Happy to report that I have validated the completed raw draft of Meant To Be Here at 90,914 words, on April 25, 2016. I will continue working on it, but now as an editing project rather than counting words.

The Camp NaNo cabin I shared this April was outstanding: supportive, productive, and very motivating in a semi-competitive way. It's my first experience of sharing with a large group of others who approached this business of writing in the same spirit of serious fun that I do!

Because of that, I'm happy to share the cabin stats with my own. You can really see the dips where teaching class and my arthritis got in the way, while the cabin as a whole has been climbing steadily, if not to the grade we all projected for the month!

Older Status Reports:

November 2015

November is here! NaNoWriMo's focus this year is the production of a 50,000-page first draft of Roger and the Meteor Mass. This book, first conceived in October 2014 as "The Stranger Child," then renamed "Lightyears Away," has finally shifted me from a pantser to a plotter in my NaNo efforts. In 2014, I retitled the novel, changed its focus, then shelved it in favor of the third book in my Fateful Weather trilogy, and abandoned it.

It never abandoned me, however. For November 2015, I am taking a moment to commemorate the strange trip and stranger child that will occupy me for the month.


Roger Pierce has always been a strange boy.  He blames his feelings of alienation on his family, who move to a new town each year when his dad is reassigned. But when he arrives in Meteor, a remote town smaller than any they’ve ever lived in before, he meets “The Mass,” a blended family of equally odd children and their superbly different parents. Roger has to face his own strange nature and make a momentous decision. Can he become ordinary? Does he even want to try?


September 2015

Back into editing Ken Cumming's memoirs: Meant To Be Here.  First up: a mock-up of the cover. Ken did a long-distance solo bicycle tour over the Sierras and the Rockies at age 67, and it rather typifies his astounding approach to life. So the cover will likely feature his photo next to his bike at the 11,990-foot summit of the highway over Loveland Pass in Colorado. Ken will be 70 in November, and he's still riding his bike over hill and dale!

Next step, fleshing out the structure, which is only very roughly chronological, and currently looks like:

  • Childhood With Apples
  • The California Transition
  • My Military Strategy
  • Travels With My Uncle (Sam)
  • Just Sharp Enough to Cut Myself
  • An Underground Destiny
  • To and Fro in the Earth
  • It's A Small World After All
  • Pas de Deux, Jitterbug and Vals Cruzada
  • Over the Hills and Through LAX
  • Retiring With Overalls


July 2015

August 23: After all of July and most of August, graduated from WIP to Published:

The Social Calendar 2015-2016 

April's challenge for Camp NaNoWriMo was to edit the 80% written memoirs of Ken Cummings, tentatively titled Meant To Be Here

I estimated initially that 40 hours would suffice to edit what was already written. But as I began, it became apparent that more time would be required, and I changed the goal to 60 hours.

Now that April is complete, 61 hours of editing has taken us to a manuscript that represents half of the complete book. The remaining material is still in draft form, although it has been loosely organized into a narrative outline.

Much of life is a quest for personal satisfaction. Seeking happiness, in my opinion, is overrated; find a way to be satisfied with the small benefits along your path, and you will look back over your journey and see that you were very happy after all.
  For my spouse and I, this has found expression in a phrase we recite when one of those little triumphs occurs. We pull up to a restaurant to eat, and the parking space right at the door is open. We walk into a store and discover a clerk is remarking at a discount most of the items in our shopping list. We chat idly with someone in line at a shop, and it leads to an invitation to an incredible party...
  When these things happen to us now, we turn to each other, and one or both will say, “We were obviously meant to be here.” 
Cover Photo: Ken Cummings in Colorado,  2012

Ken's stories are amusing and very well-told when he speaks them. My task has been to share each well-composed anecdote in a way that conveys his warmth, intelligence, and amazing life on the printed page.  


Fiction Still In Progress:

The novel I began in November 2014 for NaNoWriMo, Indigo Redemption, is still unfinished. It needs at least 40K more words, so I have set up a motivational graph for myself to spur me to write consistently to make that goal by the end of the month. I set the goal for 50K words, which should give me sufficient to edit to a reasonable novel length once the first draft is done.

