Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Dan and I (with Dan doing the heavy lifting) are putting together our first collection of Warrior27. It will be digest-sized, include many of the best bits from the first four issues, plus have some new work. I'll post about the contents later, but for now, check out the cover image Dan created utilizing Andy Lee's beautiful cover painting from the first issue.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
You can find that story here
That really was not a fully fleshed out piece of fiction. So, I've returned to it in order to expand it and make it ready for publication, hopefully. I did a second draft and let it sit on the hard drive for a few months. But recently, I finally pulled it up to get back to it.
This is the first short section of the new iteration:
The call of the sea was urgent in his ears. As long as he could remember, Jared had known that uneven sway beneath his feet, the rolling passage of the lobster boat over the Atlantic.
But Jared Ames was also a dreamer. How else to explain his going off to high school? That rarely happened on the “Ledge,” particularly for the boys. The one-room schoolhouse elicited visions of Laura Ingalls and Little House on the Prairie, attracting many first-year teachers from the mainland, the closest point to the island nearly twenty miles away. But there was little encouragement for children to go much beyond what was offered here. Ledge Island was a fishing island – every man either had his own boat and traps or was a sternman. Even the postman and the honorary mayor (at eighty-two, the oldest resident of the fifty who called the island home year-round) went lobstering on a regular basis. It was understood that the boys were just biding their time until they would become full-time lobstermen.
This was just the way things were. Which is why it had been a surprise to see Jared head to the mainland and Andrews Academy///, a private school in SOMEWHERE. It was his mother’s wish. And, with Jared’s father gone when he was six and his younger brother not yet one, there had been no counter-argument to be made.
Which did not mean that Jared gave up lobstering. Like most boys from Ledge Island, and the clusters of islands along Maine’s coast, he was a natural, which is to say that it was something he became familiar with at a young age. His father taught Jared about trapping lobsters before the boy even began school. And when Harold Ames left, others on the island took the place of teacher. They took young Jared, and his brother Eric, out on their boats most weekends and many afternoons. It was exciting, and every chance growing up Jared was hauling traps.
A month into his junior year at Andrews Academy///, Jared’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. She hadn’t been well for a while, though she’d hidden it well. But when she collapsed in the post office one afternoon, Susan Richmond (for she’d taken back her maiden name when Jared’s father left) had relented and flown to Fairhaven, the one island large enough and close enough to the mainland to have its own hospital. The doctor didn’t take long to view the x-rays before proclaiming that Susan only had a month to live.
Stephen King and Greg Rucka have both said that the first draft of any story - for them - is all about getting the ideas on the page. The first draft is the quick burn. And I've taken this to heart.
When writing that initial draft, I speed through as fast as I can, my fingers trying to keep up with the ideas and dialogue in my brain. If I can't find a word or come up with a name for a place or a person, I just fill it in with the closest thing I can come to. These I denote either with a few slashes (///) after the word, or by substituting the word with a simple descriptive placeholder in all caps. These are the places where the minutiae of the piece faltered, and I just needed to keep going or lose the ideas coming to me. You can see examples of this bolded in the above selection.
But these are just the parts I know I need to fix when coming back to revise. There's so much more that has to change when I'm editing subsequent drafts. I need to make sure I'm using the same tense throughout (something I never fully understood until I began writing seriously a few years back). I have to watch for continuity errors and internal consistency. I need to make sure the words flow and that I'm not repeating the same words over and over in a small space. And I need to make sure it's "good."
Below is the second (or third, if you like) draft of the previous section, by way of example.
The call of the sea was urgent in his ears.
As long as he could remember, Jared had known/// that uneven sway beneath his feet, the rolling passage of the lobster boat over the Atlantic.
Like most seaman, Jared Ames was a dreamer, but all his dreams did not reside on the water. He wanted something more and realized/// leaving the island for high school was necessary///. And so, when he graduated eighth grade, Jared set off for the mainland, to board with relatives he’d met once when he was seven. It was an occasion of note, something that rarely happened on the “Ledge”.
