More NaNo. (Sigh)

I’ve been trying to get around to posting something wise or witty, but my brain is so thoroughly stuck in the noveling rut that any other topic seems to fade out before it hits the cognitive centers. So, since I have about 32,000 words to choose from at the moment, here’s another excerpt from Privileged Lives. Yes, NaNo is going exceptionally well this year. Which means I’m waiting for a brick wall to fall on me any time now.


Linden rubbed his finger over the glossy pictures of smiling students in front of classical buildings. A typical campus with lots of shade trees and endless swathes of green grass. Was there any place that still looked like that? There was lots of stuff—with pictures—about the comfortable dorms, the library and the gym. It all looked . . . unreal. He kept glancing over at the page of instructions. That had to be the one that was upsetting his mom. There was nothing in the brochure about having to accept the scholarship or leaving in three days. She must have misread something.

He finally picked it up with a sense of dread and a strong impulse to take the whole batch of paper, tear it up and throw it away. The mental image of a man standing at the door stopped him. It had been hand-delivered, not sent through the post office. Why? Frantically, he began to look for an address, even the mention of a state or a part of the country. There was nothing. He hadn’t noticed that the letter of welcome lacked an address. Where was this college, anyway? The instruction sheet was a list, and a quick scan down the page told him what he already knew. There was no address. Had his mother noticed?

“Mom? Did you see an address anywhere? The name of a town where the college is?”

Carrie put down the dish she was washing, but she didn’t turn around. “No, I didn’t. I didn’t even think about it. It must be there, somewhere.”

“It isn’t.”

She turned then, and looked at him. “The people who are supposed to pick you up will probably tell you.”

“Pick me up?”

“Yes, didn’t you read that part, yet? It’s on the instruction sheet.” She made an attempt to smile, but Linden could see the anxiety she was trying to hide.

“Oh, yeah. I’m just about to read it.”

The instructions were cold and terse. They didn’t even take the whole sheet. It was impossible to misinterpret anything. He couldn’t refuse the scholarship. He had three days to settle his affairs at home. He wasn’t allowed to take anything with him. Everything would be provided at the college.  He would be picked up early on the morning of the fourth day and would be escorted during the trip to the college.

He grabbed the brochure again and tore through it, looking for something that he wanted desperately to be there, but knew he couldn’t possibly missed if it had been there. There was nothing about vacations, about visits home. He sat back and stared in front of him without seeing anything. His mind had been processing everything and now he saw it all clearly. He’d been recommended, by an unknown person, for a scholarship to a college in an unknown location. He wouldn’t be allowed to refuse, and he would be taken away from his home and his mother in three days. He almost laughed. What it amounted to was that he was being told politely but firmly that he was going to be kidnapped. No matter how he turned it around, trying to see it from every possible angle, that’s what it was.

He knew, when he looked up at his mother, that his expression must be as bleak as hers. She’d been waiting for him to find the way out, and now her last hope was gone.  He stood up, wanting to go to her, but he couldn’t get his legs to move. All he could do was look at her. But something was nagging at him under the disbelief and the fear.

“I don’t want to leave you, Mom. I can’t.” It was true, but not what he wanted to say, if only he could get it out in the open where he could see it. Then he did see it. “How do we even know this is real?”


19 thoughts on “More NaNo. (Sigh)

  1. I like it! “Aggressive recruitment colleges” are a reasonable scenerio of the future, IMO.

    On my end, my antagonist has revealed some distasteful ways to play with food, a tangent of her new-found interest in “nutrition.” And my protagonist just started his long spiral downward into his domestic status quo hellhole. This is gonna be fun!

        1. Did I uncover the plot or give you the idea? Sounds like an awful waste of two foods that make a delicious combination. In fact — Now I need to add apples to my grocery list. Haven’t had apple slices sauteed with sausages in just about forever. You’re a bad influence.

          1. You gave me an idea to add interest to the plot. See, the Dodds have a rather “tense” marriage. Mrs. Dodd is very demanding, and Mr. Dodd is very fearful. But an epic food fight sounds like a fitting rebellion, especially since it will involve aphrodisiacal (in Mrs. Dodd’s mind) sausages and baked apples. Mr. Dodd will throw, but rest assured, Mrs. Dodd won’t let any of it go to waste.

