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First look

August 19, 2012

The following is the first chapter of our first unpublished novel, titled “SOG…Book of Lot”. It is being co-written by my brother, Greg and I. The story is about the recruitment of a man into a secret organization that is dedicated to defending those who can’t protect themselves.  This group is composed of 14 former special operations soldiers who are in need of a pilot. Finding Eddie, they set out to rescue an American child who has been kidnapped and held hostage at a resort for pedophiles in Thailand. Eddie’s piloting skills are tested as he pilots a stolen 727 and finds himself tracked by two Australian fighter jets and must attempt an off airport landing in Typhon conditions.

The first draft came in at 161,000 words. The brothers are feverously working to complete the edits and hope to have the book ready for submission by the end of the year.

December 25, 2012

Jonah 1:17

The sun peaked over the leafless mountain bringing with it unwelcome light. Movement started with two Lab-Dalmatian mixed puppies who believed that today was like any other in their collective memory. Today was the chosen day to celebrate their 2nd year of life. It was selected because no one ever missed Christmas and the dogs could have the honor of sharing their birthday with Jesus. The Christmas tree downstairs was unlit while the presents were destined to remain wrapped, never to become toys to a child.  It should have been the liveliest day of the year in the Norris’ home but all the joy had been stolen replaced by cold empty grief that was a perfect reflection of the Master’s soul.

            Two days earlier, the national spotlight descended on Huntington, West Virginia to witness the event of the year. This gathering brought everybody who was anybody to the second largest city in the Mountain State. Ripe with intrigue and emotion, the sycophants pretended to pay their respects to Gloria Norris and her three children while anointing the newest hero into the national lexicon. In reality this is where the attention of the media was focused and like mosquitos to an open bag of plasma, it quickly turned into a perverted orgy.  

Edward Paul Norris wanted a small private ceremony to celebrate his family and respectfully morn their unexpected departure. Save one fatal invitation sent to the Governor turned the funeral into the happening of the century drawing political figures from the farthest reaches of the nation. Two hours after the invitation was sent to the Governor, the confines of the Culloden Church of Christ were deemed too small. Eddie lost control and the entire ceremony was moved to the Marshall University campus; 27 miles away from the Norris’ house and a world away from the purpose of the ritual.

            Legend shook his short haired body while Magic clawed at the locked door in the effort to wake their Master. Eddie willed himself out of the cold vacant bed and made his way downstairs to send the dogs out for their morning potty. Staggering into the garage, he found the bin for the dog food nearly empty.  Last night he forced his parents, Gloria’s parents and their seven combined siblings to return to their homes in southern West Virginia. The family had descended on the home for over a week doing what all families do in times of crisis. Now it was time to be alone so that he could begin the next phase of his life. This phase would be much shorter than the previous 45 years and was already complete excluding a few loose ends that needed to be tied off and one final act.

            Bringing the dogs inside from the bitter December morning, Eddie went into the bathroom to do his own form of the morning ritual. Once that chore was completed he stared at his lifeless eyes in the mirror. Locked into a glaring match with the ebony man in the mirror, a wave of emotion rocked his body once. He dropped the toothbrush as the tears exploded out of his body like he was infected by some type of emotional virus. His only recourse was to pull into a fetal position on the tile floor. Five minutes later he noticed that his family had gathered around him, Magic to the left and Legend on the right. He hugged both of them, and stood to wash his face. As a force of habit, he dressed and headed downstairs. Grabbing an empty box of Fruit Loops and the soon to be expired gallon of milk he cooked his only meal of the day. Mindlessly he turned on the television and searched the 600 channel satellite selection only to stop on CNN. He preferred to watch ESPN or the History Channel but he felt responsible for the desolate house and his subconscious demanded more torment for the absolution of his sins.

            Even on Christmas Morning the lead story, as it had been for the last nine days was breaking news about the latest attack by Muslim Extremist on the nation. His mind tried to make light of the news “This just in. Gloria and my kids are still dead.”  He spoke to himself.

Shaking the thoughts from his mind, he focused on the words from the talking head on the TV. “This time they resorted to a low tech attack that achieved a result that rivaled 9-11 and Pearl Harbor…”

Eddie wished for something to change the re-occurring nightmare in his mind. Only one of the 12 targets was able to defend itself successfully and according to the world; all that credit went to Eddie. Only 17 people died in the Barboursville Mall that day, but four of those were his family. Eddie was lost in the thought of holding his youngest child for the last time as the home phone rang. Without checking the caller ID he picked up the receiver.  

            “Hello?”

            “Stand by for the President of the United States.” The pleasant female voice spoke through the line. Eddie didn’t stand by as he depressed the button that ended the call. Before he could place the phone back in its cradle but it predictably rang again. Eddie answered it again but this time he didn’t wait for the voice to tell him to hold. “Listen to me now and tell your boss later. It has been two days since I said good bye to my wife and kids and watched their coffins lowered into the ground. Nine days since my life ended. All I wanted was to celebrate their lives, but the nation needed a “Hero” and I was the sucker of the week. It is over and I only dream of the moment when I am free of this pain. I have done my duty and I will not allow Christmas to be ruined by your self-righteous phony boss. Tell him thank you for his pseudo concern, good day.”  Eddie felt an uncomfortable satisfaction from the unexpected release of anger.

