Today, I thought I'd write up a blog post explaining my writing process, why I abandon a lot of projects and why it takes me a long time to publish new work. The abandoning is the reason I simply don't talk about works in progress anymore. Or rather, give plot details. I don't want people disappointed when I fail to finish something. However, I also wanted to write this blog post to show a rough draft of an abandoned project, warts and all (with scenes ending abruptly and unpolished), which I've pulled some concepts from that form the basis of the current story I'm working on. I'm finally starting to feel it now, though the writing is not at the level I want it to be at yet in what I've currently written. Anyway, while you read the rough draft, hopefully it's obvious why I abandoned it. Certain elements didn't feel like they worked, and as a result, you may as well say the story would require an entire rewrite from a content perspective. Nor did it feel like there was anything going for it, above it being a simple creature feature, which doesn't interest me too much.
So, before showing the rough draft in its entirety (it was not finished), my writing process, as I explained in the afterword for The Dead Should Stay Dead, if you picked it up, is very chaotic. I don't plan at all. I like to see where things go, though I start with a very basic idea. Normally, when I start a story, I get so far into it and I find that it doesn't work at a certain point. This leads to me restarting the project over, because I don't see the point in finishing something if it's going to be entirely rewritten from a content perspective anyway. However, like I said above, I normally take some parts and concepts from each version and apply them to the one I'm currently working on. This is a process that's continued until I start 'feeling it'. Hence the length of time it takes me to write these things, and I don't use beta readers these days, plus I edit everything myself now. Same with the covers. And to think some people say writing is easy and not hard work. But yes, another reason things take a long time is because I care a lot about my work and I wouldn't publish something I feel is subpar. It's not fair on readers and, to be frank, I wouldn't want to anyway. As the rough draft shows below, I could have quite easily finished it and published it after some polishing, but I didn't.
So, this brings me to the rough draft. It is nearly 4,000 words and unedited, nor is it finished. However, like I mentioned above, I've culled certain elements from it for the project I'm finally feeling. I think, if I can get the writing of a very high quality, it has the potential to be very powerful if I do it right, given the themes I'm working with, despite the harsh length when it comes to the word count (probably novelette size, 7,500 - 17,500 words).
Below is the rough draft. Again, the story that I'll eventually publish will only feature a few similarities. If you do read the story I'm working on when it's published, called Shifters, then you should be able to spot the elements I've taken from here. I should, however, warn that it is quite gruesome in places, though I'm not sure the desired effect has been gained due to the rough quality of the writing.
Can you run from fate and your past? I think not.
Sheriff Ted Perkins had received the radio message a short while ago. And it was only now when [DL1] he pulled up outside ol’ Bobby’s trailer that he realised his deputy hadn’t been lying that it was a damned grisly scene. His car’s headlights highlighting every bit of blood spatter on the white trailer and on the ground, never mind ol’ Bobby’s corpse itself, as night’s darkness began to shroud the surrounding desert.
He got out of the car and slammed the door shut, hitched his gray pants up and straightened his hat, with cowboy spurs making a noise, before walking over to his deputies and the grisly scene. “Shit, you certainly weren’t lyin’.”
“No boss. Haven’t the foggiest what killed him,” said Deputy Rainer, the second oldest on the police of Cougar’s Run. The other deputy, Lenin, was younger and wet behind the ears.
“Can’t say I do either, Rainer.” Sheriff Perkins knelt in front of the corpse, slumped against the trailer with his tilted to the right, and examined every gruesome detail. Ol’ Bobby’s throat had been bitten, and the skin spat out onto the ground it looked like. His white vest, where it wasn’t covered in blood or torn, was dirtied. The blood itself stemming from the throat wound and the claw marks on his chest and face. “Like some wild animal savaged him, though I ain’t sure what could have done it. Looks like no coyote attack to be sure.”
Sheriff Perkins looked to his deputies and they shrugged, as perplexed as he was. “We have an army boy up at Carl’s Beer and Grill, don’t we?”
“Believe so, boss,” said Lenin. “One of those who likes to keep to himself, though. A drifter.”
“He’d have tracking skills,” said Perkins. “I’ll have a word with him. I can be persuasive.”
“What’re we meant to do with the corpse?” asked Rainer.
“Get him taken away, but keep the murder on the quiet. Don’t want to scare everyone by telling ‘em there’s a murderous animal of unknown origin on the loose. I’ll meet you both back ‘ere.”
