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PIECES OF DESTINY - finally back (Chapter 14)

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OK, after more than a 2-year hiatus, we're back with yet another chapter of Pieces of Destiny, my little time-travel adventure/epic.

My thanks as always to my editors and advance readers (including our own VWL and Cole), as well as my partner Rod, and of course to The Dude for hosting my work and putting up with my shenanigans.


I've considered posting a "cheat sheet" for those who can't remember what has transpired in this time travel tale, where a modern-day teenager finds himself back in time in 1864 Kansas City, at the tail end of the Civil War. For now, I'll just tell you to re-read chapter 13, but I'll see about posting a 1-page synopsis of the previous adventures to bring everybody up to date.

Suffice it to say, this was the most difficult chapter to write yet, since we come to a major fork in the road in terms of the plot and our lead character. While it's the longest chapter by far, we chopped it down considerably from where it started out, and it covers a solid five days in the turbulent life of our hero. I've made the decision that the next chapter will be the last in this book, but I have another direction for a sequel that will take us to an entirely different place and drop in a variety of new characters. I have a very clear end game in mind, with just enough left open-ended that I think will genuinely surprise people.

My sincere apologies for the delay. The story has continued to churn in my head throughout the past couple of years, but real-life challenges and just the stress of staying alive (especially in this economy) don't make it easy. No promises on the next chapter, but I have at least started it, and there's a chance I could get it done in another couple of months... lord willin' and the creek don't dry.

And as always, I invite criticism and comments, good or bad. As with all my stuff on-line, I just consider this work to be a first- or second-draft at best, and might some day return to these stories and do a final polish and actually publish them in some form. I figure, this is a way for readers to look over the writer's shoulder and see a work in progress. Once you see the finished novel, you never know how many years or decades it took to actually get completed; serialized novels are a problem that way, because I know people are hell-bent on getting to the next installment.

Update: And thanks to The Dude for alerting me about a really stupid story typo, which is now fixed!

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It's been awhile! I swear, there were moments in the last few months where it was like all the characters were frozen in place, staring at me and saying, "hey! C'MON! What happens next?"

I'll go ahead and post a short recap here of Chapters 1-13, for those who don't have the time to read 94,000 words...

spoiler.gifSPOILER BELOW! spoiler.gif


In the summer of 2012, a contemporary 15-year-old teenager, Jason Thomas, is exploring a cave in the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri, while temporarily staying with his Aunt Olivia. Suddenly, the cave floor collapses and Jason plummets downward and into a mysterious blue light. After he crawls out from the cave-in, he encounters a group of strangely-dressed boys, who take him to a nearby farm where he discovers he’s somehow wound up back in time in early October, 1854.

Although he’s very attracted to the teenage boy who lives on the farm, Travis Colt, Jason desperately yearns to return to his own time. He attempts to return to the cave, but is thwarted by another catastrophic cave-in and mudslide. Jason resolves to make the most of his life in 1864 until he can find a way to return to 2012.

Jason learns he’s inherited a large sum of money and property from an older woman named Olivia Thomas, who coincidentally bears the same name of his modern-day aunt. The Colt family allows him to live in their barn and provide him with food and clothing. Jason takes a part-time job at the local general store, and quickly winds up increasing the store’s profits with modern ideas on retailing and advertising. The McBillins, who own the store, agree to loan him their old wagon for transportation.

Jason encounters a local black church, the Gospel Hall, and later returns and winds up tuning up their piano. He learns that his supposed aunt Olivia was a supporter of the church and has a connection with former slaves. One of them is Rufus, a free man who works in the general store’s stockroom.

While walking home from school, Jason and Travis are attacked by bullies. Travis resolves to teach Jason how to fight. Their boxing lessons gradually become more affectionate, and they wind up having sex on a regular basis in the barn’s hayloft. Jason learns that Travis’ older brother, William, ran away from the farm after repeated clashes with their cruel adopted father, Seth Colt.

Jason’s cellphone doesn’t work in 1864, but he’s angry when he realizes he lost it somewhere in the cave. Later on, he has to fight two bullies at school in order to retrieve his phone, and becomes somewhat of a hero because of his victory.

Faith Shaw, the very pretty daughter of a prominent city judge, invites Jason over to sing with her after school. He later finds that Faith is infatuated with him, he rebuffs her advances, but accidentally manages to save her life after she falls into a deep well, breaking her ankle. As his relationship gets closer with Travis, they have an argument when Jason tries to admit that he’s from the future. Later, while coming home from school, Jason and Travis see two other boys having sex on a hill, and Jason is disturbed that the experience seemed to disgust Travis.

Aware that he’s stuck in the past, Jason resolves to try not to change anything for fear of drastically altering the future. He tries to live a normal life and blend in with the other 1864 students at the local high school. Jason has several difficult encounters with teacher Samuel Twitly, who punishes him when Jason takes the fall for another student’s misbehavior.

The school principal, Mrs. Weeks, asks Jason to be part of a Halloween recital. She finds three other school boys to accompany his performance, and he rehearses to make sure their performance is perfect. Jason reacts badly when Travis criticizes his singing technique in the barn, leading to a breakdown in their budding relationship.

