The Trials and Tribulations of a Work in Progress: The Other Side of Eden

There were two stories that were the mother of The Other Side of Eden. In January 2009, I wrote “Detour” base on the prompts: “At a dump, I pulled into the gas station…, prune, pinch, dentist, Peoria”; and “Virus” based on the prompts: “At a mansion, If I had wings…, motel, contagious, spark”. Both of these prompts are from Bonnie Neubauer’s online Story Spinner.  At about the same time, I was reading the futurist, Ray Kurzweil’s, The Singularity is Near (Amazon or Barnes and Noble), which gave me the mindset that worked to morph these stories into The Other Side of Eden.

The February 2009 version has been through 35 revisions/edits ending in December 2011). Jim Chalbert was the main POV character through all these early edits.

In February of 2011, I completed the manuscript. Hooray. Done. Over. Final edits, and it’s all over. WRONG. After reading through the final versions-35 Word document I decided that that there were too many holes in the plot structure.

In April 2011, I converted this latest Word document to Scrivener. This was done to allow me to easily segment the entire story into chapter and scene segments. This would allow me to attack the problem at any point I chose. I no longer had to look at the entire MS in its entirety. Scrivener makes it ever so easy to break up a MS and keep the story structure intact.

In April of 2012, I added a new character by the name of Black (an operative for the “Agency”), this was later changed to Andreas.

In July of 2013, in Scrivener version 18 of the MS, I changed the main POV character from Jim Chalbert to Phyllis Beck. Phyllis had become more interesting to me, so…the change.

My present cast of characters include: Phyllis Beck, Jim Chalbert, Jeremy Long, Doctor Gerald Lufton, David Lee Franklin, President Jeffers, Max Brealing, Philip Donaldson, Lou, and Andreas.

My current  revision/edit history stands at version-19, completed in January 2014. It is now March 2014 and I continue to struggle with completing my manuscript. My hangup seems to be all about the full integration of Andreas into the storyline. I’ve gone so far as to consider eliminating the SOB all together. However, I know what he needs to do. I have a fairly good handle on his story timeline. Now, if I could only get the words out….

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A collection of Short Stories: The Gamble Chronicles

Earlier in my notes here, I failed to mention a further resource for my story prompts. It is my file of story ideas that I have compiled over time that now includes some 125+ entries. The single entry for the Pine Barrens has been a touchstone for me in the development of various stories over the past thirteen years. There have been various ideas that have popped into my head that have found their way into a series of stories that come under the general theme of the Pine Barrens.

In my story life in the Chronicles, I first met my main character, Margaret Elizabeth Gamble (aka, Meg), in a tale about becoming lost during a trek along the Washington Turnpike looking for the pineland’s town of Adamstown. This feisty old woman greeted me at the front of her house with a 16-gauge shotgun pointed menacingly at my head. From that first meeting, there have been a series of stories that have come to me. Some of them have been about Meg, and others were told to me by Meg. These stories were about various members of the Gamble family from the time Heinrich Gamble first washed ashore in 1765, and traces various other family members over the years to the present day.

To date, the collection has not been published. However, the story of Ruth Gamble, as told in the the tale of Stolen Innocence, I’m hopeful will be included in the 2014 Tall Tales & Short Stories from South Jersey, Volume 2. Stolen Innocence takes us back to 1814 when Ruth Gamble was sixteen years of age. The story traces her trials and tribulations as she leaves the ancestral home located in Adamstown in the New Jersey Pine Barrens and finds work at Preston Hall, an estate, located to the west of the City of Philadelphia.

Some additional titles from the collection, The Gamble Chronicles, include:

Lost in the Pines
The New World
Quaker Bridge
The Great Fire of 1874
My Life in the Pines
A Letter
The Witch of Cottage Lane
Return to the Pines

Musings on: Beach Morning

Beach Morning was originally written on April 14, 2003 with a working title of Awakening Early. The original prompt for this story, “When I awoke the next morning…”, came from the first edition of A Writer’s Book of Days, Copyright © 1999 by Judy Reeves, New World Library. My story over time and six revisions has morphed into Beach Morning. The final revision took place in June of 2012 in preparation for publication in the 2012, Tall Tales and Short Stories, anthology.

This story was written as a first person point of view memoir of my remembrances of family vacations during the early 1950s at the “Point”, also known as Cape May Point, New Jersey. In part, the story was an exercise in using the senses to enhance the descriptions. As more and more details were added, I could no longer call it a memoir. I had added bits and pieces of fiction to the writing. However, the overall story is about my memories of the place, the feel, the taste, the sounds that make up the beach at the “Point”. Not only have these memories found there way into the story, but  over the years they have served as background material for many of my dreams.

I’m sure that most of the sights, sounds and tastes in the air haven’t changed. Though there is one significant exception to this: the winds no longer carry the sickening odor of rotten eggs that used to accompany the winds that came from the old Manganese plant that once stood near the Cape May Canal.

One of the things I sorely miss is that now no one is permitted to walk upon the sand dunes. They have been fenced off from the public, and there are large signs that warn off anyone planning to frolic upon them. The Corp of Engineers has bolstered the dunes in an effort to protect the borough from the onslaught of the seas kicked up by raging storms that are all too often a threat.

Before the dunes were protected, and they in turn protected the town, my uncle Paul Duffield and his wife Lillian, who resided close by the Delaware River side of the “Point” told me of one particular disturbing sight. There was a time, many years ago when the tide was out, that you could see a stop sign poking above the chop some 200 yards out into the Delaware Bay. It was the only remnant of a neighborhood that had disappeared during a nor’easter some years before.

Some thoughts on my story: What of Christmas Dreams

The incentive for the majority of my stories comes from various prompts. These could be those in Judy Reeves’ book, A Writer’s Book of Daysand my mainstay source, Bonnie Neubauer’s Story SpinnerOf course, there are always the little things in my life experience that will drive me to create something new.

The story, What of Christmas Dreams, in its first draft back in December 2008 had the working title of A Christmas Story. Since that title has been used to great affect by someone much more noted than myself, my editor and publisher had me change it. I think the new title better expresses the overall theme of the story, and I must thank my editors Amy Hollinger and Marie Gilbert for making me change it.

The original prompt for this story came not from any of the various books of prompts, but my thoughts on some current events taking place within my extended family. Naturally, names have been changed and the story has been fictionalized. However, I’m sure that if some of the people whom the characters are based upon were to read the story, they might just recognize themselves. So, like just about every story I’ve written, there is at least a passing wave to some autobiographical link.

It took eighteen revisions to arrive at the final draft for the story now titled, What of Christmas Dreams, in July of 2012. My little tale was included in the 2012 anthology, Tall Tales and Short Stories, released  on November 19,2012.