“Right you are, boss.”
“See you boys in a bit. I’ll be bringing soldier boy back ‘ere no matter what.” With that, Perkins went back to his car, opened the door and got in with a slight moan as he felt the ache of arthritis in his aging hips. If there was one thing he could do without at his age and health, it was a hunt through the harsh desert of California. That is beside the fact that they were hunting god knows what, judging by the claw marks and the size of the killer’s teeth/mouth.
As he drove away to Carl’s Beer and Grill though, there was one thing he looked forward to. Meeting the army boy, who he’d not had the pleasure of meeting yet. An older relative had been the in the army.
The Reluctant Drifter
The drifter, known as Johnny Demore, washed the glasses and plates. It was quite the step down from being in the army, but he preferred it honestly, and while he didn’t earn a wage from Carl, he did have a free room up top and free meals for helping out around the place. He couldn’t ask for more than that really. Food may not have been too tasty, but it was better than eating out of trash cans, which is what he’d have to resort to if he wasn’t kept. And he was basically a free employee for Carl, so it worked out both ways.
In the background, country and western music blared as it so often did. The current words being sung were ‘Oh yeah, baby, we’re going to party tonight like we’ve never partied before!’ Johnny couldn’t say he cared much for the music but it was either that or listen to the chatter of patrons or the staff. To that, he preferred the music. Sometimes, people would try to be his friend, but he wanted none of it. Ever since Afghanistan, he’d wanted no contact if he could avoid it. He plain and simply didn’t feel a part of the world anymore and he was quite content to mind his own.
Over the past few days while he’d been here, one woman had been trying to attract his attention. She was pretty, usually wearing loose fitting t-shirts and jeans, with long brown hair. Tonight was no different, because as he cleaned a glass behind the bar, he noticed her looking over at him with her legs crossed on the stool she sat on. Her elbow resting on the counter. He did his best to keep his head down, because getting romantically involved when he was as fucked up as he was didn’t appeal.
The establishment itself was unusually quiet though. He could only sum it up as being thanks to the recent murder that had taken place on the outskirts of the small town of Cougar’s Run. Apparently, an animal had committed said murder. Coyote or something, Sheriff . . . Sheriff Perkins had said.
And on cue, as he thought about the sheriff, the door opened with a whoosh of chill air and in he walked. Perkins looked around and stopped when his eyes landed on Johnny. Johnny returned the look, wondering what the hell Perkins wanted. “Sheriff.” Johnny nodded, still cleaning the glass behind the counter.
“You’re the army boy, right?” asked Perkins, moseying on over.
“Not anymore.” Johnny placed the glass and cloth down.
“Don’t give me that bullshit, son. Once you’ve been in the army and seen action, you’ll always be in it. And you’ll always keep that patriotic shit about never leaving behind one of our own with you.”
“If you say so and I’m not your son.”
Perkins rested his hands on the counter, removed his hat and eyed Johnny. “I do. My dear ol’ dad was in the army. So I know what I’m talking about. And no, you ain’t my son, but you’re young enough to be and I reckon I have the wisdom of age over you.”
“Whatever. You just here to talk me to death or do you actually want something?”
“Yup, I want something alright. You.”
“Me? Good luck with that, because I haven’t done anything wrong. Now, do y—”
“I ain’t said you did something wrong. I need your help with something, assuming you got some survival skills and you ain’t rusty.”
“And if I refuse to help?”
“Listen, I’m guessing you and I speak the same language, son. If you refuse, I’ll gently escort you to my car and if you resist, I’ll charge you with resisting arrest or assaulting a police officer. It may not be fair, but you ain’t in the city anymore. Out ‘ere, only what I say matters. So, makes no odds to me how we do this, but you’re helping me one way or another.”
“Fine.” He was dressed for the occasion, so he didn’t see any need to prolong the agony. “After you.” He walked left the counter, lifted the bar flap and walked over to the sheriff.
“Good choice, son.” The sheriff grabbed his hat, slipped back onto his head.
It was then that Carl appeared from the kitchen, white apron dirty, and stopped them from leaving. “Where you going?” His face was portly and his head bald headed.
“Out. I’ll be back later, I guess?” Johnny looked to Perkins.
“You can’t go. What am I supposed to do while you’re gone and the customers start pouring in?”
Perkins answered. “That look like my problem, Carl? It ain’t, so find a way to manage.”
“You think that shiny badge gives you the right to just order folk around?”
