7 Days and 9273 words to go

I've just ticked over 40,000 words (give or take a few!) and the story really does have the beginnings of an ending now. All the loose ends are coming together nicely, and, although there is still a little confusion over whodunnit, the list of possible suspects has started to narrow significantly. My characters don't seem to have ceased their rather annoying habits of doing their own thing, and I can tell you that we have lost another character or two in the final chapters as angst and frustrations get worked out. And despite the people I have throwing themselves at my feet begging for just one more chapter, well I have my standards, and I am a woman of my word. No more chapters until it's done! And then I *promise* (pinky promise, even!) that you can have the rest in one eyeball melting, nausea inducing, mind boggling hit.

To those detractors who think that I'm cheating on my word count (Not mentioning any names that begin with S and end in, er, usan), you'll get your comeupance at midnight on 30 November.

Happy NaNo-ing :D


Hi Everyone! Thanks for following the story this far :) For the record, I have now posted 30,127 words of my NaNo effort here, so less than 20,000 words to go. The rest of the story, unfortunately, is going to take more than 20,000 words, though. For this reason, and so that I can actually finish the story, I am about to start taking a new approach. I am going to fill in the remainder of the story in broad strokes and then brush in the finer features later on. Unfortunately for you, the reader, this means that there will be no more chapters posted here until they are all out of my head and on paper. I will post here with progressive updates as I go along, and I will have the rest of the first draft up here some time very soon after 30 November.

So, wish me luck as I dive in totally unaccompanied ... *holds nose*

Day Three and Still Going Strong (This Can't Last, Surely?)

Here's the latest on the NaNo novel ... still (surprisingly) going strong, although the plot seems to have taken on a life of it's own. Enjoy!

Monday - 4:56 to City

It was early, the sun had not quite yet crept above the horizon and the usually hot November air still had a chill lingering at the edges, although that would not last much longer. Dalton tramped steadily around the bend in the road approaching the train station, his styrofoam lunchbox swinging loosely from his hand, hitting him in the knee on every second swing, and his safety orange shirt the only spot of brightness in the pre-dawn darkness. Dalton liked his job, he enjoyed being outdoors all day, even in the variety of harsh summer sun that only Queensland seemed able to produce. He enjoyed working with his hands, building things that were sturdy and functional, and for the most part he got along well with his workmates. In fact, the only thing he /didn't/ like about his job was the early starts. He had always been a late riser, even while he was still in nappies, and despite over fifteen years of working in the building industry, he had never been able to train his body to rise in the darkness. He had resigned himself to it, and the early finishes went some way to repairing the damage, but he looked forward to a day when he could sleep in every day, for as long as he wanted. Dalton - known as Tony to his mates - was 33, and counting down the days until he could retire and get some hard-earned rest.

The train station gradually hove into view around the bend and Dalton, with nothing better to study as he walked, stared lazily across at the oposite platform. As was normal just before the 4:56 into the city, there appeared to be no one in sight. The ticket booth wouldn't open for another hour and a half yet, and the commuters didn't arrive in earnest until after seven normally. Dalton felt a brief stab of jealousy - the joy of being able to get up at half-past six and meander slowly down to the station for the 7:44! This passed quickly, as he realised that these commuters may have great working hours, but they had to sit behind a desk and push paper and red tape all day for the privilege. Comforted slightly, he reached the staircase that led over the train line, and started to climb.

As Dalton climbed the stairs, a sudden movement at the far end of the platform caught his eye and he whipped his head around to investigate. Unaccustomed to having company on his early forays to the station, his heart leaped into his mouth when he spotted a dark, hunched over creature shuffling towards the farthest bench on the outward bound platform. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be an elderly gent with a hat and a mostly empty-looking black plastic garbage bag. Dalton gave himself a sharp mental rebuke for getting startled over a homeless man, but continued to survey the platform to put his mind at ease. He could see the general detritus left over from a weekend typically full of teenagers with nothing better to do - some empty beer and spirits bottles thrown around and some fresh graffiti. Otherwise, nothing appeared out of the ordinary except for a bundle of what appeared to be old clothes, or maybe a blanket, just outside the fenceline, where the station ended and the long lucerne grass delimited the edge of the public carpark. The old man had trundled to his seat from that direction, and Dalton assumed it was where he had spent the night. As if hearing Dalton's thoughts, the old man suddenly looked up and stared back at him. Dalton averted his eyes out of shame and pity, and continued over to the other platform.

