Excerpt #2 American Rebirth Prequel!

Excerpt #2 American Rebirth Prequel!

Link to Excerpt one

Alright everybody, I’ve decided to dish out a little more from my WIP. This short excerpt follows directly after the last one. Let me know what you think! As per usual DM me on twitter or email me at EvanPickering@EvanPickeringauthor.com

Enjoy! Hope your Summer is kicking ass.

-Evan


West Crown Apartments, Washington D.C., Two Weeks Earlier

“You ever wish you’d wake up with a totally different life?” Rob said. Sunlight poured in the east window, leaving a rectangle of warmth in front of the couch that illuminated his socks. He wiggled his toes, stretching his feet.
“Nah man. We are where we’re meant to be. There’s plenty of people that got it way worse than whatever you think you got.” Desean Grant let out a puff of smoke as he loosened his tie and unbuttoned his top button.
“I know. Starving kids in Africa and all that.”
“Who said shit about Africa? There’s starving kids five miles from here.”
“Yeah, for real.” Rob slid back, sinking into Des’ couch and resting the back of his head against the cushion. He took a sip of his beer, running his thumb over the bumps of the raised lettering on the dark glass bottle.
“You don’t think we would even be friends if we didn’t sit next to each other all through school, do you?”
“I dunno.”
“Nah,” Des took a sip of his beer.
“Probably not,” Rob echoed.
“Thank god H comes after G in the alphabet.” Des said, glancing over at Rob.
Rob chuckled, holding out his beer. Des clinked it with his own, and they both took a drink.
“Thank the good lord,” Rob exhaled.
There was an appreciative silence that hung in the air as they both stared at the T.V. that flashed images of sports highlights they both weren’t paying attention to.
“All suffering is relative, though.” Des said, circling back. “Life is a concept we create in our mind.”
Rob chuckled. “You would say some shit like that.”
“How did that date go?” Des inquired lazily.
“How do you think?” Rob shook his head, trying to fight the tired feeling in his eyes. “All this online shit is weird as hell.”
“What happened?”
What happened is she’s obsessed with crustaceans. Hood shook his head, uncomfortable laughter welling out of him.
“She told me she wrote a book.”
“That’s cool.”
“About horseshoe crabs.”
“What?”
“So I laughed. She asked what was funny. When I realized she wasn’t joking, I was all ‘ah, that’s cool, you like a scientist or something?’ She got pissed, started talking about how we’re going to have to talk about this later. Talk about it later. Like we were a couple. Like I wasn’t already willing to fake my own death to get out of the conversation.”
“Man, you gotta give girls a chance. So she wrote a book about crabs, that’s cool.”
Rob sat up and turned to face Des, glaring at him. “You serious?”
“You gotta move on, man. You ain’t gonna find another Jennifer. You gotta be open to new things in your life.”
“The fuck would you say if a chick told you she wrote a book about horseshoe crabs?”
“That’s cool honey, want to go watch Nemo at my place? You ain’t gotta be lookin’ for marriage material with everyone you meet my dude. Have some fun. You’re a good lookin’ man. Go enjoy yourself, like you used to.”
Rob furrowed his brow. “I don’t know if that’s what I want anymore.”
Des shook his head with a chuckle, taking a sip from his bottle. “You don’t even know what you want right now.”
Rob shrugged, taking a deep breath and finishing his beer.
“You want another?”
“No, I have that interview later.” Rob shook his head, standing up. “I should get going, anyway.”
Des nodded slowly, staring at Rob until he had his attention. “Get your mind right. This ain’t the Rob I know.”
Rob paused, considering this for a moment. “You don’t ever wake up wishing the world would just start over?” Rob turned to face Des, searching for some confirmation.
Des shook his head. “Nah man, I got too much to lose.”
“Lucky you.”
“So do you.”
“Yeah, I know. I just want to feel worth a damn again. I feel like I’m drowning in my own mediocrity.”
Des laughed, shaking his head as he took another deep hit, exhaling smoke. “That’s the breakup talking. You definitely need to get your mind right.”
Rob shook his head. “I’ll hit you up later.”
Des puffed smoke, nodding at Rob as he turned to walk out the door.

