Tag Archives: MOROCCO

New Fiction – “Number Four” (and excerpt)

Cover image for the novel Number Four

I’m glad to finally announce that my second book, Number Four, is now available for Kindle.  Other formats are on their way.  If you’ve been keeping pace with my progress on MOROCCO, here it is at last.

And now, time for an excerpt:

* * * * *

Lin broke from a space-out session when the trucks pulled to a lurching halt. She’d been thinking about the orientation she was missing. Dorm room assignments. How the cafeteria account worked. That kind of stuff.

The soldiers keeping guard over them hopped out of the transport and gestured for them to do the same. Another pit stop.

What a shitty way to spend a Saturday.

Stops came infrequently, probably four or more hours apart. Time was hard to judge when she didn’t have a watch and all there was to do was stare at the metal floor of the transport, out the back of the vehicle at the endless spread of bright sand and rock. Or daydream. She hadn’t dared take Apollo out of her backpack for fear they’d take him. Each stop was a welcome chance to walk and stretch. Her butt hurt from hours on a hard bench and her back was sore from no support. Long sleeve shirt in hand, she shuffled along the bench to the back.

When she jumped out, she judged her exit from the truck a bit wrong. Her tank top caught on a bolt that protruded from the frame and tore.

Paul stood stretching a few steps away. Lin poked a finger through the hole in her favorite purple shirt and the flap of fabric that still remained. The shirt itself was old and faded and wasn’t fit for much other than the mall or hanging out around the house, so it wasn’t a great loss. Might even still be wearable—comfort was no slave to fashion.

As she came up next to Paul, she realized that she couldn’t even say where the nearest mall was. A hundred miles away? A thousand? Clothing stores and pretzel stands were another world away. If she hadn’t been so hell-bent on rocking the boat of life, she might have even been at the mall right then, spending early birthday money. Hell.

No chance yet to talk to Paul about tomorrow. Poor guy had looked so depressed in the last village that she couldn’t bring herself to mention it. A little late to say anything now. Pity would only make it worse.

The sun slipped lower in the sky. Bright blue began to fade to purple and red around the edges of the horizon. Looking at the sand was no longer excruciating due to glare, and so she stared down at the sand and rock beneath her feet. If she closed her eyes, she could almost pretend she was at the beach, if it weren’t for the state of her body and the foreign shouts of the men around her. Strange how sand could be the same so far away.

A breeze picked up, rippling goosebumps along her skin. She ignored the idea that the goosebumps were partly due to the vast emptiness that engulfed them. They were surrounded by nothing, but it hid them all the same. How would anyone ever find them out here?

She pulled her long sleeve shirt on. Earlier in the day, the shirt was protection against the sun that beat down relentlessly. As day slipped into evening, it was protection against the chill breezes that picked up. It’d also help cover the hole in her shirt.

The wad of rolled-up bills and Paul’s memory card were an itchy, sweaty mess between her breasts, but she dared not reach in to adjust them. She followed Paul’s gaze to a spot on the horizon but saw nothing. Maybe he wasn’t even actually looking.

A guard called to her and gestured. She followed.

Another reason for the stops were restroom breaks. If that was what they could be called. One guard would take her somewhere out of sight, then turn around while she dropped her pants and squatted as best as possible. There wasn’t too much need, considering the little they had to drink, but her body managed to produce some kind of moisture each time.

Lin was in the middle of just such a thing for the second time that day, more just in case than any real need—not like she could call out for a stop at the next highway exit—when she looked down and saw the tear in her shirt.

She didn’t have breadcrumbs, but she could leave something.

Her guard still had his back turned. Her current predicament probably meant he wouldn’t turn around until she signaled she was through. Still, she had to be careful. One hand grabbed the little flap of torn fabric, and with the other she grabbed the rest of her shirt. With a fit of fake coughing to hopefully provide some cover, she tore.

A quick toss sent the scrap flying into a nearby shrub. The faded purple fabric looked completely out of place and pretty pathetic, resting as it was in a snarl of brush twigs two inches above the sand, but at least it was something. Any victory was a victory, no matter how small.

She finished up and signaled the guard. Shirt crumbs had little use out here, especially when the first one started in the middle of nowhere, but hope was all she had, and as she climbed back into the truck, it felt good to have done something.

At each stop, she added another scrap.

* * * * *

Number Four

The Sound of “Finished”. A MOROCCO Update.

Today started like normal (though a little later than usual): coffee, breakfast, feeding the cat.

Writing work was difficult through most of the afternoon and early evening.  Ordered pizza so I could keep working.  Hit a stride after dinner and continued on until about 12:15 AM (15 or so minutes ago).

I stopped because I just finished my revision of MOROCCO.  Boo-yeah!  13 hours and many words later, I have a finished second draft.  Final word count: 37,418.

A far cry from the 16,000 of my rough draft “skeleton.”  37k almost puts it up into official novel-length.  I’ll have to see how it works out in the end.

August 11th MOROCCO WIP Update

ttp://www.flickr.com/photos/andriesoudshoorn

Had a stellar run of editing and writing new text for MOROCCO lately.  The going has been rough lately–it was a relief to hit a stretch where scenes organized themselves into lines like good students and the words came easy.  Further proof that the most important thing is to just keep going.

Total wordcount is now over 30,000 words, up from the original 16,000.  That’s a huge increase, but I knew I would have to add a lot of new stuff in order to fill out the story.  My “completed” rough draft was only a skeleton.

