Another Excerpt from my New Book, Hood

Another Excerpt from my New Book, Hood
It was nice to see so much viewership and positive feedback from my last excerpt I posted a week or so ago for my new book Hood, Book one of the American Rebirth series.
I hesitate to say the editing process is coming to a close, but I hope (and pray) that it is. It’s been a long, long road. I still am researching the best way to go about self-publishing, and still need to get some stuff done, but hopefully I’ll have the book up soon. You can be sure you’ll hear about it 🙂
So without further ado, enjoy:


Hood slammed the door of the truck. The bright sun blared down on the old house that remained largely intact. He’d seen this exact sight before; an unhinged red front door and pile of rotten wood shingles that lay in a heap next to the walkway. They’d already been to this house, months ago. He scanned the area, looking over each shoulder. The narrow lake shimmering in the sunlight nearby looked much more sylvan now than in the nighttime.

“Whiskey?”

“Mm-hm?” He replied, the crunch of his footsteps on gravel unceasing as he strode towards the old farmhouse. It still held the air of a once majestic country home as it must’ve been some years ago.

“Why are we looking in the same place again?” Hood’s voice did nothing to hide his annoyance.

“Just keep an eye on the truck,” Whiskey said, entering the house with his police-issue shotgun half-raised.

Hood breathed in deep, leaning his head back and letting out a grumbling sigh. He looked out over the still lake that carried a few lost pine cones about like ships at sea. He turned around, observing the vast overgrowth of grass and weeds on what must have once been fields. The old barn covered in flaky brown paint was listing so heavily to one side it looked like if Hood yelled at it, it would collapse. In the distance, over top the treeline he could see the rise of the Shenandoah mountains. At least, he was pretty sure that’s what it was.

He hoisted his rifle onto his shoulder, letting it rest there lazily. At least it was a gorgeous day in yet another ghost town. He wondered what his old home in D.C. looked like. The parts of the city that still stood were on the brink of chaos when Hood and Taylor left two years ago. They waited for days hoping their parents would show up, but fled when the survivors grew desperate. Radiation sickness decimated many of the people that had survived the blast.

How different would Hood’s life be if his entire family was together during the fall. They probably never would have met Whiskey and become a part of Clearwater. He hadn’t seen Ian in over a year even before the fall, barely talked to him save a few texts. It was easy to get caught up in your life and not even pick up the phone to say hi. Now he just prayed Ian was still alive.

It was hard to accept going from a world where communication was a given to a world where your survival depended on being cut off from the world. A bird of prey was floating slowly on the strong winds high up in the blue sky. Nothing to see here, buddy.

I Love Thrillerfest, and It Loves Me? One Valuable Lesson about Agents.

A few days late, life has been crazy. But as per usual, attending ITW’s Thrillerfest this year was nothing short of amazing.

Everyone is so nice and helpful, It’s awesome how supportive the writing community is of other writers, especially authors trying to break into the field.

So as I mentioned, I attended Pitchfest this year for the first time. With F. Paul Wilson‘s help turning my pitch into something people would actually want to hear, I threw myself at the speed dating bonanza that is the search for an agent. The awesome news, 7 agents were interested in my story and wanted to read some or all of it! Now I sit and hope the love the story as much as they love the pitch, hahaha.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep editing, and take the lessons I learned to heart. There’s one that kept resounding out like a bell amongst the din:

Don’t settle for an agent. An agent is like a relationship, the two of you have to be on the same page, so to speak. The right agent for you should love your story like you do, and shouldn’t be asking you to change it in such a way that alters the story the way you want it to be told. (Within reason)

It’s pretty reassuring to hear. While asking questions at the conference, I keep hearing people say “no one knows what the market is going to do, so just write what you love and if it’s good enough it will be successful.”

It’s true though. One minute everyone loves vampires, then zombies, then steampunk, yadda yadda yadda, everything changes so fast don’t bother trying to write for the market.

Also, I’m realizing how viable Self-Publishing is lately. It was awesome to learn about it, because it gave you the feeling if you learned how to market well (and had a good story, obviously) you could find your own success even if you didn’t get picked up. I’ll get more into that another time, though.

