There is a place in the heart of every writer where fragments of the stories not yet finished reside. I call mine the land of lost chapters.
Some exist in the physical world—paragraphs or pages in one of the many notebooks dotted about my house. Others live in the nested folders of my OneDrive, separated by genre and world. Still more cling to bare outlines in Notion, little more than an idea, but no less compelling for their lack of detail.
My lost chapters cross genres and range in length from a few opening sentences to a WIP nearing fifty-five thousand words. They’re all ‘the book I’d like to write one day,’ but I know I won’t get back to most of them. But I do like to visit from time to time, especially when I’m between projects and looking for inspiration.
And, because I like to blog, I figured one of these visits might make a fun post. So, sit back and relax as I take you on a tour of the Land of Lost Chapters.
Two lines of people wavered against the heat rippling off the tarmac. From his vantage point, Luke could not determine age or gender. The figures looked like ants—oddly still ants that had paused in their trek. He assumed the two patient columns were minions. No one had ever seen the aliens who called themselves the People assemble or form queues. But minions did their bidding; they would line up in blistering heat all day if required.
This is one of my oldest WIPs with the original files dating back to 2013. I started working on it around the time my first book, Less Than Perfect, was published and though it’s set in the same world, it’s not a direct sequel. I do have notes for a sequel to Perfect which would continue the story of Mickey and Reg, this time from Reg’s point of view. It stands at 400 words, so far, and I do still think about it now and then.
Darkside Radio is currently 53k. Why isn’t it finished? That’s a really good question. A part of it is publishing. Perfect did not sell well and the publisher declined a follow-up novel from me (of a different genre), which put me off working on anything related to the People until the rights for Perfect were returned to me. Then Jenn and I started writing Chaos Station and in between those books, I started writing more contemporary romance.
But now that I technically own the rights to Perfect and that world, I could go back to this project and I’ll admit, it’s super tempting. The original story centered around a pair of twins who were separated by the fight against the aliens. Their struggle to reunite forms a good part of the book, which weaves between encounters with other bands of survivors and a new type of minion.
The title comes from the radio show the brothers started shortly after the aliens appeared. Mickey and Reg refer to the show in Perfect and the idea for the story extended from there!
Will I ever finish this book? Right now, I’m looking at fifty-three thousand words and thinking, yeah, I could! But nearly ten years have passed since then and I’m a better writer now. A better plotter. I could use this material, definitely. And the plot. But not the words. I’d have to start again. It is tempting, though.
The two moons appeared to insect one another, though Jaq knew the overlap was a vast shadow. A haze of atmosphere from the planet’s surface added to the illusion, and if she let her underlids close, one moon appeared to be preparing to absorb the other. She wondered at the tales the two moons inspired—if the inhabitants of W-78-KGB2 even told stories. She thought they might. All sentient species told stories, did they not? Even if only to share their history with the young.
Oh, how this project has changed throughout the years I’ve been working on it. The oldest files date back to 2013 and I’ve been adding new chapters, world-building notes, and side story ideas since then. At last count, I have three WIPs set in this world. The longest, Affliction’s Sons, currently stands at 27k.
The plot again centers around two brothers. This time, they don’t know each other. One is a recent university graduate on his way home. The other, older brother is heading in the same direction while acting as a bodyguard and escort to a third character, who is also a university graduate. She’s heading north for an internship. The planet (briefly described above) is a second home for humanity and was settled by a cult of sorts roughly seven hundred years ago. The cult has survived—but it’s not actually featured in this book. Another of my WIPs deals with what’s left of them.
Why haven’t I finished this or any of these projects? At the time, I actually didn’t think I had the skill to write the stories I wanted. These novels were (are) much bigger in scope than what I was writing with the People. Also, there was the matter of spending a year and a half working on the Chaos Station series and wanting to write some contemporary romance.
Will I ever finish? Gosh, I’d like to. (You’re going to hear that a lot.) I think about this project nearly more than any other, probably because two of the main characters are based on characters I roleplayed for several years. I think what’s holding me back is whether this book or the one about the remnants of that cult (The God of Nothing) is more compelling. I’d really like to finish them both. And then I start thinking about Ride the Wind, which is the third book set in this world, but not on the same planet and probably not in the same timeline.
What to do? What to do!
Here’s another snippet of Affliction’s Sons for you to read while I continue to poke through the land of lost chapters:
Alvar plucked at her elbow. “We will take the stairs.”
Milla shrugged. The stairs did seem a better option. Less crowded and…less crowded.
Few others had the same idea; most seemed content to wait in the queue. Milla noted two more soldiers stationed to either side of the crowd. More telepaths. Their eyes flicked back and forth and despite her shields, she could feel them working. Or supposed she could. Curious, she dropped her shield and attempted to probe one of them. The woman’s gaze rose over the crowd and connected directly with hers.
