Thewriterssecret Blog

October 22, 2012

Only You Can Write Your Book

Filed under: Getting Started,self-publishing,Writing Craft — thewriterssecret @ 11:06 am
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You have a unique idea.

The world will be a better place, because you took your unique and very special idea and brought those thoughts to life on the pages of your book. Only you can write your story. It is exclusive to you.

A few years ago, I met with a publisher who was interested in one of my novels. We had a discussion about market trends and tried to project the next bestseller idea. He told me his company had just published a string of dragons and sorcery novels which had saturated the market, so they were looking for something new. This inside knowledge gave me a thrill because my finished action-packed novel had nothing to do with dungeons and dragons.

I sent my manuscript to his office and waited six months before receiving a reply. He politely said thank you, but they can’t use my idea right now. A few months later, I read that they came out with a new series of dragon books and continued down the well-established path of dungeons and dragons. They found a niche that worked for them and they continued to pursue it.

My favorite editor quote is, “That’s been done a dozen times No one wants to read a book about Elvis.” Or, “No one’s ever written a book about your subject. Give us something proven.”

Write from your heart and produce the best book you are capable of. The world needs to hear your story.

September 30, 2011

Gruff Chapter 4 – Sad Times

Filed under: Uncategorized — thewriterssecret @ 10:06 am

4- Sad Times

Two days later, Jim sat in the back of his dad’s Chevy on the way to a funeral. Jim had never been to a funeral before. He had to wear his Christmas suit that was now a size too small. He pulled at his collar hoping to loosen the noose around his neck called a ‘necktie’.

“Quit bumping me.” Walter jabbed him with his elbow.

“It was an accident.” Jim defended.

“I’m going to separate you two and have Tammy sit in the middle.

“I don’t want to sit between these creeps,” she whined. “I need to sit by the window so I can get some air. It’s hot in her. Dad, when are you going to buy a car with an air conditioner?”

“Settle down kids,” dad ordered. “We’re on our way to a funeral to remember old Mr. Anderson. Quit arguing and show some respect. One day, you’ll be glad you have a brother or sister.”

“Yeah, right,” Tammy moaned under her breath. She was a teenager now and wanted nothing to do with her younger brothers.

The car rolled into the gravel parking lot shadowed by the tall, white steeple of the Trinity Community Church. The lot was nearly full, so they had to park near the road under a tall pine tree.

“Hurry up kids, we shouldn’t be late to a funeral.”

“What, are they going to get up leave or something?”

“Walter, that’s enough!” mom scolded. “Mind your manners and show respect for poor Delores. Her husband of sixty years just passed away and you’re making jokes about it.”

Mom humphed, and Walter lowered his gaze to the gravel as Jim broke a small smile; glad he wasn’t the one to get in trouble. Walter saw the smiled and stifled a snicker.

“’There’s nothing good about dyin’, my grandfather used to say,” dad spoke up. “We live our whole life paying bills and buying stuff and all of us will end up the same way.”

Ahead of them, Delores wearing a long black dress sadly climbed the three steps to the church entry. Jim lost his smile and Walter’s snicker changed to a grimace.

Sad organ music hummed out “The Old Rugged Cross” as the family hurried across the lot. The building was full except for an empty bench in the front row just to left of Mr.’ Andersons’s family. He had few relatives, so Delores sat next to her only son holding each other close. She held a handkerchief to her eyes dabbing away a tear.

Old Mr. Anderson lay on an open casket in front of the pulpit with eyes closed and powdered face slack and unmoving. During his life, he loved to joke and laugh but now the jokes were silent and the only laughter a memory in the minds of those left behind.

They were the last to arrive and shyly walked up the side isle and shuffled into the front row seat. Sprays of white flowers bordered the glossy mahogany casket on both ends, and a red wreath from the Veteran of Foreign Wars was displayed in a prominent place next to the pulpit.

Mrs. Lewis chimed out Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling while the pastor stepped up the platform and walked behind the casket. He turned to the congregation and read Psalm 23.

Jim heard only the first few words and was lost in thought for the rest of the service. Old Mr. Anderson lay unmoving on the silk liner with only his nose showing above the rim. Jim looked forward with eyes fixed on the nose of the now departed church usher. He had never noticed it before. All he remembered was Mr. Anderson’s chuckle of a laugh and his big smile of brown stained teeth. He had never looked at his nose and wondered what else he never noticed.

At Christmas, Mr. Anderson handed each child a box of chocolates after the Christmas program. They eagerly grabbed their boxes and outside to gobble down the goodies.

Did I ever say thank you? Jim thought. He would never have the opportunity to say anything again to the kind old man.

Sad quiet, tones seeped from the organ pipes and Jim felt a warm feeling in his eyes. He promised he wouldn’t cry because only babies and girls cry and he was much stronger than that. When he hit his finger with a hammer while building the raft, he didn’t cry. When he tripped over a log and fell into poison oak he didn’t cry.

He tried to think of good things like climbing a tree or playing army, but the lonely sounds of the organ drifted into his thoughts bringing memories of Mr. Anderson. Jim lost his dollar for treats at bible camp and Mr. Anderson gave him a new one and said he found it. When his mom was very sick, he came to visit with his wife and they brought a whole pot roast dinner. After dinner the kind man taught Jim how to play chess. It was still his favorite board game.

The last time he saw him. Was two weeks ago at a church dinner. Mr. Anderson sat quietly at a corner table and didn’t stand up during the singing.

“Now, I’ll never be able to say thank you,’ Jim whispered to himself.

He tried to hold them back, but when the church lady stood up and sang “Amazing Grace without music, the tears poured out of his eyes in streams of warm fluid flowing down his cheeks. He leaned forward and covered his face with both hands but the tears continued to flow. Soon his throat was dry and his shoulders pumped up and down uncontrollably as the grief from the loss of a friend he had known his whole life took hold and brought back smiling images of a kind old man who loved everyone.

Jim cried silently holding in his whimper but letting his tears cover his hands and run down to the floor. Moment later, the lone singer joined with the choir and shouted out When the Saints Come Marching In with joyous enthusiasm. This was one of Jim’s favorite songs and soon thoughts of the kind old man marching in to heaven filled his mind with a more joyful image. He took in a deep breath and wiped his eyes as best he could before looking up to see the whole church standing, singing out the wonderful words of triumph.

His mom slid him a handful of Kleenex and he wiped his face and nose and stood up to try to join in. At first, he only croaked out a few words but when the chorus started, he chimed in slowly and ended with a resounding “Lord, I want to be in that number, When the saints go marching in.”

The song ended, and the pastor prayed another prayer and it was time to leave. Many of the guests walked past the casket to say one more goodbye but Jim was content with remember his friend as he was alive, except for lasting images of his statuesque nose pointing up above the casket.

The family stood to leave, but his mom and dad stopped to turn to Delores and give her a hug and a few words of encouragement. Jim couldn’t look up at her and kicked at a few rose petals on the carpet that fell from one of the bouquets.

Walter joined in and tried to kick one of them away so Jim countered by shoving him and retrieving the white petal with his toe. Walter kicked at his foot and shoved back starting a soccer match with the rose petals.

Mom saw the commotion and slapped both of them on the back of their head and the match stopped.and slapped both of them on the back of their head and the match stopped. Jim realized he was smiling and almost laughing when, just moments before, he was lead to tears by the singing. For some reason, all the sadness he felt inside, made him feel better on the outside. He wondered if it was wrong to feel that way after a funeral. He shrugged the thought off and followed the family out of the church building.

He expected is older brother and sister to tease him for crying, but nothing was said after the funeral and no one ever mentioned the tears.

During the ride home, Jim unclipped his ties and loosened his wrinkled shirt. The summer sun streamed down, hot and steady heating up the blue-sky day. His dad pulled up to the house and as soon as he stopped Jim jumped out of the car and ran upstairs to change into his cutoff shorts. He dumped his uncomfortable black shoes in the closet and threw his suit on a hanger. He ran downstairs barefoot and went to the backyard to find Gruff. Gruff met him lie he hadn’t seen his master in weeks, He bowed his head and licked Jim’s toes waiting for a friendly rub behind his ears.

