Sunday, October 27, 2013

What I have planned

Same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world! Muhahahaha!

An interesting thing happened yesterday. The characters in my current story were 'stuck' in between one episode ending and another beginning. (Coincidentally known as a chapter break.) I'd write a paragraph only to erase it a minute later. Then I'd fumble around, writing sentences that didn't make sense. My better judgment would fix them immediately after they were written, but I kept plugging things in. Certain things fit, others didn't. Like a puzzle piece finally locking in place a certain way, the story fell in line. As soon as that occurred, a couple of pages spilled forth onto the screen.

There is an old martial arts mantra attributed to Bruce Lee: 'Learn everything you can, discard what is useless, add to it your own.'
That is the true economy of motion. While not admitting I had writers block, I was certainly stuck in limbo for a short while.
I'm going to catch some flack from this, but I don't believe writers block actually exists. What I think happens is the writer is afraid to put hands to keyboard. Or put another way, the writer is trying too hard to stick to plan A, but subconsciously the writer wants to take a side trip to plan B. Left and right side of the brain lock up. The result is nothing gets written down.  My advice is to simply go with it. Let the story flow from your fingertips and don't worry if people will like it. If you write true to your heart, then it will show in your work.
And yes, it is work. Mental acuity through focus and concentration.

It's getting to the point where I really should give this story a name. The name Travelers Road caught my attention for the first book because it had several meanings. The hero is a time traveler. In the book, he journeys across the desert, indeed all of Texas. There's even a journey of redemption and discovery.

In this as-yet-unnamed sequel Daniel is trying to hold on to what he's gained and come to love. Not only the people, but the town and time period. Ideally the title would have two words, but that isn't set in stone. Daniel has grown. He now has a wife and is trying to start a family. There is also an apprentice to train and let's not forget that a very lethal killer is out to do him in.

The book opens with Daniel preparing for the upcoming battle with the lizard man assassin. He has re-invented things to help him in defeating this killer when it comes. To help him, Daniel has enlisted the aid of his friends and the town blacksmith who is an accomplished machinist.
Part of his cover in the 19th century is being a Texas Ranger that investigates paranormal activity. (Think X-files in the old west, or as one of my readers put it, Gunsmoke on mescaline.) Daniel is summoned to the Union stockyards to investigate why cattle are being electrocuted in the pens. Our hero has to figure a way to stop someone who can summon lightning and is bent on revenge.
(I may be summarizing the book, but I'm skipping over the spoilers.)
The newlyweds spend Christmas in Dallas, but the honeymoon is interrupted by an evil doctor bent on creating an army of fungus creatures. After defeating the monsters, Daniel discovers he now has an apprentice that he must train. Unfortunately the Christmas celebration must wait, the lizard man has tracked them. Stealing a barge allows our heroes to escape where they make their way to La Grange, seeking the help of an old friend of Charlotte. Crime is rampant in the town and the sheriff is all too glad to blackmail Daniel into helping him curb the crime spree. A compromise is reached that will have far reaching consequences in the twentieth century.
Knowing it is a matter of time before the lizard catches up with them, Daniel decides to high tail it back to Waco where his weapons await to stop the scaly horror.
The lizard, however, has beaten them back to town. In fact, it has built a nest, complete with eggs! Sally reminds everyone that some species of reptile can change sex.
A climatic standoff ensues. Daniel with a flamethrower and the nest of eggs. The lizard assassin holding a Charlotte who is a few weeks pregnant.

I'm not revealing how Daniel gets out of that situation. Instead, I'll leave you with this:

