My 2nd Novel: The Lucky Run, is coming this Summer!
Above is an early mock-up of the cover.
I have been hard at work in my spare time on my second novel, The Lucky Run: A Tale of a Boy and His Dog, since early March. March seems to be the time I begin cranking out novels for some reason, last March being when I sat down and began to hammer out Star Sharks 1, word by word, page by page, until it was complete in early July 2017.
With this book, inspiration came to me as I read Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I liked the cat that the character in that novel, a young boy, finds and befriends. I thought about growing up with a dog as my best friend, and I thought about books involving dogs and how sad they were, and what I liked and I disliked about them. And, as always, I thought about magic, wonder, adventure, and fantasy, and how the world seems so much bigger and mysterious to me as a person sometimes, and especially did, though in different ways, as a child.
I sat down with a faux leather notebook and began to jot down ideas, names, characters, and a plot outline. (I understand the irony and injustice of writing a story with an animal as one of the main characters in a leather notebook, believe me, so I assure you this notebook is synthetic leather!) Then one Friday afternoon after I got home from school, I wrote an entire chapter in the notebook. The next morning I wrote the second chapter. On a bus to and from a track meet I was coaching I penned the third chapter, and was quite surprised at how consistently I had written and how far I have gotten. This weekend, the track season was over and I was at home all weekend. I produced chapters 4 and 5, where the meat of the setup for the rising action of the plot happens. I realized that I could finish this thing by June.
The method I have been using to write this novel is to try to fit everything in the story into the notebook by pen, then type up and revise via computer, adding the Prologue and Epilogue electronically. So far I have typed up the Prologue and Chapter 1. My goal is to have the rest of the manuscript, which I am about halfway finished writing, completely typed, and have copy-editing, proofing, and revising done my mid-June. I'm looking at a mid summer release date for the novel on Amazon. Keep checking back for updates and more details! My intent is that this will be a tale of magical adventure and a one-off in a mysterious, majestic, and magical realm through which the main character and his dog run.
In the meantime, I've decided to post the Prologue and Chapter 1 for the readers' enjoyment here on the website. I hope you enjoy it. Without giving away too much, some of it is autobiographical, while some of it is fantastical and made-up. The best stories contain both.
Please know that I own all the characters, the story itself, and all the details within the story on this post. It is my intellectual property that I am sharing only for the purpose of reading and enjoyment until the full novel comes out. Thank you and please read it and pass it along to be read by others! I apologize for some of the odd formatting, sometimes the website editing tool I use picks up on the word doc formatting, and in other places it does not. I hope it will still be an enjoyable read.
Yours always in creative musings,
© T.D. Smith 2018
The new king looked out over his kingdom. It was vast, green, vibrant, and alive. The sun shone on the ivory ice caps of the tall mountains far away in the distance. The warm, whispering wind came blowing down from the mountain tops and across the long, wide emerald plain. It fluttered over the treetops of the deep forest, making the branches sway back and forth and their leaves quiver, and gently made its way down to him, touching his hair. He could feel its magic energy rippling through his body as it caressed him. He had traveled long and far to get there to that most ancient of castles tucked away in the Lands Beyond, even fighting a battle to rescue the kingdom from a band of villains that had been terrorizing the country and dismantled a cluster of dragons who had been doing the same.
Already the people marveled at their coming king: he had killed two birds with one stone. He had a commanding, kingly presence and yet a gentle demeanor. The dragons had obeyed his commands, agreeing to depart from that land just by seeing the King’s seal. Promising them that their needs would be met, yet not allowing any harm to come to his people, the dragons agreed to his proposition, and attacked and drug away the villainous band of bandits as they departed. Having dispatched the kingdom’s clear and present threats, the king-to-be cleaned his blade and headed onward to the castle. Now he stood in the courtyard, and everyone was assembled. The bards, the maids, the knights in their shining armor, all the King’s Court were there and awaiting the ceremony with excitement.
The elderly wizard proceeded down the aisle they had made of daisy and lily pedals, all leading up to the round, stone altar there in the fair, green courtyard surrounded by a brown brick wall. He was holding the King’s blade, which was sheathed in its bejeweled case, the jewels of which were shining and shimmering in the summer light.
