The Next Big Thing (and New Novel Excerpt!)

Two of my fellow writers, Josh and Laurie, did this chain blogging thing a few weeks back. It’s called “The Next Big Thing,” and it’s an interview on upcoming writing projects. Josh tagged me to do it, so here I am, doing it. Josh’s own post is here, and you can find Laurie’s post here. Go read, it’s fun stuff. : )

elevator--vertical

The Next Big Thing

Okay, now that you’re caught up and have returned, please to enjoy my contribution to the blogging chain:

What is the title of your next book?

The working title of my next book is Elevator People. (A few months ago, I challenged readers to come up with a better title. The jury’s still out on who won, by the way. I’ll work it out soon though. Promise.)

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for Elevator People originated where most of my story ideas originate: my dreams. In the dream, I saw a young man in a steampunk-style elevator that could move up, down, sideways, forward, backward, and diagonally. I knew the man was traveling in the elevator from one planet to another, and he was going to be set upon by thieves at his next stop. This turned into the opening scene of the novel.

What genre does your book fall under?

Is “low sci-fi” a genre? It’s definitely sci-fi, what with the interplanetary and possibly transdimensional traveling via mechanical conveyance. (There is, however, no time-traveling.) And there are laser rifles at some point. Also space shuttles and nanotechnology. But I don’t delve into the science of how it all works, so readers shouldn’t expect the intricacies of Asimov or Heinlein. Hence the “low” sci-fi.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Uffda, that’s a hard one. I rarely cast real people in the roles of my characters, although I know many writers use that as a visualization technique. That’s never been my habit, so Ima have to give this some extra thought.

Okay. Wentworth Miller (of Prison Break fame) for my main character, Went Banning — and not just because Miller is my Went’s namesake. He’s got the acting chops for a quiet, reserved, yet passionate and determined adventurer. I can easily see him stepping out of the elevator and, five minutes later, needing rescuing by two adorable urchins. ; )

As for the urchins…once upon a time, I would’ve wanted Dakota Fanning for Jop, but she’s too old now. The same probably holds true for Chloë Grace Moretz, but she would also be a top choice. I can’t think of anyone else right now.

Ooh! Abigail Breslin. I bet she’s the one.

For my second urchin, I am thoroughly impressed with Pierce Gagnon, who plays little Cid in Looper. The kid’s scary good. He might be a little young to play Skee, but a couple more years and I think he’d be perfect.

With apologies to Jason Isaacs, he would make an excellent villain in Carrigan Bell. *shudder*

As for Risk, Went’s female co-star…another toughie. Emma Stone? Deborah Ann Woll? Anna Popplewell would probably be too young. I dunno. Like I said, I’m not great at this casting thing!

(As an aside, I talk a little more about the characters here.)

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Ugh. I’m not good at these either. Even though they’re supposed to be a big part of my job. *sigh* Okay, here goes….

When loner Went Banning loses the codes that operate his “magical” elevator, he realizes he must rely on two street urchins and a damaged former slavegirl to help him find the mythical Mr. Banjoman…who might just be Went’s father.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Um, yes. ; ) You can expect the book sometime in 2013 from indie publisher Consortium Books.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It’s not done yet.

I started it in November 2011.

*sigh*

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I never like this question. To compare my story to other books feels like I’m expecting everyone to agree with me. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the writing business, it’s that no two people view the same story the same way. I honestly can’t think of a novel I’d feel comfortable naming here.

But if you like character-driven sci-fi with interplanetary travel and hints of the transdimensional, I think you’ll like Elevator People.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Inspiration came from my dream, as I mentioned above. I tend to have “story-seed dreams” right when I’m wrapping up a project and am mentally ready to move on to the next one. Call it synchronicity, divine providence, spooky coincidence, whatever. I’ve learned not to question it. It’s there when I need it, so I go with it.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Went is a man of deep, inspiring conviction, and he’s just despairing enough to win and break your heart; Jop and Skee, the urchins, are clever and adorable; female co-star Risk is smart, strong, and sexy; and their collective enemy, Carrigan Bell, is terrifying and utterly despicable. (Oh, and wait’ll you meet the vampire who’s after the lot of them….)

Together, they’ll take you on a great ride.

In closing, I hereby tag my fellow writers Aaron Pogue, Jessie Sanders, Becca Campbell, and Pam Davis to post their own “The Next Big Thing.” (And don’t y’all forget to send me your links!)

Bonus Round

This isn’t part of the interview, but I figure a New Year’s treat is in order. Here’s an excerpt from Draft 1 of Elevator People. Enjoy. : )

From Chapter One of Elevator People by Courtney Cantrell

…They hit him again. Went’s arms felt limp. He coughed, choking on blood. They kicked him again and growled words he couldn’t understand. Metallic heels rang harshly against the pavement, receding.

