A surprising number of teenagers in 2019 (some them, no doubt, encouraged by hit films like Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman) are fans of vintage hard rock. So, too, is Alyx, the Feisty Teenage Heroine of This Wasted Land, my latest young adult dark fantasy novel.
To go along with that, I set up the table of contents for TWL as a “playlist,” and named each chapter after a hard rock song. Each relates to their chapter in some way, whether it evokes the mood, mirrors events, reiterates themes, or simply inspired it. You can find posts about other songs on the playlist here.
(Some spoilers ahead)
Sundown, another busy day watching the time fly
Old ground standing in the way
And I don’t know why
So here I am making changes
Alterations to my house of cards
But I don’t hold new arrangements
Am I at home, am I at home, am I, am I alright?
The idiom “at sixes and sevens” is about 900 years old, and refers to “a state of complete disarray and confusion, in a complete mess.”
Look down, almost with breath held as the time flies
I found, I’m lost in your reflection,
I don’t know why
As the chapter opens, Alyx is certainly at sixes and sevens, unsure of what she’s doing:
I don’t have my phone, and the sun still doesn’t move, so I have no idea how long I’ve been walking. Has it been an hour, or three? More than that? Maybe only 45 minutes?
I think I’m still going the right way. I keep turning around to look for the front part of that big ship, to make sure I’m not headed in the wrong direction. The ship gets smaller and smaller, so I guess I’ve gone a long way. You’d think I would have gotten to the train tracks by now.
The song “Sixes and Sevens” is moody and introspective, and so too, at this point, is Alyx. As she walks along, she thinks back to several times, including when, following an altercation at school, she was required to attend counseling sessions:
“Who was that boy I saw with you in the cafeteria?” Ms. Custer asked me.
“That was Sam Patterson.”
“How long have you known him?”
I sighed, leaned back in my chair. “Longer than anybody else here.”
“Oh? How so?”
“I met him over the summer, right after I moved. At the record store, where he works.”
“It’s a cool place, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. I like it.”
“Do you have classes together?”
“No, we don’t. He’s really smart.”
“I’m not sure what that has to do with anything.”
“He’s in all, like, the brain classes, and I’m…I’m not.”
“What did he want to talk about?”
“He was asking me if I was okay.”
She didn’t say anything. Waited.
“You know, with Ms. Jung and all.”
She nodded. “I wonder why he did that.”
“He likes me.”
“So, he’s a friend.”
“I don’t know.”
“Why, ‘I don’t know?’”
“I don’t have any friends.”
“There’s no one in any of your classes that you talk to?”
“Not even just to ask about homework, or if you need some paper or a pen?”
“Do people ever try to talk to you?”
“Since what happened with Ms. Jung?”
“How about before then?”
“Once or twice?”
“Maybe more than that?”
“I don’t know. Not really.”
“That’s interesting. Why do you suppose that is?”
“I don’t know.”
Finally, she said, “Well, it’s a new school for you. It might take some time.”
I shook my head.
“You don’t think so.”
“Maybe it can be challenging for you to make friends.”
Thought about it.
“Which is okay,” she told me. “It isn’t anything bad. It just means it might take a little longer before it happens. But I think it will.”
“But going back to what you said about not having friends. Sam likes you. Sam talks to you. Wouldn’t you say Sam’s a friend? Or could be?”
Thought about it. Nodded.
Alyx walks farther and farther across the desert, and reflects more and more, until she encounters Mike:
Something behind me goes chkk. I whip around, knife ready. A few yards from my face, the black hole of a pistol. Behind that, some tall, dirty, skinny dude with long hair and a big, bushy beard.
“You move, and I’ll blow your damn head off,” he says.
Find out what happens next in This Wasted Land.
Kenton Kilgore writes killer SF/F for young adults and adults who are still young. In his latest novel, This Wasted Land, high-school senior Alyx Williams learns that witches are real when one attacks her and her boyfriend Sam, dragging him off to a nightmare world where Alyx must go to get him back.
Kenton is the author of Lost Dogs, the story of the end of the world as seen, heard–and smelled–by a dog. He also wrote Dragontamer’s Daughters, like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons! With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature. Kenton also published Hand-Selling Books to help authors better their sales.
Don’t miss the latest! Sign up for my mailing list, and you’ll know about blog posts, sneak peeks, upcoming releases, sales, special offers, and more as soon as they appear. I will honor your privacy and never spam you or sell your information. And you can, of course, unsubscribe any time.