Only a Month and a Half to Go

I can’t believe there’s just under seven weeks until NaNoWriMo starts on November 1.

Every day, I’m going to post what I’ve just written.

I won’t have time to fix typos and might even miss plotholes.

I’ve created this page so I can keep updating you without needing to find and link to old posts.

Time Gone By – Part 9 – Science Fiction

People might be wondering where the “science” part is in this story. It’s coming, but I’m not sure when.

This is a work of fiction.

We spent a while preparing the spaghetti with meatballs (everyone agreed that chopped up hamburger patties were a great meatball substitute), and we also made pancakes, hashbrowns, and all the usual breakfast things. Andy blended up a lot of different things and Sienna and Lydia each had a small amount of the resulting smoothie.
“Yuck!” Sienna said.
“It’s good,” Lydia said. Her voice was just slightly above her usual whisper.
Sammy said, “She’s weird.”
“Yeah,” Sienna said. I waited a beat for Emily to step in, but she said nothing.
“Everyone has different tastes,” I said. “There’s no need to call people weird. Would you like some more, Lydia?” She nodded, and I gave her what was left in the blender.
“I can make more,” Andy said.
“Can you show me how to make this?” I said.
“Sure. I’ll write it down.”
“It looks like puke,” Sammy said.
“It kind of tastes like it,” Sienna said.
“Don’t be silly,” I said.
“We’re not,” Sammy said. “It looks disgusting. I don’t want to look at it anymore.”
“It doesn’t look so great,” Andy said, “but it tastes wonderful.”
“I highly doubt that,” Sammy said, giving him a dirty look.
“Enough,” I said. “Is anybody ready for dessert?”
“Yes!” Sienna said. Berkeley nodded.
“What’s for dessert?” Freckles asked.
“Dad brought cookies,” Dan said.
“Oreos!” Sienna said.
“They’re homemade chocolate chip cookies,” Andy said.
“Gross,” Sammy said.
“What?” Curly said, echoing my thoughts. We all knew how much Sammy loved chocolate chip cookies, especially his mom’s homemade ones.
“I said gross.”
Freckles said, “But you love—”
“Shut up,” Sammy said.
“Hey Sammy, that’s enough,” I said. “Let’s all get some dessert.”
“I’m full,” he said. He got up and walked toward the boys’ tent. He didn’t go in, but sat down on the grass.
Why was he acting so unfriendly? Not wanting dessert was just odd. A twelve-year-old boy in good health could never be too full to eat dessert.
“Sorry,” Emily said, “I didn’t bring anything.”
“That’s okay,” I said. “I have just the thing to go along with those cookies. Be right back.”
I went to the van and came back holding a bag of marshmallows.
“Marshmallows?” Andy said. “Are we having hot chocolate?”
“We could, but I thought we’d roast these over the fire on sticks.”
“I’ve never had a roasted marshmallow,” Sienna said. “What’s it taste like, Mom?”
Emily looked at her daughter. For a moment, I thought she wasn’t going to answer her question, but then she did.
“It tastes wonderful.” To my surprise, a tear slid down her cheek.
“Why are you crying?” Sienna said.
“I’m thinking about my Great Uncle Roger,” she said. “When I was six, my parents took me to his cabin in the woods. He lived . . . a different lifestyle from everybody else in the family. They didn’t understand or even approve, but they wanted me to know him.” She cleared her throat. “He was quite old then, and I think Mom and Dad knew he wasn’t going to live much longer. He was kind of thin but seemed healthy enough. He built a fire and we roasted marshmallows. They taste like a summer night in the woods with a little smokiness added.” She cleaed her throat again. “I never saw him again. He died a month later. He was such a nice old man. He took me into the woods the next day and showed me how he chopped wood. He actually showed me how to build a fire, but my parents wouldn’t let me make one when we went back to the city.”
“He sounds like a wonderful man,” I said. “Would you like to roast some marshmallows in his honor?”
We did. Andy came up with the idea of toasting Great Uncle Roger, so we all carefully touched our marshmallows together over the fire. The whole time, Sammy sat and watched, but didn’t join us.
