On November 1st, I began work on Haunt Me as part of NaNoWriMo 2013. Haunt Me was meant to represent a shift away from the gore and sex that marked Live Undead and Nothing Zero. It was supposed to be a straightforward supernatural novel for general readers. In a word, it was supposed to be “mainstream”.
Funny how things work out.
One week later, I realized I had made a mistake. Haunt Me wasn’t ready to be written. The concept was there, but the storyline and characters simply weren’t developed enough to support the breakneck pace that NaNoWriMo requires. So I shifted gears. I decided to move away from Haunt Me and toward another book that had been in the back of my head for nearly two years. The book I had originally envisioned as the follow-up to Live Undead. I started writing Psychopomp on November 10th and completed its first draft on November 30th.
Psychopomp is a grim and gritty superhero story; sort of a 90s style comic but in novel form. Blood is shed, limb are severed and hell is literally unleashed on a city. It’s pretty much the antithesis of what I intended Haunt Me to be. Psychopomp is blood soaked and powered by Satan; but it won’t be released for a while. I have unfinished business to take care of first.
Today I start editing Nothing Zero. Weighing in at 90,000 words, Nothing Zero is morbidly obese. I know I’ll need to cut it down to size. Ideally I’ll be able to chop some 10,000-20,000 words out of its bulk. But it’ll take time. I plan to spend the entire month of December working on the first edit, which means January will be dedicated to finalizing the final draft. Currently Nothing Zero is schedule for release on February 11, 2014.
With Nothing Zero keeping me busy, I won’t be able to give Psychopomp the attention it deserves until January. Hopefully I’ll be able to release it in April or May of 2014. But the edit process for it will be much slower, as I intend to start work on my next novel in January as well. Hopefully I’ll be able to walk and chew bubblegum at the same time, but I’ve never tried it before.
I currently have no idea what my next novel will be. I could write the zombie Bigfoot story that’s been floating around in my head for a while. I could tackle a Gothic horror. I could write a slasher novel. Maybe a biker werewolf tale? I might even revisit Haunt Me. Regardless of what I do next, it won’t be for another month. Right now, I have a vampire rock star that needs my attention. He hits the stage on February 11th and I don’t want him to be late.
“If you die, I will die too.”
Tracing his razor across Kimber’s snow white wrist, Adam knew her promise to be true. Teasing the delicate blue of her vein with the blade, Adam kissed her. When their lips parted, he caught a fleeting glimpse of the deep unending misery behind the icy blue of her eyes. In that moment Kimber had never been more perfect.
“I want you to know, I belong to you.” Adam took her hand, razor blade pinched tightly between her delicate fingers, and led it towards his wrist.
“I know.” Kimber pressed the blade in, gently breaking the skin.
Again their eyes met and Adam couldn’t find any trace of apprehension or regret. Not that he expected to. There hadn’t been an idle moment during the past six months where the seventeen year olds hadn’t discussed the act. Be it laying in Kimber’s bed after making love, doing homework in Adam’s room or even curled up on the couch in his parent’s rec room watching The Evil Dead, they inevitably returned to the idea of taking their own lives.
Adam often told Kimber that there was a short in his brain’s wiring. He simply couldn’t experience pleasure or happiness like a normal person. While other boys would celebrate having Adam’s effortless 4.0 average or savor the attention his brooding good looks brought from the girls, Adam simply couldn’t care less. Depression and indifference grew where pleasure and happiness should have taken root.
While Adam’s emotions could be described with a thousand indifferent shades of gray, Kimber experienced the whole rainbow, often swinging from the brightest shades of delirium to the deepest hues of depression in a matter of minutes.
After meeting during their freshman year, it didn’t take long for each of them to realize they had found a partner to help cope with their damaged psyches. But as they opened up, sharing their favorite music, books and movies, they discovered they had far more in common than just their faltering mental health. Joy Division, Kurt Vonnegut and Lucio Fulci finished forging the bond that misery had started. As the days turned into weeks, the weeks piled into months and then the months amassed into years, things couldn’t have been more perfect. They were two miserable kids destined to become miserable adults together.
Then Adam started hearing the voices.
Clawing forward from the dark recesses of his mind, the voices embodied all the hatred and self-loathing that Adam felt. But regardless the obscenity they hissed, the violent action they urged or ugly truth they whispered, Adam resolutely ignored them. He hoped they would eventually sink back into the black pit from which they came.
But his burgeoning psychosis would not be ignored.
No matter how often he ignore them, the voices kept returning. Screaming, growling and hissing. He couldn’t stand hearing them. Growing tired of their abuse, he told Kimber.
