I’m working on a couple of books right now. If you’ve been following me on Twitter and Facebook, you’ve seen me post a total word count for each project and final word count goal every night. The goal is just a guide. I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I know how long the book is going to be. I don’t. I have a general idea, and I shoot for that. If I’m a few words short or long, I’m not going to continue until I get to the exact word count goal. Having a goal helps me with story and structure.
Here is a taste of one of the books. It’s titled Lost Days, and it’s about a 15-year-od girl who embarks on a quest to find out what drove her uncle crazy. Here’s a little hint. It involves a large bipedal ape roaming the woods of North America. It’s YA Scifi/Adventure. Keep in mind, this is first draft stuff. This is subject to change.
My uncle is crazy. Not fun crazy, but scary crazy. He was in some weird accident when he was a kid and it messed him up. Happened before my mom was born. Before my granddaddy was married to my Nana Taffy, he had a whole other family. Kind of crazy when you think about it. Granddaddy had a completely different life. He had a wife and a kid. His job was different. He even lived in a different part of the country, Washington or Oregon… I don’t know for sure because he doesn’t like to talk about it, and Uncle Crew (the crazy one), doesn’t like to talk about anything at all. All I know is there was an accident on a mountain road and granddaddy’s first wife died.
He met Nana Taffy a few years later, married her, and had my mom. Granddaddy shipped Uncle Crew off to other relatives. Hard to believe he’d do something like that if you knew him now, but he didn’t just have a whole different life back then, he was a completely different person. The way Nana Taffy tells it, granddaddy drank pretty heavily. Kept to himself. They worked together in a shoe factory. It took him two months to say anything to her, and they worked only five feet from each other. When he did finally talk, all he said was the occasional “Hey,” or “Bye.”
Everyone thought he was shy, but Nana Taffy knew better. She could see he was hurting… empty. He’d lost something, and he blamed himself for it.
She ended up making him laugh one day. She can’t even remember what it was she did, but he laughed and that was that. They started eating lunch together. He started walking her to her car. He even drove her home a few times when her car was in the shop.
“I finally asked him if he was ever going to kiss me,” Nana Taffy says. “He just about fainted dead away from the question. He turned around, got in his car, and left. Disappeared for a week. Told the folks at the factory he had a family emergency. Seven days later to the hour he showed up on my front stoop and kissed me without so much as a ‘hello’ or ‘how do you do.’ It was my turn to almost faint dead away.”
My little brother Grover (yep, pretty much the worst name ever) always hated it when Nana Taffy told these stories. He’d moan and groan until she’d let him up from the breakfast table, but I loved them. Mom think it’s because I’m a girl, but I think it’s because I’m older and more mature, and he’s mostly the world’s biggest brat.
“What did you do when he kissed you?” I asked. I knew the answer because we had heard it a hundred dozen times, but it was fun to watch Grover’s face scrunch in pain as he realized he’d have to hear it all over again.
“Married him,” Nana Taffy said.
“Right there on the front stoop?”
“Just about,” she said. “Would have if we could have gotten a marriage license and preacher on such short notice. As it was, I had to wait a whole week.”
Mom always shakes her head at this. “That’s insane, mom.” And she looks at me and Grover. “Don’t you two go getting any ideas. No one gets married a week after the first kiss. Your Nana and granddaddy just got lucky, that’s all.”
Mom is kind of bitter about marriage. She and my dad got divorced a few months ago. When she’s not crying about how awful men are, she’s giving my brother and me the world’s worst relationship advice. Never mind that I’m fifteen and Grover’s eleven and neither one of us has kissed anyone in our whole entire lives. Mind you, some girls in my class have done… “it” a few times already, and here I am with virgin lips. I’m not saying I want to be like those other girls. I got no interest in… “it,” but I think when you’re fifteen you should have at least kissed a guy or two… or three even.
But no, not me. I’m about the most socially awkward goof on the planet. I’m the only person in my school that’s not in a clique… well, that’s not true. My friend Denise is the same way. I guess that’s why she’s my friend. And then there’s Owen Doogan. Not a friend as much as a leech who kind of hangs around because no one else will let him within five feet of them. He’s a nerd without the brains. Plays a lot of video games and flunks just about every subject in school. Mom likes him because when he comes over he cleans up after himself.
You should know, despite what Owen says, I’m not pretty. I’ve got zits, and my nose is kind of big. I’m only pretty to him because I haven’t told him to get lost like every other girl in school, including Denise. I’ve never had my hair done in my life. Nana Taffy trims it for me. I haven’t met a trend I don’t absolutely despise yet. Denise is just the opposite. She’s way prettier than me. She uses just about every medication on earth to fight acne, and she’s even got boobs. She’s kissed a guy – Allen Shaw. He lives a hundreds of miles away. They met at some church camp. Denise considers him her boyfriend. I’m betting she would have married him a week after their first kiss if her parents and the law wouldn’t have been totally against it.
