Syndicate: You Will be Mine

Have another deleted scene, this time from Syndicate. One of those things that I never found a place to put in is an explanation of just where Mark got those powers from. Because he did get them from somewhere.


Jason just wanted to make a little quick cash and his prayers were very easily answered. This guy at the bar had already been abandoned by his friends one by one as he continued to obsess over a woman that had dumped him. From the sounds of it, she’d dumped him months ago, if not even longer.

He took a seat next to the drunk, looking far too young to be in here. Luckily, so long as he paid, no one cared. Better, he knew the man working the bar and knew that he’d look the other way. “Hey,” Jason said. “Mark, right?”

“Who’s asking?” Mark looked Jason over. “Aren’t you kinda young? I’m not buying you anything.”

“I get that a lot,” Jason said. “And I don’t need you to.”

Jason put his finger down on the bar and the shadows pooled under Mark’s drink. Mark turned back to it and watched as it fell into the wood of the bar, then looked at Jason as the drink resurfaced in front of him. Jason smiled and nodded, tipping the glass in his direction in thanks before taking a drink.

“How’d you do that?”

Surprise was good. Surprise meant that he’d never seen anything like it before. Even as wasted as he was, if he would know exactly what Jason was the instant he saw that trick.

“Trade secret,” Jason said. “But I might let you in on it if you really want.”

“Can you do anything else?”

“Plenty,” Jason said, letting the drink sink back down into the bar and returning it to Mark. “It’s not something you generally go around showing people, but I get a good feeling from you.” A feeling like you’re willing to blow a lot of cash to get back a girl who doesn’t give a shit about you. 

Mark said nothing staring down at his glass. He picked it up and felt the table, making sure there wasn’t a hole or dent, but there was nothing but smooth wood under his hands. He glanced around, but no one so much as glanced in their direction. This was going a little too well.

“How?” Mark asked.

Jason pooled a collection of shadows in front of him and reached down into the bar, pulling out a single purple pill before the shadows dispersed.

“It’s not cheap,” Jason warned him, the shadows pooling around Mark’s glass again and flickering up like a dark flame to lick the cool glass. “This shit comes at a price. But between you and me, it’s worth every cent.”

“And it’ll make me do this?”

“It’s a bit different for everyone. Some people get mine. Some people blow shit up. Sometimes you can control everyone around you. It all depends on you. No matter what you get, though, it makes you more powerful than you ever imagined.”

“How much?”

“Five thousand gets you one. That’ll get you some temporary skills. The second makes it permanent.”

Mark looked long and hard at the glass, now covered in thin black tendrils from Jason’s shadows. “You know a bank near here?” he asked.

syndicate

Backstreets: Mail

I did a lot of thinking about the other stuff that happened in that one arc of stories in Backstreets. So here’s more of what happened with Carrie.


When Carrie dropped her stuff off in her room, she saw the envelope on her bed. Those earrings she ordered online had come in fast. She grabbed it and headed back downstairs and to Don waiting for her in the living room. He turned when she appeared. “Got something?”

“Yeah, I ordered this a week ago,” Carrie told him, handing him the envelope. “I thought it would take longer to get here.”

Don muttered a couple words and ran his finger along the top of the envelope, a neat slice appearing through the tape and paper. She smiled as he handed it back to her. A magic boyfriend was useful sometimes. So long as they kept it low key, she might be able to keep him without getting caught.

She opened the envelope and tipped it into her hand, a slip of paper falling between the two of them before a plastic bag with a single purple pill. Don went as still as her at the sight of it and Carrie’s back tingled, remembering full well what happened the last time she took one of these things. She almost wanted to throw it across the room, but she wanted an explanation more.

She shoved the bag at Don, looking for a return address on the envelope. It was blank and there wasn’t even any postage on it to let her know where it came from. The only other clue was the note.

