Rollins and the Sheriff

I have a short chapter to edit before launching into a new section, Rollins and the Sheriff. I’ve sketched an outline for it already, and it was easy because I’ve known the story for a very long time. it was nothing but a casual reference since at least 2010. (Draft VII is as far back as I can go at the moment.)

Aside: I just realized this draft has taken four years now. I started in August 2013, my computer died that November, my next two machines had problems opening the file, I got writer’s block until 2016 and here we are in the home stretch. Also, I didn’t realize until looking in the archives that I didn’t change the ending until the last draft.

The story of Rollins and the Sheriff evolved slightly in subsequent revisions, but I only touched on it lightly. My favorite part is that it’s the second appearance of a character I invented for my next novel, which might not get written because I lost interest in where it was going, and I have an idea for either a novella that I’m adding to the Seven Ninety-Two collection of short stories or a full-on novel.

I think I mentioned this quasi-revived character, O’Toole, before. His name comes from a bar in Richmond. I don’t want to give too much away about him, but I hope I can do more with him one day.

But I digress, sorta.

There’s a lot of ground to cover in this section, and I think it’s because it’s been cooking in my head for so long. But as I said in a previous entry, I’d rather have stuff to cut than have to go back and add more.

Speaking of adding more, I realized that I need to augment one other chapter, so I really have one new section to add and two more parts to expand. But that should be it. I’m thinking about how, without the additions, I have about 50 pages to go and a lot happens in them.

It’s almost over. It’s really almost over.

And I really need to adjust my sleeping habits because I have to start having a compressed period at home soon.

Who needs sleep?

I’m going to say I’m 60 pages from the end of Brown River Blues. Currently, I’m 40 pages away, but I still have what I’ll call 1½ new sections to write. That means, if the formatting I’m using to estimate printed novel length is correct, I’ll hit 300 pages. I’ve already surpassed 100,000 words, and I’m overwriting. I’d rather have someone tell me I need to cut the fat rather than needing to beef it up.

Never mind that I’ve been beefing this up since it was a 25-part series with no real plot and there’s a “finished” version of this some of my friends have read that has an ending that no longer exists.

Anyway, I’m tired.

Really tired.

But since I’m heading into the home stretch, I can’t stop myself from working on this. I’ve been staying up till 4 or 5 a.m. the past few nights despite Missy needing to go for a walk by 11 a.m. and me needing to do responsible adult things before heading to work.

But I’m excited. After LSW-V died on me in November 2013 and the writer’s block I had until June 2016, having the urge to work on this has been great. And has kept me going.

But I’m about six pages from the next new section, and that seems like a good stopping point for the night.

Third Street

AS I WALKED to work, I knew whether I was on time by where I saw Radio Raheem. If he was near the plasma donation center, weaving his way through the smokers either waiting for their rides or waiting for their turns, I was late. If we were closer to Main, I was good.

The man who amplified music from an unseen device disappeared a while ago, before the plasma center moved to a location closer to its clientele of do-gooders and $50-needers, before police shot an axe-wielding man at Third and Main.

I had seen the man hours earlier when was shirted and his hands were empty. As he crossed my path, I said “RVA all day,” to myself as I noticed his kilt in the early morning. I thought not of him again until the news reports and seeing his final smudge linger on the pavement for an unusually long period across from 3rd Street Diner.

“RVA all day,” I said again.

In my younger and drunker days, I often was a denizen of that former Confederate hospital, eating mounds of food of questionable quality on tables of questionable cleanliness, surrounded on those late nights with my fellow dregs of society who first tried to fill the void with alcohol and then pancakes. Or slices from the ostensibly Italian pizzeria as the bass pulsed from the gay bar a few doors down and the back gate of the Times-Dispatch rattled as the late shifts filtered out before the nearby blocks grew as still as the terminus near the Downtown Expressway or the blocks approaching and passing the convention center before the bifurcation into Fifth Street and a ramp from the interstate.

Or the portion lingering in a dying, cloven neighborhood, anchored by a church calling itself the Temple of God with the Last Day Message. And a cemetery.

Rosewood, Part II

Here we are: Nearly three months later.

I finally started work on this section. Part of the reason for the stall was that I wanted to throw in some additional background and had to plan it out. It kinda sucks that I did it because I feel like it’s one of the things that will get cut when the editor of a publishing house suggests changes.

I threw it in because it is canon to the “prequel” that no longer exists.

In the December 1998 novel, Lorenzo has two best friends. I decided to mention what happened to the second one. I’d always known the second friend, Jake, would run away from home and wind up in New York. I felt like I needed to address that estrangement to further hammer home that Lorenzo should not be back in his hometown.

