Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Story Sheets: "Endless Nights in Villain City" & "Under Suspicion in Summerside"

In our second installment of this new series I'm going to continue going through the stories in my upcoming book, Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures.

The last post was a surprise success, so I'm going to keep this up for the foreseeable future, or until I run out of released stories to talk about. Whichever comes fist. Chatting about unreleased material doesn't do a lot of good to anyone if they can't experience it for themselves.

So this week I'm covering the next two stories in the collection. This would be the rather short Endless Nights in Villain City and the slightly longer Under Suspicion is Summerside.

Some of the content ahead isn't for the squeamish.

Before we begin I would just like to mention that you can get an advance reader copy (ARC) of the book here, ahead of its release! The only cost is an amazon review. Just thought I'd let you know!

Now, on to the stories!

"I have always hated the sun, but it was particularly harsh on the day I abandoned it. In a world of light, I lived for the dark, and the day was particularly bright at the time I fell upon the Truth."

This is a bit of a tone shift from the first story, but not by that much.

The reason this story exists is because I needed to show how bad things could get for those in Summerside who choose to do the wrong thing. There is a hint as to the dark side of the world in Someone is Aiming for You, but this one shows it from a normal man who just wants the world to burn. There is a reason some such as him is out there to begin with.

Despite it's placement here, it's not the second short story I ever wrote nor is it the second story I wrote in this series. It took awhile. In fact, I wrote this one on a whim one day after puzzling about the concept in my head for weeks. Puzzling out if it would fit in with the others was definitely a concern.

I have it second in the collection because it sets mood and because it's chronologically the first story. It turned out to be very important for the overall group.

So why isn't it the first story here if it's the first in the timeline and it is so important? That's because it is meant to build mood, not establish it. This story doesn't set anything, but builds on what was already introduced in the first story. Despite its chronological placement, it isn't a "Side A, Track 1" standard setter.

When building a collection of stories the very first story is the equivalent of the first chapter of a book, or, as alluded to above, the first song on an album. Even if the tales are unrelated in your collection the premiere entry still sets the mood and groundwork for what comes next. And the truth is that Endless Nights in Villain City doesn't set the mood as well as Someone is Aiming for You does. Being that the story is from the perspective of a villainous character and is the darkest story here it does not give an accurate representation of what the rest of them will be like.

This is also why it's the only story here written in first person, unlike the rest of the set.

First person is a perspective used to bring the reader directly into the action. It puts them directly in the shoes of the protagonist. I figured that after having some distance from The Seeker in the first story that being thrown right up against one of the things he is fighting would give the reader some perspective on why he is what he is. This is also without taking any of the mystery around him away. At the same time it makes the threat more immediate and obvious to the reader when they see what it's capable of up close.

I think I succeeded, which is why it was accepted to run in the now out-of-print Dimension Bucket Magazine alongside a set of great writers with fantastic stories of their own. Before this I had only ever submitted it to one other anthology where it was rejected for being too dark for the purposes of the theme. I had some good feedback in this story, and everyone who has read it found it unsettling, which is good since it is a horror story.

The reason I chose the title was sort of haphazard. Originally it was called Knives in the Night, but that better described another story I wrote so I gave that one the title instead. I wanted a title that gave a sense of the protagonist's goal, as well as what he viewed as most important, since this is ultimately a story about achieving a destiny. It might be a dark destiny, but he is the main character so he gets to be the focal point of the title regardless of how I feel of him. Bad guy or not, he's still in charge here.

Whether this says a lot about me or not is for you to determine, but Endless Nights in Villain City was the easiest story in the collection for me to write. I'm sure the length is a part of it. That said, everything flowed from the first minute I met Horace Abalone. I knew just wanted he wanted, and where he was going, and what he would achieve to get there. Everything flowed from the moment the sun began to hurt his eyes and he walked into that alley.

Normally I'd go on longer, but since the story is fairly brief, I would be going into spoilers. If you want to see how disturbing things can get, I highly recommend checking it out when Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures comes out on January 23rd!

But that doesn't mean leaving you early today. Instead, here's a bonus: the third story in the collection. I am talking about Under Suspicion in Summerside.

“We don’t live in that era anymore, babe. People hate these Crusaders, for good reason.” He ran a hand through his purple hair. “We’re a long way from when they were untouchable saviors even a few years ago. This is the Trash Age, ruled by people like me. As a media lackey, you’re supposed to do your job and show those failures as what they are—government funded tools or deluded vigilantes looking for a place to die. I’ve seen your pathetic articles.”

