Welcome to the world, Broadleaf Writers

I have ideas.

Many of them become stories. Some of them blog projects following my work-in-progress. Some of them become real things. Some of them stew in my brain for years before finding a port worthy of docking. A place where like-minded individuals may come aboard and assist me in making my dear sweet eager idea a reality.

Today, I get to unleash another into the world. Today, the Broadleaf Writers Association becomes a reality.

Sweet.

What is Broadleaf? Why is Broadleaf? How is … never mind, you see where this is going.

To simplify things here: Broadleaf Writers is an organization dedicated to educating and inspiring writers to become better writers. We believe the path to publication is paved in the perfection of your craft. We believe no writer should stand alone in the pursuit of their passion. We believe writers should explore the style they feel is best suited to their skill, that any genre may contain brilliance, and that nothing soothes a writer’s soul more than the opportunity to commune with other writers.

Through seminars, workshops, networking and peer groups, and much more, Broadleaf Writers is meant to be the home every writer has been looking for. And to kick it off, we will host the First Annual Broadleaf Writers Conference in September 2016! The site and date will be announced soon, as will the first of a growing list of fabulous, experienced, writers who will serve as speakers and mentors.

We’re still a bit under construction (aren’t we all?), but we’re very eager to get started. In addition to the above, we will be opening membership enrollment soon, in order to grant writers greater access to information on Broadleaf, educational opportunities, and discounts on the programs we offer. In the meantime, we’ve started a Facebook page, we’re on Twitter, and we have established a website at broadleafwriters.com! Please give them a look, like, follow, sign up for our newsletter (on the website!), and help spread the word. If you would like to donate to help fund our organization, we would be most grateful! There’s a donation button on the website, or if you would like to discuss it via email, I can be reached at broadleafwriters@gmail.com. If you have any questions, comments, thoughts, ideas, or any other word I’ve managed to forget in the sentence, email me, comment below, message the Facebook page, tweet to us, we’re easy to find!

There are so many talented, passionate, writers in the area, in neighboring states, in the Southeast, and we want to shine a spotlight on every one. Whether a New York Times bestseller, a product of the small presses, self-published, or one of the many seeking to become part of the process somewhere, we are all one family. One group. One idea seeking a port. Come aboard. This is going to be one hell of a ride.

Though this idea did stew in these here brain meats for more than two years, I would be remiss in failing to mention my wonderful Board of Directors. Though still in its infancy in size and scope, Broadleaf would not exist without their time, energy, and dedication to this dream. So a very heartfelt thanks to Alison Law, Ricki Schultz, Bill Bridges, Barbara Friend Ish, and Collin Kelley. You are all so wonderful, gifted, and a thrill to work with. LET’S GO TEAM!

If you have an interest in potentially joining the Board, offering your time on our Conference committee, or volunteering as the need arises, please feel free to email me. With all that we hope to accomplish in the coming year and beyond, it will take a small army of individuals working together to build our family.

So as to avoid spending two thousand additional words worth of your time detailing all that Broadleaf can be, all that gives me the tingles when I think on it, I’ll leave it there for now. Please do contact me if you have questions. Help us spread the word. Like us on Facebook, follow us on twitter, sign up for our newsletter. Donate if you can. Every single dollar will make a difference.

BWA Logo

Fifty Shades of Change, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Edits

Words is words, which are words that are words, being wordy.

This is the process of writing, you see. Learning perfection is attained not in the first sentence, but rather what the first sentence can become after you’ve written a few thousand other sentences that politely inform what that stupid first sentence should have been in the first place, if only you had the smarts to let them tell you first.

Sentences can be so bitchy.

The Progenitor is this. As is everything else ever written. Certainly, everything ever written by the dope typing this post. Every chapter calls me backward. To adjust something. To tweak some language. To modify dialogue. Because, as I discover the truths ahead, I’m required to align them behind. In this light, I’ve spent some time recently combing through the first few chapters and making adjustments. If you’re reading along you might now be screaming something like But I’ve already READ all that! Yes, you have. I warned you. Edits happen. It’s a process. It’s part of the writing life. It’s the realization the burger needed cheddar AND provolone AND swiss after you’re halfway through. You can still do it. Come on, you know you want that taste. Cheddar just isn’t enough anymore, is it? No, that burger wants MORE and it wants it NOW.

Did I mention I’m a bit hungry?

Agatha’s story is twisting, evolving into the latter 2/3 of the book that I believe might be best classified as WUT. As in, you know, “What?” but different, because you’re all WUT.

Got it?

Good.

Time is tricky, as Agatha is learning. Time is screwed up when you screw with it. Time is a nightmare that may or may not be a pleasant dream when the Keepers find you.

Now almost 20,000 words in, I know I love this story. It’s insane. We’ve bonded and become good friends. We might be holding hands soon. It’s getting serious. Like, totally. I’ve also learned the story was, to no surprise, right about the beginning. Chapter One as it stands will go into the repository at some point, hopeful to be included in a potential opening of Book Two, or a story told along the way. Chapter Three, with its great opening of “The first time Agatha moved through time, she tried to save a cake,” will become the opening of the book. That line sells it. The flow it creates otherwise is ideal.

