We are less than two weeks out from the release of Finding Faded Light, and I mentioned in the post
announcing the release date that I'd wasted about 40,000 words just finding the thread for this book.
Most of those wasted words came from false starts. If you haven't read Chasing Filthy Lucre -- or if you read it so long ago that you forgot how it ended (understandable, since it was 3 years ago that it published) -- at the end of the book our two main characters have to leave town. I don't think I give away anything saying that. It's how the book ends, but most of the main action has already happened before that.
I like the ending of Chasing Filthy Lucre a lot. It feels very satisfying, at least to me, but still sets up a second story, and that was the goal. I wanted someone to be able to read the book and feel that sense of closure you get from a good ending, but also be intrigued enough to want to read the second installment. I never expected the second installment to take three years, but what are you going to do?
So, I liked my ending a lot. What I couldn't figure out though was how to start the second book.
I think the problem was I doubted my plan. I'd had all four books of this series planned for a while. Yes, it was four at one time. It's three now. And when I started writing what I'd planned as book two something just felt off. So I stopped writing what was a pretty good story because it just didn't feel right. I was about 20,000 words into that version. Started a new version that fast forwarded the story and that felt wrong too, like I was glossing over too much. So I went back to the original idea and tried again. Another couple of false starts, I finally found it -- the thread I needed to get the story started. I knew that I was going in the right direction when I wrote about five pages in less than an hour, a great speed for me.
As we head toward pub day, I thought I'd share a couple of those false starts, at least a couple excerpts from them. Here's the first go at writing Book 2. It's presented with only light editing, so if it looks a little rough that's because it is. It'll give you some idea of setting in Finding Faded Light, but there shouldn't be any spoilers. And don't be surprised if you see this in another story/book. I like a lot of it, and it's still a story with legs, just not as the book after Chasing Filthy Lucre.
Everyone ignored the explosions.
We all heard them. I know because the conversations stopped. But when the echoes of the blasts quit repeating off the brick walls of the downtown buildings, we all went back to celebrating. It was Saturday, and Saturdays in the Outer West were for celebrating.
The crowd around me was laughing and drinking and the smell of alcohol and cigarettes was in the air. I pulled a reader from my pocket and tapped its screen. The thing blinked to life. A photo of a girl came up. I held the screen out in front of me so the guy standing next to me could see it.
"Look at her," I said.
The man kept his eyes down, focused on the bit of drink that was left in his plastic cup.
"Look at her," I said again.
I pushed the reader into his face and put my hand behind his head. I pushed his face forward until his nose touched the screen.
"Have you seen her?" I asked, my voice forceful, but not so loud that I'd draw attention.
"I don't know where she is," the man said and squirmed free from my grip. "Not anymore."
"What do you mean not anymore?" I asked.
"That's all I can tell you," he said. He finished off what was left of the homebrew in his cup then crushed it in his fist. "Even if I had seen her recently, I don't know where she is anymore."
The grill that was next to us was full of steaks. The people working that grill had stepped a few feet away when I raised my voice.
"Look," I said. "I don't care about you." I pointed toward Berger, he'd been watching the whole time from across the street. "He doesn't care about you. All we want is the girl. Help us find the girl."
A woman's laugh cut through the commotion all around us. Voices filled the silence. Conversations and celebrating.
"I can't help you find the girl," the man said. He pulled a hand through his shag of hair. "I don't know where she is. Honest."
"But you know who has her."
He shifted on his feet, his hands behind him and resting on the brick wall.
"I know who had her," he said. "She's probably changed hands by now."
"Don't tell me that," I said. "What did they want with the girl?"
"I don't know," he said and reached into his pocket and pulled out a leather pouch. He shook it a few times then pulled open the drawstring closure. He sat it on the ground in front of him and reached back into his pocket. This time he grabbed a rolling paper. He bent over and reached into the bag. He came back up with a pinch of tobacco and placed it in the paper. He rolled it tight and stuck it between his lips. He went into his pocket again and pulled a match that he struck on the brick behind him. He held the flame to the end of the cigarette he'd just rolled and took a deep breath in.
"Why do you keep calling her a girl?" he asked. "She can't be less than 25."
"Because the guy who's paying me calls her his little girl."