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Tracking Down Why

Last night my wife and I watched the movie Delores Claiborne, based on the book of the same name by Stephen King, who I will admit is one of my favorite writers. We had seen it when it first came out, and I had read the book years ago, again when it first came out. Of course that was before I became serious about my own writing.

Last night I watched the movie as a writer and when Delores quoted Vera with the line "Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hang onto." I was floored with the realization that the entire book had been built around that simple statement.

I became excited as I explored all of the connections that led back to that quote, following the line of reason, the questions of Who? What? When? Where? And most importantly, Why? It was then that I understood what he had meant in his book On Writing, when he likened the act of writing a story as a process of uncovering a fossil.

We expand on the initial spark of an idea with a series of questions. What's happening, who it is happening to, where is the story taking place and when. Then we come to the why.

Why were the authorities so anxious to charge Delores with the death of Vera? Because they rightly suspected that she was implicit in the death of her husband years ago and wanted to make her pay in whatever way possible.

Why did Delores kill her husband? To protect her daughter.

These were the two most important questions of the tale and served as the foundation upon which the framework of the story rested. They were not the only two.

Why did Delores' daughter hate her so much? Because as a child of abuse she had effectively blocked all instances of the abuse from her mind, misinterpreting her mothers acts to protect her from her father as a wedge that drove them further apart. 

Why were Delores and Vera such close friends?  Beneath the surface where it really mattered they were both the same and they shared the knowledge of their husband's untimely demise.

There were many other questions answered in the course of the story but the four above served to move the story towards its eventual conclusion.

Parasite: Chapter One

Due October 30, 2014. Now available for pre-order:

Chapter 1

Harbingers rarely ever realize their importance in the greater scheme of things. They muddle through their daily routine totally unaware that at one point in their miserable little lives they will do something that will cause a change to be set into motion. A change that will have far reaching implications for those around them and beyond.

Such was the case with Anthony Ferris, a young boy some would consider rather small for his age. While the other boys his age had suddenly sprouted up to tower over him, Anthony had remained trapped at four foot seven by a metabolism that didn’t strictly follow the normal course. Of course, being the smallest in the group, he quickly found himself the target of the bullies who were constantly on the lookout for their latest victim.

Forget survival of the fittest. For Anthony, survival of the smartest was the real law of the jungle, or so he thought.  What he didn’t realize was his tormentors were just too lazy to go to the extra effort required to cut off his only remaining route between the bus stop and home. A route that took him along the now defunct Western Maryland Railroad whose rusting rails vanished around a gentle bend that had been cut into the side of the mountain.

That is until the last day of school.

Dwarfed by the book bag riding high on his back, Anthony trudged along the gravel path that followed the curve of the railroad tracks vanishing into a sea of shimmering heat waves that floated just above the sun baked ground. It was hot, the sun beat down on him with a relentlessness that left him feeling like he had been wrapped in a wet towel. The book bag hanging from his shoulders was dragging him down with its weight. But neither of these served to dampen his mood.

Tomorrow was the first official day of summer vacation. He had a whole three months ahead of him free from the torment he had endured at the hands of his arch enemy, Randy, and his side kick Dave. They were two of the biggest boys in his class and had zeroed in on Anthony as their latest target.
Their interest had forced him to find an alternate route between the bus stop and home, adding an extra fifteen minutes to an already long walk to his house on East Wilson Road, which stood right across the street from the trailer where Randy lived with his mom and dad. 

Though they lived close to one another the wide expanses of forest and farmland that surrounded them served to make it easy for Anthony to avoid Randy all together. An only child his mom and dad could not understand his reluctance to stand and fight his tormentors so he could get on with his life.

He was afraid. It was that simple. He was afraid that once they got started there would be no stopping until he was either dead or in the hospital. He had seen the hatred in Randy’s eyes. His disgust of everything Anthony represented, and quite honestly it frightened him more than being called a coward.

With the hot sun beating down upon him he trudged along, deliberately putting one foot in front of the other, as heat waves danced in the distance. To his right, at the base of a slope, a small lake sparkled in the sunlight. To his left the forest crowded close to the railroad tracks. He was silently congratulating himself on successfully avoiding any confrontation with Randy when from the shaded forest on his left came a voice that sent ice water through his veins.

“Anthony,” Randy called to him and his heart climbed into his throat. They had never followed him before.

