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Tag Archives: Deviation


It was NaNo 2003 that got me writing.  As a result, even though I didn’t write 50,000 words during the month of November 2003, there is something about the challenge that is near and dear to me.  I tried it once or twice after 2003 and each time I’ve achieved less.  I simply am not built as a writer to be able to churn words out like that.  I think far too much about what I’m writing as I’m writing to be able to just let the words flow.  In addition, there are simply too many other demands on my time to be able to commit to the time needed to do this for an entire month.  Some of those other demands have been eliminated in recent years — no longer coaching my kids’ soccer teams, for instance.  But, damnit … it is just so difficult to find the time.

This year, there’s another hurdle.  I have too many works in progress that I want to finish before I turn to something new.  I simply cannot let myself turn away from those projects now and start something new.  I committed at the beginning of September to the following:  finish Deviation in September, finish Northville Five & Dime in October, finish Carlota in November, and then turn to another short series I’m thinking about, before finally returning to one of my half-completed novels.  I finished Deviation as planned.  I made major progress on Northville, but probably won’t have it done by tomorrow.  Probably?  Who the hell am I kidding?  There’s no way it’s done by tomorrow.  I need to be true to these goals I set and not let NaNo distract me.

So, here’s what I’ve decided.  I’m going to strive to write 50,000 words in the month of November.  First, I’ll complete Northville.  I think there’s another 5,000-10,000 words to that story.  Once I’ve done that, I’m moving on to Carlota.  I’m pretty certain there’s another 10,000-20,000 words there.  And, as I get stuck with any of those projects, I’m going to return to Terror in a Small Town.  I started this story back in 2007.  It involves an Islamic terrorist plot.  I didn’t finish it.  Since then, I’ve decided to change the terrorists to whacko, right-wing, anti-tax, sovereign citizen loonies who are a burgeoning problem in this country.  The result of this is that I need to significantly re-write what I have already written.

Ultimately, I’m probably “cheating” to the extent cheating is possible on NaNo.  Splitting the goal up over several different projects, considering re-writing as writing.  But, I don’t care.  If I can get anywhere near 50,000 words this November, I will have done for more than I expected.

P.S.  In looking through my posts on this, I realized that I committed to something remarkably similar last year.  Let’s see if I do better this year.


An Update


Whether it’s because I’ve “gone fishin'” or am “out of office,” no, I’m not really here, but there is an update I want to share.  I finished something.  Of significance.  After a couple of years of having a completion problem, except for very short stories, flash fiction, and the odd piece of poetry here and there, I’ve not been able to complete any fiction of significance.  Until tonight.  A couple of minutes ago.

Clocking in at 16,065 words, Deviation is complete.  At least a first draft.  With an ending that 98% of the readers will absolutely hate.  🙂  Now, I need to decide what to do with it.  I know I’m publishing it on Kindle, maybe also via Smashwords or some other e-publisher that will distribute it more widely than Kindle (I think that’s actually what I’m going to do).  But, the dilemma is what I do with it before then.

I’d like a couple of readers to take a look at it, but I’m not sure who.  This is a very odd story, built entirely around dialogue, with characters who don’t always saw what you expect and a twisting plot that takes unexpected turns.  The two main characters are twenty-something brothers who talk the way a lot of twenty-somethings talk.  I’m pretty sure there are more f-bombs in this one story than the grand total in everything else I’ve ever written.

I’m not necessarily looking for volunteers from you, the readers of this blog, I’m just pondering this odd dilemma.  The story is so different from what I typically do, I’m not sure if I should work harder at it, get some edits and comments from others, or just throw it out there as is and see what happens.

But back to the original point.  I finally finished something of significance!!!!  First in my trilogy of longer short stories.  Now on to #2 and #3.

And, one more thing … to my loyal readers … when I’m ready to do it, I’ll be back with an explanation for the Gone Fishin’ and Out of Office images.

What I Learned This Weekend, Part Two

I’m working on Deviation, really working hard on it.  I’ve carried on with the fundamental rule with respect to how I write this story.  Every couple hundred words, I select a random word from the dictionary that I need to use in the next couple hundred words.  The story now exceeds 11,000 words and I’ve used somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-70 random words.   As I mentioned in my last post, this method brings along some surprises.  One of the words today was “tinkling.”  In my mind it evoked the sound of a piano.  At first it was going to be a recording played on the stereo.  Then it turned into a woman visiting the brother’s father in most unacceptable circumstances.  And, finally, the tinkling piano was being played by a barely dressed hooker, with three of her friends, there to serve the brother’s father while their mother is in jail.  Until I got that word I never knew their dad would have a visitor, let alone four hookers.

My Seven Day Story Challenge — A little bit more Deviation

Over at We Drink Because We’re Poets I started a Seven Day Story Challenge for the followers there.  The only required rule was that participants had to write a story that utilized a word provided each day for seven days, without knowing each day’s word until I posted them on the website.  Other option rules included limiting the story to 200 words a day (or some other selected limit) and writing entirely in dialogue.  The objective, produce a short story in seven days in which each day you stop yourself and leave the story open to a change in direction that may be provided by the next day’s word.   The seven words this week were:  Proportion, exponential, donate, pugilism, beanbag, scantily, protocol.  Or any form of those words.