Then came the King’s bride to be. Her gown was bright white. Pristine and beautiful was the gown, just as was her soul. Her feet were bare and seemed to gently glide over the moss on the courtyard floor as she walked forward. Her brown skin glistened as if golden specks were present in it as the sun kissed it, and her long, dark, black hair was braided and hung down her back. Her gleaming, golden eyes glinted and the young King could see them piercing through her veil, looking longingly, lovingly into his own. And with that, a teardrop trickled down his cheek. It was the happiest moment of his life.
As the bride’s mother, a withered, elderly version of her daughter, with wrinkled brown skin and equally long, braided, white hair slung over her shoulder and hanging down her back, too, approached, the King looked all around him, taking it all in. It was a spectacularly beautiful spectacle, the conjoined coronation and marriage ceremony. Together, he and his queen would usher in a new era of peace and prosperity in this magical realm.
The King placed a hand on the stone table before him. The wizard was right in front of him now. Drawing the blade from its scabbard, he asked the young man to kneel. Lightly tapping each of his shoulders in turn with the blade, he knighted the young man, then asked him to rise. Next was the crowning. Meeting each other’s eyes, the King smiled at the old, withered magician, who returned a warm, loving, fond smile. Then, looking up and across the courtyard and the fine, fair Lands Beyond, the King sighed deeply, and remembered...
Protagonist was a small boy, about ten years old. And he had just lost his best friend. Why had it been that his best and only friend was an elderly, seventy year old man, who had recently become sick, and even more recently, deceased? His grandfather had been a wonderful man, and an even more so grandfather. He had given his only grandson rides in a wheelbarrow when he was a small boy, and taken him to Walmart and bought him toys whenever he came to visit.
His grandfather had taught him to fish. Fish. Fish and chips and fried apples. That’s what his grandfather had made for breakfast when his grandson, son, and daughter-in-law had ventured the two-and-a-half hour trek to his large, brown brick house for the weekend in their blue, one-door Dodge caravan. He could almost taste the breakfast on his tongue now. They would go on a morning walk together around his neighborhood, then watch cartoons on his small color television in the kitchen as they fried the apples, chips, and fish together.
Then, after breakfast they would throw football outside in the yard, or, if it was a rainy day, play hide and seek in the house. The house seemed so big to the boy then. Its halls went on and on forever, and there were so many nooks and cranny he could fit into. He remembered the rush of adrenaline, the fight or flight response, when his Grandfather, who always seemed to find him even in the most remote and secret hiding spots, would jump forth from out of the shadows or around a corner and shout:
It was Grandpa who had swapped lessons with him after they had moved back to that little town. Grandpa would teach him how to use a lawn mower, a jigsaw, or change a car tire, and in exchange the boy would teach him how to delete cookies, how to get the hovercraft to drift in the 3D desktop video game, and lecture him on why Google was a much better, more reliable search engine that Bing.
They did everything together, him and Grandpa. Everything. Grandpa was better than any normal baby sitter. They would make things together from wood in his shop, such as the wooden sword and shield they had forged together using an old, long unused bed slat and a round particle board lampstand. A few carefully measured cuts on the slat from a jigsaw, some duct tape, and silver spray paint, and voila! A small blade fit for a young knight.
Both the old man and boy shared a guilty pleasure for a certain anime that came on TV in the after school hours of the afternoon, a fact the boy was happy his grandfather kept confidential. They enjoyed this cartoon for different reasons. Grandpa felt young again when he saw the childlike hamsters; shenanigans, and was genuinely interested in his grandson and curious about the cartoons young people were watching these days; it was so different from his day. The boy liked the cartoon because he lived from day to day intrigued by what mischief and misadventures the hamsters would get into, but also for the pretty young human female character, to whom the primary and titular hamster on the show belonged, being her pet. Her beauty appealed to something that even now had awoken deep inside the boy. This something made him feel ways toward the opposite sex he had never felt before and did not quite understand, but it had the potential to drive him forward towards beauty and love, and affection for a life mate whom he could love more than life itself.
“But why did you have to go, Grandpa? Why did you have to get sick?” And why, indeed. It was so unfair. They had moved back and were grandpa’s neighbor now. They had been able to see each other every day then, and play so much! And then, in a blink, his grandfather went away one night to the hospital, never to return.