Dalton purchased a weekly ticket from the vending machine kindly provided by City Rail and thankfully working for a change, and found a place to sit at the far end of the platform, as far from the homeless man as he could. Trying to be casual, he laid back on the uncomfortable seat and pondered why anyone - homeless or otherwise - would choose to try and sleep on one. They appeared designed specifically to discourage people from spending any time on them. He checked his watch - only 3 minutes to spare - half closed his eyes, and waited for his train.

* * *

Walter didn't normally come out to the station on a Monday. He liked to come out on Sundays, mostly because there were less people around, and he could just watch the trains without having anyone call the police. Walter had lived by the railway since he was born and had wanted to be a train driver for as long as he could remember. When he was 14 he took on odd jobs at the railway station near his house and, joy of joys, had finally become a driver at 26. He offered forty-five years of loyal service to City Railways as a driver, and was eventually forced into retirement against his wishes. Then two years ago, when his wife fell into a diabetic coma that she never woke up from, Walter had begun spending more and more time at the station, watching and photographing the trains that had formed such a large part of his life. Now, at 73, Walter had become a more or less permanent fixture at Redton station, although he came at irregular enough times and faded into the background enough that the commuter population rarely saw him, although he was well known to the station staff. The older staffers knew Walter from his days as a driver, and one guy regularly sat down and reminisced, although Walter suspected it was more out of pity than friendship. The younger, newer ones rarely spoke to him at all, although they appeared to recognise him and left him to his trainspotting without interfering. The grand majority of Walter's problems came from the general public, since that horrible business in America a few years ago people saw an old man loitering around public transport and taking photographs they assumed they were going to fall victim to the next terrorist attack. As a result, Walter had also become reasonably well known to the local police officers, who still occasionally came out to check things over, but mostly just reassured the hysterical public citizen over the phone that Yes, Ma'am, they knew who he was, and they also knew that he was totally, utterly harmless.

Yesterday morning Walter had fully woken from his usually disturbed sleep at 3am, intending to head down to the station while it was still nice and quiet, and watch the sun rise over the train line. When he had gone to swing his legs over the edge of the bed, sharp-edged pain had gripped his right hip and with a cry he had fallen back to bed. After some time of repositioning his worn body, he gingerly managed to get out bed and stumble to the bathroom to find some pain killers. He had a few of the stronger variety, then shuffled back to bed, allowing the drugs to take over. By the time the analgesics had taken their blessed, longed-for effect and Walter felt well enough to rise again, it was almost lunch time. By painful experience, Walter knew that all those who had been shopping in the city on their day off would be returning throughout the afternoon, and there would no helpful staff member to calm any panicked member of the public. He chose to spend the rest of the day not looking at the real ones, but watching the miniature variety in his loungeroom instead. They were a poor substitute, but would serve to while away an otherwise lonely and boring afternoon.

So it happened that Walter was at the station on Monday morning just before dawn, which today was predicted to break right on four o'clock. His right hip still ached, and the short walk from his bedsit up the road to the station was painful, but he knew it would be worthwhile once he got there. He clutched a black plastic garbage bag in the right fist, clamping his fingers tighter with every bolt of pain from his hip, willing himself to just take another step, take another step, keep walking, don't fall.