The single word echoed harshly inside Milla’s head and she stumbled back a step. The woman had returned to her work, but Milla felt her watchfulness.
Alvar caught her elbow and leaned in to murmur, “Don’t they teach you better manners than that at school?”
Color suffused her cheeks. “I’ve never witnessed such strong telepaths outside the university. Can’t you feel them? Even with my shields—”
“I am not Skilled,” Alvar said.
Milla looked at him, surprised. “But—”
I am not Skilled,” he said again.
Not Skilled, but remarkably well shielded. Why? And why not say he could feel them? Everyone could, Skilled or not.
Sex with Strangers
Arienne paused by the empty first-class seat and waited for confirmation she could take it. Stupidly, her head spun lightly, as if she’d ascended into the stratosphere without the aid of a pressurized cabin. Take a breath, Ren. She did. After blowing it out, she dropped into the seat and winced as the leather-like upholstery squeaked and burped.
Heat prickled her cheeks. Should she apologize to her seatmate? To the large shoulder, strong and softly stubbled jaw, angular cheekbone and…
Oh my God.
Arienne blinked. Aware her lips had parted, she snapped them together and swallowed. Her throat made a sound, one not quite as audible as the whole seat burping thing, but definitely loud and quite uncomfortable.
His eyes were so blue. Like, really blue. Much bluer than they appeared onscreen. Or about as blue. Really blue. And those blue, blue eyes belonged to none other than Jackson Kader, an actor she had actually heard of. One she bought People magazine for; one she had lined up at a premiere for. Once. He starred mostly in action films, the sort where he usually lost his shirt in the first ten minutes and never found it again. Which was a blessing, really, as he had amazing shoulders. Really strong. And a gorgeously sculpted chest and eight-pack abs and…
It was him, wasn’t it? Was she staring? Still gaping? Swallowing?
He was watching her, one brow arched in question.
“Your eyes are really, really blue,” Arienne said. Really? “So blue.”
Kill me now.
This book has the stupidest working title ever, but I can’t seem to shake it. The idea was that Arienne didn’t do sex with strangers, so she and Jake had to get to know each other first. While in Vegas. For a week. I mean… The whole project really needs a new title. Arienne’s character also needs more direction. But my current draft stands at 61k, giving me plenty of room to maneuver.
This is the book my first publisher declined, however. I don’t know if they said no because of the terrible title. Or because the story sucked. I think it had more to do with the fact my first book with them sold a whopping thirty-two copies. (You can laugh. I’m laughing.)
I’ve held on to this project ever since because despite the cloud of rejection (and silly title) I do really love it. The story includes so many of my favorite tropes, including a lifelong daydream where I get upgraded to first class, get to sit next to a movie star, and have them sweep me off my feet. (Happy sigh.) We also have a single parent, a close sibling relationship (sisters, this time), and a BFF (Jack’s) who really is the best friend ever.
Why isn’t this book published? Mostly because I’ve never made the time to pull it out, dust it off, make it better (I wrote it in 2014—I can only make it better), and then actually publish it. I know how to do that all by myself now!
I have been thinking about it, though, and have a sort of plan to change Arienne from female to male so that the novel fits in better with my backlist. It wouldn’t be that much work, would it?
One last lost chapter and we’ll call today’s tour done. I only have notes for this one, but I wanted to share it because it’s another of the projects I think about often. Basically, it’s my version of Nights in Rodanthe but gay. Also, there’s a man overboard situation with a near drowning that will be the probably too exciting beginning of the book.
What attracts me to this project is the amnesia trope. Yep, I’ll be going all the way with my man overboard. Though, in thinking about this book over the past few years, I’ve almost settled on a fake amnesia, where he knows who he is, but hides the truth from his rescuer and caretaker because he’s a famous singer/songwriter. That’s another trope I’ve wanted to write, right there. And his rescuer is someone who plays a few instruments, and has written a ton of music, but only for himself because he’s shy.
I mean, this book is practically going to write itself, isn’t it? I should get on it.
If I do get around to it, this book would follow on from the previous WIP in a series about famous folk who have faltered in some way. Hit a career or personal impasse and have to decide if all the fuss is worth it. And, before you ask, yes, there is a third book in this imaginary series, and it’d be about a famous author who hasn’t exactly been writing his own books. (Gasp!) I think I’ve mentioned these ideas in one of my newsletters, or an old blog post, briefly. But then life happened, or publishing happened, and I got caught up in other projects.
So, which of these WIPs is ready to enter the Thunderdome and fight for further existence? Honestly, I don’t know. But writing this post has renewed my love for all four of them and has definitely reminded me that I likely have more than a few stories left to tell.
Maybe I should let the die of fate pick the project?
Or I could continue writing chapters for my time travel turned alternate dimension with zombies WIP.
Graphics (including header) created using Canva.