The fresh gray sidewalk outside the apartment was thick with foot traffic. The gleaming modern structures in the distance that was D.C. proper loomed over the sunset urban neighborhood. A group of high school kids pushed past him, walking home late from school. They took over the sidewalk with swagger and casual dancing.
His feet carried him through the relatively clean streets, the sweat beginning to bead on his forehead despite his best attempts not to exert himself. Can’t be a sweaty mess for this. I hate interviews.
His eyes turned down to his phone. He tapped open messages and typed out something to Ian deftly with his thumb. Hey bro, how are you doin? I miss you.
Rob stared down at it, hovering over the send button. The last message Ian had sent was Things are crazy dude. I don’t have time for anything anymore. That was two months ago. Rob frowned, shaking his head before tapping the delete button until the message was gone.
His thumb swiped over and tapped open Instagram. First post, there she was. Looking pretty in a summer dress. Rooftop bar with friends. And that smile…
He locked his phone and jammed it in his pocket. Des is right about me. He took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. So why don’t I want to change?
He feet carried him into the bowels of the DC Metro subway system, the waffle cone concave ceiling towering above him. He tapped his foot incessantly, waiting for the train to glide into the station. The ceiling isn’t gonna collapse. You are safe. There’s nothing wrong with being underground he reassured himself repeatedly. There was a time he wasn’t scared. A time anxiety had no grip on him at all. It felt like a long time ago now.

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SHORT STORY: A Lover and A Fighter

SHORT STORY: A Lover and A Fighter

A lover and a fighter. That’s all a man is.

Our world gets destroyed all the time.

Shattered by our choices, the choices of others, or things completely out of our control.

As I drove my car down the broken, empty road, I realized the truth. As a man, I am fueled and driven by only two impulses. The need to love, to build a family, and the need to fight for something.

That one day a year ago, the love I had for so many years was gone. Shattered by so many choices and things outside our control. I thought I would be with her for the rest of my life. I knew what kind of ring she wanted. But as hard as we fought for each other it wasn’t enough. Our love had died. Like our world is now, I was broken and fighting to mend into something that resembled myself.

All I could do then was fight. Not wanton, hateful conflict, or violence for its own sake. I needed to fight for something, some cause, something meaningful. But I had nothing to fight for. I had no hobbies, no passions, I felt no fire inside me though I knew I wanted one. I had been one half of a whole, but she was gone. Now I was just alive.

Memories are your enemy.

As it would happen, the world was really destroyed not long after. It didn’t take long. I’m not exactly sure how it happened. Supposedly The oceans died and crops everywhere failed and food suddenly became a precious resource. In a few months the whole world tore itself apart in hunger. Civilization in all its majesty undone by the most primal of impulses: feed.

I had my cause to fight. It wasn’t a complicated one, but it made me feel alive. I woke up every day with purpose. I was empty no more. I fought to survive, to protect the people around me. They were good people. I only knew one of them before the end of civilization–My neighbor, Keith. He always wore the same hat both before the world ended and after. Black baseball cap with the Red Sox logo. At least he’s consistent. Pretty funny too. He’s a glue guy. Keeps smiles on the faces of everyone when we’re venturing forth under the hot sun, into unknown territory hoping to find friendly faces instead of hateful ones.

These are the kind of thoughts that make me reach for my AR-15 propped up against the driver’s side door just to feel the smooth metal body, just to know it’s there. I don’t like firing it. I don’t like that it is a part of my life. But knowing its there to keep me alive, so that I can use it to keep the others alive when necessary, that’s a feeling I can’t be without.

I had fired it too many times two days ago. We lost Angela in the fighting. Only ten feet from the truck. God, it’s the kind of thing that will drive you crazy.

I don’t know why they opened fire on us, even. Not like we have any food. Not like we wanted to fight them. Unless they wanted us for food. If so, then Angela… No, I can’t think about that. That way lies madness. Only thing we have is what’s in front of us.

But of all the things I’ve seen, there’s one thing I can’t shake. One memory that will not escape me. If it is even a memory, or some ghost of my mind. At this point, I don’t even know anymore. We were passing through this refugee town. We didn’t even stop. We’ve seen them before. Groups of starving people, no will left to fight and nowhere to go. They roam in packs and scavenge for food like old world hunter-gatherers. We drove through the crowd of people who rose to clamor at our truck, but were smart enough not to step in front. Most survivors didn’t think twice of running over someone in their way.