With the pain in his hip now extending across his back and down his right leg, and his vision starting to grey at the edges, Walter finally stepped into the railway car park, preparing to take the two steps through the long grass then slip through the break in the fence to the end of the platform. Focused as he was on the pain in his side and back, and the simple act of just making it to the bench on the station, and compounded by the pre-dawn darkness, he didn't see the bundle hidden in the grass until he stepped on the hem of the blanket covering it. At first he just thought it was just a bunch of old clothes, left behind by the hoodlums who had no doubt been around the station over the weekend. But then he realised that, for a bunch of old clothes, it was surprisingly person-shaped. Not wanting to touch it, but curiosity getting the better of him, he shifted his weight carefully to the left side, and used his right foot to give the bundle a gentle nudge. His bad hip gave an almost audible shriek of protest and he pulled his foot away before managing to move the blanket at all. Suddenly, his long-gone wife spoke up in his ear, saying /Leave well enough alone, Walt. See no evil, remember?/ and with the sudden realisation that he might be meddling in something that he certainly did not belong in, he turned away, and fell into a stumbling half run up to the platform.

Visibly shaking, and with the pain in his hip now all but forgotten, Walter staggered up the incline through the waist high paspalum grass, scrambled up onto the concrete of the platform, and half fell onto the bench. He leaned forward, putting his head between his knees, and counted haltingly to ten, then twenty. With his heart rate only slightly lowered, an ache in his chest and burning fire throughout his entire lower body, he raised his head slowly and saw a man in a bright orange shirt watching him from the pedestrian overpass. Walter opened his mouth to speak, to bring this stranger into his confidence and share the burden of what Walter could only assume was a horrid, grisly discovery, and found that he couldn't form the words. What could he possibly say, that would not make this man turn tail and run? Defeated by his own inability to form the sentence that would make this man trust him, Walter slowly lowered his head again. This time he counted to one hundred.

On Your Marks, Get Set, NaNo!

Well, Day One of NaNoWriMo has come and gone, and I have successfully put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard at least) to the tune of just over 2000 words. In all honesty, it wasn't too difficult. I've been thinking about plot lines and character development more or less constantly for about a week now so the first scene was a scene that has been playing in my head for a few days. It felt good to get it out and written down finally! However, the second scene surprised me - I found myself introducing a character I hadn't given much thought to at all, and the scene really did roll itself out, which was extremely satisfying. I have posted the first scene up on my NaNo profile for all and sundry to read, but for the sole benefit of those few who wish to read on (and I have no doubt that it *is* but a few!), here is the book as it stands right now, in it's glorious unfinished, unedited, unspell-checked state. Please don't shoot!


Sunday Afternoon

Elouise lay in bliss on the sun-drenched balcony, sunk down on her chair with her feet up on the railing and her eyes half closed with sleep and sun. She had a book out - a Marion Keyes - but she wasn't reading it. The book lay opened flat across her chest, face down. From this perspective, all she could she of the cover was a gaudy red cartoon-smile watermelon. Elouise wasn't thinking about her book, she wasn't thinking about the lovely sun-drenched summer day, she wasn't even thinking about the barbeque dinner she had planned for that evening with some old friends. Like a love struck teenager, Elouise was thinking about the love of her life. Zach set her heart fluttering - even after all this time. He was tall, much taller than Elouise, with a solid build. The kind of guy who simply emanated strength, support and confidence - a typical Mills and Boon hero. That was where the similarity to a romance novel ended, though. While the masculine heroes in those novels were either outdoor working men or polished, educated doctors, Zach was an artist. Mostly, he painted oil on canvas, and Elouise had never confessed that his paintings made little sense to her. But also he was a poet and and an astonishingly good songwriter. Zach had written her countless little poems over the years they been spent together - pressing handwritten little snippets of paper into her hand as she boarded the train. She had lost her mp3 player for an entire week once, had been just about to give in and buy another when Zach presented it to her one morning - completely filled with songs he had written and recorded just for her.