Jim knelt down and hugged gruff tight who wagged his whole back end because he was happy to be close to his best friend.

“Well Gruff, it’s good to see you.”

Gruff answered by licking his face enthusiastically.

“Eeyyuu. That’s enough. Lets go sit in the shade. It’s hot out here.”

Jim ran to the nearby pepper tree and sat down on the thick layer of fallen leaves. Gruff lay down beside him and curled up with his chin resting on Jim’s leg.

“I went to a funeral today.” He gently rubbed the top of Gruff’s head. “And I never want to go to another one.”

Gruff raised his eyes and looked at him.

“Do you know what a funeral is?”

Gruff said nothing.

“I don’t suppose you do. Well, a funeral is…..hummmm…. a funeral is when you go to church to remember the life of someone who died. I don’t know who started the first funeral, but I guess people have been doing it since Cain and Able.”

Gruff closed his eyes enjoying the neck rub.

“My dad says there’s nothing good about dying. I suppose he’s right.”

He looked down at Gruff and jostled his cheeks.

“You’re never gonna die. Are you boy? I think you and I should live forever.”

Gruff licked his hand.

“Every day we can go down to the creek, you can chase squirrels and I can catch crawdads. We’ll float on a raft and if ol’ man death comes to visit, we’ll kick him in the shins and sail away down the river. He’ll never catch us, will he boy?”

Gruff smile and stood up ready to play for another day. The words sounding like “squirrels” and “chase” gave him the idea to go track something. He sniffed the air, running in circles until Jim got up and together they ran side-by-side down to the creek.

A squadron of golden butterflies, migrating north from Mexico tickled past their faces on their unyielding journey to the Sierra Mountains. Packs of ten and twenty surrounded them as they strolled down the bank to the creek, occasionally swooping close. Gruff nipped at the air hoping to catch one, but each managed to elude his jaws with the staggered flight that only butterflies understand.

“You’ll never catch one, Gruff. They’re too quick for you.”

Gruff jumped high, twisting in the air and felt the flutter of a wing touch his nose and he clamped his jaws shut, but missed again.

“Don’t worry about them. Let’s check out the frog pond. I’ll bet the last of the pollywogs turned into frogs by now.”

Jim ran forward and Gruff reluctantly gave up the butterfly chase and followed at his heels.

Five minutes later they were at the little dam they built earlier to keep in the pollywogs. Small frogs with remnants of pollywog tails lines up along the bank getting ready to leave the quiet pool of water and hop away. Some still swam in the water with small front legs, not ready to leave yet.

“Look at that. Most of them are coming out of the water.”

Gruff leaned closed and sniffed and a green, mossy frog but stepped away, knowing it wasn’t good to eat.

“Look over there. The dam near the creek is washing away. Lets’ go find a piece of wood to shore it up.”

Gruff and Jim left the stream and waded through the tall grass to the pile of old lumber that was once a red chicken shed. Jim picked up a long board and threw it to one side.

“That’s too long. See if you can find a shorter one.”

Gruff sniffed around the woodpile but when he got to the other side, he was distracted by a new sound. From under a small board, he heard a sound like water running from a faucet. He had heard that sound before in the laundry room where he slept. Sometimes a lady would come in to run water from a shiny pipe into a white container on the floor. Sometimes he took a drink from the bucket when she left the room.

He licked his flappy jaws thinking of a cool, clean drink of water. Gruff leaned close and put his nose close to the splintered wood, smelling for the water. A strange, unfamiliar smell came to his nose, smelling of musty rags and dead things. He lifted his ears and leaned down to look in the shadow under the wood. A creature moved in circles making the hissing sound he heard. This was something new.

He lifted his head and yiped one time to his master.

“What is it Gruff, did you find something?”

Gruff leaned close again and a small, brown, thin, scaly creature charges a him from under the woodpile with mouth wide open showed two sharp white teeth.

Gruff squealed and twisted away but the animal sprung forward through the air and sunk both fangs into his shoulder.

“Gruff! Get away! That’s a rattlesnake!”

Gruff howled and Jim ran around the help with a short two by four in his hand. The rattlesnake released the bite and dropped the ground. Coiling up for another attack. Jim slammed the board down hard on the snake knocking it senseless. He smashed it five more times until it lay in a lifeless heap.

“Gruff, are you okay?” Jim turned his attention to Gruff who spun in circles trying to get away from the pain in his shoulder.

“Come here Gruff.”

Gruff hunched down and crawled to his master who always knew what to do.

“We have to get you to a vet. Doctor Janie will know what to do.”

Jim held Gruff tight trying to calm him down. Gruff relaxed and he used both arms to lift him up.

“Stay real calm now so the venom doesn’t travel too far. I’ll carry you up the hill and dad will take you to the animal hospital.”

Walking as fast he could with the load in his arms, Jim made the trip back up the hill to the driveway. When he reached flat ground, he sprinted to house and called out to his dad.

“Dad, come quick. We have to get Gruff to the hospital.

His dad ran out through the front door still wearing his church suit.

“What happened?”

“Gruff was bit by a rattlesnake.”

“I’ll get the car. You wait by the driveway.”

His dad ran to the side of the house and jumped into their old green, Chevy. He flipped on the ignition, jammed the car into first gear and throttled forward leaving a cloud of dust behind. He slid to a stop next to Jim who opened the back door and quickly climbed in the back seat with Gruff.

“When did this happen?”

“Just five minutes ago, down by the creek near the old woodpile.”

“How is Gruff doing?”

He seems better now. He howled when he was bit but seems okay.

Gruff looked up and licked Jim on the cheek.

“Maybe the snake didn’t get much venom in him. But maybe he did. We’ll know more when we get to the vet.”

Jim held Gruff close and buried his face in his fur.

“Oh, Gruff, I hope you’ll be okay.” Then he remembered to pray.

“Please God, make Gruff okay. I’m sorry for what I said about kicking death in the shins. In know I have to trust you.”

Jim thought about the funeral he attended earlier in the day and wondered if Gruff would die. Hot tears welled up in his eyes so he pushed his face deeper in Gruff’s fur until he couldn’t breath. He prayed as hard as he could that God world take away the poison and Gruff would be okay. Gruff lay still and quite, feeling his friend sobbing in his fur.

Minutes later they arrived at the Animal Hospital and dad parked in the emergency space. He got out and opened the back door.

“Hand him to me. I’ll take him inside.”

Jim let go and his dad carefully picked Gruff up in his arms and carried him inside. Jim followed, watched the event through blurry, tear filled eyes.

“Remember to trust in God’s goodness,” his dad said as he entered though the glass door.

“Can I help you?” Dr Janie asked from behind a desk.

“Jim said Gruff was bit by a rattler.”

“When did this happen?”

“About twenty minutes ago,” Jim blubbered out.

“Where was he bit?”

“On his left shoulder. Right there,” Jim pointed.

“Bring him to the examining room and let’s take a look.”

They walked together into the clean examining room with stainless steel cabinets and a flat table covered with white sheet. A bright examination light was suspended on a movable arm over the table.

“Put him up here.”

Jim’s dad gently placed him on the table. Gruff layed on his side a looked around the strange room with curious eyes.

“You said he was bit right here” She pulled the fur away to look at his skin.

“I saw the snake strike and bite him on his shoulder. Is he gonna be okay.”

“Well I see the puncture wound, but so far there’s no sign of swelling.”

She touched the area near the bite. Gruff looked down, but did not flinch.

“He doesn’t seem to be in any pain. Normally I’d administer antivenin but this looks like a dry bite.”

“What’s that,” Jim asked.

