Friday, January 18, 2013

Writer's Retreat

Vi loves the idea of a writer's retreat.  She hates to share.
The stars aligned and I managed to get four days to myself for a writer's retreat.  Hurray!

Putting this weekend on the calendar was a great way to clear off my desk.  I finally got the Science Time trunks inventoried.  The Titus and Annie revisions are done at long last.  Now I can focus on a big task and see just what I can do with a big chunk of time.
Inventory is a Fancy Nancy Word for cleanning up.

I'm taking another run at The Stolen Swarm, Leo and Arnold and the Mysteries of the Vinyl Village.  Last night I outlined the chapters and solved the mystery.  Today I am putting flesh on the bones.  This means that some parts of my first attempt are getting savagely cut away.

My first pass at this project was too "Penderwicky."  It pains me that this is and adjective for long winded and almost purple prose because I absolutely adore the Penderwicks.  They are such a joy to read outloud to the children and I can't wait for Jeanne Birdsall to come out with the fourth book.

But the Penderwicks are not chapter books and I am trying to write chapter books.

With this second pass, I'm aiming for more something more Marty McGuire and Clementine.  The goal is to end up around 10,000 words with 14 chapters not to be more than 700 words each.

Before I delete the "Alma Introduction" forever, I feel I have to honor her and share.
My junior beekeeper inspired the story.

Enter Alma

Alma Pearson stood in the woods behind her house staring at a section of stockade fence. She was carrying a metal bucket and being careful not to spill its contents.

Alma was sure this was the way she needed to go. She just wasn't sure how a 5 foot tall woman with 75 years behind her was supposed to climb that 7 foot tall fence. Never mind the bucket in her hand. To the left and right of her were only more sections of fence in varying shades of stain, each one just as high as the next.

She snorted in frustration. Going around was not an option. That would take too long. Alma did not want to lose the trail.

“At least they put this fence in backwards,” she grumbled. “Small courtesy, that.”

Alma tucked the handle of the bucket securely into her elbow and grabbed hold of the fence as high as she could reach. This wasn't very far. Even for 5 feet tall, Alma was small but she was wiry. There wasn't much of her to haul up and over.

“Used to be folks put the pretty side of a fence facing out to the neighbors. Put your best foot forward,” she growled, even though the fence's discourteous installation was making it easier for her to climb. Three horizontal boards holding the pickets together made a rough ladder.

“Now everyone wants the best for themselves. Let the neighbors deal with the backside of things,” she puffed as she rested astride the top of the fence.

The bucket clanked and sloshed as she started down the other side. Alma swore under her breath. The bucket was almost empty but she couldn't turn back. There was no way she could climb up the smooth side of the fence.

Across the street in the Meyer's front yard, Bobo woke up from his nap with a snuffling start.

Bobo was a six year old hound dog of mixed sorts and in his world, loud metallic clanks meant food scoops plunging into buckets of kibble.

Drooling, Bobo lumbered to the end of the driveway sniffing the air. His fourth grade master Leo watched.

“Where you going Bobo?” Leo dribbled a basketball, waiting to see what his four legged best friend would do next.

“Hey, look.” Leo's cousin Arnold pointed to the house across the street. An old lady in baggy overalls was closing the gate to the neighbors backyard.

Leo looked. He had never seen the woman before but this wasn't such a big deal.

He and Arnold lived in the same neighborhood, Worthington Flats, but his house was on another street. So even though Leo had been more time at his cousin Arnold's house lately, he didn't know everyone on the street.

Leo looked at Bobo to see if he should be concerned. He considered his dog to be an excellent judge of character.

Bobo didn't care. He was already asleep again, sprawled on his side at the end of the driveway. No food means no eating which means more napping. Bobo's life was simple. He hadn't even bothered to wander back to his spot in the grass.

“So?” Leo shrugged and passed the ball to Arnold. “Want to play Around the World or HORSE?”

“Whatever,” Arnold bounced the ball back to Leo without looking. Not only was the person across the street a stranger, she was starting to act strange.

The woman stood in front of the gate with the bucket at her feet and her hands on her hips like she was expecting something. She was staring straight at the boys yet she did not seem to notice them. There was something else she was looking for. She must have found it because suddenly she snatched up her bucket and walked out into the front yard.

“What do you think she is doing?” asked Arnold.

Leo stopped dribbling and turned his attention to the old woman. Now she was standing in the neighbors lawn just looking off into space. She grunted at something, grabbed the bucket and marched right towards the boys.

Arnold gulped. He was in third grade but still, he was glad Leo was here. This was the type of strange that starts to get scary.

Bobo lifted his head up hopefully when the bucket clattered down in front of the Meyers' mailbox.

Alma noticed the dog.

“Don't even think about it,” she growled at him.

Bobo sighed and put his head down on his paws.

“Good dog,” Alma nodded at him. She knew dogs.

“Excuse me?” Leo was the older of the cousins and, having two big brothers, he was also the bolder. “What are you doing?”

Now Alma noticed the boys. She blew a half snort half sigh before answering. She was better with dogs than children.

“I'm lining bees,” she snapped.

A bee flew up to her bucket and hovered around the rim. When the bee flew off, Alma followed with her bucket.

“Why?” asked Arnold when she put the bucket down near the tree in his front yard.

“Never you mind.” Alma kept her eyes on the bee. If she didn't look at them, maybe the boys would go away.

“What does that mean?” challenged Leo. No one blew off his cousin.

“It means . . . Leave me alone and I'll be on my way.”

“No,” persisted Arnold. “What does lining bees mean?”

Alma gave the boys her best withering look. The little one looked away but the tall one held her gaze. That meant she had to answer him.

“It means,” she spat reluctantly, “that someone stole my bees.”

With that she made her halting way up the street.
My bees bearding on a hot day.

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