Rumor Mill (#NaNoWriMo2017)

Rumor Mill (#NaNoWriMo2017)

Our Story So Far…

If you’re just arriving, you may want to start with the first chapter. Here is a table of contents:

Chapter Four

The sun streaming through the curtains made my head throb. “Never drink wine on a Tuesday night,” I muttered, rolling out of bed and blindly feeling my way to the bathroom. Stumbling into the shower, I adjusted the temperature by feel and nearly scalded my face and breasts. As I spun away and adjusted the knob in a panic, icy water cascaded over my spine and brought me fully awake with a sharp squeal. I soothed insulted skin with a generous lather of bracing rosemary, eucalyptus, and grapefruit scented body wash. I smelled as good as last night’s roasted chicken, and fresher than the icy Prosecco I washed it down with.

I dealt with a deadly case of morning breath, careful not to turn Listerine into “hair of the dog.” A tiny bit of foundation, just enough to caulk the worst of the crevices, and a little tint to the eyelids and lips, just enough to keep from being mistaken for a corpse, and I was ready to face the onslaught of excuses for why last night’s lit homework was still undone. Half the kids in my class could’ve made an A turning those excuses in for the Tall Tales writing assignment, if only they were clever enough to think of it. I wasn’t going to make it that easy for them.

I drove down into town with the windows rolled down, enjoying the crisp, almost spring-like air. It was still only mid-March, but spring had arrived early; I refused to believe Mother Nature was pranking us all. Then again, she’d been known to fake out a certain red maple tree from year to year, goading it into blossoming twice with a warm kiss and a cold shoulder.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw students ambling into the building slowly. It was about four minutes to the first bell–no rush. Not that they’d be in a rush 8 minutes from now, either. Wednesday mornings were always a bit of a slog. Not quite a Monday, but still three days from Saturday. “Hump Day,” though I hated to call it that around randy teenagers. Might give them ideas. The janitors disliked nasty surprises in their broom closets.

“Ms. Hobbes! Ms. Hobbes!” It was Annie Lestrade, known affectionately as “Inspector” in the teachers’ lounge. Annie was an investigative reporter for the Sawyers Mill High School Sawblade, a paper whose name was intended to convey its “incisive coverage” of “cutting edge issues,” or some such rot. The faculty had barely won its argument in the free-speech battle against a circular saw blade dripping with blood. Now and then, the newspaper staff changed the logo a bit – turned it into a see-saw for April Fool’s Day and added a hockey mask to it at Halloween. They once tried to incorporate a tree stump and a turkey for Thanksgiving, but that was a little too grisly for the faculty advisor’s taste, and by then the newspaper staff had learned to choose their battles more wisely, reserving their righteous indignation for worthier arguments on meatier content.

“Morning, Annie!” I loved her enthusiasm, and she was on fire this morning.

“Do you have any insight into the incident yesterday?”

“Good morning, Annie.” I smiled pointedly.

“Sorry. Good morning, Ms. Hobbes.” She flipped a page in her notebook, pen poised expectantly, and asked again. “Do you have any insight into the incident with Mrs. Peters?”

The incident? I really was out of the loop. I pondered, perhaps a split second too long, whether it would be more prudent to ask, “What incident?” or to mutter “No comment,” and hustle my bustle to the teacher’s lounge. Either way, my curiosity was piqued. A little. That said, the last thing I wanted to deal with on a Wednesday morning was student and faculty gossip, particularly student gossip involving faculty.

I put my hand over Annie’s notebook and pushed it down to her side. “What incident, Annie? What are you talking about?”

“Someone tried to poison Mrs. Peters. At lunch, yesterday.”

So much for drama-free Wednesdays. “That’s a serious allegation, Annie.”

“I know! That’s why I’m digging into it–everyone’s talking, but you always taught us to triangulate our sources, and that there are more than two sides to any story–”

I held up a hand. “Give me a little time to catch up here, Annie. What makes you think she was poisoned?” Mrs. Peters was young, mousy, a little insecure. She was new to Sawyers Mill, new to teaching, easy to pick on. She was quiet, but still waters, as they say, often run deep. I wasn’t so sure this one ran that deep. I could imagine her suffering a self-induced case of food poisoning, but I could not think of anyone who would want to hurt her. I never wanted to say “sit on it a while” to a student reporter – past experience had taught me that was the fastest way to make a story front page headlines – but I needed to impress upon “Inspector Lestrade” that there was a huge difference between food-borne illness and poisoning. “Where is Mrs. Peters now?”

“She’s at Mercy. They took her there by ambulance after fourth period. I haven’t heard anything, they won’t talk to me. I hope she’s not–”

“I’ll check on her, Annie. I’m sure she’s not–whatever you were about to say.” At least I fervently hoped she wasn’t.

Lydia Armitage met me at the top step, held the front door open. “Meeting in the teachers’ lounge in five minutes,” she said quietly.

Photo credit: Yates Mill, by Larry Lamb

[993 words]

I usually write my stories in Word, but for NaNoWriMo 2017, I’ve decided to use OneNote 2016.

Why OneNote?

  • Accessible anywhere, on any device;
  • Focus is on content; fewer distractions with minimal formatting options or requirements;
  • Works reasonably well with Swype + Dragon keyboard on my Samsung Galaxy Note 8, if I need to take a break from typing;
  • Easy to paste back into WordPress (but like Word, it’s best done on the Text tab);
  • Easy to make plot and character notes off to one side (not as complex or complicated as Scrivener).

If you’re enjoying the story so far, please consider subscribing (see the right sidebar for how to do that) so you’ll be notified in email when a new chapter (or part of one) gets posted.

The Rest of the Story (So Far)

Bats in the Belfry (#NaNoWriMo2017)

Bats in the Belfry (#NaNoWriMo2017)

Our Story So Far…

If you’re just arriving, you may want to start with the first chapter. Here is a table of contents:

Chapter Three

Stewart opened a bottle of Prosecco, filled both our glasses to the rim with golden bubbles, then lifted his in a gesture of salutation. “To best friends,” he said. “Now you tell me about your day.”

I gave him the highlights, moving quickly past class clowns and nascent crushes to the part about me living in a creepy old mansion for a year. It had all the makings of a B-grade horror flick. I felt certain that Gran, with our shared love of gothic novels, had not overlooked that aspect of it. I was both excited and appalled to be cast in the role of innocent ingenue running away from the house. I could picture the cover of the cheap paperback in my mind. That’s what I used to call them, the pilfered paperbacks I whisked away from Gran’s room when she’d discarded them, all dog-eared and coming apart at the bindings: “The Girl Running Away from the House Books.” I could never quite figure out why; after all, the house itself was rarely villainous and often held secret rooms and wondrous libraries and breathtaking, if a bit gloomy, vistas from the cupola.

