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Writing Fails, Writing Wins

A few blog entires ago, I stated I was going to attempt a live writing excercise with the next installment of my book series Sun and Saltwater. Evidently I lied as that is not working out for me. I think I posted one scene and that was as far as I got.

As a writer, one that wants to be more prolific, I've been trying all sorts of things to get me to learn to write faster. I've read books on outlining. I've set daily word count goals. I've tried timed writing, and while a few things have helped, I've concluded the best thing I can do for any story I'm working on is to write the last scene first. I need to know where I'm going, or where I want the characters to end up. And I'm relieved to say, I wrote the last scene of Sun and Saltwater this week and I feel a whole lot more confident about the direction of this story.

Consequently, the original first scene has been scrapped along with the following scene I'm posting for giggles and grins and because I have this need to get something new out there even if it will ultimately end up in the trash bin.

I've set myself a deadline for having this installment in the series finished. I'm hesitant to make any kind of announcement as to when it will be available other than to say... heck, I just can't say. Give me a couple of weeks.

-Deleted Scene-or maybe not

Levi lived on a barrier island off the St. Joe Peninsula in a house that was really a shack with no electricity and no running water. He shucked oysters year round and harvested scallops when they were in season. He lived a simple, uncomplicated life like most of the breathers in Gulf County. The beaches in this part of the panhandle looked much like ours had when I was a kid. When Jamie and I could play and swim without thought of what we were. Pristine beaches, more empty than not, relatively unspoiled by today’s standards. A primitive existence that appealed to me in a medullary way. Guess that was why Levi and I got along so well when we weren’t trying to beat the crap out of each other.

He liked peace and quiet. I liked peace and quiet.

“Welcome to our little piece of paradise.” Levi’s hand was stuck inside an old tin pail full of oysters, the bottom of which was rusted and peeling. He used the tip of his knife to crack open a shell then held it to his mouth and sucked it down like downing a shot.

I sat in a metal lawn chair with green and yellow woven seat straps that looked ready to split in two. When I decided it was going to hold my weight, I spread my legs, lifted my arms and cradled the back of my head, making myself nice and comfortable as though I had all day. I supposed I did. Caris was working. Maggie had more than enough materials, and Levi was right. St. Joe was a slice of paradise, and I was in no hurry to get on with the business at hand. I closed my eyes and turned my face to the sun. It didn’t quite ride high enough in the sky this time of year and lacked warmth.

I hated winter.

“Where is he?” When Sol wanted to avoid the world—which was often—he either went to Cuba or he came to Levi’s.

“I expect he’s around here somewhere.”

But then, I already knew that. I’d checked the marina and found the Meurte Blanca docked in one of the boat slits.

Levi rummaged through his bucket, the shells clacking together and pinging off the tin. “Want one?” he offered as if it didn’t matter to him one way or the other.

I cracked one eye open. Hell, why not? I held up my hands and he tossed me a couple of oysters, one at a time. I pulled out a small pocket knife and pried them open, slurping them down in quick succession, relishing the salty, wild taste of the ocean. Ingesting one oyster made a bad mood go away fast. Two oysters and you had a pleasant feel good going on.

I stopped at two and leaned back in my chair, enjoying my rose colored glasses, wishing Sol wasn’t here. It would definitely ruin what was turning out to be a good day. I made a mental note to bring Caris over here, surprised I hadn’t thought of it before. Much of the land here was federally protected—a veritable wildlife preserve thanks to Levi’s dad. Mr. Holland was a developer and an elected official and spent his political capital keeping the beaches on this part of the coast free of high-rise condominiums and shopping malls and greedy lander expansion. Guess that was another reason I liked Levi. He lived like he did because he wanted to, not because he had to. But unlike Levi, I preferred hot showers.

Yep, it was nice here. About as nice as it got really.

“Figured you show up sooner or later.”

Sol’s voice intruded on my evolving fantasy—a fantasy that included Caris and an empty beach. I had fantasies about Sol too, and it usually involved my hands and his neck and him dying.

Oysters. They were the ticket to making Sol tolerable. I still wanted to hurt him in about a thousand ways, but I didn’t want to kill him anymore.

Sol sauntered past my chair and stood at the edge of the water, giving me his back. I wasn’t buying his relaxed not-a-care-in-the-world routine. His fingers stayed close to the knife sheathed at his hip, and he was wound tight as a spring. Not even the long spirals of his hair hiding his back softened his tense stance. He was ready for me. He knew how bad I wanted to hurt him, but as I watched him, a hollowness built in my belly that I knew would still be there even when Sol lay bloody and beaten by my hands.