“I wish we didn’t have to go home,” Sienna said. “I wanna eat marshmallows forever.”
“Me too,” Dan said. “Can I have another one please?”
“Yes,” Andy said, “but just one more.”
“After this one, I think we’d all better stop,” I said. “There aren’t many left.”
Sienna said, “Do you sleep in those?” She pointed to the tents.
“Yes,” Lydia said, because Sienna was looking at her marshmallow and wouldn’t have noticed a nod.
“Is it cold?”
“No. We have sleeping bags.”
“Mom, can we sleep in one?”
“We don’t have a tent,” Emily said, helping Berkeley with his marshmallow.
“Can we buy one?”
“They sell them at Walmart,” I said.
“Are they expensive?” Emily asked.
“I suppose we could set one up in the yard if I can figure out how.”
“I wonder how much one of these camp sites costs,” Andy said. “I’m gonna call and find out.” He took out his phone and pressed a number. “Yes, hello, I’m Andy. I was in cabin 8 and wondering how much one of those camp sites costs. Big or small. Um, what size is this one?”
“Big,” I said.
“Big, please. Really? Is that per night? Wow. So there’s a firepit and room for tents and such? Are there any free near . . .” He turned to me. “What number is this one?”
“It’s 31.”
“Thanks. Are there any near site 31? Thanks. I’ll take number 32. For . . . eight nights. Starting today. How many tents can fit? I have two kids.” He listened and then asked the other person to hold for a sec. “Emily, if we split the cost, we can share site 32 for eight whole nights!”
“But we don’t have any equipment.”
“Go for it,” I said. “Let’s all drive to the city and buy what you need.”
“Please Mom,” Sienna said.
“How much is my half?”
Andy told her.
“You’re kidding.”
“Nope.” She grinned at him and they made the arrangements to rent the camp site next to ours.
“I don’t want to come,” Sammy said, when I told him we were going into town.
“Are you feeling okay?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t leave you alone here.”
“You did before.”
“Yes, but not while we go into town. You can stay in the van if you really want to be alone, but you can’t stay here. What’s bothering you?” I had a sudden thought and blurted it out. “Are you missing your girlfriend?”
He gave me a horrified look and said, “Who said I had a girlfriend?”
“I’m not sure who it was.”
“You told me not to lie, so why are you lying? Fucking Freckles. He can’t keep his mouth shut, can he?”
“Sammy, don’t be rude. I came here to check if you were okay and tell you what we’re doing. Please tell me what’s wrong. I’m also not going to object if you have a girlfriend, so you can tell me her name and use my phone to call her if you want.”
“That’s a nice name. How old is she?”
“Would you like to call her from the van while we’re shopping?”
“Okay. Let’s go. But let me know if you change your mind about calling her. And about lying, yes that’s right I told you not to lie, but sometimes we don’t want to tell somebody something that might hurt them or get others hurt, so we alter the truth a little. Lies for the sake of lies are never okay, but protecting somebody is sometimes okay.”
“What’s this?” Dan called. He was standing beside the boys’ tent. Freckles came over, saw whatever it was, and looked worried.
“Oh, just something Grandma was showing me.”
Sammy and I walked over. Dan was holding up Freckles’s knitting. I could see that he’d done more since I’d last seen the project the previous afternoon.
“It’s supposed to be socks,” Sammy said. “Grandma tried to teach him how to knit. What a sissy little boy he is.”
“We were all knitting,” Curly said. “I’m making a hat, and Sammy’s—”
“I’m not making anything,” Sammy said. “I took it off after dinner. No normal boy does that kind of girl stuff. I bet Freckles is gay.”
“I guess I’m gay too,” Curly said. “I’m going to finish my hat and give it to Mom.” He held out his hand to Dan. “Can I take that? I’d better put it back in the tent before Sammy pees on it.”
Dan laughed and handed it to Curly. I had no idea what Sammy’s problem was, and while I wasn’t sure about Curly’s method of defusing the situation, defused the situation was, at least for the moment.

