Give It Away Now

It’s my birthday tomorrow (the 20th) and I’ve decided to celebrate by getting my Oprah. In other words, you get a book! You get a book! You get a book!

What kind of madness is this, do you ask? Could it be a sign I’m losing my mind? Possibly. Whatever the cause, The Four-Year-Old Guardian, Bravado/Dramatique, Together Alone, The Shadow Walker, The Shadow Within, and Ascension will all be free this weekend only, 8/20-8/21. Sadly, The Blood Contract won’t be part of this giveaway (but I have it on good authority it’s well worth the asking price of $2.99).

But Steve, you might be saying, you’ve put years and countless hours into these books. Do you really want to just give them all away for nothing? To which I say…well, when you put it like that….

In all honestly, when I started publishing, I never saw this as a get rich quick scheme. More like a means to support my affection for gas station burritos. I’m just honored to be able to share my books with the world. And if you insist on paying for the book with a  review (favorable or otherwise), it certainly won’t break my heart.

This also marks the end of me using Amazon exclusively for my books, so this will be the last time I’m able to do a giveaway such as this (and the reason why The Blood Contract is excluded. I didn’t realize I’d never enrolled it in Select). In the next few weeks, my books should be rolling out to other markets. So get ’em while they’re hot (and free)!

As always, thanks for reading!

S.L. Madden

 

 

Five Years Ago

My Facebook memories page reminded me that five years ago today, I published The Four-Year-Old Guardian. It, along with Ascension, marked my foray into the world of self-publishing. It was a huge step forward for me, what I felt was the next logical step after being in writing groups since high school and putting my works out there on sites such as Authonomy.

For those of you who follow this blog, it’s no secret I haven’t been quite as prolific of late. My last book, The Blood Contract, came out at the end of 2014. I wrote a little last year but it was nowhere near my usual output. This was due to a combination of personal issues, misguided attempts to medicate and a shift in my schedule. I spent last year losing myself as a writer and I’ve spent 2016 so far trying to rediscover myself.

I can’t say I’ve been resoundingly successful but I do feel like I’ve rekindled (no pun intended) the writer’s spark within me. Though I’m far from ready to release my next book, I have been making progress. By my estimates, I’m currently a third of the way through AfterLife, the fifth and final book in the Only Human on the Block series (though I should point out here it is also a gateway book to a connected trilogy. I mention it because when I brought that up to my mother the other day, she seemed surprised by that fact). I haven’t been writing as much as I had in the past, but when I do sit down and focus, I’m rather proud of what I’m producing.

On the other hand, I’m in limbo on The Shadow Without or World of Shadows or whatever I end up calling it. I’ve been a few chapters away from finishing the rough draft for… well, when I first wrote it, I was inspired by the Obama/Romney campaign. So closing on four years. Damn.

I must admit, it’s gone through a lot of tweaks in that time. I changed it from third-person originally to first (don’t ask what I was thinking initially). I also took what was going to be one big book and separated it into two smaller books. As a result, my original ending doesn’t quite work, fails to have the impact I want it to have. I’m not sure why I’ve been struggling so much to end that third book. I have a pretty firm idea of how I want it to end. I just… haven’t.

That’ll change this year though. I’m determined to release whatever this book will be called in 2016, and if not AfterLife, I’ll get a good chunk of it done for a 2017 release. I owe it to my fans and, frankly, to myself. Five years ago I took my first steps in this journey. I may have wandered off the path for awhile, but it’s time I get back to it.

Still, even despite my prolonged absence, I’ve managed in the space of five years to produce The Four-Year-Old Guardian, Bravaado/Dramatique, Together Alone, The Blood Contract, The Shadow Walker, The Shadow Within, and Ascension. Seven books I’m rather proud of, in addition to a smattering of other stories I’ve started. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can put out in the next five years.

As always, thanks for reading (and for the support),

S.L. Madden

PS. In celebration of this five-year landmark, I’ll have the ebook of The Four-Year-Old Guardian available through Amazon for free starting tomorrow, 7/30 through Monday, 8/1.

 

 

 

 

Live Again

143 days.

According to my counter, that’s how long it’s been since my last blog post. When I said I was throwing in the white towel for NaNo, I never intended for it to mean I was quitting altogether. Unfortunately, over those 143 days, I’ve come close several times.

Due to circumstances I don’t want to get into (nor bore you with the details), I started taking Prozac last October. While I found it helped (somewhat) with my issues, it has the side effect of completely repressing my creativity. It wasn’t just that I didn’t feel inspired. My entire process for writing and creating music ground to a halt. Typically I have a story or song constantly in motion in the back of my mind, sorting out details, dialog, plots, etc. It makes it easy for me to write rather quickly because I’ve devoted a lot of time to writing it in my mind first.

When I threw in the towel, it was with the realization my creative juices we’re currently dried up. I hoped by alleviating the pressure of finishing NaNo, I would be able to get back into the swing of things. That never happened.