As she trawled through these glamourous, rosy memories of the moments she and Zach had spent together, Elouise smiled and reached out lazily for a drink. The ice cubes rattled in the bottom of the glass as she picked it up and as she rose it to her lips she realised that the only liquid left in the bottom was melted ice. With a regretful sigh, she left her memories on the balcony without her for a moment, put the book down on the boards beneath her, and rose from the chair to refill her glass.

Elouise would have described herself as 'average', were you to ask her, and were she to answer frankly. From an outside perspective though, she was disarmingly attractive. Slightly overweight, although only Elouise noticed, she was 36 with dark, slightly curly mid-length hair and olive features. She stood slightly taller than a lot of women and it was this height that allowed her to carry the extra weight - with it, she simply looked healthy and curvy, without it she would look under-nourished.

The kitchen seemed very dull and cold after the bright sun and warmth of the balcony. She automatically reached out for the light switch, before realising that her eyes would adjust soon enough and pulling her hand away. She went to the fridge, found the orange juice and poured another drink on top of the half-used ice cubes in her glass. She found fresh icecubes and topped it up and while she was putting the tray away in the freezer her eyes found the vodka bottle she kept stashed there. She briefly considered adding a splash to the glass, but then decided to hold out until her guests arrived for dinner. She didn't want to be half drunk before they even got there, and she knew that as soon as she had one, there would be no more plain orange juice for her. She picked up the refreshed glass in one hand and headed back out to the balcony to pick up her daydreaming where she left off.

As she stepped out through the sliding door to the balcony, she heard activity in the garden below - ominous clanging and banging of the barbeque and associated paraphanalia, then the hiss of the gas bottle as it was connected. She heard the pilot light ignition click once, twice, three times but didn't hear the whoosh as the gas caught. More clicking, still no luck by the sounds of things. Now fully shaken out of her lovely romantic day dreams, she walked over to the railing instead of sitting back down, hanging right over to see into the garden below. As she did, the man tending the barbeque looked up at her and smiled sheepishly, "Hey El, there you are! It seems as though we're out of barbeque gas. Would you mind running down to the petrol station and getting another, hun?"

Eloise sighed, put the drink down, and straightened slightly, fixing her husband with a steely glare. "How many times this week have I asked you to check that thing, Robert? I hope you have some cash in your wallet."

Her good mood now totally dashed, and thoughts of Zach now horribly far away, Eloise stamped back through the house, grabbed her handbag, and got into the car to get a gas bottle.

* * *
Lawrence had had his eyes on Ariana all weekend. So far, he thought it was going pretty well too. He had thought that she had been impressed by his degree - a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Law that he invariably told people was a "Law Degree". He had finished midway through last year and graduated in September, and he considered it the most amazing achievement of his life so far. As such, it ranked highly in his conversation with Ariana. What hadn't featured quite so highly in the conversation was the fact that he had just started a new a job in the city - as a dogsbody for a personal assistant. How embarrassing. At least he got to wear a suit to work, anyway. And at least it was in the city. This way he could at least spend the train ride to and from work every day, holding his briefcase which contained nothing more than a sadnwich, an apple and a broken ballpoint pen, imagining that he had a high-powered and very stressful executive positioin on the board of directors. What Lawrence didn't realise was that, even though this little fantasy played out well in his head, to the others that shared his commute, he was still a 22 year old kid with a cheap suit and a cheaper briefcase. Nevertheless, and never one to let the truth get in the way of a good fantasy involving power and riches, he maintained the fantasy for as long as he could, and tried to potray this character to his new found friends, Ariana included.