I alluded to the fact that this is the unluckiest story in the collection, so I think I should explain why first.

Under Suspicion in Summerside was the third story I wrote in this series, which meant I was still figuring out the form when first writing it down and shaping up the world it took place in. It went through many revisions before I finally got it done the way it needed to be.

At the same time I had submitted it to at least two outlets who lost the story in some capacity. It was a bizarre experience. Nonetheless, I used the opportunity to sharpen it further.

The reason this story exists is because I wanted a story that showed the baseline of the world, especially during the day. Summerside is more than just what goes on after dark and readers needed to know and experience that. If every story took place after sunset then it would only give you a fraction of the idea of what the stories are about and why society operates the way it does. Otherwise you might be left wondering why anyone would fight for a place as bad as Summerside is after the sun sets. There is more to it than the bad, just like a real city.

As can be understood from the first two stories, things can get pretty dark. So I wanted a tale that showed more of the daytime and the brighter side of the world. There are normal people that live outside of the fringes caught in the middle of this mess who just want to live their lives. At the same time, it isn't a different world, so I also wanted to show how the day and night border on each other.

In other words, this is a bridge story. The main characters are a pair of civilians, and a pair of hired enforcers who deal with trouble during the day. Therefore the main plot consists of what appears to be a normal bank robbery where what goes on in the edges paint a slightly different picture of what is really going on. It is necessary to build the world of Summerside to show that normality exists and is worth fighting for.

This is why it's the third story here after the first sets the tone and the second sets the stakes. The third presents the good worth defending, and what the day to day strife in the city looks like. With these three, the tone is effectively set for everything to come.

It's also the only story in the anthology shown from multiple POVs, aside from the first. I needed that scope to show more of the world in the small storytelling space I had available here. The multiple POVs in the first story are to show the reactions to the appearance of an anomaly like The Seeker and how he appears from different angles; in this one it is to show there is a living and breathing world outside whatever protagonist exists in these stories. This normality is needed, both after the darkness of the second story and some of the strangeness to come after this.

Then there are the main characters. Aside from the civilians, there are two with powers.

Flatline and Concrete are pulp-style nicknames more than titles, and their powers were designed to be contradictory to each other. Flatline's electricity allows him offense and energy, but not much in the way of defense. Concrete's is pure defense and sturdiness, at the cost of power and speed. As a consequence, their personalities also clash, but only a bit, despite being partners on the job. Concrete is the newer recruit, very naive and figuring things out, so not so reliable. Flatline is brash and confident, but too self-reliant due to the experience gap and working alone. Despite this, they work together to do jobs as hired enforcers to put a stop to crime during the day. It's all for a paycheck, at least, so it seems. They're the most normal people with powers in the book--that I can guarantee you.

The fear and paranoia contributed to the title. The city is a place where anything can happen, and death might visit at any time. Naturally, everyone is a suspect in a world like this. But perhaps there is more to it than that? Maybe there is more to the danger than the bad we see before us. Trust is not that easy to obtain, especially in a world like this.

Originally I wasn't sure how many stories I wanted for this collection. After all, I had never written one before starting these. But I was able to par it down to seven, and wrote accordingly. Every piece had to offer something new to the world that the others didn't, and come together to form a full picture by the end. Under Suspicion in Summerside was necessary to set up the part that mattered the most: the normal everyday people caught in the cross-hairs. There are people worth fighting for. You're going to need this going forward, especially as it carries over into future stories.

I put all seven together to make a full frame of the world. They all form together to become a single piece. You will definitely see what I mean when all of them are read through.

That's all for this edition. As said before, if you want to read a free Advance Reader Copy of my new book then you can get it at Booksprout here in exchange for a review. Otherwise, stay tuned for the next post, and then the official release on the 23rd. There's more to come.

2020 is going to be big! This is just the start.

Coming January 23rd!


  1. JD

    I'm enjoying the stories. I'll post my review as soon as I'm finished. Lots to chew on. And I have to remind myself what it isn't eventhough I keep forgetting:)

    Overall a thumbs up for a mesmerizing story


    1. JD
      Thanks for taking the time to write them.
      I see some of the influences in Gemini from those stories. One in particular with the twins and the mirror universe really caught my attention.
      I'm savouring the novel. It's a great stew