At the same time I started medicating, my shift at work changed. Previously, I used my lunch hour to write. It’s where the vast majority of my writing took place. My set up at home isn’t very conducive to writing. If any of you have a cat who likes to jump on you while you’re on the computer, I think you’ll understand. I have four cats (don’t judge me).

Between my brain no longer cooperating and losing my environment for writing, I found myself, for the first time in as long as I can remember, unable to output creatively. Even writing songs became a chore and nothing came out remotely like I wanted them. I started to question all the time and energy o had out into these endeavors and contemplated a life where I wasn’t a writer who liked to dabble on the guitar from time to time.

A few months ago, I decided to change the meds I was on. I contemplated getting off them entirely (in addition to the creativity issues, I also had some physical side effects I’d rather not get into here *ahem*), but ultimately decided I’d try something else. The new drug (jealous, Huey Lewis and/or The News?) worked wonders. Within a week or so, I’d written my first new song in months. And it didn’t totally suck!

On Leap Day, I worked on AfterLife (Only Human on the Block V) for the first time in months and months. It was Nick’s birthday, after all. The day after Leap Day, I realized the logical hole I’d written myself in and knew I had to redo that chapter. But the important thing is, my brain was back to figuring that stuff out!

I still haven’t worked out all the details on how I’m going to manage my writing time, but I’m optimistic I’ll figure it out soon. In the meantime, my brain has been working in full effect. I even figured out a death scene for a character I knew was going to die, but I hadn’t quite worked out how. In addition, I’ve been able to work on a few new songs and I’m determined to have a little album completed by August (just for me. Nowhere near being a professional musician).

For those of you who have been waiting for news, I appreciate your patience. 2015 was the first year since I started publishing that I failed to release a book. Now we’re four months into 2016 and I’m just starting to get my mojo back. Still, I’m confident I’ll have The Shadow Without (Unseen Things III) out this year. And if I don’t finish AfterLife, I should have it almost completed.

Hopefully in time to start and conquer NaNo in November.

Thanks for reading,

S.L. Madden

The Shadow Without – The End (Or Rather, The Beginning)

This month marks my the fourth anniversary since I first went into self-publishing. Both Ascension and The Four-Year-Old Guardian were originally released in June 2011. Since then, I’ve managed to put out five other books. Not too shabby considering I work a full-time job and I’m categorically lazy when it comes to writing.

The other book I put out in 2011 was The Shadow Walker, the first of what I thought was going to be a trilogy. The sequel,The Shadow Within, was released in 2013 and I immediately started working on the third and final book. It didn’t take me long to realize this trilogy was destined to become a quadrilogy. I finished the rough draft of the third book (once called World of Shadows, now tentatively called The Shadow Without), then… nothing.

Two years have passed and while I’ve made considerable changes to that rough draft, it has taken far longer than I anticipated. Part of this delay is due to the fact I focused on finishing and releasing The Blood Contract then immediately started working on its follow-up, AfterLife. After giving it some serious thought, I decided I had done the fans of the Unseen Things series an injustice in making them wait so long. As a result, I’ve decided to renew my effort to finish The Shadow Without and get it released this year.

To reward my loyal readers for their patience, I’ve decided to share the opening chapter here. This is still a rough draft, mind you, so while I’ve gone over it a few times, it may not be without errors and there’s a possibility it will change some before publication. I believe in its current form, it helps answer some questions about the fallout after the end of the second book, while setting the stage for things to come.

Also, both The Shadow Walker and The Shadow Within will be free for Kindle devices and apps this Saturday the 13th through Monday the 15th, so if you haven’t had a chance to pick up your copy yet, this is the perfect chance.

As always, thanks for reading!

S.L. Madden

(Please note, both The Shadow Without and Twin Shadows will feature dual first-person views, indicated by the name at the beginning of the chapter).

Chapter One

The End 

~Leonard~

I sat on the edge of the bed in my hotel room, feeling the weight of the world perched on my shoulders. Alternating waves of pink and green neon light washed in from the outside, penetrating the thin blinds covering the windows. It lent an eerie glow to the small space, making it seem otherworldly.

As well it should. This place, inside and out, was foreign to me. I could walk the streets of Las Vegas for an hour and still be amazed at my surroundings. The lights, the traffic, the atmosphere…it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

It was as good a place as any to do what I knew needed to be done.

I turned the bottle of pills I held in my right hand, so I could read the label. The medicine was prescribed to help fight anxiety and panic attacks. I had other plans for it.

Knowing it was futile, I tried to grip the childproof cap with my left hand, cursing when my fingers refused to cooperate. I twisted and turned, attempting to hold the bottle between my legs so I could use my good right hand, but I couldn’t get a tight enough grip.

I sensed movement in the shadows at the periphery of the room, where the neon failed to illuminate, and I knew time was running short. I made another desperate attempt with my ruined hand before letting out a guttural yell and smashing the bottle against the edge of the nightstand. A crack appeared in the orange plastic so I struck it again and again, until there was a hole big enough for the pills to spill out onto the dingy carpet.