Ten year old Protagonist lay in his bed on that dark, cold, stormy November night contemplating the strangeness of those events three years earlier. When he and his parents had moved, he did not know that it was because Grandpa was sick. He did not look or seem sick to Protagonist. Looking back, however, Protagonist remembered his Grandfather gradually growing thinner, paler, and being able to play less and less. This somehow made him even sadder, causing tears to well up in his eyes and trickle down his cheeks.
“He was my only friend. My only friend.” Protagonist lamented to himself and to no one at all the darkness, gently gasping and snorting as he cried. Then he thought of the hairy, warm, ball curled up next to him on the bed. “Well,” he thought, contradictorily, “not my only friend.” And he reached out and stroked Lucky’s fur. The animal lay sprawled on his back, legs and paws in the air, at the foot of Protagonist’s bed.
Lucky stirred as Protagonist pet him, and sensing the boy’s distress, crawled slowly up to his face and began licking up his tears. Protagonist’s heart warmed, and the story fog curtain of despair in his brain began to lift, just as the steady downpour outside slackened to a misty trickle.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like them, the other children his age. It was just that he was so unlike them. He had tried. Really, genuinely tried to befriend them, to connect with them after the move. But he had been ripped from his two childhood friends back in his old town with whom he went on romps through the woods, bike rides with the intent of soaking the neighbor girls down the street with water balloons in a drive-by assault, and stayed up late into the night marathoning their favorite sci-fi movies.
These other children were so unlike them, so indoors, zombie-esque. They were sedentary and only cared about video games and cartoons, which comprised only a fraction of Protagonist’s interests. On the other end of the spectrum were the ones who were not as interested in video games and cartoons. They were active, but to the extreme, caring too much about sports. Protagonist liked sports, but did not worship them like the macho sons of jocks all about him. He cared very little about soccer to begin with and had quit the league shortly after a member of his team made fun of his lapses in knowledge of professional soccer and publicly mocked him in front of the other boys, just to get laughs and approval.
This had been a devastatingly humiliation to Protagonist, who had previously really liked this boy, and fancied him a potential, suitable best friend, roughly equivalent in status to his two friends from his hometown. After this event, Protagonist had quit. Instead, he ran. He was a good runner. He much preferred running, the thrill and joy of a race, and the admiration it brought from his peers when he won the gym class mile race each year. He loved running and the way it made him feel. He had aspirations to run for the local junior track league next year.
Protagonist had finally decided he was far too bookish and different from the young people in his town to truly connect and be friends. So he had stopped trying. It was a shame, but it was what it was. Lucky for him, he still had Lucky! In the darkness the dog curled up on Protagonist’s chest, warming him in the cold, dank room. Protagonist scratched behind his floppy, folder ears and smiled.
“Now don’t you go anywhere.” Protagonist whispered to Lucky. And Lucky didn’t, until 4:00 AM when Protagonist shifted in his sleep, much to Lucky’s chagrin. The dog rose, shook a few dozen times, creating a clatter with his dog tags, descended from the bed, and trotted down the steps to the living room, where he curled up in his favorite spot on the rug.
When he had gotten up, Lucky had accidentally knocked Protagonist’s blanket off the bed. Presently, Protagonist shivered in the night. His hand subconsciously searched futilely for the blanket. Coldness caused Protagonist to begin to come to. His mind was swimming and slow, and reality was warped as he partially came out of sleep. Half asleep half awake, Protagonist could have sworn he beheld a figure holding up his blanket, stretching its length between wide open arms. The blanket inched forward towards him in the night, as did the figure. Stepping out of the shadows and into the moonlight that was now beaming from the parting clouds and streaming into Protagonist’s window, the figure became a slim and recognizable old man. The man beamed at the boy, who was fighting returning to full unconsciousness and losing as the gentle elderly man tucked him back into bed with care.
Protagonist strained against sleep, squinting to try to see if it was really him, if his eyes were playing tricks on him, or if he was seeing a dream manifest in reality, being halfway between worlds. He managed to sit up halfway, propping his body, which felt heavy and full of sand, up on one elbow. He forced out a half-awake grunt: “Grandpa?”
It was then that Protagonist’s pupils finally focused. But the figure was gone. Protagonist closed his eyes, meaning to blink and refocus his gaze, but he succumbed fully to sleep instead, gracefully crumpling back onto the bed on top of his arm, and gently drifted back to dreamland.
© T.D. Smith 2018
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