He stopped, and turned to face his tormentors. Randy, with Dave at his side, stood atop a small rise just inside the tree line.

“I don’t want to fight you,” Anthony said.

“You don’t seem to have a choice.” Randy slammed his fist into his open palm as he walked towards him. Anthony glanced to his right; the tracks vanished into the heat waves in the distance. He so wished he could vanish like they did. Maybe then everyone would feel bad for the misery they had brought to his short life. But he doubted that. Most likely they would just forget him. The thought stirred something deep within his psyche and he discovered a rage that flashed white-hot as it was unleashed.

He let his backpack fall to the ground and quickly closed the distance between them.
Randy was taken back by this sudden turn of events and put up his hands as Anthony closed in on him.

“So the pussy wants to fight,” Randy said.

Neither of them were trained fighters, and even though Randy outweighed his opponent by a full fifty pounds, Anthony’s rage gave him exactly the edge he needed. He wasn’t out to torment as Randy was. He was defending himself, and as he closed with Randy he unleashed a barrage of hits that would have made any prizefighter proud.

Randy crumpled under the attack, his nose bloodied, his lip split, and he cried out as he backed away from Anthony’s assault.

Without hesitation Randy turned and ran. Anthony looked at Dave who held up his hands as he backed away.’

“I don’t want any parts of this.” Dave said.

Randy jumped over the narrow ditch running parallel to the tracks, and plunged headlong into the thick underbrush. He crashed through the forest as Anthony chased him down the hillside.
He ran through the trees, his feet kicking up the carpet of dead leaves that blanketed the floor as the ground became steeper beneath his feet. With a shout of surprise his feet slipped out from under him and he slid through the trees on the carpet of leaves.

Tree trunks whizzed past him, narrowly missing his head, and he tried everything he could to grab one of the passing trunks. He snagged a sapling and was brought to a halt. Below him was an opening in the trees that revealed the tops of trees much lower. Above him Anthony moved down through the forest towards him.

“I’m gonna kick your ass.” Anthony said as he maneuvered through the trees towards him.
Randy let go of the tree and slid another twenty yards down the hill. The tree line below him was closer and he saw an outcropping of stone. He had no idea where he was as he’d never come this way before so he was unaware of the seventy foot drop that waited just beyond the edge of the outcropping. He glanced behind him and saw that Anthony was less than twenty yards away picking his way down the hill.

Randy released his grip and slid towards the edge of the outcropping. At the last moment, as his feet shot out over the edge, he grabbed a small tree and brought himself to a stop. His feet dangled over the edge as he struggled to pull himself away from the cliff.

 “Help me,” Randy pleaded, glancing over his shoulder at the sheer drop that awaited him.

Anthony, his face set in a mask of silent rage, slid the last few feet, and used the tree Randy was holding onto as a footrest. He ground his foot into Randy’s hand.

Randy cried out in pain. His hand slipped and he dropped another foot towards the waiting emptiness below. He kicked out with his feet seeking any kind of purchase, his legs pedaling in thin air.

“Don’t,” he begged, “I’ll do anything you want, anything, but please don’t hurt me.”

Anthony stomped on Randy’s hand.

“No,” Randy screamed, terrified. He found another handhold and Anthony shifted his attack to his other hand. He clung for life as Anthony savagely stomped on his fingers, the thread of his sneakers tearing at Randy’s knuckles that bled onto the dry ground.

Then Randy was falling. His foot hit the sheer wall and he spun crazily, the approaching ground and the sky trading places in a swirl of images that he hardly had time to recognize.

He slammed into the ground, the distinct sound of something cracking in his back coming from under him, and he struggled to catch his breath as the shock of his fall enveloped him in a numbing embrace. His consciousness dimmed and as the emptiness reached up to envelope him he heard whispering voices coming to him as if from a great distance away.

Coming soon: Parasite

Coming October 30, 2014. Parasite. Part two of the Shadows of the Past series.

Now available for pre-order, reserve your copy today.

Sam Hardin had suspected that this day would come. 

What he thought he had killed in the fire in his cabin didn't really die. It was coming back with a vengeance, determined to remove all obstacles in its way, including Sam's son who still possessed the ability to disrupt its thoughts. 

In the end Sam will be forced to shoulder the responsibility of hunting down this creature that is determined to remain anonymous as it slowly consumes the world.