Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Story Behind the Story: How to Nightwalk like a pro + giveaway

How to Nightwalk like a pro
The nightwalk is a recurring feature of my teen-noir Urbantasm novels. Time and time again, the characters find themselves out on city streets in the dark. Depending on their circumstances, the experience ranges from comforting to terrifying, but it is always a vivid, intimate, and emotional encounter with their city and each other.

The Urbantasm nightwalks are inspired by my own real-life experiences. One night, when it was storming outside, my friend and I embarked upon a 4 am journey on foot that took us to a 24-hour convenience store, across a surging river, and through golf courses and cemeteries before returning us home in the gray of dawn.

Everything changed in the dark, from the soft leaves that announced themselves as shadows black against the sky, to the fragrance of flowers unmolested by churning traffic, to the gurgle of water in the distance, finding its way down, down, down. There was no shortage of wonder in the quiet, subtle world that revealed itself once the sun had vanished behind the horizon.

These walks have become an essential part of my life. They are opportunities to defragment my brain, to grill myself on mistakes I have made and people that are important to me, to make plans and resolutions for the future, and to catch up with old friends. They are also a hell of a lot of fun.

Like myself, and like the characters in Urbantasm, you can join the secret club of nightwalkers. All you need are some good shoes, a little bit of planning, and a helping of courage and common sense.

Go with a friend… or go alone.

The most important decision you’ll make is whether to travel alone or to take someone with you, as this will affect the entire character of your experience. Solo walks can be quiet, meditative affairs, whereas traveling with others is filled with fun and sociability.

Don’t underestimate the safety and confidence that comes with numbers; even one walking companion will make you feel more secure in this world of shadows and starlight. These can be intense bonding experiences that you and your friends will talk about for years.

That said, don’t write off the merits of going it alone. With only yourself to answer to, your thoughts will run where they wish, and you might be surprised by what you learn about yourself. Take some precautions though; carry a cell phone and let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to be back. Try to stick to familiar environs you already know.

Walk all night… or for an hour.

My longest nightwalk was 37 miles around the perimeter of the City of Flint. I left my home at 4 pm and didn’t get back until well after the sun rose the next day. But I’ve also gone for short walks in twilight that have been every bit as affecting and profound. Most of the time, the duration isn’t the most important thing, although a long walk does provide a different experience than a short one.

The difference comes from the fact that a long walk is episodic: you will find yourself in different places and different situations at different times, and so when the walk is over you will see it as a kind of hero’s journey where one adventure leads you straight on to the next.

But short walks have a charm that is all their own. I’ve often taken a nightwalk from one neighborhood to another, with a friend en route to a concert or restaurant, and the conversation on the way has helped me leave the cares of the day behind and settle more fully into the fun and spontaneity of the moment.

Make plans… but don’t be afraid of improvising.

My most successful nightwalks -- especially among the long ones -- have involved a bit of planning beforehand. You’ll need to find out what parks are open after dark, how you’re going to get back home when you want to, and above all, where you can make reliable pit stops. Bathroom options are much fewer and farther between at night than they are during the day!

It’s also important to consider what to bring with you. At almost any time of year, water is important, though a thermos of coffee or hot cocoa can certainly boost your winter nightwalk. Trail mix will keep you from getting hungry as you go. Dressing the right way is also critical. Once, a friend and I took a twelve-mile nightwalk across Chicago in single-digit temperatures. It was a delightful experience, but if we hadn’t been bundled in hats, gloves, scarves, and long underwear, it would have been a miserable time!

That said, the nightwalk is at its most delightful when the unexpected happens. (Within limits, of course… you are walking safely, right?) Maybe you discover a hole-in-the-wall donut shop opening its doors at 5 am. Maybe the clouds clear and you stop where you are to soak in the constellations for the next hour. Maybe your friend chooses this moment to tell you she’s engaged, and you decide to celebrate with an extemporaneous champagne toast (liquor sales are prohibited after 2 am in Michigan). Whatever the occasion, the delightful unexpected can and will pop up on almost every nightwalk. Don’t let your plans prevent you from enjoying them.

Practice makes perfect.