Feeling around in the dark, I grabbed a handful of the medicine and held it before me. I knew this was for the best, but still, I hesitated. Memories flashed through my mind: finding Jess lying in a pool of her own blood only minutes after I’d agreed to let everyone know about our relationship. After all, if she was right, it was only a matter of time before people started questioning who the father of her child was. I remembered her perfect skin, torn, a jagged red smile marring her throat. The Watchtower, set aflame. The realization Thomas was still inside and the only person who truly understood what I’d gone through in Shading was lost. Then, just as I was starting to process it all, a helicopter roared overhead as if to mock me, followed by an explosion and screams from The Irenae. Our only way off the island was destroyed.

In one night, I lost everything.

I wandered around in the dark of night, barely aware of anything other than the pain taking hold of me. I felt drunk on misery, twisted and chewed up on the inside. Somehow, I made it to the beach where Allison had washed up, and it was there I found the blade embedded in the sand. It took me a moment to process what I was looking at, for my traumatized mind to piece together what it meant.

I fell to my knees, both wracked with guilt and bolstered by new determination.

At first, I thought perhaps Allison Bramer had been in The Watchtower with Thomas. I found out later they only found one body inside and one below, and that belonged to one of my guards, Slack. Seeing the blade cinched in my mind what I’d always known to be true: Allison was a murderer, sent to be our undoing. I’d had her in my grasp the entire time, but let Thomas’ affections for the girl color my judgment.

“Never again,” I said, my voice hoarse. Without giving it another thought, I popped four of the pills in my mouth and grabbed a beer. It was warm and bitter, but I chugged it down, letting it carry the medicine with it. I put the unfinished drink on the nightstand and waited.

“I let her kill them,” I said, the effects of the pills and alcohol already conspiring together to make me dizzy. I wanted nothing more than to lie down and close my eyes, but instead I stared at my left hand, the twisted digits bent at sharp angles a constant reminder of my failure.

We took a day off to mourn our dead, but knew we had to do something fast or we risked dying out there. Supplies were finite, and without The Irenae and the continued support of the government (assuming that had been Agent Boehler’s helicopter), we were left on our own. No communication devices, no way to travel off the island, no ties to the outside world. Thomas, Jess, Slack and Patch might have been murdered outright, but the rest of us were left to die slow, horrible deaths.

I wasn’t particularly handy with tools myself, but fortunately we had a rather generous talent pool on the island. Dr. Murray, in addition to being a gifted physician, knew a bit about working with wood, some knowledge passed down from his father. One of the girls they had working in the kitchen, Sadie, turned out to be an engineer and Stormy, the captain of The Irenae, was fortunate enough to survive the attack on her ship, even if her deckhands hadn’t been. Together, with the assistance of every able-bodied person on the island, we constructed a make-shift canoe using tree branches, duct tape and wire from the ruined communication room.

We did a test launch, traveling from Patterson Bay to the other side of the island and back. The vessel held up better than expected and even though we had yet to test it in deep waters, I made the executive decision to chance it. With some supplies in tow and Stormy to help me navigate, we set out on the ocean, promising the others we’d send help after we found the mainland.

I swallowed hard, my head swimming. Even though I was sitting, I felt as if I might fall down. The world spun around so fast, it was all I could do to keep the pills from coming back up.

After being adrift for several days on the ocean, convinced we were lost, we finally found our way to the mainland. Stormy was appropriately smug, though we were both malnourished and highly dehydrated. Our supplies hadn’t lasted the duration of the whole journey, but I was in much better shape than she. Until I laid eyes on the mainland, I feared I might have to give her to the ocean she loved so much.

It took some time to convince the locals I could be trusted. They asked for Thomas, and when I let them know the fate that had befallen him, they looked at me with mistrusting eyes. Finally, I met Mr. Morijo, a local businessman who not only offered his condolences but promised to send a ship to pick up the others. He provided us a hot meal and a place to stay. I gladly took up his offer, and in the morning, asked for even more.

“I need a boat to America,” I said, finishing up the last of the sausage and eggs he’d made for breakfast.

“That’s no small trip, friend,” Mr. Morijo said, patting his lips clean with his napkin. “That is hardly a regular journey for us. I would be at risk to lose a ship, my crew, not to mention catching the attention of the Coast Guard, which I most certainly do not want.”

“I understand,” I said.

The older man fixed a scrutinizing gaze on me. “And what is so important in America I should do this thing for you?”

“Revenge.”

The next morning, I was on a small boat with a crew of three other men, headed toward Florida.

Though the journey took several more days, it was much easier going than travelling via raft had been. We had food and drink aplenty, so that wasn’t an issue. The other men spoke little English, but that was all right. I wasn’t feeling very talkative myself. I just hoped Mr. Morijo was able to uphold his agreement to rescue those still trapped on Madison Island.

