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Saturday, April 25, 2020

What if the Aztec Gods Visited Siverdale Prison?

mayan gods

I've been working on a story that has truly peaked my interest.  In my classroom I teach ancient civilization creation stories.  One of my favorites is the Mayan encounter, even though I have to keep the "PG" version front and center.  I have no idea where the story will find a home, but like the idea of the different gods that lead Mayan Civilization into creating the world each getting an hour to run Silverdale Penitentiary.  Here is the first chapter (8:00 pm)  Would love your thoughts or comments in the blog or by email.  jerryharwoodbooks@gmail.com

Tower Dedicated to Ix Chel, Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve in Riviera Maya, Mexico
Tower Dedicated to Ix Chel, Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Yvette Cardozo / Getty Images

Twelve Hours On The Block
Jerry Harwood

8:00 pm

Eli had been in for less than seven hours when the flaming mattress was tossed over the second floor balcony.  Eli arrived earlier that day with two other inmates.  One, set in an adjacent cell had been all the talk.  Eli had seen him during entry as the men changed to their issued uniforms.  Eli had considered the large hummingbird tattoo with the wings flowing across the man’s back and down his arms to be sissy and effeminate.  Eli had been set in cell 38.  The other two new inmates, including the one with the tattoo, were adjacent in cell 37.  The guards paraded by Eli’s cell often that initial afternoon.  But his cellmate assured him their slow gate pass cell 38 was really to see the man everyone knew as Hummingbird one cell over.  Not seeing the attraction, Eli settled in his cot for his first night of sleep in Silverdale Penitentiary.

Hummingbird had managed to wedge his door open during the final night check.  Eli recalled the sound of the first alarm, notifying guards that not all cell doors were closing.  There was a general uproar in the fifty cell facility, twenty upstairs and thirty downstairs.  Downstairs, affectionately called the courtyard, opened the entry doors as guards began yelling for inmates to stay in their cells.  The guards on the second floor began rattling their batons along the cell walls as they walked the line to see who had jammed a door.  It was then that Eli saw the mattress engulfed in flames fly out of Hummingbird’s cell.

An announcement was made over the intercom instructing all inmates to remain in their cells.  A beep followed by cell doors reopening and attempting to close.  Eli heard the footsteps outside as a guard approached. The guard’s baton raked the side of cell number 38.  In cell 37, the Hummingbird exited.

“Get back in your cell,” came the guard’s voice. 

Eli jumped down from his top bunk.  He remained away from the cell door to avoid giving any intention of leaving.  He wanted no part of this altercation, but he also didn’t want to miss out on his opportunity for a front row seat to an altercation.

“I said get back in your cell.” The guard said to Hummingbird.

The guard pulled out a Taser gun.  Eli could not see Hummingbird directly with the guard stepping between Eli and the other inmate.  The guard stepped toward Hummingbird.  There was a loud crack and the hum of an electric current.  Then the guard’s body went limp.

Hummingbird held the limp body aloft and moved toward the balcony guardrail.  He was shirtless and  the hummingbird tattoo stretched from shoulder blade to shoulder blade.  It was all black ink with a little grey shading.  On his leftt arm was an arm length tattoo of a flaming sword.  Eli could not remember seeing that tattoo previously.  The sword looked as if it had serrated teeth and had some poorly done yellow tinting along the blade.  The Hummingbird had all the appearances of Chattanooga’s citizen of the year.

The Hummingbird, dropped the guard on the floor and stepped out of sight of Eli into cell 37.  Eli next saw another prison mattress cast down to the courtyard in flames.  Eli backed up into his own cell a bit, seeing how easily Hummingbird cast the heavy mattress over his head.   Burnt fibers descended to the man’s bare skin.  He did not flinch.

“Return to your cells.” Came a voice over the intercom.  Eli heard the note of fear and desperation in the intercom voice.  A body, Eli assumed it was Hummingbird’s cellmate, was lifted as easily as the mattress by Hummingbird.  Eli could not tell if the man was alive, but supposed it would not matter.  Hummingbird tossed him over the guardrail presumably on top of the two burning mattresses.

There was a raucous yell by other inmates that echoed through the prison.  Eli heard footsteps on the metal catwalk outside the cells.  Many prisoners were exiting their cells to see what was happening.  Eli remained behind his bars even as he peered out the open cell doors.  Hummingbird’s debut at Silverdale Penitentiary was not yet finished.