“Nope, but it sure gives me the right to arrest anyone giving me or my deputies a hard time.”
“Try me, Carl.”
“Go on, get out.”
Perkins nodded, smiled slightly. “A pleasure as always, Carl.”
They exited the building and left the grumbling Carl behind. Perkins spoke, “Your name’s Johhny, right, son?”
Perkins nodded. “Seems he’s become friendlier since you started staying there. You must be rubbing off on him.”
Johnny cracked a smile for what felt like the first time in his life. “He’s normally friendlier than that.”
“That so? I’d like to see him in his friendlier moods.” Perkins opened his cruiser’s door. “Get in the front with me.”
“All right.” Johnny went around the other side of the car and before getting in, he took one last look at Carl’s Beer and Grill, the neon lettering standing out as dusk began to give way to full dark. The words ‘Carl’s’ and ‘and’ were blue, while ‘Beer’ and ‘Grill’ were red. To the left of the establishment’s name was a mug of beer, glittering around the edges. With a sigh, he got into the car.
Perkins started the engine and Johnny noticed him look over towards his seat belt. “Always good to see someone fasten their seatbelt.” He started away then onto the barren road. “You heard about ‘em animal attacks, right?”
“Yeah. No bodies found afterwards?”
“Yup. Another’s disappeared. Ol’ Bobby just a ways down the road. Ain’t got no idea what could carry a full grown man off with no tracks, other than the animal’s large paws.”
“Strange. And let me guess, you want me to help find it?”
“Yup. Need your tracking expertise.”
“I assume I’ll get a gun?”
“Sure you will. I have me two deputies waiting at the scene.”
Johnny nodded slightly and looked out of the window, noticing the odd tumbleweed pass fly past. He hadn’t held a gun for a year and he hadn’t wanted to again. He wanted nothing more to do with death and its instruments, having become well acquainted with them back in Afghanistan.
“You served in Afghanistan, right?”
“I did, though I’m not going to talk about it.”
Perkins glanced at Johnny, before returning his gaze to the road. “Fair enough. I respect your privacy. Must be some horrible shit you saw out there to make you as messed up as you are though.”
Why couldn’t people just mind their own? And by whose definition was he messed up by? The old man’s car? Maybe the sheriff’s the one that’s messed up? Perhaps Johnny saw so clearly what people were capable of now that he simply wanted nothing to do with own kind? All of those thoughts mixed in with a reluctance to get close to anyone else and with guilt. Getting close to others and seeing them die had an effect on a man, so that they never wanted to lose a cherished one again. “I’m not messed up.”
“All right. You know, I’ve seen my fair share of shit too.”
“This the part where you claim to have insight into what I’ve been through. Truth is you don’t. Everyone claims that.” Johnny looked at Perkins, not removing his eyes. “You ever seen a child brainwashed into strapping a bomb to them, all in the name of religion, and walking into a crowded area before committing suicide, so he could be with his brothers and his god? The kid probably no more than eleven.”
Perkins glanced at Johnny, shook his head. “No . . . Point taken.”
Johnny nodded, looking back out of the window. “Truth is, I’ve seen what people are capable of and I simply want nothing to do with the world these days. That’s all. It’s all fine and dandy you getting me to help you find whatever’s killing folk, but don’t expect me to give much of a damn.”
Fair enough? Good. Perkins would shut up now, mind his own, and give up the therapy and psycho-analysis bull shit now. But the worst part of it was that what he just said wasn’t the conversation killer he liked to use. No, that was something else, something that made him loathe himself and what gave him a guilty conscience.
And from that point on, they sat in silence until they arrived at their destination.
Margie & Carl
Margie Parson wandered over to the counter in Carl’s Beer and Grill. “Carl, what do you think the sheriff wanted with him?” She’d watched him ever since he came into town and started staying above the establishment. It was rare to ever hear a peep from him, but she felt drawn to him and couldn’t explain why. Sure, he was a cute guy, but it was more than. He seemed than most and he was like a puzzle box waiting to be unravelled. It wasn’t like she wanted to rip his clothes either. The attraction wasn’t like that, but she simply wanted to get to know him. She hoped he’d be safe, so that she might get the chance to solve the puzzle of Johnny Demore. And with the establishment being quiet, she thought now was the best time to quickly probe Carl.