I took on the challenge, but rather than start a whole new story, I chose to continue with Deviation, a story I wrote last September under much the same conditions.  I wrote 200 words exactly each of the first six days of the week and today, I went to 236.  The story now is over 6,700 words and has much more to go.  I truthfully have no idea when and where it will end.

If you’d like to read the first 5,300 words, it’s here.  If you’d prefer a synopsis leading up to this week’s addition, it’s here:  Johnny and Mickey are brothers, having their every Friday meal at a local diner.  They do what twentysomething men generally do on Fridays — they talk about nothing and everything, they curse, they lust after the waitress, and generally are good-for-nothing.  Johnny cares about nothing much more than girls, food, and skating through life.  Mickey’s a little bit deeper.  In Deviation, they discuss the family secret they’ve never talked about before.  Dad physically abuses Mom.  Mickey and Johnny decide to do something about it, but first they have to rescue Mom from the jail, where she sits after getting arrested for assaulting a homeless man with her Bible.  What follows picks up the story as they leave the diner.

“Did dad bail her out yet?” Mickey asked.

“No.  He says he’s not going to either.”

“Why the hell not?”

“He said in his last text, and I quote, ‘I’m tired of her god shit.’”

Mickey started hitting his head against the head rest behind him.  “That is so fucked up.  It is entirely out of proportion.  He beats her up, keeps her hidden away for days while she heals and every once in a while she gets out and wants to share her love of Jesus with others and …

“You got to admit she’s a little overboard with it.”

“Really?  You think she’s overboard with her religion?”

“Yeah.  She gets a little crazy with it sometimes.”  They pulled up to a red light.  The car rumbled beneath them.  Johnny pulled his pack of cigarettes from the dashboard, tapped one out and lit it.

Mickey sighed and opened his window.  “If you’re gonna smoke, could you open your window, too?  You know I hate the smell.”

Johnny grumbled but complied.  “Don’t you think it’s weird that the Bible is the only book she reads?”

“Weird to you, maybe.  But maybe that’s where she finds solace in a life like hers.  Ever look at it that way?”  Mickey coughed, not because he needed to.  “Mom finds a little bit of piece in those words.  They comfort her.  Why does that have to be weird?”

Johnny looked at the cigarette he held in his fingertips, grimaced and flicked it out the car window.  “I’m done with these.”

“Thank you!”  Mickey exclaimed, slapping the dashboard with his hand.  “You can donate the money you spend on cigarettes to a women’s shelter.”

“What?  No way.  I’m gonna spend it on Ally.”

“Johnny, we had a deal.”

“Fuckin’ relax, Mickey.  I was just kidding.  It is so easy to get a rise out of you.”

They rode in silence for a moment before Johnny broke it.  “Where we headed?”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know.  Go home and kick dad’s ass or head to the jail and try to get Mom out?”  They pulled to a stop in front of a red light.  Straight meant the jail.  Left meant home.  Right meant indecision.

Mickey drummed his fingers on the arm rest.  “We gotta get Mom out of jail.”  He looked over at his brother.  “Don’t we?  We can kick the old man’s ass later.”  Johnny laughed, a sound barely audible above the rumble of the Torino’s engine.

“You got any money for bail?”

“Oh.  Yeah.  That could be a problem.  Do you remember how much it was last time?”

Johnny grimaced and thought about it as the cross traffic light switched to yellow.  “No.  Dad took care of it then.”  Their light flicked green.  “What do we do?”

Mickey looked at the traffic in the lane next to them begin to move past and looked back at the car behind, it’s headlights glaring, the right one brighter than the left.  He turned back as the driver tapped his horn.  “You know, my anger has grown exponentially, but I’m not ready for him yet.  Let’s get to the jail and find out about bail.”  The driver behind them leaned on his horn again.

Johnny began to inch the car out into the intersection.  “You sure?”

“Yeah.  Let’s get this mess over with.  First mom and then we take care of him.”  Mickey slapped his hand on the arm rest and bounced in his seat.  “I need my anger to coalesce a bit.  You know?”

Johnny laughed again.  “No.  I have absolutely no idea what the fuck you’re talking about.  Anger coalescing? Shit.”

“Never mind.”

Mickey looked out the window as they rode in silence.  In the jail’s parking lot, Johnny shook out another cigarette.  “What?” he whined, looking at Mickey before his brother could say anything.  “Just one more.  I’ll be quick.”

“Yeah,” Mickey sighed, settling back in his seat.  “You criticize me for not being able to deviate, but you got your habits, too, you know.”

“Smoking aint like only dating blond chicks.”

“Why not?”

“Smoking’s a disease.  It’s a fucking addiction.”

“Maybe I’m addicted to blondes.  You ever think of that?”  Mickey laughed.  “Maybe there’s an intoxicating scent that emanates from blonde hair that does something to my brain chemistry.”