I had no idea what a cupola was; in fact, I alternated between imagining it to be a sort of cupboard or a circular tower. Only years later did I lay eyes on one, and it struck me as sort of a gazebo-like thing stuck on the top of a house. Not at all the mysterious, architectural oddity I’d built it up to be, in my mind’s eye.

I imagined, then, that a gable – as in Anne of Green Gables – was just a cupola stuck to the side of a house, rather than a belvedere plopped atop the roof. It’s no wonder I didn’t study architecture; the terminology would’ve left me with bats in my belfry.

“So, you’ll finish out the school year, then head up the coast to this Farnsworth Manor?” asked Stewart.

“That’s the plan,” I said.

“Sight unseen? You’re just going to pack your bags and go. Is there some reason you can’t drive up there this weekend and take a look at the place, see if you’re not making a huge mistake? Maybe hire a cleaning crew to make it habitable?” At my puzzled look, Stewart reminded me that Gran had been living on a houseboat for years, and had never taken me to Farnsworth as a child. “A house can get pretty dusty and musty, sitting empty all that time.”

The lovely antique furniture I’d begun to picture filling the great hall, the thick and opulent mattress I’d envisioned in the master bedroom, all that now grew dim and dark in my mind’s eye as a rat skittered from beneath the covers and darted furtively behind a wall to join a small army of flea-infested rodents hell-bent on spreading The Plague across this land, all the way to Silicon Valley. That I had an active imagination was a gross understatement. I reminded myself that we had antibiotics, now, and that the dreaded Plague was no longer the deadly, genocidal scourge once known as The Black Death.

Did I mention the dragon in the basement?

“It’ll be fine, Stewart,” I said, not at all certain that it would be, but determined not to appeal to that part of him I suspected needed someone slightly needy to take care of.

“Look, what’s the harm in taking a look? I have to admit, Janie, you’ve piqued my curiosity. Why don’t we make an outing of it? It’s just a few hours’ drive, right?”

“Won’t Devon be jealous?”

“We could bring him with us.”

“Hmm.” Not a bad idea. I was as curious about this Devon as Stewart was about my old mansion. “All right, let’s do it. But of course I won’t have a key to the place till I take full possession of it – we’ll have to find some little Bed and Breakfast place.”

So, it was all arranged. The three of us would just drive up the wild coastal highway, two weekends from now, and take a look at my new digs. It gave me some comfort to remember that it wasn’t really stuck a thousand miles from civilization, accessible only by horse-drawn carriage a hard three-days’ ride hence. I wondered if it got cell service.

I called Beau Bailey and told him my plans. It wouldn’t hurt to ask if I could get a key and take a look around the old place. The lawyer quickly set me straight.

“The will states that you can only be given the key once you’ve decided whether to live there or to sell it. In fact, she was quite adamant about that, and I was to give you a letter from her if you expressed an interest in taking a peek at Farnsworth before making your decision.”

“You have a letter from Gran and you didn’t give it to me? Damn it, Beau, the woman’s dead. Don’t play games with me. I’m not in the mood.” Wow, that came out sounding far more surly and supercilious than I’d have thought possible. “Please, Beau. What could it hurt to take a look at the Manor before committing to live there for a whole year?”

“You’ll have to read your grandmother’s letter. She hand-wrote it, sealed it with wax and an honest-to-God signet ring, and handed it to me with clear instructions to give it to you when you asked for the key, if you hadn’t given me your directive to keep or sell the place, yet.”

I sighed, exasperated. This was the sort of adventure I’d have loved to have, if only Gran were there to have it with me. The only reason I was feeling so irritable about it was that she wasn’t there to have it with me. “Fine. Can you have a courier bring the letter by the school in the morning? My conference period is 9:00 to 10:00 AM.”

“I’ll bring it by, myself, Janie.”

Photo credit: Andi Jetaime

[1000 words]

Live-blogging a novel is sort of the equivalent of karaoke for writers. Only the courageous, drunk, or daring ever try it. I’m not drunk.

If you catch me changing character names, creating settings that couldn’t possibly exist, ripping the seams on the space-time continuum with reckless abandon and glee, altering major character traits, or driving trucks through plotholes, remember that I’m discovering the story at the same rate you are.

I don’t have an outline.

We’re on this journey together, and although I’m in the driver’s seat, this might as well be one of those driverless cars. Are you having fun? I am.

If you’re enjoying the story so far, please consider subscribing (see the right sidebar for how to do that) so you’ll be notified in email when a new chapter (or part of one) gets posted.

The Rest of the Story (So Far)

Ridiculously Easy  (#NaNoWriMo2017)

Ridiculously Easy (#NaNoWriMo2017)

Our Story So Far…

If you’re just arriving, you may want to start with the first chapter. Here is a table of contents:

Chapter Two

I drove up the winding road to my little rustic bungalow in Juniper Woods. The windows were aglow with a warm, amber light.  A shadow crossed behind the sheer curtain. Someone else was in the house.

Stewart. In all of this, I’d not given poor Stewart a second thought.  I parked and got out of the car slowly, locking the doors with an audible beep halfway to the front porch. The porch light was already on; Stewart hadn’t left that to the motion sensor. Turning the key in the lock, I felt the knob turn harder from the other side and let the door slide open. Stewart smiled and took me in his arms. “Hi.”

The aroma of rosemary chicken reminded me that I hadn’t eaten lunch. It also gave me a little pang of guilt, another reminder of my thoughtlessness in failing to call Stewart, this afternoon, to say that I might be late. “Mmm. You smell good.”

“I smell like Scarborough Fair, and you look hungry.”

I inhaled. “Yep. Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme?” Stewart nodded happily. His hobby was cooking, and one of his favorite pastimes was to reinvent recipes he heard in lyrics, plays, and poems. He often had to fill in the blanks or guess at quantities, but he was a master chef and I loved coming home to a hot meal after a long day. “At the risk of sounding like some cliché heroine out of a bad novel, I’m famished. Thank you.”

How did I forget to think of Stewart, even once – fleetingly – during this bizarre day?

It was simple. Our romance had shifted, by imperceptible degrees, from tepid, gangly, awkward lovemaking to passionate friend-zone. It was comfortable, secure, and sexless. I realized, in that moment, just how much I’d come to rely on Stewart, even though I neither needed nor loved him in the way a man wants to be loved.

Why didn’t he seem to mind, more?

“I’ll just go wash up,” I said, setting a stack of student blue books on the hall table to be graded later.

Dinner was delicious. Stewart’s “Scarborough Fair Chicken” was beautifully complemented with fresh green beans from our little garden and homemade stuffing and gravy. Paired with a lovely Castello di Borghese sauvignon blanc, it was perfection after a day of work and dealing with lawyers and odd bequests. I began to think maybe I should just take the money and run.

“Janie…” Stewart spoke softly, seriously.

“Stewart, I’m sorry I didn’t call–”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” he said, waving a hand and making me feel generally worse, not better, for his instant forgiveness – almost as if there had never been anything to forgive. “We do need to talk, though.”

