At the risk of jinxing things, I’m relieved to announce that I’m within a dozen or so pages of a solid draft of my second Nightscape novel, Cynopolis. I started conducting background research for this book soon after I wrapped Nightscape: The Dreams of Devils in November 2012. Originally, I planned to write the book in the style of a quick-read thriller akin to the best of Elmore Leonard or James Ellroy. That style, however, didn’t work for me when it came to the more outré elements of the narrative, so I had to abandon it in favor of a denser, more elaborate alternative closer to my ‘natural’ voice.
The novel constitutes a significant departure from the previous book in other ways, though. First and foremost, Cynopolis is a widescreen action-horror story rather than a largely psychological thriller. The plot concerns a former 70s counterculture radical who, through contact with an alien god, transforms Detroit’s underclass into a horde of savage, jackal-headed monsters. As you might expect given this logline, chaos ensues.
Secondly, the novel has a sizable cast of point-of-view characters. I adopted the Edgar Rice Burroughs technique of splitting characters into discrete groups and then alternately introducing and resolving threats, all the while building to what’s hopefully an unforeseen but logical climax. The main characters include: a young, idealistic policeman and his jaded partner; a homeless book vendor; a radicalized gang leader; several field agents for a no-kill dog rescue organization; a gun-toting exotic dancer; a supernatural treasure hunter; a private soldier with a 'phantom suit'; and a chimpanzee that’s host to an alien consciousness.
That roster may make the book sound overstuffed and in a standard-length novel that would likely be true. In this case, however, the book is further distinguished from its predecessor by its word count. A typical novel consists of somewhere between 80,000 and 120,000 words. The Dreams of Devils is at the lower end of the range. Cynopolis will no doubt end up around 140,000. Or nearly twice as long as I anticipated based on my meager five-page outline. I don’t write especially fast, either, in part, because I edit as I go; accordingly, it’s taken me twice as long to finish this book as I first calculated—two years to the month.
It’s humbling to compare these numbers to those of, say, genre standard-bearer Stephen King. He reportedly writes up to 10,000 words a day and, purely due to the economics of hardcover book publishing, was compelled to cut 150,000 words from the first edition of The Stand—a number greater than my entire manuscript!
Needless to say, you can expect to hear much more about Cynopolis in the months leading up to its October pub date, including a first look at the cover art, exclusive excerpts and a chance to win an advance copy. Check in on a regular basis or better yet, sign up for the Nightscape newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out.