Friday, August 08, 2014

Free Fiction Friday - One More Book Before I Die

To celebrate the end of my first week back to school, I'm posting a free short story below. I teach reading, writing, and grammar, so this curious story is about books, naturally.

In One More Book Before I Die, Oliver Bettington, a senior at a nursing home, believes he has a set number of books to read before he dies. He's coming up on the end of his list...and is saving the best for last.

This story is part of a four-pack collection called Last Chance - Four Timely Tales. It's available for free in the Kindle Unlimited program. That is, if you pay a monthly subscription to Amazon, you can access close to a million books for free each month, including most of my books.

More of my story collections are listed here; along with other books you can see along the sidebar. Of course, you can simply purchase the ebook if you aren't part of Kindle Unlimited. Either way, here's the story. Hope you enjoy it!

One More Book Before I Die


Nearly four thousand books lined the walls of the old man’s room. It made for cramped living at the nursing home, but as he had no other interests it suited Mr. Oliver Bettington, Sr. just fine. The television left the day it arrived, a rejected gift from his only son.
“Don’t need anything to occupy my time! I’ve got my books. Just bring me another Agatha Christie next week.”
That was almost ten years ago. The old man had eventually grown tired of mysteries and had moved on to histories, biographies, memoirs, and then back to fiction – science fiction of all things.
Mr. Oliver Bettington, Jr. entered his father’s room, frowning at the sight of all the books. “Dad, you need another hobby,” he said by way of greeting. “Something to occupy your…”
“Son, it’s no use. I’m not interested in anything but finishing these last five books. After that I’ll be done and it’ll be time to go.” Oliver, Sr. patted the stack next to him.
Junior looked at his father sitting in his raggedy, thirty year old recliner. “What are you talking about?”
“Well, I’ve done some figurin’,” Bettington said, settling back in his chair. “Always been interested in books – kept every one I’ve read.” The old man chuckled and smiled as if he remembered each title.
“You had to finish every one you started, too,” Junior said with disdain. It was no secret there were unresolved father-son issues at play. Oliver, Jr. resented his father’s book fetish, Oliver, Sr. resented his son’s resentment. That, and a few other mutual misunderstandings, was probably what got the old man hauled to the retirement center at eighty – and what had kept him there the past ten years.
“Well,” he repeated, “that’s what’s kept me alive so long. And now I’m almost done reading for good.” The elderly gentleman sighed and folded his hands.
“Again, dad, what are you talking about?” The middle-aged son took a perch on the edge of his father’s bed, there being no other place to sit in the undersized room.
“If you wouldn’t keep interruptin’ I’d tell ya! Like I said – always been interested in books and now I know why. I just read a story that says we all have a certain number of books we gotta read before we die…”
Junior glanced at the stack on his father’s nightstand. The top volume – an anthology of science fiction stories by authors he could care less about – was bookmarked half way through.
“…and that got me realizin’ that I’ve about reached my quota.”
“Dad, I swear, you’ve been reading too much fantasy.”
“Not fantasy, science fiction – based on fact and things that could happen. And don’t roll your eyes at me.” Junior stopped mid-roll and stared at some ambiguous spot over his father’s head.
“Okay, then, let’s hear it,” he said, bringing his gaze back down to his dad. “What makes you think you’ve…reached your quota?”
The old man’s face shone at the prospect of explaining the mystery he’d just unraveled. “I figure it starts on your tenth birthday. You’ve either got the bug by then or you don’t.”
“What bug?”
“The reading bug and quit interruptin’.” Junior simply shook his head. “The next ten years determines the number of books you gotta read before you can die.”
“Wait,” Junior interrupted, despite the warning look he got in return. “You have to read a certain amount of books – like a school assignment? – or once you read all your books you…get to die?”
Oliver Senior thought about that a moment. “Well, doesn’t seem to make any difference, does it? Once you’re done you’re done.”
Oliver Junior thought about that a moment and determined his father was nuts. But he kept his opinion quiet. “Okay. So from age ten to twenty you set your quota. How does that happen?”
The old man sat up in his chair and rubbed his hands. “It’s based on the average number of books you read a year during your teens. I must have read a book a week all through junior and senior high school. I wish I would have kept track exactly. I didn’t start writing them down until I was twenty-one.”
Oliver Bettington’s nearly seventy-year-old list was as quirky an oddity to his family as his four thousand volumes. He’d catalogued every title, author, genre, number of pages, beginning date, and ending date of every book he’d read. Whenever he left his room he took his list, probably because he couldn’t take his library.
“So that means from age ten to nineteen I probably read five hundred books – fifty or so a year. Now you have to multiply that by seven…”
“Dad, you lost me. What does seven have to do with anything?”
“Don’t you read your Bible? ‘The days of our years are threescore and ten.’ Scientifically proven to be a biological fact, by the way. Seven’s a special number, the Bible says.”
Junior was about to point out that his father was almost fourscore and ten, but he let it go. And in fact, he had read his Bible, unlike his dad, and knew it did not contain some secret numerical code, but he let that go as well.
The older Bettington continued. “So you take the average number of books you read a year as a youngster, multiply it by seven, add that to the number you actually did read as a youngster and you’ve got your quota.”
“So you get to count what you’ve already read as a youth as part of your assignment?” The younger Bettington chuckled at the silliness of it all.
“Didn’t I just say that?” The old man was not laughing.
Junior could see so many holes in this bit of craziness he didn’t know where to start. But the old man wasn’t finished.
Bettington said, “Do you know how many books I’ve read?”
His son said, “Three thousand nine hundred and ninety-five.”
“Congratulations, you can pay attention. So yep, five more books and I’ll be done.” Oliver Senior sat back and smiled. “Now you see why I don’t need another hobby to pass the time? I only have time for just this stack.” He patted the books on his nightstand once again.
Exasperated, Oliver Junior blurted out, “Now that’s just silly, dad. If that were true you could stop reading right now and live forever. Or wait and finish your list when you’re a hundred and twenty or something.”
Oliver Senior just shook his head and muttered, “Dummy.” He said louder, “You never got the bug, did you?”
The old man’s son sighed and ran his fingers through his slightly graying hair. “No, dad, I never did.” He wasn’t sure where to steer the conversation from there so he said, resigned, “Whatever makes you happy, dad. I’ll be back on Sunday and take you to lunch. Send the girls up to see you tomorrow?” Junior got up from the bed and headed for the door, looking back at his father.
“Sure, sure,” Oliver replied already reaching for the anthology. “But tell them not to bring me any more books. I’m almost done.”