Uh oh.

“Sure.” I reached for the wine bottle and gave myself a generous pour. I held it up, one eyebrow cocked. Silently asking if he wanted me to do the same for him. He shook his head, no.

“I’ve found someone,” he said softly.

I wracked my brain, trying to remember who he’d lost. “Oh,” I said, stupidly, taking a large gulp of wine. “Who? I mean, when–how?”

Stewart looked down at his plate. Wow. That sounded insulting; the minute it left my lips, I wished I’d managed a more articulate way of saying, Oh, good God, it’s about time you found yourself a more attentive, loving, and possibly needy girlfriend. I’m not good at this, and this is what our relationship had been for a solid year or more. I wasn’t upset that he’d found someone. I was relieved.

Stewart choked back a gutteral sound. His shoulders quivered. “I’m sorry!” I blurted. “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded, Stewart. I meant ‘how did I not realize’ and ‘who is the lucky woman’?” I reached out to touch his face, but he looked up, eyes twinkling, and laughed out loud. Jesus, had I just been punked? “Janie, you are the most self-absorbed human being I have ever met, and I love you for it.”

I poured myself the last of the bottle. I didn’t bother trying to deny it, and that made Stewart chuckle even more.

“Well, I’m all ears, now,” I said, smiling back.

“HIS name is Devon.”

What the ever-loving bloody hell? “You’re leaving me for someone named Devon?” I stammered, as if the name was the thing–the straw that broke the camel’s back–never mind that Devon was a dude. I mean, Steve, John, Patrick, George – that would’ve been fine and dandy, right? But Devon? My jaw dropped as the initial shock wore off. Just how unobservant and self-absorbed does a woman have to be, for her boyfriend to leave her for a man and she’s surprised? I started to laugh. It began as a single, stifled giggle and burst forth as a snort before going full-blown guffaw. “I’m sorry, it’s just–you’re leaving me for a guy?”

“I’m not doing this to hurt you. I hope we can still be friends,” said Stewart, turned all serious again. Looking genuinely concerned for my feelings.

“I’ve been friend-zoned!” I cried. “Oh my God!” I laughed out loud, then, and so did he. This had to be the easiest, most ridiculous break-up in the history of break-ups. “You’re leaving me. For a guy. Named Devon. Have you always been–”


“I was going to say ‘prone to surprises,’ but sure. Gay.” It would explain a lot about our mutual contentment with being little more than besties and roommates over the past year.

“I think I should be insulted that you’re surprised,” Stewart said.

“Fair enough.” That was soberingly honest. I looked across the table at the man I considered to be my best friend, and asked, “Are you? Insulted, I mean.”

“Not really,” he admitted. “I’m kind of relieved. I didn’t want to have to replace your good China. After you threw it at me. Looks expensive.”

At that, I buried my face in my palms. He’d used the good China. The special occasion, only-trotted-out-at-Thanksgiving-and-Christmas China. And I hadn’t noticed. “It’s a hand-me-down,” I said with a shrug. Family heirloom just seemed too predictably snotty to throw out there at a time like this. I was striving for “magnanimous.” And to make amends for my self-absorbed thoughtlessness. I really did love Stewart, even if it wasn’t in the ways that he needed and longed to be loved. I loved him like a brother; despite my taking him for granted half the time, he really was the best friend I had in the world.

Stewart smirked. He knew me too well. The China had belonged to my Grandmother. I’d dropped a cup, not long ago – right after receiving the news that she’d been lost at sea – and I bawled like a baby. If I’d thrown a dinner plate at him, I’d have had to be livid. And if I’d lobbed a silver fork at him, I would not have missed his face at such close range. I was pretty sure, considering the bombshell he’d just dropped in my lap, that I would miss his face. I was already beginning to, a little. Living at Farnsworth Manor for a year might work out perfectly, after all.

“Stewart?” I said. “I have something to tell you, too.”

Photo credit: Jules

[1219 words]

Live-blogging a novel is sort of the equivalent of karaoke for writers. Only the courageous, drunk, or daring ever try it. I’m not drunk.

I’m off to a late start on NaNoWriMo, but I have a renewed determination to catch up. Turns out, the pain is just a flare-up of the usual ridiculous radiculopathy. Adding oral steroids to the usual short-term cocktail of Celebrex and Flexeril seems to be doing the trick already. (Of course I only mention the drugs, here, to increase the search traffic and bump up the blog rank!)

If you’re enjoying the story so far, consider subscribing (see the right sidebar for how to do that) so you’ll be notified in email when a new chapter (or part of one) gets posted.

The Rest of the Story (So Far)

The Road to Hell (#NaNoWriMo2017)

The Road to Hell (#NaNoWriMo2017)

Chapter One

Joe Krebs and I stared at one another like two small dogs issuing a half-hearted challenge over an old ham bone buried too long in the mud. Neither of us could win, but it was a way to pass the time. I caught Scotty DeLuca cutting his eyes over at the clock, as if its sweeping second hand wouldn’t be within two Mississippis of where he left it last time he looked. Monica Scott twirled her hair with her non-dominant hand while struggling to muster the will to move a pencil with the other. Yricka Gaines yawned, closed her composition book slowly, and laid her pencil off to one side, straightening it until it aligned perfectly with the top of the top of the desk. As if to test her knowledge of physics, she cocked her head to one side, reached out with thumb and forefinger, and gave the pencil a sudden spin. It flew right off the desk and clattered to the floor at Jimmy Hanson’s feet. His eyes never left the page in front of him as he kicked it away with a slight grunt of irritation. Did I just imagine the smile, equally slight, from under that sullen brow, half hidden beneath a parted curtain of auburn hair?

It was my turn to look towards the clock and fidget with my pen.

At long, long last, the bell rang. I wonder if any of the students realized that their teacher did not enjoy test days any more than they did? The still silence, punctuated by the occasional cough or grating of chair legs on linoleum as bored butts shifted to give a cheek or an elbow a rest, was hardly the highlight of my morning. I couldn’t even read a trashy novel to pass the time; it would shatter the illusion that I was watching them like a hawk, lest one of them allow their eyes to stray to their neighbor’s blue book. In reality, the rare cheater among them had only to look to the graffiti so artfully scribbled on their denim-clad thighs, or surreptitiously glance at the temporary tattoos they’d inked on the insides of their wrists and palms, as if my generation hadn’t thought that one up. Fortunately, such miscreants were not common here at Cliffside High. These were good kids, for the most part.

I loved them all. I remembered when I loved teaching, and as the bell zapped me from my reverie, I realized it was a distant memory. Now, I only stayed as if I were saving my charges from an even more boring fate wrapped up in blue-haired meanness or a youthful dependence on pre-packaged lesson plans and half-assed experiments with cutting edge teaching methods. These kids didn’t have cutting edge needs; they had hungry little sponges for brains that sometimes reeked of the weirder parts of YouTube, like stale dishwater. My job was to wring out the muck and drop them into the bright, sudsy world of books and lively discussions.