“This has to be a joke,” Don said quietly as he handed her the note, his eyes darting to the door to make sure they weren’t being overheard. He held the pill awkwardly, like it was about to bite him. “Who the hell would send this to you? Who else knows?”

Carrie read the note.

For the future when the choice arises.

Dawn

Taking a deep breath, Carrie took the pill back and shoved it in her pocket, gathering the remaining evidence together and giving it back to Don. “Burn it. Jin never finds out.”

“You can’t-”

“Just in case,” she said, not quite meeting his eyes.

backstreets

Simya Academy: Questions

I ended up leaving a lot out by not including an epilogue in Simya Academy. Things like, what actually happened to her friends once the book was done.


“You don’t really believe any of this, do you?” Marisa asked once they got back in their dorm. There were only five of them now, Dawn placed on an independent long term assignment, and only three of them in the room. Well, they said that’s where she was.

“She has not been replaced yet,” Angel said. “She might be back.”

“No,” Shane told her.

“You know something about that night,” Marisa said. “It’s been months and no one’s told us anything. It’s not a coincidence that Dawn got put on ‘permanent assignment’ in the middle of the night and the Tower blows up at the same time. Or that, somehow, we’re the only ones who managed to sleep through the whole thing. There is no way she got out of here without going through you first, Shane. And – Roland!”

“What?” Roland asked as he walked into the dorm, closing the door behind him.

“You found something last night, right? The folder?”

Roland’s eyes flicked around the room, carefully checking everything. He went to the window and made sure it was closed before he pulled it out from under his pillow. “There was this,” he said, leaving the folder on his bed. “Ellen’s file. I have yet to go through it, but Dawn’s left a note.”

Shane looked back to the door, then to the rest of them. “Fine,” Shane said. “I will tell you what happened. But only once Jack comes. I am not repeating myself.”

simyaacademy1

Office: Xombie Overdose

Just in case anyone thought the twins weren’t somehow entirely responsible for what happened during the zombie invasion, here’s a cut bit from Office that didn’t fit anywhere.


“You’d think they’d know it’s not supposed to be green,” Di said, remaining just out of sight of the small crowd of junkies crowding around what they thought was a box of free heroin.

“You’d think they’d know you aren’t going to get anything good in random boxes in an alley, but this is the second time today.”

“Should we do anything about this?”

A grin crossed her brother’s face and the look in Ezra’s eye told her that he knew just what to do to spice things up a little. He’d been more reckless than her lately and, as much fun as it was, she wasn’t sure if she should be stopping him.

He was always the one to rein her in when she went too far, though. That was how they worked. She jumped at whatever would be the most entertaining and he made sure it didn’t get out of hand. Maybe this streak of boredom was getting to him too. If he wasn’t going to stop her, she’d keep from stopping him too.

“It’s been awfully dull at the office lately, don’t you think?” Ezra asked.

“So boring.”

“And we can’t just leave these guys out here on their own.”

“They’re going to get in trouble on their own.”

“They’d cause too much trouble for the Chief.”

“We should really bring them right there.”

“And take the scenic route,” Ezra agreed. “They might have a few more friends we haven’t seen.”

Di pushed back that voice in her head telling her that this was definitely one of those times that Ezra would tell her it was going too far. The idea of the office plunged in a zombie invasion sounded like far too much fun to pass up. Plus, it had been years since she and Ezra had a chance to really let loose and no one was going to stop them over zombies.

Still, there was something off about Ezra. His expression was as calm as usual, but his smile never quite met his eyes. She knew she should stop and ask him what was going on, even if it meant stopping what might be the most fun they’d ever have at the office.

If it was serious, he’d tell her. If not, she’d ask him when this stopped being fun.

office

Simya Academy: Othering

There’s a few strange things that got left out of Simya Academy. Namely, I left out everything that wasn’t directly related to Dawn. Like this little bit about what happened with Zeke.


A moment ago there was nothing but fire and that girl, her grey eyes chilling him to the bone. He knew her once as a child, back in those hazy years that would never quite return to him. She changed from the friend he sort of remembered to the demon who looked too at home in the flames.

