'Let the past die. Kill it if you have to. It is the only way to become what you were meant to be.'
Invariably, after I release a book into the world, I fall into a bit of a writing-related funk. In part, it's down to the sheer amount of effort that goes into every aspect of the creation of it, and the realisation that for all of the bluff and bluster before launch, once it's out there, it disappears pretty quickly from people's view and I'm left wondering if all that effort was truly worth it. That's something for another day. The point of this little post is what happens after that, when I'm thinking about what I should work on next.
The last two books I've finished up, CONGRATULATIONS! YOU'VE ACCIDENTALLY SUMMONED A WORLD-ENDING MONSTER. WHAT NOW? and DON'T SMELL THE FLOWERS! THEY WANT TO STEAL YOUR BONES are books that I've had on the go for some time. The former was started over two years ago, but I wanted to finish it up, indeed, my mantra for 2019 has been exactly that. "Finish what you started, get it the fuck out there and then you can start on something completely new." It's an admirable sentiment but as I prepared to finish the next book I'd half-finished, it hit me. Why? Why should I be trying to get back into writing a book that I stopped writing a year and a half ago? I stopped it for a reason, because some other new shiny idea shone brighter, or for more mundane reasons such as work etc.
So I've come to a decision, anything that I've started and not finished, has been shelved. Not for a little bit, for good. Sure, part of me wants to finish some of them up as I really enjoy their concept, but my writing has moved on a lot in the past few years that I just don't see why I should try to finish something that I started with a completely different mindset.
However, before I abandon them in the fetid waters of my brain, only to plunder elements from them in the future, I wanted to list them all, and give them an obituary of sorts, they deserve that at least. Here are the ideas that I've cast into a shallow grave, some are just rough plans, others...not so much:
'Roll With It' - This is a post-apocalyptic book set in the summer of 1995, just as Oasis and Blur went head-to-head in their charts with their decidedly average singles. Essentially, astronauts repairing the Hubble telescope inadvertently lay waste to the world by deflecting the sun's rays, which also hit a radio station aerial which then beams out the music of the day across the world. The protagonist awakes to discover the world turned on its head, but is determined to get Oasis to number one in the charts and sets off to purchase one copy to achieve that. Along the way, they'd encounter groups of people turned into gangs, so you'd get Electric Punks (Prodigy, Pop Will Eat Itself), a church based on Black Grape, Industrial Metal peeps centred on NIN and Marilyn Manson. I've written the first 12k on it, but the antagonist is actually a better character. This was going to be my next project, getting it ready for the 25th anniversary next year.
'The Tales of Doctor Nano' - I started this just after I finished Class Three, that's how old it is. The titular superhero is recovering after his most recent battle and is being interviewed. He recounts five of his toughest adventures, but halfway through the book, the journalist reveals that he knows Doctor Nano's secret, that he intentionally murdered his enemies and stole things from them that he used to improve his own abilities (he was infected with shitloads of nanobots which can shape his flesh, and do cool things like that). Second half of the book was the court case, his escape from jail and eventual demise.
'Afterthought' - A female copper who is out looking for a missing kid gets killed by a hit-and-run driver. Gets recruited by a spirit who shows her that they have the ability to read dead people's final thoughts their 'afterthought'. Cue story to try and find the missing kid, twists and turns ahoy!
'Deadlock' - Man, I fucking loved this idea. A retired jewel thief is hired for one more job (of course he fucking is), by weirdo. The four-man crew break into the basement of the diamond exchange, only to wind up straight into hell itself. The main premise is that the men are already dead, but anyone who had something left to sort out, or falls in the middle between being 'good' or 'evil', is destined to remain in limbo, or Deadlock. The forces of Heaven and Hell send agents into Deadlock to try and recruit these souls to their side. Anyway, the main character killed himself after his wife died of cancer, and discovers that he can try to find her in the afterlife. Ends up going through Deadlock, meeting up with people who live there knowing what the place is, fighting angels and demons, trying to find a path through everything to get to his wife. I actually finished this, but the ending didn't land, and every attempt to get it to work, failed. I even have a cover for it.
'Suicide Season' - This is loosely based on the song of the same name by Bring Me The Horizon. It's fucking brilliant, and was a snap-shot of a moment in my life. Anyway, story starts up with this guy killing himself atop a hill overlooking where he grew up. His best friend can't get over what happened, but finds out that there is a way to bring back his best friend. All he has to do, is to kill someone - a life for a life. After fighting with the morality of it, eventually do it, brings his friend back who then kills himself again, as he just can't bear living. Cheery, huh?
'Tribute/The Calling' - Man, I loved this idea. Starts out with a kid dropping gifts into a toilet, 'tributes' to what is assumed to be an imaginary friend. Mum finds out, goes mental, removes toilet door so that the kid can't do it any more. Fast forward to the present day, and the now-grown-up man is in a bar, drowning his sorrows. Dickhead and his mates start picking on him, the gang get killed by this monster made out of poo. Yep, the very same monster that lives in the sewers that LOVED the presents the kid used to send him. It's a feelgood buddy book as the monster decides to help get the bloke's life back on track. Cue hilarity, loads of shit jokes and general silliness.
'Shellshock' - Somehow...my story, SOLID FOUNDATIONS was voted the best in the Shadow Work Publishing anthology, Versus: X, beating the likes of Jack Ketchum and Wrath James White. I know, I'm as shocked as you. That made me wonder if I could write a proper extreme horror book, so came up with the idea of a soldier trapped in a crater in the middle of no-mans land in WW1. Having to survive in there with rats trying to eat him, body parts, going slowly insane and the general inhumanity of war going on. Never got past the idea stage with this one.
'Three Rings' - This was going to be my full-on serious thriller. There's a saying that when you drive home from seeing people, usually parents, you ring their landline three times to let them know you got home safe. Basic setup was that this guy gives a woman a lift back from the gym, drops her off at her house, goes home to his wife, goes to bed. Wakes up the next day with the police at the door, who say that the woman from the gym was murdered and he's under arrest. Sets in motion the whole did he/didn't he plot, which at one point was going to go all supernatural. Never really had a chance to think on it too long.
'Class Four' - When I wrote Class Four: Those Who Survive, it was my intention to write a trilogy. I even started writing book two (twice), but I'd moved on and just couldn't get into them. Always planned to finish them up, and of all the books on the list, it's possible I may go back at one point, but not in the immediate future.
'Voodou' - I wanted to write a zombie book that was more White Zombie than Dawn of the Dead, going back to the roots of what a zombie is. The secret text story in Chump is actually set in that world. There are random acts of violence going on around the world, being carried out by 'zombies', people that are controlled by one bad dude. Uses a variety of means to drug them, think one of the ways was via coffee shops. Anyway, a hitman looking into the death of a journalist friend, uncovers the plot for world domination and tries to put a stop to it.
There you go. If you've got to this point, you might be asking what the fuck are you actually going to write next, Duncan? Well...a few years back I bought a cover which I was going to use for the above Voodou story. It's fucking brilliant and I refuse to let it go to waste. So I'm using it as a writing prompt, and have come up with the working title of 'AND IN THE NIGHT, IT CLAIMED THEM'. It's not bizarro, it's not comedy and is firmly in the horror camp. Got some killer ideas for it, and now have to see if I have the skills to write it. Hope so. You wanna see the cover? I bet you do. I'll save that for another time.