Giving in, I laid back, letting the bed cushion my fall. My hand came down and hit the remote, turning on the old-fashioned console TV in the corner of the room. Through the haze clouding my senses, I saw her on the television, talking to a reporter. The volume was down, so I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but it was her.

“Allison,” I croaked. But no, it wasn’t Allison at all.

Unable to keep my head up to see the television, I sank further into the bed. The lights from the television and my altered consciousness made the darkness of the ceiling move and writhe, like a living, breathing thing.

I felt it closing in on me, the edges of my life growing darker, darker. I knew if I closed my eyes, it would be all over. I’d pass on in my sleep, never to wake again. It was a better end than Thomas and Jess were given.

Tears streamed down my cheeks as I felt myself fading. I wanted to hold on, to stay lucid for the moment it happened. I owed it to them.

After reaching Florida, I immediately sought out Allison, which turned out to not be so difficult. She had become a local celebrity of sorts when she came back, but where her popularity started out with her being questioned by the media why she had stayed in Jamaica—which was nothing short of a lie—she had since become very politically active. Watching her on TV, smiling during interviews and talking about her hopes for the future, it was all I could do to keep from throwing something through the screen.

I tracked her down at a rally, surrounded by others showing their support for Christopher Stone, an independent candidate. I bided my time, trying to appear nonchalant while absently fingering the blade in my coat pocket, reminding myself it was still there. As far as I was concerned, Jess and Thomas would only be avenged once Allison paid the ultimate price.

After the rally, I followed her down an alleyway, into a building that looked to be empty. It couldn’t be more perfect. I was prepared to go to prison for enacting revenge—ready, even, to pay the ultimate price—but if I was able to do it in private without getting caught, all the better.

I found her standing on a landing overlooking a production floor that was currently shut down. Closing my fist around the hilt of my knife, I crept forward, even as I wondered if I should stab her in the back or make my presence known so she would know who it was who had brought justice.

I didn’t get a chance to find out.

“This is my parent’s factory,” she said, her back still to me. “We operate it on weekdays, but not the weekends. Trying to keep costs down with the current economic crisis and all. It’s not good for the employees who were counting on the hours, but it’s better than having the whole thing shut down, don’t you think?”

She turned to me and I felt my pulse quicken. A few steps and one thrust of my blade and it’d be all over. But I hesitated.

“Oh, God,” I moaned, wailing to the pervasive darkness as I lay on the hotel bed. “Why did I hesitate?”

I knew the answer before I asked the question, but it didn’t make it any easier. After watching her for so long at the rally, I had failed to notice the slight bulge of her belly.

“I’m starting to show, aren’t I?” she said, rubbing her stomach. “Little guy is growing so fast.”

“Is that…?” I couldn’t bring myself to ask the question. The answer was irrelevant. I had a mission to accomplish.

Besides, she took my child from me. This is simply poetic justice.

“Yes, it’s Thomas’. It’s a shame little Malcolm will never get to know his daddy.” She cast her gaze down, as if filled with sorrow, and it was all I could do to keep from laughing.

“You killed him. Not only Thomas, but Jess and Slack.”

“I did what had to be done,” she said, remorse gone from her features. “You’re not the only person who lost someone. In the process, my poor, dear sister Allison was taken from me.”

She’s just talking crazy, I thought. Trying to confuse me. I need to kill her now while I have the chance.

“What are you talking about?” I asked, my grip so tight on the knife handle I thought it might break and splinter.

“Two souls, trapped in one body. Allison had control for the longest time, except for when she didn’t. Then I took over. By the way, I don’t think we’ve had an opportunity to meet. My name is Megan.” She offered her hand as if expecting me to take it. Instead, I stared at her in wide-eyed disbelief.

“Megan?” I said, trying to process what she’d said. I had spent days chasing what I was sure was nothing but a ghost. But if what she said was true….

“Allison didn’t know she did those things?”

“Not a clue,” Megan said. “When she blacked out, I took over. I tell you what, I had to accomplish a lot with the little bit of time I was given. But I kept my eye on the goal. I was promised if I followed through, I would be able to take control permanently. My masters didn’t let me down. Tell me, Leonard, what is your goal?”

“I’m here to kill you,” I said without hesitation, but when I tried to swallow, I found nothing but dryness in my throat. My hand flexed around the hilt of the knife and I wished I had the advantage of distance a gun would offer over that of a blade.

No, I thought. This is how she killed Jess. She deserves no better.

I took a step forward, waiting for some reaction from her other than the smile that seemed plastered to her face. If she were one of the Uracai, I had no way of knowing what she was capable of. I remembered my own father, shot full of holes yet still on the attack. There was a good possibility she might be too much for me to handle. If so, I was prepared to die, so long as I took her with me.

I took another step and another. She made no move to defend herself or to flee. Nothing. This is too easy, I thought, but knew that was never the case.

As I came within striking distance, the smile slid from her expression. “Really, Leonard? You’re going to kill a woman with child? Is this what humans do?”