Sitting in a bean bag in a corner of his mate Ben's living room, Lawrence surveyed the clutter and detritus that surrounded him. The television was on, blaring a music video DVD to the room at large. The cheap speakers in the discount-brand widescreen television had come to the end of their life approximately two months after purchase, and now spouted a terrible crackling and hissing version of growled and snarled lyrics to what should have been a familiar tune. It didn't matter too much, no-one was paying any attention to the aural abomination. However, the room was far from empty - at least four bodies lay around the floor and couch, in varying degrees of alertness. Ben, the ever-gracious host of the party last night, dominated the couch - head thrown back, mouth open, legs wide and arms spread wide - snoring loudly, but not loud enough to drown out the music from the television, unfortunately. Two other men were passed out in the room, one on the recliner and a second on the carpet, none of whom Lawrence recognised, although he vaguely remembered having a very indepth conversation with the guy who now seemed passed out on the rug with his hand still in a bowl of nuts. What were they discussing, he wondered, and eventually recalled it had something to do with the possibility of the Malaysian's invading and forcing everyone to eat rice and speak a different language. Lawrence heaved a sigh and hoped he was mistaken in that recollection. As for the fourth body, from Lawrence's position he couldn't see anyone, but he could hear snoring from behind him somewhere, forming a tenor counterpoint to Ben's bass.

The other person Lawrence couldn't see was Ariana. He mentally kicked himself for drinking way too much last night. If he hadn't had the last five or so bourbon and coke's, he would have been able to get her into bed, he was sure of it. Ariana was beautiful - long, pitch-black hair straight down her back, and a pair of the loveliest breasts. Lawrence tried to remember what she's been wearing last night, hoping to catch a glimpse of her through the door into the kitchen, but he struggled and couldn't recall. He had spent a large amount of time looking down her cleavage, but he would be damned if he could remember what it had been housed in. Damn shame about those last few bourbon's, taking Ariana to bed would have given him bragging rights to his mates for weeks. Months, even, maybe.

Slowly, and with the variety of sluggishness only an A-grade hangover can provide, Lawrence performed a personal physical inventory. He still appeared to be in possession of all his major appendages. He didn't dare try to move them any more than a few centimetres, but upon inspection they all seemed to behave in an appropriately proper manner. He didn't seem to have sticky patches that couldn't be explained away by alcohol, so he figured that he hadn't, despite his best intention, gotten anyone (Ariana included) into bed. This was a minor disappointment, but one that he was pitifully accustomed to. Lawrence turned his head slightly to see if his neck was working properly, and a light-sabre of sun sliced through the venetian blinds and hit him square between the eyes. He closed them and instinctively reached to his head for his sunglasses. They weren't there - damn it. Normally a permanent fixture day or night, he must have lost them off his head when he collapsed on the bean bag. He carefully weighed his options - he could sit here with his eyes shut and wait for the light to fade, which could possibly take hours as he had no idea what time of the day it was and whether this was morning or evening sun; or could haul his sorry ass out of the bean bag and go looking for his sunglasses. After careful deliberation and a small alcohol-induced slumber, he decided, however foolishly, to try and extricate himself from the clutches of the bean bag.

He started by rolling to one side, hoping to roll right out. The bean bag was obstinate however, and held on firmly, refusing to tip him out on to the floor. Lawrence was nothing if not persistent though and rolled the other way, at which point the bean bag decided to give up - suddenly and reasonably unexpectedly, at least to Lawrence's alcohol-addled mind. He landed, splat, on the carpetted floor, finding his nose in a suspiciously sticky patch on the carpet, and his shoulder hard up against the foot of the couch. His left leg appeared to have taken up residence under the coffee table. If it wasn't for this unfortuate series of events, Lawrence may have decided to remain there until more of his hangover had passed, but the stench from the carpet was enough to make even him move and, very carefully, he rose to his feet.

Once the room had ceased the most wild of the careening it was currently undertaking, Lawrence stepped gingerly over to the blaring television and punched random buttoms through blurry eyes until the noise mercefully ceased. He watched with interest as the picture faded to a single pinpoint of light and winked out, and revelled in the silence that can fall only after a dvd that has been on constant repeat for close to ten hours has been silenced. With this problem solved neatly, Lawrence dug around the bean bag for his sunglasses, finally finding them, bent and with a lens missing, He stared at them, deliberating, and then decided to put them on anyway. Something was better than nothing, right?

Lawrence padded gently into the kitchen to find a coffee. After that, he decided, he was going to order a pizza.