Eclectic Ramblings From a Bike Riding, Sports Loving, Novel Writing Nerd.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Taste of NaNoWriMo

So NaNoWriMo is over.  This was my first go 'round and I nailed it.  I could not be happier.  What a great time!

If you are a writer and haven't tried it yet I highly recommend it.  The support is amazing and the process really helps develop some great habits.  I think I wrote for 28 of the 30 days and the only two misses were due to long workdays.  Plus, I got a decent first draft out of it.  I was really surprised to see where Fatman decided to go but I'm excited with the results.

This project will sit on the shelf until early January when I start revisions.  Partly because I just launched another project this week (please check it out) and partly to let the story rest before editing.   The plan is to break the draft up into three parts and publish each separately.  I hope to have the first part out on e-book by May with the other two coming later in the year.

With that said, I would like to share a little bit of the story.  I'm putting up the first few scenes here.  Be warned, I have done ZERO editing.  This is a NaNoWriMo first draft at its finest.  Take a look, let me know what you think, don't beat me up too much.  The final product will likely look much different.

Anyway, here you go.

Clark's heart was racing, a thin line of sweat beaded just above his eyebrows. His nemesis before him, Clark was ready for the confrontation.  It was one he'd faced many times out before, proving victorious more often than not.  Many feared being pitted against Clark in such a situation.
"Unfortunately Mr. Veenstra your policy does not cover rot damage such a this.  The damage has clearly been ongoing for some time.  Your contractor thinks it's been leaking for up to a year. Your policy specifically excludes this type of damage."
Nailed it! Clark thought to himself.  Empathetic, check.  Clearly explained, check.  Policy quoted? Check.
"But Mr. Parker, I'm on a fixed income. How am I supposed to afford this?"
It was a response Clark heard all too often.  For fourteen years he had been adjusting claims for Mecha Insurance International Corporation.  For fourteen years he had heard every excuse, explanation, sob story and threat.  He understood why, people don't take bad news very well and his job oftentimes required him to hand out bad news. 
This one though, the "fixed" income was the hardest to stomach.  It usually came up when dealing with elderly, low income families who either were poor financial planners or just didn't have enough finances to plan with.  They were, almost always, good people.  Clark could hear his grandparents in the voices, in their stories.  It tore at his heart to tell them no but it was his job.
"I understand Mr. Veenstra. Unfortunately the policy has specific types of damage that are covered and lists others that are specifically excluded.  We are only able to pay for damages covered under the policy."
Jerry Veenstra started to sob on the other end of the phone.  Clark could hear Jerry gasp for air as he wailed.  It crushed Clark every time something like this happened.  He knew he had done the right thing, he wasn't being a jerk or trying to screw over his customer.  The policy just didn't cover this type of damage.  Yet none of that helped.  Jerry was 75 years old and lived alone.  No family, no friends, no one to help him get through this.  Clark wished he could just write a check and move on.
It took Clark another seven or eight minutes to get Jerry calmed down.  Jerry explained that he understood the situation and thanked Clark for his time, for being so kind and helpful.  This just made Clark feel worse.
There were so many similar, heart wrenching stories on the other end of the line that Clark had for years joked one needed to check their soul at the door to do this job.  Lately Clark had keenly felt the hole where his checked soul used to be.  The job was starting to get to him.
Clark locked his computer and headed to the coffee station for a quick break.  As he walked through the monotony of the half-walled cubicle city he glanced across his co-workers, entrenched in so many calls similar to his own.  As he watched head after head pop up above the half-walls he couldn't help but think of prairie dogs.  Depressed, soulless prairie dogs.
Yeah, the job was definitely starting to get to him.
He savored the coffee's aroma, slightly nutty with a hint of chocolate,  as he filled his mug with the rejuvenating black liquid.  As he slid the decanter back in place he spotted something at the end of the counter: Fund raising chocolate.
Without consciously deciding to do so Clark slipped a five dollar bill into the box and grabbed and handful of bars.  His brain registered the taste and accompanying pleasure of impending snack.  Clark knew he didn't need the candy bars.  He was easily eight pounds overweight.  Food was his crutch and his nemesis.  He didn't care today.
He slid back into his chair and unwrapped the first bar.  His mouth exploded with excitement as the smooth, milky heaven touched his tongue.  He devoured the bar in three quick bites, chewing quickly and swallowing the tasty morsels as his mind drifted through the euphoria.  As he tossed the wrapper in the trash he glanced around, making sure no one was watching him. 
Assured no eyes followed him, Clark quickly wolfed down the remaining two bars. The chemical rush brought on by the chocolate completely removed the frustration brought on by the last call.  In its place sate the guilt only a fat man could understand.
That afternoon Clark had to sit through yet another mind numbing staff meeting.  After fourteen years there was very little new information for Clark to glean from these get togethers so Clark tended to glaze over and get lost in his thoughts.
The only thing Clark had to remotely look forward to was the comic book convention in River City.  As the department manager droned on about office results and other inane nothingness, Clark was walking through his geek weekend, imagining what he would be doing three weekends hence.
He was sifting through back issue comic boxes when he felt a tap on his arm.  It took a couple of seconds to register that the tap was real, had actually happened.  He turned to his side and felt his heart skip as he gazed into the most beautiful blue eyes he'd ever seen. 
Lost in his convention reverie he'd completely forgotten that Kathryn Grey was seated next to him.  Co-workers for the last six years they were comfortable "office" friends.  They would joke occasionally, reminisce about the old day, regale the new hires with horror stories of the way it used to be.  She had no idea he was madly in love with her.
How could he not be?  Long brown hair, creamy white skin, legs that he couldn't keep his eyes off.  And those eyes!  He could never quite find the word to describe the color, a blue that twinkled under the artificial glow of the office lights.  He could get lost inside them even  if he only got a fleeting glance. 
She was out of his league and he knew it.  She was a major leaguer and he was toiling away in Single A Winter Ball. 
As their eyes met she leaned slightly towards Clarks right ear. "Twice a year for six years we have this meeting. The numbers never change" she whispered.
"Fourteen for me" Clark said. "The only thing that changes is the manager standing up front."
Kathryn smiled and leaned back to her seat. 
Clark returned his gaze to the front of the room as his mind drifted back to the convention.  Only this time, he had a date.

