In late December 2017, a friend directed me to The Book Smugglers ‘Awakenings’ Writing Contest. The idea behind the contest – a speculative fiction short story/novella based on the theme of “awakening” – intrigued me, so I kicked around some possible ideas before one particular concept clicked. Here’s the very first original sentence I wrote for it:
At first, I thought I could pull it off before the December 31 deadline: a short story about agent Seven and his handsome young charge, navigating the adventures of first lay and first love. But, as so often happens when a character grabs my imagination, Seven’s story became larger, more complex, and demanded more words. And more time. The deadline passed, and I had written only a fraction of the story Seven wanted me to tell. A new character entered the mix. An existing character wanted a bigger role. The main supporting character had a change of heart. And everyone’s conflicts came to a joined head that put all of them in danger from a common enemy.
The things we do for love (of a story).
So, what happened? Well, I wrote it all: every character, every subplot, every conflict. I put it all down in my main document and kept pressing toward that goal of writing The End. Far longer than I’d originally intended – five months and three days, to be exact – I finished this story. It went through changes, updates, even some 180-degree turns. But, I love it.
I’ve always thought that stories are better when they’re shared, even the flawed ones. This one, no doubt, has its flaws, but in my experience, flaws are easier to see when you open them up to other eyes. So, I’m opening this story up to you, my friends and fellows. It didn’t succeed in its original purpose (that is, for submission to that Book Smugglers writing contest), but it did succeed in fulfilling my hopes for a new story.
~More than “Just a Job”~
My original thematic catchphrase for this story was “Just a Job”, and, if you decide to read it, you’ll probably see why. As the words – and weeks – went on, though, I decided that wasn’t the most descriptive title. In its place, I’m calling this one “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind”. (My other idea was “More Than the Sum”…but that titles was already taken by somebody on Goodreads. And if I ever decide to post this story there, I want it to stand out.)
Over the coming month, I’ll be posting each section/chapter of “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind” here on this website. Starting June 7, you can read a new section every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. If you’re on my subscriber list, I’ll be turning off email update notifications for the individual story posts. But, I’ll be linking to them in my various social media feeds. At the end of the updates, I will collect all sections into a single document suitable for download or reading on your e-device. (psst! There’s even a chance I’ll put it into real book form, for both your and my shelf!) As for the story itself, you can “Like” or comment or not; that is always your choice. I’m just interested in sharing Seven’s story.
I recently returned from a long weekend holiday in London, England. I took daily notes in a travelogue, of sorts, just because I wanted to keep the memories of the little things I experienced, and writing them down always helps. Some folks wanted to see my handwritten notes, though they are mostly illegible. Still, I’ll share a few highlights. (Typed translations included to read my scrawl):
Our first chuckle came at Immigration, when the officer asked what we are going to do while here in the UK. I said, “Pubs and walking,” and he replied, “I like the sound of the first one! The second one, not so much.”
Did the walk past Buckingham Palace and Westminster (where we got lost), on our way to Cask. There, I had a tall, refreshing Rothaus Wheat and a burger that REALLY hit the spot.
Coffee and tea at Kaffeine, along with some egg-and-salmon croissants that were quite tasty. From there, we planned a long-ish day of walking, up to the “Spaced” house in Islington. Walked through Kentish Town – which had some very trippy graffiti – and Camden, and found the old house in question, where husband got some pictures. We took a walk up to Hampstead Heath, as well, just because it was so close. Gorgeous windy day for the walking dogs!
“Pissing rain” for part of the afternoon, but we got a reprieve with some very tasty – if pricey – sushi at Murakami. The soft-shelled crab was so good, we had to order 2! It was a bit too much to get dessert there, so we picked up some macarons and a parfait – and a few more beers to try – from Whole Foods, and went back to the hotel for an early night. A good thing, since we were both very tired and ended up sleeping for about 9 hours! Walking so many miles every day will do that, though.
Walked by 10 Downing Street, but Larry was “napping.” We did see the Horse Guard’s Parade, or at least part of it.
Meeting Beth and Vanessa today. Very excited! I hope I don’t end up being a stereotype [sic] American and making an ass of myself.
Turned out, I didn’t have to worry! We had a very nice time chatting, drinking, and eating at Lowlander Cafe, a Belgian bar in Covent Garden. After, we had tea at Pret a Manger – which I’m still not certain how to pronounce – before we parted ways. I may need to go out to Kent next time, though.