“Mr. Norris I am sorry that you feel that way. I wanted to take the time to wish you a Merry Christmas. If there was anything my administration could do for you during your time of mourning please tell me. I am not calling as the President but as a concerned citizen and friend.” The President impeccably spoke the words.  

            “Mr. President you need to leave me alone and rot in hell. I voted for you but don’t ever confuse that fact with the thought that I would ever cross the street to piss on your burning body. I am not your friend, I am not your subject, you missed your chance to help me, I have no respect for you and I will never again vote for you. Do not ever speak about me and if you use my family’s death for your political gain I will come to Washington and kill you. I am done with you and everyone like you, I hope you die!” He paused searching for the right words to end the conversation. “Merry Christmas, Milky Licker!” Satisfied with his comments he hung up on the man. He knew he was heading down a path that he could not undo. He had threatened the life of the President of the United States and worse he called the President a Milky Licker. He wasn’t sure what a Milky Licker was but it brought a slight smile to his face. He would expect a visit from a couple of well-dressed Federal Agents in the next few days. It would be best if they never found him. Eddie poured the uneaten cereal down the sink, grabbed his guitar and sat on the couch in silence as his personal emotional virus returned to ravage his soul.

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From → writing

8 Comments
  1. Woah, 161k words! Really? I didn’t even know you had a site, but I’ll add it to my list of places to check out when I can.

    Good on you. Egg aka Eureka

  2. Hillsworth permalink

    Way to go, Rob. This is a great beginning to a book I’ll definitely pick up when it comes out. Kudos to you and your brother. 161,000 is amazing. I struggle to reach 20,000.

  3. Hey Rob (again), are you after thoughts or comments on your opening scene? I didn’t want to post in case you preferred a less public avenue.

  4. please fire away sir. I have nothing to fear and if there are things to change I trust you and welcome the comments. I would always prefer to hear comments from someone I know will be honest.

  5. Okay, here’s my honest opinion (and please remember, I’m definitely not an editor).

    I really like the story and I really like the last four para’s, ie, the presidential phone call – that’s when you got my attention and had me thinking, “hmm, this is interesting, I wonder where this is going.”

    I think the bits before that contain too much info too early. This isn’t a short-story that needs everything packed tightly – it won’t hurt the reader to wait for the details. Don’t get me wrong, I like the quirky bits about the dogs, the deaths are important, the xmas pressies, the in-laws, the tragedy, the funeral etc etc, but I think you need to focus on feeling rather than information.

    It’s your story, and it’s certainly not my place to tell you how to write it, but it would be slack of me to offer criticism without offering thoughts on how to improve (which you can gleefully ignore if you want to). Maybe draw me in with the phone conversation (with a sentence or two to set scene and place the guy and his mood in context), so I’m thinking, “I wonder why he’s so sad? I wonder why he’s pissed off at the president?” and then answer the questions later in the chapter or following chapters (or wherever).

    Perhaps you could focus on the guy’s POV – show that he’s really, really hurting – make me feel it too. Make me feel sorry for him, and then when you tell me about the xmas pressies for his lost kids at the end of the chapter, my heart will break.

    I confess, I’m struggling with POV in my own work. Here, I’m not sure about opening with the dog’s POV. I like the language you use, but I want to get to know the character who’s on the president’s speed-dial (e.g., I like that he has a Milky Licker sense of humour).

    I hope these thoughts are useful. I love the synopsis. It sounds like a real humdinger of a story.

    • Author’s note: This was posted to Egg’s website so much of it may not make sense unless you visit his site and read his posts. I want to be open so I am posting my comments in the entirety.

      Egg, my brother from another mother! I have several thoughts that I have been saving up for some time so this may be a lengthy comment, but long overdue.
      1.I truly appreciate you taking your time and effort in learning the craft of writing. Your blog is a fantastic resource for those like me who are trying to make writing turn into something much more than a hobby. I admire your willingness to learn and then in turn to teach. It is a remarkable characteristic and you are to be commended.

      2.Likewise I also am humbled that you have taken the time to encourage me, first in the writer’s digest prompts and now on my blog. Like everyone, I appreciate the kind words and frequent visits. Thank You!

      3.You were nice enough to give me some great feedback on my first 1300 words of the book. I have taken the time to digest them and while I am not ready to change anything yet I do want to explain my thought process and get some more feedback. Also, I have not spoken to my brother about your comments so this is purely my thoughts.

      You said: I really like the story and I really like the last four para’s, ie, the presidential phone call – that’s when you got my attention and had me thinking, “hmm, this is interesting, I wonder where this is going.”

      My response: In relation to the theme of the book, this might be considered a prologue, not a first chapter. In the big picture, the only thing that is really important is that Eddie has lost his family and is suicidal. The dogs are just there as a descriptor of his past life. The call from the President is to provide insight into his mental state. An emotionally stable person would never speak like that to the President. I am rewriting the next several chapters or I would gladly send them to you so that you have more context, but the point is that he is able to be recruited into a secret organization that fights evil and protects those who can’t protect themselves. The rewrites involve moving up those initial meetings and adding more gravity/tension to the initial meetings.