Part 10 will be posted on Sunday, September 20.

Lockdown – Part 8 – Horror Fiction

This is a work of fiction.

The next morning, I check my e-mail. Rachel has sent a payment. It’s half of what I’ve asked for. She’s also included a note.

Thanks again for agreeing to illustrate my book. Here’s the first half of the payment. I know I’ve already said this, but your work is just stunning. I’m telling everyone in my network so I hope you get lots of customers.

I send her an e-mail thanking her for the kind words and the money, and then I remember there’s no food in the house, and I haven’t eaten since yesterday’s breakfast.
I go into the living room and see Dad sitting on the couch, looking exhausted.
“Hi Dad. I’m going to the store. Do you or Mom need anything?”
He shakes his head.
“Is Victoria coming today?”
He nods.
“What time?”
He shrugs.
Has he lost the ability to speak?
“Bye Dad.” He doesn’t answer, so I go into the kitchen and out the back. I don’t use the front for two reasons: the store is just a little closer to the back of our house, but mostly it’s because I don’t want to see Victoria if she’s lurking in the bushes in our front yard.
I walk down the sidewalk and open the gate — or try to. It’s stuck. I give it a good yank, but it won’t budge. Stupid gate. Dad got the back yard fenced when I was six. He and Mom talked about getting a dog, but over the thirteen years since, the gate’s gotten rusty and we never got the dog. This was because Mom and Dad could never agree on a breed.
I go around to the front. Victoria isn’t there. I turn left and walk down our street. It’s just after eight, and it’s quiet. I count the houses as I pass them by. Six, seven, eight, nine. At ten, there’s a guy sitting on the porch smoking. At fourteen, there’s a man outside, but he’s not puffing on anything. He sees me and waves like he wants to talk. I have no idea who he is. He’s short, about forty, with wild brown hair and he’s wearing blue jeans and a red shirt. I stop at the end of his sidewalk.
“Hi,” I say. “What’s up?”
I don’t normally talk to random people, but I’ve been so starved for social contact, what with the pandemic, Dad walking around like a silent ghost, and Mom never coming out of their bedroom.
“My bitch just had a litter. Want one?”
“Puh-pardon me?”
He laughs, and I start to back away.
“Man, you young guys. My dog had puppies.”
“Oh, er, are you offering me a puppy?”
“I was just thinking about dogs.”
“Is that a yes?”
“It’s a maybe. I have to go to the store first.”
He smiles at me and says, “Don’t forget the dog food.”
I smile uncertainly back and continue my walk to the end of our street, without bothering to count the houses.
Outside the grocery store, I wait in line behind an old man who keeps turning around to check that I’m not crossing the line into his safe space.
The door opens and a woman comes out, lugging a few bags. The old man smirks at me and goes in, passing too close to the woman. She gives him a dirty look, which he appears to ignore, and I smile at her and step to the side so she can pass me at a safe distance. This store needs to rethink their entry and exit points. The intake is too close to the outflow.
Five minutes later, a gray-haired lady comes out, and I can go in.
Inside, the place smells great. I walk to the bakery section and see a sign for cinnamon buns. Unfortunately, I don’t actually see any cinnamon buns.
There’s a woman behind the counter, and I approach her, although not too closely.
“Hi. Got any cinnamon buns left in the back?”
“They’ll be out of the oven in five.”
“How many?”
“A lot.”
“Can I have a dozen please?”
“Yes. Come back in a few minutes and I’ll have them packed for you. Do you like them with cream cheese or without?”
Mom and Dad love that cream cheese stuff.
“Make that a dozen without and two dozen with.”
“Will do.”
I push my cart down the aisles, trying to think what we might need. I can’t buy milk because we don’t have a fridge, and I can’t buy meat for the same reason. I love them, but I can’t live on Oreos and oatmeal raisin cookies.
I walk down an aisle and see dog food. What would Dad say if I brought home a puppy? I look at the food and see a big bag that says “for puppies.” What kind of dog is it, anyway? I put a bag into the cart.
The next aisle over is full of baby stuff. I have no idea if Mona can use any of it. I look at tiny little jars of baby food, and big cans of formula, and I wonder if I should buy anything.
Some of the formula is really expensive. I’d better not buy anything for Mona and risk Victoria’s disapproval.
I hear a noise and look to my left. A woman’s trying to fix one of the wheels of her cart. Through the cart’s wire lattice, I see a large bin. Above it, a sign says: FOOD BANK.
I put a few cans of the expensive formula into my cart.
I go back to the bakery and pick up my cinnamon buns. I want to eat them now, but I suppose I should pay for them first.
I trundle up and down more aisles, and finally see something promising: evaporated milk. I load up a few cans and find some peanut butter, jam, and then go back to the bakery for bread. I find canned meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit. I also get cans of beans and tomatos, and a few cartons of juice. I grab a few more things that don’t require a fridge, and then I go to the checkout.
“Congratulations,” the cashier says.
I look up at her and say, “Pardon?”
“I love babies. Can you show me a picture?”
“Um, er, I didn’t bring one.”
“Maybe next time. Do you have a boy or a girl?”
“Oh, isn’t this for your baby?”
“No, it’s for the food bank.”
“Oh, but you do have a baby?”
“Yes, but she’s my sister.”
“Oh, that’s nice. Please bring a picture to show me some time.”
“I will.”
She packs my purchases into about a millioon bags, which, I realize suddenlly, I’ll have to carry home.

Part 9

The Writing Process: Building a Relationship with Your Story

“Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time.” – Bonnie Tyler, Total Eclipse of the Heart

The first part of writing a novel (or short story) is like falling in love. There’s passion. There’s fun. There’s discovery. No, you don’t have to be writing romance, but of course, that works, too!

When an idea strikes me, all I want to do is write. I want to know my characters inside out, right side up, forwards, backwards, and upside down. That’s part of my writing process. I’m impatient to get to the bottom of them and then deeper. It isn’t just like lust, it IS lust!

I like to get into my characters’ heads. Right now, I’m writing some short fiction, and in the story called Lockdown, I’m inside the head of a nineteen-year-old man. Because it’s in first person, I can get very far down inside him, which is why I particularly enjoy writing in that viewpoint. I hear his thoughts, and in a way, it’s deeper than any romantic relationship could be, because, in order to tell his story, I am him.

When I am writing, at least at first, it is sort of like there’s a shadow on me. It’s not at all negative, but it can be distracting if there are other things I need to do.

To build a good relationship takes more than love. Partners need to listen to each other. Since the Writer must tell the story, the Writer must listen. At all times. That doesn’t mean your characters won’t ever listen to you. They can and do.

Here’s an example. In Wounded Bride, there’s a scene where someone is on a plane for the first time, so I needed to describe how that felt to her. I was having trouble, so I asked the lead detective in the book, who’d been on lots of planes, to help me describe it. She did. She helped me to combine my other character’s experience with a clearer description than I was getting just listening to the person actually on the plane.

So ask your characters things. Climb up nice and comfy into their heads and ask them anything. Even the bad guys might help you out. (If you’re in a bad character’s head, make sure you climb back out after!)

It does take time, and patience, just like any relationship, but if you take the time to listen to your characters and ask them questions, you’ll find that they run deep, and you can literally start to love them, romatically or otherwise.