Saturday, September 5, 2015

Writing: Timmons Chronicles Reboot - Chapter 1




Back when I first started writing about Bobby Timmons, Penny Thomas and Dottie and Sarah Brown, I knew where they all came from. I knew their background and what drove the characters. In other words, I knew that the original story did not start at the beginning. I wrote it with young adults in mind and threw some of what happened into flashbacks, yet I was always holding back. My thinking was: they were children. My readers would be children.

Yet as the story progressed and people started to read it, I realized the story was far more adult than it should have been, and as such, it appealed to adults more than young adults. My mistake was to rewrite it as an even more young adult book, and I failed at that, even.

Soooooo, I have begun to rewrite it from the beginning. From the very beginning. A very good place to start. None of our characters in this first novel, named 'Regrets', has a clue what will happen to them, or what is driving them. I've decided that there should be something driving them. The events that drove Bobby and the Old Man in the previous versions have not happened yet. We are in a different timeline, a happier one in some respects, and yet not as happy as it might be.

Here is the first chapter of this reboot. Not designed for Young Adults. Enjoy.

The Timmons Chronicles Book 1

Regrets

Chapter 1 - 1983

Dottie Brown looked over her notes for the umpteenth time. It wasn't that she couldn't remember the words, she had an eidetic memory. It was the emotions she was trying to convey that counted.

She lay face-down on her motel bed, propped up by a pillow, her notes in neat piles, one side that she had already gone over, the other was ready to read.

Show compassion; show pride, but not so much that you're arrogant; show humility but not so much that you're a pushover; show knowledge, and the capacity to think for yourself. She certainly could do those last 2. Years of memorizing the encyclopedias at home. Years of using her home chemistry set, working part time at the local chemical plant to get the 'safe' chemicals she needed. Months of trying to figure out what she liked best: Chemistry or Physics. She studied physics from books in the local library, mostly outdated, but with some practical information nonetheless. She was sure she knew more about both subjects than her high school teachers.

She clicked her tongue. Watch that arrogance, girl. If you make it into Harvard everyone will know more than you. But that was the whole point. She had reached her limits of what a Nebraska education could give her. Time to move away from the cow tippers and corn huskers and move into the real world. She just had to nail this interview.

Her brain told her it was time to dress: a perfect internal clock. She rolled over and out of the bed, then looked at the dress her parents wanted her to wear. Dress conservatively, they said. She hated dresses. Give her a comfortable pair of jeans and a pull-over shirt and she'd be happy as a clam. The less she had to think about dressing the more she could think about other things.

Plus dresses made her look awkward, to her mind. She put the dress against her and looked in a mirror. Yeah, awkward. It made her look like a beanpole, something the kids at high school called her frequently. Genetics made her tall; teasing made her mad.

She took a deep breath. That was the last thing she needed: to get mad. Harvard was her dream school. Bad enough her interview at Yale was terminated due to her temper. No. Due to a sexist pig of an interviewer. She shook it off, no sense in bringing it back just before the most important point in her life.

She jumped in the shower and afterward dried her shoulder-length, Fire-Engine-Red hair. As she combed it out the one positive thing she could say about it was that it was straight. She could not tolerate frizzy hair.

She slipped on the dress, dabbed a bit of makeup on her face: another sore point. Freckles were one thing, but combined with acne. Ugh. For half a minute she opened her mind to the possibilities, just to see if any challenges would reveal themselves. She wished she'd done that before the Yale interview... No, let's forget that.

She 'saw' nothing in particular, just some positive feelings. She took that as a good sign and slipped into her high heels.

"Hi, Dad," she said, a second before the knock on the door. She opened it. "I'm ready."

J.D. Brown was tall, but hardly the matchstick figure his daughter turned out to be. His work in construction for most of his life had made his body tough. But he had a jovial laugh and a good nature. Dottie frequently called him 'Corny,' but that had more to do with the area of Nebraska they lived in.

J.D. nodded at her and she followed him to the living area of the suite. Her mother, Beth, smiled sweetly at her. "I don't need to tell you how to act. Just be yourself and don't let the little things get you off-target."

Dottie understood. She and her mother had more than a familial bond: they thought alike. Only Mom didn't get mad. For that matter, neither did Dad. He only got 'disappointed,' but he let her know it by a silent frown or a terse word.