Human beings feel more comfortable in the daylight. It is the way we have evolved as diurnal animals heavily reliant upon our sense of sight. Even with a traveling companion, good equipment, and thorough planning, we can feel a little tense and nervous the first few times we walk in darkness. Be prudent and wise, but also push through this discomfort. After you acclimate, you will start to feel that there is twice as much to your world as you previously thought. The sounds and sights you experience at night are completely unique and special, and you will grow and thrive for learning how to appreciate them.

Urbantasm Book One: The Dying City
by Connor Coyne
September 6, 2018
Genre: YA, Magical Realism, New Adult, Teen Noir, Lit Fic
Publisher: Gothic Funk Press
ISBN: 978-0989920230
ASIN: 0989920232
Number of pages: 450 pages
Word Count: 85,000
Cover Artist: Sam Perkins-Harbin, Forge22 Design
Urbantasm is a magical teen noir serial novel inspired by the author’s experiences growing up in and around Flint, Michigan.

Thirteen-year-old John Bridge’s plans include hooking up with an eighth-grade girl and becoming one of the most popular kids at Radcliffe Junior High, but when he steals a pair of strange blue sunglasses from a homeless person, it drops him into the middle of a gang war overwhelming the once-great Rust Belt town of Akawe.

John doesn’t understand why the sunglasses are such a big deal, but everything, it seems, is on the table. Perhaps he accidentally offended the Chalks, a white supremacist gang trying to expand across the city. Maybe the feud involves his friend Selby, whose father died under mysterious circumstances. It could even have something to do with O-Sugar, a homegrown drug with the seeming ability to distort space. On the night before school began, a group of teenagers took O-Sugar and leapt to their deaths from an abandoned hospital.

John struggles to untangle these mysteries while adjusting to his new school, even as his parents confront looming unemployment and as his city fractures and burns.

“A novel of wonder and horror.”— William Shunn, author of The Accidental Terrorist

Excerpt Book 1
Chapter 1
I have to become the Antichrist.

I realized this one night when I was standing on an overpass looking down through a chain-link fence onto the expressway below. Blue neon light shined off icy puddles. The gutters were flush with slush. Empty houses, ragged wrecks, hung out on tiny lots to my left and right. Beneath me, the cars that this city had built were leaving it – some of them forever. Across from me, on a rusted trestle, a freight train slowly passed, bringing in the parts for more cars.

As the train moved on through, I thought about Drake and about how God had fucked him over. How he’d fucked us all over. Then I thought about the house with Jesus graffitied on its side. Orange skin, blue eyes, green thorns. A welter of wounds. I clenched my jaw and my teeth squeaked together. Across from me, the train wheels squealed.

If I wanted to save my friends, I would have to murder God.

Chapter 2

This is mostly my story, but I’m gonna start out by telling you about what happened to Drake. Just so you know – just so you can see right off the bat – what a bastard God could be and why a lot of us had it out for him.

In the summer of 1993, Drake had just turned sixteen.

He was going to be a junior, and his horror-show-of-a-life finally seemed to be turning a corner. He’d been living with his dad and sister in the trailer park when his mom finally moved out of her little house in the Lestrade neighborhood. She’d given it to Drake’s dad. She knew damn well that he wasn’t going to pay any rent, but she didn’t care as long as he kept the kids. Now Drake would have empty houses next door instead of empty trailers. He, his sister, and his dad had filled a couple dozen Hefty sacks with all their stuff and dropped them in the trunk of their scraped-up Benedict.

One trailer over, Sapphire watched, leaning back against the bent wall, her narrow eyes shaded behind her too-big sunglasses. She was a white girl, also sixteenish, with hair so light it glowed like tallow dripping from one of my mother’s candles. Blue eyes too, quiet laughter, nervous all the time, but silently thrilled to be growing up as fast as she could.

“I ever gonna see you now?” she asked.

“See me at school,” Drake said. “Summer’s done next week.”

“Suck a dick,” she said and laughed.

“Come over to my new place tonight. Come over, what, nine? Bring DeeDee. I’ll get Jamo and TK. Drinks from my dad. We’ll bust up that hospital like we said. I got gold now, you know. Crazy gold.”

And he did. Drake wasn’t a Chalk – fuck those racist fucks – but they were a North Side gang wanting to sell some coke and E out on the East Side, and Drake was their man. Okay, their middleman. EZ set the whole thing up. Drake hated the Chalks but he liked the money and he also liked EZ. How could you not like EZ, talking the way he did? Dude had magnetism.

