A/N: As promised, here's the "special features DVD", a few notes and other stuff you might find interesting. Hopefully it doesn't bore you. :o)
I can't believe I went through with it.
I started off in between two college classes. One was calculus. The other was Intro to Microsoft Office. One was a real academic course with difficult work, and the other one was about using software I've been using for ten years.
They both cost the same.
Even worse, due to scheduling problems, the only time I could get them were with a three hour break in between. And, my car had broken down and I was stuck with public transit, so I couldn't really go anywhere. If I did, I'd have to turn around almost immediately for the bus to take me to the trolley station to take me to the next bus. Not good times.
So, what was I supposed to do in the meantime?
For a while, I did next to nothing. I just hung out in the library and wasted time on the internet, or just read newspapers and magazines. But, even then, that wasn't working either. Three hours of boredom…
Well, I figured that I might as well start writing. After all, I had the idea for a while now.
It started even before that, about two and a half years ago. I'd been out of work for a while and a friend of mine knew it, and he happened to have a job to do and needed help. Specifically, he was a roofer, and he'd been contracted to completely replace the roof of some little house off of Morena Boulevard in Mission Beach (about four miles north of downtown San Diego). I wasn't in a position to turn it down, so what the hell? Thus, I became a roofer. How bad could it be?
Well, turns out it can be pretty bad.
The first day was murderous, and all we were doing was ripping off the old roof. It took forever, and I had to use some piece of garbage tool to pry up all of the old shingles without breaking them. When that predictably failed, I took a hammer and manually pried out many nails one by one. It was baking hot that day too, of course.
At the end of Day One, I was an exhausted wreck. To make things easier, I was crashing at my roofer friend's house, so we wouldn't have to drive with two separate cars. But, as is often the case when I'm in a bed that wasn't my own, I couldn't sleep.
Fortunately for me, my friend was a collector of tabletop roleplaying games: Dungeons and Dragons, Vampire: the Masquerade, and others. He had a lot I'd never seen before. I figured it'd be a great way to bore myself to sleep, so what the hell? I grabbed two that were new to me and sat down for a read.
One was called "Wraith: The Oblivion". It's got an interesting twist…you're a ghost! Really. Usually, you try not to die in games like these, but here, that part's not really an issue. The second one was made by the same company: "Demon: The Fallen".
In this one, you play as a demon. Formerly an angel who helped make the world, you've been banished to Hell for joining in the revolt. But, somehow, you get out. Now, you're walking the earth, and boy has it changed.
What a great idea.
I don't remember how much sleep I got that night, but I remember Day Two on top of that house ripping up shingles went by much faster. All I could think of were the two game books I read, and wondering how cool a story inspired by each would be.
Finally, after a full week, we finished the roof. I haven't been back there again. Maybe I should though, because, on top of it, I came up with the ideas that eventually became the plotline of which A Hell of a Town is a part of.
I had two main characters. One was a ghost, the other a demon. Specifically, the ghost had spent all her life trying to find something. She devoted her life to fixing that mistake, too bad she died about a week before she finally succeeded. Then again, as a ghost…it's not like you're short on time, are you? Besides, after working that hard, she's not going to let a little thing like dying stop her.
That leaves the demon. Specifically, she just wanted to do her job and keep her head low. No reason to make waves; there's work to do and she's going to do it. But, as often is the case, a simple life is never simple.
K.T. Ashton and Tydannoth.
I had all sorts of ideas on how to write the two of them together, but not one of them panned out. How would a pretty ordinary dead person know the truth about demons? Why would a demon be concerned with just another ghost? The thing got out of hand very quickly, so I decided to split them up. One book for K.T, one book for Tydannoth, and eventually, we'll bring them together.
Sitting between my two college classes, I finally sat down to write. At that moment, I was more interested in Tydannoth than K.T. So, there I went.
CAST (in order of appearance)
Dr. Larisa Hatfield
You know, when I thought about it…what would a demon, or even an angel for that matter know about being human? It's not like they've lived in our shoes, and we sure as hell haven't lived in theirs. Moreover, they predate us, and we've changed a LOT since they've last seen us. How could they have any idea?