So, here it is. The end of Chapter Ten is completely raw. I haven’t even looked at them a second pass yet. I’m still hoping to finish the first draft by the end of the year. It’s ambitious, but much like this story, I’m not entirely sane. It’ll happen.

Fire away. Input is welcome.

Progenitor Manuscript .pdf

Progress is all about progressing and stuff

That whole “Day Whatever” thing? Yeah, I think that can go away now. I mean, posting in a succession of days that mark every day I have worked on the novel makes great sense. Not that I often make sense. I usually make not sense, and with great precision. So, it’s canned. On a shelf to be forgotten forevermore. Like Apocalypse Tuna. But NEVER FEAR! I am still here. Still hereing and being here and being not not here in order to post what I have written on the The Progenitor.

That said, in the time I have managed not to waste watching football, cheering my fantasy baseball team to a long-awaited league winner winner chicken dinner championship (Yeah that’s right, I play fantasy sports. What of it? I’m a dude who likes sports, all right? Back off, lest I pummel you with my sportish knowledge and bore you to tears.), taunting the cat, humoring the dog, and putting back a healthy dose of the Fall’s first batch of chili, I have created more words! Words that pair with other words to form sentences and paragraphs! Paragraphs that talk about stuff and lead to other stuff. Two chapters worth, in fact! In fairness, they’ve seen a light edit, but I tend to read through what I last wrote in an effort to drop back into the flow of the story, which always results in some alteration along the way. I edit, therefore I am, or something.

With these two chapters, Agatha’s adventure has officially begun. A bit earlier than I had expected (I’m at 12,000 words, and I thought I’d make it closer to 20k before everything really took off), but it feels right. The story’s never wrong. When it says it’s time to fly, you jump. When it says have some meat and chill, you better not be a vegetarian.

Speaking of jumping, as this story plays with the concept of jumping through time, the task I face is explaining this, and the results therefrom, in a way that is easy to follow and understand. If I have failed to do so at any point, fire away. You’re the reader, I’m the writer. I stand behind the curtain, while you fall asleep in a field of poppies, or head off on a witch hunt with but some sketchy courage, a tin brain, no heart and a stupid bucket of water. I know everything. You know nothing. NOTHING!

So, here it is. All six chapters. 12k words out of a projected 90k pushes me past 10%. It’s a small benchmark, but something about crossing 10% has always infused me with excitement. Hopefully it shows.

Progenitor Manuscript .pdf

Bowling for Jesus

It’s probably a good thing I can write.

Not to say that I am, or have been, incapable of doing anything else.  I know how to make toast, after all.  That’s an accomplishment.  No, really, it is.  I mean, if the difference between starvation, and survival onward to tomorrow, is a slightly browned piece of bread with butter and jelly, I’ve got it covered.  Not that I’m about to break into a refrain from I Will Survive, or anything, but if you hear some crunching in the corner, that might be me.

Anyway, enough about toast.  We can all make toast, right?  Please say yes.

Good.

So, I don’t remember my sixth-grade math teacher’s name, and it’s been bugging me for an hour.  Come to it, I can’t even remember what he looks like, though I do quite clearly remember it being ahe.  Of course, I only remember one classmate–a boy by the name of Scott.  And I only remember him for that unfortunate vomiting incident that caused me to plead to my mother for new shoes, and forever altered how I respond to the smell of sawdust.  Sorry Scott.  Wherever you are, I hope you aren’t vomiting on someone’s shoes.  In an effort to actually move forward, I’ll call my teacher Mister Mister Sir, and get on with it.

Mister Mister Sir did a rather curious thing in class.  Each month he chose a Student Of The Month (the first letters were always in CAPS, lest the importance of the honor be diminished).  Now, being honored as Student Of The Month is, in almost every case, a worthy title bestowed upon the one student that either kissed enough tush, or cheated on enough tests to have the highest grade in the class.  It so happened I managed both with great skill.  But being  Student Of The Month wasn’t merely a title in Mister Mister Sir’s class.  No, it came with benefits, the most primary of which was that you got to sit at a teacher’s-sized desk near the door, and grade papers all day, after which you went into the Grade Book and entered to grades.

The awesome nature of this power cannot be overlooked.  However, it wasn’t the greatest of the honors bestowed upon the Loyal Brotherhood of the Student Of The Months.  That honor came by way of a Polaroid picture taped to a piece of construction paper (mine was red, as I recall–odd that I can remember that but not Mister Mister Sir’s real name), with a brief bio underneath.  It was a typical roll-call of information: Name, Age, Birth date, Favorite Food.  I remember looking over the list and happily making it known to the world how incredibly special I was.  They would know all the most important information about me and envy me each every one of those thirty days.  The kicker was the last question, the one that nearly defined my entire life, post-Sir’s class.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Oh, boy.  That was the question.  The Question.  But I knew the answer.  I didn’t need to hesitate.  Didn’t need to take even a second of time to contemplate exactly what I wanted to do with my life.

I wanted to bowl for Jesus.

