Reborn City

I didn’t get to do this with The Quiet Game (I forget why), so I’m doing it with Reborn City. Guess what:

Yes, seven days! Reborn City will be coming out November 1st in both print paperback and e-book formats. It’s been a long process, but it’s finally almost time! And I could not be more excited. Well I could be but I’m pretty sure it would involve illegal drugs, so I’ll stay at my normal levels of excitement.

You know, it’s been over four years since I first sat down and started writing Reborn City. I had an idea for a novel–possibly one with a sequel or two–on the way home from the library while listening to a CD with a lot of rap and rock music. I stopped by a Dairy Queen for a treat and started thinking about how to develop this idea, which had street gangs at the center of it and a sci-fi twist. Then at my sister’s birthday, after the cake and presents had been put away, I started writing some notes down in a journal. Then I started researching, and typing a manuscript, and then after many breaks and a lot of painstaking work over the course of two years, I finished the manuscript. Another year and a third of editing, eight months spent emailing chapters to my dear friend Matt Williams and making more adjustment based on his suggestions and the final copy was done. Finally I created a cover on CreateSpace (which you can see above) and I sent it all off to the copyright office.

A few months pass by, a book trailer comes out, and now we’re finally at the end of this long journey. I’m hoping for wonderful things to happen with this book. I’ve poured a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into RC, and I hope people really like reading it. It’s not as scary as some of my other work, so that may appeal to less fear-loving readers. And it’s sci-fi dystopian fiction, so considering today’s market that’s good to have.

But there’s more to it than that. The novel tackles some powerful themes, like racism and Islamaphobia, drugs and gang violence, and a number of other issues. And I’m hoping its those themes that will resonate with readers and help them fall in love with characters, rather than some dashing heroine and a couple of good-looking guys rebelling against a government that’s pure evil (how many franchises did I just describe there? I think I got Twilight in there too).

So without further ado, I’m going to give you guys a treat in honor of RC coming out. The first treat is the RC book trailer, which is right underneath the next paragraph. Immediately following the video is an excerpt from Chapter One of RC, for all your reading pleasure. I hope you like the video and the excerpt and that you’ll be interested in reading the actual book afterwards.

Also, if you haven’t already read them, please see my interviews with Zahara Bakur, Rip, and Jason Price, three very important characters from Reborn City. They’re very amazing people…though two of them did threaten to kill me for various reasons.

Reborn City, former Nevada

28 Anno Bombus (2056 CE)

June 28

Zahara and her family had decided to eat out at a restaurant in North Reborn that served kosher meat, the closest they could get to halāl. “I know it’s for Jews mostly, but it’s a very nice place and the Jews were very nice to us in New York.” Zahara’s father, Emir Bakur had said when he’d suggested it. “They know they don’t have to fear Muslims anymore. And the Chaplinsky family in 4F was nice enough, right?”

However Emir had taken a wrong turn on the still-unfamiliar streets and highways and they had somehow ended up in West Reborn. The sight of the place gave Zahara chills, and it just wasn’t the reports of gang violence: the area had a grittiness that Zahara didn’t like. The cold brown houses, the rusty lamp poles, the cracked, light-grey concrete. West Reborn looked unkempt, uncared for, like the city had kept up the other areas of the city but had forgotten about this one. The only buildings that looked in any good condition were casinos, bars, and strip clubs, displaying three-dimensional holograms of cash prizes and sexy women drinking beer while looking at passerby with bedroom eyes. The sight of them disgusted Zahara.

In the front of the car Emir and Aaliyah were arguing, trying to figure out how to get back to where they were going. Zahara closed her eyes and tried to let the music from her filepiece filter into her right ear. Surrendering to the small device, she wondered if she’d ever get out of this city and get back to New York where she belonged. Somehow, Zahara had a feeling she would never come to like Reborn City, no matter how much she lived here.

After a few more minutes of her parents arguing about which direction, Zahara opened her eyes again, prepared to tell them they should just check their phones for the directions. Her eyes widened as she saw an arm swing up from the sidewalk and throw a rock at the windshield. The glass cracked as the rock rebounded off the windshield and into the road. Aaliyah and Zahara screamed as Emir braked the car and jerked at the steering wheel. The car skidded to a screeching halt, the nose pointing towards the middle of the road.