Carl frowned and looked up, hands rested on the counter. “How the fuck am I supposed to know that, Margie? All I know is Perkins thought it’s all right to leave me short-handed and not even feel sorry about it. But I’m sure your boy toy will be fine.”
“He’s not my boy toy. And don’t you care about him at all?”
“Oh I care about him all right. I care about his safety because I need his help in keeping the place running.”
Hunting the Beast
Johnny and Perkins pulled up outside the trailer, one other police jeep present. The two deputies outside, sat on the trailer’s steps by the front door. Johnny exited the sheriff’s jeep as did the sheriff, the sight of the blood covered trailer hitting him full force as he gazed at it, mouth agape. Memories of Afghanistan flooded back, the sights of blood stained walls riddled with bullet holes vivid. Bodies in front of them and the screams of the dying rung in his ears as plain as the day he first heard them, their arms outstretched as they sought aid in their time of dying. Hoping for someone to ease their suffering or hoping someone could stop them from dying.
He shook his head, approached.
“’Bout time you showed up, boss,” said the older looking deputy.
“Well, we’re here now.” Perkins looked at Johnny. “This ‘ere,” he pointed at Lenin, “is Deputy Lenin. He’s young and wet behind the ears, but he’s dependable. Just . . . make sure you keep him in front of you.”
Johnny laughed quietly.
“Hey, I’m no coward.”
“I’m just teasing you, Lenin.” Perkins looked to the older deputy. “And this ‘ere is Deputy Rainer. My oldest man and very dependable. Ain’t got the skill set you have, I’m sure, but he’s good enough.”
Johnny nodded to them both. He looked around the area, seeing the blood covering the floor as well and looking at the door torn off its hinges. “There was a struggle inside?”
“Yup, whoever took ol’ Bob made a right mess in there. I’m guessing it attacked him inside and brought him out ‘ere after he’d given up fighting. Don’t ask me what could have done it.”
“No animal that I know of could tear the door from its hinges and enter the trailer.” With that, he made to enter the trailer itself. “Excuse me.”
The deputies looked to Perkins who nodded. They moved to the side and Johnny walked up the steps. The sight greeting him was one of a wreck. Clothes were strewn everywhere with the odd spatter of blood, the back windows were smashed and the drawers from the cupboard were on the floor. The television set, small and dinky, destroyed and smoking.
He examined the blue carpet. A long, brown hair could be seen. He picked it up and studied it. “Well, there’s a hair at least. But I doubt we have a grisly around here. And coyotes sure as hell couldn’t do this.”
The deputies stood in the doorway nodded their head. Perkins said, “Agreed. That’s why I want to go and hunt it down. You seen enough in ‘ere?”
Johnny stood and nodded slightly. “Yes, but why not call in help?”
“It’d take a while and we’ve had two disappearances in two days. Ain’t wanting there to be another. Besides, as we ain’t sure what’s done this, I’m not sure I want a lot of publicity around ‘ere. We kinda like our town nice and quiet.”
“I can understand that.” Johnny pushed his way through them again to the outside. “You got the guns and everything we’ll need? If I can find a track.”
“Sure have. And you’ll be able to find the thing’s tracks all right. We saw them out there, but we don’t want to be tracking it when we’re not too skilled. Besides, we thought you’d be handy to have around.”
Johnny nodded again. “I guess I am. We going on foot?”
“No, you’ll hop in the back of my jeep and we’ll drive along the desert nice and slow like, so you can keep your eyes on the tracks.”
“All right.” With that, Johnny walked around, taking care not to disturb any tracks. And sure enough, he saw some. Something stood upright must have made the tracks, though the tracks looked like they were made by paws. “It walks upright.” Johnny shook his head, perplexed. “All right, let’s get the show underway?”
“Yup, we’re just wasting time ‘ere.”
The deputies, Perkins and Johnny got into their cars and began the hunt, taking it nice and slow with Johnny looking at the tracks as they drove over the rugged, desert countryside.
The tracks eventually led them to a cave, where the mountains lay. It was at their foot, thankfully, and Perkins had spoken about how relieved he was, complaining about how his arthritis would have made it hard going up a mountain. And besides, they didn’t have the equipment to go scaling mountains anyway. The cave and mountains themselves were a ways away from the small town of Cougar’s Run. They were positively out in the middle of nowhere and Cougar’s Run, with a population of only around one hundred to two hundred by Johnny’s estimation, was already in the middle of nowhere.