Mister Mister Sir mistakenly translated this not-simply-a-tidbit of defining information, and noted for all to see that I wanted to be a Professional Bowler.  Much though I was honored to sit at the High Desk, and spend a month of my adolescence grading papers and not learning a damned thing, I felt it was quite necessary to help Mister Mister Sir–enlighten even–understand where he had erred.

“Mister Mister Sir, sir,” I had said to him, early one morning before class had begun.  “I believe you may have made a mistake on my biography.  I don’t want to be a professional bowler.  I want to bowl for Jesus.”

Mister Mister Sir seemed a little put off by that, or at least that’s how I perceived it.  I now know he just needed coffee.  I see that face every morning in my mirror.  “I don’t understand,” he said, which I found to be quite obvious.  Of course he didn’t understand.  I needed to clarify.

“I want to bowl for Jesus,” I repeated.  “You know, stand up with my ball of reckoning, keep my approach straight and balanced, steer clear of the gutters, and roll my way through the ten pins with a proper angel.”

“You mean, ‘angle’?”

“No, angel.”  He stared at me, which I saw as an invite to continue.  “The proper angel is important.  You can’t just take the ten pins lightly, straight on.  You have to have an angel to guide you through and help you to, you know, get a strike.”

“What?”

He wasn’t getting it, which nearly frustrated me into silence.  Months I had worked on this, trying to get every bit of it just right.  And now here was a teacher of whom I greatly respected for choosing me as Student Of The Month, understanding none of it.  “The Ten Pins?” I tried.

“What about them?”

“It’s a parallel, Mister Mister Sir.  Ten Pins, Ten Commandments.  Angels, and staying clear of the gutters–you know,” and here I whispered, “Satan?”

“Oh,” he said, rather dry and indifferent.  “This is a religious thing, isn’t it?”

I felt my shoulders drop somewhere below my knees.”Well, no.  I mean, yeah, kind of.  But not, if you know what I mean.  It’s kind of a religious sort of thing that I talked to my preacher about.  Of course, he didn’t understand either.  But I think that was just because the Idiot Gnomes got to him.”

“The Idiot Gnomes.  That’s what my father calls them, anyway.  They break into your room at night, on days when you’ve been particularly bad, and steal your brain cells.  They turn you into an idiot.  That’s why I try to be good and come up with good ideas all the time.  I don’t want to be an idiot.”

“But you want to Bowl for Jesus?”

“Yes!  I do!”

Mister Mister Sir smiled, laughed a little, then stood up and walked to the wall where my beaming visage sat in all its Polaroid-glory.  He removed the construction paper, walked back to his desk, made quite a scene of crossing out Professional Bowler with a marker, then quickly wrote something I couldn’t make out.  He walked back to the wall, and re-posted my shrine of glory.

He nodded, and returned to his desk, where he downed nearly a full cup of coffee in one gulp.  After a moment of hesitation, I walked to the wall and stared at my biography.  I stared at it for about two minutes, contemplating.

“You can bowl for Jesus all you want, kiddo,” said Mister Mister Sir, now standing behind me.  “But you damn well better write about it afterward.  Weirdness breeds entertainment, and I’m pretty sure you’re gonna breed just fine.”  After which he walked out of the room.

I’m not sure at what point in the month that Scott vomited on my shoes, but I know that it was about the same time that I decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.  If not for Mister Mister Sir, and his biographical misstep, then for me and my wardrobe.  I wanted to wear nice, clean, warm, slippers all day, somewhere free of random vomit, and the gag-inducing smell of sawdust,

It’s a good thing I can write.

Day 7: Too Many Days

The bitch thing about writing–for me, anyhow–is fitting it into a schedule that demands of me my attention so as I may pay my bills as required. I love my day job, both of them I should say actually, but I do long for the ability to write on my own schedule. The ability to channel all of my energy into my passion, rather than the divide and conquer mentality I’m forced to take right now. Throw in a dash of this issue, a touch of that issue, some stress to round out the flavor and boom. You have a fraction of time to actually write, and no bacon to soothe the pain. Add in the stress, fatigue, and otherwise fractured sense of concentration that comes with it all, and you get crap writing when you actually do sit down.

I’ve had two weeks of insanity, with some crap writing mixed in for pleasure. If I were the type of personality who pushed through these things, who said screw sleep I’m writing something, I’d have produced Chapter Four already. But through my earlier days of Writerdom I’ve learned it’s more work to write those pages, attempt to edit them and convince myself I can make something worthwhile out of nothing, than to can them altogether because, well, because they’re absolutely useless crap. I do better when I endure the hard times, write workable crap, then get my groove on when things calm down again. Granted, this is likely the primary reason I only have two books published to this point, but it would also be the primary reason why I’ve improved in the craft so much. It gives me time. Time to think, time to write in my head, time to get it right. So, it’s a wash. I’ll just be who I am and move on.

Much as I have with The Progenitor. After the two-week hiatus, Chapter Four didn’t end up taxing my eager brain at all. It’s quite short, against what I had expected. I just reached a line that said IT ENDS HERE and said all righty then, thanks. So, without any lengthy preamble, nonsensical picture, or loosely-related story about my life, here it is. As always, fire away. Input is welcome.

