With the final editing revisions sent to my publisher, I am thinking about my next story. As with many authors there is a never ending project pile. So how do you to choose the next one?
There are several scenarios:
1. You have submitted one part of a series – your choice is reasonable clear – write the next book in the series. This can depend on when the manuscript has to be finished obviously but readers want the next one pretty quickly.
2. You are committed to writing a story for an anthology. Ensure you make the deadline.
3. A new idea has ‘popped’ into your head – it is always tempting to write the newest and brightest. However, can it wait? Maybe ask is it reflecting a current topic? Would it be best to get it published sooner rather than later?
4. You have several unfinished manuscripts pending. (This is my current quandary.) How do you choose?
The above options do give us guidance but if you are not committed to a deadline then what options are open to you?
a) Write the titles out and pick one out of a hat.
b) Ask your readers on social media to choose by voting.
c) Gauge the current ‘popular’ genre and write accordingly.
I have opted for b) and received a flurry of votes on Facebook and twitter, which was a pleasant surprise indeed.
The choices were – A western romance or a suspense novel. The suspense won! So I will delve into The Giving Thief for this year and into next.
I have gained a new freelance client for August. So I am looking forward to working with this author on her novel from August onward.
My steampunk novel, The Commodore’s Gift is now with my publisher and set for a September 2020 launch. Unsure at this point what that will actually look like or compose of but we will see.
Take care and stay well.
As I take the curve into the rain
It’s not the destination but the mode
Let go the nerves and go again.
Can our stories written deep in stone
Change despite apparent plan?
All life’s paths go same direction
Can’t change the fates – no one can.
Eric James Olson
Stone Car in the Woods
What difference does perception make?
Parked here, alone but not beside
the road. Enfolded in leaves and green.
Can I be heard?
I shouldn’t be. Let me be clear:
I’m a car made from stones, scraps of metal, used tires.
That’s no metaphor. That’s what I am.
And yet—there’s a consciousness in things
Inanimate. Like the other day.
A boy came out to this place in the woods.
He sat down across from me.
I can’t move, of course.
But he can and he came out to me.
And in his mind, a story formed
Of how I came to be—stuck here
By some unseen hand.
Is that not existence? A man made me.
And this boy saw me. Does it matter that
I can’t see him, feel him, hear him?
What difference does perception make?
I don’t know about this, man.”
“Trust me, Benny. The cops will never spot it this way. We’ll just leave the loot in the car. Give it a couple of days and we can dig it out and drive into the night.”
A Chipmunk’s Life – June 25th Prompt
Adult squirrel Perched on a cliff Must be a girl See her fancy quiff.
She searched the rock To see it was safe. Checked out the talk Saw no friendly face.
None of her pals Was she able to chase Where were the guys’n gals? No one to race.
So on this morn She chewed a treat, Feeling so forlorn They’d planned to meet.
She continued her snack A chew then a nibble, Her lips a quiver and smack. T’is better than kibble.
Out came friend Sue Who was a Chipmunk Abra- ca- dabra she was one too Disguise was her funk.
All the squirrels were mean So she used Dad’s power, Became a chipmunk Queen To frolic with Sue for an hour.
Cause after that Back into a squirrel, She turned stat Gave her head a whirl.
Oh, what fun with Sue If only she could stay, As a chipmunk Whoo Hoo! They could always play.
A Cinderella Dream !
Jade Figure – July 9 Prompt
“Ha!” I could hear her in the other room. I knew exactly what she’d found.
“Um, babe … what the heck is this?”
I abandoned the twist of hangers and clean shirts that would now need cleaning to see her sitting in the middle of boxes with IT. She held it up to the light, strands of her blond hair out of the bun and framing her face. Her smile revealed equal parts wonder and confusion.
“I’ve always said I’d toss that the first move it gets broken in,” I explained.
Marin tapped on the glass with two fingernails. “It’s made of kryptonite, apparently.” She set it on the carpet in front of her and squinted. “Not a sixth-grade art project either, though, am I right?” For such ugliness, the craftsmanship was incredible.
