Monday, September 1, 2008

What are you working on now?

**This picture is from an ad for the lapdawg writing stand - got to make sure I don't mess with copyright issues**

Quite a few people have asked me what book I'm currently working on. I know I've told some of you, but I'll just post it here so you all know. My last book went through sooo many re-writes that I needed to take a break from non-fiction for a while. So I am in the latter stages of finishing up a children's fantasy novel. For the boys who like magic, mayhem, and cool weapons.

The idea was born during a bedtime story I told Ian one day. He kept begging me to repeat it and I thought, "Hey, this would make a good book." It has changed and developed since then, but Ian knows this book is for him.

Right now I am almost finished with the rough draft (coming in around 300 pages) and at the same time editing the first half of the book. My working title is The Gateway, but it isn't a title that sends tingles up and down my spine. The publisher will probably change it anyway. Did you know the publisher has final say on the title?

It's been a lot of fun and I have a lot of respect for fiction writers. For all of you who may be curious, here's an excerpt. It's the first couple pages. Be kind in your comments :)

Dread kicked Bryan Abbott’s heart into overdrive, his palms sweated, and his lungs struggled for air. He would have welcomed even the sound of someone creeping up behind him, would have raced to greet the source of the footsteps, just to have someone—anyone—close to him. But as he waited in the deserted parking lot, there was no doubt that he was alone.

Thirteen-year-old boys should have outgrown such a baby fear, so Bryan was pretty good at faking it—most of the time. Movement made it easier. Bryan sprinted toward the duffel bag he had dropped on the sidewalk. It was just like his dad to be late. Jump—soar—land. It happened often enough.

He readied himself for another long jump. He always had swim practice on Fridays. His dad knew that. But today the Rec Center closed early for the first night of Franklin’s Fall Festival.

Jump—soar—land. Yes! That was the longest one by far! Bryan bowed grandly to the nearby trees, hearing in his mind the roar of applause.

Bryan sighed and plopped down on his bag. His dad probably forgot it was his weekend. Again. Bryan’s parents switched the weekend schedule around because of something-or-other, and his dad always forgot when they changed things. Or he got busy at work. Or he had other plans. Or a million other things came up.

The daylight fought a losing battle with the approaching darkness, sending out feeble strands of orange and purple that got swallowed halfway across the sky. The early autumn air had a distinct bite now. Bryan stared miserably across the empty parking lot and the equally vacant road leading to it. Icy drops of water from his wet hair trickled down his neck.

How long had it been since the last person left the Rec Center? One hour? Two? Logically, Bryan knew it couldn’t have been that long—probably half an hour at the most—but his pounding heart wasn’t listening to logic right now.

He jumped to his feet. Got to move!

Chewing on his lower lip, he paced the sidewalk. With loud crunches, his footsteps pulverized dead leaves littering the ground. He wasn’t really alone. People lived in the houses across the baseball field. But it was getting darker and no lights shone in the house windows.

Bryan rubbed his hands together. How could his dad do this again? He knew Bryan hated waiting alone.

With a massive swing of his leg, Bryan punted his bag so hard it soared over the curb and skidded to a stop in the parking lot. Fine! He was leaving.

Bryan grabbed his duffel bag and ran across the baseball field. The middle of town would be full of people at the Fall Festival. And it would be harder for either of his parents to find him in the crowd—if they bothered to look for him. Let them worry a little bit.

A small light flickered in the air to his right. Probably just a firefly. Normally he liked to try and catch them, but all Bryan wanted to do now was get to the Festival.

Darkness crept across the sky—only a thin line of sunlight shone above the mountains on the horizon. Bryan walked as fast as he could on the cracked sidewalks. Once in a while he saw more small flashes of light from the corner of his eye, but he ignored them.

Weird noises encircled him—creaking, snapping, and skittering like bare bones grazing concrete. He craned his neck from side to side, searching the deepening shadows. Just keep moving.

In his rush, Bryan didn’t watch his steps carefully enough. He stumbled over tree roots and uneven concrete. A large chunk of sidewalk caught the edge of his shoe and he went sprawling, skinning his hands and knees. Just great. More bruises to add to his almost-constant supply.

His best friend, James, liked to say that Bryan could trip over a shadow. He tried to laugh when James said that—which was a lot—but it was more embarrassing than funny.

He was hurrying past a really creepy house when a bright orange light flared over the neglected front lawn, illuminating the blank windows like glowing eyes. A small light drifted at eye-level. Fireflies didn’t glow orange or flash that bright. As he looked at it, the orange light continued to hover and pulse dimly. Fireflies didn’t pulse, either.

The light flashed again, morphing from orange to yellow. Then it throbbed yellow.

Bryan couldn’t resist a mystery. He walked closer. The light gleamed bright in the darkening night again, but green now. As he drew near, it drifted away from him.

He halted. The light stopped and hovered, still pulsing.

Bryan took another step. It flashed again, this time red, then moved farther away. When he tried to move closer, the light floated away from him, staying far enough away that he couldn’t get a good look at it.

He decided to try something different. He sprinted to the light. It darted away down the road, faster than he thought possible. Then stopped. Almost like it was waiting for him.

It continued to dance, tantalizingly just out of reach, clear into the center of town. Bryan tried various ways to get closer, and failed each time. As he drew nearer to the bright lights of the Fall Festival, it grew more difficult to see the mutant firefly—or whatever it was. Ahead of him, it darted around the corner of the library building.

Bryan careened around the corner after it and was abruptly drenched in light and sound. Most of the town was gathered for the Festival. The large front lawn of the library was full of people. He unclenched hands he hadn’t realized were balled into fists, and the knot in his stomach unraveled. He looked this way and that, but couldn’t see any small, hovering, color-changing light.

If you want to read the whole first chapter, you can check it out here on my website.

Have a great week!