I’ve decided to end the chapter at a time approach to the file, instead opting to offer the entire manuscript each time. Chapter Four begins on page 18, for what it’s worth. Just to help you avoid feeling as though you need to re-read everything each time, and stuff. Heaven forbid.

Progenitor Manuscript .pdf

Z

Day Six: The Realistic Dreamer Climbs a Tree

I am what you might call a realistic dreamer of unrealistic dreams. You probably don’t, but you might. I have this tendency to dream the elaborate fantasy, always complex in detail, always glorious to behold. Life, conversely, likes to drop rocks in my pond, fracture the stillness of the water with ripples that bound end-to-end, and sit in amusement upon the shore whilst I fuss and complain about it. I believe life does this to everyone, if for no other reason than to realize my desperate hope that I am not alone at the center of the bullseye.

As always, I will endeavor to get to the point, despite my consistent desire to offer preamble to every form of thought I ever have ever.

You see, I don’t like to write at home. Not the home I currently live in anyway. Over the years of rental madness, I’ve had a writing space here or there, but never anything fitting my need for isolation and inspiration in one. One major hurdle I’ve always dealt with is how easily I am distracted. Roaming the webbernuts, catching up on a show, grabbing a book, yelling at the cat and dog because THEY WON’T QUIT STARING AT ME FOR THE LOVE OF TIMMY CHRIST, snacks, sitting on the patio, whatever. It’s just too easy. I need a place that is solely for writing, secluded yet in proximity to home, inspiring and radiating in a positive flow of creativity. I often times head for a cafe–which is great for caffeination, but horrible for creativity. Again, distractions.

What I need is this:

Behold the beauty that is the writing treehouse.

The future home of bestselling books I will write because it demands it.

Granted, I need a house. A house with appropriate trees. And resources, a.k.a. “money”. And someone who knows how to build one of these things that won’t drop me into squish the first moment I step through the door. You know, just to name a few. But that doesn’t keep me from dreaming about it. Seeing myself with some dopey smile, typing away, a cup of coffee on the desk fueling the words that flow onto the page. Beautiful words. Words that inspire, or at least inspire you to buy my other books.

So if anyone wants to make that happen for me, you know, I’m game and stuff.

Is it realistic? Or am I a dreamer? Or is it just something I really really want and you can shut the hell up about reality?

I always tend to the latter.

I didn’t want to write Friday. I had a whole day, minus a few hours, in which to create, but I just didn’t want to. I whined to my insistence, balled up on the floor and scared the hell out of the dog, and outright refused to participate. Being at home contributed. I had other things to do. Important things I had neglected, like scooping cat poop out of Her Majesty’s litter box, washing dishes, watching an hour of that Guns N’ Roses concert I had on the DVR so I could marvel at how awful and out of breath Axl Rose sounded. Ultimately I wrote a paragraph, and only because it popped into my head and I didn’t want to forget it. Then I left the file open the rest of the day as a good-hearted testament to my desire to write something later. Which I didn’t.

This is not terribly uncommon for me. It’s likely the primary reason why I have only published two books thus far. Yeah. Likely.

Today, I went to a cafe. My usual spot. Usual time, when I know it will be mostly empty for two hours, yet the coffee is still fresh from the end of the lunch rush. Still, as the caffeine train wailed at the station, distraction happened. I people watched. They played Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys so my brain was like, No worries, dude, I know these lyrics. Check it, and proceeded to continually interrupt my flow. I managed to write Chapter Three, knowing it will likely be gutted later because it probably sucks. But it’s written, which is still better than not. And because I vowed to keep this blog project raw, I’m posting it despite my insistence that I log out immediately and go edit.

Not that I could. It has to sit for a day before I can look at it again. Distance and all. Like revisiting a soup the day after you make it. Sometimes it’s better than you thought. So, here it is. Agatha’s thirteenth birthday, and the chapter–more or less, since this is all narrative–the story told me I need to start Agatha’s tale with. As I said, it will look different at some point.

This puts me at exactly 6,100 words, or roughly 6.8% of my target of 90,000 (which would be about 300 printed pages). After this, Chapter Four will return us to the present, with a surprise awaiting Agatha.

As always, comment away. I welcome the input.

Chapter Three (Word Doc)

Chapter Three (.pdf)

Day Five: Inside the Outside of the Dog’s Inside World

Project Stats:

4,619 of 90,000 words complete (5.13%)

In Anointed, one of the many lengthy ramblings I utilize to open a chapter has something to do with a dog’s perspective. I can’t really profess to know the first thing about a dog’s perspective, owing to my lack of being one, but not being something never kept a writer from writing about being one, so why should I be any different? Anyhoodles, it goes like this:

It is the general opinion of most compassionate and caring animal
enthusiasts that human beings are without heart in forcing dogs to be left to
suffer the elements of nature under a dilapidated structure of rotting wood and
rusty nails, if any is offered at all. Most often, they would say, this particular
brand of cruelty to these loyal, loving beasts of nature brings about irreparable
harm to the fragile psyche of the pooch in question. The dog becomes a
defeatist, a beaten spirit in a lonely world of dark shadows and torrential
downpours, and a borderline anemic amidst the brutal blood-sucking assault
of ticks, fleas and mosquitoes.
They would say this.
Dogs, on the other hand, have a much more personalized and simplistic
perspective. Outside is Inside, Inside is Outside; rain is a cooling gift from
heaven, a bath is the unbearable warmth of a liquefied hell; a petting is a
trolley ride through Pleasure, a brushing is open-eye surgery under the
unforgiving shear of a chainsaw; a tick or flea or mosquito is an unwarranted
annoyance, and a flea collar is an open invitation to a severe thrashing at the
paws of the three nomadic Dobermans down the road.
Dogs would say this.
And who would be right but the one holding the perspective?
After all, someone will always be at the mercy of another’s perspective,
whether it be at the hands of a well-meaning Master, or the seemingly
distraught, but actually carefree, antics of a dog Outdoors. Or
Indoors…perspectives accounted for, of course.