“If you’ve got one of those shadows in you, you’re not human and neither will that baby be,” I said, trying to convince myself as much as her. The hilt of the knife seemed to burrow into the flesh of my palm but I squeezed tighter, tighter….

“That’s no way to talk about the son of your friend,” she scolded. “Speaking of friends….”

There was movement in my periphery, and before I could process it, I was flanked on both sides. Trying to capitalize on what little advantage I had left, I lashed out with the blade. Before it struck home, someone to my right moved quickly, blocking the blow.

The blade penetrated the stranger’s hand, sticking there, lodged in flesh and bone. It belonged to a teenage boy.

I stared in horror as he yanked the weapon from my grip and, without flinching, pulled the blade from his hand. Blood spilled from the open wound, but he casually wiped the knife off on his pants before tossing it to the ground.

Someone grabbed my left hand and squeezed. Pain shot through my arm and I yelped before I could stop myself. The attacker continued to crush my hand and I heard the sound of bone snapping in their grip. I dropped to my knee, unable to stand the pain.

Gritting my teeth, I looked up to see my assailant. She was a young girl in her late teens, with perfectly sculpted blond hair, bright blue eyes and the kind of face that automatically put her in the popular cliques. A pink scarf was tied around her neck, giving her an air of innocence. Her expression was anything but, however, as she stared down at me with cold indifference. I had the distinct impression she felt absolutely nothing about the pain she caused me. No pleasure, no regret.

Desperate, I reached up, trying to do something to stop her, but the young man at my side grabbed my right arm. Fortunately, he didn’t put the squeeze on me like the girl had. I was fairly sure he would have been able to snap it off.

“You don’t seem to like that,” Megan said, looking down at me. “I can make it stop. All of it. Can you imagine what life would be like free of pain?”

“No,” I said through my teeth. “Life is pain.”

“Perhaps for you humans.”

Megan motioned to the girl gripping my hand and she let go and took a step back. I cradled my damaged hand, looking in horror from it to the girl as she slowly unwound the scarf. She kept her eyes locked with mine as she revealed the jagged hole marking her throat. The skin around the wound was puckered and frayed like a hole in cloth.

“Tell me, Brittney, did that hurt when it happened?” Megan asked. “Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot you can’t tell me anything.”

Megan beamed down at me as I struggled to keep from crying out at the pain shooting through my hand. The bones felt crushed, splintered and it was impossible to move my fingers.

“You could have all of this, but I don’t think you’re worthy.” She leaned down, gripping my face in her hand. “And when this child comes, the whole human race will fall and you’ll be helpless to keep the world from crumbling all around you. Just like you couldn’t save Thomas or that pathetic excuse for a girlfriend, Jess.” She released her hold on me and, unable to keep my balance, I fell back onto my butt.

“The world belongs to us, now, Leonard. Feel free to warn everybody you think will listen, but I caution you to be mindful of who you tell. After all, you have a history. Just ask anyone who remembers Shading.”

She stepped around me and her friends followed. For the first time, I noticed there had been two others in the room, another teen girl and a boy.

I couldn’t even make it past two of them, I told myself, forcing the thought through the pain flooding my mind. I’m outnumbered and out powered.

“Just remember,” Megan said, pausing at the door for a moment, “our kind is everywhere. You can’t see us, you can’t fight us. And every time one of you falls, one of us rises.”

Her words hung in the air long after she’d gone.

“I can fight you,” I said, the hotel room circling around me. “I can.”

I felt the darkness drawing me in and I pushed back, not ready to go yet. The pills and the alcohol were too much for me to handle and coldness embraced me, dragging me down…down….

Despite the haze surrounding my mind, I was fully aware when my heart slowed, barely beating at all. I struggled to breathe, but it felt as if something was inside my throat, preventing any air from moving. My attempts to sit up were unsuccessful. My limbs were dead weights determined to drag me down further in the darkness.

The shadows at the edge of the room moved. At first, I thought it was my eyes playing tricks on me, as my sight blurred then righted itself. I refused to give in, focusing everything I had left on my vision. The shadows were definitely moving, and now I saw the whites of one of their eyes. It was bright, so bright it seemed impossible to behold, yet there it was, staring at me.

The thing slid from the wall to the floor, where I lost sight of it. Disappointment bubbled up through the mire. I’d waited so long to see one of the things that had altered my life so drastically, I wanted to be able to stare it down. Squeezing my eyes shut, I thought it might be all over, but my lids snapped open as I felt…something move up my leg.

The creature was lying flat on my chest, its eyes burning into mine. Despite it all, I smiled. “I see you.”

I felt my heart beat its last as the thing shot forward, grabbing my lips and forcing itself into my mouth. I thought I might choke or suffocate, but the need to breathe was no longer there. I felt all of my bodily functions shut down, one after another, like rows of lights in a factory. With a great sigh, my mind purged all thoughts simultaneously, in a great rush. Even removed as I was from mind and body, I felt something within, like a light bulb filament flickering, set to die out.

