Archive for Writing
Well, I had started one of my next books and figured I would share the prologue. It’s going to be good. Anyway, enjoy, and there will be more soon.
1000 POINTS OF DEATH: PROLOGUE
There were then a thousand ways that a man could die, just by the secret techniques the Tears had come up with. That had always been the way, though nobody every thought about it. You were just terrified every time you drove your stage down the street and splashed mud on the stranger’s boots. You were inflicted with a creeping dread when you joined a friendly poker game with some muleskinner acquaintances at the saloon, and you could only really distract yourself by getting shitfaced. It was stressful in those wild times and it never could be explained away by poor hygiene or gold fever or superstition. The world worked differently back then- it was occult, truly. Hid things, like the Tears, who were larger than life but never even crested into the world’s gaze long enough to be turned into tall tales.
They were just rumors.
Like the one you had heard about a party of prospectors shot all to hell and gone by what the Marshals said was a pack of Red Indians- but you heard there was only a single bullet found on the scene, scraped down to just a nub like it had zipped through half a dozen skulls before coming to rest. Or the blonde dandy of a doctor Charlie said he’d ridden out to a remote box canyon. The doctor had carried red hot pistols in a locked box, Charlie said. Actual red hot pistols sitting there in a bed of gravel, and the doctor had gotten all dressed up in blacksmith’s gear and fired them off in the canyon. Six prospectors killed by some trick shooting? That you could write off, but a pair of pistols that erupted with streams of liquid fire too bright to hardly look at? Well…
Maybe the West was just too rough for you. You could have gone back to Boston, made good with Clary’s father and gotten your job at the butcher’s again. Instead, just as that perfect idea came through your thick mule-skinning skull, you had to get even smarter and get chatting with a real dude about how scared you were. That dude was real sharp in his black suit and slicked-down mustachio, and his mother-of-pearl buttons, and that dude was real interested in what you’d heard about.
The whisky had got your tongue moving, or was it the fear? The anticipation of telling the stage company where to take their Judas-kissing contract? You were positively giddy with it, and you told that dude all about the prospectors, and the blonde doctor, and the German with that strange scatter-gun, and more. Some of your skinner acquaintances tried to warn you, but the dude stared them down and just let you roll that noose up.
Finally you shut up. You’d said plenty. The dude seemed happy, though, and let you take the rest of the bottle. You bid him a hasty goodnight as you pushed your chair backwards and almost over.
It was normally right noisy this time of night, but out in the rutty street there was a strange hush. Not good. You shambled your way down to the livery to get your horse and leave this shitheap for good, before there was no more chance to go. But waiting for you at the door of the livery was the dude. He looked just as friendly leaning there against the doorframe, but even drunk as you were you could tell that was just a mask. That and the dull Colt Army that he gripped casually, not even bothering to aim it at you.
A boozy plea richocheted its way around your mind and almost reached your lips before the dude spoke up.
“There’s no love lost between me and my… rivals, Mr. Quinn. So while nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing them brought low in the jaws of the public, it’s not right for a loud-mouthed son-of-a-bitch such as yourself to be talking about The Tears.” He pointed the Colt at you and pulled the trigger, and you winced, but there was no report.
At first you thought it was a misfire. Then there was a buzzing from the barrel like a nest of goddamned hornets, and staring at the bleak little hole at the end, you saw the bullet shake its way out and float slowly across the intervening space. That’s when you ran.
“Take your time, Quinn, it’ll get you eventually,” the dude called after you. You turned for a moment, and that’s when you ran into the Chinaman.
At least he looked like a Chinaman- or was dressed like one, with railroad togs and a big coolie hat. Underneath that hat was a white face covered in ashes and grime, and some piercing gray eyes that locked onto your own for a moment. In a way they were more frightening than the genial menace of the dude. This man was Hell.
He pushed past you and you kept running, but turned long enough to see him running towards the dude, now with some God-forsaken Chinese sword drawn. He took a wide slash well out of range of the dude, who ducked anyway, and well he should have. The awning post he stood next to was sliced clean in two as if it hadn’t been there, and the overhang collapsed onto the dude. You didn’t stay to watch anymore. You could hear a hornet.
It got you eventually.
Yes, Joni fans, I drove back from northern Cali today and am exhausted. But Hissing always excites me as much as it does Stephen Street so despite exhaustion I am still feeling peppy. But, must go back to work tomorrow so I will force myself to sleep. Great things are in the works, great thinks as well, and the “Posthumous Works” is going to be wondrous. Rest well.
We’re going forward with a brave thing. When I wrote my novel 10 A BOOT STOMPING 20 A HUMAN FACE 3o GOTO 10, I inserted a character that I’ve used in a variety of unpublished work. His name is J. Sheridan Osborn, and along with his partner Adam Sentinel, they represented a mythological version of myself and my good friend, historian Philip Bickle, respectively.
It’s hard to do an author avatar, or author surrogate, or what have you- at least well. Garrett Cook can do it. Norman Mailer can do it. It was Mailer who convinced me that I could as well, and during that sturm-und-schreck 71 hours that I wrote the book, I found that the real trick, as those much more talented two had obviously learned, was to let your surrogate wear any closet skeletons like a hat.
To put it simply, J. Sheridan Osborn is me, but far more competent in a narrative capacity and only slightly more of a jerk. Which is to say, quite a bit of a jerk. But means well.
Along the way, a character makes the sole mention of one of Osborn’s works- The Metahermeneutics of Paralinguistic Qualia. Believe it or not, that accurately describes something that I am interested in, and I wanted the philosopher character to have written some sort of over-the-top wank that I might actually have done were I more infamous. Then I thought- maybe I’ll take a stab at Metahermeneutics. It would be a shame to give up on the characters of the book. In fact, I happen to like myself, even fictional versions that caricature my shortcomings.
That’s when I came up with the idea that maybe I should explore some of his other works. Or perhaps some other people should? I’ve been wanting to collaborate with a lot of people. Like Phil Bickle- Adam Sentinel himself. We’ve been talking about writing an ultraviolent historical novel forever. Most of the writers I know are just as busy with creative efforts and families and whatnot as I am, so it seemed unlikely that I’d be able to make all those collaborations happen. BOOM! Chocolate and peanut butter.
The buy-in so far has been great. Eriq Nelson is already working on his account of being dragged head first into a fictional character killing spree. Michael James Brown, better known as an agitator than author, jumped right in with a smooth understanding of his relationship with Osborn. Ed Morris, who is way more talented than I could ever hope to be, will be contributing something. Christy Leigh Stewart and I will be creating some sort of terrifying hypersigil with illustrations by Megan Hansen. Not to mention some great names like Jordan Krall, Matt Revert, Michael A. Rose, The Pueschel, Eckhard Gerdes, and William Pauley III.
I have high hopes for this project- it’s going to be a very different, rough beast. I’m going to start posting pieces and fragments here at Dharma Beatdown, and anyone can feel free to email me or leave comments with ideas.