Even before Drake had unpacked all his shit at the new place, even before the sun had dipped behind the swampy trees shadowing the creek, EZ pulled up in his moon blue Starr Slipstream. A sweet make and model for a blue-collar beater. Rust patches shaped like Martian mountains silhouetted against a dusty sky. EZ called Drake over to the window.

“You straight over here, D?” EZ said. “This all new to you?”

“Naw,” said Drake. “I got all the fiends back on Ash and I’ll get some here too. See my moms lived here years. Lestrade Hood. I know it. Every street. Every liquor store. Every squat the kids go to fuck.”

“What about you?” EZ asked. “You gettin’ some, D?”

“Not now, you know,” Drake said.

“But you got plans on that.”

“I don’t...”

“You better stitch it up then. If boys don’t fuck they die.” EZ grinned without parting his pink lips. Crows feet in the cracks of his mellow yellow eyes. He was white-ish, but he had some black in him, too. It always struck Drake as funny when black kids joined up with the Chalks.

Now EZ leaned out of the car, looking forward, turning to look back, taking in the whole street with its tidy ranches and its burnt-out wrecks. “Le Strayed,” he said, the tip of his tongue probing his teeth like he was rolling a Werther’s.

How old is he anyway? Drake wondered. Older than Drake. Younger than Drake’s dad. It was hard to tell.

“You know,” EZ said. “Jesus was a fool to crawl up on that cross. God made the devil. Devil is God’s tool. Hammer in his hand. And the devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the Earth, and don’t you think that was part of Yahweh’s plan too? What you think woulda happened if Jesus had just said ‘yes?’ I bet we wouldn’t be slumming in Akawe.”

Akawe is the name of this city.

A poor city. A beat-up city. A car-making city an hour’s drive from Detroit, but then the cars it made left, along with the money, along with the people. Akawe.

“I don’t know,” said Drake. “I ain’t religious.”

EZ laughed. “No, you ain’t,” he said. “Here. I got something new for you to test for me. Make some night special. Full of secrets.”

He beckoned. Drake leaned in through the open window. In EZ’s palm, a sandwich bag with five white pills.

“What’s that?” asked Drake.

“A new thing,” EZ said. “Chalks call it O-Sugar. Kinda like E. Kinda not. Try it out. Give it some time. Don’t go to sleep. Gonna see the world through God’s eyes. Feel like Jesus would if he’d said yes to his good friend the devil.”

After EZ signed off, Drake helped his dad and his sister unpack until the sun went down and his friends came over. They all sat on the front porch, passed a 40, smoked up, and put the pills of O-Sugar on their tongues and swallowed. They talked about music and cars and love and sex.

About big old TK who had built a Frankenstein sedan from the soldered guts of four different cars.

About DeeDee, sad-in-her-heart that this boy Shawn would never see a woman in her like she saw a man in him. “He’s on varsity, you know,” she said.

Then, there was skinny Jamo with his horn-rimmed glasses. He kept farting. He said he liked the kids’ urinals best because that way his dick didn’t brush the puck.

Drake didn’t talk much, though. He kept looking at Sapphire – her eyes, her face, her perfect nose – and he felt her laughter run his spine like blue notes down a keyboard. She was a song he hoped he might play some day, but not in a crude way. He hoped he was a conversation she might have.

The kids’ hearts started to glow in their chests with a slow, soft burn. That was the beer talking. They walked down the driveway to DeeDee’s Aubrey.

They left Lestrade and crossed the expressway into Anderson Park – brick houses, neat lawns, where the mayor and the college presidents lived – but even these exalted ones couldn’t keep St. Christopher’s Hospital open in crumbling Akawe. The hospital towered in the midst of the neighborhood, full of empty-dark windows and stern staring statues.

DeeDee parked on a side street of prim Cape Cods and the kids walked the last half block to the hospital complex. Above them, the moon waxed, and the whole sky – the everything – seemed to unfurl and offer itself to Drake, limpid and tender. Is that the O-Sugar? Or just the weed? Drake swelled into the wide space of that raw and thrilling moment.

TK led them across the cracked parking lot to the loading dock.