Thursday, July 31, 2014

4...3...2...days left...

Speeding up the endgame here. I doubt I'll write this weekend, which would be days 20 and 21 of my end of summer writing sprint. So instead, I''ll make today and tomorrow my last two days of keeping track of my word count. I guess I'm just not that great at long term sprinting!

Yesterday, though, was another solid day. I kept expanding my short story from Tuesday and ended up adding another 4300 words. Probably can't do anything with it, it's just too crazy a piece. But it filled a need for me to just blitz and not worry about story structure and such. Sometimes vomiting on the page is the best way to get an idea to express itself. I'll worry about cleaning it up later. If I ever get back to it.

So, if I decide to not post tomorrow, thanks for hanging with me, as herky jerky as it's been, over the past three weeks. I'll keep posting occasional updates when school starts, just don't expect anything resembling regularity. If you're interested in my final word counts, read below the fold. Thanks again for reading!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

5 Days Left of Summer

Today, tomorrow, Friday, the weekend. Well, I do have Monday off but Tuesday I'm back at school getting my room ready. I have 3 days to do that, plus a day of meetings. 6th graders show up the following Monday, and everyone jumps back in Tuesday the 12th.

Think I'm looking at my calendar, like, every hour? Stress is mounting. Time is slipping. Writing is going...okay.

Actually, yesterday, writing went pretty well. I needed to do something completely different than the projects I've been working on over the summer...so I wrote a 4,000 word short story. Took me all day and if it weren't for taking an hour break in the late afternoon to exercise, I would have sat in my chair way too long! 

And that's after tinkering with my website in the morning. I still don't like the dark green, but the brown was too dark. Hmm, may tinker some more today.

At any rate, here's my update to my 21 Day Writing Sprint to the End of Summer. Thanks for reading!

Word count and genre updates:
Day 1 - 3200 words (space western, horror)
Day 2 - 2400 words (satire/humor)
Day 3 - 2700 words (satire/humor)
Day 4 - 500 words (fantasy)
Day 5 - 2000 words (satire/humor)
Day 6 - 2700 words (satire/humor, bit of cozy)
Day 7 - 0 (800 words non fiction, doesn't count toward total)
Day 8 - 0
Day 9 - 2600 words (cozy mystery)
Day 10- 1600 words (cozy mystery)
Day 11- 2000 words (cozy mystery)
Day 12- 2700 words (cozy mystery)
Day 13- 0
Day 14- 0 (800 words nonfiction, doesn't count toward total)
Day 15- 2000 words (epic fantasy)
Day 16- 4000 words (short story)
Total - 28,400 words of new fiction so far this sprint
Total fiction words this summer: 82,500

Monday, July 28, 2014

6 Days Left

Well, I learned one thing in my 21 Day Writing Sprint to the End of Summer...I'm not a very good sprinter. I really didn't change my habits all that much knowing I was going to post my results at the end of the day. Then, some days I forgot to even post (or maybe subconsciously forgot!) my word count and project updates.

So quick recap for the weekend: no new fiction words on Saturday or Sunday, though I did write an 800 word reflection on what a blast it is to be self-publishing. It's an encouragement for those who've never taken the plunge. Though it comes with warnings, because like anyone who wants to start a hobby, there are naysayers. Anyway, may post that one day. (Though if you're friends with me on FB, it was Sunday's 'rant.' lol)

Today, though, I did get in 2000 words of world-building and an opening scene/prologue to my Sword of Otrim novel I'm pulling together. I have 3 stand alone stories in this epic fantasy series and I want to tie them together with an overarching plot. I figured out what that was, then needed to create a map, a timeline, and set the stage with an opening episode and probably two closing chapters/stories for the novel to work. Pretty excited about it.