And mercilessly strained metaphors. I was fully engaged in that task.

“Language and Literature” was a tepid hybrid of two courses the Ancient Once called “English” and “Literature,” respectively. In their heyday, they were given double the time and resources; the current version was now innovatively smushed into a brief 50 minutes a day and the district-mandated textbook was a colorful and wholly inadequate introduction to hackneyed classics and basic rules of grammar. I didn’t blame the kids for hating everything about it; they were as bored with it as I was. I gathered up my things and left with the class. It was lunch time for them, coffee in the teachers’ lounge for me. I toyed with the idea of taking up smoking again, but let the thought pass just as quickly as it came.

“Janie, there was a call for you.” The department secretary, Lydia Armitage, extended her hand in a sharp, horizontal salute and handed me a tiny pink Post-It flag marked, “While You Were Out.” She clicked her heels as she executed a snappy, 180 degree turn and strode to the door between the lounge and the office. I read her impeccable scrawl: “Meet at Sawyers, Bailey, and Krebs today. Two o’clock. Don’t forget, this time.” Who said I’d forgotten, last time? 

“Lydia,” I called out. “I’m leaving early. Get Don to cover bus duty, please.”

I supposed I’d put off meeting with Gran’s lawyers as long as I could. I knew, in my head, that she had died, but as long as her will went unread, I could imagine that it was all just a horrible mistake. Gran had died as she lived, adventurously. No one was quite sure where, but her houseboat had come unmoored in the Florida Keys during a freak storm, and vanished in the area they call “The Bermuda Triangle.” I liked to think she’d found the Lost Continent of Atlantis, reunited with Grandpa, and was now sipping Jamaican rum punch somewhere tropical and warm. The more mundane truth was that the Coast Guard had found bits of her boat, a small waterproof safe designed to float, and several life vests, including a purple one emblazoned with her name in gold lettering, near Vieques. With that as evidence, she was declared legally dead. They had not searched long for a body, but there was no one who believed that an eighty-seven year old woman could survive the squall in the Atlantic’s rough and icy water. Even I had to admit it was unlikely, despite knowing Gran to be a strong and enthusiastic swimmer and an avid surfer into her mid-seventies.

At least she hadn’t died in bed. Gran would’ve hated for anyone to pity her as an old invalid.

I checked in with Ms. Jones, the receptionist at Sawyers, Bailey, and Krebs. She directed me to a small conference room and brought me coffee and cookies. I recognized the cookies from Lacey Flowers’ Bakery, and nodded thanks. You don’t turn down Lacey Flowers’ homemade chocolate chunk and black walnut cookies – not if you’re sane and know what’s good for you. The coffee was strong and black. “Would you like me to bring you some cream and sugar?” asked Ms. Jones.

I knew James Gordon Krebs from parent-teacher conferences. Darienne Sawyers and I had gone to high school together; I’d have voted her most likely to leave this one-horse town without a backward glance, but here she was, heading up our largest law firm. Which is to say she had an office on Main Street and very little competition. Beau Bailey had been Gran’s favorite; he was the lawyer she chose to draft her will. I was, apparently, the sole beneficiary and executor of her estate. I knew nothing about being executor of anything. Gran was the only family I’d ever known. I wished fleetingly for a sister, or for my mother to come back from the dead, if only to deal with all the fiduciary complexities of death. I didn’t want this responsibility. I wasn’t particularly eager for any “inheritance,” either. I’d have preferred for Gran to hop out of the law firm’s broom closet and yell, “Punked ya, kid! Oh, the look on your face!”

Gran had a wicked sense of humor, but she was never mean. There’d be no jumping out of broom closets. Or airplanes. Or houseboats. Ever again. I knew, then, that her laughter was what I would miss most.

Beau Bailey opened the door to the conference room and greeted me warmly. “Jane.” He smiled and shook my hand, reaching for my chair and nodding for me to sit. I could see why Gran liked him.

“Jane, I’ll be brief. As I mentioned when we spoke on the phone, you are the sole beneficiary of your grandmother’s will. She did not have any debts to settle, so there’s very little that you need to do as executor of her will. She did have one unusual directive…”

“Oh?” I thought back to some of the games we’d played when I was a child, and I sensed that “unusual” might be an understatement. “Do tell.”

Beau nodded, and began to read aloud: “Janie, I always intended to take you to Farnsworth Manor one day. It was handed down from your Grandfather’s side of the family, and there just never did seem to be a good time for us to go. You know what they say about ‘good intentions.’” At that, I cracked a smile.

Beau continued reading the will. As it turned out, Farnsworth Manor was located on a promontory the locals called “Satan’s Finger,” overlooking a roiling chasm at the base of the rock into which the tide poured and from which it spewed in a great fountain twice daily – a phenomenon that had been dubbed “The Devil’s Cauldron.” Apparently the road to Hell was paved with good intentions, after all, and even from beyond the grave, Gran and I could still share a laugh.

The Manor had stood empty for thirty years. As a single mom with a little girl to care for, Gran had moved to a charming, cheerful little town and found a job. Technically, she didn’t need the money. Grandpa had left her well-off, but it wasn’t in her nature to be idle, even if she was rich. She had an example to set, now, too. There would be no Cinderella fantasies for her girl; Gran would raise her daughter to be strong-minded, strong-willed, and fiercely independent. Gran had envisioned her daughter as President – or maybe a judge on the Supreme Court. My mother had other plans. She wanted to be a pilot. Or maybe a storm chaser. An astronaut, perhaps.

Gran thought that the cliffside manor house was simply too gloomy to be good for an energetic, growing girl. Her first visit to the house had raised goosebumps on the nape of her neck. She had grown to love it, but it was no place for a boisterous, happy child. Children needed sunshine and a community noisy with other children.

“It’s just the sort of place for you to write your novel, Janie. I know you’ll come to love it, as I did.” Beau paused in his reading. “Now comes the hard part.”

“Just spit it out.” I knew there had to be a catch.

“You must make a choice, Janie: Live in the manor for a year, and you will inherit the house, the grounds, and an annuity of $30,000 a year. Or sell the house, take a lump sum payment in cash, and try to forget about the last adventure we’ll never have together.”

“What’s the house worth?” I asked. Even asking the question felt like a betrayal; I felt it the moment the words left my lips.

“About $1.7 million,” said Beau. He tried to hide his disappointment, but I saw it flicker in his eyes like a guttering candle flame. “I have to be honest, though. I’m not sure $30,000 a year is enough to make it livable.”

I studied Beau’s expression. He’d never make it as a trial lawyer in the big city; he was too easy to read. “She really hoped I’d live there a while, didn’t she?”

He nodded.

“Any idea why it mattered to her?”