I figured they wouldn't have any clue at all.
So, I decided to give Tydannoth a shell. More importantly, I wanted to give her a shell that she'd feel a kinship with, someone who'd seem familiar. I had decided that Tydannoth had been a creator of living things, specifically the nervous system. She made animals move. I figured a neurosurgeon would be a good fit.
Larisa's mutt is actually a direct copy of a real dog: my own. Ginger's a half-German Shepherd, half Chow-Chow. She's got reddish brown fur that grows so thick you'd need a weed whacker to cut through it, and a black snout with brown eyes. She's one of those super-friendly dogs who is always at the door when you come home every day. You know what I mean.
Specifically, I put her in to show that Larisa wasn't Larisa anymore in the prologue. After all, animals always know about these things, right? I later gave her a few more appearances, to show both Tydannoth's and Juliette's drift into insanity.
The star of the show. You know how she came to be, and how it ended, so I'll skip that part.
Tydannoth was originally going to be the story's hero. She sure seemed nice in the early going, didn't she? But, as I was writing, I came to a realization, which I just couldn't work around: she's not going to get better.
I mean, come on. Us humans are supposed to be the pinnacle of creation…we're the best thing God ever came up with, and that includes angels. Technically, we're of higher station than them. We're higher forms of life. But, we can't sort out our problems if our lives depend on it, and they often do. We've been warring with each other for how many years now? It includes me…I can't stand my own parents, and dislike being around them despite the fact that there isn't any real reason for me to hate them. And, if we're so petty about these things, how the Hell is a demon supposed to do it? No chance, I'd say.
So, I was wondering how to stack the deck so Tydannoth would fail. That's where Larisa came in…and almost identical copy of Tydannoth's personality, just in human form. Both of them put themselves second as others came first. Both just wanted to live a fulfilling existence, but their obsession with their work got in the way. There's only one difference: Larisa killed herself when she saw her life fall apart. As for Tydannoth, she's much too bullheaded to consider giving up.
So, her first experience of humanity was an exact copy of her own life, with an extra helping of tragedy made possible by Larisa's suicide. From there, Tydannoth just figured that it's all the same. She'd been down this road before. She knows what needs to be done.
Of course, she DOESN'T know what needs to be done. She doesn't know a thing. Yet, she's going to act anyway. She just doesn't have the life experience and maturity needed to act prudently. That's what makes her dangerous. That's why she's a villain.
There are a LOT of supernatural creatures in this story, and there's also a lot of humans who have been given special powers. Surely we can't have this story without a regular guy, right? And besides, pretty much every other character is a girl. That's where Dexter came in.
Unfortunately, he's not exactly a born winner. He's had a life that's been defined by its many ups and downs, and like most people these days, he dwells on the downs more than the ups. He's not licked yet, but his life doesn't seem to be going anywhere, and he's not proud of it.
I had Marv from one of Frank Miller's Sin City graphic novels in mind. Usually the male lead in these stories is too sexy for his own good. I figured Dexter should have a physical handicap, befitting his life of missed opportunities: up to meeting Tydannoth, Dexter's face always has a scar of some kind. He's gotten it into his head that he's in truth an ugly person, and feels better that some of that's on the outside. He feels less phony that way. Of course, that's not the case; he's simply convinced himself that he's a loser. If he really was one, he wouldn't have it in him to go rescue Sarah from that "man" in the alley, or to do all of the other things he does to stand up to Tydannoth and her minions. Fortunately, he grows out of that mindset as the story develops.
Lastly, as I said, there had to be at least one normal guy in the cast, but there was a problem: if everyone else has magic powers, what chance does he have? So, Dexter's actually got an edge…he's made of iron. Don't ask me why, I couldn't tell you. You just can't kill him with cuts and bruises. Poisonous gas works (obviously), but you can throw him out a window (or he can throw himself, in this case), and he'll get up. Of course, it still hurts like hell of course. This way, I can get a kick out of a good "amateur surgery" scene.