They slammed the doors shut and each picked up a flashlight and shotgun. “Well shit, I never thought I’d be entering a cave at my age. I’m liable to have a heart attack if anything comes at me in there.”
“You just keep at back, boss.”
Perkins looked at Lenin. “And let you go in front? I may as well just have my heart attack out ‘ere, right now.”
“You’ll be fine,” said Johnny. He pointed the flashlight into the cave’s pitch black mouth, loaded shotgun held in his other hand, muzzle pointing down.
“You see anything?” asked Rainer.
“No. Just darkness. Looks like we’re going to have to go in.”
“Just my luck. I should have retired when my wife starting nagging me to.”
“No point dwelling on that now. I’ll lead,” said Johnny. Flashlight held beside the shotgun, which was pointed in front now, he cautiously walked into the cave. The occasional of bats could be heard from within and the police followed him in, close behind.
The sound of boots walking on the hard cave floor echoed ever so slightly, the drip of water from stalactites and the bats’ noises drowning it out. The walls, with the exception of the odd gap, were barren and bland as expected. The cave’s winding path narrow. There were no off-shoots for them to explore, just one long path.
A screech sounded and a few bats suddenly flew right past them. Johnny glanced behind him, seeing that Rainer and Lenin had been startled a bit, but it was Perkins that worried him slightly, though he didn’t much care happened. It was just that there was safety in numbers and he was holding his chest, like the living daylights had been scared right out of him and he was feeling a heart attack coming on as he panted.
“Jesus,” said Perkins, quietly.
Johnny held his hand up to his mouth, signalling for Perkins to be quiet.
It was then that he heard a gnawing sound and what distinctly sounded like the crack of bones coming from up ahead. Reluctantly, Johnny shone the torch’s light down the cave tunnel and what he saw was a naked man – dirtied and bloodied – with short, brown hair, crouched over the corpse of the man who he assumed had been the one to go missing. His body was basically disembowelled and what the naked man gnawed on was an arm, skin completely gone with the bone exposed halfway up.
The naked man turned his head as the torch hit the back wall of the cave room, just in front of him. His eyes were savage, flesh dangling down from his lips. An inhuman scream erupted from him and hair began to grow all over his body, just like his nails extended, as he leapt up and charged towards them.
Johnny wasted no time in pointing the shotgun at the man and pulling the trigger, the force of the kickback knocking him back slightly and making his arms ache. The naked man flew back and hit the wall hard, his chest now a bloody mess. His growing nails and hair seemed stuck, in mid-transformation into whatever it was he was turning into. He gurgled blood and his entire body shook.
With the others approaching close behind, mouths agape, Johnny approached. He stepped over the bloody corpse of the man they had sought; the corpse of the other man who’d went missing in a corner.
The naked man tried to force out some words. “You’ll . . . You’ll regret . . . this.” He started to laugh madly.
“Sure we will.” Johnny pumped the shotgun, aimed it at the man’s head and fired. The man’s head exploded and Johnny’s face was showered with blood, as was his clothing. Johnny pumped the shotgun again, aimed it at the man’s chest—
“He’s dead!” yelled Perkins, placing a firm hand on Johnny’s shoulder.
Johnny turned around, eyes wild. Perkins stumbled backwards, and Johnny shook his head slightly, disbelieving that he nearly struck Perkins. “Sorry . . .”
“It’s all right,” said Perkins, and his deputies surrounded him on either side. “Jesus, what the hell was this fuck? Hair suddenly growing and nails lengthening. Eating another man. He couldn’t have made those paw prints, could he?”
Johnny wiped his hands on his shirt, but it was no good. He looked to Perkins. “If he could turn so hairy and grow fingernails that long in such a short amount of time, I’d say it’s possible he could have been the one responsible for the paw prints.” He shook his head again. “Werewolves. . . . All of that shit could be true.”
Johnny noticed Rainer move to inspect the corpse by the wall, also half-eaten. “Well, what do we do now? The freak’s dead and so are these two.”
“I didn’t like the warning he gave,” said Lenin.
“Most likely just empty threats.”
“Possibly,” said Johnny. “Look, we want to scare everyone, telling them about this freak? I say we leave him here, possibly take the corpses back.”
“Good idea. We’ll do that.”
“All right. The bar will be about ready to close, but I reckon we might be able to convince Carl to let us get a few drinks to celebrate and relax. I know I sure as hell could use it.”
“Sounds like a plan, right boys?”
“Yeah,” said the deputies in unison.