When I first started writing this in December 2006, it was when I came to the realization that I could not go back to my hometown (although I did from December 2008 to February 2009). As I have mentioned before, all of my short stories are set in this universe and Brown River Blues also is intended to be my farewell to the character of Lorenzo Williamston. I feel like it won’t be a proper farewell without reconciling things from the original novel and subsequent short stories In my opinion, the things that happened from late 1998 to roughly 2004 still happened to him.

Acknowledging that Jake was a person Lorenzo cares about and misses is as important as addressing after a literal decade why Lorenzo and his father weren’t talking.

Speaking of that, do you want to know the real answer to that question? If I remember before the book is published, I’m deleting this, so commit it to memory.

I initially didn’t intend on Lorenzo being in Brown River Blues. At some point in the first draft, an instance comes up where it would have been good for Lorenzo to get legal advice. His father is a prosecutor. I had forgotten. I explained him not asking his dad with saying that they hadn’t talked because of some vague conflict and moved on with the plot. In further revisions, I deleted the needing a lawyer thing but noted that Lorenzo hadn’t been home. So, I’m writing a new section to my novel to retcon a mistake that maybe only 20 people saw when I could have instead thrown in a phone call home or mentioned him having dinner with his parents or whatever.

But, overall, I feel that this section needed to be written. I am going to be a little preachy in it. I don’t get to do that because of my career as a journalist. Indulge me.

Note: I’m trying to get back into the habit of differentiating between posts about my fiction writing by the capitalization (or lack thereof) of the blog titles and whether there is an accompanying YouTube music video. Entries that are both viaduct and Project 792 entries have capitalized titles and music. If you read my blog straight from my domain, these entries are separated by links in the navigation. Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t allow a site to run two separate blogs, so it’s the best I can do.

Rosewood

Here we are: The moment I’ve been waiting for. And dreading.

I’ve reached the third of up to five new sections in Brown River Blues.

I wrote a six-page outline months ago, and I’ve been letting it marinate. It tackles a big issue that isn’t exactly pertinent to the plot but is.

I’ve been holding back on it because it’s one of those things that I don’t want defining people’s opinions of the book before they even read it. Although, if it ever gets successful, I can guarantee there being some quasi-pompous Slate think piece on it.

The other thing is the timing.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m bringing my computer and notes with me on my vacation because I plan on having at least one marathon writing session while I’m in Nevada. There’s just something about letting the words flow when the world is relatively still and dark. I think it has something to do with unwinding in general and my brain gearing up for dreams. (Speaking of dreams, mine often are incredibly detailed and have continuity. I’ve been able to pick up where I left off in some instances of being awakened.)

I’ve gotten some exposition out of the way that does some world-building as Lorenzo drives home. The city has a long, quirky history that only gets mentioned in passing a few times. I’ve had to remind myself that I’m the only person who knows so much detail about Imperial City over 20 years, I know where the Wendy’s closest to Lorenzo’s apartment is and what streets he has to take to get there.

I also know a lot about Lorenzo’s ancestral home, Rosewood.

I first drew it on graph paper when I was in high school. I have a passing fancy for architecture, so I often drew building façades or floor plans on graph paper. I did a broad overview of the front and then a ridiculously detailed drawing of the area of the front door. In that one, I considered every square to equal 9 square inches, because I measured a brick and discovered, with mortar, they’re roughly nine inches long and three inches high. Eventually, I stopped drawing every brick.

Eventually, I lost the drawings — and the floor plan — in a move.

But, after 20 years, I know the inside like I know the inside of my mom’s house.

I didn’t know at the time that I effectively drew a front that strongly resembles Richmond’s Wilton. I won’t bore you with the bedrooms and layout or how a creek begins in the backyard and cascades into a tributary of the South Fork Holston River.

Lorenzo’s family is rich. He’s been wealthy ever since I created him. He’s only a journalist because he wants to be and he’s appalled at how little the industry pays. I actually met an independently wealthy journalist before. He was pretty damn good at his job. It’s easy to give 110 percent when you’re not doing it for the money and don’t have to go home to a can of great northern beans. (There seriously was a point when I was starting out that I essentially was starving.)

But anyway, it’s my dream home, and that’s why I had to not only give it what might be its only debut on the printed page but also address why Lorenzo was avoiding it.

I hope the section does it, and Lorenzo’s family, justice.

Power Hour

Did you know that I’ve written a play?

Did you know that I put the finishing touches on it last night?