When he confessed his troubles, Kimber’s understood his admission to mean only one thing. It was a diagnosis Adam feared, but could never allow himself to believe. Schizophrenia. The word was ugly but the truth it carried was even uglier. The voices would only progressive become worse without medical help. But medical attention meant medication or even hospitalization. Neither were options Adam could live with. They decided they would fight Adam’s condition together.
Less than three months later, they realized it was a fight they could not win.
The voices had grown so disruptive Adam couldn’t ignore them, even when Kimber was around to help him focus on reality. As they stared down the possibility that Adam would be hospitalized, Kimber suggested they take their own lives.
It was a desperate and stupid suggestion, but as the days passed it was one they kept returning to. The thought of taking their own lives was so simple but yet it was somehow deeply profound. They had lived their lives on their own terms and they would end them the same way. In death, they would be together forever.
“Together forever,” Kimber stated.
Pushing the hair from her face, Adam leaned forward. Wanting to taste the warmth of her lips one final time, he kissed her. Soft, fleeting and perfect; it was their love perfectly summarized in a single act. “If we part, my pulse will guide you through,” Adam said. Despite the conviction behind his words, Adam heard his voice falter and fade. It sounded painfully thin and weak. He just hoped Kimber hadn’t heard the same weakness to his words.
“I love you,” she said.
The unending darkness of her eyes never wavered as Adam cut her wrist.
Her blood drizzled in a long languid crimson trail down her wrist and along her hand. Kimber smiled and tenderly stroked Adam’s face. The wetness she left behind was warm and sticky, like paint that had freshly dried.
Now that it was Kimber’s turn, Adam took a deep breath.
The cut was smooth and perfect, Adam barely felt the razor slash his vein. It wasn’t until he felt the warmth of his own blood pulsing down his arm that Adam realized Kimber had followed through.
Slowly exhaling, Adam mentally counted down. He started at sixty. By the time he reached thirty, his head felt hazy and the world started to spin. Kimber blurred into a ghost like presence. He barely felt her hand gripping his own.
After a minute, Adam realized the ghost was gone.
His whole body growing number by the moment, Adam looked around. He found Kimber on the ground and gently consigned himself to the floor right beside her.
The warmth of their collective blood cutting through the numbness of his body, Adam smiled and pulled Kimber close to him. As her body slumped against his own, Adam found a stunning moment of clarity. He could see the two of them on the ground. Neither of them breathing. Motionless, in a dried pool of crimson, they were young and beautiful. Together forever. Feeling his vision growing ever clearer, Adam noticed a shape in the distance.
Kimber’s mother entered the room.
Going into Nothing Zero, I knew I had to create some new characters. Since Nothing is now a rock star, I thought it would be interesting to create a character that sort of mirrored his story from Live Undead. So I created Fray. The following excerpt is his introduction. Just like the last excerpt, this piece hasn’t been properly edited, and is presented exactly as it appears in my current draft. I hope you enjoy it.
From Chapter 3 “We Hunger”
Nothing Zero was his favorite band. Fray paid for their music, watched their videos, attended their concerts and bought their merchandise. He owned every shirt they put out, every poster they appeared on and even multiple copies of their albums—the standard and deluxe double CD editions, vinyl version and digital download.
Before he discovered Nothing Zero, Fray looked normal. Brooding eyes hidden behind curly tufts of brown hair and a large nose dominating his oval-shaped face, there was nothing remarkable about him. But after seeing the “Bleed for Me” video, he decided to grow his hair long. By the time the album came out he started wearing black clothing and calling himself Fray. Not long after Nothing Zero released Until The Light, he was wearing make-up and sexually experimenting with boys. Just one month before The Third Kind came out, he broke up with his boyfriend and the album’s songs helped him get over the heartbreak. The music of Nothing Zero helped Fray understand there was nothing normal about him. Thanks to Nothing Zero, Fray looked beautiful.
The band changed his life, and Fray was excited he had a chance to tell them.
“Are you nervous?” Krista smiled.
“A little, I guess.” Even though every inch of his body tingled with anticipation, Fray tried not to show it. But as the elevator floors ticked away, he realized his hands were shaking. Steadying himself, he offered Krista a nervous little smile before turning his eyes back to the floor numbers.
The whole experience had been surreal.
Even though Fray had been to several shows already, he decided to follow Nothing Zero for the final week of their Dead and Glamorous tour. When they took the stage at the Shoreline Ampitheatre in Mountain View, he was down in the front row. He screamed the words to “Sweet Division” right back to Nothing when they played the Hollywood Bowl. As the band tore through “I Am Zero” at the Honda Center in Anaheim, he had been banging his head in perfect time. The endeavor was ridiculously expensive, but worth every dime.
As he drove to Chula Vista, Fray received a direct message from the band’s official Twitter account. Krista had been following his Tweets and Facebook postings about the shows, and wanted to talk to him. Over the phone, she told him the band hoped to make Las Vegas a night he’d never forget. She arranged to meet with him.
