Thursday, June 07, 2012

#421. Excerpt from The Cloak of Shrouded Men

I self-published The Cloak of Shrouded Men in 2007 after having written its three acts during NaNoWriMo from 2004-06.  The evolution of the story can be traced backward here, but the short version of it is that it features Cotton Colinaude, a native of Maine who found his way to Traverse, AL, where he became the vigilante known as the Eidolon (a word meaning phantom or ideal, and is also associated with idol; and is in fact pronounced pretty much like that).  The first act deals with the influences on his career, both the ones that shaped it and the ones that eventually tear it apart.  The second act is about the rebuilding process, and the third is about tearing it down again, in the hope of finally getting it right.  It's metaphysical and hard-hitting and deeply personal, but it's a lot more like Watchmen or The Dark Knight than it is The Avengers.

Some of the writers I was influenced by at the time included Mark Waid (who went a long way to dominating my comic book experience to that point in his brilliant work on The Flash, including the seminal Return of Barry Allen arc which has less to do with Barry Allen and more to do with Wally West) and Herman Melville (thanks to The Confidence-Man), though my spheres of influence widened by the later installments, heavily falling on Oliver Stone's Alexander and the Trojan War, for instance, as well as the Bhagavad Gita.

So eventually I finished writing it, and had been planning to self-publish even before it was concluded, and so that's what I did.  It was originally going to be called The Heroic Ideal, but I settled on the more ambiguous Cloak of Shrouded Men, with a slightly more evocative-for-the-genre Escapades of the Eidolon, Cotton Colinaude subtitle, because it caught the mood of the story better.  The problems I caught after publication I didn't anticipate, and that was my inability, and the publisher's disinterest in helping, to catch all the grammatical errors.  It's something that still haunts me, and is one of the reasons why I've been cautious since then and certainly less interested in the self-publishing route that has actually become increasingly popular in recent years (it's a good bet that most of the people who will read this have at least contemplated if not done it already), especially on the digital front.

Some writers say the first book is a learning experience that may be better left tucked away.  I'm proud of what I accomplished in Cloak of Shrouded Men.  It's exactly the statement on superheroes that I hoped it to be, the flipside of every adventure where the hero somehow gets over their latest traumatic event and moves on and generally does not experience any growth or ramifications from their actions, and not just in characters written by many writers, but even those envisioned by a single creator.  The Dark Knight had not happened yet.  Even Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns refuses to offer definitive consequences.  Batman becomes a legend.  Even Alan Moore's Watchmen is ambiguous.  The Eidolon definitely reaches a conclusion by the end of the book.  It's only his future, and his own understanding of it, that remains a mystery, but there are mirror characters in the story that suggest where he might be headed, because they've already shared this fate.

Anyway, even though the whole thing in its original form is still available on the Internet, here's an excerpt:

“I bid you clear waters,” Godsend said.  Once again, he was gone, as if he was never there.  If anything had ever bonded the Terrific Tandem immutably together, it had been their mutual defiance of reality, of the senses.  There were senses now Colinaude wished he didn’t have.  His last task before the Cad was to visit Cassie.  After having dropped her off here originally, he had made the journey to the Traverse Tracks building, where he made one last tarry with Peter Cooley’s office.  There on his desk was Hopper’s paper, the one that had told Cooley everything he already knew, in considerably greater detail.  Colinaude thought about how he had needed to work at retrieving Hopper’s notes in a new copy after leaving that one behind, discovering all the Cad’s appointments for himself, not needing Cooley after all.  Perhaps he never had.  Perhaps Cooley had never even decoded Hopper’s work.  Perhaps, in the end, Cooley had never helped Colinaude at all.
     It was an unpleasant thought.  Colinaude had searched the rest of Cooley’s office, finding in a locked drawer the photos he would give Godsend, the only evidence that there was more to Cooley than met the eye.  Had Colinaude not trusted Cooley, if he had made this sweep before and discovered these photos, he might have saved himself heartache.  It was probably the reason the photos were there to begin with.  Cooley had wanted him to find them, to learn the truth earlier.  It had been a test; one of many Colinaude had failed.
     Returning to the roof of the hospital after retrieving from No.33 Cobb Lane the beacon, he knew he had left Cassie alone for a very long time.  He knew every word he spoke with Godsend only delayed longer his return to her side.  He was afraid to see her again, as if the ghost of the Cotton from Stonewine Alley would be waiting instead of a broken woman who had trusted in him, believed in him.
     He entered the sliding doors, still clad as the Eidolon, and struggled wordlessly for a moment with the desk clerk before striding past her directly to Cassie’s room.  He hesitated at the door, and then pushed in.  A solitary pulse greeted him, the only sign of life, a monotonous mockery of it.  Colinaude broke down, removed his goggles, his mask, and collapsed on the bed beside her.  For a long time, he didn’t move, didn’t breath, and didn’t think.  He couldn’t bear to.  Something stirred, however.  It was Cassie.  She lifted an arm punctured with an intravenous unit and rested it again on Colinaude.
     “Hey,” she said.
     He struggled to look up, to look at her.  “Hey,” he replied in turn.  “Left you in a bit of dire straits, I’m afraid.”
     “It was bound to happen,” she said.  “I think I was owed it.  Something you delayed.”


Maurice Mitchell said...

Tony, I think Cloak of Shrouded Men is one of the greatest titles ever.
- Maurice Mitchell
The Geek Twins | Film Sketchr
@thegeektwins | @mauricem1972

Michael Abayomi said...

Dude! I never realized you had a book out on Amazon. And what a solid excerpt too. You should totally release this in ebook format. Perhaps with an illustrated comic-book-style cover.

I have always been fascinated by Superhero fiction, even though I haven't really read any I can immediately call to mind. My next two projects would deal with superheroes though, that much I can guarantee.

Leslie S. Rose said...

Having just trudged the long and winding road of self-pubbing I admire your tenacity. No way would I ever have attempted it without a "team." I agree with Maurice - your title is kickin'.

Tony Laplume, Scouring Monk said...

The publisher's consultant had a lot of comments about the books when he looked it over, and one of them was that he didn't understand the title. But it was too late to back out.

I've been toying with rereleases for years now. When I have the money, this time.


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