Taking a Break

So much for not being a stranger

The rough draft of chapter 8 was completed on time (final post was on April 30) and right on budget (just over 20K words). Not entirely happy with the result (that last post was particularly disappointing), but I knew when I started on April 1 that this wasn’t going to end with a finished product. But that’s fine — what matters to me is “winning” the CampNaNoWriMo challenge for April, and more importantly, producing an item that I can craft into a more polished document for this year’s NaNoWriMo event.

As I do at the end of each of these events, I felt satisfied yet enervated at the conclusion. Decided to step away from blogging for a while, until my energy and enthusiasm return. Which it most definitely will, perhaps soon — I’m contemplating a return to The Chosen, the sword and sorcery project I started on a lark and wound up enjoying considerably.

But for now, a little more rest, then get back to indulging my enjoyable obsession.

Update on Chapter 8

We’re half-way into the month of April, and the eighth chapter of Gray Metal Faces is progressing well. The goal was to draft 20K words, over ten scenes, and on Thursday I both finished the fifth scene and passed 10K words, putting me a couple days ahead of schedule. Not bad, especially considering that it’s only been about a month since I’ve given serious thought to the chapter.

As I mentioned previously, I’m drafting my remaining work on the novel on a private site (and yes, I will at some point explain why I’m doing this), but am inviting all followers of this blog the opportunity to read that work. Just like this post, or leave a comment, and if you haven’t already been added as a reader, I’ll give you access.

Distractions

[A response to today’s prompt from The Daily Post]

“I mean, do they ever wash these things?” Lana’s scowl, and the way she held the fencing jacket at arm’s length after pulling it from the team’s equipment sack, told Annie that she needed to work with the newest potential recruit for the Bark Bay High School fencing team.
Stepping in front of Lana, Annie took the jacket from her. “Coach Dan sends them to the cleaners once a month.” The fencing team captain shook her head, waving her brown pony-tail, then released the jacket — “That one’s too small.” Squatting, she began rummaging through the sack, finally pulling one of the other jackets from the heap. Annie stood, and nodded at Lana — “This one should fit.”

Like all of Bark Bay’s jackets, this one was zippered in the back; front-zippered jackets were just as common and no more expensive, but since right-handed fencers could only use a jacket zippered on the left side, and left-handed fencers required zippers on the right, back-zippered jackets were more suited to the fluctuating membership of the Bark Bay squad. After explaining to Lana how to put on the jacket (first, step a leg through the hole formed by the nylon strap at the bottom of the jacket, then insert your arms), Annie fastened and raised the zipper.

“I mean, doesn’t it bother you?” Annie knew Lana was still talking about the distinct scent of the team’s equipment, the stale perspiration that permeated everything, even after it came back from the cleaners.

“A little, at the start.” Annie actually couldn’t remember her initial reaction to the scent, but felt she needed to establish some sort of bond with Lana. “But when I started scrimmaging, trading touches with other fencers — I didn’t care what I smelled.” She laid a hand on Lana’s shoulder, and smiled. “I knew right away, that fencing was the coolest, most exciting sport ever. From that point, all the smelly equipment, the noises, the bruises — those were all distractions. And I was too busy having fun, to let any distraction get in my way.”

For a moment, Lana stared back blankly. And then, to Annie’s relief, she smiled. “So when can I start scrimmaging?”

“Soon as we find you a mask.” Annie then led Lana to the team’s other equipment sack, which promised to have an even more pungent odor.

Revising to Build Relationships

Via Krista Stanley, I came across some interesting tips on ending scenes in a novel and creating links between those scenes. Feel like I’ve given insufficient attention to these concepts so far in Gray Metal Faces, as I’ve had a fairly narrow focus on each chapter during the drafting process. Will make these relationships a point of emphasis during the revision of The Land Without Mosquitos.

Final Thoughts on NaNoWriMo 2016

It’s been a few days since the end of this year’s National Novel Writing Month event. I’m happy I participated, and very satisfied at having reached the goal of 50K words. Chapters six and seven of “Gray Metal Faces” have been completely revised, and the first draft of chapter eight has begun; honestly, I don’t think I would have accomplished so much if I hadn’t been trying to “win” NaNoWriMo.

But I’m not happy with those last few days in November. Getting those final few thousand words was difficult, and while I got the job done, I certainly didn’t enjoy myself. Writing shouldn’t always be easy, and I’m definitely not afraid of the work; however, during those last few days in November I was writing because I had to, not because I wanted to. Working on the novel became just another obligation, and I approached those final blog entries with all the enthusiasm of a dental appointment.