Hummingbird pulled the fallen, disheveled guard up to his feet.  The guard was regaining consciousness and protested with weak kicks and a scream.  Hummingbird reached behind the guard and released the buckle on the protective vest.  The vest dropped.  Then Hummingbird pushed the guard into the railing of the balcony.  The arm with the flaming sword grabbed the guard’s shirt and ripped it down the middle.  The guard’s overweight belly bounced as it was exposed.   

“Put him down now and return to your cell,” came a voice just outside of Eli’s visual range.  “I said, put Joey down and return to your cell.”

Eli heard other voices.  Some were the taunts of prisoners, others additional staff that had entered to regain order.  The intercom continued to advise all prisoners to return to their cells and remain on their bunks.

Eli knew the next moment happened in seconds.  However, in Eli’s mind it replayed in slow motion and in high definition.  Effortlessly, Hummingbird lifted the overweight guard off his feet, using the balcony rail to shoulder some of the burden.  The guard’s feet jerked to find purchase on the metal walkway as Hummingbird held him aloft with his right hand.  Eli could have sworn the guard looked at Eli, pleading with his eyes.  Hummingbird’s back was to cell 38 and Eli saw the wings of the hummingbird tattoo were lifted as if in flight as Hummingbird’s muscles tensed.  Hummingbird’s left arm extended, holding the guard up by his shirt collar.  The left arm with the flaming sword tattoo raised a cupped hand.

Hummingbird’s hand caught fire.  

Eli stepped onto the walkway, temporarily forgetting his intention to stay in his cell.  This was some Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom type stuff.  Hummingbird’s left arm descended and his now flaming hand penetrated the guard’s chest.  The flaming hand seemed to extinguish itself and a steam arose from where Hummingbird’s arm now intersected with the guard’s chest.   Hummingbird continued to push his arm into the guard’s chest cavity.  Small flames flickered along the left arm where the sword tattoo began to take on a red hue.  Hummingbird’s wrist extended into the guard so that the sword’s point was no longer visible.

The tattoo on Hummingbird’s back filled with a bright crimson red as if the blood from the guard was moving to Hummingbird’s back and completing the design.  The guard continued to look at Eli, his eyes begging for mercy.  Eli felt a baton to his own back.  Someone behind him yelled at him to return to his cell.  Eli stepped back into the cell.

Hummingbird’s hand pulled away from the guard’s chest.  He dropped the guard’s body to the floor and raised a beating heart high in the air.  The guard who had hit Eli dropped his baton, turned, and ran.  

A few prisoners entered into Eli’s scope of vision after leaving their own cells.  They picked up the guard’s corpse, and threw it over the railing.  Eli would learn later that inmates on the bottom floor were rapidly adding their mattresses to the fire.  The cellmate and now the heartless guard were roasting on a makeshift pyre.

Hummingbird laughed and raised the heart as high as he could.  It was still beating as Eli heard the most terrifying words he could have ever imagined. 

 “All personnel please evacuate the floor.  All personnel evacuate the floor.”  

Michael Sullivan's Legends of the First Empire

Age of Death by Michael J. Sullivan

So, Michael Sullivan had me captivated from the opening chapters where two very odd companions enter into a city and meet a band of misfit children.  From there, I have loved immersing myself in his world.  I am currently finishing Age of Death and I am already sad that the journey will soon be over.

As a writer, I have also truly appreciated the forwards and afterwards in the book.  Michael Sullivan takes time to discuss his writing style with the reader and how he has developed the story for our consumption.

I enjoyed Game of Thrones, though I set it down somewhere around book six and picked up the HBO show.  I loved The Last Kingdom series by Bernard Comwell, though I haven't watched the tv series yet.  I hope this series someday gets its call into film as well.  Till then, do yourself a favor whether you read often or read rarely.  It is fantastic.

Story A Day Challenge

Sign up for StoryADay May 2020

So one of the leads in my writing group has challenged us the past two years to participate in Story - A - Day.  It is an activity where you get a writing prompt every day and must develop a story.  Many are flash fiction, and my friend said he has occasionally gotten inspired to crank out a 4,000 word story in one day as well.  I intend to share a few on here and maybe even get enough collected to publish a short story book.  But publishing is not my main goal.  

