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Separation II

Separation II

by Gareth Wood

Miles passed, down roads through tall grass.  There was no sign of the car.  Gone like smoke into the air.

She counted bullets.  Five left, and no more.  There was no sign of the dead, ahead or behind.

Darkness fell, but she dared not stop.

But then light, flames.  In the distance, there was fire.

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Separation I

Some time ago I wrote a six-installment flash fiction story called Distance.  It was published in 55-word increments, a mode that challenges a writer.  Every word is important in that format.  Nothing can be wasted.  It was fun to write, and today I had some inspiration for further adventures in that universe.

It’s a zombie apocalypse story, unrelated to my novels.  Here are the continuing adventures of our unnamed heroine, set an unspecified time after the end of Distance.

Here is Separation.  I will publish it as a serial, in 55-word pieces.  Enjoy!

SEPARATION

by Gareth Wood

“Wait for me!”

The car drove away, leaving her behind.  She knew they had seen her, waving.  But the dead were everywhere.

They were coming now, a dozen or more.  She ran back to the tent, grabbed her pack.  No time for more.

The road beckoned.  Running again, alone again, left with only her memories.

I have my daughter to thank for this wonderful book.  She pressed this book into my hands, urging me to read it.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is one of those stories that defies attempts to properly review it.  Part love story, part magical adventure, part alternate historical fiction, this book simply glows with well written prose.

NightCircus

Taking place in pseudo-Victorian times, the story revolves around two people thrown together not out of love or need or desperation, but out of competition, and one that isn’t even their idea.  The circus of the title is the venue for this competition, one whose rules are mutable and whose resolution is ever unknowable.  Magic plays a large part in this story, not the cards-up-your-sleeve and rabbits-in-a-hat kind either, but real magic.  A large part of the story deals with the consequences of using real magic in such a place as the Night Circus.

That’s all I want to say about the story.  Best you simply read this book at once.  It’s a work of art.

Rather, I want to talk about the writing.  This is the kind of book that inspires me to become a better writer.  The prose itself was almost magical, and the author has the gift of being able to create memorable and so very real characters, ones that you as a reader wish you could sit down with over a cup of tea and have a lengthy discussion.

Morgenstern also has the ability to describe settings vividly, and I found myself easily seeing what she wrote in my minds eye.  Placing strongly described characters within these settings made them all the more real.  And the Night Circus is a place I wish I could wander and explore.

In short, a very enjoyable book that would make an excellent film.  I very much look forward to what the author writes next.

Without

I recently had the opportunity to read the Wrath trilogy by Permuted Press author Sean T Smith.  It is a post-apocalyptic series set after a global nuclear war.  I can tell you this without giving anything away, since it is fairly early on that the war happens.

Unlike many of the Permuted Press books (mine included) there is nothing supernatural going on in these novels.  There are no zombies, no vampires, no creatures of legend stalking the forests or catacombs.  The protagonists and antagonists of the series are all human, all everyday people with hopes and dreams, fully realised in the broad scope of the world Smith has drawn.

Book One

Objects of Wrath

Objects of Wrath is the first novel, and an excellent starting place for the fast-paced action to follow.  We meet our protagonists early on, and follow them through the horrific events of the war.  The book is told first-person, a style that works well here, allowing an intimacy with the main character to develop.

Smith presents us with a harsh world in the aftermath of a global nuclear exchange, and through the eyes of William Fox we see horrors and tragedies, but we also see hope and the possibility of some good coming out of The Fall.  William is a complex character, with both positive and negative traits.  He adapts to his world as well as he can, but the grim reality of the story demands that things do not always go well.

At the end, after both triumph and tragedy, William is still standing.  Smith’s style of writing is quite good, and his characters are fully developed from the start.  However, there were some abrupt transitions that I found slightly jarring, taking me out of the flow of the text.  Things that could easily have been fleshed out were dealt with in only a single sentence, at times.  This doesn’t detract from the rest of the book, however.

large_Children_of_Wrath_EbookCover

The second novel, Children of Wrath, picks up the story a few years later, continuing William’s tale, again from his point of view.  The event that starts the conflicts in this novel is a very personal one, striking the characters central to the tale right where they live.

By the time this story starts, some semblance of civilisation has begun again, and with civilisation comes international conflict.  New characters are introduced, new places are explored, and more of the broken new world revealed.

Gone are the abrupt transitions that bothered me in the first book.  Smith has smoothed out the few rough spots he had in his style, and delivers an exciting story filled with tension and loads of action.  William and his fellows face challenges, and sometimes prevail, but not always.  That is a truth that Smith explores in these books, that I find refreshing; the good guys don’t always win.  This is a theme explored throughout the series, and represents a reality sometimes missing in post-apocalyptic fiction.  The physical toll on characters that are shot, stabbed, maimed in other ways is extreme, but welcome.

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Wrath and Redemption shifts POV from first to third person.  William is no longer our sole protagonist, but one of three, whom we follow through their story arcs.

Several more years have passed, and international conflict again is rearing its head.  Not content to learn the lessons of The Fall, humanity again appears to be ready to destroy the world, and it is up to William and his family and fellows to head that off.  The scale of the conflict is greater, the stakes higher, and the tension builds throughout the book.