I'll keep quiet about her for now. But, I did want to mention that this is how the stories will intertwine at first…short cameos as the characters' paths cross. At first, she's tending the bar in Chapter 1. She makes plenty of other appearances as "Little Red Riding Hood", and meets Zatailah in a big scene. In "A Village of the Lost", characters from "Hell" will make similar appearances.
I bet you don't remember him; he's the guy taking a bite out of Sarah, before Dexter chased him off. He didn't get much mention after that…although Marco Allinei tells you his fate later. Yup, he certainly is a vampire…it's a Supernatural story, after all! But, humans don't know that, demons don't know that, and even most ghosts don't know that. So, be warned, there's a lot going on in America's Finest City…
Okay, I've got to confess: I have a lot of hope for humanity. We can do anything if we put our minds to it; the only problem is that we don't do that often. It's a big hobby horse for me…humanity's got a lot of potential. We just need to get it out of us.
In this case, Sarah's my ideal heroine…she's the one who does the right thing. If she's confronted with a problem, she'll figure it out, and not screw it up. Considering all of the depression and bad endings elsewhere, I needed someone to provide the hope. I didn't want to write a bleak, dead-end story, after all.
Of course, she's got a lot of responsibility, being humanity's champion. She's K.T.'s daughter, which will bring her even more grief than her current job, which is keeping Zatailah from breaking things. I don't know how she'll manage, but I think she just might pull it off. She's got a good head on her shoulders.
Juliette. That bitch.
She's completely mad, believing herself to be a holy warrior who can do no wrong. But, the truth is actually much simpler: she's just trying to fill a hole.
Lots of people have holes these days. Hell, I haven't met anyone who doesn't. Feelings of depression. Inadequacy. Guilt. Shame. They try to fill them with all sorts of things, some positive, like family, some negative, like drugs. Juliette chose the latter. Predictably, it wrecked her life but good, and it was supposed to have killed her. Tydannoth intervened, and now she had a much nicer-looking cork to try and plug that hole in her soul. An angel? Really? WOW!
It wasn't that it didn't work. Quite the opposite: it worked too well. Think about it…if an angel appears to you, saves your life, and starts telling you to do things later, are you going to say no? I know I'm not. Juliette didn't. Even worse, Juliette just went further…justifying to herself that everything Tydannoth does is right, just because she's an angel.
Juliette is every bit as immature as Tydannoth is, and they have an enabling relationship with each other. Both of them eventually question their own actions, but the other is quick to tell them that it's okay, it's all for the greater good. And, if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, how fast do you think these two were flying down it?
If Dexter's going to make it through all this nonsense, he'll need some help. Enter Astariel, a demon who's actually designed to inspire humanity. She just happens to have a regular appointment at his building every week. Convenient, huh?
She's got a lot going on, and I'll be quiet about it for now. But here's she's there to help Dexter overcome his own mental problems, because he really can't do it on his own. So few people can. If the story was going to have a happy ending, Dexter would need a bone or two thrown at him. Unfortunately, the person throwing them is bad news. You should stay away from her. Seriously. She's into torture, you know, and she doesn't pull her punches.
Tydannoth's not the only demon in town, and demons need humans to hang out with them, so they can leech their spirits from them. Curiel's there too, and Tiffany's his human.
Fortunately, Tiffany's much more well adjusted than Juliette, and Curiel's got none of the vindictive streak Tydannoth has. So, they've kind of got a relaxed relationship going. One gets the spirit he needs, and the other gets all the answers to Trivial Pursuit. Everyone wins!
Moreover, Sarah needed someone she can relate to, without any relationship tension that Dexter would have. So, here's her best friend.