Seems rather egocentric to quote myself, but there you go.

Point is, everything is about perspective. For example, when working through a chapter, a clear perspective of all the facets of that particular beginning, middle and end, aren’t entirely clear until the last word is written. Today, as I rounded out Chapter Two of what is now called The Progenitor (Specimen A may become the title of a separate book, but who knows!), it occurred to me that my earlier perspective lacked all the necessary details. So I added them. A few line from Agatha’s mother, some clarification over what Ag’s motivation is, and some refining of The Incident with Justin that has her so out of sorts. Therefore, in that What-You-Read-Before-Still-Exists-On-Some-Level kind of thing, I present Chapter Two in completion, unedited. I have also included the a file for the whole manuscript, should you rather follow it that way (allowing you to read the previous chapter(s) as you go). Frankly, I’m not yet sure which is best. Only you know what you prefer. So let me know.

I admit to being intrigued by the development of Agatha’s story. She certainly has a lot to hide. Hopefully she’ll let me in on her secrets before I try to write about them. Oh, and because someone asked where the name came from: I was heavily inspired to write by two wonderful female authors, Judy Blume and Agatha Christie. So, I combined the two names, and put the other two in as characters she knows. Just one of those fun things I get to do as a writer to pay homage to those who inspired me.

As always, I welcome all input!

Chapter Two (Word)

Chapter Two .pdf

Progenitor Manuscript .pdf

Day Four: Sometimes you just gotta ask

I don’t know everything. Hell, I barely know some things. Life is a busy place full of an infinite amount of information that is constantly changing. Working through a manuscript is no different. I know some things. I’ll never know everything. At times, it’s like I know just enough to work my way through a world and it’s trials. I’m positive the characters laugh at me when they’re off set.

As I noted in the first post on this project, my lead character jumped ship and a feisty teenage girl took his place, altering the entire scope of the story and the genre in which it was to be. This left me a little shy on information when first I sat down to tell Agatha Blume’s tale. I mean, I had all but just met the girl. We hadn’t even had a thorough conversation. Next thing I know we’re starting a chapter with her brushing her hair and having a terse exchange with her mother. And then she drops the Keeper bomb and I stopped writing.

From Chapter Two (one revision, unposted):

It should have been the worst month of her life. All that time, just ticking away into boredom. But Agatha didn’t mind time. She could deal with time. It was the Keepers that bothered her.

Wait. What? Who the hell are the Keepers? Until that moment, I had never heard of them. I mean, I figures I knew who she was talking about, but I had never called them Keepers before. In the first run at Chapter Two, she didn’t mention anything about Keepers. But in a read through, in preparation for completing the chapter, there it was. Keepers. So, I had to stop. I had to find Agatha and ask her what the hell she was talking about.

Thus, I leave for you an interview with Agatha Blume. I get what she’s up to a bit better now. I know who the Keepers are and why she calls them that. Now I can continue.

An Interview with Agatha Blume

(for the purpose of figuring out what her deal is)

Hello, Agatha. I appreciate you taking the time to help me figure exactly who you are and what you’re doing in my story.

Sure.

Tell me a little about yourself.

Um, well, I’m sixteen—seventeen in, like, four months—and I’m a Junior in High School. Please don’t ask about college. I get enough of that from my mom. My best friend is Judy—or at least she was my best friend until I saw her out with Justin at the movies. Now, I don’t know. She knew I liked him. It’s like with my hair, you know? I told her I wanted to dye it blue, to be crazy or something, and then, like, the next day her hair’s blue. It looked good too. Justin texted me after school and was all ooh, it looks hot like I wanted to hear that. I just ignored it. Well, I had a sad emoji ready, but, I mean, what good would that have done, right? He obviously likes her more than me anyway. She’s so pretty. It’s stupid.

Gotcha. So, what about—

Gotcha? That’s your response to that? I tell you my best friend stole the boy I like away from me and you say “gotcha?” Whatever.

It wasn’t meant—

Just forget it, okay? I don’t even want to talk about it.

Fine with me. How about your mom? What’s your relationship like—

Don’t ask.

Technically, I didn’t. You like to interrupt people, don’t you?

(the glare she offers is intense, and yet somewhat humorous. As if it’s taking a great deal of concentration. She might have gas for all I know.)

I do not have gas! That’s gross. Delete that.

I was about to ask about your mother. 