When the echoes had died, Went finally moved again. With greatest care, he slid his knees up toward his chest and tried to roll to his hands and knees. His ribs screamed, and a small noise escaped his lips. The list. What of the list?

He forced his knees to cooperate and pushed himself up on his elbows. Leaning on his left arm, he clutched at his waistcoat. The waiscoat didn’t feel bulky enough. Another groan escaped him. It sounded like a whimper.

Damn.

He had to get back in the elevator. Even without the list, the elevator was his only hope for…for….

A hoarse, bitter sound escaped him. Hope for what? It was over. Was there any way he could go on without the codes list?

No.

Wait. The elevator hadn’t yet yielded all of its secrets. There was hope. Perhaps there was hope. He only had to get back inside first. Went spat blood, then clenched his teeth against the pain as he planted one foot and pushed up. His world spun, a black and gray blur of rectangular pillars and twisted metal. He thrust out a hand and groped for the wall. His fingers met flesh.

He jerked his hand back, and the momentum sent him tumbling farther away from the elevator. He slammed into one of the pillars. Rough, hard material slashed his palms as he rebounded. He dropped to the floor again and curled into a ball as the impact shot pain through his ribcage.

“Cose!” said a small, high voice. “We’ll a-help! Can you walk?”

Went felt hands on his arms again. But these hands were smaller than his attackers’. Their touch was soft, hesitant. He blinked up at the gloomy ceiling high above. The face of a young girl wavered into view.

Below dark, worried eyebrows, her darker eyes were enormous in her thin face. Her hair was long and stringy. He glimpsed a ragged, grayish brown tunic. She bit her bottom lip and shook his shoulder. “We’ll a-help,” she said again. “You’na get back in the cagey, yeah?”

“What?” Went coughed, then spat blood again. His jaw hurt.

“The cagey!” The urchin threw a glance over her shoulder. “Skee! Come ya over. Candles ain’t skeerin’ back here awhile.”

The girl turned back to Went and shook him again. A small shadow bobbed up next to her, and another pair of small hands tugged at Went’s white cotton work shirt. The newcomer was a boy even thinner, dirtier, and larger-eyed than the girl. Both children were pulling him toward the still open elevator doors.

Went rubbed at his jaw and winced. “I don’t understand most of what you’re saying,” he managed. “But it were well I got back in there.” He nodded toward the elevator.

The girl gave a few quick, vigorous nods. “The cagey, yeah. Come on, Skee. We’re a-help.”

As Went grabbed the pillar and pulled himself upright again, he heard the boy’s tiny whisper. “We’re a-go?”

“Hush-a, Skee. Maybe.” The girl pulled at Went’s sleeve. “Can you walk?”

Went nodded. “I think so. I’m–” He took a step and sucked in breath through clenched teeth. “I’m not as damaged as I look.” Still, he was grateful as she pulled his hand toward her shoulder and held it there a moment. He hoped his last statement wasn’t a lie.

He didn’t lean on the girl; her small frame wouldn’t have borne his weight. But the feel of her bony shoulder beneath the thin tunic did steady him a little. He tottered forward while she shuffled along at his side. Darting ahead, the little boy peered into the open elevator, then looked back at Went and the girl and grinned. His upper front teeth were missing.

They reached the wall, and Went put out a hand. “A moment, please.” They were only a few feet from the elevator doors, but just the seven or eight steps from pillar to wall had brought another wave of dizziness. He put both palms flat against the cold, jagged stone, ignoring the sting of cuts in his skin. If anything, the sharp pain restored a little clarity. The world stopped spinning and instead only rocked slightly, as though he were standing on the deck of one of his father’s clippers.

The thought of Father was enough to send nausea washing through his gut. He sagged against the wall, groaning.

“They’s all meanie-like, them Candles,” said the girl. “Skee and me, we a-stay clear of ’em. They’s the new dogs, and big ones. Rough-like, cose?”

Went turned his head left, then right. It was as much of a shake as he could manage. “Candles?”

“New dogs,” said the little boy from next to the open elevator. “Bite.”

“Candles and Haggs,” the girl said. “All new since B-line fell in. All new and a-fight over the U. They’s a-wantin’ new digs, pall it? So Skee and me and the other yoolers, we all in the way.”

“Haggs’ is bad.” The little boy frowned. “Candles…badder.”

Went’s beaten body wouldn’t let him think clearly, but he made a small connection in what the children were saying. “Then, these Candles are the ones who’ve robbed me?”

