scene that just doesn't make sense to anything resembling a realistic happening -- or realism, period. I suspect it shouldn't take me more than a few days to straighten out, but there are some other threads attached to this scene in the next chapter or so which also need re-writing; you pull at one thread, and the entirety of the project falls apart, right?

That can happen, but I don't think that will necessarily happen here: this activity should oh-most-definitely turn the start of the narrative to titanium.

So why did it take me so long to write? You have to remember something: when I started this novel back in November 2017, I ran into some issues that I didn't foresee whatsoever.

There was The Great Root Canal post Thanksgiving, which took me out of service for a couple of days (seriously, so many dental issues that took up a lot of time between then and this past Christmas... 13 months of driving back and forth to my dentist in Holden, about 45 minutes or so each way).

There was the fact I really couldn't get a handle on this project; I wanted to tell a complete story, like I always do, and I wanted to do so in a completely different voice, so it made the writing feel like I was pulling teeth.

I also had two trips to my hometown every week to do a pair of local sports radio shows, which also demanded on my time, especially when it came to teams that I didn't cover personally; I couldn't write afterward, because those trips and shows took a lot out of me emotionally.

And in April of last year, I took on a wonderful dream job: on top of covering the local high schools, I started covering the New England Revolution soccer team, and even though it's considered part time, I threw myself into it like I always do. All of those things wrapped into one, unfortunately, and it meant GLORIOUS had to go on the shelf. I did get a little written during the tail end of the World Cup in July, but that was it for the first draft until the offseason began -- and even then I was still busy with high school sports until December. And even then, with me taking some time off from the high school sportswriting because the newspaper owed me so much money from November alone, it was still a challenge to open the file and get some words in.

With the Revs spending the preseason in Spain and now in Florida, and with what appears like no streams of the matches in sight, I resolved at the end of January to get the first draft, at the very least, completed by the start of the regular season on March 2. That's accomplished, yes, but I'm not giving the story time to breathe like I usually do; I feel that with the time I have afforded to me, I should at the very least try to get most of the book's issues sorted -- which, like I always say, are in the first half of the book.

Will I get the full second draft completed by the start of the regular season? Probably not. Maybe; I'm not counting on it, though. I should be able to crank the re-writes out this week, and then there's some additions to the story that I came up with a couple of weeks ago: some Doc Brown-esque letters by the protagonist to his parents that wouldn't be delivered until after he had disappeared, so I have those to write. If I get the second draft finished by then, fantastic. If not, it won't bother me until June, when the Revs have a few weeks off due to the Gold Cup. I don't suspect that there will be too much to re-write in the second half of the novel, but you never know.

In all seriousness, I don't want to rush such an important book. It's the first in a planned trilogy, with a lot of the action happening in books two and three. This is a set-up book, to hook the readers and get them to buy books two and three, whenever I get to write them (and if something else gets in my way, it may be a few years before I get the opportunity to sit down and churn out the pages). I'm going to take my time with these re-writes and revisions (read: small tweaks, such as grammar or expounding on other things), and make sure the book is pure fire before I send it to Kim for her edits. I may send it to Bruce, too. He's a history buff, and I'm sure that he'll have things to contribute, advice-wise.

I really can't wait to show you the first book. It's going to be some time, though, so please be patient with me.

Thanks for your time, as always.