I’d never really considered Sol a friend, not the way Jeb was a friend or even Levi. But we were the same in many ways. I might not particularly like him, but I respected him. At least I had until he’d played the role of Sterling Flores’s stooge. I’d thought he’d respected me. I’d thought he’d respected Jamie. Most of all I’d believed he respected our kind. We all liked to fight. We’d all done our share of beating each other’s asses, and Sol and I might pretend like we hated each other, but when it came down to it, we were a tribe. I knew Sol was capable of a lot of things, but Sol had aligned himself with another tribe and then he’d set a bomb that had nearly killed my brother. I didn’t care that he hadn’t known Jamie would be there. He’d still left him. You didn’t leave a man a behind, and you sure didn’t lie about it for two years.

He’d answer the tribe. He’d answer to Jamie. But he would answer to me first.

“I want to talk about Jamie.” I forced my grip on the ends of the chair to relax and adopted an even tone. My feelings might be hurt, but he didn’t have to know that.

“Maybe I don’t.” He offered me his profile and nothing more. “I’m not your damn shrink. I did something I shouldn’t have. You want to kick my ass? Fine.” He turned around and looked at me with a bored expression. “Do it and get it over with. I’ll even give you a few freebie shots before I start fighting back. Figure I owe you.” Sol possessed the best leer around, a distrustful twist of his lips that was half-smile and half-snarl that had me half-way out of my chair.

He wasn’t nearly as complacent and remorseful as he’d been that morning with Flores on his boat. This was the Sol I knew—insolent and infuriating. Maybe I still wanted to kill him after all. He hadn’t come to the memorial service we’d had for Jamie. Not once had he offered any kind of condolences.

“What you owe me is an explanation,” I said, cutting my eyes at Levi with a subtle shake of my head. No, I wasn’t going to let Sol off the hook and tell him Jamie was alive. Not yet.

Sol set his dark eyes on me then turned his gaze to Levi. I wondered what he’d confessed to Levi. Probably all of it, but Levi wasn’t in the habit of taking sides or making enemies.

“Do I need a reason to want to blow Sloan Nance to kingdom come?” He gave me that insolent sneer that said I was nothing but stupid.

Levi whistled. “Flores hired you to go after Sloan Nance?”

Sloan Nance was a lander. A pretty despicable one. You needed guns, Nance was your man. He was basically the scum of the earth. He was also dead and so was his little boy. A death Jamie blamed himself for.

“He didn’t hire me. I volunteered,” Sol said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Actually, Noah, I don’t owe you a thing.”

“Actually Sol, you are,” I said my voice so steely and cold I gave myself shivers. “You owe me.”

“I warned Jamie. I assumed he was right behind me but—"

“But what?” I asked even though I already knew the answer. I was just curious how much of the truth Sol would tell me. I liked being in the position of knowing more than Sol did. It was a position I’d found myself in often lately. I rose from the rickety chair, my head suddenly clear as the sky over my head and advanced on him. He remained defiant, but I already knew Jamie had gone after the kid and the boat had exploded beneath him. The kid hadn’t made it. Somehow Jamie had.

“You want to hear Jamie died a fucking hero? Because he did. Does that make you feel better? You get off on all that ultimate sacrifice bullshit. Congratulations to the damn Jacobs’ boys. But it’s hard to pin a medal on a dead man.”

I was momentarily stunned, but recovered quickly enough, wondering for a fleeting second what deep cesspool he’d been hiding in that he didn’t know Jamie was alive.

“You traitorous piece of shit.” I grabbed him by the neck so that we were pretty much nose to nose. He smelled like weed and the whites of eyes were bloodshot around his black eyes. He looked demonic. I honest to God wanted to kill him. I envisioned it, my hands stealing around his neck, choking his miserable life away.

Don’t Noah.

Ahh, Caris’ sweet voice sang in my head. I couldn’t face Caris if I killed her brother, no matter how much he deserved it.

“Yeah, you’ve said that before. What can I say? I’m nobody’s hero.” Guilt burned in his eyes.

“You sure aren’t.” I shoved him away from me before I changed my mind and choked him anyway. “Thank Caris next time you see her. If it weren’t for her, you wouldn’t get off this island.”

“Don’t do me any favors,” he said.

I had to get out of here. I’d been right to wait before seeking him out. I’d let the tribe handle him. He’d come crawling back eventually and eventually I’d get to hurt him.

“And by the way,” I said before immersing myself in the Deep. “Jamie’s alive. If you’d gotten your head out of your ass long enough, you would have known that.”

Shock drained his skin of all its color. Seeing the fear cross his eyes wasn’t nearly as satisfying as I’d imagined it would be.

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