“That’s when a rattlesnake bites, but doesn’t inject any venom. I think this is a defensive bite. The snake was afraid, but didn’t see Gruff as a meal so he didn’t release the venom.”

“You mean he’s gonna live?” Jim choked out.

“Of course he’ll live. I’ll apply some antiseptic and give him a shot of antibiotic just so he doesn’t get an infection.”

Gruff lifted his head and looked around at the strange objects in the room.

Gruff, you’re going to be okay,” Jim smiled and held back a laugh. “The doctor says your gonna be okay.”

He rubbed him on the side of his neck while Dr. Janie walked across the room to fill the syringe with antibiotics.

“This might sting a little so hold him tight.”

Jim held Gruff tightly around his neck and whispered in his ear.

“God answered our prayer Gruff. He really did. Thank you Lord for saving Gruff.”

Gruff flinched and let out a short yipe when he felt the shot but stayed close to his master. He liked being close to him and even if he felt a thorn in his rear, would never leave his side.

“Well, that’s about it. Take him home and keep him calm for the rest of the day and you’ll both be ready to go play again.”

“Thank you Dr, Janie,” Jim’s dad said. “Praise God it turned out this way.”

He looked down at Gruff and Jim. “They’ve grown to be good friends. I’d hate it if anything happened to either of them.”

He rubbed one hand on Jim’s hair and the other on Gruff’s head.

“Come on boys. Lets’ get out of here. I’m sure the good doctor has other patients to care for.”

“I’m glad it wasn’t serous,” she said. “What are you going to do about that snake? I’d hate for someone else to get bit.”

“I’ll go down there today to try to find it. If I do, I’ll relocate it far away.”

“Uh, dad…you don’t have to do that.”

“What do you mean? You don’t want it to bite one of your friends, do you?”

“Well, I kinda, sorta took care of it.”

“What?”

“When I saw it bite Gruff, I got so mad I whacked is with a stick I was holding and sorta killed it.”

“Oh,” the doctor said. “I guess that’s the end of that.”

Dad helped Gruff off the table and the three of them walked out of the office with Gruff”s tail wagging and Jim smiling ear to ear. Just minutes before, they feared death and now looked forward to many year of fun playing by the creek.

“Thank you God, “ Jim whispered and they climbed back into the car.

Gruff Chapter 2

Filed under: Gruff Book — thewriterssecret @ 9:56 am

Gruff Chapter 2

Jim was awakened by the sound of a mockingbird singing loudly just outside of his window. The deep orange horizon, beyond the flat valley below his house, signaled the beginning of another hot summer day. Jim jumped out of bed and slid on a pair of cut-off jeans and a faded blue tee shirt. He had been going barefoot all summer and the soles of his feet were tough so he didn’t need to wear shoes.

Gruff met him at the laundry room door with his tail wagging wildly. Jim opened the door and Gruff crouched low at his feet licking his toes as a sign of respect and obedience. Jim knelt down and petted Gruff all over.

“Are you ready to play today?” Jim asked.

Gruff looked up and seemed to smile.

“We have to find a way to catch those vegetable thieves dad was telling us about. I think we should go down to the garden to look for signs.”

Gruff barked once in agreement and wagged his whole back end as he anticipated the day ahead.

Jim and Gruff hiked down the steep bank next to the house. At the base of the bank was a wide valley used for a pasture. There were a few cows at the far end but Jim never went there because that landed was owned by an old widow lady who didn’t like children. The entire pasture was surrounded by weathered gray fence posts that held up the three strands of rusty barbed wire.

Dad’s garden was at the base of the hill on this side of the fence. He had worked all winter long preparing the soil and now a fine healthy green garden grew. There were corn, beets, radishes, watermelons, beans, cantaloupes, onions, rhubarb, squash, potatoes and lettuce. Jim walked between the rows of corn and took a deep breath, taking in the fresh clean smells of the early morning. This was his favorite time of day.

“Look at this,” Jim said pointing to a stalk of corn missing two ears of corn. “Someone picked this corn during the night.”

Gruff sniffed the stalk and then put his nose to the ground and sniffed the dark brown soil. He softly pawed at the ground around the stalk.

“Do you smell something Gruff?”

Jim looked hard at the ground but found no footprints of any kind. No animal prints, no people prints and no a no space alien prints. It was as if the ears of corn had just vanished off the stalk during the night.

Gruff was excited about something and followed an invisible trail between the rows of corn to the edge of the garden. He held his nose to the ground and his tail held high. Jim followed right behind looking left and right for signs. He noticed three more ears of corn missing and a whole beet plant was pulled up.

“It had to be a pretty smart animal to do this much work and not leave a trail Gruff.”

A tall stand of weeds grew at the edge of the garden. When Gruff sniffed the weeds he inhaled a soulful of pollen from a mustard plant. He sneezed hard and fell off his feet. He lay on his belly and sneezed again and shook his head to clear his nose. Jim started to laugh, breathed in some pollen and started sneezing also.

“Ahhchoo,” Jim sneezed and fell down next to Gruff… “I guess we lost the trail didn’t we.”

Gruff shook his head hard and sneezed again. He had lost the scent but at least now they knew which direction the thieves went when they left. And Gruff learned not to sniff mustard plants.

“What are you doin’ on the ground?” Rick yelled from the hillside. Rick lived in a house nearby and was Jim’s best friend.

“We’re looking for vegetable thieves, “Jim yelled back. “Come on down and meet my new dog!”

Rick stepped on the trail and ran down the hillside. Rick was dressed just about like Jim but he had on a holey green tee shirt. His parents didn’t have much money. Rick was thinner than Jim and his messy hair always needed trimming.

“When did you get the dog?” Rick asked when he arrived at the garden.

“Last night. My dad brought him home from the dog pound.”

Rick bent over and rubbed Gruff on the neck. Gruff immediately knew this was Jim’s friend so it was okay to trust him. He rolled over on his back and let Rick scratch his belly.

“I think he likes me,” Rick said.

“It looks that way. I think he’s the best dog in the world.”

Gruff lay back with his eyes half closed enjoying the attention.

“What are you doing down her in the garden?” Rick asked.

“We are looking for thieves. My dad says that someone, or some thing, is coming here at night stealing vegetables. Gruff was on a scent trail when he stumbled into this mustard bush and started sneezing.”

“Do you need help?”

“Sure I do. You’ve lived here longer than me so you know the territory a lot better. Where do you think a thief would be hiding at this time of day?”

Rick rubbed his chin and looked at a small range of hills at the south of the valley.

“There is an old mine shaft up there in the hills. A thief could hide in there during the daytime and come out at night to steal.”

“Do you know how to get there?”

“I’ve been there once. I think I can find it again.”

“Well let’s go,” Jim said.

The hills to the south of the valley were about three miles away. The valley floor was covered in high grass and green weeds about waist high. A shallow stream flowed northward in the center and spilled into the big pond where their raft was tied up under a grove of oak trees. They left the garden walking east and ducked under the rusty barbed wire that surrounded the pasture. It was a pleasant day for a hike but as soon as the sun was up the air started getting hot.

“How long will it take to get there?” Jim asked.

“As slow as you walk – it could take all day.”

“What do you mean slow?”

With Gruff at his heels, Jim broke into a sprint and ran past Rick down the narrow rabbit trail they were following. Rick broke into a run and followed. The race was on and Jim stayed in the lead most of the way.

When they got closer to the hills, the trail steepened and Rick started catching up. Rick was a faster runner uphill and soon they were side by side in a dead heat fighting each other for running room. Rick elbowed Jim and Jim pushed back laughing. They reached a huge shady oak tree at the base of the hill and both of them collapsed on a soft carpet of leaves.

“I won,” Jim bragged.

“No, I won,” Rick replied.

Gruff jumped on both of them and took turns licking them on their faces.

“I think Gruff is saying that he won,” Rick said.

They stayed under the oak tree for a few minutes to catch their breath. Gruff began sniffing the ground and stopped on the far side of the wide bough of the oak tree and started barking wildly.
“What is it Gruff,” Jim said as he walked to the tree.

