Friday, May 20, 2011

Burden Kansas vs. Burden, Kansas

I'm working on the sequel to Burden Kansas, tentatively entitled Prairie Leeches, which was the title of the short story that grew to become Burden Kansas. I'm not exactly sure how long this one will be. I'd love for it to be around 60k+ words so that I can comfortably call it a novel instead of a novella. If you've already read Burden Kansas, then you can guess who the protagonist is this time around. Luckily, though she's been sobered by the events in the previous novella, she's still a bit more talkative than Keith. I refuse to pad, so the minimalism of Keith's sections, combined with total exteriority of the voice in his sections, combined with the fact that actual conversation was basically impossible when his typical reply to being spoken to was staring blankly, all added up to a novella. Burden Kansas was 34k. I won't pad Prairie Leeches, but it may make it to 60k on its own just based on the fact that the protagonist is willing to occasionally speak.

Prairie Leeches starts in the same countryside surrounding the same little, unnamed Kansas farm town. I'm sure some people think I just forgot to put a comma in the title, but the "Burden" in Burden Kansas is a verb. Specifically it has to do with the pressure the vampire migration is causing on a rural community already stressed and stretched to the breaking point, but it's also got to do with Keith's past sins, and with the horrible things the presence of the vampires are causing people to do.


I grew up a few miles outside of a town called Burden, Kansas. I didn't go to school there, and although it was the nearest town, I didn't go there often or know anyone there. I've never felt comfortable in Burden.

Why did I hint at one of the inspirations in the title but not actually name the town in my book Burden? Well, because the town in my book isn't exactly Burden. It's got parts of Burden, parts of the nearby town Atlanta, Kansas, which I knew better because my grandparents live there, and parts just from my imagination.

It does have a stoplight at the gas-station intersection.

When the environment is an important part of the story, I like to work with real places. For me, it's easier and it makes my work more authentic. But I didn't want to have to worry about accuracy, especially if I needed my small town to have a feature that Burden, Kansas doesn't have.

So once again, I get to constantly refer to a town and a county without names and try to make it seem natural.

Psalm 32 was also an inspiration for Burden Kansas. I just searched for "burden of sin", already knowing it was one of my themes, and found several sermons about this passage of the Bible that perfectly matched ideas I was trying to convey. I wasn't able to justify including it in its entirety in such a small book, but here it is:

1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.

4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.

5 I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

6 For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.

7 Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.

8 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.

9 Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.

10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.

11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.

Oh wow, remember how I said I like to end a long post with a treat? That treat was a Bible verse Whaaaaaat?!?!?!

Okay, so here's another treat: a Lazy Town/Lil Jon mashup. It's very offensive.


  1. Cool to hear. I'm looking forward to the sequel. This is me volunteering to be a beta reader if you need an extra.

    You could use the same Verbing Kansas pattern to title the second book. Like "Bleeding Kansas" or "Crossing Kansas" or whatever. Just offering suggestions that you can feel completely free to ignore or claim to have thought of first. :)


  2. Give me Prairie Leeches, and give them to me now!

    The issue of using real or made up geography is a difficult one for me too. I hate being tied to fixtures I don't want, but there is no substitute for knowing how something really looks and feels.

  3. David - Thanks for the offer. I may very well take you up on that.

    I like the "verbing Kansas" idea. I might go with that if I decide not to come up with a series title to otherwise tie the books together. Funny enough, Bleeding Kansas is already taken. It refers to the Civil War era of kansas history when there was a border war over the nullification of the Missouri Compromise. It's my favorite historical topic! Jayhawker 4 life!

    Coral: I'm gonna hook you up asap!
    Maybe try copping out like I did and do both but admit to neither.

  4. Maybe you could call the next one Leeching Kansas?

  5. See, I knew this was a birth-of-buffy moment, there at the end....(not that I've seen any Buffy, but I presume you know what I mean).

    I read it in one sitting after it arrived yesterday, ignoring children and telephone. What a kick-ass book, Alan. It's slated for a review on my blog -- when I finally get around to doing reviews on my blog, which should be Oh, Any Day Now, *Really*.

  6. Thank you very much! I've got a big smile on my face like this :)