My main goal is to learn to write daily.  

I started writing over a year ago because I had always wanted to publish a book.  Done.  But I found out that writing for me was very therapeutic.  I love seeing the stories come to life in my mind.  I enjoy having characters and plot lines run through my head as I mow the yard or drive on errands.  In short, I have found a new hobby.  Maybe someday it will make money, but that is not my motivation.  

Story-A-Day is a month long exercise in how to be a consistent writer.  If my hobby was golf, I would need to play more often than an occasional weekend.  If my hobby was fishing, I would supplement my time at the lake by watching videos, reading magazines, and talking to locals and professionals.  I might even go to a show.  If my hobby was gardening, I would certainly be in my garden during planting and harvesting time.  But I would attend to my passion year round.  I might learn how to can, learn new recipes, or learn about gardening tips.

Writing has become my favorite hobby.  Here is to Story - A - Day and the hope that in June I have:
-1. Written a full story every day
-2. Learned my hobby better
-3. Developed a writing habit that is daily and disciplined.

Want to join?  It is free to do!  If you do, email me and let me know.  Let us encourage each other in the process.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Audible Book coming soon!!

So Jam Sessions is under contract to become an audible book!  I have heard and approved the first four chapters and am super excited!

If you have read the ebook or print and haven't left a review, please help me out by doing so.  

I plan to do a promotion when the audio version is released and the book is available on three formats.  Reviews on Amazon are always helpful!!

If you haven't bought the book because you are adverse to reading.... good news!!  You can listen in your car!  The audio should be about four hours long and will be available on audible.com in the coming month.

Great Courses: How to Write Bestselling Fiction

Great Courses: Writing Bestselling Fiction

When I decided to start writing a year ago I was told, "You HAVE to have a blog!"  I was also told to get twitter.  I have thus far resisted... but I think the day is coming.  I asked, "What am I to blog about?"

"Whatever is on your mind... as long as it is inciteful, relevant, cutting edge, and people want to read it."

As a teen and young adult I loved Dave Barry and Lewis Grissard.  So I went that route.  So far, I haven't been cutting edge, relevant (maybe a bit irreverent?), or in high demand.  But I do enjoy the exercise.

The other advise I got was to post writing tips.  The problem is, in my opinion, there are so many out there already doing a great job!  I even started a blog series that got stalled in the Cover-19 days where I looked at and reviewed places a writer could go to learn.

Here for my first in this section of "Helpful Hints" I want to promote probably the most profound help I have seen (heard?) for the money.  I bought it on audible with one of my monthly credits (so, total it was like $10.)

It is literally hours of expert advice.  I found myself sitting in parking lots a time or two waiting for a section to end before I went into my house or work.  If you are interested in writing, but like me do not know where to start, start here.

Here is the description (found at the website link above):