Gruff was crouching low to the ground with his nose in the leaves and hind end sticking up in the air wagging his tail frantically. Jim looked down at the ground where Gruff was looking and saw the heel part of a boot print in the soft soil.

“Look at what Gruff found,” Jim said.

Rick bent over and studied the print.

“That looks like the heel of a cowboy boot.”

“Do you think it is someone that works for that mean lady?”

“I don’t think so. She only has a few cows left and she keeps them fenced in next to her barn.”

“Who could have made it?”

“I don’t know,” Rick said. “Maybe it’s the vegetable thief.”

Jim and Rick stood over the print looking at it carefully. Rick moved a dry leaf covering part of the print and saw something unusual. The back side of the heel print showed a “V”
shaped mark that was caused from a cracked in the shoe sole.

“Look at this! When we find who is wearing the boot with the broken “V” mark, we’ll know who was here.”

“And maybe who is stealing your vegetables.”

“Good job Gruff,” Jim said rubbing him behind the ear. “I think you may have found the first clue.

Gruff smiled and leaned his head against Jim’s leg and seemed to be quite aware that he found something important.

“We had better get going,” Rick said. “The mine is a quarter mile ahead but it’s all uphill.”

“What if the thief is up there?” Jim hesitated.

“That’s why we’re here, isn’t it?” Rick said matter-of-factly.

“I suppose you’re right. But I really didn’t expect to find anyone here.”

Rick started up the rocky path into the sunlight with Jim and Gruff following. He knew the way so it was his job to lead. Stiff low bushes at the edge of the trail jabbed at their legs and made going difficult. Jim was glad that he had come but hesitant at what may lay ahead.

“It is only a little further,” Rick said as he rounded a giant gray boulder to the right of the path. “We just have to get past this big rock and then climb up to the next ledge.”

Jim was glad of that. He was tired and thirsty. Gruff was glad too because he was panting hard with his tongue hanging loose.

They walked to the other side of the rock and crawled the last leg of the journey on their hands and knees. The ground was covered with sharp, loose rocks dumped over the side when the mine was working. At last, they reached the top and came out on a flat graded surface that lead to the entrance to the mine.

“Hurray,” Rick shouted. “We finally made it.”

“Yeah,” Jim said hoarsely, “hurra, hurra.”

Ahead of them was the entrance to the shaft that was now covered over with graying boards that had “KEEP OUT” written in fading red letters. To the right of the mine was a small tool shack leaning precariously to one side. A few yards to the left of the mine a small spring that rippled out of a solid wall of rock. The stream traveled a few feet across a flat rock to a sandy bed that immediately soaked up the water.

Jim, Rick and Gruff saw the water and instantly ran that direction. Gruff got there first and was busy lapping up the water on the rock by the time the others arrived. Jim and Rick cupped their hands and slurped in the cool clean water. A minute later Gruff took his last slurp and raised his head licking his nose. Jim and Rick finished drinking and stood up, wiping their mouth on their sleeves.

“Boy I needed that,” Jim said.

“Me too,” Rick said.

“Grrruff,” barked Gruff.

“Do you see any shoe prints,” Jim said looking at the ground.

They were in too much of a hurry to look for prints when they first arrived and now the ground was covered with their own shoe and paw prints.

“There are some over here.” Rick stooped low to the ground.

“It looks like there was one…no two… yes two boys …and…and a dog. That’s it. Two boys and a dog.”

Jim slapped Rick lightly on the back of his head.

“Those are our prints.”

“You didn’t ask me to find the thieves’ prints. You said are there ANY shoe prints.”

Jim walked away scratching his head with Gruff right behind him with his nose to the ground sniffing everywhere. Jim walked to the mine shaft and looked in between the boards.

“It doesn’t look like any one has been here in a long time. These boards look pretty old.”
Rick walked beside him and peered into the dark cavern.

“There was a cave-in about thirty years ago and the mine was closed up. Three men died underground and they never were able to dig them out. They just closed up the mine and put up a keep out sign. I don’t think anyone owns it anymore.”

“Do you think that there is still gold in there?” Jim picked up a quartz rock and examined the fractured white gem.

“I am sure there is. But who would be fool enough to go in there to find out. It could cave in at any time.”

Jim looked at Rick and just smiled.

“Oh no you don’t,” Rick said. “We came here to look for thieves. Not to climb into an old gold mine full o’ dead men’s bones.”

Jim dropped the rock and Gruff immediately began to sniff at it.

“Where do we start looking?” Jim asked.

“We could scout around the area looking for signs. Maybe we’ll find more boot prints near the edge.”

They carefully scouted the area looking everywhere for evidence. Gruff and Jim were on the other side of the old shack looking at the rocky hillside behind it. To their right, something rattled the leaves in the thick brush fight next to them. Gruff perked up his ears and stared intently toward the noise.

“What was that boy,” Jim whispered.

Gruff stood perfectly still. The noise rustled again. It sounded bigger that a lizard or a snake. Rabbits were usually sleeping at this time of day. Maybe it was the person who wore the boot with the broken heel.

The noise rattled again and Gruff slowly edged his way toward the bush. Silently he stalked the bush carefully placing one foot in front of the other like a trained tracking dog. He stopped. Only inches from the bush Gruff intently sniffed the air trying to detect the reason for the noise. With eyes half closed he moved his nose to the left, then right sensing the air.

A small dark figure ran out of the bush and scurried between Gruff’s legs. A red fox ran past him towards the old shed and Gruff yipped with surprise as he somersaulted and tumbled to the ground. Jim spun around and lost his balance and fell down on top of Gruff.

The red fox ran past them both and scurried to the shed and disappeared under a broken board at the base of the shed. Gruff barked once and ran after the fox at full speed toward the hole.

“Stop Gruff!” Jim yelled just at Gruff disappeared into the dark hole. Gruff was still a puppy and didn’t know about dangerous things like rattlesnakes and scorpions that liked to hide in cool dark places during the day.

Gruff caught up with the fox under the shed and Jim heard terrible noises as they howled and bumped and thumped into the wooden floor. The rickety shack rocked back and forth and started to lean to one side. The weathered wood creaked like a door with a rusty hinge and a brace leaning against the steep hill behind it snapped loose.

An avalanche of rock and debris came tumbling down from the hill into the side of the shed and collapsed the back wall with a loud crack. Jim jumped away from the landslide fell back into the sticker bushes at the edge of the clearing.

The fox ran out from the other side of the shed and sped away into the thick foliage. Thick brown dust filled the air as the rocks rumbled down the hill into the shed. Tons of loose soil rained down the steep incline into the shed collapsing the old walls under the weight of the dry soil, covering the broken down building with a deep layer of heavy brown rocks. Gruff yipped one time, and then there was silence.

June 14, 2011

20 Reasons Why You Should Self-Publish- Reason #1

Filed under: self-publishing,Writing Craft — thewriterssecret @ 6:26 am

1.20 Reasons Cover
The Next Big Thing

http://www.scribd.com/doc/34617986/20-Reasons-Why-You-Should-Self-Publish
Catch the wave on the newest trend in publishing.

BOWKER STATISTICS 2009: NON-TRADITIONAL MEANS NOW THE MAJORITY PATH FOR AUTHORS
by Editor on Wednesday, April 14, 2010

“The latest 2009 statistical report released by R.R. Bowker today is a real eye-opener. The total amount of titles produced last year was 1,052,803, and significantly, 764,448 of that overall figure came from what Bowker describe as non-traditional channels – a mix of micro-publishers, self-publishers and reprints of public domain titles.
In simple terms, 2010 will see non-traditional produced titles outstrip traditional titles by three to one—something that would have been considered mind-blowing three or four years ago. CreateSpace just passed their 2 million mark.”