That’s not a feeling I want to experience again, and makes me wonder if I’ll participate in next year’s NaNoWriMo. Yeah, there’s a real good chance that I could end next November with a complete draft of the entire novel, which would be completely awesome. But to have that empty, joyless feeling — I’m not sure any accomplishment would be worth that.

So yes, I’m happy to have participated in this year’s NaNoWriMo, but whether I take part in next year’s event is an open question.

And There You Have It

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_winnerIt hasn’t been pretty these last couple of days, but my NaNoWriMo goal of 50K words has been reached, with about 75 minutes to spare. Don’t have much energy (physical or mental) left to say anything more profound than that; right now, I don’t even feel victorious. Just tired, and a little grateful for being able to accomplish this feat.

Sprint to the finish

finish-line

Finished the chapter seven revision yesterday. Combined with the chapter six revision completed earlier this month, I’m up to a little less than 47k words so far in NaNoWriMo 2016. Started the first draft of chapter eight earlier today (I’ll have more to say tomorrow about how I’m drafting chapters eight and nine), and came to a convenient stopping point after 1100 words. Two more days like today, or maybe a big push tomorrow — either way, the finish line of personal victory is in sight.

Looking forward to ending this challenge. Really glad I’ve put in all this work, but after 28 days I’m feeling the urge to move on from the novel for a bit.

Gray Metal Faces – March 10

Guy salutes again, a silly ritual before the last touch but guess I gotta return it. “Pret — allez.” No tricks this time, get the center and attack, EEEP EEEP. “Together. Pret — allez.” Quicker this time, EEEP EEEP. “Together. Pret — ” could go all day like this, need to break his tempo — “allez.” Take the center but don’t attack, set up the parry, no he ain’t biting. Flinch to the head, still don’t — he’s moving, dammit he’s got me backing up, here’s the head cut parry-five, now the line change to four, drop the blade, catch it, riposte EEEP EEEP. We both gawk at the ref, know this call will decide it, matter of which struck first, his attack or my parry. “Attack right — ” yes? — “is parried — ” throw my arms up YES, other guy’s protesting but there’s no way this is getting reversed, walk back to my starting line and take off my mask.

At least she didn’t ask him to stay (another benefit of her mother’s imminent arrival). Double-J twisted the ignition of his coupe, shifted into reverse, glanced up occasionally at the rearview mirror as the coupe backed out of the gravel driveway, the two-story gray house with the high arches in front shrinking away.

As the rear tires found pavement on the county road, he turned the vehicle sharply left, and in looking up at the rearview caught a glimpse of light from a second-story window, surrounding a silhouette of head and shoulders. The Bird’s room, yes from what he remembered of the twists and turns inside. And it had to be her silhouette, of course. Watching him leave?

Double-J shook his head. He hadn’t liked her lack of experience, but had found her nervousness more arousing than he’d expected, perhaps because it was clear that she wasn’t afraid, in spite of her uncertainty. The mess — always the worst part with virgies (he’d helped her put the sheets in the wash, rinsing the stains as best they could first) — but her kisses had been warm and eager on his body. And she’d made no attempt to make him stay just a minute longer, hadn’t asked when they could be together again, hadn’t demanded he call. She had satisfied her need, much as he had satisfied his; had it been her, rather than him, who had been the true manipulator of this entire evening? The possibility actually pleased him.

The coupe coursed through Bark Bay once again, as Double-J made his way back to the Embassy. Yeah, there was always a chance that The Bird could change, attempt to latch onto him like a leech, just as this town tried to suck the life out of its youth, or the team, the damn fencing team, tried to suck the individuality out of its members. “Let ’em try,” he said to nobody. For Double-J knew his destiny would soon take him far from his latest conquest, far from the fencing team, far from this miserable, doomed town.

He’s pissed, can see that in his face when he takes off his mask. And he should be, losing after being up 4-2. We salute, shake hands — “nice bout” — but in his eyes I can see that he’s eager for the next opportunity to trade steel with me.

[End of “Gray Metal Faces – March”]

Gray Metal Faces – March 6.5

[As the conclusion to this chapter revision approached, I decided there needed to be an additional scene. This takes place between March 6C and March 7A; material from March 6A has been cut and added to this new scene.]

“A — halt.” Guy jumped the start, ref’s giving him a warning, not sure why he didn’t issue a yellow. “Pret — ” guy’s holding himself back, might be able to use it against him — “allez.” Take the center, he’s backing up, this one’s mine, small quick steps, wait for him to open — he flinches, I go, miss DAMMIT, hit on the backswing, EEEP EEEP, “halt.” All up to the ref, could go either way, he doesn’t look certain. Shakes his head, “attack no, counter no, the remises are together, no touch.” Got lucky there. 