My vision faded. It was almost all blackness, absolute nothingness. At the last moment, a surge of white light rushed out, forming a sort of tunnel before me. Everything I was, my entire being, was ripped from me, scooped from my body, leaving it hollowed out like a pumpkin on Halloween night.

There was no light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel itself was light—my light—and I watched it extend out from me.

I was only barely aware of movement and shouting as a figure emerged from the dark and placed something on my chest. Someone else approached the right side of the bed. I knew who they were and why they were there, but the knowledge was disconnected, inconsequential.

Someone somewhere said something and a surge of electricity coursed through me, frying me from the inside. The shadow within screamed as it raked at my insides, its ethereal claws passing harmlessly through my innards. Another burst of energy, another unworldly howl, and I felt my heart beat as I snapped back into my body.

The white tunnel of light before me narrowed, becoming a pinpoint. The shadow creature forced its way through my mouth, a look of horror in its bright, unblinking eyes.

“Clear!” a female voice shouted. This time I had no trouble hearing her.

I felt another surge flow through me and I jerked, twisted. I tried to tell her it was enough, that I could handle it from there, but the words wouldn’t come.

The last shock severed the creature from me altogether, and I watched it snake away, a mere sliver of what it had once been.

My victory was short-lived as something was forced into my mouth. I swallowed out of instinct, not having the energy to fight it off. The effect was immediate and I started gagging.

Someone grabbed my head and forced it one side, just in time to place the bucket to my mouth. I heaved once before expelling what felt like everything I’d ever eaten all at once. When I was sure I was empty inside, I heaved again and again. My esophagus burned, my body shook with the effort, but I kept at it until I was absolutely sure I was done.

Finished, I leaned back, exhausted. Someone wiped the vomit from my lips. I was too tired to insist otherwise. They offered me a drink of water and I sipped. Even the cool liquid burned on the way down.

“Drink up,” a female voice said, offering me more water. I tried to focus on her face, but my vision was still blurred.

“Are you okay?” another voice asked.

My lips moved, but I couldn’t get the words past the pain I felt in my throat. Instead, I nodded.

“You’d better take this,” the first voice said. She forced a pill into my mouth and I took another gulp of water, wincing as I felt it travel all the way down.

The figures came into focus as Sophie kneeled next to Tara, who had set aside my vomit bucket and was placing a cool cloth against my forehead.

“You’re a damn fool,” Sophie said, packing up the portable defibrillator. “I hope it was worth it.”

I felt drained, a pathetic shell of my former self…a shadow. But I was more than that. I was no longer alone.

Looking around the room, I saw four pairs of burning white eyes staring at me, one of which belonged to a shadow that was significantly smaller than the rest.

My shadow, I thought.

Despite it all, I grinned.

“I can see you,” I croaked, pushing aside the pain and feeling of nausea. This was my moment of triumph and I would relish it. I’d lost everything to these things.

I can see you, I repeated in my head. I’m going to hunt every one of you bastards down and there’s nowhere you can hide. Not anymore.

Splitting The Shadow

For those of you who have been following this blog, you may have noticed I’ve been going back and forth a bit concerning the third book in my Unseen Things trilogy.  I wrote the first part of it in 2012 (really?  Sheesh….) for NaNoWriMo and since then… not a whole lot.

The issue I ran into at the time was the third book was shaping up to be quite a bit bigger than the first two.  And there was a definite change from part one to part two, to where it seemed it might be better served as two separate books.  So I split them up, calling them World of Shadows I: Proliferation and World of Shadows II: Invasion respectively.  That way each book could have its own release without me breaking my promise of a trilogy.

Well, what’s the point of promises if not to give us something to break?

I’ve been mulling it over, and I’ve come to the conclusion they truly are two separate books.  They’re no more connected than The Shadow Walker and The Shadow Within.  So I’ve decided to turn my trilogy into a quadrilogy.  My current plan is to refocus on finishing up the third book, now tentatively titled The Shadow Without, once I’ve completed The Blood Contract.  Hopefully this will be before NaNo hits again this year.  Then next year I’ll work on the final books for both series–Afterlife (Only Human on the Block V) and Twin Shadows (Unseen Things IV).  I’m still up in the air about the name changes (note: Twin Shadows was actually my original title for The Shadow Within), and as such, I’m open to suggestions.

Thank you everyone for your patience, and as always, thanks for reading,

 

S.L. Madden

Passed Releases

I know I originally posted my intentions to have the next book ready by this month.  While I’m definitely approaching the end of the first draft, it is sadly just that.  It’s still in dire need of an edit.  So while I’m changing my focus on finishing the first draft by the end of June, it’s pretty clear the book won’t be ready for release any time soon.  Instead of throwing out another date and explaining why I missed it, I’m instead going to say I’m shooting to have it out be the end of this year.  While that may seem like a long time off, the entire month of November will be occupied by NaNoWriMo (still trying to decide which project to work on for it), and I’ll be simultaneously writing World of Shadows Part I (you know, that book I wanted to have out shortly after releasing The Shadow Within).  The good news there is I’ve actually made some progress on it lately, and there’s only a handful of chapters left before the first draft is done.  So if all goes well, I could realistically have both books ready to go by the end of the year.  In that respect, I suppose it’d mirror 2012 release schedule.