They hauled up the service gate, slipped inside, and descended into the fluorescent-lit basement. There were seven buildings in St. Christopher’s, but underground tunnels connected them all. After hitting a few dead-ends, the kids found their way to the central building. The six-story main building with a floor plan shaped like a giant cross. As they climbed, floor by floor, moment by moment, the shadows around them expanded with opportunities, with regrets redressed, and the future converging upon their pasts. Infinities of little universes hid in the dark corners of that empty space, clear of matter but clouded with tension, ready to emerge.

By the time they reached the roof, they all felt dizzy and disoriented. Before, their yearning spirits had stretched into each new second, each new room. But now that the potential for movement threatened actual motion – now that acceleration accelerated – they put their hands in their pockets and tried to slow down. The speed of everything was getting weird on them.

“Babies, I gotta sit down!” said Jamo.

They all sat.

“I feel like, like sad and sore,” said Sapphire and she plucked at her hair.

“Hold my hand, Saph,” said DeeDee, and they all held hands.

Far off, the sound of a train rang out and, at that moment, the city lights opened wide like eyes, and the stars glowed and exploded, and heat spilled like syrup from above. Dust and clouds, spinning and shining with lightning and friction. Planetoids and asteroids whirling with volcanoes down jets of solar steam. As the train whistle sang, its sound was compressed, compacted, tonally shifted upwards, higher, with panic. As the pitch got higher and higher, Drake felt better and better, and it terrified him. He climbed on top of himself – palms pushing down on his head – to hold his soaring heart in place, but the shadows everywhere slid up convex hypotenuses from the streets below. They weighed down invisible tightropes that connected to the tallest buildings Downtown. Everything kept turning bluer and bluer. Turning to blue and purple.

The shadows swung their arms. They were the remnants of that abandoned place, humanoid, with blue coins replacing their eyes. They had flown away when their owners checked out and went home or died at the hospital. Now, they returned, suctioned in, pulled back toward the points of departure.

But as the shadows converged and became more humanlike, Drake’s friends had been reduced to matter and residuals. TK and DeeDee and Jamo and Sapphire had all lost their eyes and their ability to speak. Their faces had become smooth planes of flesh and, finally, pure fields of electricity. Small blobs, data balls, started to grow and divide. Oxygen bloomed. The kids floated – impossible! – but happening, and as they did the lights got brighter and brighter, heightened and compressed, flattened and overheated.

“Sapphire...” Drake tried to say, and he leaned toward her, straining to see her features again. He wondered what had happened to him and his friends. What was happening around them. On every side. He imagined their height, sixty feet up. The death it represented.

Then, as if in response, space itself pressed in and Drake felt himself stretched out over the edge of the building. He fell. He was falling. Yellow-blue parking lot lines dropped away behind him and approached. They got small. The last thing he saw before he hit were black streaks of grypanian spirals, dotting away and multiplying.

The sky was a dome, but the parking lot was deep.

Urbantasm Book Two: 
The Empty Room

Urbantasm Book Three: 
The Darkest Road

About the Author:
Newsletter -TikTok

Connor Coyne is a writer living and working in Flint, Michigan.

His serial novel Urbantasm is winner of numerous awards. Hugo- and Nebula-nominee William Shunn has praised Urbantasm as “a novel of wonder and horror.”

Connor has also authored two other celebrated novels, Hungry Rats and Shattering Glass, as well as Atlas, a collection of short stories.

Connor’s essay “Bathtime” was included in the Picador anthology Voices from the Rust Belt. His work has been published by, Belt Magazine, Santa Clara Review, and elsewhere.

Connor is Director of Gothic Funk Press. He has served on the planning committee for the Flint Festival of Writers and represented Flint’s 7th Ward as its artist-in-residence for the National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town grant. In 2007, he earned his Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the New School.

Connor lives in Flint, Michigan less than a mile from the house where he grew up.

Tweet Book 1:
“You were as bright as the sun?”
Urbantasm is an award-winning teen-noir novel inspired by life in Flint, Michigan.
#TeenNoir #TeenYA #Fantasy #YA #MagicalRealism

Tour Giveaway
4 winners to receive print copies of Book 1
1 winner to receive print copies of Book 1, 2, and 3.


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  4. I was inspired to create Urbantasm after my experiences of walking at night through the city: a 4 am journey in the rain, across a surging river and through golf courses and cemeteries, which took us back home in the gray of dawn.Visit more details.