Most people think the way to write a best seller is to have a lot of talent and even more luck. And when you look at the stories behind massively successful breakouts, it certainly does feel that way. Consider that Harry Potter got published because the chairman of Bloomsbury happened to give his eight-year-old daughter the first chapter. There’s no denying that’s a good bit of luck. But underneath the lucky break is the solid foundation for a book that utilizes all the elements of a successful story: a lively plot, relatable characters, and a strong structure. There are scenes that jump off the page, dialogue that makes a reader laugh, and a style that resonates with all audiences. As you will learn, there is a recipe for success, and luck may be the least important ingredient in creating a best seller. 
Hide Full Description
When it comes to solving the mystery of what makes a best-selling novel, no one has cracked the code better than James Scott Bell. A best-selling author himself, winner of the International Thriller Writers Award and the Christy Award for Suspense, plus the author of the number-one best seller for writers, Mr. Bell has been teaching the principles of best-selling fiction for over 20 years, principles that apply to any genre or style. 
In the 24 lectures of How to Write Best-Selling Fiction, Mr. Bell provides a comprehensive, eye-opening, and illuminating survey of the entire writing process, as well as a full breakdown of how dozens of best-selling authors have implemented these best practices in their own writing. Any aspiring author will gain a wealth of tools that that will not only improve their ability to write, but will also increase their enjoyment of the craft. 
Great Expectations 
Do you have a best seller in you? Mr. Bell believes you do. But tapping into your creativity isn’t always easy. When best-selling authors such as Stephen King, Michael Crichton, or Janet Evanovich deliver success after success, it can appear as if creating worlds where ghost-infested hotels drive people mad is something that some writers can just … do. We all have creativity in us, but sometimes we need help getting in touch with it. Mr. Bell gets you started by offering several fun, challenging, and mind-expanding exercises that help you flex and develop your creative muscle. Grab a pen and give these a try:
  • What-If Moments: We all have crazy what-if thoughts that cross our minds from time to time. Likely, most of us simply just laugh them off. Try making the most of what-if moments. The next time you wonder, “What if this plant I’m looking at suddenly started talking to me?”—roll with it. What would it say? Would you talk back or run away? There is a story here.  
  • Weird Job Situations: Giving people insight into the daily life that only a few select people could provide can be a fascinating read. And putting your characters in jobs with tremendous tension helps keep your reader on edge. What does a day in the life of a bomb disposal technician look like? How does this person deal with facing death on a regular basis? Would she try to find love and start a family? There is a story here.  
  • Hear the Headlines: But don’t go much further than the headlines. Work with just a limited amount of information and use your imagination to fill in the details. “Scientists Discover New Fish That Walks on Land.” What would that look like? Do you go fishing or hunting? There is a story here.  
  • The First-Line Game. As Mr. Bell points out throughout the course, the first sentence of a novel is one of the most important. One good line can not only hook your reader into buying the book, it can hook you into a story you never imagined. Experiment with fun, funny, weird, cool, intriguing first lines and see where they take you. “Today I learned you should never travel to Jupiter without an extra pair of underpants.” Who is going to Jupiter? Why underpants? Wait, WHAT? There is a story here.  
Don’t get caught up in the realities of our world, the illogic of your ideas, or the fear that someone might laugh. Audiences are eager to suspend their disbelief for a world that captures their imagination. It’s just like Field of Dreams claimed: “If you build it, they will come.” Remember, at some point, Michael Crichton wondered, “What if a mosquito that was stuck in a rock resulted in an amusement park full of real-life dinosaurs? There is a story here…” 
LOCK and Key 
So, now you’ve got an idea—or a couple dozen. What next? 
Mr. Bell demonstrates how famous writers such as Harper Lee, Michael Connelly, Jim Butcher, Margaret Mitchell, David Baldacci, John Grisham, Suzanne Collins, and dozens more apply time-tested best practices to their writing. But even more valuable, he reveals his own secrets and methods for developing page-turning books that readers can’t get enough of. 
His helpful LOCK system provides the structure you need to create an engaging story:
- Lead: Your protagonist can be: 
  • positive—the hero, someone who embodies moral codes of a community, someone who readers root for; 
  • negative—does not adhere to the moral code, we root for them to change or to get their just desserts; or an
  • anti-hero—has own morals, usually dragged into a community kicking and screaming. You want to bond your reader to your lead by putting them in a terrible situation, a hardship, or inner conflict to evoke sympathy or empathy. 
O - Objective: Your lead has a mission: to get something or get away from something. 
- Confrontation: Ramp up engagement by pitting opposition and/or outside forces against the lead accomplishing his or her objective. 
- Knockout: Give your reader a satisfying conclusion that resonates. There are five fundamental endings to best sellers. You will probably recognize them from movies and television shows as well: 
  • Lead wins, gains objective;
  • Lead loses, missing objective;
  • Lead loses objective, gains something else of value;
  • Lead wins objective, loses something of value; or
  • Open/ambiguous ending.
Once you’ve locked in your LOCK, you have the start of a best seller.  
The Sense of an Ending 
How to Write Best-Selling Fiction is jam-packed with techniques to help bring power to your plot, charisma to your characters, drama to your dialogue, and vitality to your voice. Even for the “pantster” writers—those who reject the planning and plotting approach to writing a book—this course is chock-full of tips for charts, exercises, shortcuts, diagrams, and grids that help you to organize your story, keep your characters unique, and ensure you meet all the fundamental points that a best-selling novel requires. You will walk away with a toolkit of methods to create stories that feel realistic and that resonate with your readers. And no matter what type of writer you are, these insights will take your writing to the next level, with concepts you may not have considered. 
For example: the last chapter. Many writers get to that pivotal point and just breathe a sigh of relief as they try to tie up all the loose ends. But as you round the corner of bringing all the pieces together in your ending chapter, Mr. Bell underlines the importance of not underestimating the ending, making sure you have the “Knockout” of the LOCK system. As Mickey Spillane noted, “The first chapter sells the book. The last chapter sells the next book.” Mr. Bell has already provided you with masterful means to get your reader hooked with the first chapter—and potentially the very first line! And now, he reveals five strategies that will help you finish your book in a way that gets your reader craving your next title. 
The Corrections 
Ahhh, the revising and editing stage of your book. This process is where so many potential writers fall off the rails. Because there is no denying it: It’s hardto find fault in your baby. As Mr. Bell puts it, to be successful you must “write like you’re in love, edit like you’re in charge.” 
Revisions are extremely important and take a lot of discipline. Mr. Bell introduces you to the two most important rules of writing and then his own corollary to those rules. Looking at the practices of famous writers such as Robert Crais, Lawrence Block, Dean Koontz, Ridley Pearson, and more, Mr. Bell offers a treasure trove of insights for this important stage. 
He gives you suggestions for creating a revision schedule versus revising as you go, and tells you why it’s imperative that you take a cooling-off period before you take a first pass. Discover tricks for helping you to re-read your own work with fresh eyes. Learn shortcuts for marking places you need to come back to so you can read your book straight through. Mr. Bell provides you a valuable list of questions to ask yourself as you read, a list of reminders to check off as you read, and tricks to ensure you are not overusing words or terms. If you consider using outside readers, he also offers a list of questions and points that you can ask them to be aware of so you receive constructive feedback—because your mom will always love your book. He also gives you advice regarding the use of a professional editor. Finally, he offers a wealth of tips about polishing your second draft. 
Once your book is done, Mr. Bell doesn’t just leave you on a cliffhanger. He gives you a final series of lectures that cover the pros and cons of using an agent; a breakdown of the query, synopsis, and sample chapter; the benefits and pitfalls of self-publishing; and more. After the 24 lectures of How to Write Best-Selling Fiction, you’ll feel empowered to take your finished novel in whichever direction you feel most comfortable with, whether it’s using an agent or self-publishing.
The famous writer Somerset Maugham once said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” And maybe no one knows the “rules,” but there are writing techniques, practices, and fundamentals that writers have used for decades to become best-selling authors. And as Picasso proved, once you master those fundamentals, you can then create your own rules. With How to Write Best-Selling Fiction, you get an intimate introduction to the fundamentals of how to write your best seller, from a best-selling author who has mastered the secrets to success. 
Now get writing.