Because I love making lists (and I was kicking myself over taking so long on this book), I looked up the original publication dates for my previous releases.  They are as follows:

Ascension 6/30/2011
The Four-Year-Old Guardian 7/29/2011
The Shadow Walker 10/28/2011
Bravado/Dramatique 6/28/2012
The Shadow Within 8/19/2013
Together Alone 12/18/2013

Put in that context, I suppose I’m not doing too poorly.  In 2 1/2 years, I released six books, spanning three different series (assuming I ever get around to turning Ascension into a trilogy).  2011 was my most productive year, but that was helped by the fact I had already finished Ascension and The Four-Year-Old Guardian and was shopping around for an agent when I decided I no longer wanted to play that game.

So while I’m lamenting the fact I still don’t have The Blood Contract ready to go, I must admit I’m rather proud of what I’ve accomplished.  Considering I have a full-time job, a family, and other time-consuming hobbies (I’m looking at you, PS3 and guitar), I’ll take my victories where I can.

Thanks for reading,

 

S.L. Madden

ASCfyogaBDTogether Alone ImageswShadow Within Cover

 

 

Promises, Promises

Okay, I admit, I’ve done a horrible job updating this blog.  I don’t recall if I made any kind of promise to be better about it (it’s been too long and I’m too lazy to go back and read), but clearly I was lying.  I intend to write every week, but I suck.

Work on The Blood Contract is slowly creeping along.  At the beginning of the year, I gave myself until June to put it out.  That seemed like more than enough time, and it’s significant because it will also mark my three-year anniversary of publishing.  Now, June is starting to look a little optimistic.  It could still be done, but I’ve gotta get the lead out and get to typing.  As of today, I’m 62K words in, and a few pages away from the halfway mark (or at least when the book transitions to Part II).  That means I still have a lot more to write, and these chapters so far should have been the easy ones.  When I stopped working on this book almost six years ago, I never finished the final few chapters, which means I’ll have to write them from scratch when I get there.  I know exactly how it all ends, down to the wording I want to use, but getting it from my noggin to the page isn’t always as easy as all that.

So why have I been writing so slowly?  Well, I could spew forth a list of excuses.  My computer hasn’t always been available for me at lunch (we trained a new girl at work and she needed to be on my computer for a week, but I’m totally not complaining because she’s a great addition to the team (and may possibly be reading this)).  I took a week plus off work to watch my daughter while my ex-wife was traipsing about England.  And I’ve covered for other shifts which prohibited me from my typical writing routine.

But ultimately, I could have been writing more at home.  I think my attentions have been drifting elsewhere.  Lately, I’ve been getting back into playing and writing music.  I hadn’t written a song in probably twelve years, and in the past few months, I’ve come up with three new ones and a handful of ideas.  Not saying they’re any good, mind you, but it’s been fun to get back into it.  While I think (hope) I’m a better author than musician, it is nice to have the more immediate release of producing a song.  Writing has never been a quick process for me, even when I’m at my peak creatively.

Also, I must confess, I’ve been having more fun with my PS3 than usual.  For most of my life, playing games was a fairly isolated experience, with few exceptions.  But now that my friends have PS+ and a few choice multi-player games, it’s renewed my passion for playing.  I still enjoy a good single-player game, but there’s a strong allure for when we’re all on and available to play.

And then there’s the fact I’m getting married (tomorrow!).  No, I don’t consider it a reason I’ve been slacking off.  I just like to say it. :)~

Okay, so when I list it all out like that… I really do suck.  I have no good excuse for slacking as I have been.  I will get The Blood Contract out by June (of this year, mind you)!  I will get the third Unseen Things book out by the end of the year!  And I will record an EP of songs no one but myself and possibly my friend/band mate will want to listen to!

These things I promise!*

Thanks for reading,

S.L. Madden

 

 

 

*subject to my whims and discretion.

 

 

The Maddening 11/29/2013

~Barring any unforeseen delays (don’t you just love that small print jargon?), I plan to have Together Alone (the third book in the Only Human on the Block series) available in both print and electronic versions on December 20th (yes, of this year!).  This release date is tentative based on how many errors my editor finds with it, and whether or not any formatting issues crop up.  I believe I have them pretty much hammered out at this point, but if the other five books taught me anything, it’s that formatting can be a bear when it wants to be.  Every time I read an indie book and see the same formatting issues I’ve been battling against, my heart goes out to them.  Perhaps if I ever get this thing fully under control, I should offer them my assistance.