Two hours before the ampitheatre’s doors opened, Fray arrived at Red Rock Casino. Entering the casino, Fray feared he had been the brunt of a cruel practical joke. With his pale skin, teased hair and Nothing Zero t-shirt, he felt hopelessly out of place among all the overweight and middle-aged vacationers. When he saw Krista waiting for him in the food court, he had never been happier.
Big dark eyes, tiny nose and bobbed black hair framing her porcelain face, Krista spent thirty minutes with Fray. Treating him to pizza, she politely listened to Fray pour his heart out. He explained what Nothing Zero meant to him. He told her about how awkward and ugly he used to feel. He told her about his favorite songs, and what their words meant to him. When Fray finished, Krista asked if he wanted to meet Wraith.
Fray felt the breath leave his body.
After getting into Nothing Zero, Fray checked out Live Undead and Resurrection Cult. While the bands were radically different, he could hear echoes of Nothing Zero in their albums. Having recognized familiar guitar riffs and melodies, he knew Wraith authored the band’s best songs. With his dark androgynous beauty and edgy sex appeal, Nothing drew Fray to the band, but Wraith made him love their music.
Now he was going to meet him.
The elevator doors opened.
“Here we are,” Krista smiled.
Taking a deep breath, Fray stepped into the hallway. They were on the seventh floor. Fray wasn’t surprised Wraith hadn’t stayed on one of the upper floors. The ridiculously expensive suites wouldn’t have been his style. While Nothing was the focal point of the band’s marketing, Wraith barely appeared in their publicity. Even when they payed live, the towering bass player sank comfortably into the background, ceding the spotlight to his diminutive, gender bending singer.
Leading Fray to the last suite to the left, Krista glanced back at him. “He’s been looking forward to seeing you.”
Another stunner, this one buckling Fray’s knees. The idea Wraith was looking forward to seeing him made his heart race. He had barely started breathing again by the time Krista opened the door.
Stepping aside, Krista smiled. “Go on. He’s waiting inside.”
Fray steadied himself and stepped into the suite.
With the lights out, the large picture windows bathed the parlor in moonlight. Fray took a moment to pluck the details out of the mellow blue darkness—the 50 inch plasma, the L-shaped sofa and dining table for four. While luxurious, Fray was certain the room paled in comparison to the opulent upper floor suites. Fray then noticed a light.
“Hello?” he whispered.
Following the light, Fray found himself in the bedroom. It took him a moment to realize he wasn’t alone. Occupying one of the twin club chairs immediately in front of the bedroom’s large windows, Wraith’s dark eyes were fixed on Fray. Washed in the gentle golden glow of the desk lamp, and framed by the desert night, Wraith was everything Fray had hoped.
Rising to his feet, the bassist slunk towards him.
“Wraith,” Fray uttered.
Wraith smiled, allowing just a glimpse of his fangs. “I’ve been looking forward to this, Fray.”
His heart thundering in his chest, Fray’s whole body quivered. “Me too,” he whispered.
Gently Wraith traced his long, spidery fingers across Fray’s face. The bassist leaning in close to him, Fray caught Wraith’s gaze. “Don’t be scared.”
Staring into Wraith’s almond shaped black eyes, Fray felt the world slipping away. His heart falling to an easy rhythm, a gentle calm came over him. As Wraith squeezed Fray’s ass, and pulled him close, Fray knew what was coming next. Understanding death was near, he should have been terrified. Instead, Fray found peace and comfort greater than any he had known before.
Closing his eyes, Fray arched his neck and leaned into Wraith. He barely felt the bassist’s teeth as they sank into the supple flesh of his throat. The warmth of his own blood spilling down his chest, Fray moaned gently and pressed against the coldness of Wraith’s body until he became one with it.
When I started this version of NOTHING ZERO, I knew I had to top LIVE UNDEAD. While that book was extremely gruesome and explicitly sexual, I felt those qualities were too contained. All the nasty stuff centered around a couple of characters, while the others either existed solely to advance the plot or lived in the background. I wanted every character to get dirty. I wanted every chapter of NOTHING ZERO to contain some over the top set-piece that ended in copious amounts of bodily fluids being spilled.
I think I’ve succeeded.
While NOTHING ZERO may not go to the same dark places as LIVE UNDEAD, it’s definitely way more over the top. Bones are violently torn from bodies, throats are gleefully ripped apart and sex occurs with an almost pornographic level of detail. And I’m not even done yet. There’s still some truly horrible things left in the final part of the book. Terrible things are in store for these characters. There will be (even more) blood.