            I’ll take “bad influence.” It’s nice to be useful. 😉

  2. Oh, dear, I guess I’m going to get myself in the dog house right away. When you write this sort of post, would you be offended if I offered a small grammatical correction? I’m a compulsive proofreader and member of the grammar police. The sentence beginning “He grabbed the brochure” has an auxiliary verb missing. It should read “looking for something that he wanted desperately to be there but knew he couldn’t possibly HAVE missed if it had been there.” You probably don’t need a comma after “there” either; it connects two simple verbs, not clauses: “He wanted but knew.”
    Sorry! The story sounds interesting! Obviously, Linden has been selected for some kind of mysterious role, such as a spy or a subject of experimentation — or maybe he’s about to be abducted by aliens!

    1. That’s okay, Lorinda, no dog house. I should mention, with each excerpt, that it’s an unedited first draft. I do try to edit a bit before I post them, but just skimmed over this one in a hurry. I did miss the missing word, but I look at some commas as discretionary. In this case, I might leave it because i like the idea of a pause in that spot. I’ll never claim to be 100% grammatically correct, especially when it comes to commas.

      I’m afraid the story isn’t going to quite that exciting. It’s firmly grounded in the real world, with no spies or aliens. I have a synopsis on one of my earlier posts, I think, and on my NaNo profile page. It really is a college scholarship, but the circumstances surrounding it are where the drama lies.

  3. Yes, I know, commas are pretty nitpicky, although one can overdo them! I have a rule of thumb – if the comma makes the meaning clear, use it. If it doesn’t, you might be able to eliminate it. An example is: “As he entered the room, John saw Mary and Bill was sitting next to her.” At first reading, one is inclined to think that “Mary and Bill” is a compound object of “saw,” which leaves you with this verb phrase “was sitting next to her” dangling meaninglessly. I always get annoyed when I encounter this situation in something I’m reading. It slows up the pace. If you write “As he entered the room, John saw Mary, and Bill was sitting next to her,” it immediately makes it clear that “and” is joining two sentences, not two objects.
    As for the aliens, I’m a science fiction writer!

    1. Just found this comment. It’s unusual for WP to slip up on email notices, but it does happen.

      Anyway, yes, I try to use commas as a tool to clarify meaning–or leave them out, if that works better. I just read a first novel by someone I exchange reading and comments with online. It’s a good story, and it contains some lovely writing, but she has no idea how to us commas, so she just sprinkles them around.

      By the way, I would probably have restructured the Mary and Bill sentence. Sometimes, that works out better.

      So, we’re both into SF. Nice.

  4. Yeah, that’s not a sentence I would have employed either – I was just making an example.
    By the way, I got my proof copy yesterday of my novella “Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder.” I’m going to approve it for publication today. My blog will give you more information if you’re interested. It’s a psychological story about the different reactions of three anthropologists to the discovery of a truly bizarre alien race.

    1. I just looked over your blog. Very nicely done. I’m afraid I’m not the audience for that kind of book, but from your descriptions, I’d say you have a good chance of making a success of it. And yes, do publish an ebook. The market is definitely going that way. I will probably never publish in print because my writing fits a very small niche and I’m just too lazy to do the work required for what would probably be very few sales. I’d rather be writing.

      Here’s to the success of one more indie writer, and the fulfillment of a dream.

      1. Thanks for the nice words! I’m in the process now of getting a Kindle version published. You said in an earlier post “So we’re both into SF. Nice.” What doesn’t appeal to you about my type of SF, which is really quite literary in nature? And which book are you talking about – “Monster” or “Termite Queen”? “Monster” is a rather bizarre little psychological study, but “TQ” contains both a love story and a first contact with intelligent giant termites. Are you turned off by the termite angle? I’m just curious as to what to expect from people. If it’s the termites, you have to shed your preconceptions about big evil insects from space.

        1. Okay, that’s what I get for rushing. I was looking at Termite Queen. I rarely read any kind of fantasy, especially if it involves speech or intelligence in unlikely species. I guess I’m just too reality-grounded, and my capacity for suspension of disbelief hits the wall pretty early on. Maybe a good example would be Ender’s Game. To me, the buggers were unrealistic and uninteresiing. What makes it one of my favorite SF books is Ender’s brilliance, and the psychological setup of the school and how the students are affected. If that wasn’t so well done, I probably wouldn’t even have finished the book once the buggers entered the scene as actual characters rather than game objects.

          I obviously have to go back to your blog and find Monster.