Did you know that me saying “finishing touches” most likely means I’ll revise it eight more times? (Yes, you definitely knew that one.)

Per Microsoft Word, I started work on Power Hour about 12:30 a.m. Sept. 28, 2005. It’s been complete for at least a decade, but I occasionally go back and make little tweaks.

The origin of Power Hour is twofold: I’ve been told, since a lot of the fiction I write is dialogue-driven, that I should write a play. Then I was loosely inspired by a party.

Despite its name, it runs about 45 minutes. It’s about an off-campus party where a few relationship issues hang in the air. No great truths are revealed and no tears are shed. It’s really just something I wrote for the sake of writing.

Last night, I decided to add it to the collection of short stories. When I opened it last night, something jumped out at me. I do this thing where I write a character making an enigmatic statement or doing something that doesn’t need to be explained but I go back and wonder why it happened. An example is in Brown River Blues. Lorenzo has next to no contact with his parents despite living less than two miles away. It bothered me all this time, so in a section that I’ll describe in my next entry, I’m dedicating pages to him going home and confronting why he hadn’t been home sooner.

In Power Hour, the person who decreed that there was to be a party doesn’t drink at the party. People notice, but it’s a superficial curiosity. It wasn’t superficial to me, so I answered my question in a marathon session I’m now regretting because I do my best writing at night and I typically can’t because I have to deal with my dog in the morning and can’t fall back asleep after taking her out.

Vacation

I’m quite looking forward to the Fifth Annual Robinson Family Vacation (Third, if you only count since we’ve been married).

I have a plan.

It’s been incredibly slow going with the “final” revision/expansion of my novel over the past few years. First, I lost my optimal writing position of lying prone on my bed with my laptop on a table the same height as my mattress. Then LSWV died Then I lost the ability to write well into the night because Missy wakes me up about 9 a.m. every single day. I hate that I’m awake now because it means I’m not going to get eight hours of sleep and, because of when I need to go to work and the things I need/want to do before work, naps usually are out of the question.

We’re going to Vegas.

Along with vague plans to drive to the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon and Los Angeles — along with playing a couple of slot machines and maybe blackjack, because I’ve been poor for the past 11 years because of my profession as a journalist so I literally have nothing to lose — I’m going to write.

Once I’m 100% certain I can bring LSW8 with me on a plane, I’m going to set up a writing platform, get recumbent and try to finish writing the two or three new parts I need to add and finish revising the rest. I’m sure there are going to be moments when I’m wide awake and my wife is not or she’ll be doing something I have no interest in doing. I mean, I read an entire Franzen novel in Miami last year.

I’m at 270-odd pages and nearly 100,000 words now. I’m on Page 207, and I doubt I’m adding more than 30 pages with the two or three new sections I’m adding. I can get this done before the summer is over and pass it on to my peers while I craft my query letter (I already know the format of it).

I can do this. All I need is booze, a prone position, no dog and the night.

And winning a couple hundred bucks.

Rolling along

I’ve finally gotten past the point where I left myself a gap where I stole a chunk of narrative and moved it elsewhere. It should be smooth sailing until I get to where I need to add a section currently titled Rosewood that I have all sketched out. It’s going to be difficult and a little preachy. But it explains the one elusive thing plaguing Brown River Blues since I first (re)introduced Lorenzo: Why does he live so close to where he grew up but doesn’t go home?

The answer is the back story I gave his parents all the way back in December 1998. Lorenzo misunderstood his father’s motives, and Webster Waycross Williamston Esq. has no idea that’s what the issue is beyond his son not talking to him.

Some lawyer, huh?

And he’s a prosecutor.

Kanawha Canal

My walks with my dog, Missy, often lead me to the Kanawha Canal in Richmond. She typically alternates between relieving her bowels along its banks or on the hills overlooking the James River and Shockoe Creek floodplains. I suppose she likes to take in nature as it calls.

I’m exceptionally vigilant with cleaning up when she defecates along the canal, although at times it seems as if it couldn’t get dirtier. By being a canal, it’s relatively flat. The locks probably haven’t been open in decades, so there hasn’t been a grand exchange of water. Excess returns to the James out of the main outflow at Chapel Island and leaks through the Great Shiplock, but one often sees the detritus a city bob listlessly for days at a time. From the occasional tire marks and front-end pieces from speeders who don’t realize Dock Street bends slightly to the left, I often wonder how many entire vehicles are below the surface.

My current writing is that near stagnation.

