Some News and Early Sample of “On the Air”

You know, this would typically be the weekly TESSpecFic update, but it’s been a fairly quiet week within the group – and for good reason. Some of us have had family health scares, others are still recovering from the fires in the West, and some have just been swamped. Life seems to have struck again for most of us. Rather than go with a sparse update, I thought I’d share some news on what’s going on with me and offer you an exclusive glimpse at a story that will be appearing in an anthology sometime in the Fall.

The fact that I’m posting fiction on two posts in a row could be a hint of a slight shift in focus on this blog. I intend to continue writing about writing, the publishing industry, and all that fun stuff – still have lots of ideas for things to talk about there, but I also realized that any readers of my fiction might be feeling a bit left out. I’m also looking to expand my repertoire of writing tools, so I figured it might be a good idea to combine the two. I could offer some more flash fiction on the site and offer some more value to my readers. Worth a shot, right? Anyway, the eventual goal is to collect all of this ephemera into something coherent, but that’s a ways down the road. For now, expect to see part 2 of the Rudest Man in Rock next week, with some other stories coming down the pike.

In other news, I have a tentative interview with a podcast lined up next week. I’ll have more information once it gets closer to broadcast, but definitely expect to hear more in the near future. I’m also joining the Maryland Writers Association (MWA), an organization dedicated to helping Maryland writers gain greater visibility and help one another out. They seem to be indie-friendly so far, and I’m looking forward to being an active participant in the group. You, the reader, will benefit from this as I’ll share some of my education from the organization.

Room 3 is coming along well, and I’m aiming for a mid-to-late August release. I realize this is four months out from its original release date, but at this point I’ve turned a 60,000-word story into 100,000-word story, and I still have a great deal of new material to come. Think of it as adding the sequel on to the original story – kind of two books in one, and it becomes a little more apparent why I needed another four months to get there. I think the final version is a lot stronger for it.

For those who read Corridors of the Dead and want more, this has not significantly impacted its sequel, City of the Dead. I already have 30,000 words in the can for that project, and have entered the second “act” of the first draft. So far, it’s some of my strongest first draft material to date.

I don’t know, writing is so funny. I’ve written so much in the last year, but how many releases do I have to show for it? Not a whole lot. That’s about to change, sure, and I’ve written enough for two novels when it comes to Room 3, but progress is measured in such odd increments when it comes to writing and especially editing. How do you tally it all? What does that tally even mean? Probably a topic for a future blog post, not a news post.

Anyway, I promised some fiction, and fiction I have! Keep in mind this is unvarnished draft territory here – no beta readers or editors have seen it yet, so things will definitely change between now and publication. This story will see the light of day sometime this Fall, and I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the as-yet-unnamed anthology’s progress to publication. I present to you a portion of On the Air.

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Hugo had lit up his third bowl of weed right around the time that the voices cut through the static on the radio and spoke his name. They spoke it very clearly, and very loudly.

His heartbeat pounding in his ears, Hugo’s head swiveled, inch by inch, to face the radio’s grill and, along with it, that damned microphone.

The voices spoke his name again, this time not so clear; this time, they sounded like they came from far away, buried somewhere in the static.

At the same moment, his phone flashed on, for a second, before the icons on the screen scrambled.

“What the fuck…?” he said, and the voices on the radio spoke one more time, a cacophony of phrases and phonemes that danced over one another.

He watched his hands move of their own accord as they first put the bowl down next to the microphone, and then pressed down the Talk button. He leaned forward, holding his breath, wondering just what the hell he was doing.

At last, he spoke:

“Hello? Who is that?”

A female voice whispered its reply: come find us, Hugo.

Goosebumps grew on his forearms. He pressed the button again. “Who are you?”

No reply came. He twiddled the knobs on the radio, having no clue of what he was really doing, but the voices vanished as quickly as they had arrived.

At last he gave up and sat back in the chair, rubbing his eyes.

Did that really happen?

It wasn’t possible. It had to be the stress of the last few days finally getting to him. Combine that with the weed, and it was no wonder his brain had started playing tricks on him.

He remembered the weirdness with his cell phone and picked it up, thumbing off the lock screen. Everything was normal: icons in place, three emails waiting, battery at full capacity.

Could it have been the weed? He put his phone down and picked up the pipe, studying it. It couldn’t have, right? Weed didn’t cause hallucinations. It just didn’t.

Although he did remember rumors of people spiking their pot with PCP. Would Dad be the kind to do that?

No way. He laid the pipe back down and swiveled in the chair, surveying the room, wondering if anything looked amiss there. Remains of his father’s life stared at him from every corner; last year’s calendar hung by the door, next to an old corkboard that had been littered with index cards, all of them featuring his father’s meticulous handwriting.

Hugo rose and went to the corkboard, pulling one of the cards off. As he did so, something fluttered out from the bottom of the card, landing on the floor with a soft swish.

The hell?

He bent down, scooping up what he now saw was an old Polaroid. A familiar Polaroid, at that: he and his father, at the kitchen table. Halloween 1987, if he recalled correctly. Young Hugo wore his all-time favorite costume: the monster hunter Simon Belmont, from the video game Castlevania. His father had taken an unusual interest in that costume, helping him to fashion old wooden stakes and get the hair just right. In the photo, Dad had his arm wrapped around his shoulders, waving at the camera.

That moment had meant everything to Hugo, but he had never been sure what his father thought. Given that they had never worked on another costume, his guess had been “not much”. Now he had evidence to the contrary, and his heart melted just a little.

He turned the Polaroid over and discovered a small drawing on the back: a cartoon Dracula, his fangs dripping blood.

Mind racing, he looked to the index card. Written there in his father’s handwriting were symbols that he didn’t recognize or understand, all whorls and hooked edges. In the center of that mess, his father had written three words:

Alpha Zero Zero

As if on cue, the radio squalled with new static, this time louder, more insistent. Hugo looked at the beast, and the sound became more insistent, pounding on his skull. Amidst the screeching and howling, he caught a female voice, this one different from the first, though even clearer and more precise in her enunciation:

“Alpha zero one one.”

A chill ran through him. He knew that voice, but couldn’t cut through the haze in his mind to figure out why. Eyes wide, he clutched the card and photo to his chest and approached the radio. The woman repeated her mantra, and a snippet of music followed, a waltz filtered through a music box in hell.

He froze when an even more familiar voice followed that tune:

“Hi, Uncle Earl.”

He had done a lot of drugs in his life, and experienced some strange things: breathing walls, rippling dog fur, sidewalks on fire, but he had never felt such a strange detachment. He floated outside of his own body, slightly above and behind, looking at the back of his head and the radio before it as he the voice of young Hugo filtered through the radio’s speaker one more time.

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4 Comments

  1. This exerpt makes me want more more more!

  2. Progress is measured by how close a story is getting to the way the universe means it to be. We can never make an exact duplicate, but if it takes you an “extra” four months to get close, so be it. You must honor the story, which is timeless, without worrying about time.

    Yes, I realize that’s not always good for publication schedules or sales.

    As for the story, I agree with Mary. More! Love this: “phrases and phonemes that danced over one another” – beautiful!

    -aniko

    • Jonathan D Allen

      That’s basically the conclusion that I’ve reached, but try explaining that to a “layman”. 🙂

      And thank you! It means a lot to hear some good things about the story.

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