I’m closing in on the end now.  It’s in sight.  I don’t expect the story to go over 35,000.  In most official word count guidelines (if there could be said to be such a thing), 40,000+ words makes it a novel.  How funny would it be that the story I was convinced wasn’t novel-length actually turned out to be so.

Coming Up For Air

Poor blog–been a bit neglected lately writing-wise. Lots going on lately. Notes on WIP, points of view, similarities between photography project and writing.  There’s other stuff going on, too, but those are the subject of other forthcoming posts.

MOROCCO EDITS

Still ongoing.  I wish I could say it’s going well, but truth be told, it’s a struggle all the way.  This wasn’t an easy story to write, and its track record continues during the revision process.  The important thing is that it’s going.  My short stories often take 3-4 revision passes to tighten up, and so I expect MOROCCO to require at least the same.  Maybe more, due to the length and slight complexity of the story.

At this point, I feel like I don’t have enough description.  Part of this is because it’s set in an exotic locale that I don’t know much about.  Another reason is because I really wasn’t sure what was going on even while I was writing it: I didn’t know what was going to happen, I didn’t know for sure that characters were where they were or that they were going to stay there in revision, and so forth.  Because I knew I’d be ripping it apart in revision, I think I was loathe to try and put too much description in there.  Good idea?  Bad idea?  I’ll have to see as I go.

I also think that this “mostly dialog, no description” is the result of my writing getting stuck in a rut or a particular method.  I did the same thing on another short story that I finished the other day.  That one was sci-fi, so maybe the same excuse of not knowing the locale enough applies (Which isn’t much of an excuse; it’s my job to know my locations and convey a sense of them appropriately), but I’m also thinking that that is just the way my writing is going lately.  Can’t say I’m really a fan.

One other thing that comes to mind is that both stories were in the third person.  For a while, all I wrote (including Norton’s Ghost) was first person.  It feels so… easy.  Almost like cheating.  Third person, on the other hand, has been a challenge.  As such, I’ve put a temporary ban on first person until I write some stories in third to get a better grasp on it.  So I’m sure that’s causing my description problems, as well.

In the end, I’m hoping that I’ll have no problem going back and filling in the blanks once I’ve solidified the story structure a bit and that the descriptions shall flow once I iron out the uncertainties.

Also, an image I meant to post the other day.  I cracked open the rough draft file of MOROCCO and changed Scrivener to “outline” mode.  This is what MOROCCO looked like:

About 16,000 words of story that I had to drag out kicking and screaming.  All reduced down to that paltry little list of scenes and chunks of text and word counts.  It was humbling.

Current wordcount: 22,000.  I was right when I said I expected it to expand a great deal.  At this point, I still have no idea where it’ll end up count-wise (see previous description talk above, too), but I’m guessing at a max between 35 and 40,000 words.

365days

So far I’ve done okay on keeping up with the “one day, one image” goal.  I missed my second day, but that’s only because I completely forgot about it.  The project hadn’t yet settled into the comfortable chair of habit.  It’s pretty much ingrained now.

Mostly, I need to get out of the house to take my images and do a little more planning.  Allot a little more time.  Sometimes it’ll be 10-11 PM and I’ll think, “Oh crap, I haven’t done my 365 yet today!”  and so the quality suffers.

On the other hand, I’m trying to strike a careful balance between utter crap taken in 30 seconds and spending half a day setting things up and getting the perfect shot.  I enjoy photography, but it’s not my first priority.  It’s ranking around third or fourth on my list of hobbies.  So my 365 images come after my writing and editing and suchlike.  I’m not trying to project my über-photography-ness or the airs or claims of a professional photographer.  I’m just trying to take some pictures, to fiddle with things, learn a bit, and have something to show for my effect at the end of 365 days.

There are a lot of parallels between this photography project and writing.  One of the biggest is the idea of small goals over the course of a long period of time.  One picture a day.  250/500/1000/2k words a day. It’s the same, really.  Especially since you might have to take 5/10/25/50 images to get that one good image.

There’s also the sense where you have to do something.  You can’t just sit around thinking about it and expect words to appear on the page or an image on your memory card.  You have to come up with ideas, you have to get up and try different things, and most of all, you have to do it anyways even if you’re tired and uninspired and plain don’t want to.  Some images will be better than others.  But even the bad ones that you don’t like but post anyways because it’s the one thing you managed to do is a success: Not every day’s writing is stellar, either, but you do it anyways.

It’s the process that’s important.

MOROCCO Revision and WIP Update

ttp://www.flickr.com/photos/andriesoudshoorn

Got some work done on MOROCCO today [7/11], but not nearly as much as I’d hoped to do.  Today was one of those easily-distracted type of days, further made difficult by a torrential afternoon storm and the necessity of eating.

I’m still spending time going through the story to ask myself Big, Important questions about each scene and character, making notes, cross-referencing previous scenes and thoughts, and so forth.  Editing can be tough work sometimes, especially compared to the anything-goes period of writing the first draft.  Editing’s when you have to take everything you got down and try to make something sensible out of it.  Something that looks planned and polished even if you had no clue what the hell you were doing while you were writing it.

So it’s tough work, but it’s also rewarding.  I get a chance to clip out the bad and boring parts, to tighten up the structure and pacing and characterization until the whole thing hums with storytelling power.

At least, that’s the goal.

I’m hoping to start the actual rewrites sometime this week.  Then I’ll get to do this all over again due to the number of new scenes that I’m adding.  These new scenes will also push it into novella territory, but I’m not worrying about that right now.  I intend to do whatever is necessary to tell the story the way I think it should be told, and I’ll worry about placing it later.

(whoops; post from 2 days ago that I never pushed)