CoffeeTypewriterImageI discovered National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) eight years ago and have participated in it every year, writing at least the ‘required’ 50,000 words in a month every year, and usually around 75,000. I think of myself as a professional writer, so I try to harness the NaNoWriMo energy to something that helps my writing goals. That usually means a lot of plotting before the month, so I don’t use up my words on false starts that don’t end up usable.I can write seat of my pants and end up with a novel. There are some advantages to writing that way. My muse runs loose and goes cool places my more organized outlining brain would never have figured out to go. There is a downside, though. It takes MUCH longer for me to revise a book that I wrote seat of pants than one I carefully plotted. An hour of plotting seems to result in a high multiple of that number of hours in reduced revision time. Unfortunately, this year I put a lot of time that I would have put into plotting my NaNo novel into promoting my existing novels and running my Kindle Scout campaign for Char. Result: I’m not quite writing seat of pants. I have done some plotting and have some scenes/characters figured out, but I’m nowhere near as ready to go as I hoped I would be. Result: undoubtedly I’ll write myself into more dead ends and spend more time in revisions than I need to.

Oh well. That’s all in the future. Right now I’m feeling the joy of creating, having an enormous amount of fun writing a story.

Ever notice how stories that seem so great when you first write them look really crude and embarrassing when you look at them again in six months? I certainly have and it makes me cautious about putting excerpts from rough drafts, especially seat of pants rough drafts, out where people can see them. At the same time, I tend to love my new manuscripts and want to share them. So, here is a little taste of my NaNo novel:

EXCERPT: Lucky Simon from Galveston Run, part of the Snapshot Universe

StoneForestImageThe universe is out to get me. Yep. Me personally. All that stuff about Lucky Simon is crap. The universe sets out cheese in a mousetrap for me and then waits for me to grab it. Or maybe it’s more like a hook with a worm. Nice, juicy worm. Just floating out there waiting for the Simon Hatcher fish to bite down on it. And when I do, there is the hook.

The Good Luck Simon spiel? That’s skill. A sharp eye. Hands that can fix a plane anyone else would give up on. So far the universe has always left me with one way out of its traps–some way that a smart enough guy who doesn’t give up can maybe get out. Maybe it doesn’t want the game to end. Maybe it was setting me up for this final thunderclap of death all the other times I thought I had escaped.

I suppose you’re wondering what I’m doing over this godforsaken stretch of a Tourist-stretched Snapshot. If you’ve been living under a stone for fourteen years, you might even be wondering what a Tourist is and what a Snapshot is.

Snapshots are a birthday present and a challenge from the universe to me. The Tourists copied Europe on my tenth birthday–February 17, 1939. The birthday present: they took a boring old world that had all been explored and replaced it with a new universe where a guy like me can spend a lifetime exploring and not ever run out of places to look.

They also took something very important to a ten year old boy, because they only copied Europe, not North America. Not the rest of the world either, but only North America really mattered to me.

And even now, fourteen years later, I don’t want to talk about that–don’t even want to think about that. I’ll take those feelings to my fiery demise, thank you.

Of course it was dad who stayed in England and who raised me the rest of the way, sort of, between bouts of business and bouts of being unfaithful to my mother, who is not dead, no matter what the scientists say.

I’m scanning the forest as I chat with you, my imaginary friends. These sharp eyes are looking for any hint of a clearing. I don’t expect to see one, especially not one big enough to land in. These smart hands are nursing the engine, working to get a few more miles out of it, not that it looks as though a few more miles will matter, not in the middle of this forest. They call this a stone forest, but the rocks look more like fangs than trees.

Don’t look down, right? But I have to if I’m going to land this old string-bag. Damn Tourists. Adventure. It’s a bitch. It comes to you if you look for it. I’ve looked for it all of these last ten years. And it finds me and tries to kill me, over and over again.

My father says “settle down and start a family”, to which I say “settle down and make kids like me, get fat and bald like you and chase women your son’s age until one of them catches you and eventually your money.”

Yeah, dad and I never did get along, not after mom left our lives. I blamed him for her being back in New York when the Snapshot happened. I still do. No last second reconciliation, not even in my own mind.

God, these stone trees just go on and on. This is overkill, universe. You could have killed me with a quarter of these trees. Even if I made it through this, I would still go through the vent to the new Snapshot I found and you’ll have more than enough chances to kill me over there.