“What’s going on?” he asked, his voice hollow and disappearing into the night. He could feel the cool open night air and was dimly aware that he was in a field in the middle of nowhere, his knees soaking from the damp soil he now knelt in. It didn’t matter. Nothing made sense anymore.

You needed to get out of there, came the little voice in his head. Frag was there, as he always was, speaking gently and trying not to sound shaken himself. I took the liberty.

Zeke shook his head, though he wasn’t sure what he was disagreeing with. He could still feel the fire. He could see Dawn there. He could hear his brother. He saw everything happen. He knew what happened. It just didn’t make any sense.

He didn’t know how long he sat there, sitting in the dirt and shaking his head, before he managed to get his next words out. “I can’t go back, can I?”

You could, Frag said. I wouldn’t recommend it. It might be time to go.

“Yeah,” Zeke said. “Yeah, I think we should go.”

Zeke didn’t move a muscle, but the field was empty a moment later.

simyaacademy1

Bunches of Themes

In the end for Tales from the Twisted Eden Sector, all of the stories were grouped based on a similar theme or idea. I played with a lot of different groupings for them, but in the end I found that thematically made the most sense when you were reading the anthologies.1 The ideas, for those who have not checked them out yet:

Syndicate – An introduction to the universe and some basic elements

Backstreets – What the backstreets are

Office – The Syndicate offices and how it functions

Visitors – Things that exist in the universe that should not be there

Evidence – Magical items

Legacy – A look at all those potential “Chosen ones” that exist in these sorts of stories and what they’re doing

And then there’s Simya Academy, which was a tie in novella and isn’t going to be talked about too much in this series.2

As one person pointed out, doing this didn’t work for every book. Backstreets, I agree, was very samey after a while because the type of story is very much the same when I tell something that happens in the Backstreets. It’s essentially a winding haunted house, so they all came out with a very heavily haunted house influenced feeling and narrative structure.

Legacy also had issues in that it was the last book of a very loosely explained series that attempted to give an explanation of what was going on.

Overall, though, I think it worked for this series. Considering I was going to allow users to build their own books from the stories provided,3 I think this was probably the best idea I could have gone with.

You know, until next week when I think of something better.

  1. And for writing them! []
  2. Nor is the actual content of the series at all. []
  3. And an earlier structure that involved rigid classification and no consideration for arcs at all []

Tagging Narratives

Back when I was still sitting on Tales from the Twisted Eden Sector, I talked to the CEO of a company of BookRiff and she presented a very interesting idea that I pretty much immediately took to. The idea of BookRiff, originally, was more academic1 and would allow you to take articles and chapters out of various books and merge them into a different book. Ideally, it meant that students could get cheaper textbooks by only printing off what they needed.

I, being someone who had an anthology series with strange linearity, had a very different idea. In one of the early iterations, instead of releasing them in collections, I was going to release every story individually and give people a way to create their own books based on which characters they liked or which stories they wanted to continue with.

This, of course, fell through. But I haven’t quite given up on the idea. I like the idea of a build-your-own-narrative where you pick the pieces you like and put them together to make them your own. A whole book with only those characters you like. An arc that is put in the proper linear order. Just giving people a way to take the existing pieces and let them put them together in a way that makes sense to them.

In my head, I call it a tagged narrative. The idea of it is that it is a group of stories that are user created and grouped under a categorization that the user creates rather than one that the gatekeeper2 imposes. It could be something curated by a lot of people that doesn’t have anything to do with the way the original content creator had grouped the narratives originally.

  1. Or that’s how she pitched it, anyway []
  2. In this case, me, the author []

Office: Escape

This is a scene that never quite made it into the series. This takes place during one of the stories in Office when the office is overrun and Persea has been forgotten about.