CHARLESTON, S.C. – May 24, 2010 –“From major publishing houses to independent authors, more and more people are able to reach broad audiences through the CreateSpace platform. CreateSpace, part of the Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) group of companies, today announced an exciting milestone: more than 2 million book, DVD and CD titles have now been made available through the innovative full-service and do-it-yourself creative platform. These titles are made on-demand when customers order them and are continuously available on Amazon.com and other channels. With the recent launch of its Expanded Distribution Channel, a strong member community and a comprehensive suite of free tools and fee-based services, CreateSpace provides the most comprehensive solution for content owners who want to distribute their books, DVDs and CDs without inventory.”

6/27/10
http://windblownmedia.com/advice-to-authors.html
“Windblown Media is not currently accepting any unsolicited manuscripts. We would however, like to offer some tips and advice for authors and artists looking to be published.

Advice for Authors

The publishers here at Windblown Media understand the frustrations and concerns of writers and artists looking to publish their work. The publishing industry is in great flux right now and it is harder than ever for a new writer to attract their attention. Fortunately, though, we are in a transitioning time that has allowed the Internet to become the acquisitions editor for the publishing industry. Never before have writers had such options to inexpensively put their ideas before the public and let their audience grow organically. If you can’t find an audience for your passions and content on the web, a publisher is not going to be able to find it for you.

So let me encourage you to move ahead on your own. Don’t wait for a publisher. Hopefully what The Shack demonstrated is that just about anyone can put a book out there in this viral world and it will find its audience in time. Today, especially with new authors, it is the author that sells their own works through the contacts God has given them and the range of their own influence. We can help in that process, but we cannot be a substitute for it. Books sales and reputations best grow organically, rather than through the artificial hype of press releases and interviews.”

June 11, 2011

Lost

Filed under: Writing Craft — thewriterssecret @ 9:02 pm
Tags:

Lost

A long time had passed since the last time I walked this way. Seasons change, snow covers field and glade, rusty leaves return to earth. A discarded steel hand plow slid silently into the earth, receiving its faded metal with a welcome sigh.

Still, blue, winter air swirls in slinky circles across the frozen path. Dead blades of grass, stood upright in a frosty vigil against the chill. Waiting.

The empty wait was the hard part. Is the hard part.

So many seasons past, so many days gone by with only the icy winter to push me on my way.

Time, just a decadent clock to remind me of days no longer here.

I see my feet, in old broken shoes, pave a step on the frosty sand. Voided steps are left behind in a weaving trail the leads to memories from yesterday. And the days before and days before, before.

A journey is a place to go, a land to leave, a dream to find. Time will stop, on the journey’s path, leaving only steps to the road ahead.

Gray, still, breath falls to the ground in rounded clumps. Breath, void of life, devoid of warmth. Once mine, full of life, now empty wisps of nothing, empty holes of air.

The last time I walked this way, I sensed a life.

I raised my ice-dusted brows and searched the field beyond the broken wire fence. A swirl of snow, a spotted hint of frozen ground against a gray
backdrop of frozen air dissolving into eternal mist. Circling around me, the vacant sky echoed silent taunts to my stone-cold soul.

Stopping like a stone, I listened to the cold. The perfect silence brought a ringing sense of vacant sound to waiting ears, singing ever louder – to a wailing pitch of steel swords on empty eardrums.

I’d heard it all before, and before that, a hundred times before.

I’d seen the snow, felt the cold, heard the wail, saw the mist, sensed the loss and came up lost. The trail goes ever on, the snow forever cold.

One heart, hoping to beat life into a lost and barren soul.

One soul, vacant.

One mind, waiting for thoughts of light.

One blank scroll, waiting for script.

One lone writer, looking for words.

June 6, 2011

Kathi Macias Interview

Filed under: Writing Craft — thewriterssecret @ 9:29 am
Tags: , ,

Kathi Macias recently did an excellent interview in Christian Fiction Online Magazine.

We authors have to get it in our heads that marketing and selling are as important as writing a world-changing manuscript.

Author Interview
Kim Ford Interviews Our Featured Cover Author
-Kathi Macias
“I think the turning point for me was when an editor I had worked with for some time sat me down and said just the words I needed to hear. You see, I was putting together great proposals and sending them out right and left, but getting nothing but rejections.

Then he said, “Kathi, no one doubts that you can write; we just want to know that you can sell.”

He hit the nail on the head! I hated marketing and publicity and would go to any extreme to avoid them. But at that moment I understood that if I was going to continue writing and publishing books, I’d better get that platform built—and pronto!

Being a firstborn type-A overachiever, I went to work building a platform and Internet presence. Now I’m writing as fast as I can just to try to meet my deadlines. It’s a wonderful problem to have! But the important thing is to be teachable and to understand that what works today might not work tomorrow.”
http://www.christianfictiononlinemagazine.com/best_interview.html

June 4, 2011

Writers Workshop

I presented a two-hour workshop today at Ramona Family Naturals on How to Self-Publish with CreateSpace. A great group of writers showed up, each with a list of really good questions.

I still quite happy with CreateSpace and plan to publish three more books this year. I hope to see more new authors at my next workshop in September. I’ll post the date and location when I firm up the details.

Happy Writing!

February 19, 2011

Gruff Chapter 3

Filed under: Gruff Book,self-publishing — thewriterssecret @ 1:12 am
Tags: , ,

CHAPTER 2

Jim was awakened by the sound of a mockingbird singing loudly just outside of his window. The deep orange horizon, beyond the flat valley below his house, signaled the beginning of another hot summer day. Jim jumped out of bed and slid on a pair of cut-off jeans and a faded blue tee shirt. He had been going barefoot all summer and the soles of his feet were tough so he didn’t need to wear shoes.

Gruff met him at the laundry room door with his tail wagging wildly. Jim opened the door and Gruff crouched low at his feet licking his toes as a sign of respect and obedience. Jim knelt down and petted Gruff all over.

“Are you ready to play today?” Jim asked.

Gruff looked up and seemed to smile.

“We have to find a way to catch those vegetable thieves dad was telling us about. I think we should go down to the garden to look for signs.”

Gruff barked once in agreement and wagged his whole back end as he anticipated the day ahead.

Jim and Gruff hiked down the steep bank next to the house. At the base of the bank was a wide valley used for a pasture. There were a few cows at the far end but Jim never went there because that landed was owned by an old widow lady who didn’t like children. The entire pasture was surrounded by weathered gray fence posts that held up the three strands of rusty barbed wire.

Dad’s garden was at the base of the hill on this side of the fence. He had worked all winter long preparing the soil and now a fine healthy green garden grew. There were corn, beets, radishes, watermelons, beans, cantaloupes, onions, rhubarb, squash, potatoes and lettuce. Jim walked between the rows of corn and took a deep breath, taking in the fresh clean smells of the early morning. This was his favorite time of day.

“Look at this,” Jim said pointing to a stalk of corn missing two ears of corn. “Someone picked this corn during the night.”
Gruff sniffed the stalk and then put his nose to the ground and sniffed the dark brown soil. He softly pawed at the ground around the stalk.

“Do you smell something Gruff?”

Jim looked hard at the ground but found no footprints of any kind. No animal prints, no people prints and no a no space alien prints. It was as if the ears of corn had just vanished off the stalk during the night.

Gruff was excited about something and followed an invisible trail between the rows of corn to the edge of the garden. He held his nose to the ground and his tail held high. Jim followed right behind looking left and right for signs. He noticed three more ears of corn missing and a whole beet plant was pulled up.

“It had to be a pretty smart animal to do this much work and not leave a trail Gruff.”

A tall stand of weeds grew at the edge of the garden. When Gruff sniffed the weeds he inhaled a soulful of pollen from a mustard plant. He sneezed hard and fell off his feet. He lay on his belly and sneezed again and shook his head to clear his nose. Jim started to laugh, breathed in some pollen and started sneezing also.

“Ahhchoo,” Jim sneezed and fell down next to Gruff… “I guess we lost the trail didn’t we.”