Stuff to do in the quarantine

So my son and I have talked for years about building some Star Wars outfits.  In fact, we even began a clone trooper outfit.  But at the last ConNooga (we are both lovers of sci-fi, my next book is in this genre) we met and spoke with two groups: The Mercs (Mandalorian Cosplay) and Chattooine.

I've now attended the Chattooine monthly meetings (and even won a few giveaway prizes!).  It is a tremendous group of folks.  They welcome all cosplay without the genre specificity of the 501st.  Further, they look for and accept invitations in the Chattanooga area for charity events.  They may be at our local children's hospital, a baseball game at our minor league stadium, at the zoo, or raising funds for March of Dimes.  Overall, a great organization to be with.

This section of my webpage will eventually be dedicated to places I will be as an author.  I was scheduled to be at a conference this spring and was actually asked to be on a panel ( https://metrothamcon.com ).
The con has been rescheduled to the fall.

But till we return to socializing, I thought I would highlight this great group of folks.  The president of the group has actually sent out numerous videos to us encouraging us during this time.  They are all very supportive of each other and those who find their entertainment and charity efforts in costuming.  At the last convention, ConNooga, they ran a costume repair station.

Great group, and I hope my son and I will continue to be involved post-pandemic.  We are working on our Merc costumes now!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Martial Law, Whitecastle, and Lindsey Lohan: Will 2020 be a blockbuster hit or a made for tv movie?