I looked out the driver’s side window and in the crowd I swear I saw her face. I think it was her. It looked like her. Tired, but steely eyed and surviving. At the time I thought it was just someone that looked like her. I didn’t even stop the truck. How could I? But I think… I think it was her. I think I saw the recognition in her eyes when she saw me. But she made no move. She just stared.

We drove on. We still drive on. Every day I feel the urge to turn around and go back. I want to find her. But there is no going back.

Memories are my enemy.

Lover and a fighter. That’s all I am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passion.

Passion.

What makes a book great?

What makes anything great, really?

There’s a lot of different reasons, with varying degrees of validity. Books, for example, are good when the writing skill comes through in the prose, the storycrafting elements are well executed, and the content of the story is tantalizing, thought provoking, draws you in and makes you actively wonder what will happen next.

But ultimately, what really makes a book, or anything, great, is the passion you can feel in it.

 

Passion is visible, feel-able, through solid wall and open sky from miles away. And I don’t mean specifically romantic passion. Sure, it can be that too, but in this case I mean the internal passion that is not self-serving. It’s not about wanting. It’s about that which means so much that you feel compelled to share it because you don’t know what else to do.

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You can tell the difference between a well-written book and a well-written book that comes from a fire inside the writer. A book that the writer felt in his or her blood, one that screamed in his or her mind to come out, one that grips the heart of the reader in its fist–That book leaves the reader shaken in the best way, thinking about their life and what they love. And hopefully, it ignites passion in those readers.

Passion can be a limited resource. A precious gem, something that can be poured out and take shape, or can wane and be lost, formless and ethereal. It can be given, inspired, which is an act of love and beauty.

Passion is one of the greatest things in life. It’s dangerous, it can be scary, it can consume us in its immolating fire and trigger fear of loss or failure. But still, it is worth it. Passion can take so many forms, and should never be taken for granted, should be hunted and treasured and fought for.

Sometimes I’m writing a story, and I know it’s good, but something feels missing. And I have to step back, and take some time. What was it that burned inside me so much that I took the years to write this series? What was that which boiled my blood and kept me up at night, that surged adrenaline through me just at the thought of the reader taking in the words? That is what I want. That’s what I must continue to write.

That’s the way I want to keep trying to live.

Evan

HOOD is on sale for $0.99!

HOOD is on sale for $0.99!

So the Ebooks have grown ripe on the vine, thus I have harvested them and decided to sell them for 0.99$ on Amazon.

That, or yknow, it’s promo time. For 7 days HOOD will be 0.99$ so get em while they’re hot! If you know anyone into post-apoc or just loves a good story, they can pick one up for a buck. 879 words per penny. Don’t make me think about it in any other terms than that or my head might explode.

If you enjoyed HOOD, let people know about it! Now’s the time for people to pick up a copy if they want to give it a shot.

It really means the world to me if you share this book with people. I’m incredibly proud of the success it’s had so far. But I want more people to enjoy the story, so I’ll love you forever if you let someone know about it 🙂

And don’t worry, I’m hard at work on BOOK 3, American Rebirth. It’s gonna take some time given how much my life has exploded lately, but the story is moving along. I’m pretty excited to see it finished.

Have a good weekend you savages,

-Evan

Doing it the right way.

Doing it the right way.
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Credit: maciejkuciara

I’ve learned a hell of a lot from writing and publishing my first book.

Chiefest of all of them: do the hard stuff, the legwork and the preparation first, so you don’t have to do twice the work later.

As my dad says, an ounce of prevention saves a pound of trouble. I don’t know if he ever thought it would apply to writing, but it does.

It took 4 years and a hell of a lot of re-writing for Hood.  Rewriting the final version only took 4 months. I’m hoping I can write BOOK 2 in a year.