Well, six more days of posting my progress before my summer ends. Let's see what I can accomplish this last week before school starts. Thanks for coming along on this journey, hit and miss as it's been.

Project updates below the fold.


Friday, July 25, 2014

21 Day Writing Sprint - Day 12

Half way through my short writing sprint to the end of summer. Or, at least my summer. I head back to teach middle school English Language Arts first week in August (first week is report week, actually, students arrive the 11th).

Overall looking forward to it, but I'm also wanting to keep my "part-time job" (writing!) during my evenings. So I'm trying to get in the habit now of writing every day and keeping track of my word count.

So far, so so. I was hoping to average close to 3,000 words a day, which is what a few full time writers I've talked to seem to produce. Which, with enough books in the market, is enough for them to make a decent living self-publishing. That's my goal.

Now, I'm a slow writer. Maybe 500 words an hour. So it's not out of the realm of possibility to produce 3000 words daily. That's really only 6 hours of writing - with breaks! (Since it's not good for one's health to sit on one's rear endlessly.) The reality has been, however, that I'm averaging close to 2000 words a day.

Not bad, but not great. That pace did allow me to finish one short novel though (see below). So I'm very happy about that. At any rate, yesterday (ie, Thursday, I forgot to post my update) I wrote 2000 words and today, Friday, I added 2700 words and completed the second tale/chapter in my second Ma Tutt book.

My plan is to add 3 more tales/chapters (average 9000 words a story) and bring the novel to 45,000 words. It'll be structured like the first one, episodic subplot tales that tie together with an overarching storyline. I'm hoping to have it done and published by the end of August. (Cover reveal in a few weeks!)

This will bring my completed novel count to 2. Half way toward this year's goal of 4. If you're interested, on the side column to the right, are the progress bars for some other in-progress novels that I may be able to complete before Christmas. (And yes, I'm cheating a little bit as these are projects I started last year. But heh, a completed novel is a completed novel! ;)

Well, that's about it. Thanks for reading and your interest. Appreciate your support!

Continue Below the Fold for Word Count and Project Updates


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

21 Day Sprint - Day 10

Worked on a bit more of the Ma Tutt novel, 1600 words today. Just never got going. May try Bombo tomorrow. As you can see from my updates, I've been up and down these past 10 days.

One thing I know, I'll have to have more up days than down if I want to write full time for a living. Chatted with a few full time writers recently. They both average 2500 to 3000 or more daily. Having missed two days, my average is only 1770 right now.

But, can't change the past. Can only control what I do from here on out. Here's to a better tomorrow. Thanks for reading. I appreciate your interest.

21 Day Sprint to the End of Summer
Word count and genre updates:
Day 1 - 3200 words (space western, horror)
Day 2 - 2400 words (satire/humor)
Day 3 - 2700 words (satire/humor)
Day 4 - 500 words (fantasy)
Day 5 - 2000 words (satire/humor)
Day 6 - 2700 words (satire/humor, bit of cozy)
Day 7 - (800 words non fiction, doesn't count toward total)
Day 8 - 0
Day 9 - 2600 words (cozy mystery)
Day 10- 1600 words (cozy mystery)
Total - 17,700 words of new fiction so far

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

21 Day Sprint - Day 9

Rough day yesterday, no original fiction words. Some days are like that, even during a sprint. (Not an excuse, but I did have two dentist appointments back to back yesterday, and that wore me out! lol)

So I bounced back today after a short morning nap and pounded out 2600 words in my new Ma Tutt story called "Time for Tea." It's the second tale in a series of five episodes that I'm writing for my second Mack the Magical Cat novel. Book 2 is titled Ma Tutt's Secret Spice.

I have the cover elements and color scheme picked out and my son-in-law should have a mock-up some time soon. Once I'm closer to finishing this novel (probably 45k words total), I'll host a cover reveal. It'll be similar in style as Ma Tutt's Donut Hut, which has garnered some nice compliments for both the cover and the story.

Speaking of which, my second interview is now online. Author and blogger Lisa Godfrees asked some great questions and is going to give away two free Ma Tutt ebooks next Monday. She will pick from those who comment on her blog, so please drop by, read the interview, and comment for a chance to win. Thanks!

Well, off to the gym to exercise (since I basically sat all day writing). Will add my word count updates later tonight. Until then, thanks for reading. I appreciate your interest, truly.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Break for Look Away Sunday

Didn't add to my fiction word count today, but I did write an 800 word reflection on an aspect of worship that I'd had some questions about. (See my "Look Away Sunday" commentary below the fold.)

Although I'm not opposed to writing on Sunday, I find that, in general, this day is best observed when I keep with a different routine. I don't post my usual silliness on Facebook on Sundays; in fact, I try to move away from electronic stuff completely on this day (but as you can see, not very successfully, lol).

At any rate, if you want to read more about such things, then by all means, read on. Thanks for your interest.