Whatever. She’s fine. I love her. She does mother things, though. Annoying mother things all the time. I mean, she’s a good person, right? It’s not like I don’t realize that. She just … it’s like when I’m in my room, you know? And she just barges in. She’ll knock, of course, but then it’s like she just decides that’s enough for her to come in. I’m not twelve anymore. I need my privacy. And she doesn’t let me do anything. She used to ground me if I didn’t make all A’s.

Used to?

Well, I took care of that. I just make sure I always have A’s. It’s like keeping my room clean and stuff. I just make sure it always is when she comes in my room. If we don’t have anything to fight about…. (she shrugs)

Ah, I see. I get it. You make sure everything is the way she wants it; and if it isn’t, you just … fix it.

Yeah. Something like that.

So you correct it in time. I mean, “in time”. You actually go back and change things. Make sure you know the answers to tests and have homework done and so forth.

I don’t know what you’re talking about. (Clearly her body language says otherwise.)

It’s fine, Agatha. I know what you can do. I’m just trying to understand.

Well, understand quieter. The Keepers are watching.

The Keepers? I don’t have anything about Keepers in my notes.

Oh, well, I guess everything’s all fine then. I mean, if you don’t have them in your notes, they probably aren’t even real. Just some stupid kid with her stupid story. Whatever.

Fine. Tell me who the Keepers are.

(she seems very reluctant to talk about them, shifting in her seat, looking away as if watching someone from afar.)

I don’t know who they are. I just know they watch time. It’s, like, I don’t know. I saw one once, one of the first times I moved through time. I went back two days to try to find a, well, I had lost a ring of mom’s that belonged to her mom and she got super pissed and then cried all night about it. I thought if I went back to when I last had it I could make sure it didn’t get lost. When I got there—I was in the living room—I saw some shadowy person. Like he was there, but not entirely. Some tall looking guy, really pale, you know? Like vampire pale. He was talking to another Keeper somewhere. I never saw that one. He walked past me, almost through me really. It was like he didn’t even see me. He kept talking about an infringement in time–I think that was the word–but he couldn’t place the source. He definitely wasn’t friendly. He had some gun thing. Silver. Kinda big. I don’t know. But it scared me. I just stayed and lived the next two days again rather than risk it. I didn’t move through time again for a while.

When did you first move through time?

(she laughs) My thirteenth birthday. We had a dog named Rufus. He went on a rampage through the kitchen after Judy popped a balloon. Knocked into the kitchen table and the cake went splat all over the floor. I was inconsolable. It was a Minion cake. I love those guys. It was my first non-Princess cake, and I felt pretty adult about it. Stupid, I know. I’m still not even sure how it happened. I just had this idea later that if I could have stopped Judy from popping that balloon, Rufus would have been fine and my cake would have survived.

And what happened then?

I don’t know. It was, like, one minute I was in my bed crying, thinking about that moment, the next I was just there. Judy had the balloon, but hadn’t squeezed it yet, so I just knocked it out of her hand.

And your cake was saved?

Well, no, not exactly. I actually popped the balloon when I hit it, and, well, it all just happened anyway. Splat. Minion doom.

Did you try again?

No. I mean, I thought about it, but suddenly the cake didn’t seem such a big deal. I had moved through time, you know? Cake seemed kinda silly in comparison. The Keeper thing happened a few months later. I had done it a few times in between. I was always afraid of it, actually, so I never went far. Just enough to change simple things that seemed to matter at the time A few minutes the day I missed the bus. An hour the day I threw up in Justin’s pool. The most I ever went was twelve hours or so. It was when I went back two days that the Keeper showed up. Sort of.

So you don’t really know who they are. You just call them Keepers because of time?

Something like that. I don’t know.

You haven’t seen one since?

Maybe. I sometimes think so. A reflection here or there. In a car. In my dreams. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just seeing things. Maybe they don’t even exist, but I don’t want to take a chance. I figure if I keep it under twelve hours, forward or back, I’ll be okay. I think it’s like ripples, you know?

Ripples?

Yeah. Like, imagine you’re blind and standing about five feet into a pool. And someone gets in and the ripples on the water hit you. You can’t see so you probably have a good sense of feeling where it came from, or something. If someone jumps in, yeah, definitely. If they go in like halfway or something, probably. But, like, a toe dipped in and you’d never be able to tell. So, I don’t know, I just dip a toe in here or there.

That’s actually pretty damn clever, Agatha.

Thanks. (Her cheeks are red, she’s watching her feet sway. I don’t think she gets complimented all that often.)

So, just one more question: You said the Keeper you encountered wasn’t friendly. What do you think would happen if one of them were to find you, or discover what you can do?

(She ponders this one. I think she already has an answer, but she isn’t sure if she wants to say it.)

I don’t know. It won’t be good. That I know for sure.

How so?

Because. I mean, how many people do you know who can move through time? Imagine what would happen if a bunch of people could? Other than me, right? People would be moving through time all over the place to fix everything. And, you know, like the cake, it doesn’t always work out. Might even make it worse. Some things are just supposed to happen, right? So, the Keepers have to protect time. They won’t want me doing what I do, even as small as it is.

Oh, I see. You believe they are specifically interested in protecting time and nothing else? Almost angels of time, in a way.