Two hours and and several monotonous phone conversations later Clark found himself trudging to his car at the end of another long day.  He looked up at the grey Autumn sky and thought of the long midwestern winter ahead.  The sun hid behind the grey and would only show itself sparingly over the next few months.
As he reached his car Clark noted he had received a text.  It was from his longtime best friend Remy.
"We still on for tonight?" Remy inquired.
They had a longstanding appointment.  Every Thursday night was beer and games at Clark's apartment.  It had been years since either had cancelled when both were in town yet Remy's verification text could be counted on at 4:00 every Thursday.
"Yep, 7:00" Clark shot back before sliding into the driver's seat.
Clark was lost in thought as he inched through the line out of the parking lot.  The gray skies reflected his mood.  These days he found himself increasingly unfulfilled with life.  He felt trapped in his job.  He was well paid but completely unchallenged.  Yet his lack of a four year degree left him unable to advance.  He was fine with taking a pay cut for the right job, he just didn't know what that job was. 
He looked own at the belly that lapped over his seatbelt and nestled against the steering wheel.  He'd been an athlete in high school and college and earned a black belt in Aikido as a teenager.  As life trudge on beyond the golden glow of his early twenties his activity dropped, replaced by the comfort of food.  Yet he still saw himself as the young, fit man he'd been. It was only recently, as his blood pressure and pant size had reached unacceptable numbers, that he was beginning to realize just how far he had let himself fall. 
He looked in the mirror and forced himself to focus on the double chin.  The loose skin under his neck made his stomach turn but he forced himself to focus on the pain, the disgust that it elicited. He felt the tears welling up in his throat as the feelings of worthlessness bubbled up.  The confidence of his first thirty plus years melted away under the weight of the harsh truth.
He fought off the lump in his throat as he pulled onto the expressway.  He flipped his satellite radio to the rock station, maxed out the volume and began to lose himself in the aggression of loud drums and searing guitars.  His anger began to rise, directed at his self pity.  What good would come from feeling sorry for himself?  It was time to stop wallowing and start acting. 
He pounded his palms against the steering wheel in time with the pulsing rythm from the radio.  His anger pushed out the doubts, the self hatred.  He would do something.  He would fix this.  He was sure of it. 
As he lost himself in the anger and music his speed increased.  His mood began to life.
His heart skipped a beat when the tire shredded.  His mind completely refocussed on controlling the car as it fishtailed with the loss of his right front tire.  Luckily there were few cars around him and he was able to safely pull to the side of the road.
He turned the radio down and took a minute to compose himself.  He could feel his hear racing, knew his blood pressure had skyrocketed.  As he sat in silence fat drops of rain splattered the windshield.  They picked up speed and density until he could hardly see past the car's hood.
"Of course" Clark muttered. 
The anger, aggression and self determination disappeared, replaced by defeat and resignation.  Sixty seconds ago he had resolved to turn his life around.  Now he just wanted to drown this shit day in a bucket of fried chicken and wash it down with a pint of Ben and Jerry's.
Clark popped the trunk and emerged into the downpour, pulled out the spare,knelt in the mud and got to work. 
"You sure you don't want to play something, get your mind off things?"
"Yeah Remy, I just want to sit here and enjoy a couple of drinks, not use my brain for a while" Clark answered.
Remy had been at the apartment when Clark arrived, an hour late, soaking wet, clothes caked in mud.  As expected Remy had let out a joyous belly laugh at the pathetic sight of his friend.  Remy had a way of laughing at everything, it helped Clark stay level headed in shitty situations like this.
"Man that's one hell of an end to your day huh?" Remy asked.
"Yeah, I'm getting used to it.  Seems to be a recurring theme with me lately.  Shit seems to start rolling downhill right about the time I start walking up it."
Clark finished off that last of his beer and got up from his chair.
"You want another?" Clark asked.
"Nah, I think I'm good.  Still got to drive home you know."