Again, characters come and go, sometimes abruptly, but always with reason and purpose.  The story is exciting and a real page turner.  Smith has written the pinnacle of the series with seemingly effortless attention to detail, leaving readers wanting more from this harsh world.

Even the protagonists have their dark sides, and this too is explored in some depth.  The finale leaves room for more exploration, if Smith so chooses, but in the end it is a satisfying place to end the tales of William Fox, his family, and fellow soldiers.

FOZA3

These things, as you can see, are not ending well for our little stick-men.  

FOZA2

  In Page Two we find a poor soul learning a hard lesson about improvised weapons.  We may run with this theme.

FOZA Yes, folks, it’s a “webcomic” only in the very loosest interpretation of the word.  A collaboration between myself and my daughter, this is the beginning of an “epic” tale of stick figures and other stick figures, and some other stuff.  Also maybe some zombies.

 

Let me know how horrified you are.

I was tagged to participate in this by Suzanne Robb, Permuted Press author among other things… her blog can be found here, and is worth reading.

1. What am I working on?

Currently I am finishing the first book of a Science Fiction trilogy for Permuted Press.  It’s called Black Horizon, and will be followed by the books The Long Dark, and The Serpent Sun.  I also just today fleshed out a short outline (notes, really) for a book about cosmicism and population relocation, which has the working title of Discontinuity.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think that is hard to quantify.  Since we all take different things away from our experiences, be they music or film or literature, what I think is different about my work, someone else may see as derivative.  For example, in the last book I published, Dead Inside, I mixed up the viewpoints, using first person for one character and third person for everyone else.  I also write in a solidly Canadian setting, which sets it appart from the gamut of American-centered apocalyptic books.  But hey, there are plenty of other places where the apocalypse has been set, right?  Like Britain, or even Spain.

3. Why do I write what I do?

For the fun.  I come from a background of storytelling in role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, Traveller, In Nomine, Gamma World, GURPS, etc.  I usually ended up as GM, telling the stories that I wanted to tell, and letting the players experience the world I built.  So novels are, for me, just a way to tell those tales without pesky players messing up my plots!

Not to say that the book characters don’t do that, and often.  I cannot tell you how many times a book character has derailed a storyline on me, taking a book somewhere I never expected.

4. How does my writing process work?

Ooh, a hard question!  I write by hand.  I carry a journal with me, writing in it when I get the chance.  I have written two and a half books this way.

SPOILER ALERT:  If you look closely at the picture you might get a spoiler about the last half of my next book.  DO NOT click and Zoom on it unless you want to ruin that for yourself.  So, ignore this picture.  Move along, Citizen.

Image

A lot gets rewritten and edited before it gets into the computer, and I have even scrapped entire chapters and rewritten them.  So the pages shown above have been heavily changed, and may reflect only a tiny portion of the actual text.

I’m a character driven writer, also not one who plots every little thing out before hand.  I let the characters go where they will, and I follow them to see what happens.  I usually know how a book will begin and how it will end, but the path between those points can be a strange and difficult one.  And as has happened to me, letting the characters drive the plot has resulted in endings changed or expanded, usually for the better.  It happened in Dead Inside, and it’s happening again with Black Horizon.  My original endings for both books, while looking good on a rough outline, read much better now that the characters arrived at them naturally rather than be forced there by plot necessity.  It’s also interesting that the endings of both those books have changed so substantially but retained the spirit I intended, while opening a lot of possibilities for further works.

I get little time to actually write, since I work a regular job to pay the bills.  Sometimes I can get the free time to get several hours a day in, but usually it’s an hour or less.  I don’t mind.  I’m ahead of schedule for this first book in the series, so I have time to do rewrites and fix a few dangling plot holes. 

 

And that’s me.  I was supposed to tag three other writers to follow after me and do this as well.  I simply didn’t have time to do that, so if you want to participate, simply copy the questions and fill in your own answers, then let me know and I’ll edit in a link to your page.  Have fun and keep writing!

Canadian astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield’s book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, is an inspiring book.  It details his early life and the events and choices that led him down the path to becoming an astronaut.  I found myself captivated and enthralled reading it, as it offered a rare glimpse behind the curtain of celebrity, into the real world of what it means to have one of the most challenging, and ultimately rewarding, jobs there is.

Hadfield’s book is written well, and is engaging from the beginning.  The message is clear: To become an astronaut is a lifelong goal that may never be realised, but through perseverance, luck, being in the right place at the right time, having the right skills, and sheer determination, anything is possible.

Hadfield’s approach to all the challenges and obstacles set before him is one of the best things about this book.  It truly is a Guide to Life on Earth, and his manner of facing and overcoming the hardships and challenges he faced should inspire us all to try that much harder to succeed.

As the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station, Hadfield is a hugely influential person.  His pictures of Earth from space are some of the best ever taken, certainly some of the most inspiring.  And many remember his ‘Space Oddity’ moment, where he played the guitar in space.

His book is also influential, and is an excellent read.  I suggest that it should be in every library and school across the nation.  Colonel  Hadfield has written a book to be proud of.

Dead Inside

Dead Inside

My good fiend Carrie made this image for me and I wanted to share it here. It’s a little teaser to the new book, DEAD INSIDE, which is coming on or before March 25. Watch Permuted Press for the exact date.