“I think they’ve just mated,” I said, using that line for the thousandth time. It was funny the first time. “Or, they’ve just mated. That’s the boy butterfly, beating it for home before she eats his head.” My college roommate hypothesized they were both girls. But that’s a different story.
I’d followed Marin from Boston to Durham, N.C.
No regrets. Construction jobs come in every city. Marin, though, was an artisan. A carpenter. Can you believe that? The girl has carpenter pants in her closet that have actually held a hammer. Every time I’d compliment her on the craft of building a shelf or decorative piece, she reminded me.
“Carpentry isn’t for sissies, you know,” she’d say, without looking up from her work.
Maybe that’s why she reacted differently from any other woman I’d met to this ugly statue. I’d bought it when I was 11, for my mom, for mother’s day. It became the butt of jokes ever since in the family. The year before, I gave mom a Rodney Dangerfield album. I thought this to be an elegant upgrade.
“Have a place in mind for it?” she asked. She rocked back and onto her feet, arms outstretched for effect. Like she’d just nailed the landing off a pommel horse. I met this girl at a 9/11 vigil just off Boylston Street.
I’d followed my uncle to Boston for work. Only, with so much rain, there wasn’t much to do. I sustained myself on cereal and waited it out. I’d had so little work before the day I met Marin that it felt my hands hand grown soft. The week before, the Sox/Blue Jays finale got rained out.
I had bleacher tickets and everything – two, with no one in mind to take.
Anyway, I met Marin at this rally that I wouldn’t have been interested in had the week not been so rain-soaked and workless. I’d let the troubles of my world bounce around in my mind for days. I thought the relevance of the day could assuage that a bit. And it didn’t.
Until I saw her.
Now here I was, watching her hold up the mistake of a mother’s day gift that had stubbornly survived a handful of moves. She held it aloft, at first close, then at arm’s length. Immediately I remembered the snickering when mom lifted it from an oatmeal container decorated with paint.
“I do,” she said of what would become “fugglyfly’s” new home.
I remembered my oldest brother suggesting a place to put it that wasn’t exactly comfortable. Or probably physically possible. Instead, Marin walked out into the kitchen, to the end of the bar. I followed, as always.
She pushed aside my blender and two small boxes and placed the figure on the kitchen bar, way to the back, where I thought it would be easy to hide it behind something else. Anything else.
“Parfait,” she whispered, even though she knew French about as well as she did decorum. Marin stepped back, over my bag of golf discs, hands on hips. She adjusted a track light onto the figure, and turned it around. Ugly art has no front and back.
“That’s ridiculous,” I muttered, and realized how awful that must have sounded.
It occurred to me I’d assumed Marin’s actions were to ridicule. They weren’t. She didn’t even know the story. She hadn’t even asked. Even now, in my petulance, she leaned on a bar stool and waited. No reaction. No judgement.
I explained the story, and found myself looking more at my hands and feet than my girlfriend. “But it’s jade, isn’t it?” she asked. “It looks like jade. Smells like jade, too,” she said for comic effect. You know what? No one in my family had ever brought that up. Hell yes, it looks like jade.
I waited for the laughter burst, the proclamation, “you poor boy. How did you know it was horrid?” Nope. Still, no such thing. Marin instead told me that when her father died, she found bracelets and rings she’d made for him when she was little, in his jewelry box, next to his wedding ring.
She’d found artwork of hers, some of it unidentifiable, in his safe, with his will.
We talked a little more about stuff from our childhoods. Nothing bitter. I’d felt like a lot of what I did was misunderstood. I turned and looked through the open bedroom door and remembered the cramped closet space and so low to the ground toilet.
I wondered how we’d share sink space. If my beef jerky would go over well with a girl more likely to dry banana and kiwi chips than beef flank steak. I could see some battles, and that didn’t have anything to do with whose tools would go where. Or if my towels were towel-bar worthy.
She’d been the first, though, to unpack this symbol of my childhood mistakes this way. Makes me think we’ll be all right.
Makes me think I could even give kiwi chips a shot.
Invisible – August 6 prompt
She sat reading and fading where she sat.