I came across this article and found it fascinating how and when the United States has imposed martial law on its citizens.    I am always mindful that we have a state with the following flag:

3x5 Virginia State Flag State of Virginia Premium Banner FAST USA SHIPPING

Thus, as a societal norm we do not do well under martial law.  By reading the article, it appears the last time a US president called for martial law was after the bombing of pearl harbor.  For those who proclaim this the darkest hour of our country, it should be remembered we once locked up many Japanese-Americans in concentration camps.  For you younger folks, as the name suggests, these are the opposite of social distancing camps.  And quite a tragedy.

Other than wartime, it seems America has reserved martial law for gold rushes, issues with Mormons, union strikes, especially with coal workers, massive natural disasters (San Fran earthquake or the Chicago fire), and in Russell County, AL to shut down brothels and gambling.

That's right... Alabama Governor Gordon Persons on July 22, 1954 (till the following January) imposed martial law  to shut down a city boasting of gambling, booze, and brothels.  Further, politicians were apparently so corrupt they could purchase citizen's votes on the street for $10.

It must have worked, because Business Week named the city in 2007 the nation's #1 best affordable suburb to raise a family.

But if you desire to relive the glory days of Alabama's "sin city" there is a film: The Phenix City Story

Like all movies, it has come up under scrutiny for possibly not being 100% accurate.

That led me to the obvious conclusion regarding an article on martial law in America: What will 2020 look like in film?

This is an important question, as less and less Americans read.  Perhaps we will put out "based on true events"

Perhaps we our grandchildren will remember the spring of 2020 as the year some guy bounced watermelons on a trampoline to survive the pandemic, or a stellar real life account of the kid who played through all the Call of Duty titles to ward off boredom.  Or maybe, a riveting tale of how every child at home fought for their own education.

Or maybe, it will show how alcohol consumption has increased, prediction of divorces to increase, and politicians sent us checks in the mail?  It is hard to say.

Perhaps the next generation's Mel Gibson will paint his face blue with a shaggy haircut to stand out in his yard and yell, "FREEDOM!"  Or maybe our children's children will see the movie version made by Universal Studios and just assume we had wizards and dragons.  And The Rock.  And that of course, is why we survived.  But now I ramble...

The Big Year Poster.jpgI'm hopeful, we will remember the first responders , hospital staff, and essential personnel who kept us going.  But I could just as easy see my grandchildren watching a Harold and Kumar rendition of the pandemic where White Castle closes and the two go on a multi-state expedition.  The trip would, of course, end in Colorado where marijuana is legal... and where martial law is probably the most implemented historically.

Whatever the case, I have always loved the opening to the film The Big Year (Owen Wilson, Jack Black, and Steve Martin):

"This is a true story."
"Only the facts have been changed."

So live your best life in quarantine.  Who knows, your story may one day be played by Lindsey Lohan or Johnny Depp.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020


Katherine Ross - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

So in the world of writing around a full time job, I try and grab my opportunities during vacation.  As a teacher, I am fortunate to have those nice long blocks in the summer.  I "finished" Jam Sessions last August.  Then, taking some advice from others, I sat on it a few weeks, sent it to a professional editor,  worked through the edits, a second round of edits, then to designing a book cover and publishing.

In the meantime, I began work on several short stories.  I have a good one that examines a prison block the night the Mayan Gods of creation come to visit.  Beware the Hummingbird Man!  To my wife's great excitement, I have also kicked the can a bit on a Hallmark-esque tale.

But the one I'm furthest along on is another young adult book, though this one is most likely targeted toward older teens.  And me.  I love YA fiction.

As I have been writing, I continue to read for fun (Michael Sullivan's Age of Death has my heart right now).  But I also have started reading on the craft itself.  Last week I read that two "no-no's" in the industry currently are the character starting the novel by waking up or starting the novel by amnesia.

Patty Shepard as outlaw gunslinger in "A Man Called Noon"!
Patty Shepherd: A Man Called Noon
I could hide behind great westerns like "The Man Named Noon" by Louis L'Amour but the critics would simply say (according to the professionals I have read) that such yarns as L'Amour or more recently the Bourne series have made the introduction stale.

So... I say all that to establish that this first chapter may never make it to print.  I am still deciding.  However, Stephen King's On Writing has been influential to me.  And since this is not my story, but Pitch's, I may have to let the story's start be just another hurdle for the hero to overcome.

I'd love your thoughts as you read the first chapter?  I'm about 45,000 words in thus far with hopes to wrap up the initial telling in July.  Comment below, or send me an email at jerryharwoodbooks at gmail.com.