“Shit.”  Johnny opened his door, dropping his cigarette to the ground and smudging it out with the heel of his shoe.  “Let’s go.”

Inside, Mickey asked about their mother.  The desk sergeant laughed.  “You mean the bible thumper who practiced her pugilistic arts on John Dempsey?”

“Hey, that’s our mother you’re talking about.”  Johnny’s voice raised a notch.

“Yeah?”  The sergeant’s face darkened.  “She gave a beat down to a bum.”

“What are you talking about?”  And it went up another notch.  “She just bumped on the head with her Bible.”

The sergeant chuckled and pulled a file out of the middle of the stack in front of him.  “Let’s see.  The perpetrator was one Emily Anne Santini.”  He looked over his granny glasses.  “That your mother?”

“Yes,” Mickey and Johnny replied in unison.

“According to the first officer on the scene, the aforementioned Ms. Santini was found to be standing over Mr. Dempsey, yelling at him, ‘you better find God, my son, or a whole more shit will be raining down upon your soul.’”  The sergeant began to close the file.  “And that’s when things got a bit more serious.”

“What?  What happened?”  Mickey asked.  “Wait a sec.  Our mother wouldn’t have said that.”

Ignoring him, the sergeant went on.  “A crowd had gathered, refusing to disperse at the officer’s request.  He had to call for reinforcements as they chanted to Ms. Santini for more.  The officer retreated to his car and pulled out a beanbag gun and fired it several times into the crowed.  Meanwhile Ms. Santini leaned over the unconscious Mr. Dempsey.   She thumbed through her Bible, finding a page she wanted and then turned it over and placed the open Bible to cover the man’s face.”

The sergeant leaned back.  “That about do it for you gentlemen?”  Before they could respond, he slapped his hand down on the desk and jerked upright again.  “Hold on a sec.  There was something else you might find interesting.”  He opened the file and thumbed through a few pages.  “Here it is.  The page she left the Bible open to had the following passage underlined.  Matthew 25:35.  ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me …’  What do you make of that?”

“Wow,” Johnny muttered.  “I’ve got no fuckin’ clue.”

“Of course, you don’t,” Mickey mumbled back.  “Your mind is so scantily clad with the shreds of intelligence, you can’t possibly understand.”

“Fuck you.”

“Yeah, fuck you, too.”

“Ummm.  Boys,” the sergeant intervened.

Mickey ignored him.  “Johnny, it’s a cry for help.  Don’t you get it?  She’s hungry and needs to be fed.  Your cards mean jack shit to her.  She’s thirsty in the middle of a desert.  Dad’s flowers and chocolates on his good days don’t carry over to the bad.  She is utterly lost and feels unwelcome in her own world.  God, I sometimes wonder if one of us was adopted.  You absolutely cannot be my brother.”

“I … I … I …,” Johnny stuttered, before turning to the sergeant, waving off his brother.  “What’s her bail?”

“She hasn’t been arraigned yet, son.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“It means,” Mickey answered before the sergeant could.  “Bail hasn’t been set.”


“Damn, don’t you watch cop shows?”

“Yeah.  I love Law and Order.”

“Learn anything from them?”  Mickey looked at the sergeant with sorrow-filled eyes.  “Standard protocol is bail isn’t set until the arraignment, am I right?”

“Yes you are.”

“Well, when the hell is that gonna happen?” Johnny demanded.

“Probably Monday.  That’s the problem with getting arrested on a Friday night.”

“Fuck that.  She’s stuck in here over the weekend and there’s nothing we can do?”

The sergeant suddenly could only focus on the file before him.  “Ummm.  Yeah.”  He looked back up at Johnny.  “Sorry.”

Johnny looked at Mickey and then back at the sergeant before returning his gaze to his brother again.  His eyes teared up.  “Mickey?  What are we gonna do?  We gotta get mom out of here.  This sucks.”

Mickey reached out to hug his brother.  “It does,” he whispered in Johnny’s ears.  “But let’s go take care of that other thing then.  We’ll get her out on Monday after they set bail and make sure he’s long gone before she gets home.”






Here’s what I decided … the final vote was a tie between The Irrepairable Past and Terror in a Small Town.  With K Street Stories and something new close behind.  My focus this month will, as a result, be on The Irrepairable Past since it holds a special place for me.  Terror is a story that I think may just have the most commercial potential, but, well, there are a lot of changes I need to make to update it based on my current vision of the story.

But, here’s the deal.  I have no doubt, I’ll get bogged down with The Irrepairable Past and when I do … well, I have this incredible luxury of having two other stories, maybe even a third if I add in Deviation, to work on when I’m blocked with the one.  My decision?  1,000-2,000 words a day on something.  Beginning with The Irrepairable Past.  If I’m blocked down there, moving to Terror, if I’m blocked there, K Street, Deviation, or something else.

The point is that I’ll be writing every night on one of these projects.  Hopefully making progress towards an end on one or the other.

For now, I’m NaNo-ing, because, yes, it is November somewhere as I write this.

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