Gruff shook his head hard and sneezed again. He had lost the scent but at least now they knew which direction the thieves went when they left. And Gruff learned not to sniff mustard plants.

“What are you doin’ on the ground?” Rick yelled from the hillside. Rick lived in a house nearby and was Jim’s best friend.

“We’re looking for vegetable thieves, “Jim yelled back. “Come on down and meet my new dog!”

Rick stepped on the trail and ran down the hillside. Rick was dressed just about like Jim but he had on a holey green tee shirt. His parents didn’t have much money. Rick was thinner than Jim and his messy hair always needed trimming.

“When did you get the dog?” Rick asked when he arrived at the garden.

“Last night. My dad brought him home from the dog pound.”

Rick bent over and rubbed Gruff on the neck. Gruff immediately knew this was Jim’s friend so it was okay to trust him. He rolled over on his back and let Rick scratch his belly.

“I think he likes me,” Rick said.

“It looks that way. I think he’s the best dog in the world.”

Gruff lay back with his eyes half closed enjoying the attention.

“What are you doing down her in the garden?” Rick asked.

“We are looking for thieves. My dad says that someone, or some thing, is coming here at night stealing vegetables. Gruff was on a scent trail when he stumbled into this mustard bush and started sneezing.”

“Do you need help?”

“Sure I do. You’ve lived here longer than me so you know the territory a lot better. Where do you think a thief would be hiding at this time of day?”

Rick rubbed his chin and looked at a small range of hills at the south of the valley.
“There is an old mine shaft up there in the hills. A thief could hide in there during the daytime and come out at night to steal.”

“Do you know how to get there?”

“I’ve been there once. I think I can find it again.”

“Well let’s go,” Jim said.

The hills to the south of the valley were about three miles away. The valley floor was covered in high grass and green weeds about waist high. A shallow stream flowed northward in the center and spilled into the big pond where their raft was tied up under a grove of oak trees. They left the garden walking east and ducked under the rusty barbed wire that surrounded the pasture. It was a pleasant day for a hike but as soon as the sun was up the air started getting hot.

“How long will it take to get there?” Jim asked.

“As slow as you walk – it could take all day.”

“What do you mean slow?”

With Gruff at his heels, Jim broke into a sprint and ran past Rick down the narrow rabbit trail they were following. Rick broke into a run and followed. The race was on and Jim stayed in the lead most of the way.

When they got closer to the hills, the trail steepened and Rick started catching up. Rick was a faster runner uphill and soon they were side by side in a dead heat fighting each other for running room. Rick elbowed Jim and Jim pushed back laughing. They reached a huge shady oak tree at the base of the hill and both of them collapsed on a soft carpet of leaves.

“I won,” Jim bragged.

“No, I won,” Rick replied.

Gruff jumped on both of them and took turns licking them on their faces.

“I think Gruff is saying that he won,” Rick said.

They stayed under the oak tree for a few minutes to catch their breath. Gruff began sniffing the ground and stopped on the far side of the wide bough of the oak tree and started barking wildly.

“What is it Gruff,” Jim said as he walked to the tree.

Gruff was crouching low to the ground with his nose in the leaves and hind end sticking up in the air wagging his tail
frantically. Jim looked down at the ground where Gruff was looking and saw the heel part of a boot print in the soft soil.

“Look at what Gruff found,” Jim said.

Rick bent over and studied the print.

“That looks like the heel of a cowboy boot.”

“Do you think it is someone that works for that mean lady?”

“I don’t think so. She only has a few cows left and she keeps them fenced in next to her barn.”
“Who could have made it?”

“I don’t know,” Rick said. “Maybe it’s the vegetable thief.”

Jim and Rick stood over the print looking at it carefully. Rick moved a dry leaf covering part of the print and saw something unusual. The back side of the heel print showed a “V”
shaped mark that was caused from a cracked in the shoe sole.

“Look at this! When we find who is wearing the boot with the broken “V” mark, we’ll know who was here.”

“And maybe who is stealing your vegetables.”

“Good job Gruff,” Jim said rubbing him behind the ear. “I think you may have found the first clue.

Gruff smiled and leaned his head against Jim’s leg and seemed to be quite aware that he found something important.

“We had better get going,” Rick said. “The mine is a quarter mile ahead but it’s all uphill.”

“What if the thief is up there?” Jim hesitated.

“That’s why we’re here, isn’t it?” Rick said matter-of-factly.

“I suppose you’re right. But I really didn’t expect to find anyone here.”
Rick started up the rocky path into the sunlight with Jim and Gruff following. He knew the way so it was his job to lead.

Stiff low bushes at the edge of the trail jabbed at their legs and made going difficult. Jim was glad that he had come but hesitant at what may lay ahead.

“It’s only a little further,” Rick said as he rounded a giant gray boulder to the right of the path. “We just have to get past this big rock and then climb up to the next ledge.”

Jim was glad of that. He was tired and thirsty. Gruff was glad too because he was panting hard with his tongue hanging loose.

They walked to the other side of the rock and crawled the last leg of the journey on their hands and knees. The ground was covered with sharp, loose rocks dumped over the side when the mine was working. At last, they reached the top and came out on a flat graded surface that lead to the entrance to the mine.

“Hurray,” Rick shouted. “We finally made it.”

“Yeah,” Jim said hoarsely, “hurra, hurra.”

Ahead of them was the entrance to the shaft that was now covered over with graying boards that had “KEEP OUT” written in fading red letters. To the right of the mine was a small tool shack leaning precariously to one side. A few yards to the left of the mine a small spring that rippled out of a solid wall of rock. The stream traveled a few feet across a flat rock to a sandy bed that immediately soaked up the water.

Jim, Rick and Gruff saw the water and instantly ran that direction. Gruff got there first and was busy lapping up the water on the rock by the time the others arrived. Jim and Rick cupped their hands and slurped in the cool clean water.

A minute later Gruff took his last slurp and raised his head licking his nose. Jim and Rick finished drinking and stood up, wiping their mouth on their sleeves.

“Boy I needed that,” Jim said.

“Me too,” Rick said.

“Grrruff,” barked Gruff.

“Do you see any shoe prints,” Jim said looking at the ground.

They were in too much of a hurry to look for prints when they first arrived and now the ground was covered with their own shoe and paw prints.

“There are some over here.” Rick stooped low to the ground.

“It looks like there was one…no two… yes two boys …and…and a dog. That’s it. Two boys and a dog.”

Jim slapped Rick lightly on the back of his head.

“Those are our prints.”

“You didn’t ask me to find the thieves’ prints. You said are there ANY shoe prints.”

Jim walked away scratching his head with Gruff right behind him with his nose to the ground sniffing everywhere. Jim walked to the mine shaft and looked in between the boards.

“It doesn’t look like any one has been here in a long time. These boards look pretty old.”

Rick walked beside him and peered into the dark cavern.

“There was a cave-in about thirty years ago and the mine was closed up. Three men died underground and they never were able to dig them out. They just closed up the mine and put up a keep out sign. I don’t think anyone owns it anymore.”

“Do you think that there is still gold in there?” Jim picked up a quartz rock and examined the fractured white gem.

“I am sure there is. But who would be fool enough to go in there to find out. It could cave in at any time.”
Jim looked at Rick and just smiled.

“Oh no you don’t,” Rick said. “We came here to look for thieves. Not to climb into an old gold mine full o’ dead men’s bones.”

Jim dropped the rock and Gruff immediately began to sniff at it.

“Where do we start looking?” Jim asked.

“We could scout around the area looking for signs. Maybe we’ll find more boot prints near the edge.”

They carefully scouted the area looking everywhere for evidence. Gruff and Jim were on the other side of the old shack looking at the rocky hillside behind it. To their right, something rattled the leaves in the thick brush fight next to them.

Gruff perked up his ears and stared intently toward the noise.

“What was that boy,” Jim whispered.