The drive to Harvard was silent. Dottie went over her notes in her head. Show compassion there, show pride there, show ambition everywhere, and show a little humility in just the right doses. That was her father's advice. She had no lack of ambition. But the humility was hard. She was right. She was always right. It irked her when someone told her she was wrong when she wasn't. They couldn't see things the way she could. No matter how right her visions turned out to be, no one believed her, except that one time. She shivered, trying to free her mind of the mutalated body she had seen in her head. But after that the teasing started, and she hid her 'gift'. 'Kids will'be kids', her mother had said. Yes, cruel and uncaring.

She closed her eyes and tried to meditate. Meditation had two repercussions for her: it calmed her so her anger had nothing to latch onto, and it increased her awareness of everything around her. The former had obvious good intentions. The latter had both good and bad repercussions. She felt minds all around her in various emotional states. Happy, sad, passionnate and yes, angry. She forced herself to concentrate on the happy and passionnate emotions she read. Her face turned red automatically when passions rose to their crescendo. She felt nothing internally, though. That was HER choice and no one else's. The happy thoughts, however, calmed her. They were happy moments in the lives of families in her general vicinity, and they reminded her of the happy moments her own family had gone through.

She saw a picnic setting with her parents and...No, no, NO! NO! Keep those thoughts away!

She pulled back from her reverie and opened her eyes. She felt a trickle of sweat run down her back, but that was the only sign that something had happened. No, her mother had stiffened. She felt it too. Dottie drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. The feelings of anxiety faded just as they approached the gates to Harvard.

***

Dottie sat in front of the group of Harvard professors and administrators. She had been through this sort of group interview before and knew what to expect. That helped to relax her. She got a generally good vibe from the group, with one or two negative vibes. She could overcome that. She had to overcome that.

The senior administrator cleared his throat. "Thank you for coming Miss Brown," he said. They were all male, all old men. "Tell us why you want to attend Harvard in the Fall."

Dottie drew a deep breath and launched into the prepared part of her notes. Knowing what they wanted to hear was a big part of it.

"I respect this institution. The foremost professors of physics and astronomy call Harvard home. I feel I can learn more here than any other school because of the resources at your disposal."

The grumpy man with the beard interrupted her. "Resources that cost money, Miss Brown. You applied for a scholarship. Can your family not provide for the tuition and room and board at Harvard?"

Dottie fought back the fit of anger caused by the interruption. Humility. "My family has never found that money provides happiness, Dr. Beckmann, we've always lived modestly on my dad's construction income. They can help me with room and board, but tuition is another matter. that's why I've applied for a scholarship as well as as many grants as I could find. I've worked 2 jobs over the last 2 years to earn the money I need for the first year, so I am prepared for that, but if and when I am accepted at Harvard, I want my full attention on my studies rather than how I'm going to pay for it."

The man nodded. "But why should we select you for Harvard, Miss Brown. Especially for our renowned Physics department?"

Time for pride. "I have straight A's in High School, and will be the valedictorian there when I graduate. I have perfect scores in the SAT's and Advanced Placement credits. I'd be starting out as a Sophomore. I've had an intense desire to learn about physics and I've read as many papers are in the public archives as I can. Even your book, (book title), Dr. Beckmann. I find the field of Astrophysics to be compelling. I-I'm even thinking of becoming an astronaut." She fell silent, her thoughts turning to space.

She heard a couple of huffs and a chuckle. The emotions she read told her they thought it was a joke. Yet it seemed to lighten the mood, so she let it pass.

She felt a piercing glance from another man, with glasses and small eyes. "Miss Brown, it has come to my attention that you were removed from an interview with Yale because of a fit of temper." He paused to see how she would react. She kept her posture relaxed. "Tell us about that, please?"

She drew a breath. Humility. "I don't know what you've heard, but this is the truth. Dr. Fields, I'm sure you all know him, made a comment about my body, suggesting I was trying to look like a man in order to fit in. His comment basically said I had no chest. I took offense to the fact that my gender or chest-size has any effect on whether I would be admitted to Yale. I regret that my temper got the best of me." Passion. "But my temper comes from my passion to learn and to succeed in discovering the unknown. I would much rather use that energy in finding black holes than in defending my - my womanhood."

