There aren’t a lot of silver linings to be found in this global pandemic of COVID-19, but two stand out for me. First, I’m getting sleep. I have set my alarm exactly one time since we closed our dental practice on March 19th. I wake up feeling rested and I go through my day, generally, without irritated eyes and yawning. That’s kind of nice. It’s sort of like retirement, I guess, except none of the financial worries went away.
The second is that I have been writing. On most days, I’ve been able to get at least a thousand words written. I finished one short novel, and am plugging away on another. The second one is over 34,000 words now, and it’s been moving along. I’m in that difficult-to-write middle section where everything is designed to move the characters toward the exciting climax. (At least I hope it will be exciting.)
So let me tell you about these two stories. The finished one is as yet untitled, but I’ve been simply calling it Striker 3 to myself. It’s a followup to another non-published novel, which I affectionately refer to as Striker 2. Why ‘Striker?’ Because they’re both followups to the short story collection called The Striker Files. In those three interlocked short stories, PI Rick Striker is hired to find a rich guy’s daughter who has disappeared. By the end of the story, he realizes he’s found something else — vampires. The second story is about how the daughter disappears in the first place (it’s called “Night Family”) and the third is about Rick going back to confront the vampires (titled “Rick’s Rules”). Together they are about 24,000 words of interconnected stories. In other words, short novella-length.
I did a couple of things. I followed them up with a novel of about 59,000 words. Then I rewrote the three stories so that they read more like a continuous novel. Now I’ve finished another novel in the same universe, a sequel set mostly in Paris.
That’s a bit daunting. I’ve only been to Paris once, but Google Maps is a wonderful thing, as is Wikipedia. I had to research the Latin Quarter and the Sorbonne in order to make it more or less accurate. I took liberties, of course. I really don’t know how many students at the Sorbonne live in the Latin Quarter; I assume a lot do because that’s where the school is, but who knows? I’m betting that anyone who might read it won’t know. I’m hoping it’s believable. I also researched some deep background on vampires and found that their lore extends back to the Middle East and Mesopotamia. Legends even talk about the original “humans,” Adam and Eve and Lilith. Don’t remember Lilith? Look her up if you want. Or not, and read my book, and get my twists on her story, when it finally comes out.
I finished it, sent it out to a beta reader (Thanks, Steve!) and will send it to a couple more beta-readers (Thanks Suzan and Kirsten!). Then I looked for another story to work on. I had a weird story I called “A Wrong Turn” which was sort of an extreme horror story, and I rewrote parts of that just to get my mind working in a different direction. I didn’t think that would be a problem, but it was. Then again, I’ve never had the chance to write like this before — every day in a row. I often put things aside for weeks, even months, between working on them again. That story came out at something a little over 16,000 words, but I seriously doubt that I’ll ever publish it. After finishing it, however, I was ready to look at something else.
So I moved on to Addison Falls. Addison Falls is the brainchild of Alan Mietlowski, who ran the Horror Discussion Group on the old Delphi Internet Services. He also owned a bookstore and was a wannabe writer, like I am. Alan came up with the idea of a shared town set somewhere in New York State, a handful of common characters, and some settings. Then he turned us all loose in it, and many fun stories came out of it. I wrote one called “The Ghost Train” that appears in my collection Die 6; it is about 11,000 words give or take. Tom McAlister wrote stories about a couple of kids named Angela Morse and James Scott; James has a bit of a quirk in that he wears a metal bowl on his head because he doesn’t want his brain to be scanned or something like that. Tom, who went by the name ‘Waddles,’ gave me permission to include his characters in my novel. Alan, sadly, passed away several years ago. Alan, Waddles, and a guy named D.V. Schwitalla (a HDG member who was a terrific writer and who also passed away a number of years ago) all appear as writers in my novel as well. I hope Tom won’t mind.
In Addison Falls, a teacher is haunted by the absence of a student. No one seems to be taking her absence very seriously. When he asks about her at a school meeting, someone informs the town reporter, Jenni Anderson, of his interest. It seems Jenni has some interest as well. So they team up, and they also become involved personally. Turns out there are more missing students. It also turns out that the town doesn’t appreciate the teacher’s interest in their disappearances.
Anyway, I’m having fun with the story. I’m off for a month, and if I can keep going, I should finish Addison Falls by then. I will have four finished novels and who knows what else ready to go soon after that. It will be time to edit, take beta-reading suggestions, and all that jazz.
I hope that we don’t go any further with the stay-at-home orders, for my practice’s sake. But if it does, at least I have an interesting way of filling some time.