Now, Tiffany and Curiel are actually an item, but I don't think I did it well enough. I'll revise this before I send it to the publisher, I want it to be more obvious how close they are. That way it'll hurt more when he dies and she gets kidnapped. :o)
Tydannoth's an idiot. If left to her own devices, she'll be all over the map. She's very myopic, has no sense of scale and no good at multitasking…she'll just be preoccupied with a new thing every day. It'll end up like a 30-minute sitcom. I can't have that. So, I needed something to give her some focus. Someone to hate.
Someone she blames.
But, I had to put some meat on his bones though; I couldn't abide by some cardboard character. So I started thinking about it.
You know…all these demon types are really flawed in one way or another. Maybe that's why the Creator locked them away…He/She/It knew that they'd do some damage if left unchecked, but He/She/It couldn't bring himself to kill them? Or maybe He/She/It just doesn't like them. Who knows?
But, I didn't want an "evil" demon. I wanted someone who was a little more likable, someone people can identify with. Now, we're on Fictionpress. We're all book readers, aren't we? Why not a bookworm? Brilliant!
I had some fun with Curiel's more 'nerdy' tendencies, such as his OCD about his book collection. Then, I went further than that. How would the Nerd Demon come to be?
You're not a nerd if you like things that are nerdy. You're a nerd because you lack social skills. The nerdy hobbies are a symptom, not the cause. Okay, we've got a guy who's really no good with people. Let's put some tragedy on him now…force him to be in command of other people. Make the guy with no charisma need charisma. Finally, when something sad happens, present him with the need to tell the widow of a soldier that fell under his command the truth about how he died.
No way would he do it.
He'd be too afraid. He can't confront her with the truth. No way. Of course, that's what he SHOULD have done; it was the right thing to do. But he's a prisoner of his own fears…he couldn't bring himself to tell her the truth, hiding behind the 'oath' he swore. And now, she hates him for it. She's certainly at fault for blaming at him, but he's equally at fault for lying to her. Nerds may succeed at many things in life, but they fail in this regard. We all need to learn how to share ourselves, the truth, and whatever else needs sharing with others, even when we don't want to.
And, just like Tydannoth, Curiel never learns.
Okay, I've got a story about demons, all of which were angels at one point. How can I have a story about angels without an angel of death? It would suck, wouldn't it? So, let's put an angel of death in. What would an angel of death be like?
If I remember my Bible correctly, didn't things originally not die? Death was a curse that happened after the Fall, not before it. And since these angels were made before humans were, what the heck would an angel of death do?
I guess they'd just clean things up. If angels are worse than humans, they've got to screw things up often enough. The Reapers just show up and take all these mistakes away. In other words, an angel of death is nothing more than a glorified janitor.
In our society, we hate janitors. Janitors are losers. And since the angels here are even pettier than we are, it must really suck to be a janitor in Heaven. Whenever you showed up, that means the person you're visiting did something wrong, and who likes being told they're wrong? And, of course, miserable people find a way to share their misery, so all the higher ranking janitors would be more than happy to dump all of their baggage on little Zatailah's head.
Is it any surprise that she had the highest body count of all the demons once the war happened?
So there's our character type, she's a bloodthirsty psycho. What do I know about bloodthirsty psychos? Not much, but if you want to find one, look no further than your local kindergarten. We've all seen those kids who pour salt on snails and roast ants with a magnifying glass. You see, they're not sadistic, they're just kids.
And it hit me. They're ALL kids.
Tydannoth's the spoiled princess, thinking she's entitled to what she doesn't deserve. Curiel's the short kid with glasses that just wants to read his sci-fi books without getting beaten up by bullies. Astariel's mentally a little older, she's the angsty teenager. And Zatailah's the youngest kid of them all; just barreling through her existence doing whatever her childish brain thinks is a good idea at the time.
But, not every demon in this story has to have a sad ending. I wanted one who wasn't a total loss. So, where the first two got humans that were similar to themselves, Zatailah got almost the total opposite in Sarah. Where she's crazy, Sarah's sane. Where she's hyperactive, Sarah's calm. Where she's angry, Sarah's content.
It's been quite a mindfuck for "Zee".