Zahara saw her father unbuckle his seatbelt and before she could stop him, stepping out to inspect the damage. “What in the name of Allah—?” he said, but stopped as he heard the click of a jackknife being opened. He turned around and saw two men, one of whom was holding a long, deadly-looking blade. Leaning forward in her seat, Zahara could make out the details of the two men: both of the men had a ruddy tan complexion, were wearing green clothes, and had looks on their faces that said they did not like making new friends. On the neck of one Zahara could make out what looked like a tattoo of a pitchfork with a sombrero hung over the right prong.

One of them, who was large and muscular, spoke to Zahara’s father. “Hand over yo’ fuckin’ money an’ yo fuckin’ car.” he said with a Spanish accent. “Ya got that?”

“Sure!” said Zahara’s father, holding his hands up defensively, looking so unlike the corporate lawyer he was. “Just take it easy, okay? Just take it easy—!”

“Hurry the fuck up!” said the other man. “Who ya think yo messin’ with, estupido?” This man was thin and gangly and had a strange leer on his face, like he would rather punch Emir than talk to him.

“Okay, okay!” said Emir, backing back up to the door and turning off the engine. Zahara’s mother Aaliyah saw this and as her husband stood back up out of the car, unbuckled her seatbelt and opened the car door.

“Mother!” said Zahara in English. Aaliyah looked behind her to where her daughter was sitting on the edge of her seat, fists balled in her lap, chewing her lower lip. “Don’t go out there!” Zahara hissed; Zahara rarely used English with her parents and she was only using it now because she didn’t know if these two men in green were fans of Muslims or not. Either way, it was not a good time to find out.

Zahara’s mother looked at her daughter as if she’d gone mad. “I don’t have a choice, Zahara.” she said in Arabic, pushing a loose lock of hair back under her hijab. “Our car is being stolen.” She opened her door and slid out of the seat. Zahara watched with disbelief as her mother closed the car door. Did her mother think things would go peacefully?

Suddenly the skinny gangster stared at Zahara’s mother and pointed at her hijab. “Hey Manny!” said the skinny gangster. “Check out the headscarf. Musulmàns!”

The fat gangster, Manny, stared at Zahara’s mother, then turned back to Emir, his expression livid. “So, you thought you’d get the jump on us, huh?” he said, thrusting the knife at Zahara’s father. “Fuckin’ terrorist! Let us jack ya car an’ explode us too?”

Zahara winced. Fuckin’ terrorist. She had been right, these two men hated Muslims.

“No, that’s not it at all!” said Emir, looking terrified as the skinny gangster pulled out a gun. “Please, you have to believe me—!”

“Shaddup!” yelled Manny, stabbing Emir in the belly. Emir went rigid as the knife plunged into his belly, then collapsed as Manny pulled the blade out. Blood poured out of Zahara’s father, pooling around him in a big red circle.

Aaliyah screamed in horror, staring at her husband as tears flooded down her cheeks. “Emir!” she cried. “Emir—!”

The skinny gangster pulled out his gun and shot Aaliyah in the forehead; her eyes rolled into the back of her head as Zahara’s mother fell lifeless to the ground. Zahara gasped, trying to keep her tears and screams inside herself. If the gangsters saw her they’d kill her too. And maybe…just because she was a teenager and a girl…they’d do other stuff to her, too. Zahara shuddered to think of what they’d do to her if they did that too.

Manny was kicking Emir’s lifeless body casually, making sure he was dead. “Think they’d play us, did they?” he said to his companion. “Fuckin’ terrorists.”

“Yeah, well they’re shittin’ in hell now.” said the skinny gangster. “Shows what happens when ya mess with Diablos.”

“Yeah.” said Manny, looking up from Emir’s body. “Come on, let’s go—wait a minute.” Manny’s piggy little eyes fixed on Zahara in the backseat of her parent’s car. Zahara squeaked as Manny took two steps towards her. “Yo, Che. Come check this out.” Manny called to his friend, followed by something in Spanish. Zahara nearly froze up as she realized she’d been discovered.