She felt positive energy flowing from most of them. Nailed it.

The rest of the interview took on a more technical feel, being peppered with questions about what she knew. She answered every question with certainty.

At the end, the administrator stood. "Thank you, Miss Brown. We'll be in touch."

She stood and shook the hands of everyone there, getting a better empathic sense of how they felt. She left feeling highly confident.

She met her parents at a cafe on campus.

"Was it worth it," said her father. "I don't mean from a financial standpoint..."
\
Yes he did, partly.

"I mean do you feel that going for Harvard is worth all the - aggravation?"

She looked him in the eye. He had her best interest at heart. "I feel driven to get the best education. Period. Harvard can provide me with that, as well as the resources to continue researching after I leave. So yes, to me it's worth everything to go there."

She heard a voice in her head, one she hadn't heard before. It's vital you go to Harvard. It had a familiar ring to it, but she couldn't place it. She shook her head. This didn't feel like someone's thoughts. It felt like someone trying to tell her something.

"All right," he said. "Let's head home, then."

She opened her purse. "Not before I fill out these thank you cards and mail them. I want them to get these cards tomorrow." She began the process of writing each one, remembering individual details about each of them that she could use to personalize the cards. She had mastered caligraphy in her sophomore year, but kept her script plain, with the occasional flourish. She could feel her father's impatience growing, but she took her time, wanting to get it right the first time, every time.

***

When they arrived back at their home in Nebraska, Dottie unpacked quickly yet put everything in its place, slipped into her comfortable jeans, shirt and baseball cap, grabbed her bucket of baseballs, bat and glove and went to the nearby baseball field. It was empty but that was the way she liked it. She stretched and then ran a few laps, alternating her speed, feeling her heart beating faster. The time alone, with no one nearby, gave her time to think. She ran to the mound with her glove and ball, and threw pitches against the backstop, watching with delight as her pitches crossed the plate again and again. the boys hadn't let he play Little league as a child, and she was relegated to softball in High School. But baseball was her first love when it came to sports. She loved to watch the Major Leaguers pitch and bat, and mimiced them at first, but came up with her own style over the years.

She was in the process of hitting fly balls deep into the outfield when she saw a group of boys come up. She sensed they wanted to play a pick-up game and that meant she had to leave. But today she was feeling more defiant than usual and kept hitting. When one cleared the fence she got some whistles from the boys. But it was all a game. They knew she could hit, and pitch, but they didn't want her as a part of any team. She could sense the machismo and testosterone building in just the few minutes they watched. She hit the last ball in her bucket, then started to run after them.

She sighed as the boys started to take the field, assuming she was finished. She knew the answer even before she asked. "Mind if I play?"

The team leader was one of her classmates. An ugly brute who had hit on her more than once. She had shot him down every time.

"I'll let you play if you go out with me," he said.

Dottie carried the bucket of balls toward the rickety stands, turned and shook her head. "No thanks, Tom. I'm saving my dating life for the man I'll marry."

The brute crossed his arms. "How do you know he's the one if you don't date him?"
Dottie looked away for a moment, wistfully. "Oh, I'll know. He'll sweep me off my feet and make me feel like I'm a woman."

She heard the laughter in her head before she heard it in her ears.

"You are so dopey, Beanpole. We should call you Dopey Dottie from now on."

She stared at Tom. "And you wonder why I won't date you? Learn some manners and don't insult people." She felt like dropping him; she could. She had, once, when she was 15, but she got in so much trouble. She picked up her baseballs, her bat and glove and stormed off the field.

She dropped her gear on the floor of her room, curled up in her bed, and let her mind drift.

You'll know him when you meet. He won't seem right, but he will be the one.

She started out of her reverie. She had seen a figure, a man. She had seen herself too. The man was shorter than her. She soured at that thought. She always had the notion of looking up into her lover's eyes. Oh yes, she thought about sex, even if the act itself had not happened yet. She trembled slightly at the anticipation. Her Catholic upbringing might force her to wait until marriage, but that did not stop the urges. She drew a long breath, then went to take a cold shower. Not yet.






Copyright 2015 Michael Harrison Fox