“Not a clue.” Beau stared at me with the best lack of expression he could muster. It wasn’t good.

“A HINT?” I pleaded.

He shook his head. “Not until you decide.”

Unlike the hapless heroines of the gothic romance novels I used to devour when Gran was done reading them, I was neither penniless nor without prospects. I would have to give notice at work and finish out the semester. I couldn’t just leave the kids at the mercy of a substitute indefinitely. I had a lease to break.

Gran had never asked for much. If this meant something to her, how could I ignore that?

Gran had made provisions for the house to remain unsold for the period of three years, so that I would not have to simply drop everything and run off to live an inconvenient fantasy. Because no matter how they tell it in the novels, putting your real life on hold for a year is a damned nuisance. I considered saying no.

Thirty thousand dollars and a house in the middle of nowhere – correction, perched on the tip of Satan’s Finger, poised to stir The Devil’s Cauldron – would not last as long as it did a hundred years ago. And there was no brooding, dark-haired lord of the manor waiting to sweep me off my feet (no doubt after getting on my last nerve and causing me to think he’d murder me in my sleep). If I said no, then according to Gran’s will I would get a nice chunk of cash and break her heart. She didn’t actually write “break my heart,” but I knew Gran and I knew she wouldn’t have made it sound like an irresistibly spooky dare from one of our favorite books if it hadn’t been important to her. And so I sighed. “Fine. I’ll…go live in the creepy house.” One last adventure. I could survive anything for a year.

[2200 words]

Live-blogging a novel is sort of the equivalent of karaoke for writers. Only the courageous, drunk, or daring ever try it. I’m not drunk.

I’m off to a late start, due to some intense shoulder pain – and yes, I’m getting it checked out this week. I was tempted not to mention it at all – part of my “no excuses” policy when it comes to NaNoWriMo, but I’m worried, and if it comes down to a choice between working or NaNoNoveling, work wins. If it comes down to a choice between rest or losing mobility, rest wins. I can’t type fast enough to out-type this one, and that scares me a little.

But my other motto is “Suck it up, Buttercup!” so here we go!

The Rest of the Story (So Far)

You’ll find this link at the top and bottom of subsequent chapters – it’s a dynamically generated Table of Contents, so it will get longer as the story grows! I’d hate for anyone to jump into Chapter Ten, first, then get lost finding their way through the story.

The Road to Hell (#NaNoWriMo2017)

Countdown to NaNoWriMo!

Some of you have already started writing, but for those of us in the United States – where NaNoWriMo got its “Na” – we’re still a good 45 minutes to launch. Getting excited? For me, it’s tradition to stay up till midnight an write, at the very least, “In the beginning…” More can wait until I’ve had a good night’s sleep, especially when November 1 falls on a Wednesday, a work day.

Here are a few last minute tips and a blast from the past.

Writing Healthy

Write Healthy. NaDruWriNi (National Drunk Writing Night) is a fun parody of NaNoWriMo, and I can get into the spirit of it, but alcohol just makes me sleepy. I don’t write wild and crazy stuff after having a drink or three, I crash. Same goes for too much sugar, too much sodium nitrate, or too much food – period. Do not pig out on the Halloween candy!

I’ve never bought into the idea that drugs enhance creativity, either. I’ve known people who smoked pot or got drunk, and they were mostly legends in their own minds, until the high wore off. Most of them didn’t even have the good grace to be embarrassed, later; apparently, there’s a reason why people forget what they did the night before.

So while I’m not going to pass judgement on those who choose that path, I know it doesn’t work for me. And if I’m going to get through 50,000 words in thirty days – while working full time – I’m going to do it healthy. (Why, oh why, does NaNoWriMo coincide with the end of hurricane season and the beginning of flu season? At least I got my flu and tetanus shots, this year!)

Hydrate your brain. I drink too much coffee and too little water. I’m going to make an extra effort to keep a big sports bottle of water handy – filled up and chilled – throughout November.

Never skip breakfast. I learned this one from Weight Watchers. Paradoxically, if you want to lose weight, don’t skip meals. Skipping breakfast is a great way to train your body to store fat and a good way to screw up your sugar levels in the morning.

Take a good vitamin/mineral supplement. Sure, we should be getting all we need from the food we eat, but that’s assuming we’re all getting plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, and not loading up on fast food and pre-packaged convenience meals we can throw in the microwave after a long day at work. If you spend hours each day staring at a computer or mobile phone screen, you might consider adding an Omega-3 supplement, like TheraTears Nutrition, to the mix.

Exercise. It’s great for revving up the metabolism, getting trim, and staying in shape, but it’s also terrific for releasing all those lovely endorphins that make us feel relaxed, de-stressed, and happy.

Sleep. Sleep-deprivation is a nasty, evil thing. (Oh, I know, some writers swear by it. Claim it gives them visions. Claim their characters only talk to them when they’ve had two hours’ sleep in the last forty-eight. I’ll bet.) Sleep deprivation slows our reaction time and makes most of us miserable and cranky. I don’t write well when I’m miserable and cranky. I write miserable and cranky prose; I might even churn out a morbid sonnet. But it’s not good and I’m not happy or fun to be with when I’m doing that. Eight hours is an unreasonable goal during NaNoWriMo, but I’m going to aim for at least six or seven, every night.

Any more suggestions? Keep ’em simple (it’s hard enough turning over a new leaf – I don’t have time for complicated regimens right now) and share them in your comments.

My First NaNoWriMo

Proof that I was blogging before some of you were born – if you want to read my first impressions of my first National Novel Writing Month, check out NaNoNuts. It dates back to 2005. But the following entry was copied from a blog I kept in 2001:

I found my first-ever NaNoWriMo blog, from 2001. Not to scare the newbies, but I thought some of you might get a kick out of it. (Ed. note: I did actually go on to publish the @#$% thing, despite what I swore at the end of this.)

October 21, 2001

I’m ready, I’m ready! I have 50,000 other things to do before I can even THINK about starting this novel (but that will always be an excuse if I let it be, won’t it?) – and I know that October is the month to wrap up loose ends in anticipation of NaNoWriMo – but it’s all I can do not to start!! Aaarrrgggghhhh!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to write a novel in just one month? 50,000 words in 30 days? 1666.66666666667 words a day? Scary, yet irresistible idea if you’ve ever toyed with the idea of writing a novel… well, one of these days. One of these days is NOW.

October 22, 2001

They say “write what you know.” But who the heck wants to read about a happily married tech writer with two kids? Ah. “Embellish,” you say? There’s a thought.

“Tina sighed as she waded through stacks of paper covered in blood. Red ink, of course – but to Tina it was the blood of her hard-birthed manual, the love child of Engineering, painstakingly researched and written, now cut to shreds by Marketing. As Tina reached into the drawer, rummaging for a bottle of white out, her fingers found the Exacto knife. She smiled in satisfaction. Nice and rusty and dull.”