Zatailah doesn't really know what to believe now. She knows that what she was is wrong, but she has no idea what's right now. She's just trying her best, and figures that she needs more information. She realizes that there's a lot of stuff she doesn't know about, like taxicabs. And ghosts. Maybe she should have paid attention to that back in the day.
Tydannoth's got no problem making friends. Holding sick and injured people hostage, promising them good health in exchange for service is a pretty good plan. Of course, Tydannoth being Tydannoth, she thinks that everyone will just love her. She's not bright enough to realize that it might not work that way.
I brought in Mercedes to give the story some religious context. I try my best not to step on any toes, making Tydannoth clueless about Christianity (Not hard, she's clueless about everything).
Also, Where Juliette is a devoted fanatic, I needed the opposite…a hostage of sorts. Once Mercedes sees what's going on, she's quite right in wanting no part of it. Of course, they're not going to let her get a free ride, but she certainly wishes that she never got involved with these nutcases. Moreover, I wanted to have somebody who's smart enough to see the picture but not brave enough to act. Mercedes could have reined Tydannoth in, after Tydannoth realized what she'd done to her. Unfortunately, Juliette got to Tydannoth first…"you're an angel. You're a servant of God. How could anything you do possibly be wrong?" If Mercedes was a little bit stronger, she could have set Tydannoth straight after that torture session. But, she never did, just hoping that someone else would come in and solve her problem. Fortunately, someone did. Too bad he had to die.
Here's another source of wisdom for Dexter to absorb, his team's trainer. Inspired by the real medical trainer for my rugby club. He's been around the block a few times and tells Dexter a few things he needs to hear. And stitches him up.
Man, I really have problems with length. Carlos was me trying to explain a lot of plausibility problems with Tydannoth's wackiness, and also a way to make her more of a threat. But, I don't think he'll survive the revision. Some of this length's got to go.
I'll admit it, this character was originally just a joke. I wanted to write a scene where she's smoking with Evan. Come on…"Adams" and "Evan" being told by a divine being not to do something, and once it leaves, they immediately do it. I loved it, and it's one of my favorite scenes.
But, as the story wound down, I needed someone to embody the pain Tydannoth's inflicting on the world…one of her "cult". Jessica puts a human face on what the mad demon's doing, and unlike Mercedes, she's prepared to do something about it. Fortunately, she doesn't have to pay the price she was willing to, Mindy and Bryce are fine.
For every Juliette, there's a Dexter. For every Mercedes, there's a Jessica. I wanted there to be some heroes in the story, human heroes. You know, the ones we need. We don't need angels to come and save us. Besides, even if we did, they probably wouldn't. We need people who are willing to step up, and willing to do what needs to be done. Jessica, Sarah, and Dexter all fit this mold. It's the reason that they're the story's protagonists, while Tydannoth is the villain. Where the others can see the whole forest, all Tydannoth can see are the trees.
He's just your average gun store manager. He's not important…is he?
I often used a song in the background when I was writing a character-centric scene. Here's the soundtrack for each character:
Overall Theme: Scars on Broadway, "Babylon"
Tydannoth: Rise Against, "Roadside"; Three Doors Down, "Citizen Soldier", Serj Tankian, "Saving Us"
Dexter: Disturbed, "Land of Confusion"
K.T.: Flobots, "Handlebars", H.I.M., "Passion's Killing Floor"
Sarah: Ludo, "Love Me Dead"
Juliette: Frou Frou, "Holding Out For a Hero"
Curiel: Smashing Pumpkins, "Doomsday Clock", Stevie Wonder, "Pastime Paradise"
Zatailah: Simon & Garfunkel "The Sound of Silence"
Sylvia/Astariel: Scars on Broadway, "They Say"
A/N: I'm going to work on "Lost" as a NaNoWriMo (or however it's spelled) project, and I'll release what I've got starting in November Updates will be more frequent with the shorter chapter lengths combines with the good head start I'll have.
Finally, before we're done, I'm going to include a teaser for "Oblivion" as an addendum to this piece. Watch for it soon.