          1. And I absolutely can’t let that pass. I’ve never read “Ender’s Game,” although I’ve read some other Orson Scott Card that I really liked, but I just glanced at the Wikipedia article, and I know I couldn’t stand that book! It reminds me of “Starship Troopers” – ugh! That cliched view of evil, invading monster insects is exactly what I’m trying to counteract in “Termite Queen”! Why do giant insects have to be evil or be mindlessly living with a hive mentality? Why can’t they have evolved into thinking, caring creatures with a culture and a language? Apes evolved into that kind of creature, after all. And my stuff is actually quite “reality-grounded.” You would not find my “Shakespearean termites” either “unrealistic or uninteresting”!
            Well, anyway, I would just ask you to kind of reserve judgement, follow my blog, and if you’re interested In “Monster,” it’s already available at I don’t believe that created a link, but you could type it in.
            Now I’m going to shut up and not bother you anymore!

            1. This has nothing to do with representing bug or any aliens as evil or as monsters. You seem to be assuming that’s my objection. As I said, I’m too reality-grounded and have too much of a science background (even though it’s a laymen’s background) to accept insects evolving in that way. To me that’s too far into fantasy.

              My only knowledge of Starship Troopers is the movie, so I can’t comment on it. But my impression is that it’s mostly about the military and fighting the enemy. Ender’s Game is about how the kids are being used.

              But I’m certainly not trying to shut you up. I thought we were having an interesting discussion, exploring our different points of view. I’m sorry that you’re taking it the wrong way.

              I appreciate the link, but I see there’s no sample. If CreateSpace doesn’t allow authors to post samples, that’s a serious disadvantage in trying to sell a book these days. Let me know when it’s on Amazon.

  5. I didn’t mean to imply you were trying to shut me up. I just thought I was probably boring you and you must have other things to do, like writing some more of that book. I was enjoying the conversation, too! I acknowledge that I can’t please everybody, but I can try! By the way, I’ve been corresponding with an entomologist (termite specialist) who thinks my idea is fascinating.

    And frankly I don’t know if CreateSpace allows you to post samples – I’ll have to contact them and ask. I don’t remember seeing anything about it. It will be on Amazon in 5-7 business days and possible sooner. However, I haven’t put anything in as a sample there either, since it’s all done through CreateSpace.

    I’m working on a new blog post right now – should be up by this afternoon.

    1. You weren’t boring me at all. And commenting on posts (and websurfing) is a regular pastime. I have endless hours for working on my writing and actually need the time out to avoid excessive fatigue. I’m glad I didn’t chase you away.

      Evolved termites could be fascinating–I wouldn’t deny that at all. But whether they are is also a matter of taste and other inclinations. I don’t generally read novels with magic as a central feature, or talking animals, shape-shifters, etc. I say generally, because if a book comes highly recommended, a sample is well-written and intriguing, and it has a strong hook of some other kind, then I will take a chance on it. I’m really not totally against fantasy–have read Lord of the Rings a couple of times and love His Dark Materials–but it plays a very small part in my life, and less as I get older and need to set priorities.

      You really do need samples for your books. There’s so much free stuff available that most readers are reluctant to pay for anything that isn’t almost guaranteed to be worth it. With only a description, there’s no way to know whether the money is well-spent or a loss. My own problem is limited income and a need to be selective about where my money goes.

      Yahoo is ticking me off. I tried to add your blog to my page for updates, and it kept telling me I needed a proper URL. There’s nothing wrong with your link–it’s Yahoo that’s the problem.

      1. Well, phooey on Yahoo!
        I just left a message for CreateSpace asking them about the sample. The problem with “Monster” is, it’s not very long and any sample I give could be a spoiler. You can wait till it comes out on Kindle if you want a cheaper version.
        My books aren’t fantasy. I used to write fantasy back in the 70’s, but “TQ” is like a cross between mainstream fiction and SF. The love story could take place in any time at any place. The Shshi (termite people) are not talking animals – they are intelligent lifeforms, quite equal to humans beings, only with different characteristics. There is a spiritual or paranormal element to the book, for want of better terms – the Shi Seer is in communication with the Highest Mother Who Has No Name, the Shshi’s Goddess.
        And it’s funny – you say you have to set priorities as you get older. I don’t know your age, but I’ll just say bluntly, I’m 71 years old, and I’ve been writing for years without trying to publish, and suddenly when I turned 70, I thought, “My god! If I don’t start soon, I’m going to die before I get published and somebody is going to come in and wipe my computer and all this good stuff I’ve written is going to vanish!” So I made up my mind to start promoting myself and make something happen. It became my priority. I want a legacy because I feel I have something to say.
        I’ve got to quit myself now and go eat lunch. But let’s correspond again from time to time. You can leave messages on the blog, or I’m on Twitter@TermiteWriter. Glad to have found you!

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