“How long ‘til after your first kiss did you and daddy get married,” I once asked my mom.
She rolled her eyes. “A long, long, long time.”
“Waiting didn’t work out too well for you,” Grover said. He didn’t mean anything by it. He was just too young and stupid to know he’d said something really, really dumb.
I slapped him on the shoulder. “Nice going, dink face.”
“Don’t hit your brother.”
“Your mother’s, right, Hayley,” Nana Taffy said. “Doesn’t matter how big of a dink face your brother is. Don’t ever hit him.”
Dink face stuck his tongue out at me.
That’s mostly how our mornings would go. Me, Grover, mom, and Nana Taffy sitting around talking about how things used to be and sometimes the way they should be. Nana would cook up biscuits, gravy, eggs, and just about every breakfast food on the planet. We would eat and talk. The food and the stories were always the same.
Granddaddy never joined us. He was up hours before anyone else tinkering away on some banged up old car he kept in a detached garage he built himself. That’s were Uncle Crew lived. Above the garage in what’s called a FROG – furnished room over garage. I didn’t see much of him. Occasionally he would come in the main house and eat dinner with us, or fix something Nana Taffy needed fixed. He didn’t work. He was too crazy to work. He just sat in his FROG and came out when he needed to. I don’t know what he did in there. I don’t even think he had a TV. He may have had a computer. I saw a box from the computer store in the garbage once, and I knew it didn’t belong to anyone in the house. Denise thinks he did perverted and creepy stuff on the internet, but she thought every guy did that kind of stuff on the internet.
Mom said he was harmless. He’d never hurt anyone in all the years she knew him, and she knew him for about as long as I’ve been alive. Granddaddy just showed up at the house with him one day. Introduced him to the family, and moved him into the FROG. Not a word was said beforehand. Mom wasn’t living with them at the time, but she still seemed a little miffed that her father would move a near stranger into the house with her mother. She yacked and complained about it to my dad around the clock. Wanted to know why her father would do such thing. How could he put a crazy man in the same house as his wife… her mother. Dad assured mom a thousand times over that he didn’t have a clue, and she shouldn’t be asking him. She should be talking to her father. Mom always balked at that.
“Hank Stanton doesn’t talk about such things,” my mother would say. “If you can get anything out of him that doesn’t have to do with the weather or football, you’re performing a miracle that Jesus himself couldn’t do.”
Still she tried. It took years to work up the courage, mind you, but she did try. And by the time she tried, Uncle Crew had lived in the FROG for years without incident. It didn’t settle mom’s nerves one bit. She was convinced that he would snap at any moment and kill everyone within a four block radius.
“He ain’t dangerous,” granddaddy answered. “He’s quiet that’s all.”
“I got kids, daddy. How am I supposed to feel with him hanging around?”
“Feel how you want.”
“Honey,” Nana Taffy said, “Crew’s a good boy. He helps out around the house. He’s neat. He’s not a bother at all.”
“But, Momma, I don’t want my children…”
“Connie Wilkes,” Nana would say sounding all indignant. “Your children are my grandchildren. Do you think I would put them in harm’s way?”
“I didn’t mean…”
“Where’s your head, Ms. Britches? Those little ones are every beat of my heart. I’d never let anything happen to them.”
Granddaddy grunted as if to say “Go get’em, Taf.”
But Nana wasn’t having any of it. “Oh no you don’t, Henry Crew Stanton. Your daughter’s got every right to be concerned about her children. You bring a grown man into the house without word one, and you expect everyone to treat him like you just brought a puppy home. It don’t work that way, Mr. Man. Mark my words, you are going to speak about it someday. Every last detail, to the minute. We’re your family. We deserve to know.”
Granddaddy stood. “In time,” he said as he started to walk away. He stopped and without facing Nana Taffy or mom, said, “Crew is my boy…” He wanted to say more, but he just walked out of the house and headed to the garage to work on his heap for a car.
Nana Taffy put her hand on mom’s. “It may not always seem like it, but your father knows what he’s doing.”
That pretty much sums up the communication skills in my family. A lot of incomplete thoughts and unfinished sentences. All of it designed to shield granddaddy from having to reveal too much of himself. The explanation that Nana said we all deserved… she wouldn’t ever ask for it. Not in a million years. “In time” was never going to come. I was only fifteen and I knew that.