      You said: I think the bits before that contain too much info too early. This isn’t a short-story that needs everything packed tightly – it won’t hurt the reader to wait for the details. Don’t get me wrong, I like the quirky bits about the dogs, the deaths are important, the xmas presents, the in-laws, the tragedy, the funeral etc etc, but I think you need to focus on feeling rather than information.

      My response: I was trying to do the show not tell type of writing. Because of your comments, I can see where I missed that mark. Some of this will need to be rewritten. I know there is a balance and I am not sure where that balance point is as of yet.

      You said: It’s your story, and it’s certainly not my place to tell you how to write it, but it would be slack of me to offer criticism without offering thoughts on how to improve (which you can gleefully ignore if you want to). Maybe draw me in with the phone conversation (with a sentence or two to set scene and place the guy and his mood in context), so I’m thinking, “I wonder why he’s so sad? I wonder why he’s pissed off at the president?” and then answer the questions later in the chapter or following chapters (or wherever).

      My response: I have considered that before and since. I decided on the present version because since it is a full length novel, I did not feel that I was limited by a 500 word count. I really have enjoyed the freedom to let the words fly. My problem is that I like the part about the dogs and how they support their master. But I get your point.

      You said: Perhaps you could focus on the guy’s POV – show that he’s really, really hurting – make me feel it too. Make me feel sorry for him, and then when you tell me about the xmas presents for his lost kids at the end of the chapter, my heart will break.

      My response: Again, I want the reader to know that Eddie is in pain but more importantly, we are setting the reader up to understand why Eddie is going to attempt to take his life. In Eddie’s view suicide is not running from his troubles but allowing him to reunite with his family in death.

      You said: I confess, I’m struggling with POV in my own work. Here, I’m not sure about opening with the dog’s POV. I like the language you use, but I want to get to know the character who’s on the president’s speed-dial (e.g., I like that he has a Milky Licker sense of humour).

      My response: I didn’t intend on having the dogs as the pov for the first chapter but it seems that it has worked out that way. When I read it, I see it from Eddie’s pov. Part of the problem of being the author. I was hoping to have some additional comments about the selection so I submitted it to the website Flogging the Quill. I expect it to be reviewed soon. I am very excited to be getting closer to having something suitable for reading and submitting soon. Again I really appreciate you taking the time to give me an honest critique. I have a good friend who calls everyone he doesn’t like a milky licker. I wanted to incorporate that into the book somewhere. Quick questions; did you notice the bible verse before the chapter? Do you feel the conversation with the President flows naturally?

      4.I am thinking about your last two posts on your blog and some insight on my thoughts. I view time and transition as the same in my writing. I like to use time as the transition between scenes and when things happen simultaneously then I use location as the transition. As a reader and writer I think it gives a clear break between scenes and chapters. I don’t think I am skilled enough to do it any other way. In the writer’s digest prompts I have experimented on several different types of transitions and I found this works best for me.

      5.On my blog, it gives me information on the origin of the visitor. Are you in Guam? I have been there several times when I was in the military. Very nice part of the world.

      Thanks for everything,
      rob

      • Thanks for your kind words. Ha ha. My blog makes me focus on one thing at a time and helps with my terrible memory. If anyone else picks up something useful through my fumblings, great. I don’t know how constructive my comments are, but I’m always happy to give them….

        I’m fascinated by the thought processes of other writer’s so thanks for the insight. Yeah, it’s interesting to get comments from people who have no idea of what’s to come (I just gave my opening scene to a writer friend who knows nothing about the story – not even a synopsis. She’s brutal. I’m scared).

        I admire that you’ve picked out what makes sense to you, and will probably discard what doesn’t. I’m no expert, after all, and I’m definitely not Rob Akers, writer and individual.

        Having written all those short stories, I’m finding the novel-writing experience quite different, especially with the web of sub-plots I’ve stupidly spun for myself. For once I’m having to think seriously about POV, transitions and chronological progression. All good fun.

        Yes, I did note the biblical reference and to be honest, I expected a snippet to follow – I’m far too lazy to look it up….

        Re the phone conversation: look for the grammatical error beginning, “Before he could,” and the repetition of ‘again.’ His “good day” indicates finality to me, but he didn’t hang up the second time – why not? Also, I got the impression it was the assistant calling again (which I’m sure was your intention) but I think the tirade that begins, “Listen to me now” is too long before we find out he’s ranting at the Pres. Also, I would consider an extra para break or two, but that’s a personal thing. But yeah, I thought it flowed. It’s long but can be read quickly the way he would probably say it.

        Again, hope the comments help – they help me learn, too.

        And yes, I’m in Guam. Big Bro is alive and well. Ha ha.

  6. Thank you sir. I value your opinion and I truly appreciate the time you have taken to read and provide an honest critique. I will take some time to internalize your comments before I respond in detail. Overall, I am really pleased because it sounds like you would keep reading to chapter 2. Thank you again!

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