First her feet slipped into nothing, a toe
at a time. Her legs went next, but she sat
still and continued reading even though
her body shifted out of time part by
part. Her torso next phased out following
her legs. Not some invisibility
trick or try to fool the eye, she’s going
now, her arms are vanishing, soon her head
will go and all that will be left standing
is her clothes and the grimoire that she read.
For the invisibility spell cast
had helped her to evade her past at last.
Bench – September 10 prompt
I sit on the bench and wallow in the beauty of orange. The crunch of leaves and the crisp air fill my ears and lungs with sensory satisfaction. And just when I think I could not be anymore content, I gaze up at the bossy Blue Jay and smile.
Sitting among the colors. Thinking of the many colors of life and the colors that make people’s personalities. Simple. complicated. Stunning. outraged. People. Colors. Life.
Vanished – December 3 prompt
The Bike Ride
It was a frosty morning for a bike ride but ten-year-old Jacob felt the loneliness more than the cold. At least he had his bike; it made his escapes so much easier. He could go faster and farther on his silver bike than on his feet. And that made all the difference for a kid in foster care.
Sure, he had to go back at the end of the day. If he could survive outside he would. But the need for food and warmth always made him turn his bike around and return to the house. There had been so many, it was a wonder he could even find his way back, but he did and there was always a family that barely noticed him, tossed a plate of cold hard food on the table, talked around him and about him, but never directly to him. Unless the check didn’t arrive from the child welfare. Then they got right up close to him and demanded he call his social worker. “Tell her we ain’t gonna feed you if we don’t get paid.”
Sometimes Sharon drove over in her ratty old Subaru and delivered her own personal check to the ‘family’. He loitered outside with his head hanging down while the inevitable argument ensued. One time, two years ago, she showed up with the bike sticking out of the back of her hatchback. “I’d take you myself if I could. You know that don’t you, Jacob?”
He nodded, unable to lift his head and let her see the tears soaking his lashes, one rolling down his cheek, then another until she wrapped her arms around him in a fierce, warm hug. Wiping her own cheeks, striding to her car, cranking the engine three times then finally driving off without looking back. She promised she would always find a home for him. Every time he was returned. Displaced. But could she really keep that promise?
This morning was the same as any other except for the part about it being Christmas morning. Jacob had crept out of the house before the ‘family’ awoke. He’d learned it was best not to sit with them, hopeful and expectant. More times than not, as the wrapping paper flew from the packages, he would get that look. The–oh gosh we forgot about you–look.
He rode along the wet street, water spraying up the back of his red sweatshirt. If he’d been asked what he wanted for Christmas, he would have said, “a rain jacket.”
His fingers were as icy as the trees. He took one hand, then the other off the handlebars, blew on it and put it in the front pocket of his sweatshirt. Over and over for miles he rode, finally turning left instead of right because he’d always wanted to see what was down this empty road. Nobody ever came down the road. And every time he rode past it, he promised himself that one day he would try it. He so much wanted to know where it led. So for Christmas this year he gave himself the gift of courage and turned his bike.
The first thing he noticed was the quiet sound. The trees hung forward like they were whispering to each other from one side of the street to the other. He forgot about his frozen fingers and kept riding, leaning forward, thinking if he rode far enough, if the road went far enough, he would understand what the trees were saying.
Then up ahead in the foggy distance, he saw something blocking the road. Oh no, he thought. There’s someone out here. He squinted. It looked like a red and gold car in the middle of the road, skidded sideways. Someone spun out. He squeezed his brakes. He thought he did but the bike didn’t slow. It seemed to go faster. He pulled his hand off the lever, blew on it, squeezed again but nothing happened. He stood up on the peddles. “Hey!” he shouted. “Hey, I’m here! Look out! I can’t stop!”
For the first time ever, his bike slid out from under him. Not now, he thought. Don’t give up on me now.
He hit the ground, sliding forward on his back, his bike motionless behind him. He skidded right up to the car that was not a car. It was a sleigh, and a man as ancient as the world itself stepped out of it. He scooped Jacob up in his arms. “I got you now,” he said. “You can come with me.”