My NaNoWriMo novels from 2006 and 2013 are still in the raw draft state. From the first pass at editing Indigo 1 (Indigo Reaping), I figure it will take as much time as if I were writing them from word one, so I estimate 200 hours will let me finish the first edit for both novels. That means I need to spend about 6.5 hours a day editing!

This will not be started until the raw draft of Indigo 3 is complete, so this graph may not change much in January.

About the Work In Progress:

The Fateful Weather novels are all set in Indigo, a small town somewhere on the Great Plains, where people battle terrible weather problems that seem to beset Indigo around Halloween-time. They do not realize, but there is more going on than the meteorologist can explain.

1: Indigo Reaping

The small town of Indigo is a great place to raise children, and Art Whiddick knows it. He grew up in Indigo. That is why he had liked being police chief, and why he knows he will love being sheriff here—not many problems, and those few of the small-town variety. He expects his first month as sheriff to be mostly involved in getting to know his deputies, chasing kids away from the local saloons, asking people to keep the noise down at the late-night barbecue. But fate has a different plan for the sheriff…
This novel was my first essay at NaNoWriMo, in 2005. Writing it was so traumatic that I nearly didn't come back to try again—it took me 8 years to do so!

As you can tell from the cover idea I posted, the title has changed. In fact, it has now changed four times. It was originally Reunion in Indigo, then Indigo Reunion (but I wanted that for book 2), and changed from Indigo Rebirth to Indigo Reaping when I began to edit the first two books last year.

2: Indigo Reunion

Sheriff Art Whiddick returns to Indigo when now-chief Ryan Ballinson vanishes before the Homecoming Bonfire. A deeper mystery involves people who vanish like a dust devil does when the breeze dies down, and the strange fire that destroyed the Oleson's barn during a Halloween dance eight years before...

The second novel of the trilogy was a result of my dissatisfaction with the ending of the first novel. It just didn't seem to wrap up all the plot points that developed, not to mention that it wasn't in any obvious way a "reunion". I decided I had to write another Indigo novel in 2013, based on an actual reunion in the normal sense of that term.

This was a hefty advance over the size of Indigo Reaping, as well, being about 40% longer before editing. 

3: Indigo Redemption

Sheriff Art Whiddick is back in the small town of Indigo, where the weather is fateful and Halloween is a dangerous time to dress up as a witch. Whiddick hopes to resolve these problems, and finally end the disappearances that have plagued the town for over a century.
Before he can, however, he must find the source of the town's troubles in its well-hidden history...

When I began writing the third novel set in Indigo, I not only realized that "fateful weather" was the theme of the series, I also began to question how the characters were inspired. I knew the town's layout and feeling of living in a small town came from my own experience, but where did Art Whiddick come from?
I thought about it and posted this last November first:  
"Indigo the town is loosely based on three real places: the town where I grew up on the eastern plains of Colorado, a small mining town in the Colorado mountains where I worked one summer, and a village near Eton College and Windsor Castle in England. The people are, of course, not based on any living real person, but of all the characters, Ryan Ballinson is closest to my heart. He's the one I give my own internal musings and conflicts to. 
I suppose the real person I think of while I write about Sheriff Art Whiddick, the protagonist of all three novels, is my father, a petroleum engineer who served in both the Army and Navy as WWII came to a close. He was on Shore Patrol in the Navy, then served as an MP in the Army, so he sometimes said he'd been "recognized as a natural policeman by two armed services." The experience served him well later, in riding herd on his 11 children.
There was a residence widely rumored to be a "witch house" in the town in which I grew up, and Indian artifacts and relics were common, especially at the foot of the bluffs outside of town. Both figure prominently in the novel this year; the house and its idiosyncratic owner have been "characters" in the previous two novels as well.

Everything else about Indigo and its other-worldly problems comes out of my own troubled mind..."

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