-Evan Pickering

Excerpt from my new book: Hood

After two years worth of writing, Months worth of editing and hack-sawing more than half of the book and then rewriting the whole dang thing again, I’m happy to present a snippit from my new book: Hood, Book One of the American Rebirth Series.
As any writer will tell you, even a finished book still feels like it needs editing. So I’m going to forego my endless need to tweak and just toss it up. Here goes:

With a click light filled the room, so bright Hood had to turn his face and jam his eyes shut.
“You’re getting full of yourself,” came the hoarse voice of the old sheriff.
The idea that the sheriff had Hood’s life in his hands was a dark seed in his mind. He needed to buy some time, find out why he was here, why he was still alive.
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Hood answered at length. The yellow floodlight nailed to the wall still shined in his eyes, but he adjusted enough to be able to see that they were in an portable arch-shaped metal warehouse.
“Of course I’m right.” the old man said, pacing in front of him. “Sneaking through my land, stealing from me and thinking you’d just run back home unmolested. You and your self-righteousness. I swear, I can smell your naiveté on the wind.”
Hood licked his lips and kept silent. The old man leaned in close to Hood. His breath smelled like old cigarettes. His bald, middle aged face was worn and weary around blue eyes. It was a look of disappointment, the look of a vulture flying over picked bones. His search was over.
“You know what it is that did you in,” the sheriff said with a smile and focused eyes. “It’s pride. The same pride that god saw in us when he smote us down.”
Hood smirked, his head leaned forward with his brow keeping the light out of his eyes.
“Granted, I’ve never read the good book cover to cover, but I’m pretty sure you don’t qualify as the godly type.”

The sheriff swung his pistol at Hood’s face. The handle connected with his eyebrow, his head snapping back from the blow. The pain seared, his head feeling numb. The worn barrel of the sheriff’s pistol hovered in front of Hood’s right eye. Inside the barrel was darkness.

A tight frown quivered on The sheriff’s face. “You don’t talk to me about godliness. You’re just a mongrel slinking around this hell on earth.”
Hood breathed in slowly, closing his eyes. Despite being provoked the Sheriff still hadn’t shot him. Gotta keep him talking.

When You Feel as Lost as your Characters.

I don’t even like those two words. They feel like a lie. A crappy, cliched lie. Writer’s Block? No, I could write easily. It might be garbage, but I could pump out worthless, hollow content all day. (See: E.L. James)

Here I sit, one chapter away from completing my Post-apoc novel I’ve been lovingly slaving over for two years. One damned chapter. It’s not even the last chapter for Mad Max’s sake. It’s not because I don’t know what to write. I have already outlined what it should be. I just don’t feel that what I decided it should be does the story justice. Woe is me! (First world non-nuclear fallout problems.)

Well, screw it. I’ll wait. I’ll wait for it to be right. Every day I wake up and claw my mind for ‘le mot juste’ so to speak, hoping the perfect idea will pop into my head on how to reinvent the end of this one character’s arc.

Maybe, Hopefully, one day I’ll have deadlines to fulfill. When that day comes, I’ll force it out, butcher’s cleaver edit it and come up with what will at least satisfy me. Until that day comes I’ll just enjoy the freedom that comes with being an utterly unpublished novelist– the time is all mine. Now I just have to hope I don’t get hit by a bus or have an anuerism until then. At least there’s no motorcyle-driving flail-wielding wastelanders chasing me.

 

The End of the World! Apocalyptic Beginnings for Your Story

When creating your post-apocalyptic story, there’s generally two ways to go: Either have it be unknown, a catastrophic disaster that your characters will never discover, or have it be revealed or known all along.

For those writing the latter, its good to think about your options. Which catastrophe that befalls the earth has a pretty serious impact on how your post-apocalyptic world is shaped, and how your characters live in it.

Also, for those simply curious about the end of the world, this is some terrifying fodder to knock around your noggin if you’re the worrying type.

1. Nuclear Falloutnuclear-mushroom-cloud

There is generally estimated to be about 17,300 nuclear weapons currently functioning in the world. The majority of them belong to the U.S. and Russia, but a decent amount is distributed among smaller countries. Truthfully, it wouldn’t take all that many to start a nuclear winter and truly disrupt the planet’s fragile environment.