Naah. Definitely needs a sprinkling of space aliens and a dash of ninjas. And more caffeine!

Chris Baty, fearless founder of NaNoWriMo, asked the rhetorical question, “Are we really within a dairy product’s expiry of starting?” Well, not if you’re lookin’ at a nice hard Black Diamond cheddar, we’re not…

Eeeeek! Yep, he’s right – according to the milk and yogurt in my fridge, he’s right! I don’t know whether to panic now or start doin’ the happy dance!

October 23, 2001

Did Lisa (another NaNoWriMo Nut) say “a story to a dead person”? That’s a novel idea. Here I was, playing with cliche ideas like stories about dead people. What are space ninjas without a few ghosts to play pranks on them, anyway? A little eerie howling in the night? But stories to dead people? Like, what, little graveside bedtime stories? (Ooooh, sometimes I even creep myself out!)

October 24, 2001

You can run, but you can’t hide. Anyone else starting to feel as if the real challenge to this NaNoWriMo thing is avoiding all the “attractive nuisance” obstacles so cheerfully flung our way? Like journals, boards, partners, more boards (lest we get bored), more boards (for those who like to get carried away), other people’s journals, email, IM, chat… and a little light escapist reading, RPGs, and real life for those times when we just need a break?

October 25, 2001

That was depressing.

“Tina sat, glassy-eyed, in front of her monitor, waiting for the chime that would signal arrival of the ‘ratings’ from a horde of equally glassy-eyed reviewers. She bit the ragged edge of a hopelessly frayed nail, thankful that she hadn’t invested in a pricey French manicure. Fingernails on a keyboard were only slightly less irritating than fingernails on a chalkboard, anyway. Tina dreamed of the trashy-but-entertaining fiction she could be writing, as opposed to the dry-but-equally-fictional technical documents she’d be editing to the truthful nuggets at their core in the wee hours of the morning. Ding! The first of the reviews announced its presence in her inbox.”

“Tina tested the blade with her index finger. A ragged cut, only a few epithelial layers deep, appeared. She was able to squeeze a drop of blood from it, but barely enough to fall, splat!, on the page. Next, she stood in front of the heating vent and did jumping jacks. Once she’d worked up a good sweat, Tina leaned over her tattered draft – now covered in red ink, toner smears, and a pathetically anemic drop of real blood – and dripped. Just then, her boss walked by and noticed her office door was ajar. No look of horror, no raised eyebrow at the sight of a wild-eyed, sweat-soaked technical writer wringing blood from her own finger – she noticed the rusty Exacto knife in Tina’s hand and said, with a small smile of self-satisfaction, ‘Good! I see you’re going to cut it as I suggested a week ago!'”

October 26, 2001

I’m humming to myself. Little voices in my head sing, “The waiting is the hardest part… oooh, the wa-a-iting is the harrrrrrdest part…” (Or am I just being Petty, here?)

See, the problem with best-laid plans and too much time on your hands is that you start second-guessing everything, overplanning, spinning mental wheels (like hamsters in an exercise ball)…so what seemed like a GREAT idea Sunday is starting to bore me to tears. I don’t like my characters. I don’t like the whole idea. Maybe it’s because I’m THINKING about it, not WRITING it. Wouldn’t want to CHEAT, now, would I?

October 27, 2001

“I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.”
– Henry David Thoreau

That’s a nice explanation for an online journal, don’t you think? (Or are you thinking, “She needs to get out more!”?)

October 30, 2001

I’ve knuckled down to the serious business of meeting deadlines and clearing the calendar for November, yet for every item I scratch of my to-do list, another worms its way on! If it weren’t for two kids, a husband, a father-in-law, and a gaggle of coworkers, I think I’d run off to the hills for a taste of the hermit life…

On the other hand, it’s very hard to write convincing characters and dialogue when you cut yourself off from the society of others. So far my daughter is the only person I know who’s begging me to turn her into a character in the “sucky novel” as I’ve been calling it (trying to lower my own expectations to such a degree that I can turn off the inner editor and critic long enough to crank out 50,000 words NOBODY will want to edit come December). I’ve warned her about things like me taking literary license – she still wants me to do it. She also wants me to make her character a goth punk rock star wannabe. (And that’s as close as she’ll come to BEING one in THIS lifetime, so long as I have any say in the matter!)

I had an amazingly productive day at work. I think that tonight, instead of worrying about November and my lack of a plot, or working myself to death in order to stay three steps ahead of upcoming projects at work, I’ll sleep. Might be the last chance I get for 30 days!

Ooops, no – the goth punk rock star wannabe has just asked if I can stay up long enough to stick her volleyball jersey in the drier when the wash cycle ends…

November 2, 2001

Day 2, 10:45 PM

Sleep, or keep typing? I’m only 2358 words short of my goal for the past two days. I can knock that off in the morning, while the laundry’s spinning, right?

Why is youth wasted on the young? I’m not old yet, but I’m too old to pull an all-nighter. Shoot, it’s not even eleven, and my eyelids are drooping.

November 3, 2001
2726 words behind. But that’s good. I’m up to 2275 words, and I’m not done for the night. I refuse to eat or sleep until I’ve logged at least 4500 words. Thank goodness I haven’t sworn off coffee!

The story is starting to take on a life of its own. But WHY is my narrator a 12 year old BOY??

November 4, 2001

Oh, yes – one more note before I give up for the night and go to bed. Today’s soundtrack is “Offenbach: Gaite Parisienne; The Tales of Hoffmann: Intermezzo” performed by the Boston Pops, conducted by Arthur Fiedler. This CD also includes the Overtures from Orpheus in Hades and La belle Helene, and a medley from La Perichole.

Very inspirational! The writing pace definitely picked up after I switched to this CD from Jurassic Park. I think it has a more upbeat tempo – and the melodies make my fingers want to dance across the keys!

* * *

Andy’s sister, Kylie, says it’s only fair to give her equal time. I don’t know about that – but here’s a glimpse:

Kylie couldn’t get a button back on without sewing her own fingers together, but she could create an entire prom ensemble with a few scraps of fabric, thermal bonding, a soldering iron, a handful of nail heads, and a hot glue gun. Instead of the mousy brown macramé belt, she’d cinched in her already tiny waist with a wide band of steel-studded black leather.

Her eyes were a dusty, bruised combination of midnight blue, lavender, and charcoal. Her lips were ice blue, rimmed with something darker, raisiny. On her left ear, she wore a silver cuff that looked like a little dragon perching there, claws out, ready to pounce on the unwary fool who might try to kiss her.

* * *

6138 words as of midnight Sunday, November 4, 2001.

Now that’s progress. Not GREAT progress, but fairly steady progress. I spent a fair amount of time today editing, changing POV from a limited first-person POV to a more omniscient third. I hope that 12-year-old Andy, my first narrator, won’t feel hurt and desert me – but there are things happening in the story that he simply cannot know or tell me. Others are demanding a voice, now, too.