~I think after Together Alone is released, I might go back through my first four books and redo them (the printed versions, anyway).  I experimented with a different font size for The Shadow Within, and I was pleased with the results.  Once the changes are implemented, it should shorten the length, allowing me to cut the costs of producing the books, thereby making it possible to lower the prices as well.

~Moving into 2014, I have a good chunk of World of Shadows Part I (Unseen Things III) finished.  I’ve been spinning my wheels on a chapter I want to add, but haven’t quite found the right way to do it.  After I get over that hurdle, however, I think it’ll be pretty quick to put the whole thing together.  I feel bad, as I really wanted to get this book out close to the release of The Shadow Within, but alas, it was not to be.  I still hope to have the fourth and final book ready to go by the end of next year, but I’ll have to see if I run into any issues when writing it.

~I’m on chapter nine of The Blood Contract (Only Human on the Block IV).  I remember it being pretty rough when I initially wrote it years ago, but as I work on this initial draft, I’ve been finding it flowing smoother than I thought.  Perhaps later chapters will need more work (and I never did quite get to the end), but I’m optimistic it’ll be ready to go next year.

~For the first time in over a decade, I’ve been working on writing some music.  It’s nothing spectacular.  To be honest, I was never all that gifted musically, but it’s a fun hobby.  I’d like to work up some songs to the point where I could eventually release a mini-album, but I’m sure that’s a ways off, if it ever sees the light of day.  But my friend David is very gifted at writing music, and I’m hoping he and I will be able to collaborate on some music and perhaps even graphics (he’s also an artist) for a future book trailer.

I think that’s it for now.  Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving and a safe Black Friday.

S.L. Madden

The Maddening 11/16/2013

Just a quick update of what I currently have going on.  I like to make goals so I can later see how horribly off my guesses were.

~The rough draft for Together Alone (Only Human on the Block III) is done and ready to go to my editor.  Current plans are for her to get it mid-December, with the hopes I’ll have it published by the end of the month (assuming it’s not too terribly butchered).

~I’m currently 7 chapters into writing the rough draft for the follow-up, The Blood Contract.  So barring any unforeseen difficulties, that book should be making it to print next year.

~I’m probably five chapters away from finishing the rough rough draft of World of Shadows Part I, the sequel to The Shadow Within.  Once that’s completed, I know there are a few sections I need to work on.  Still, I don’t see any reason why it won’t be out in the earlier part of 2014.  After working on The Blood Contract, I plan to focus on World of Shadows Part II, bringing the Unseen Things series to a close.

~17,000 words in, and I’m still not convinced my Nano book, 7 Days (working title) would be of interest to anyone.  I suppose once I complete it, I’ll have a few people look it over and see if it’s fit for public consumption.  Even then, it seems likely it’s going to be a rather short book.  I’m already on day four of seven, after all.

~In addition to my own works, I’ve decided to partner up with my friend, Travis Eller, who has a series of erotica stories he’s interested in writing.  I told him I’d help out in whatever capacity he needed, so long as he produced them under my travellerzero Productions banner.  His writing is a bit different from mine, but we both share the same goal of wanting to entertain.  More info on this later.

That’s about it for now, at least in terms of what I deem is noteworthy.  I may be falling drastically behind on NaNo, but I still have a lot of other projects I’m interested in, even if this particular one doesn’t pan out.  My hope is to keep releasing one to two titles a year, or more if they’re shorter.  I know it will require some more concentrated effort on my part, but I know I’m good for it.

Thanks for reading,

S.L. Madden

Seven Days In, Some Regrets

I have my writers group tonight, to which I’ll be bringing chapters seven and eight of The Blood Contract (book four of the Only Human on the Block series, and the sequel to Together Alone).  Sadly, these will be the last few chapters I’m able to bring until next month, as all of my writing focus is on my NaNo novel (tentatively titled 7 Days).  As excited as I am to challenge myself to pass the finish line, I can’t deny it’s difficult to willingly lose momentum on this story.  I’ve been working on this series for over five years, and once I finish The Blood Contract, I can finally bring it to a close with the fifth book.  It’s a milestone I’m very much looking forward to, and I can’t help but feel perhaps I should have done it as my NaNo book this year (I know exactly how the fourth book ends and the fifth begins, even if I haven’t written them yet).

At the same time, I have Unseen Things, or more specifically, World of Shadows.  I wrote Part I: Proliferation last year for NaNo, and even though I’m still adding chapters and smoothing it out, I sort of wish I had focused on the fourth and final book this year, to bring the series to a close.  And that way, I’d be able to have the last two books released fairly close to one another.

But here I am, seven days in, and 7 Days was designated my go-to book.  The writing is actually going pretty smoothly, although it remains to be seen whether or not it’s all that interesting to anyone other than myself.  But then, I suppose that’s always the question I’m faced with whenever I write (including this blog).

Either way, I’m looking forward to being able to broaden past my current series, and show you some of the other worlds and characters I’ve had locked away in my wee addled brain.

Thanks for reading,

S.L. Madden