2. Meteoric impact

meteor  

It really can be any celestial body hurtling through space, but meteoric has a nice ring to it. It has been recently revealed that we are about ten times more likely to be hit by an asteroid than we previously thought. They might not necessarily all be apocalyptic, but it only takes one moderately big one.

3. Climate change

An inconvenient truth indeed. Though it is still under some speculation to what degree the natural fluctuation of temperatures of earth are, its clear we are having an adverse effect on the environment. It usually takes a long time, but the earth will slide into frozen cycles and very warm cycles without our help. It is inevitable that the environment of the planet will one day be blasted away by solar winds when the magnetic field of the earth dissipates as the core goes cold (like mars). For those of you who want to write futuristic apocalyptic stories, some things to think about!

4. Economic/Social collapse

Fallout

Perhaps the more subtle of ends, a social collapse is certainly very possible. As we expunge the natural resources from the planet and do not replenish them, eventually economies could collapse and chaos could stem and lead to governmental collapses. For all those who are effected by the sagging global economy, this one can sometimes feel close to home.

5. Infectious Diseases

Gasp! Hard to believe in the era of modern medicine, but we don’t know what we don’t know. And for all our knowledge STDs like HIV/AIDS has still befuddled us. Certainly in human civilization many diseases have been pretty rough on the population, and we all know how globalization has made the ole continental barriers meaningless. The bubonic plague killed somewhere between 75 and 200 million people in the 14th century, and there were no planes to fly around in back then.

                 

These are probably the most prominent if you’re looking for a basis of realism in your writing. I know what all you George Romero fans may be thinking: what about the zombies?! While I quite enjoy the zomb-pocalypse I would rather file it as a rather specific subgenre, and to be honest, if this is your thing, you don’t need to be reading my blog to decide on the impetus of your story. (Insert winkyface here)

Hope you enjoyed your journey down terrifying lane with me! And remember: keep calm and stock up your [character’s] storehouse.

Death and dying in the post-apocalyptic novel: Easy does it?

Image

So chances are if you’re writing a post-apoc novel there’s going to be a fair amount of death.Perhaps this isn’t a universal constant of the genre, but in general mortality is one of the prime subjects of such dire times.

It dawned on me pretty quickly upon writing my first apocalyptic short story that one of the main challenges for someone writing in this genre, or really any genre that commonly deals with mortality, is how to not have your audience become desensitized to death. Even  ‘dramadies’ like Shaun of the Dead (a movie, I know boo, hiss) manage to balance the absurdism and satire of the zombie-pocalypse with the tragic losses of loved ones. Despite the satire they still managed to evoke tears (yeah I cried at the end so what) at the tragic deaths of loved ones.

If you go all Mad Max and have everyone constantly blowing people away with sawed off shotguns in spiked shoulder pads, all the bite is taken out of the reality of mortality. But inevitably many characters, usually some key or main characters, will die. (gasp!)

Given that the apocalypse is a brutal world to live in, I feel a certain level of commitment to the reality of the tragedy of death in my writing. But at the same time, you need to afford yourself the room to let your characters and your readers feel the emotional repercussions of loss. You don’t want to get melodramatic with long death speeches and effusive emotional exchanges as someone lay dying, but you also don’t want everything to be bullet-in-the-brain oh we hardly knew ye.

The tragedy must be felt in the minds, choices and lives of your surviving characters. Survival is everything in the end times, but it does not come without its fair share of survivor’s guilt. (Or maybe if you’re going that direction, the lack thereof in a character for whom the ends always justify the means!)

All Quiet on the Western Front is perhaps one of the best written examples of how to make death surround your characters and yet only become more powerful to the reader with time. The scene where Paul Baumer is stuck in no man’s land with the dying french man he stabbed is one of the most reverberating scenes I have ever read about death. A man he killed whom he has never met is probably the most powerful death scene in the entire story (debatable, I know.) Though it is a World War I novel, its apocalyptic in its own way. It certainly feels that way.

Have death change your characters. Be it death of loved ones, strangers, or  new companions. That is the reality of death’s influence on life. make it real in your story.