Clark tossed the bottle in the recycling bin and opened the fridge.  As he reached for another bottle he glanced over the contents of the Frigidaire: Chinese Takeout leftovers, leftover pizza, potato salad.  Not a damn vegetable or piece of fruit.  It was pretty spare which stood in sharp contrast to his freezer, stocked to the gills with microwavable boxes devoid of any real nutrition. 
No wonder he was so damn fat.  Everything he ate was full of fat and sodium and garbage. He knew what he was and was not supposed to eat.  He'd been on every fad diet imaginable, none lasting longer than a few months before he returned to the comfort of donuts and fried foods with gravy.
The malaise he'd been nurturing all afternoon was getting worse as the day wore on. He was starting to actively hate large portions of himself.  His waistline, his eating habits, his lack of a sex life, his total lack of direction. 
As yet another wave of self hatred swam over him he decided against the last beer and shut the refrigerator door.
"I've got to do something man" He said as he returned to the living room.  "I can't keep wallowing around like this."
"Um, what the hell are you talking about dude?" Remy asked.
"C'mon Remy, I'm thirty three years old, I'm fat, I have a dead end job that I really don't care about, no girlfriend.  Did I mention I'm fat?"
"You're not that fat." Remy countered with a smile.
"I'm literally twice the man I should be Remy!"  Clark shouted.  "I'm 300 pounds easy.  How the hell did I let that happen?"
"OK, OK. I thought you were just shitting with me.  You're really serious about this huh?"
"Yeah Remy, It's been eating away at me a while now."
"Well it apparently hasn't eaten too much..." Remy said.
Clark stared blankly at his friend.
"You know, since you..haven't...lost any wei...nevermind."
Clark cracked a smile, shook his head. 
"You son of a bitch." Clark said.
Remy laughed, a look of relief on his face. 
"You know Clark, if you want something to do you could always take up crime fighting."
"What?  What the hell are you talking about?"
Remy pointed at the TV where the local news was running yet another story on River City's current crime scourge The Boemen.
"Those jackasses are getting out of hand.  Somebody's got to do something, why not you?"
River City had been founded by Dutch settlers in the 1700's and it was still heavily steeped in Dutch-American culture.  Consequently the power local street gang had taken to calling themselves The Boemen after the mythical Dutch Bogeyman.  They had risen to prominence over the last decade and were now powerful enough that the local police had a hard time controlling their activities. 
"I mean their just a bunch of thugs Clark.  You're a fucking black belt!" Remy laughed.
Clark knew Remy was just joking but he'd hit a major sore spot.  It was true, Clark had become an Aikdo black belt in high school, practicing the martial art into his early twenties.  But with everythign else good in his life it slowly fell down the priority list.  As his weight ballooned he attended lessons more and more infrequently until he completely stopped last year.  He was even still paying the thirty dollar monthly fee because he was too embarrassed to face Master Kesuke to cancel his membership.  Yet another thing he failed at miserably.
Clark stared at the wall across the room, lost in thoughts of self doubt and unaware of uncomfortable fidgeting of his friend.  After a couple of minutes Remy got up from the couch.
"Yeah, think it's time for me to head home."
Clark stirred from his trance. 
"Oh shit, sorry Remy.  I got kind of lost inside my head there."
"It's cool Clark.  Tough day right?  No worries bud, I gotta go anyway."
"Thanks for stopping by man." Clark said.  "Sorry I was such a drag tonight."
"Like I said bud, no worries.  Besides, we've got River City Comic-Con in a couple weeks.  We'll drown our sorrows in back issues and cos-players." Remy's ear to ear smile was back and as always it lifted Clark's spirits.
"You're on brother!" Clark said.
Remy opened began humming the them to last summers Space Opera blockbuster as he opened the door.  Clark smiled as Remy's volume increased in league with his distance from Clark's door.

Clark sat back down in his chair to watch the rest of the news.  He began to feel the day's stress catch up to him as his eyes got heavy and his muscles began to ache.  He laid his head back and closed his eyes.  Within seconds he was asleep, the day's worries replaced with dreams of comic books and blue eyed co-workers.

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