Gruff stood perfectly still. The noise rustled again. It sounded bigger that a lizard or a snake. Rabbits were usually sleeping at this time of day. Maybe it was the person who wore the boot with the broken heel.

The noise rattled again and Gruff slowly edged his way toward the bush. Silently he stalked the bush carefully placing one foot in front of the other like a trained tracking dog. He stopped. Only inches from the bush Gruff intently sniffed the air trying to detect the reason for the noise. With eyes half closed he moved his nose to the left, then right sensing the air.

A small dark figure ran out of the bush and scurried between Gruff’s legs. A red fox ran past him towards the old shed and Gruff yipped with surprise as he somersaulted and tumbled to the ground. Jim spun around and lost his balance and fell down on top of Gruff.

The red fox ran past them both and scurried to the shed and disappeared under a broken board at the base of the shed.

Gruff barked once and ran after the fox at full speed toward the hole.

“Stop Gruff!” Jim yelled just at Gruff disappeared into the dark hole. Gruff was still a puppy and didn’t know about dangerous things like rattlesnakes and scorpions that liked to hide in cool dark places during the day.

Gruff caught up with the fox under the shed and Jim heard terrible noises as they howled and bumped and thumped into the wooden floor. The rickety shack rocked back and forth and started to lean to one side. The weathered wood creaked like a door with a rusty hinge and a brace leaning against the steep hill behind it snapped loose.

An avalanche of rock and debris came tumbling down from the hill into the side of the shed and collapsed the back wall with a loud crack. Jim jumped away from the landslide fell back into the sticker bushes at the edge of the clearing.

The fox ran out from the other side of the shed and sped away into the thick foliage. Thick brown dust filled the air as the rocks rumbled down the hill into the shed. Tons of loose soil rained down the steep incline into the shed collapsing the old walls under the weight of the dry soil, covering the broken down building with a deep layer of heavy brown rocks. Gruff yipped one time, and then there was silence.

February 13, 2011

How Good Can You Be?

Filed under: Getting Started,Writing Craft — thewriterssecret @ 5:55 pm
Tags: , , ,

Have you ever read a “Best Selling” novel and said to yourself, “I can write better than that!”

We all have. The difference between you and I and the bestselling author, is they were in the right place at the right time and somehow, in spite of their flaws, managed to successfully publish and market their book.

Well, doesn’t that just make you want to slam your laptop shut and never write again. “Life’s not fair. I’m better, smarter, I’m greater than all those mediocre famous writers making a living selling books.”

Yeah, we’ve all felt that way. Then we scratch our head, rub our chin and ponder how we can get noticed.

If you were attacked by Yeti and lived to tell about it, or have a last name of Palin or Obama, publishers would be clamoring at your front porch for your latest book. The rest of us just struggle along doing the best we can.

But…and there’s always a but…there’s one thing all of us can do to get noticed.

Write good. I’m not sure if “write good” is proper grammar so if your snooty then- Write well. Good writing is what success is all about. You can throw words on a page, walk away, and say it’s good enough, or you can turn back to your keyboard and tear your paragraphs apart to make them better.

We become stronger by exercising to tear down muscle and we write better by ripping apart our first draft to transform it into a fine work of art.

I found a great book online called, Write Good or Die By Scott Nicholson. This is a compilation of helpful advice from 33 published authors.
http://www.smashwords.com/extreader/read/13037/11/write-good-or-die

Some of the best advice in the book comes from New York Times Best Selling Author Heather Graham
http://www.eheathergraham.com

Write Good or Die

“Listen to advice, and throw out advice”

My last words of advice to you. Do what works for you, but do it well good.

January 23, 2011

New Book- Gruff -Chapter 1

Filed under: Gruff Book,self-publishing,Writing Craft — thewriterssecret @ 4:20 am
Tags: , , , ,

Gruff

I’m writing a new book. It’s the sequel to Oakcreek Adventure which I published last year. Gruff is about a boy and his dog who find action and suspense while exploring the forests and chaparral near their home.

This is the second book in the Oakcreek Series, about a young boy who moves to an old farmhouse near a creek. All summer long Jim plays by the creek catching polywogs, building rafts and finding adventure and excitement at every turn of the river.

Each week I’ll add a new chapter to the blog, Follow along and enjoy the adventure!

GRUFF

CHAPTER 1

“Dad’s home,” Jim looked out of the big picture window in the living room of their ancient two-story house.

“It’s about time he got here,” his mom said with a smile.

Jim saw the smile and wondered what was up. She was usually upset when dad came home late for dinner.

“I’m starving,” Walter said. Walter is in Junior High School and is always starving.

“I think I’ll meet dad at the car,” Jim said. He was curious because he sensed something was up.

“No, stay here,” his mother suddenly said. “I need help…uh…setting the table.”

She turned to Jim.” Will you be a dear and get the silverware out for me?”

“But it’s Tammy’s turn to do dishes. And that includes setting the table.”

Jim now was positive his mom was trying to hide something. She always made sure that the correct kid set the table and did the dishes.

“Why do you want me to stay inside?”

“No reason.” She smiled.

Jim was really suspicious now. She hadn’t told him to wash his hands and didn’t ask him if he did his homework.

“Jim, Walter,” she called out, “go clean up for dinner. Your dad will be here in a minute. And Jim,” she asked, “how is your homework doing?”

“Just fine,” he mumbled as he climbed the staircase to the upstairs bathroom.

“Mom is acting kind of weird today,” Jim said washing his face.

“Oh?” Walter answered.

Walter was okay as far as brothers go. But he never talked to Jim much.

“Do you think she’s hiding something?”

“I dunno.”

“Do you think dad has a surprise with him?”

“I dunno.”

“Do you think that I am in trouble for something?”

Walter gave a wide grin and walked out of the bathroom. Walter liked to see Jim get into trouble.

Now Jim was worried. Maybe mom found out about the vase he broke and called dad at work. Or maybe she found out that he was climbing out on the roof to get a better view with his telescope. Maybe the library called to tell her about the book that he forgot to return two years ago.

Perspiration beaded up on his forehead. Flighty jitters cart wheeled in his stomach. The downstairs door slammed as his dad walked into the house. Dad’s footsteps were fast and hard on the old hardwood floor.

“Jim,” his mother called. “It’s time for dinner. Come down now.”

Her voice was pleasant enough, but there was something about the tone that worried Jim. He imagined his mom standing in the kitchen with the wooden spoon in her hand waiting to give him a spanking. Something was up. There was no doubt about it. And when something was up is usually meant Jim was in trouble.

Slowly he dried his face.

“I’m coming,” he answered.

Looking at himself in the mirror he saw a round headed, blond haired kid with short hair, with a worried look on his face staring back at him. Jim tilted his head a bit and turned his mouth into a sad grimace. If he looked real sad they might feel sorry for him and let him off without a spanking.

“Jim come down here,” his dad said.

That meant trouble. Dad was calling him now. This had to be serious.

Jim shuffled out of the bathroom into the hall that lead to the steps with the ornate wooden banister. Normally he would have slid down the banister but he didn’t want to do that now because it would make him look too happy. At each step he felt himself closer to the dreaded wooden spoon. Jim hated wooden spoons. Why did God ever create trees anyway. Wooden spoons are made from trees.

He felt bad for having that thought and decided to figure out what he did wrong. Was it something he did at school? It couldn’t be. Summer vacation started a month ago.

Was it something he did at church? Maybe they found out he carved his initials in the bench. No, he thought, that bench was repainted last spring.

Was it the lizard that he put in Tammy’s drawer? No it couldn’t be that, he thought. He had changed his mind and took it out before she got home.

He was still trying to figure out what he’d done wrong when he turned the corner into the hallway that lead to the dining room. Walter and Tammy were standing at the end of the hall smiling. This meant trouble for sure.

“Hurry up, dumbo,” Walter said. “I wanna eat.”