I mentioned god. The Tourists aren’t gods, no matter what the crazies say. Yes, they can copy a whole continent, with every human, animal and geographic feature. They can even copy and then stretch it if they want to. Godlike powers. Just no interest in people. They fly around in their huge black ships, ignoring missiles and cannons and planes as though they aren’t there. They only talk to backwoods preachers and drunks. At least that’s who claims to get the word, the secrets of this new universe.

And people like me really find out about the new universe, find new Snapshots, risk our lives trying to find the truth. Well, in this case, I’m trying to get unbelievably filthy rich, but then I plan to use that money to explore the universe, so I guess it works out to about the same thing.

Fabled treasures, like the Comstock Lode, the gold that sparked the California and Alaska gold rushes. All laying there for the taking. All I need to get to them is a history book and a plane. Well, actually, it takes a lot more than that, as I’ve figured out since I started this project. It took enough more that I had to go to my father to finance the enterprise. Maybe that’s why the universe is finally going to bite down on me instead of keeping the game going.

Going to my father in spite of the way I feel about him. That’s low. Maybe the universe doesn’t want to play anymore. Maybe going to my father took me out of the worthy opponent class.

Yes, my father and I are going to steal the big historic treasures of North America–the new copy of North America I found a few months ago and have kept a big secret, in spite of the big boost finding it would have given my ever-so-slightly fading fame. I didn’t have enough money for the job and couldn’t figure out how to get more without going to people I knew I couldn’t trust with a secret this big.

My father, bastard though he is, I trust. If he says we’ll split the take fifty-fifty, that’s exactly what he’ll do. So I make the bastard richer than he already is. He makes me rich enough that I’ll never again have to go to anyone hat in hand for an exploring mission. But what happens when I die here?

Somebody will eventually find the gate to the new Snapshot. Maybe my father will find another pilot and do what we planned to do. He’ll probably even convince himself that it’s some kind of memorial to me, an honor that he ends up rich and I end up dead. Bastard.
And he’s taking wifey with him. Pushing her twenty-something jugs and butt in my face. Saying, “I can still get a girl younger and prettier than anything you can bring home.” Yeah, with enough zeros in your bank account, you can. Of course wifey is playing salami games with the help and would probably play them with me if I didn’t find that idea unbelievably vomit-inducing. The whole thing is vomit-inducing, but I’ll have to deal with it for the next few months, assuming I survive. That’s actually a pretty fair reason not to survive, not that I would ever not try as hard as I can to survive. I’m going to play the game to the end, whether the universe plays fair or not.

Rambling? Guilty. What do you expect from a guy who is minutes from fiery death? No, I don’t want to die. Yes, the great Simon Hatcher is afraid. There. I said it. Scared.

It’s pretty down there, if you can ignore the rows of rocky fangs. Maybe fangs isn’t quite it. How about tombstones? Millions of tombstones crowded together. A cemetery the size of a European country. Patches of green punch through the rocks. Life is ferocious, persistent, stronger than rock if you give it enough time. I’m low enough now that I can see animals moving down there–ant-sized dots that are undoubtedly lemurs, big ones. Everything is lemurs down there. Cute little things that look like a raccoon and a monkey did the nasty, then hit their off-spring with a too-cute stick. Only down there, lemurs aren’t just the cute little things they had on dirtball Earth. Some of them mutated into lemur Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my. So my ultimate fate is to be crapped out of a mutated lemur. That’s assuming I don’t burn up entirely in the crash.

So, I’m playing out my last minutes on Earth talking to imaginary friends. I can embrace my insanity with a whole heart, because it doesn’t matter anymore. And don’t get me started on whether a Snapshot is really Earth. It isn’t. A Snapshot is a copy of a continent, made for unfathomable reasons by unfathomably powerful and alien beings who don’t want to talk to us or save us or be worshiped by us.

But Snapshots are as close as we can get to Earth in this universe. Unless, of course, the next vent we find takes us back home to Dirtball Earth.

Am I really looking for a way home? The famous daredevil explorer Simon Hatcher–is he really just a kid looking for his mommy? The psychologists would have a great old time with that one, wouldn’t they? I’ll have to swear you to secrecy, my imaginary friends, assuming that I get out of this alive. If I end the day as charred protein in a lemur’s lower intestines, I guess it doesn’t matter much, does it?

Nothing changes down there, at least nothing that matters. The little patches of green between the rock fangs may be a bigger or smaller. The tombstones may be sharper or flatter. A few may have fallen. But it’s all the same pattern: Sharp rocks spaced way too close for a plane to land.

End Excerpt




A Cup Of Coffee On Writers Desk Image courtesy of Praisaeng at

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park China Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at