Double-J smiled, nodded down at the first flanneled man, slowly getting to his feet. “You and your friend, best be getting outta here.” The newcomer picked up his companion and carried him away, Double-J standing over the man in the pickup as he watched the two men get into a green hatchback.

As the car drove out of the parking lot, Double-J got down to one knee, and glared down at the pickup man, who no longer had any fight left in him. The teen spoke with quiet anger, the man replying with short, shame-filled nods. Double-J then stood, and walked briskly back to his coupe.

The Bird heard him cursing under his breath as he opened the door and got into the driver’s seat. She asked what he’d said to the pickup man before leaving him alone on the pavement, and Double-J snorted. “Told him if he ever drew that shotgun he had in his front seat on me, I’d break both his arms.”

A week from Thursday

Double-J was exiting a pharmacy when he saw Butch walking in to the store three doors down the strip mall. He could not remember the last time he had been in Page Turners, and he was not sure why talking to Butch was suddenly so important enough to warrant this diversionary trip, but Double-J always enjoyed following his instincts.

He decided to follow the overweight junior with the short crop of tow, curious to see Butch’s literary destination. The aisle furthest to the left of Page Turners contained rows of newspapers and magazines; Butch walked past the News, Travel, Music, and Politics sections, finally stopping at the far corner stand: Comics.

Stopping at a comfortable distance, Double-J raised his chin. “Thought you usually came here with your buddy, Banks.”

Butch didn’t jump, but his face had its typically surprised expression. “Oh! You mean, Rune?”

Double-J frowned, as he recalled the memory of his roadside encounter with Hugh Banks. “Is it me, or has that guy gotten even more flaky lately?”

Butch stared back blankly, and for a moment Double-J thought he would have to define flaky in order to get a response. But then — “I don’t know what’s going on with him.” Butch’s voice was unusually cold. “He hasn’t been to practice, doesn’t wanna read comic books no more, won’t even talk to me, or Annie, or anyone.”

Double-J waved his right hand. “Nothing new there. Teen angst.”

Butch bit his lower lip, his eyes narrowing. “What did he ask?”

From experience, Double-J knew that if this conversation didn’t move forward, it would quickly get mired in a place he didn’t want to be stuck. “Didn’t see your family’s truck outside.” It had been in Lefty’s shop last week, and he had repaired the heat shield on the exhaust.

“Oh! I got a ride here from Mrs. Everett, and my mom, she won’t be here for another hour.”

“Ah.” Double-J pointed at the rack of comics. “Really going to take you that long to make your selections?” Butch replied that it wouldn’t, and after receiving Double-J’s promise to get them to the Baptist church before her mother left, and making a quick purchase of four Marvel comics, he left Page Turners with Double-J.

They had just exited the strip mall’s parking lot in the coupe, when Double-J, struck by an impulse he could not resist even if he had wanted, said that he was not actually certain Butch had a mother.

“Oh! Well, she’s dead.”

The coupe momentarily swerved over the center line. “You mind telling me who the hell’s over at your church?”

“Oh! Sorry, that’s my stepmother. My mom, she died, when I was a baby.”

“Ah.” Double-J made a silent promise to himself to not act on any more impulses on this trip.

“My dad, he married Faith after mom died. Faith, she’s my mom. Well she’s not — “

“Got it,” Double-J waving his right hand towards his passenger. “What I was trying to say before, not very effectively, was that I’ve never actually met your mo – stepmother.”

“Oh! Well, she don’t work, when she’s not home she’s at the church — “

“Been working on your family’s truck for years. Sometimes your dad brings it in to Lefty’s, or one of your brothers, or sisters. I’m pretty good with names, don’t ever remember a ‘Faith’ coming in to the shop.”

“Oh! Well, my mom, she doesn’t do a lot of the errands.”

Double-J smiled reflexively as he saw they were approaching the driveway to the Baptist church. “She sounds like a person who doesn’t like being away from home.”

As he pulled the coupe into the driveway, Double-J expected another Oh!, followed by another perplexing explanation. He certainly didn’t expect silence from his passenger. When he stopped the car, he looked over to see Butch staring blankly at the front of the church.

“My mom likes to do a lot of things. She’s asked to do more of the errands. But my dad — “

The image of Reverend Goodman’s stern face, from a summer camp many years in the past, came to Double-J’s mind.

“Thank you for giving me the ride.” Without another word between he and Double-J, Butch then quickly exited the vehicle, and a moment later entered the church through a side door.