Edited by Sione Aeschliman writelearndream.com
I’d like to pitch my adult urban fantasy novel ZEN AND THE ART OF DYING, in which Sandman Slim meets Dharma Punx when a homeless veteran is made immortal through a botched experiment and has to break back into the lab to undo his condition.
Kenny has two problems. First, he’s a Reset, which means that whenever someone murders him he wakes up on the morning of his dying day to start all over again. Which might sound like a pretty awesome superpower, but it’s actually super sucky because he’ll eventually die of cancer or old age, after which point he'll just keep reliving his agonizing dying day forever.
His second problem is people keep murdering him.
So he teams up with another Reset and they storm the lab where it all began in an effort to undo this unordinary death disorder. They keep dying, they keep trying, and then they keep resetting and relaunching their attack until they almost succeed. But then the girl Kenny fell in love with gets kidnapped, and then his partner gets kidnapped, and then pretty much everyone else gets kidnapped, leaving Kenny all alone with his thoughts and a nagging question that just won’t die: what’s left to save when everyone and everything you know is gone?
Complete at 63,000 words, ZEN AND THE ART OF DYING is a standalone with series potential that explores Eastern philosophy through a darkly comedic and secular lens.
I’ve spent the last ten years or so working with screenwriters at InkTip.com while writing articles on loglines, synopses, story structure, and negotiating options. And I’ve landed a number of options and hires in Hollywood, including a female-driven thriller in pre-production now with Tom Sizemore attached. ZEN AND THE ART OF DYING was a winner in the April 2017 Revise & Resub (ReviseResub.com) contest.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
First Five Pages:
Last night and six lifetimes ago, I picked what I thought would be a nice, quiet spot to bed down for a bit of beauty rest. It was by a dumpster in an alley; relatively rat-free and with just a soupçon of urine, enough to know the cops don’t come around often but not so much as to put me off my breakfast. Speaking of which, did I mention the dumpster? It belongs to a Michelin-rated restaurant with a signature saffron marsala sauce, so that plate of pasta no one ever seems to finish, that was going to be my breakfast when I woke up.
But then I started craving a muffin instead. Maybe because I can no longer tell the difference between here and now and late afternoon last Tuesday, or perhaps it has something to do with the ambience of the alley. But whatever the case may be, the craving was real. I swear it wasn’t just an excuse to get a glimpse of her.
BAM! The dumpster lid goes down like a gunshot and my eyes slam open. I look up to see the old familiar face of another loser like me. I’ve been waking up to his ugly mug for almost a week now, but he wouldn’t know that.
“Sorry man,” he says. “Just grabbing a bite to eat. You want something?” he asks as he lifts the lid again.
“I told you, I don’t have time to stick around and chit-chat,” I say.
He looks at me sideways like he always does.
“What you mean, you told me? You even know my name?”
“Your friends call you Meatball.” I say while standing and scanning the street outside the alley. “Because you once made a bet you could get anything for anyone, so someone asked you to get them a meatball sandwich from a restaurant that didn’t sell sandwiches.”
The clock on the bank across the street reads 8:50, so I duck back behind the dumpster while finishing Meatball’s life story for him. “They thought you were going to embarrass yourself, but you went in, made friends with the staff, got them to make you one from scratch, and now it’s their best-selling item. But you don’t remember telling me any of that, do you?”
I hear a car idling slowly by. Something about the occupant and the way he’s peering into the alley spooks Meatball, and I can’t say I blame him. It’s why I’m hiding.
When Meatball turns to look at me with wide eyes, I know the coast is clear, so I get up.
“I tell you you could also stand to learn some people skills?” Meatball asks.
The clock on the bank says 8:51.
“Too late,” I say as I take off running.
Step to the left, jump to the right, and roll.
The guy in the car, the one who spooked Meatball, his name is Santo, and he’s part of the reason I’m in this particular pickle. But I don’t want to think about that right now, I really need to focus on not getting shot. Having a bullet rip through me ranks right up there with getting raped and going to the DMV; it’s not exactly on my list of things to do.
So, step to the left, jump to the right, and roll, I chant to myself while running across the street and up the adjacent alley.