Right. Right. Yeah, if angels carried weird gun things and hunted little girls who just wanted to keep their moms happy. That sounds logical. Good call.

Fair point. I guess we’ll stop there. I think I understand things better now. Somewhat, anyway.

How lovely for you. I’ll go see if I can sleep and not dream horrible dreams, thanks.

Thanks for your time, Agatha. See you soon.

Whatever soon is.

Here’s the latest revision of Chapter Two:

Chapter Two (Revised)

Day Three: It’s about time, sort of

I used to watch Family Ties as if it were some type of religious experience. My world centered around my day of worship with the Keaton clan. I read from the Book of Alex P. Keaton, citing passages to any who would listen for the week to come. I could probably come up with a communion reference, but I’m too stumped on what to do with hymns to make it that far. Actually, I’m a cup of coffee short of anything useful at this point. Do run if that frightens you. I’ll understand. For the rest of you, I’ll just state the show was a profound cornerstone of my television watching youth, and get on with it.

There was an episode in which the immense pressure to succeed drove young Alex to a product called No Doze. I want to explain what it did, but I feel as though doing so would undermine the whole ten seconds it probably took the writers to come up with that one. I think you get it. I hope you get it, because if you don’t you likely don’t understand much of anything I say.

No Doze apparently transforms one into the Fonz.

No Doze apparently transforms one into the Fonz.

I thought of this episode yesterday as I worked through what I could of Chapter Two in the oppressive bubble of time I squeezed it into. I think most people imagine writers carving out long periods of the day, hunched over a screen, snack drawer askew, ringlets of drinks past scarred along the desk surface, the absolute presence of silence draped like a canopy of protection against potential distraction. For the record, this isn’t a real thing. At least not to those of us who like to keep the companies we owe money to happy. For the marginal few who have lovely wonderful delightful people who pay them to write–bless them so–this still isn’t a real thing. They just don’t have to deal with bubbles of time. Bubbles of children, perhaps. But they did that to themselves.

I managed 425 words yesterday. 425 words that represent 0.0047222% of the total projected length of 90,000 words. For those of you who don’t like to math, that’s less than 1%. It took me just under an hour to present the universe with these 425 words. I have no idea how many of those 425 words will survive. If we go by the standard that 1 in 1,000 baby sea turtles survive into adulthood, then you get a fair approximation as to how many words of my 425 children will emerge from a first draft and survive into a published book. There’s a high degree of attrition with words.

If I had No Doze, I could probably knock a book out fairly fast. I’d have time. Time in which there would be no bubble, no oppressive need to hurry, no disruption. Then again, in the 80’s, researchers at the University of Chicago determined that mice who were deprived sleep over a period of two weeks began to have their bodies break down and literally draw them to death. So, I guess sleep is important. Even Alex eventually learned that. Science found the whole Let Sleepless Mice Die experiment odd enough that they tried it again two decades later. No Doze. No such a great idea. Back to my bubble it is then.

What made me ponder the whole No Doze story was no so much the little writing I did in the little time I had available. No. It was the pesky story that popped up a few hours later to say, Hey, maybe you should have started that chapter this way…

Ugh. What a bastard. And it might be right. Probably is. Maybe. Likely.

Damn it.

Regardless the plan is the plan. Write the book. Edit it later.

For now, Chapter Two introduces us to Judy Christie Christie Blume Agatha Blume in a way that I find fitting enough not to make any changes. The story wants me to lay out exactly what is going on in the first sentence. I get that. I may actually agree. But I’m still trying to understand who Agatha is and what to do with her. I’m not ready to toss her in the deep end yet. I want her to sit with me on the steps and observe for a while. Get acclimated to the temperature. Build up the courage to make the leap.

And with that, my bubble of time has elapsed. The second one arrives later. I need that for Chapter Two. In the meantime, here’s the completely unedited 425 sea turtles trying to make it to the ocean. Adulthood is another matter altogether.

Chapter Two

            Agatha Blume paused mid-stroke, brush locked in a battle with a tuft of brown curl, and waited for the knock. The three-beat wake-up call arrived on time, precise, pointed, her mother’s voice muffled through the door. Same as every morning.

“Agatha, sweetie, time to wake up.”

The door opened, as if her words were all the invitation she needed, her mother’s slim face wedging into view. Once upon a time, Agatha had complained about the invasion of her privacy. That the least her mother could do is wait for an answer. That had lasted a week, until Hurricane Betty tore her apart, leaving a trail of verbal debris that included bills paid, meals cooked, clothes washed and general momness employed over her time on this Earth. Agatha had realized then that arguing with her mother accomplished nothing.

Fortunately, she found another way to deal with it. Her mother couldn’t annoy her if she had nothing to annoy her about. No annoyance, no arguing, no yelling, no grounding, no problem. From her thirteenth birthday on peace had reigned, and she had no desire to break the unspoken truce.

She just needed to be careful about it. A toe in the water here and there. Enough to stay ahead of the arguments. Too much and her mother would be the least of her problems.