Mister Ranger!” the boy cried out in between gasps. “Mister Ranger, Sheriff wants to see you right away.” Putting down her things Charlotte gave me a glare. “Don't even think about it. I'm coming with you.”
“Wouldn't have it any other way.” I shot back. The boy proceeded to lead us to a farm house on the edge of town.
An elderly woman sat on the house porch with her hands over her face. Upon seeing how upset she appeared to be, Charlotte hurried to her side.
“Sheriff says to meet him out in the field.” the boy affirmed. With Charlotte taking things in hand here, I let myself be led out back. A gently rolling hill occupied the one side of the field where the farmer put his crop. At the crest of the hill stood the sheriff next to a large pile of... hay?
What first appeared to be a huge mass of straw was in fact, much more. “Glad the boy found you,” Sheriff Branson said by way of introduction. “I...”
“Let me look at the this first,” I interrupted. “Then we'll talk.”
An unusual concentration of flies buzzed around as I examined the mound. The bottom portion appeared to be mud and plant matter. The strong odor it gave off reminded me of a manure pile. Roughly chest high a wooden plow handle stuck out. A lot of insects gathered along some of the larger twigs. This resembled a column of loose earth, I've seen something like this before, it was somewhat familiar, but what could it be? A compost pile perhaps? With so many flies swarming about, I first thought there must be an outhouse nearby. Rounding the corner I nearly smacked face first into an arm jutting out from the debris. Dried blood staining the tatters of a muddy shirt sleeve.
“We think that's Abner.” The sheriff supplied from behind me. “His wife says he went out yesterday. Found the horse in his stall this morning, she got worried and then sent for me.”
A hundred things went through my mind, none of them came close to figuring out what was going on. I didn't know anything about processing a body or what to do next.
“Bottom line: We have to get him out of there. This pile of...” Absently removing a clod of earth from the mound. “Debris has got to be ten feet high. Question is; how did he get in there along with his plow? Did his wife see anything?”
Sheriff Branson grimaced as he wiped sweat from his brow. “Hasn't seen anything for years. Cataracts took most of her sight. She doesn't know about this.”
Is there a shovel in the barn or...” I began. Branson held out the spade he'd been leaning against. “I don't suppose we could send for someone?” I asked.
“I already did. You arrived before my deputies. They're rounding up a farm hand or two.”
I was thinking of Sally Ackerman.”
“Your friend from the Saloon?” Branson looked at me quizzically.
Not for the actual work. I need her opinion on this.”
Returning to the farm house while Sally was sent for, I decided to interview the wife. Charlotte sat beside the elderly woman, holding her hand reassuringly. Face red and blotchy from recently crying, the woman stared ahead with whited over eyes.
“Someone's approaching.” I heard her whisper to Charlotte.
“It's my husband.” Charlotte confirmed.
“Mrs. Abner,” I began. “I need to ask you about last night. Did you hear anything?”
“I spoke to the sheriff a short time ago.” she began. “Such a nice boy. I used to teach him back when he was little. I found Nuthatch this morning when I was going into the barn, but no sign of my Paw. Did you find him?”
Was I the right one to tell her? “We found someone half buried in a... mudslide.” I began. “We're not sure it's Mr. Abner, but when we dig him out, we'll know more.”
Mrs. Abner frowned. “A mudslide? We haven't had any serious rain in a bit... The nearest creek is a ways off. What are you not telling me young man.” she demanded.
“When we know more, we'll let you know.” I offered. “Help is on the way. Right now I don't have an explanation for what happened or how it happened. It appears this person was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
An angry look crossing her face, Mrs. Abner spit out. “That's my husband you're talking about.”
“We don't know if it's him.” I explained while trying not to raise my voice. “When we make a positive identification, you'll be the first to know.”
Still looking angry, Mrs. Abner took what I said at face value. “Thank you, young man. That will be all.”
Okay, so I wasn't going to get any further until we had the body out of the mound. Wait a sec... mound... Pile? Stepping over to the edge of the porch, I could see the outline of the murder scene. Calling it a crime scene seemed a little trite. The afternoon sun glared into my eyes. Shading my vision to get a better look at where a man lost his life, I suddenly had an inkling of what it could be. When I covered my eyes, I also blocked out a portion of the field and trees. Seeing what it might be without any size reference next to it. Before I knew it I began running back to the scene. The smell of decay became stronger as I approached. Removing a glove and experimentally holding my hand an inch away from the mound told something interesting.
With faint heat radiating from the debris, whatever was inside was composting, or rather whatever was composting was keeping something warm inside.
“I hope you didn't touch that.” Sally remarked as she and Charlotte approached. Two men carrying shovels and picks stood beside my girls.
“Sally, before these men get him,” I indicated the outstretched arm. “I need your opinion on what could have caused this.”
Unphased by what I said, she repeated; “Did. You. Touch. It?”
“No.” I replied in the same tone of voice.
Taking me at my word, Sally stepped up to examine the column.
Smells like crap.” she remarked.
“Looks like a very big dog cr...”
“Don't!” Sally warned. “That's not what it is. You say that whatever is chasing you is a reptile?”
Nodding my head, I motioned for her to continue. “This isn't a compost pile or a big pile of cow chips. This is a nest.” Turning to the two men, Sally laid out some specific instructions. “Dig carefully around the body, especially underneath it. Try not to disturb the mound as much as possible. Where are you boys from?”
“I'm from Biloxi, Mississippi ma'am.” One of the men spoke up. Sally nodded understandingly.
“Think of this as the biggest gator nest you've seen. When you've got the body out, find a sheep or a goat nearby. Kill it. Stuff it in the hole where the body was. You've got to do this before sundown.
“It's about four hours before sundown.” the other man offered.
If someone has a problem with us taking an animal, tell them I'll pay them.” Sally explained. “Hurry, all our lives depend on it.”
One of the men took off running, presumably to find an animal. “The guy from Mississippi started excavating underneath the body with the shovel and pick.
I drew Sally close so as not to alarm everyone. “Are you saying there are eggs in there?” Sally nodded.
“I'm willing to bet money on it.”

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