I startle the owner of a struggling restaurant as he’s taking out the trash, and he scurries back into his kitchen with a look of alarm. He caught me rooting through his dumpster once and threw food at me, which made about as much sense as spanking a fetishist. I keep wanting to tell him he’ll do a lot better in business if he throws food at the paying customers instead, but he ducks behind the steel door and locks it, and I’m out of breath anyway.
Step to the left. Jump to the right. Roll.
Wish I had time to practice, but the first time I came this way, I only recognized her by the knock-off designer purse under her arm; most of her face and the space behind it was already spread out all over a wall. Fortunately, her killer had another round in the chamber, so I was able to come back and save her, but I still only got there in time to watch her get murdered. The third time, I ran so fast I practically died, right before I actually died. And it still took me a few more tries to figure out the pattern.
Step to the left, jump to the right, and roll. Seventh time’s the charm, right?
I emerge from the alley into a world of winners at the game of life, all hurrying to punch a clock and win just a little bit more. Some of them look at me with a face that screams “you don’t belong here.” Some of them are looking inwardly at themselves with that same face.
I wish someone among them could have looked at her and realized she was in trouble.
Oh, and this “her” of whom I speak, well. There she is. Cady DeClaire. Curvy, nerdy, and so beautiful she’d take my breath away if I wasn’t already out of it. She’s holding the door to the coffee shop for another customer, happily being herself without thinking or worrying about who or what might be waiting for her just inside. And why should she? She thinks today’s a day like any other, and in a way it is. Every day, dozens of women die the way she’s about to.
I mean, the way she was about to. Thing is, I owe her a little favor. So right after she walks into the coffee shop, I close my eyes and follow.
Closing my eyes helps me adjust faster to the darker interior, which in turn helps me dodge a terrified customer cowering on the floor. Which in turn helps me dodge a bullet.
A 230-grain lump of lead flies by my face, as I knew it would. I don’t need to look to see the damage done to the door behind me; that same piece of metal went through my eye and out the back of my mind once.
“Freeze!” he yells, and I comply, hands up in a defensive posture. He doesn’t know what I am yet and I need to keep it that way for just a couple more moments while I get into position.
“Who the fuck are you!” he screams, or at least that’s what I think he’s screaming. It’s hard to make out words, but I can make out rage through the ringing in my ears.
And I can make out Cady on the floor, holding her hand over her bruised cheek. He was waiting for her.
Oh, and by “he,” I’m referring to Cady’s ex-boyfriend. I don’t know his name, where he’s from, or why he’s such an asshole, but I know everything that matters in this moment. I know he’s holding a Kimber SIS .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol, I know there are at least two more rounds in that thing, and I know he’s planning on getting those rounds out of that hard steel chamber and into some soft warm people. And, most importantly, I know he’s spent a lot of time practicing for this moment.
Most civilians have no clue just how hard it is to hit a target, but some people train to the point where they could put a bullet through an actual bull’s eye without batting a lash, and this guy just happens to be one such person. Which means if I screw up this next move, a piece of compressed lead designed to punch back as much as through a person will do both to me so fast I won’t know which is which. And have I mentioned just how much I hate getting shot?
I take a step forward, clearing the entryway. “Don’t even think about it!” he screams.
“I’m not thinking about anything,” I reply while taking another tentative step. If this is going to work, I need him to think I’m just looking for a safe spot on the floor with the other cowering customers. And they’re understandably terrified; as far as they know, they could die right now and it’ll all be over. Their hopes, their dreams, their regrets… they’re lucky.
His finger goes white on the trigger. I’m almost there.
“You know her? You do, don’t you?” he asks, pointing at Cady with the gun.
“Yeah, she’s my ex-college roommate’s uncle’s dog sitter’s niece’s second cousin twice removed. You?” I’m still slowly inching forward, trying my best to look like I’m shaking in fear. It helps that I am.
“She didn’t tell me about you!” His voice goes up in pitch and is even raspier now. Sheesh, how much adrenaline can that body produce? Step to the left, jump to…
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This is such a clever concept, and I love the voice! I would enjoy reading this, and it's not even my preferred genre.
Written on Tue, 23 May 2017 21:58:57 by Raimey Gallant
I'd be open to a full MS query for MFP, standard query for THP. Submissions info: https://kaelanrhywiol.com/submission-guidelines/ Multifarious http://multifariouspress.com/?ref=submissions
Written on Mon, 22 May 2017 19:43:21 by Kaelan Rhywiol