That ceiling had taunted her for so long. It laughed as she was kept inside the jar, trapped and unable to escape the glass. There was iron in the lid and she could not break through that. For years, she watched as her captor just sat there, ignoring her and forgetting that she was even there in the first place.

And then he died. And then there was nothing to even watch. There was only the mockery of the ceiling when it remembered her at all.

But now some idiot had finally come in. He was trying to freeze himself in the room, but she knew it wouldn’t work. Already, something was rumbling the shelf behind her, trying to break through the wall. No matter how much ice, she would finally be free and humanity would pay for what they did to her.

The shelf came down in a crash and the jar bounced against the ground. She felt the rumbling around her as more humans trampled the remains of the shelf, but the jar that held her was still intact.

No, that couldn’t be right.

Persea banged against the glass. Even as the room around her froze, she kept fighting against her clear prison. It wasn’t fair! She was so patient, spent so many years in solitary confinement and forgotten. It was her time to be free and she would make the humans pay! She was not meant to be contained!

Outside, the ceiling laughed.

office

Not So Linear

In all my talking about Tales from the Twisted Eden Sector, I haven’t really talked about on how much I have always wanted to play around with linearity. I do love messing around with linearity, but I have issues with time travel narratives because then you have to deal with time travel rules. If you affect something from the past, does that split off the timeline? Does it change the existing? Does knowing at all pop you into a new one?

I liked the idea behind things like Momento or Sandman,1 where the story was set but the order the story was told in wasn’t strictly linear. Instead, you got to use the cues in the stories to try and figure out where in the timeline of the overall narrative everything took place.

While I wanted to, when I tried messing around with the order of the books, they ended up being a mess. There are bits of not so linear storytelling in the order of the stories in each of the books, but within the books they are largely in order. The books themselves, however, overlap in terms of linearity.

Not that it’s impossible to tell what happens when. There are little nods to previous stories that would be lost if you read them out of order2 as well as much more clear references3 that are intended to help tell which one happens when. You can reasonably tell when one story comes after another one if you really try to, though a few will be left in question.

It’s a bit like I mentioned before with everyone coming back from a trip with different stories. You can piece together how everything fits together, even though conflicting stories. Like that example, though, there are always a few stories that you just can’t place on your own.

Or you can cheat and check the timeline I made while I was writing. That is also an option.

  1. Or Time Stranger, but I think I’m the only one who likes that movie []
  2. Such as Mikey and when he works with Jason []
  3. The age of the twins is directly referenced a few times []

He Said, She Said Narrative

I’ve been talking about my Tales from the Twisted Eden Sector’s narrative structure a little and how I tried to evoke a feeling of urban legends being told in a bar one night1 rather the traditional storytelling method of making everything feel genuine to the universe.

And then I kept going with the idea.

I thought about stories I’ve heard my friends tell and there was one more element to it that I was overlooking. If there was a story from, say, a camping trip2 there was never one story. There were different ones told from different perspectives that all seemed to hook together if you paid attention to them. This fragmented narrative structure made the storytelling a lot more fun because they wouldn’t frame it as before or after or during another event – you’d have to figure it out based on other story details.3

I liked the idea and ran with it as an intentional part of the structure. Within the sets of not-so-self-contained stories are arcs told from differing perspectives, all of which add something different to the narratives. Even outside of the arcs, there are items and characters that appear at different points with different tells that give you a sense of when each story is taking place within the narrative and giving a different context to the events in other stories.

And I do like to find ways to make the third person limited perspective a bit more interesting. As much as I dislike first person for the number of times I’ve felt trapped in the head of a character I grew to despise, I do like how it limits things to what a character would feasibly know and leaves the reader with an incomplete picture of what’s going on.4

Yeah, that part was intentional too. I’m not sorry.

  1. Not actually what I said, just go with it []
  2. I would never be in attendance for those due to my skin’s disagreements with the outdoors []
  3. Or you cheat and ask, but what fun is that? []
  4. When it’s done well, anyway []