When I enter the editing process next month, I’ll have some hard choices to make. Should I tame this down? Do I even want to? Could I even tame this monstrosity without completely breaking it? Currently there’s a nearly two thousand word gay orgy, and thousands of words dedicated to violence and decadence. At this point, I don’t really know how things will turn out. Whatever happens, I can’t wait for the final book to be unleashed in October.
Recovering from the loss of Nothing Zero has been much harder than I imagined. At first I was intent on powering through the difficulties, but doubt set in. I saw problems with the story I hadn’t previously noticed and I kept wrestling with the specter of my previous writing. What I needed was some time away from the book.
So I took it.
Yesterday I sat down and began the process of finishing Nothing Zero. Unlike the last time I saw the book, I enjoyed fixing the broken pieces and sorting out the story problems. With that said, I thought I’d share an excerpt from the novel I particularly enjoyed. This segment hasn’t been properly edited, and is presented exactly as it appears in my current draft. As I finish the book over the coming month, I plan to share others. I hope you enjoy it.
From Chapter 1 “A Night Like This”
The sheets were sticky with blood.
Rising from bed, Nothing glanced back at the boys. Vex laid spread out, his head dangled loosely over the edge of the bed. When Nothing tore through his throat, he practically decapitated him. Slumped on the floor, the gaping wound in Raven’s stomach bared his glistening viscera. His throat a crimson gash, his windpipe obscenely exposed.
Nothing left the master bedroom and found his clothes on the floor. He was staying in one of Red Rock’s high roller suites, dubbed the One 80 Suite. With a large terrace, Jacuzzi tub, billiards table and floor-to-ceiling windows providing views of the Vegas Strip and Red Rock Canyon, Nothing had little doubt no expense was spared in making his last night on tour a special one.
Rummaging through the pockets, he retrieved his cell phone and called Krista. “I’m done,” was all he said before he ended the call and dropped his phone.
Admiring the decor—stainless steel, black and brown wood, fine velvet and silk—Nothing was struck by how lonely the darkened suite seemed. He turned the television on and made his way towards the bathroom. Nothing didn’t care what channel the hundred inch plasma screen had been set to. He simply needed some background noise to break the dead silence.
The night wasn’t supposed to be so quiet.
When Echo told him she wanted to attend the concert, Nothing hoped she’d spend the night with him. He told Krista to secure them the best suite the Red Rock had to offer. Price was no object. He wanted his last night in Vegas to be one he would never forget.
Nothing drifted back into the master bedroom.
Still motionless, the boy’s drained corpses were the pale shade of white only death could provide. By sunrise their wounds would heal, and the savagery they endured would grant them rebirth. They wouldn’t have the advantages Nothing enjoyed. They wouldn’t be able to walk in the day, fly through the skies or even grow a set of razor sharp incisors. Instead, they would only receive an everlasting life and a hunger just as endless. Making his way into the bathroom, Nothing hoped the boys would make good vampires.
The cold bathroom marble greeting his feet, Nothing’s hopes gave way to an unerring dark apathetic indifference. Over the past five years he had created hundreds like Raven and Vex. All lost children who’s pain, heartache and suffering was so opaque, they couldn’t see a way through other than the razor sharp bite of a rock star. Krista would come along soon enough. By sunrise Raven and Vex would be in their own room in the Red Rock. When they were finally reborn, she would gently remind them what happened and give them the only rule they had to abide—stay out of the light. The boys would then be on their own.
Climbing into the shower, the hot beat of water washed the dark red streaks of Vex and Raven’s blood away from his porcelain white skin.
When Nothing first started feeding, a bite was enough. The act of draining someone’s life and feeling their memories flash through his head fulfilled the demands of his hunger. But over time, his feeding evolved into something more violent and ugly. Once he realized any damage he inflicted, no matter how extreme, would be healed during the rebirth process, there were no more barriers. The darkest and most base of his cruel desires were completely unchained. In that sense, Nothing was glad Echo had left following the concert. When she was around, there was some measure of pretense he was only feeding to survive. Without her, Nothing was free to be the monster he truly was.
Stepping out of the bathroom, the darkness of the master bathroom welcoming his nude form, Nothing looked Raven and Vex over. While their wounds were starting to heal, the boys were still a gruesome sight. There was a time when he would have tried to act horrified by the sight. He would have tapped into the memory of what it was like to be frightened and disgusted. But just like any emotion, it would fade into the black indifference that filled his day to day.
Nothing made his way to the private patio. Overlooking the Red Rock Canyon, the view was breathtaking. When he was alive, Nothing never dared dream of seeing anything like it. But Nothing would have never dreamed of the carnage lying in the master bedroom, either. The ravaged corpses of Raven and Vex, the blood spattering the walls and the chunks of flesh on the floor. Staring out at the endless western sky, Nothing knew his kingdom had come.