But if you’re wondering about Andy, here’s a bit of a character sketch from the godawful novel that has nothing to do with the plot, such as it is:

Andy sketched the female reproductive system with colored pencils, but as Mr. Schaeffer droned on, it became a map of Utera, a town of myth and legend, populated by strange races and exotic beasts. Ovaries became the town reservoirs; a uterus morphed into the town square. The worried townsfolk had gathered to hunt the saber-toothed weretiger that had been preying upon their children…

“Andrew, would you care to share with us what must be the most incredibly detailed rendition of a woman’s reproductive parts ever drawn in this class?” Andy hated it when Mr. Schaeffer sneaked up behind him like that. Reluctantly, Andy handed over the drawing. There were a few stifled snickers from his classmates, who were mostly glad Mr. Schaeffer had chosen someone else to pick on this time.

Mr. Schaeffer studied Andy’s detailed and colorful map for a full minute before saying anything. The corner of his mouth twitched oddly as his eyes took in the tiny schooners under full sail that navigated the twin rivers of Fallopia, protecting the town of Utera from rogues and pirate mermen who threatened from the southernmost inlet of Cervericus. “Hmm. Fascinating.”

He handed the drawing back to Andy without showing it to the class. “Quite nicely done, Andrew,” he said softly, moving on to extol the virtues of birth-control to a restless class full of Seventh graders.

November 6, 2001

7244 words. Not too shabby; still behind schedule, but catching up. Time for bed…

November 7, 2001

Another NaNoWriMo Novelist, Steev, writes, “I’m already a bit obsessed with the word count feature in Microsoft Word. I seem to be checking the count every paragraph or so.” Glad to know I’m not the only one.

Isn’t this akin to checking the contents of the refrigerator every 10 minutes or so, just to see if there’s anything new in there since you last looked? You know you haven’t gone to the store, and you’re reasonably sure the elves haven’t restocked while your back was turned, but… yeah, just one more time. Maybe your tastebuds have changed.

If I’m developing an obsessive-compulsive Word word-count disorder, I have at least discovered that I’m capable of editing and adding to the word count. It’s slow going, but for every passage I’ve deleted, I’ve added more detail or explanation. It’s a painful method that’s partially satisfying my need to keep things moving and my need to satisfy and silence the dastardly internal editor/critic. (I’m thinking of making my internal editor/critic a character in my novel, then torturing her for several days before finishing her off with a grisly death scene inappropriate for readers under 17.))

* * *

7244 words and holding…

William was sick yesterday. Novel-writing is inconsequential when you’re a Mom, worrying about a sick child. Katie had violin and drum lessons last night; she and I stopped at Starbucks on the way home, and by the time we got done I had no energy or inclination to write. I don’t even feel bad about that. The good news is, William is fine today and the doctor gave us the green light to send him back to school! (He’s at that age where staying HOME from school is a drag, instead of the other way around, so he’s thrilled to be back with his friends!)

So, today’s question: Can a frazzled, disorganized, very relieved tech-writer, wife, and mother write 4425 words before collapsing tonight of utter exhaustion? AND clean the house before her uncle comes to visit on Monday?

Did I mention that my husband has offered me a challenge? He says he can get in 5000 games of Freecell on his computer before I can write 50,000 words of my novel. He’s up to 200 and something (he didn’t tell me how quickly he can play a game of Freecell), but yesterday he bought a new joystick for his computer and it’s slowed him down considerably. He and William have been playing Flight Simulator and neglecting the Freecell, so I can reasonably expect to stay ahead of the game for now. Have you ever watched a 5-year-old perform a successful take-off? That was wild…

J.J. has also offered to pay me a penny a word by way of encouragement and monetary incentive, which comes out equivalent to the cost of a cheap paperback at the grocery store – not a bad deal for a 30-day novel that, by definition, is likely to be embarassingly awful and unpublishable. I like to look at it as him buying the first copy of my book. Right now, he owes me 74 cents – about equal to a can of Coke. I think it’s a good idea that after almost 18 years of marriage we don’t nickle and dime each other to death, don’t you?

November 8, 2001

Another NaNoWriMo novelist wannabe (who shall remain nameless only because in the depths of my little black heart, I really do sympathize, wrote, “i’ve only written about 425 words… has anyone written less??? i thought i’d have more time to write, but i dont.. ahhhhh… what can i do to make time to write?? any ideas???”

No. None at all. Not one single idea. Except maybe, “Apply butt to chair. Start typing.” Or, as Tom Clancy said to me years ago, “Just write the damned book.”

Geez, we writers have more excuses than the beach has grains of sand, don’t we? (Hey, some of mine – at least lately – have even been pretty good.) But let’s face it, books don’t get written by excuses. Editors get bored with excuses. Publishers cancel contracts if you can’t make deadlines. So my motto this week is “no whining.”

That’s as bad as making New Year’s Resolutions. Can I amend that to be next week’s motto?

If anyone sees my internal critic/editor wandering around, mumbling to herself, carrying a very deadly razor-nibbed fountain pen loaded with blood-red ink… there’s a contract out on her. (And a padded cell for anyone who actually SEES her, of course. You can see your own, but you can’t see MINE.)

8021 words. I may manage another 20 before I bore myself to sleep. I am not amused…

November 9, 2001

If I pound away hard enough and long enough at my keyboard, I will eventually turn out the collected works of an infinite number of monkeys…

November 22, 2001

Notice the huge gap here between entries? Oooh, someone must’ve suddenly been hit with the “failure-is-not-an-option!” bug…

Ack! Halfway through the month, the founders of NaNoWriMo have changed the rules – looks like there will be no “official wordcount verification” (understandable, given the response to this year’s novel-writing marathon event, but disappointing to those who’d like the NaNoSeal of Approval, no doubt). We’re all on our honor to report our word count and declare ourselves “winners”!

Personally, I couldn’t give a rat’s patoot – but that’s because I’m stubborn and because I know that even with “official” verification, I could be bested by someone who wrote 25,000 words, selected the whole blasted thing, hit CTRL+C and CTRL+V and presto! 50,000 words. So it’s always been a matter of personal satisfaction and honor.

On the other hand, it irks me to see the rules changed halfway through the game – kind of like the time I did the March of Dimes Walk-a-Thon, and it snowed. The morning we started the walk, it was chilly – maybe 60 degrees – and I was dressed in jeans, thick socks, tennis shoes, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt. I carried a lightweight backpack with a different pair of shoes, and hoped to be carrying the sweatshirt if the day got warmer.

Instead, less than 5 miles into the walk, it started to rain. By 7 miles, it was snowing. By 10 or 12 miles, it was snowing HARD, and another walker – a teenaged boy – and I huddled together in doorways of downtown Akron businesses for warmth. We couldn’t see anyone walking ahead of us or behind us, and assumed that most had given up. We were tempted to give up, but neither of us were quitters and I guess we were full of adrenaline. One thing was certain, though – we had to get warm and dry, and I had to get a change of clothes, or we were going to die.