Quickly Zahara unbuckled her seatbelt, threw open the car door and ran, throwing her filepiece as a distraction. Manny and Che jumped back as the filepiece hit the ground, probably thinking it was a grenade or something. By the time they realized their mistake, Zahara already had a head start on them. They set off after her, angrily yelling in Spanish at her. Zahara turned around, saw them catching up, and ran faster, determined to get away.

As Zahara ran, bumping into people and flying past holograms, she began to cry; her parents were dead, she was miles away from any familiar place and with no familiar people to help her. The heartache she was feeling was so intense that she could just keel over and die, but she wouldn’t die here, and she would not let herself be caught by the gangsters chasing after her. She’d get out of West Reborn, find the house (she still hadn’t thought of it as “home” yet), and then she’d call New York and get help. Or maybe kill herself. Either way, she had to get out.

The gangsters were only a few feet behind her. But a few blocks ahead there was a police station. Maybe, if she was able to get there, she’d be safe. She could tell the police what was going on, they’d arrest her parents’ murderers, and then she could go back to New York—

Suddenly Zahara tripped on a shifted slab of concrete and fell. Thrusting her hands out in front of her, Zahara cried out as she scraped her hands and knees. She tried to stand up again but then someone grabbed her shirt from behind and yanked her up. Zahara stared into the faces of Manny and Che, the Hispanic gangsters who had murdered her parents. Che grabbed Zahara’s arms and twisted them into a painful armlock.

“Hello, Little Miss Terrorist.” said Manny. “Thought ya could get away so easily. Thought the po-po would help ya out. Wrong!”

Both of them laughed cruelly, and Manny brought out his knife, holding it close to Zahara’s jugular. The blade gleamed with the blood of Zahara’s father still fresh on it. Che and Manny laughed harder at the expression on Zahara’s face. “The po-po are just pussies.” said Che. “Fuckin’ pussies. They couldn’t catch us an’ throw us in the clink, an’ they would never help a fuckin’ Musalmàn. Besides, even if they would, them assholes can’t see us. It’s dark out, ya know.”

Manny pressed his face close to Zahara’s, grinning wickedly. The foul smell of his breath wafted over Zahara’s face, making her want to puke. “And the nearest streetlamp is right ovuh there.” he added, cocking his head in the direction of the lonely streetlamp.

With a great effort Zahara twisted her head away from the knife. “Somebody help me!” she screamed.

“No one’s gonna fuckin’ come to your rescue, Little Miss Terrorist.” said Manny, pressing the blade to Zahara’s neck; a little bit of Zahara’s blood trickled onto the knife, mixing with Emir’s. Zahara whimpered as Manny pressed his face even closer than before, so close she could see the pupils in his beady eyes. Behind her Zahara could feel Che’s hot breath on the nape of her neck.

Suddenly Manny’s free hand swooped down and grabbed the button on Zahara’s pants, undoing it in an instant. His hand reached into her pants and began feeling around.

“No, please.” said Zahara, tears spilling from the corner of her eyes. “Please don’t do this—!”

“Shaddup!” said Manny, looking up from what he was doing; Zahara felt the blade of the knife dig a little deeper into her neck. “Ya shaddup an’ try ta enjoy it. Maybe aftowards we’ll let ya kill yoself, got it? But no bombs; ya might hurt someone.”

Che giggled as Manny worked Zahara’s pants off, exposing her white underwear. As he did Zahara felt the fight go out of her. She was going to die and painfully too and at the hands of her parents’ murderers. She’d never see her friends again, she’d never see her parents again, and like the two men had said, no one was going to help her—

“What ya mothas doin’?” said a voice. Zahara looked away from Manny as a figure dressed in a black hoodie and jeans stepped into the lamplight. Manny paused and then stood up, pulling the knife away from Zahara’s neck.

As he did Zahara felt her energy disappear. Black edged into her field of vision as Zahara strained to discern the face of the newcomer. But the darkness took her and Zahara couldn’t see his face. The last thing Zahara thought before she fainted was that she would’ve liked to see the face of her potential rescuer.

That, and how embarrassed she was that her pants were lying uselessly around her ankles.

  1. So tell me in detail how this video making works. I was contemplating music to use while I was away, plus images. I would like to do this for the Whiskey Delta series sooner or later.

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