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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.”

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