Hello there, internet world. Yes, I know I said this was being resurrected and then proceeded not to write anything for weeks. I'm forgetful like that. Anyway, I thought I'd actually write something now, so yeah! That's something, at least.
For the past few months I've been working on a novella entitled "Clock Strikes Death". As it stands right now, it's about 13,000 words, but it should be somewhere around 18,000-20,000 when it's completed. I haven't been spending nearly enough time as I wanted to writing it (or as much time as should have, for that matter), but it's almost finished now, and I can see the finish line. My plan is to finish the first draft by the end of this week, and then put it aside next week as I head off on the Student Leader Camping Trip. I have another short story idea that I brainstormed with Trevor Sigmund, one of my close friends, that I want to (hopefully) write while I'm there. That should be considerably shorter, however, and I have the entire story pretty heavily outlined in my head, unlike what is usually the case with stories I write.
After I come back from that trip, I'll give Clock Strikes Death to some alpha readers, get some input back, and then go into a second draft of that story, which will tackle the several structural problems I know exist in the narrative, and probably a few I didn't. After that, I'll give it to beta readers, who will give me final input on whatever else needs to be fixed, and then it should mostly be done. Most of my prose is pretty clean, so after maybe one or two language/prose/dialogue passes after that, I'll probably put it up on Noisetrade, and then I'll start submitting it to some different markets. I hear TOR has a new novella imprint...
*laugh silently at myself* In your dreams, kid, in your dreams.
For those who don't know, Clock Strikes Death is part of the setting I like to call, "Clockwork Cowboy", which is part of the 374th Cycle mega-setting in which all of my fantasy books (and the ones that my brother Connor, Trevor, and my friend David will eventually write, hint, hint, nudge, nudge) take place. I say Clockwork Cowboy, but that's kind of a silly way of explaining the setting. It is basically a fantasy western/clockpunk setting, which may also seem silly, but is in actuality a fantasy borrowing elements from westerns and incorporating fantastical clockwork-based technology. While writing it, I also realized it had a lot more grimdark-iness than I originally thought it would have, and subsequently scrapped the theme album I had selected for it, Hans Zimmer's score for The Lone Ranger.
Also, for those who didn't know, I select theme albums for almost everything I write, film scores that capture the mood I want for that book/world. I still haven't really decided on another one for the Clockwork Cowboy setting, but I do enjoy The Shawshank Redemption, so that may end up being the theme album.
Anyway, I should really get back to Clock Strikes Death, since I only have until Saturday to finish it, and I have plenty of other things to get done this week. Before I go, I will leave you with a little tease of the novella:
A ringing in Declan's ears chimed the hour. Nine o'clock. Time to die.
He jolted upright in his cot, tense, waiting for the inevitable sound of booted feet come to drag him away to Eternity. All was silent, however, save the muted tick, tock of his heart. The prison bars before him were a dark, unfriendly grey that seemed to grin at him like the teeth of an arrowbelly. His cell was cramped and freezing, the fireplace just outside its iron door reduced to ashes and offering nothing in the way of warmth. Just like the one other time he had been unfortunate enough to get himself locked away in one of these bunker-prisons. Declan strained to hear anything that would signal that someone was coming for him. He waited for a minute, then two, then five. A half an hour passed as he listened to the muffled ticking of the second hand, and still no one arrived.
Declan frowned, still laying on his cot. He hadn't seen any human guards since he had been thrown into this dark pit of a prison, and only once had he seen any clockwork--a Sentinel, who had silently performed its duty of giving him a plate of dried rations and a tin cup full of water, and then left, emotionless face haunting as always. He had always hated those cold, emotionless monsters.
Where was everyone? Declan stood to his feet and made his way to the iron bars, holding them tightly with calloused hands. He wore nothing but the underclothes he had been wearing the night before--dark grey shirt and trousers that reeked of sweat. Had they decided to just leave him down here to starve? Ironically, that would be a more certain fate than a bullet to the head, at this point. The only chance he had was in the journey from here to the figurative gallows. He had one more trick up his sleeve-literally-but it relied on the hallway just outside the room adjacent to his cell. If he could just get out there…
Declan cursed himself--not for the first time since his imprisonment--for not seeing the ventilation shaft on the way in until it was too late. If his jailor had fumbled for just a moment longer with his keys, he might not be in this mess right now. He would be halfway to Bunnell Creek, laughing at the stupidity of lawmen.
Well, he wasn't laughing now. If no one came to get him, he was dead. Declan couldn't think of a logical reason why they wouldn't come, but he couldn't help worrying nonetheless. He had bad luck. Blasted horrible luck, at that. Come on…you want to see me suffer, right, Biggs? I know you do. Don't just leave me here; you want to see my face when I die. He couldn't believe he was hoping for someone to try and kill him--it just didn't seem right--but that was the only thing that would save him now.
That ventilation shaft…that was the key. Declan had one Card left, his most valuable. He had saved it for years, never wanting to use it, for fear he would never find another one. They only made that kind of clockwork in Enlord City, and they were one of the most powerful types. Luckily, the guards hadn't taken his boots. They'd checked inside, of course--to make sure he didn't have a hidden weapon of some sort. But almost no one expected a boot to have a secret compartment like his did, holding an item so rare and valuable, men would kill a hundred times over to get their hands on it.
Declan liked to be prepared, even in situations that were out of his control. Especially in situations that were out of his control.
Blessedly, footsteps sounded in the hallway moments later, coming with it a hope of escape. It wasn't the metallic clank of a clockwork, but the booted steps of a man. They were coming to get him. Finally.
Declan reviewed the plan of escape in his mind as the sound grew closer. He could get out of this, if he was clever. The prison was very secure, that much was true, buried in the earth a hundred feet down, but it had one weakness. It turned out that there wasn't much air down in the bowels of Orlam, and so you needed to have some sort of ventilation system to filter air through the tunnels, or else anything stuck down here would suffocate. Not the clockwork, of course, they didn't need air, but anything living. A prisoner lucky enough to get inside that ventilation system could, potentially, make their way to the surface and escape. The only problem was that the shafts used to filter the air were entirely vertical, and a hundred feet high. That meant, despite the route to freedom built into the design, no one had ever successfully made it out alive.
Oh, and here's a fake cover I made for it the other day. I obviously can't use this on Noisetrade because...it's someone else's art. But hey, it perfectly gets the theme across, so here you go:
And here is the theme song of the novella. Now that I think about it, Shawshank Redemption is definitely the theme album.