The one-room schoolhouse in the middle of the island elicited visions of Laura Ingalls and Little House on the Prairie, attracting a procession of first-year teachers from the mainland///. But despite the teachers’ best efforts, there was little encouragement for children to go much beyond what was offered in this tiny village twenty miles off the Maine coast. Ledge Island was a fishing island – every man either owned a boat or worked on one. Even the postman and the honorary mayor (at eighty-two, the oldest of the fifty year-round residents) went lobstering on a regular basis. There was a tacit understanding that the boys were just biding their time until they would become full-time lobstermen.
This was just the way things were. Which is why it had been a surprise for everyone to watch Jared head to the mainland and Andrews Academy///, a private school in SOMEWHERE. It was his mother’s wish, and with his father gone since Jared was six and his younger brother not yet one, there had been no counter-argument to be made.
This didn’t mean Jared gave up lobstering. Like most boys from Ledge Island – and the clusters of islands along Maine’s coast – he was a natural, which is to say it was something Jared became familiar with at a young age. His father introduced Jared to lobstering before the boy was four. And when Harold Ames left, others on the island took the place of teacher. Most weekends Jared, along with his brother Eric, could be seen racing across the Atlantic in one boat or another.
A month into his junior year at Andrews Academy/// Jared’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. She hadn’t been well for a while, though she’d been able to hide it. But when she collapsed in the post office one afternoon, Susan Richmond (for she’d taken back her maiden name when Jared’s father left) relented/// and was flown to Fairhaven, the one island large enough to have its own hospital. The doctor didn’t take long to view the x-rays before proclaiming that Susan only had a month to live.
It still has some unfinished bits and markers where I need to go back and really think about the phrasing or about a name or maybe do a bit of research, but it's starting to gel now. The next pass I do should include minor changes and amendments unlike this first overhaul. But, we'll see.
Which means, my later drafts often read very differently than the early ones. I've had my wife read a first draft, tell me that large sections DID NOT WORK, and then have her appreciate the new dialogue of a later draft. As Greg Rucka said, the writing isn't the first draft, the writing is the revising and polishing and working at making a story something to which others can relate. It's hard work, but it's one of the most fun things I get to do during my day. That's why I schedule, in my head, the late evenings for writing. And why I stay up past my bedtime to do it.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Sand In My Toes
By Chris Beckett
I remember the day you left. I was so angry. Mom tried to talk to me, but I wouldn’t have any of that. Like any kid, I preferred to be miserable alone, but needed to make enough of a scene so that everybody knew I was unhappy – the center of attention without acknowledging it. Of course, Dad just sat in front of the television watching the game, which was typical. I’m not sure how I could have expected anything more from him?
It was hard; I was only seven. How was I supposed to understand? For so long, I resented you for abandoning me like that. I’m sorry.
I come out here whenever I’m home now. Running my fingers across the smooth stones, I stretch back through scattered memories, searching for one I recognize, for a stone we might have skipped across the river that used to run through here.
The state dammed it up quite a few years back, sent all the water toward the farms on the other side of the next town. Maybe you heard. But I don’t know.
Not a day goes by I don’t think of you, wonder what you’re doing, imagine what we could be doing together if you were still around. It’s foolish, I know, but it’s what I do. I can dream, can’t I?
On some level, I think I’ve finally come to terms with the whole thing. I needed years of therapy, which I only agreed to once my first marriage went to hell. But that’s another story, and one I’m not ready to discuss.
Shit, what a life.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t comprehend the realities in my head. You were the older brother. You were the one that could swim. I wasn’t strong enough, and I even had trouble with a life jacket, always felt like I was sinking despite its buoyancy. But none of that mattered. In my heart, I couldn’t reconcile the fact that I hadn’t saved you.
To be honest, when you first started flailing I thought you were pulling my leg, trying to scare me. That wouldn’t have been beyond you. I sat there in the sand watching you splash around, expecting you to stop suddenly and swim back over to shore. But when the splashing stopped, I couldn’t see you. I had no idea what to do, I swear. I wanted to rush in and save you, wanted to swim out to where the water rippled softly, but I was scared. I couldn’t move.
So I sat there, pulling my knees up to my chest, worrying my toes into the sand. (I still have trouble with grit between my toes.)