And that takes us up to the events of Chapter 14, minus a lot of details. It would appear that the next chapter will be the end of this book, but I'll say no more for now except that a sequel is planned.

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I can think of no greater praise than to say that, of all the stories I have read online and had to wait months for the next chapter, Pieces of Destiny, Chapter 14 did not need any review for me to remember exactly what the story was about, and who and where the characters are, (or were, as they lived in the past.)

This chapter seamlessly follows on from the previous one as if they had been written within days, not years.

Pec, I do understand and sympathise with the reasons for the delay. Finances and stress have all but completely deprived me of my time to be creative. There is such a thing as too much artist suffering. :omg:

Anyway, back to Pieces of Destiny, I love this story and await the next chapter with all the encouragement I can muster for you, Pec.

Love it.

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Thanks much, Des! That means a lot to me, especially coming from you. I had actually completed the first few paragraphs a couple of years ago, but was just stumped and overwhelmed with how to get to the end, because so many story points had to be covered. I did try to dive in a few times in the last couple of years, but I'd get a paragraph in and would just stare at the screen and go, "nope. That sucks."

Eventually, I finally just said, "screw it: I'm just going to cut the story to the bone and just hit the highlights as best I can." It's far from perfect, but hell, I think it's OK for a first draft. Even with cutting out about 20% of the bullsh!t, it's still a long chapter (over 8000 words, which is long even for me). But I wanted to get through the concert scene and make it to the cliffhanger ending, where everything changes. I had been dreading this moment because of my affection for the characters and my desperation at wanting to get it right, but I feel like I've gotten over the hump and can now move forward.

I see a lot of online stories where whole chapters go by with very little actually happening, where it's very episodic and trivial things occur: birthdays, dinner, school, romance, a little sex, a little fighting. Drives me crazy, especially dialogue-heavy scenes that take up endless pages. This isn't like this -- lots and lots of actual plot goes on in this one. I'm not saying it's brilliant, but by god, it ain't boring.

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Yeah, trivial events that do not relate to the plot, or at least contribute to character development, soon become tiresome for me. Descriptive passages of peripheral settings and extraneous detail can set the atmosphere and even provide moments of literary beauty, but striking a balance between the purely decorative word painting, and the informative setting is not easy, especially if there is an attempt to convey an underlying philosophy, or even just a character's predicament. The songs in chapter 14 were a risk, but they were so well integrated that, even though they were unfamiliar to me, their relationship to the story and the characters enabled me to bond emotionally with the concert and the performers.

Dialogue can propel plot and dramatic action, but too many authors use it to pad the story. I think that is why I find so many recent movies mediocre. Do they even have a script? So often the actors appear to make it up as they go along. A young director recently told me that his film-making tutor actively discouraged written dialogue, and then wondered, aloud, why no one was making movies or writing plays with profound content or meaning. First we had the silent movies with their written 'inter-titles', then came sound and the actors could talk, and now we have neither, but the actors sure do stare, a lot.

All of which is a roundabout way for me to say that Pieces of Destiny would make the basis of really entertaining movie...and I don't even know how it will all end. :confused:

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Dialogue can propel plot and dramatic action, but too many authors use it to pad the story. I think that is why I find so many recent movies mediocre. Do they even have a script? So often the actors appear to make it up as they go along.

They do, but the script is often very malleable. In fairness to making it up as they go along, I can tell you I've worked on a couple of Will Ferrell movies where his ad-libs were much funnier than the script, and those lines made it into the final film. They almost always shoot a half-dozen takes as written, and then and only then, they give the actor the freedom to make crap up. Sometimes it works, sometimes not -- but only the director has the choice on what to use in the edit, so a lot of this stuff ends up on the cutting room floor.

All of which is a roundabout way for me to say that Pieces of Destiny would make the basis of really entertaining movie...and I don't even know how it will all end.

I do know exactly how it will end, and the budget for this film would bankrupt two or three studios. That's the wonder of the novel: you can have (literally) casts of thousands, gigantic wide shots of historical settings that no longer exist, literal train wrecks (which are coming in Destiny), and a lotta other stuff that's essentially unfilmable. Hell, having a hard-R rating with 15-year-old kids would be tough to pull off with any film, worldwide.

BTW, speaking of films, a few months ago I got to walk around a place called Melody Ranch about 25 miles north of LA, which is a sprawling permanent Western town set, circa 1860. A big scene in the recent Django Unchained was shot there. I thought a lot about Pieces of Destiny when I walked through the muddy streets of Melody Ranch, and I have no doubt it'll influence what I write in future chapters, at least in describing how the doors feel, the wooden planks on the sidewalks, the not-quite-clear glass windows, the hitching posts for horses, and all the other 18th-century details that are so hard to visualize today.

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I do know exactly how it will end, and the budget for this film would bankrupt two or three studios.

No problem...We'll get the religious right to raise funds for the filming. Just tell them it's a movie based on the, err, a good book.

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