Part of that is doing what many authors hate to do: Outline. Storyboard. Character pages. Most writers have much of the story already imagined, lodged up there in their head somewhere. They just want to write it as imagined, without being “hemmed in.” But there’s two problems with that:

1. You slow your writing down by about 5x by not outlining first. This doesn’t mean you have to follow your outline exactly. Hell, you can replace things with other ideas or change it on the fly. But writing each chapter is SOOO much easier when you already have conceptualized what is happening. All the stress of “pouring it out” floats away. You’re free. (I always thought outlines were restricting. Reality is, they give you such freedom.)

2. If you structure your story, your scene-sequel pairs from 10,000 ft. view, the quality of your story is exponentially greater. The reality of why we don’t want to outline is because we’re lazy. We want to just let the words fly. We don’t want to “suck the fun out” of writing by following a construct. Be honest with yourself. Yes, it’s hard to plan out the whole damn thing first, but that’s what great stories are made of.

So, here I am, trying to get my outline on. Trying to capture the spirit and mood and excitement of the story in my head in structure. It’s not impossible. Hell, it’s not even that hard. You just have to get your ass into gear and do it.

-Evan Pickering

My One and Only Review: The Last Of Us

My One and Only Review: The Last Of Us

I’ve been trying to pinpoint what it is about The Last of Us that makes it groundbreaking work of gaming and storytelling both.

To answer it, I have to ask a question:

Why do we all need stories and storytelling? It’s nearly as fundamental a human need as eating and sleeping and love. Remove all stories from your life (be it a loved one telling you about their day or a great epic of history) and the silence that follows it will be deafening. Maddening. Unbearable.

Because without stories we are alone. Without them we live one solitary life, confined to our own heads.

Perhaps this seems like a long and unnecessary aside for a video game review. It’s not.

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The reason why The Last of Us shakes the earth underneath your feet after you’ve played it, is for the same reason all great stories change us. Through it, we live out another life. A breathing, pulsing life.

The life of The Last of Us is real. It occupies time and space. If not in your reality than in your mind and in your heart. It carries with it a great weight of the everyday life of a select few people in the shattered remnants of the world, of bad jokes and angry fights and heartfelt bonds and awkward silences.

It is not overt; it does not scream in the face of the player/viewer and dazzle with shock and flash. The great beauty of this game is that you walk with Joel and Ellie and everyone else who passes through their life, in spectacular yet tragic landscapes, in peaceful normalcy and under great duress. It might be a walk through beautiful woods and other times it is a bleak, wet subway tunnel infested with ‘zombies’ crawling in the dark. Gun in hand, you tread softly ahead with four bullets and a brick, a fatherly off-hand protectively extended to Ellie. All you think as a player is “How am I going to make it through this?”

You want to survive because you cannot bear watching these characters you love come to harm, and you desperately want to claw your way out the other side into daylight to see them reach their destiny, whatever it may be.

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You see yourself in everyone. There are no heroes and villains. There are only people, and they are flawed and real and keenly relatable. Every single one of them.

On top of it all, the gameplay has been perfected to align perfectly with the mood, the feel of the game. It’s survivalist, it’s desperate and raw and very, very real. You can’t superman through the fights, running around taking bullets and gunning people down 1v20. You have to survive. You have to be tactical, quiet, deliberate, patient. Or you die. Sometimes all you can do is run.

The gameplay is the story. The story is the gameplay. Not many video games can achieve that. The only thing I could say is that the story is so incredibly good, you might find yourself longing to complete the gameplay just to find out what happens. MIGHT. But honestly, you LOVE the fact that you have to fight your way through their journey. The satisfaction of surviving in this game is very, very real. (I recommend any gamer worth their salt playing the game on Hard or Survivor for the first playthrough. You just have to. Trust me. The gameplay is too forgiving and takes away from the fictive dream a bit if you play normal or easy.)

I’ve played through the game around seven times. And I NEVER replay games that much. I just love the story, the world, the feel of the game so much I find myself drawn to it and thinking about it on an everyday basis.

I also won’t talk about a potential spoiler things that happen in the game, but suffice it to say through playing the game and living alongside the characters, It has permanently changed the way I look at my own life.

That’s the best thing I could say about any game, any movie, any book, any story. Period.

Do yourself a favor. Play TLOU. You’ll never regret it–that’s a promise.

-Evan

My novel, HOOD on Amazon Kindle