There are some mornings I wake up, and for a moment I forget and call out your name. It’s a reflex, probably just a specter of my dreams, but for that split second my heart skips and I wonder what we might do today.
But then I remember and pull myself back under the covers.
Friday, July 2, 2010
SOME OF MY FAVORITE THINGS
by Chris Beckett
Henry led the young girl through the field, the tall blades of grass tiny whispers on their arms as they moved away from the Pontiac parked on the soft shoulder. This was Henry’s favorite place in the world. Any new friends, particularly ones as pretty as Serena, were always introduced to this field. It lay down a long dirt road ten miles out of the city. Henry liked it for its solitude; there would be no reason to expect they would be interrupted.
Serena was a typical girl. Living in one of the piss-ant towns surrounding Brooks Harbor, she came to town for some excitement. And excitement was always on the menu for a seventeen-year-old who looked twenty-five and showed enough skin. She’d already been to three bars when Henry spotted her in Geaghan’s Pub. After fifteen minutes of conversation and two free drinks, he’d easily sheared the girl away from her friends as the two of them made their way outside to his Grand Am. She didn’t hesitate when he opened the door for her, and her hands roamed her body as they drove through the quiet streets.
Walking behind, Henry enjoyed the way her skirt rode up her thighs, the tight fabric molding softly to her round cheeks. The white t-shirt too was far too small, pressing snugly on her pert breasts. They were tiny, round and firm, braless nipples standing at attention, ripe fruits waiting to be plucked.
Henry could feel an aching in his groin as he licked his lips. Anticipation made his heart race, the blood pounding in his temples making his mind rush as the pressure built up. He could feel a prickling sensation at his fingertips as his arms began to twitch. Legs wanting to give way, he stopped and reached out for Serena’s arm.
“Right here. Let’s do it right here.”
She turned, her eyes glazed with alcohol, smiling lasciviously as she ran a moist tongue over bright red lips.
“How do you want me?”
A glint sparkled in her left eye as clouds pulled back from the moon above, and then just as quickly a new formation swept across the celestial spotlight. Henry welcomed the warm blanket of night that covered them, preferring the darkness for such things.
“On your back,” he said with a slight rasp. Her smile widened as she pulled off the white t-shirt, throwing it behind her where it landed on a bent sapling. Shucking off her sandals, Serena slid the skirt over her hips, letting it drop to the ground, revealing her lithe body for Henry to soak in.
Henry cupped his groin vigorously, unbuttoned his shirt and tossed it aside but left his shorts on. Serena lay down on the damp ground, her arms reaching out to invite him to her. Serena’s eyes fluttered as he lay on top of her, grinding his crotch against hers. He let his arms roam over her body, pinching her nipples before sliding his fingers over her soft shoulders, moving to the base of her neck.
Henry kissed her lightly on the lips as Serena softly breathed his name into the night breeze. She ran her long nails down his back and humped up against him.
“Please,” she whispered as she looked into his eyes, boring deeply into his soul. He smiled and shook his head, causing her to pout ridiculously. Pressing his crotch more strongly against Serena, Henry ran his fingers along the hollow below her chin. Serena’s head lolled back as a gasp escaped her, and Henry slowly wrapped his hands about her delicate neck.
Serena didn’t notice at first, all her attention was focused on the frenzied spasms clutching her middle. But soon ecstasy turned to anxiety and then to stark fear as she realized it was getting harder to breathe. Eyes wide with panic, Serena looked up into Henry’s and saw only black. His face betrayed no emotion as hands clenched more strongly. She tried to call out, to protest, but could no longer find the air necessary to do so. Kicking wildly, she tried to buck him off, but his weight was more than double her own and he only grunted dismissively at her futile attempts. She didn’t want to die, wondered if anyone would find her, would catch him, and worried about her mother discovering she’d gone bar-hopping in that mini skirt she detested.
Afterward, Henry stood up. He retrieved his shirt from where it had dropped into the grass and buttoned it up meticulously. He considered returning Serena’s shirt, but thought it looked nice fluttering in the night air, the moon’s faint rays illuminating it like some ghost.
Running his fingers through his hair, Henry tucked his shirt into his waistband and walked back to the car, serenity returning to his features, the pressure relieved until next time.