WORKING TITLE: The Ranger Chronicles: Book One:

Where leather is scarred, there is story to tell.  I hope we meet well on the path.
-       A ranger’s greeting


The boy lay prone on the hillside.  Above him on the hill he heard unfamiliar voices.
“The whelp went this way.”

“Of course he done that,” another voice retorted.  “Back from the same dark hole that spawned ‘em and that other’un.”

“Here’s the whelp’s blood I figure,” one man said.

Another voice responded, “I ain’ts goin down there I reckon Cal.  He’s bleeding bad.  See the blood ons the bush here too.  Ain’t nuthin downs there buts some coyotes and I ain’t getting eatin by no coyotes todays.”

A third voice interjected, “Ain’t even coyotes gonna go near that cave I tell you true. Ain’t even.”

“Boss woman said come back with the whelp.  We’s got to’s go down.”

“Boss woman git whats she wanted.  The whelps dead as a doornail I say for sure.  This a fools errand.”

“Well then, I’d says the biggest fool done goes first.”

The boy then heard another sound of a body sliding, followed by several swear words.  

“Ty, you get down there’s and let us know.  We up here if’n you need help.  Take this here scatter shot gun.”

The boy sat up.  The coat he was wearing was too loose, ill - fitting around his shoulders.  Reaching to his knees he saw the sleeves had been rolled up.  The coat was designed for a man possibly five or six inches his height.  Furthermore, it was a white man’s coat with pads in the shoulders and a pocket on the breast for a fancy handkerchief.  It was the style of a generation not his own.  The pants were too thin to be in trail and the dusty surroundings gave notice that such clothes would be ruined by day’s end.  These were the pants of a banker or store clerk.  As he looked below the pants he wiggled his chestnut colored feet.  He was not wearing shoes.

The rural terrain suggested he was far from anything one might term a town.  Far from anything one might call friendly.  Like his absent memories, this place seemed desolate of all but suffering.

Looking at his arms and hands, he thought he was nearing his late teen years.  Did he remember an eighteenth birthday?  But no memories  came to mind.  All the young man could remember was someone had tried to kill him.  

He pressed his hand to his forehead.  Perhaps enough pressure could squeeze a memory back to him.  An image surfaced.  He had tied up the man who once wore these clothes, but the memory was far away.  As if to think it was somehow accessible in the back of his head from the outside, he  stretched an arm and touched the back of his neck.

His hands slid across his neck as his fingers found groove dug too deep for a man’s neck.  He felt the caked blood in his hair and the marks where something had removed skin.  His vision blurred.  The ground gathered steam as he fell prone again.  Blackness.

Eyes opened.  He was colder now.  Maybe an hour had passed?  Maybe minutes.   Minutes, it had to be minutes or his pursuers would have found him.  A darkness not from within but from the setting sun was forthcoming.  There was still enough light to see the red stain on his fingers.  Yes, Someone had tried to kill him.  They had failed.  At least for now.

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Standing hesitantly, his feet seemed like they belonged to another.   The numbness threatened to give way and collapse his fragile hold on his perpendicular status. He swayed and as he did his mind swirled.  The world moved in all directions.  Or perhaps many worlds moved in one direction.  Either way, the forces around him threatened his stationary hold.  A mid-sized pine tree two difficult stumbles away offered stalwart assistance, taking on the role of support tower.  

The young man could not recall what had brought him to this place.  Behind him was a rough hewn trailhead.  It looked as if it became less trail and more woodland fifty yards or so in.  A very small stream of water, maybe 8’ wide and 3’ deep ran beside the makeshift trail near where he stood.  To his right and left were rock walls.  The right side rose perhaps a hundred feet and the left twice that.  In front of him was the entrance to a cavern.  As he scanned the area, he could feel the landscape finally agreeing to cease its convulsions.  The dizziness was passing.

He could hear the water rolling over the stone entrance and knew by the sound the cave must descend in the first few feet.  He was in a gorge and where he was there was no cover, and no immediate escape.  

Whoever was pursuing him came now down the hillside.  With resolve, the boy turned to the cavern.

Behind him he heard, “I seen him!  He’s just gone back into that cave.  There’s blood all over the ground.  He’s bleedin’ real bad, I say.”