We travelled out to Brighton, on the coast. It’s very much a seaside town; parts of it reminded me of Harbram. We stopped for a pint at another chain-type pub, and after that took the bus out to The Seven Sisters cliffs. The train to Brighton was about an hour plus, and the bus ride just about an hour, as well, so it was mid-afternoon before we got to walk around the cliffs area. It was gorgeous, though, with sheep and cows and a real English countryside feel.
I loved the vibe walking through the park. The parks were my favorite part of this trip, as they usually are for my vacations. Saw lots of birds and dogs, and it just felt so peaceful and welcoming.
Imperial was very much like home. The students and faculty walking around, doing university business, really made me feel like I belonged there. The bustle of Piccadilly was exciting, but the atmosphere around Imperial was much more my speed. I’m glad I got the chance to walk around the campus by myself before we left. I would definitely go back there and through Hyde Park, next time we’re in London.
Hoping for a smooth plane ride home to Philadelphia. Meanwhile, story ideas are coursing through my head for the flight…. <3
I appreciate how lucky I am to be able to travel and have experiences away from home. My family, friends, and colleagues all helped me prepare for, cope with, and enjoy this vacation, in a way I couldn’t have done were I alone. Even though I was supposed to be alone for a portion of this holiday, and I was looking forward to that me-time, I am glad that I got to experience it together with my husband, as it became something of a second honeymoon, for us. Adventures that take us to new places – and new places within ourselves – are exciting when we’re on our own…but they can also be so much more fulfilling when we have someone to share them with.
The crunch-time of vacation merrymaking didn’t allow for as much writing as I might have gotten were I by myself, but I did manage to finish the story linked to below on the plane ride home. It has nothing to do with vacationing, but I don’t know the next chance I’ll get to indulge myself in writing younger Rob, Paige, and Daniel.
“Just a Man”
[~6800 words / 26 pages DS; PDF opens in a new window]
Have you enjoyed any adventures, recently? What do you like best about vacations? What are your favorite (in)activities while on holiday? Do you keep a travelogue while you’re on the move?
One of the things that Mr. Guy talks about over at The Red Pen of Doom is keeping your pitch simple. Four words or less, he suggests, to give a basic summary of your novel. From there, you can elaborate to a sentence and then a paragraph, but those four words need to sum up the gist of your story.
Brought to you by the number 4.
Four words? Even my comics creator friend, Pete Stathis, suggested the seven-word synopsis. I had issues coming up with seven words to sum up my story, but, compared to four, seven would be cake.
Anyway, since reading that article about the simple pitch, I’ve been trying on and off for the last several weeks to come up with something suitable. Everything sounds so trite, though. I’m trying to stay universal, since one of the other suggestions made over at the Red Pen of Doom is that the hero doesn’t matter (not to the pitch, anyway): it’s the conflict that’s really important.
That piece of advice should probably make my task easier…except that it doesn’t.
I asked my mother for advice about this (so you know that I’m desperate). She asked what a pitch was, to start, and then said, “So, if I were to write my life story, my pitch would be something like, Memoirs of a Gaido-san, yes?” (Gaido-san is Engrish for “Miss/Madame Tour Guide.”)
Damn it if my mother isn’t better at this than I am.
Your typical "gaido-san"
For anyone who’s taken a peek at Fearless, it’s about this carefree and callous surfer-type who falls in love with the bold new girl in the village, blah blah blah, and I’ve likely lost you already. The main focus of the story is really about their relationship, coming to terms with their past and present mistakes and misconceptions, and how a single accident can change the way that they approach their lives. There are no invaders from space, no marauding pirates. So, how do I compress that story of love and relationships into four words and still make it interesting?
Whenever I consider my four-word pitch, I’m dogged by cliched, general phrases that ultimately say nothing about the story. If I read these on a poster with a graphic, maybe something would click, but probably not. To give you an idea, I’m stuck with such trite fare as: “Healing isn’t just physical,” and “One accident changes everything.” Or the oh-so basic, “What’s love without fear?” (Because the story deals a lot with these people’s fears: fear of trust, fear of loss, fear of letting go of the people whom you love.)
But none of these have really grabbed me. And if they don’t grab me, they don’t have a chance in Hell of grabbing you.
Painting by Dolk.
If only I could use this as my pitch.
So, it’s back to the drawing board, for me and this project. I’m coming in to the home stretch on my first draft (denouement left, now), and then it’s off for some light (followed by heavy) editing. In the meantime while I finish up the big text, though, I guess I have plenty of work to do on the little text.
(Wait, wait! How about “Love, by accident“? Nah. Didn’t think so.)