“I’m up.” She set to brushing her hair, fighting through a new tangle. Some days she thought it would be best just to chop it all off and be done with it. But she didn’t have that kind of face. The kind without freckles. The kind that didn’t require hair to make it worth looking at. She wasn’t that kind of pretty. Truthfully, she wasn’t sure she was any kind of pretty. The hair, frustrating though it could be, at least framed her face well. Made her blue eyes pop. Or so she’d been told by Justin.

Granted, that was before Friday had happened. She’d had the whole weekend to come to terms with the fact that Justin’s opinions no longer mattered.

“Oh. So you are. I didn’t hear you. I’m beginning to think you don’t need me anymore.”

She was across the room in a few quick steps, staring at Agatha’s reflection in the mirror, taking the brush from her hand. The curls obeyed her sweeping strokes in a way Agatha could never manage.

“You’re growing up so fast. Where has the time gone?”

Agatha stared into her mother’s reflection, fighting a smile. “Nowhere as far as I can tell.”

Day Two: In which one may not be one at all

A hero is only a hero unless they aren’t. A bit hard to be a hero if you’re edging off screen at the moment the crisis begins. Likewise, a confident Well, by Golly, I used to be a hero doesn’t do much for a gathered crowd short of create a swell of sympathy for the fallen.

I mean, in The Matrix, Neo goes to see the Oracle, uncertain about what he will hear, and hears the bad news that he is not The One. Only he is. He just has to believe it for it to be true. He just has to make a choice for it to be true. What if the Oracle had said Well, you were The One, until you weren’t. Tough too bad for you, huh?

That would be kind of deflating, I think. Like landing the lead in Broadway musical, seeing your name in the early publicity, then getting the boot a few days before the curtain first opens. Then who are you? You’re the street name people can’t recall without using GPS. The Mexican place–um, whatever it was called–where you had that great burrito that one time. That kid you knew once in elementary school that punched you in the ear. What was his name again? You are the person that Google was created for, because without it you never existed at all.

So, that in mind, meet Donnell Shepherd. He’s a sweet guy. Forty, a bit autistic, terribly fascinated with time, and a severe thorn in my side. Why for, you ask? Well, he’s the former lead of Specimen A. The one who quit then came back after his slot was filled and asked for a job, any job that allowed him to stay on with the project. I told maybe him something had opened up, but I’d have to check with the story and I couldn’t guarantee permanence. Three books is a lot of space to devote to a story and if I just tossed him in Willy-Nilly and it threw a fit about him not being invited, he might find himself dead all quick like. It was beyond my control, I said. Just one of those writing things. He pondered it a few days, then showed up out of nowhere when I was driving back from Richmond, all eager to sign on and confident he could convince the story he was a vital cog worth keeping.

Ha. As if the story cares about anyone.

Look, in the words of Gordon Ramsey: Here’s the thing. You can’t trust a story. Oh, sure, it’ll lead you in with kind words, stroke your ego, tell you how pretty you look in that dress, and wonder aloud how such a creation could be wandering about without someone latched onto your arm. You’ll swoon, giggle, blush, and loose all ability to speak whatever language it is you thought you knew but seem to no longer be able to recall. It’ll pour you some tea, talk about where it sees your relationship going, lead you onto your path and then SQUASH YOU LIKE A BUG.

The story is like your older brother who told you that one time you’d absolutely love being spun around by an arm and leg until your glasses fly off, the blood rushes to your head, and you nearly loose consciousness while you cry. If I had known I would have been spun into an alternate dimension, I might have said no. I mean, you. If you had known. This isn’t about me. Never was.

Ahem.

The most improbable part of this is that Donnell’s pleas worked, to a degree. He not only got his job back, but he got dropped into the first chapter as the focal point of view. Now, it remains to be seen what context his POV maintains going forward, but who wouldn’t want to be aboard the Rebel ship trying to evade capture from the Star Destroyer in the opening of A New Hope? Except the rebels, that is. That didn’t end well for them. Whatever. Moot point. He’s the lead into the story. I’m still not sure how he managed it. God, I hope he didn’t sleep with the story. Gross.

Nah, Donnell’s a nice guy. He wouldn’t do that.

Besides, there’s a very real chance this version of Chapter One doesn’t make the cut. It might not be Chapter One at all. It feels like a Chapter One, but the original Chapter One in Anointed felt like a Chapter One and yet became Chapter Three in the final edits. The existing Chapter One came out of nowhere to steal the lead at the last minute. The current Chapter One of The Storyteller was Chapter One from the beginning, only notably different by way of the fourteen-thousand, five hundred and sixteen edits it’s undergone. By Universal edict, I’m required to say that number may be exaggerated a bit, but you can’t convince me it’s by much.

So, all that in mind, here is a look at the newly minted Chapter One of Specimen A. I’m pleased with it. Donnell showed himself well, and what he experiences is the catalyst to everything that will follow. I have attached a Word document and a .pdf, so that you have options. Options are good. Even Donnell would agree, providing those options allowed him to get to work on time. Read up. Please offer your thoughts in the comments (though my posts on social media are fine as well). This is meant as an interactive project, and I’d love to hear what you have to say as I drop bits of the book in (and ramble about mostly nothing otherwise).

Happy reading. Nah-noo nah-noo.

Chapter One Original (Word Document)

Chapter One Original PDF