Monday, September 12, 2011

Back to My Oregon Trail Novel

 Back on August 3rd, I wrote a post about getting into Pottermore as a Beta Tester and about the other activities of the summer, including the challenge to write a novel in a month on CampNaNoWriMo.  I posted the prologue to the book I am working on, tentatively titled, Double Time On the Oregon Trail.  I am aiming the book at the middle grades and it is a time travel story almost, the two 15 year old girls, traveling the Oregon Train 150 years apart, do not actually time travel, but they do both own the same lap desk, and sometimes when they open it, what they find is what the other girl had in it at that location, a journal and other items.
The girls are traveling similar routes. Kenyon is in a Dodge Caravan with her Dad and younger sister, while her pregnant mother sells their house and flies out later to meet them.

Della is in a wagon caravan with her pregnant mother, her dad and a younger brother.  A lot of other people start in the caravan, but several twists of fate leave their numbers less as time passes.

Writing this has been fun and is not as far from completion as when August began, but it didn't finish in the month of camp.  I make no excuses, but do admit that I like reading the research a little more than necessary. 
 It is very different from the two novels I have published about Duffy Barkley, which are purely based on fantasy and my own life experiences and so flow, uninterrupted by fact checking except for trying to maintain consistency from one book to the next as far as spelling and place names.

On Aug. 3rd I gave you the prologue about why the lap desk was special.  Today I will share what I wrote for Chapter 1