The girl raised one skeptical eyebrow and looked him up and down. “Well-a yeah. Candles pat anybody gets in their digs.” Her expression hardened. “Our digs. Was, anyway. Now, we’re a-look for–”

“Jop,” said the little boy in a pleading, warning tone.

The girl shook her head. “Well-a right, Skee! I’m a-not say, I’m a-not.” She looked up at Went. “Ready, cose?”

He took as deep a breath as he could without offending his ribs. “Ready enough, I suppose.” At least the dizziness had abated a bit. The girl took slow, careful steps toward the elevator, her gentle tugs on his arm urging him on. He used the wall as support. The fabric of his shirt caught on tiny, rough protrusions as he staggered along. He thought of how the Spillaines would rail at him for his torn clothing, and burst of energy shot through him.

It lasted until he reached the elevator doors. As he rounded the corner and into the cabin, his legs gave out, and he slid to the floor. At the same time, there came an angry shout from behind him. Above him, the girl’s huge eyes widened, and her mouth opened in a round “O” of horror. His ribs shrieked at him, but Went turned.

A man was rushing toward them from the darkness. He was yelling words Went couldn’t understand, his eyes trained on the spot where Went’s left hand gripped the corner of the rough wall. Went’s golden ring flashed in the light spilling from the elevator.

The ring. They missed it the first time. Came back for it

“Rotten blagger’s back!” The little girl rounded on Went. “The cagey’s it, cose, ’less you’re a-want us all to get the scroby. Come on!”

Went hardly understood a word but thought he couldn’t agree more. He tried to get his feet under him, but his body wouldn’t cooperate. On his knees, he slumped. He couldn’t even pitch himself forward to fall headlong to the elevator floor. A banker’s son’s not meant for street brawls. He laughed.

With the onrushing “blagger” not twenty feet away, the little girl stepped behind Went and gave him a solid push. Now, he did fall headlong, scraping his left hand on the edge of the door as he fell. His ring gave off a clear, bright tone as it hit.

“The doors, Skee!” the girl yelled. She grabbed Went’s feet and pushed and pulled them into the elevator cab. “Close ’em, or we’re a-get the scroby for sure!”

“How, Jop?” came the boy’s small voice.

She fought with Went’s feet. “The buttons!”

Went raised his head. Eyes wide and lips askew in confusion, the little boy stood beneath the elevator’s control panel. The panel’s brass buttons gleamed.

“Push ’em, Skee!”

Went reached out toward the boy. “No, wait!”

The onrushing Candle had almost reached the elevator. Little Skee turned, saw the “blagger,” and froze. Only his arm kept moving. His palm slapped the control panel, hitting several buttons at once.

Went’s panicked mind could barely keep up with what was happening. Still, one clear thought remained. The list! The boy’s hand came down on the buttons again. Wait! I have to get the list!

The girl gave Went’s legs one final heave, pulling them over the elevator’s threshold. The doors moved. The attacking Candle stretched out his arm in a desperate reach. Went caught a final glimpse of a snarling, mad-eyed, filth-caked face. The doors snicked shut.

Then the elevator was moving, and Went had no idea where they were going.

Extra! Extra! Get Your Sneak Peek Here!

As I promised yesterday, here’s an excerpt from my upcoming SHADOWS AFTER MIDNIGHT (Demons of Saltmarch #2).

In this scene from Chapter 7, Peter (main character & narrator) and Company are looking for clues to the whereabouts of a friend they think has been taken by a demon. Their search goes awry when the demon Seirim attacks them by means of artwork hanging on the walls of a local café.

When last we saw Our Hero…

_____________________

A spiky-haired form flew past me, heading for the café’s front door. I wondered what had happened to her drummer brother. Get Daniel, I thought at her, with no hope that Jas would hear me. Only hope that she would make it outside alive.

At Owin’s side, Anne pulled at the vines that held him, her fingernails scraping green plant flesh onto the floor. She glanced up at me and yelled my name again. At her feet, Holly sprawled in a spreading pool of blood. Kneeling at Holly’s shoulder, its posture that of a penitent worshiper, a cartoon bunny lifted its face from her throat and grinned at me over her too-still chest. Its fangs and muzzle glistened with her blood.

Three normals in serious trouble—and trouble of a nature I’d never even heard of, let alone faced. This is not how this is supposed to go. For once, I needed Daniel. For once, I needed my big brother.

Dammit.

I lunged forward—and stopped short as vines thrust past my head on either side and twisted around my throat. This time, breath cut off completely as the demonic plant jerked me backward. My right foot went out from under me, and I crashed to the floor. My head smacked into something more solid than my skull. Darkness bloomed in my vision.