We looked down the side street; the only business that appeared to be open was the Chat Noir Lounge. We shuddered at the neon sign and decided that was no place for us – especially as it was about a block off the main route and no one was likely to find us there if we ran into trouble. Our only other choice was the no-tell motel nearby. The clerk was gay and openly so; he was also quite gracious about letting two sopping wet, half-frozen kids use the phone and sit in the lobby, dripping onto the vinyl chairs and linoleum floor.

We waited while my parents brought me a change of clothes; I dressed in the back seat of their car. My legs were blue from the dye on my jeans; the jeans had frozen stiff and stuck to my legs, cracking at the knees each time I bent them. My parents explained that the March of Dimes was giving the full 20 miles’ credit to anyone who managed to make it to the 15 mile mark, in view of the horrible weather and hardship involved in making it that far.

The young man with me – I don’t know that we ever exchanged names – and I decided that wouldn’t be quite fair. My parents agreed, though they’d have preferred to take me home right then and there, and to heck with claiming 15 miles, let alone 20. So we trudged onward, though knee deep snow. We checked in at the 15 mile mark, and kept trudging. At 18 miles, the sun came out. I stopped at Wendy’s for a burger; the young man went on, knowing that if he stopped again, his legs would quit working. I hurried to catch up, after wolfing down a double with cheese.

We both made it, and claimed our 20 miles. I saw him briefly, at the mall; we grinned at each other and hugged, as if we’d survived a war. I never saw him again. I was especially proud to collect on my pledges that year, knowing I’d really EARNED every penny. I was 12 years old at the time.

Guess I still have that stubborn streak. I just broke 23K. 23,874 words, to be exact, and still plugging away, determined to hit the halfway point before I sleep!

Ah, yes… for those of you who thought turning the true story of the walkathon into fictional word count for the novel was a good idea, I’ll give you one more excerpt:

* * *

It’s true. Dream sequence’s are a desperate writer’s best friend (or worst nightmare). Great for long, rambling passages of meaningless drivel that may or may not reveal strange things about the inner workings of the tortured artist’s mind… (let’s not go there, shall we?)

*** EXCERPT from the crappy novel ***

In his dream, he was running. Only it felt like swimming. His arms flailed in the mist, legs cycling and kicking against air as thick as barley stew. It was foggy, and the street lights looked like eerie yellow spaceships, suspended just slightly overhead. He had no idea where he was, but he kept moving in one direction as if he did. He wasn’t afraid, but he kept seeing faceless people in the shadows. They didn’t know him or pay any particular attention to him, but he searched their featureless heads for something vaguely familiar. He opened his hands and found that he was carrying a pair of eyes – bright, green, intelligent, and very alert. Strangely, this did not surprise him. He stared at the eyes, thinking that they somehow might speak to him. They stared back, unblinking, for they had no lids. Slowly the skin on the palm of his hand split open, the cut edges of skin curling apart and forming something like a mouth. Andy thought that it would sting; he was amazed to find that it did not hurt at all.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I am you,” the mouth answered. “I thought surely you would know me.”

“Ahhhh,” Andy answered. Everything made sense, now, of course. Everything was crystal clear. He put the eyes in his pocket and patted it, reassuring himself that they were safely tucked away. He swam on, under the orbs of yellow light.

* * *

A novel in 30 days? Heh… dream on.

31,126 words and still ticking…

November 29, 2001

43,007. Only 7000 more words to go. Sounds easy, right?

Would be, too, if I didn’t have a job. In today’s world, I’d rather keep the job than finish the novel, so I’ll be writing those 7000 words on my lunch hour (maybe) and between 7:30 and midnight tomorrow night. I’m tired just thinking about it, but I figure the adrenaline rush will kick in around 9 PM tomorrow, and I’ll overshoot the mark by at least 500 words!

Hey, all I need is one more superfluous sex scene and a couple of bizarre and twisted dream sequences. Or is that superfluous dream sequences, and a couple of bizarre and twisted sex scenes?

Read Monty (11/26/2001), starting with Monday and on through Thursday of this week. I think we have a mole in NaNoWriMo.

December 1, 2001

I think I hurt myself!

First, to Chris and deannajjones and others: it’s a cruel thing to challenge a prideful, perfectionistic, professional, deadline-driven writer with an unreasonable goal and make it sound like a heroic feat worthy of… anything. I wonder if a hamster has ever DIED on the wheel?

Second, I now have to keep telling myself “It’s okay. Nobody EVER has to see it. No one said anything about HAVING to edit it, or even having to look at it again. It’s FINISHED. Get it? FINISHED.” Somebody tell me to write a GOOD novel in, oh, 12 months – okay?

Third, I’m actually sick of coffee. At midnight, my neck whispered, “Remember those two collapsed discs? They’ve decided they’re jealous and want a part in the novel.” They started dictating dialogue. Thank God it was almost over by then.

Fourth, don’t start on the “Stupid Word Tricks.” It never would have occurred to me to try using Word’s Autosummarize feature on the damned thing if y’all hadn’t started that. I laughed so hard I snorted hot coffee up my nose! Normally, I wouldn’t mind so much, but as I said earlier, I’m sick of coffee. Now my nose is mad at me, too. It’s joined forces with my neck, and the muscles in my arms have started spasming, trying to get my shoulders up to where they can whisper in my ears, so I suspect they’re all in on it now, too.

Fifth, I woke up this morning and looked around the house with bleary eyes. Good God!! How did it get to be such a mess in just two weeks? Was I that out of it? Chris, next year’s Grand Prize ought to be a six-month certificate for “Molly Maids” (or similar local outfit of the winner’s choice). Reward? I’m about to reap the punishment for my folly…

It’s been a blast. I have a special admiration for the following participants (who stuck with it all month whether they made goal or not): the Polar Bears Fifth Grade class, anyone under 16, anyone whose college major didn’t involve English, Literature, Creative Writing, Rhetoric, etc., anyone whose novel is in English but whose native language isn’t, anyone who
tried this while juggling school and/or full-time employment, and anyone who had to accommodate family demands during November.

I think I need a shower, a handful of Advil, and an afternoon of housecleaning (mainly to figure out where on earth I put my sanity this past month!).

Congratulations – everyone!

I quit at 50,869 and will NOT be taking this piece of @#$% into “NaNoEdMo” come December!

* * *

The Real Meaning of NaNoWriMo

I don’t remember who came up with it first, but I once read that NaNoWriMo sounds like, “Nahh, no wri’ mo’…” That’s a fairly universa sentiment, come November 30. For now, let the ink and adrenaline flow!

Ready? On your marks, grab your pens, GO!

I’m also taking part in the Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge
#writebravely #writetribeproblogger You can click here to explore posts by fellow Write Tribers.