That was the longest sentence that he had heard from Walter in a long time. Jim clenched his teeth tightly and walked into the dining room waiting to get yelled at.

He was surprised to see mom and dad standing in the living room smiling at him. On the floor behind dad was a cardboard box. Something moved inside the box.

“Surprise,” they said in unison.

Jim felt shocked and relieved at the same time. Instead of getting in trouble, he was getting a gift.

Dad stepped away from the box that was moving back and forth on the tile floor. A sniffing noise came from inside the box as the unknown creature bounced from side to side. The box wasn’t very big. It was about two feet wide and two feet high and something was alive inside

“Well are you going to open it,” dad said.

“Uh, sure,” Jim said. “What is it?”

“Open it and find out,” mom said.

“I’m starved,” Walter said.

“Me too,” Tammy agreed.

Jim stepped forward and leaned over the box. It was taped up on the top and the creature inside was sniffing at the round air holes in the side. The box wiggled back and forth. The creature sniffed. Jim pulled on the tape. Mom smiled and held her breath.     “I’m starved,” Walter said.

Jim ripped off the tape and the lid sprung open as a black and brown creature jumped into his face knocking him over. Jim fell on his back with the creature on top of him.

“Grruuff!” It barked.

“You got me a dog,” Jim said laughing with the dog standing on top of his chest licking him in the face.

“I found him at the animal shelter,” Dad said. “He is about 5 months old. The veterinarian thinks that it is a mix between a black Labrador and a German shepherd.”

Happily the dog licked Jim all over his face. Big floppy black ears flopped back and forth as he licked Jim from head to chin.

“He likes me!” Jim said.

“It looks that way,” Dad said. “Do you want to keep him?”

“Do I ever! Did you but any food for him? How much do I feed him? Does he need Rabies shots? Where will he sleep?”

Jim asked all the questions at once. Mom and dad stood back smiling broadly at him as the dog licked Jim excitedly.

“I’m starved,” Walter whined.

“Well we should eat,” Mom said. “Put the dog back in the box and come to the table.”

“I can’t put him back in there. He just got out. Can he sit at the table with me?”

“We are not having dogs eat at the table with us.”

“I don’t want him to eat with us. Can I just let him sit at my feet while I am eating? Then I will take him outside and make a bed for him.”

Mom and dad looked at each other.

“Okay,” Dad said. “He can sit at your feet but I don’t want you giving him table scraps. There’s a big bag of dog food in the back of the car that I bought just for him. And I expect you to be the one to take care of him.”

“I will. I promise,” Jim said as he climbed up off the floor. The floppy eared, brown and black dog instantly took to him and decided that Jim was going to be his master. Without question, the dog sat at Jim’s feet and quietly watched him eat his dinner. Jim ate quickly and then jumped from the table.

“Uh,” he remembered to ask, “can I please be excused?”

“You’re excused,” Mom said.

Jim walked to the living room with the dog following at his heels.

“What are we going to call him?” Jim asked.

“I don’t know,” Dad said. “How about Rover?”

“Rover is an old fashion name,” Tammy said. “How about Socrates.”

“No,” Jim answered looking at the awkward mutt. “I don’t think that a name that fancy would fit.”

“Call ’em Dog,” Walter said stuffing a piece of pie in his mouth.

“That won’t do either,” Jim said.

Mom suggested, “How about Blackie?”

“Blackie is okay. But I don’t think that it is right.”

“Ask the dog,” Walter mumbled.

“Okay I will,” Jim said looking at dogs face.

“So tell me boy, what do you want to be called?”

The dog licked Jim several times but said nothing.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Tammy said. “Dogs can’t talk.”

“My dog could if he wanted do. Couldn’t you boy.”

Jim patted him gently on the head.

“So tell me boy, what do you want to be called? What is your name?”

“Grrruuff,” he barked.

“What was that?”

“Grrruuff,” he barked again.

“That’s it!” Jim yelled. “I told you he knew his name.”

“You’re going to call him ‘bark’?” Tammy asked.

“No. not ‘bark’. His name is Gruff. Didn’t you hear him say it?”

“Grrruff!” Gruff said.

“You see?” Jim said.

“Gruff is not a name for a dog,” Tammy said. “I have never heard of a dog named Gruff before.”

“He can call him gruff if he wants to,” Mom said.

“Either that or I’ll call him Tammy,” Jim said.

Tammy made an ugly face at Jim and threw a dinner roll at him. Gruff caught the roll in mid air and gobbled it down. He then sat back on his haunches and looked expectantly at Tammy, waiting for more.

Mom tried to be mad at Tammy for throwing the roll but had to laugh. Gruff’s tongue was hanging out to one side with his eyes bright and expectant, hoping for another roll to come sailing his way. Dad smirked and then broke out in a full laugh as Gruff looked at him with head cocked to one side. Jim hugged Gruff around the neck and held him tight.

“I love you Gruff,” he said quietly so that no one else could hear.

Tammy complained while cleaning up the dishes and Walter sat on the couch watching an “America’s Funniest People” re-run on TV. Jim went into the laundry room with Gruff to make a bed for him. The laundry room was a small screened in room at the back of the house that had a separate door that lead into the house. Jim found an old plastic laundry basket that wasn’t in use and cut a hole in one side for a doorway.

“How does this look, Gruff,” he said. “Do you think this will be big enough for you?”

Gruff stood silent wagging his tail in delight.

Jim put an old blanket in the basket and set it next to the water heater in the corner. That way Gruff would stay warm at night.

“Go ahead. Try it out,” Jim said.

Gruff looked at him with raised eyebrows and then looked at the bed with uncertainty. The only home that he had his whole life was a small chain link enclosure with a concrete floor and loud barking dogs on either side. This new home was quite a surprise for him.

Gruff approached cautiously and sniffed the edge of the basket. He looked back at Jim for reassurance.

“Go ahead boy, check it out.”

Carefully he stepped over the threshold into the basket and walked in circles three times before laying down. The blanket was soft and warm under him. For the first time in his life, Gruff finally had a home.

“That looks pretty good,” Dad said walking into the laundry room.

“I think he likes it,” Jim said.

“Anything will be better than that pound where I found him. He looks much happier here.”

Dad crouched down and petted Gruff on the back of his head rubbing his ears. Gruff closed his eyes in pleasure, enjoying every second of his new life.

“By the way Jim, have you been taking things from my garden lately?”

“I picked some radishes yesterday for the salad. But nothing else this week.”

“That’s interesting,” Dad said still rubbing Gruff behind the ears. “I have been noticing a lot of vegetables missing lately. At first I thought it was a deer or a rabbit, but there are no tracks and nothing else is being disturbed.”

“Maybe it’s space aliens?” Jim suggested.

“I don’t know if aliens eat vegetables or not, but until I find out, I’m going to assume that someone is sneaking into the garden at night stealing produce. I sure would like to find out who’s doing it.”

Jim looked at Gruff and smiled.

“Gruff and I will catch him. We’ll go out first thing tomorrow and look for tracks. Gruff will be a good tracking dog.”

With those words gruff perked up his ears and sat up with wide-open eyes. He saw an adventure in the works and he was ready for anything.

Jim placed a bowl of water and some food in the laundry room and turned out the lights. Gruff lifted his head, looked at Jim and held his breath.

“It’s okay Gruff. I’ll be back in the morning. Dad says that you have to sleep out here. I wish I could take you in my room but he won’t let me.”

Gruff whined and laid his head down on the blanket.

“It’s okay Gruff. I’ll be back first thing in the morning and we’ll look for those vegetable thieves. I promise.”

Gruff curled up in a ball and looked sadly at Jim. Jim quietly closed the door and went upstairs to get ready for bed. A few minutes later, he was curled up in his own bed under crisp sheets staring outside at the bright stars.

He smiled to himself, glad that his parents gave him a dog. Before going to sleep, he thanked God for Gruff and promised that he would always take care of him. He then fell into an easy, happy sleep.

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