The Fourth Day – Second Rewrite

I’m working on a short story called The Fourth Day, rewriting it for the second time.  Here’s some of it:

Dawn grew on the horizon, sunslight streaking golden across the downs. The soldier stood at the forest’s edge, looking down on the battlefield. The grass of the plain swept upwards to the red eaves of the wood, waving in the gentle wind that blew in from the sea. He stood transfixed, one arm wrapped around the slender trunk of a young tree, watching his friends die.

He saw them fall in the russet grass, one-two-three, as the dark archers on the far berm loosed their last volley. He saw them, in a perfect line, horn bows to the heavens, the sun in his eyes when the arrows hit. He saw the prosecutors rally from the flank and heard the cry of a segan as a dart took him through the throat. The time seemed to stretch. He watched the small figures below him struggle, like valorous ants on a rotten log.

He set his teeth and waited, the distance between them lending a feeling of unreality to the fighting. From time to time he looked up through the red leaves and let the sunslight warm his face.

It’s a choice, Kashen had said. A choice you make.

He tried not to lie to himself. He tried to look at it honestly, tried to watch it happen, take it as it came. You could accept anything, if you let yourself. He had accepted worse.

Standing there in the shade, his spear still in his hand, his greaves still wet with morning dew, he found that he could accept this, too. It’s a choice. He stared, the fray coming in and out of focus as his eyes wandered. He felt a brief moment of shock when he realized his unit was gone. The battle had moved on. Time had passed. The suns stood together in a robin’s egg sky.

He could see bodies matting the grass, a stippled rash of gleaming bronze on the reddish plain. The wounded had been trampled under the enemy horsemen as they broke the line, the remaining officers caught suddenly by the knives of the sneaking Jida clan. He had watched their assassins stealing the flanks. A banner, still vibrant in black and white, jutted haphazardly from a pile of dead. The Great Conquest had finally been blooded.

Upcoming Projects

Here’s a list of what I’m working on, in case you were wondering:

  1. Exile: The Book of Ever, the first in a trilogy of postapocalyptic young adult science fiction novels, forthcoming from Evil Toad Press.  The book’s done and out to my beta readers.  The release date’s looking like late summer or early fall, at this point.  I’ll be posting a cover reveal and a blurb here soon, so stay tuned for more on this one.
  2. The Akkian Mass (working title), an in-progress swordpunk novel.  You can read the first two chapters for free right here.  I’m not sure when this one will be done yet, but I’m hoping to release it in fourth quarter 2014 or first quarter 2015.
  3. Children of the Taking, my in-progress epic fantasy.  This is book one of a series of as-yet undetermined length.  I’m a solid one-third of the way through the story and have about 70,000 words written.  This promises to be a long one (I’d be very surprised if it clocks in at under 200K words) so it’s possible “Book One” will end up becoming Books One and Two.  Story usually happens in a very traditional three act structure for me, on both macro and micro levels, but it’s not always possible to predict how long each of those acts for me.  I conceived of this series as a trilogy, but it might turn out to need more space than that.
  4. A variety of short stories, some for submission to online magazines, and a couple for a book I’m working jointly on with P.J. Fox.  If you liked her novel The Demon of Darkling Reach, you’re probably going to like this project too, so stay tuned.
  5. Book Two of The Book of Ever.  I need a break from Ever and Co. before I jump into writing the sequel, so I’ll be working on one or all of the above projects for the rest of the summer (unless Ever demands attention).

There’s always a long list of other ideas on the back burner, of course, but these are the projects that are primarily taking up my attention at the moment.

Back Burner Stories

I have a veritable library of unfinished short stories in my Dropbox, neatly archived into their own individual folders.  Some are ancient: a few hundred words I wrote on the fly late one night, or a writing exercise I saved more because of OCD than any desire to ever do anything with it.  Others are more recent, mostly incomplete ideas: vignettes, descriptions of settings, characters without stories.  In additional to all of this dead prose, however, I usually have at least a few stories in progress that I’m actively thinking about.  One of them is a far future science fiction short story about a sort of first contact attache overseeing the early phases of introducing advanced technology to a planet seeking membership in a galactic confederation.

This one is a true back burner story, in the sense that I’m actively working on it but in a secondary, low-priority way.  I’ll literally keep the file open behind whatever my primary project is (in this case the YA novel I just finished and am now editing), and occasionally switch over to it in moments of boredom or inspiration to add a few lines.  I never write more than a paragraph or so at a time.  I’m interested to see what kind of first draft this produces, and whether it’s a viable way to work on minor projects.

Does anyone else do this?  Work on things piecemeal, a few hundred words at a time?