Chapter One – Kenyon

     “Dear Diary,
     OK, that sounds a bit stupid but how else am I supposed to start off with one of these things.  I’m not going to start naming you like Ann Frank did.  You’re no “Kitty” but I can see the appeal in believing that these words will be written to someone, anyone at all.  No one in my real life seems to be hearing a thing that I have to say.  OK!  That does sound like whining but nobody cares what I want or how I feel.  They are the grown-ups and they get to make all the decisions and I’m supposed to just smile and kiss all my friends good-by without one small word of resentment.”
     The pen dug in so sharply as it underlined the two words that the paper was sliced cleanly right through.
     Fifteen year old Kenyon glanced up from her refuge in the very back seat of the Dodge Caravan.  She was the farthest she could get from her Father in the driver’s seat and still be in the van.  In her lap she cradled a simple box of dark, weathered wood.  Resting on the sloping surface of the box was a blank book with rich, creamy pages.  Snoring gently beside her was a smaller version of herself, a five year old girl with matching, tanned skin and dark brown hair.  Kenyon returned to the words she was writing on the first page of the blank book.
     “I’m not usually such a grouch, but my whole, entire life is being destroyed and I am not only expected to let it happen, I actually have to pitch in and help it happen!  I am supposed to be starting my sophomore year with my friends, not that I’m super popularity girl or anything but I do have friends and they all go to the same school, My School, and it’s going to be a great year except I won’t be there.  I’m here!  I’m driving across the whole, boring country with my dictator Dad and my bratty sister and I have to be responsible for the brat so that Dad can relax after driving all day.  He could at least have let me get my learner’s permit so I could be driving too, but no, he wants to wait for me to have lessons when we don’t have a trailer to pull.  He tells me to grow-up all the time but tries to keep me his little girl at the same time. 
     “Speaking of little girls, what I have to do is babysit her through the evenings at different motel swimming pools and keep her entertained for long, hot, boring days in this old van.  She’s such a baby!  The trouble is that soon she won’t even be the baby of the family!  If Mom wasn’t pregnant she would be driving out with me and ‘lissa instead of staying home to finalize the sale of our house.  Dad could do that, but this way will be easier on her, so Dad and I find the new house in Oregon, and move things in and do all the hard work, then Mom just walks out our old door, flies to Oregon in like, half a day, and walks into the house we’ve gotten ready for her.”
     Kenyon turned the page in the book and twisted her pen between her fingers as she thought about the unfairness of her life.  It was a beautiful pen, expensive because of the squishy soft grip and the polished malachite casing.  The pen and lap desk had been a gift from Grandpa Walt.  She loved the aged wooden desk and the cool gleaming green stone of the pen like the aged brown of his skin and the gleaming green water of the river where he took her to skip stones, watch snapping turtles and gather honeysuckle.  The thought of him made her eyes burn with unshed tears and her throat feel tight.  She probably could guess he’d be at a Pirates game about now – something she might never do again!  She slid off the lid of the desk and idly sifted through contents she already knew by heart; thick creamy paper, rich with the perfume of the dried honeysuckle tucked between the stiff sheets and starting to absorb the scent of cedar from the box, envelopes, a small spiral notebook with black pages, a supply of pale gel pens, a calling card, a small mirror, pens and pencils, a pirate pennant, and a pink Swiss army knife.  There was also postage stamps and a Kennywood address book, the picture of raging rapids on the cover made her smile wistfully.  The entire box was made without a nail anywhere, smoothly joined by an expert craftsman.  Grandpa said it was probably old, maybe even a hundred years or more.  She slid the lid back into place and resumed writing.
     “Grandpa Walt would say I’m pouting.  I guess I am, but missing him is one of the things I’m pouting about.  I know he loves me and I love him so much.  He says he’ll call and talk to me every weekend and fly out to spend a week in Oregon at Christmas, but then he’ll go home to Pittsburgh and I’ll still be missing him!”
     The hot weight of her kid sister sleeping against her became unbearable, “Lissa, Get off me!  You’re sweaty.”
     “Lissa, I mean it – Move.  Wake up brat.”
     “Ung!  Kenny, stop shoving me.  Hey, read your book to me.”
     “No, Go back to sleep, just not on me.”
     “Read to me.”  The demand in her younger sister’s voice took a second to register in Kenyon’s mind.  She turned to see the small girl gazing at her with a sleepy pout.  “Read what you’re writing Kenny.”
     Kenyon snapped hr journal shut.  “No, ouch!  You made me drop my pen.  Now I have to unbuckle my seatbelt and you’re laying on the buckle.  Shove over.”
     “Read or I’ll tell Dad.  You’re supposed to entertain me.”
     Kenyon snatched up her pen and hastily stuffed it back in the lap desk and slid the desk beneath her seat.  “No way, Melissa.  Don’t pull my hair.”
     “I didn’t mean to pull your hair.  I was just sitting up.  You told me to move.  You don’t even love me.  You’d love to be an only child!  Let me see!”
     “Ouch, KENYON!”
   From the front seat, Dad called, “Kenyon, stop picking on your little sister.”
     “Don’t touch my journal, ever!  Wait.  Are you sure you aren’t still sleepy?  We’ll get there faster if you sleep.”
     “Get where?”
     “Dad’s looking for a market so we can get oil for the car and cold drinks for us.”
     “You sleep Kenyon.  Then I’ll get there faster.  NO, Don’t sleep read your journal and we’ll still get there faster.  Did you write about me and how we’ll swim every night?”
      She knew that Melissa would become even more determined if she was flatly refused.  “Really, it’s just boring old stuff I was writing while I was waiting for you to wake up.  I can’t wait to find out if Templeton breaks the egg.  I want to read more about Charlotte.  I’m having a hard time waiting but I didn’t want to peek ahead while you were sleeping.”
    “I’d kill you!  You can’t ever read Charlotte’s Web if I’m asleep!”
     Kenyon forced her eyes to look wide and innocent as she shrugged apologetically,  “I just wrote.”
     “Well, that yucky, boring stuff is OK when I’m asleep but never read ahead without me.  I’m ready now.”  Melissa turned imploring eyes upon her big sister and the journal was forgotten.
Often I just write for myself, because there is a part of me that is most myself when spinning stories, but this time especially I am curios about feedback and your comments would make me smile, even if you hate it, just to know someone cares enough to respond.

Thanks for taking the time to look.