My current job is to edit for eight hours. I’ve taken to walking out to move my car, get an item of some sort from the automated convenience store on the ground floor or lighten my load on other floors as to not be glued to a screen the entire time. Lately, I’ve been avoiding my laptop before work.When I return home, I mostly stick to the most critical websites for my entertainment before I retire. Excluding some nights out, this is the latest I’ve been awake in weeks.

I’ve barely had a desire to write, let alone edit my own work. Mostly, I’ve had no desire to sit in front of a computer screen in my off time. It was different when I was a reporter — I was out covering things and interviewing people. In Charlottesville, there were managerial meetings and staff meetings; heading out of lunch, dinner and/or coffee; and going to the old pressroom to place or take a phone call.

Additionally, I reached a point in my novel where I left myself a mess.

I robbed an entire portion of a chapter and placed it elsewhere, leaving myself a note to fix it later. The current revision affected the easy way to clean up the scene and set the stage for a challenging section to write. Whereas my vacation last year restored my inspiration to write, I need another to prepare me to keep writing.

It’s been pointed out by several people that I have been kicking Brown River Blues around for an official decade now — I began it as a 25-part “short” story in late December 2006 and it’s set in the summer and fall of 2007. I’ve called this the final draft. I mean that as in any other edits and revisions would be at the prompting of someone else. I’ve had the idea of the query letter for agents in my head for at least two years. I want to share this. I want it to be over, but I have to get through this rough section and get into not letting the brainpower I need at work interfere with the brainpower I need to finish this novel.

I need to put this canal back in service.

Lorenzo’s Apartment

In the more than 10 years that I’ve been dragging out writing this novel (it’s complete in the basest sense; I’m currently doing a final edit/revision/expansion), I’ve never really sat down and fleshed out how Lorenzo’s apartment looks, although I know exactly how it looks.

It starts with what is now Deco at CNB. The first time I saw what was then the abandoned headquarters of Central National Bank, I said I wanted to live there. As I said in the previous entry in the regular blog side of this, I can’t because it opened when it wasn’t conducive to me moving in and our next place has to be a house because of our dog. Honestly, I wish I could break our lease with minimum penalty to get my dog into a house with a yard now. But that’s a story for the viaduct, not Project 792.

Anyway, Lorenzo’s apartment is in The Council Aire, which is about half the size of that building and stands at 11 stories. Lorenzo lives on the 10th in Apartment 1040A, despite there only being three apartments on the penultimate floor. He and his friends lovingly call it “The Tax Suite.”

The Council Aire was a hotel that was converted into an upscale condo building that went belly up and became luxury apartments. Given his salary as a reporter, Lorenzo normally wouldn’t have been able to live there if not for the Tax Suite. The other option would have been to have a semi-illegal roommate like his coworker Nicole Cobb.

The 10th floor only has three apartments because the building tapers and because the penthouse has two floors.  One third of the 10th floor is the first floor of the penthouse. Another third is a large apartment that has an unusually high price point because of its height and some added details to further justify the price. One third of the middle third is the elevator, and a small lobby for Apartment 1000, a maintenance room labeled 1001, Apartment 1040 (the penthouse) and Apartment 1040A.

When the building was a condo, 1040A was the servant’s quarters for 1040.

1040A is has a sitcom-style fourth wall, much like my previous apartment. There’s a solid expanse of flat, blank wall from the door to the balcony that separates it from Apartment 1000. Lorenzo knows 1000 is occupied, but never has seen them. He’s actually friends with the penthouse owners, Harrison and Christine Crowder. They’re in their late 50s. Next to the door in a small foyer is a coat closet. Next is the kitchen. There there is a living/dining area that opens to a balcony overlooking the river and downtown. There are solid walls on both sides of the balcony, which runs the width of the apartment, and a roof over it that is the floor of the penthouse’s terrace. Unfortunately, there still is a point in the penthouse where one can peer into the balcony. Lorenzo found that out after months of standing on his naked and once having sex on it. It made him question why the Crowders made friends with him. Next to the kitchen is a hallway that dead ends. There’s an obvious wall covering what used to be at door leading to 1040. The kitchen side of the hallway has the utility room and a bathroom that also contains the linen closet and washer and dryer. The other side is Lorenzo’s bedroom. It’s a little under 850 square feet.

That’s about the size of my current one-bedroom apartment, so it’s not cramped. It’s just small compared with the rest of the development, e.g., Nicole’s one-bedroom contains a “den” that’s large enough for her roommate to live comfortably. She also has a closet. The catch is that the den doesn’t have any external windows, thus rendering it not a legal bedroom.

This is the first time I’ve written this all down, unlike the elaborate schematics of Lorenzo’s family home, Rosewood, that I have drawn and revised since December 1998.