With the little air I had left, I tried to yell Holly’s name. But I only made a thin whistle. Banegold in my hands, I grabbed the vines encircling my neck and pulled. Plant flesh sizzled, but the pressure only increased. More vines whipped down from somewhere above, replacing the ones I weakened. I couldn’t see the doll anymore—and then its face slid over the edge of the bar high above my head. Its bland expression hadn’t changed. But its eyes were different. Too large for a doll head, the emerald eyes of Owin Moran stared down at me as though a plastic surgeon with a sick sense of humor had excised the twin green orbs and stuck them in the doll’s face.

“Greetings, Peter,” said the doll.

The voice was jovial and scratchy, like that of a favored uncle in some piece of classical British literature. But it didn’t issue from the doll’s pouty red lips, which remained frozen in their perpetual, inane smile. As though exuded from enormous pores, the voice came from the dozens of fanged mouths studding the mother vine.

“This day has been so very long in coming,” it said.

Owin shouted. Anne screamed. The barista sobbed on the other side of the counter. I raised my hands, hoping banegold still stirred at my fingertips. Black blossoms splotched my vision, so I couldn’t tell for sure.

A staccato giggle issued from the mouths in the vine. “How’s your leg?” asked the demon Seirim.

I shot banegold. Shot blind—but I heard wood splinter and vine shriek. The demon’s grasp on my throat eased just enough for me to suck in a short breath. Like the black blossoms in my vision, pain flowered in my chest. I tried to roll away from the counter. Tried to roll away from the pain. The pain followed me. As I flopped to my stomach, the demon doll landed on my back, its weight much more solid and crushing than it should have been for its size. The concussion drove my precious, salvaged bit of breath from my chest.

Pain morphed into a vise as vine fingers dug their claws into my scalp and pulled my head up. I felt banegold spark like electricity at my fingertips, then fizzle out. A vine snaked around my head. I felt its weird, alien lips pressing against my left ear, almost intimate.

“Look, auguren,” the demon whispered. “Look on them, these ordinary humans, and see the chaos you have wrought.”

I had no breath left. I couldn’t have said no even if I’d tried.

On the floor ahead of me, Holly was conscious. Her dark eyes rolled wildly as she fought off the demon bunny with one hand and held the gaping neck wound together with her other. Blood flowed steadily through her fingers. The creature cackled and swiped at her hands with its claws, but it wasn’t pushing very hard to reach her. No. It was playing with her. It wanted to watch her struggle to get away while it came on a little bit at a time, relishing her panic and her pain. Her legs fishtailed on the blood-slick floor as she tried to slide backward away from the thing. But her back was pressed against Anne’s legs. Holly had gotten as far away from the bunny as she could get—and Anne couldn’t move to help.

Vines held Anne’s arms trapped at her sides. Though her feet remained on the floor, the vines strained to lift her up—and into the painting. Owin’s left shoulder and arm had already disappeared into the canvas. I had a weird moment of vertigo, seeing most of Owin real on the outside but part of Owin flat and two-dimensional in oil paint. Even worse, the flat part of him was moving within the painting, his arm flailing to avoid the crushing grasp of the circular plant maw that I now knew was a manifestation Seirim.

How? I wanted to ask. I’d never seen a demon manipulate inanimate objects this way. In Saltmarch, maybe, but not in our world. How is it doing this? And where was Daniel?

A huge flower the color of my own midnight opened one blinding petal at a time in the center of my vision. As I lost sight of Holly, Anne, and Owin, a scream sounded that could only belong to Jas. Jas—not outside? A shout of rage arose in response. Bryan? My ears were ringing, and all other sound was muffled. But still, I could distinguish the demon’s voice as its damp, spongy lips pressed against my ear.

“You can’t save them,” it whispered. “They belong to me now. I shall gulp their blood and devour their flesh and gnaw their bones. You cannot save them.”

No! You won’t

In the confines of my thoughts, the words sounded powerless. My fingers tore at the vines around my throat, while the rest of me thrashed back and forth, bucking beneath the weight of the creature on my back. My body made these efforts without me, and I watched from somewhere far away. The only immediate sensations were the agonizing pressure in my chest and the horrible brush of the demon’s vine lips.

“But you can save the lodestone,” it said… . “You can still save her, auguren, if you are willing to pay my price.”

What price?

And in the most hideous moment I had ever experienced, a moment that out-hideous-ed every other awful memory I’d hidden away, the thinnest tendril of vine slipped into my ear, threaded its way into a cold pain that stabbed the side of my head like an iron icicle, squirmed past—through?—my eardrum, pierced my brain, and spoke to me with horrible intimacy as its tiny plant fangs gnawed at my gray matter.

That’s what it felt like, anyway.

“Yourself,” said the demon into my head.

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Inklings, I hope you enjoyed this. Feedback is always welcome. : )