Outtake from Fellowship & A Lesson

I’m deep in the last minute edits for Fellowship before I send it to the proofreader. Writing a book in the same world as My Soul to Keep that is not a sequel, has been interesting. So this week, I want to share an outtake from Fellowship and a lesson learned about writing before research.

I am both a planner and a pantser. By that I mean, I write the story with a general outline. Since the outline isn’t very detailed I often go “off on a tangent.” I let the characters take me places that often end up on the cutting room floor as this excerpt did after I learned an important lesson.

Image of a call button for a walkie talkie for my outtake from Fellowship and a lesson

Before Research

Ian opened and closed his fists over and over. It was weird. He’d never been afraid of hiking through the mountains before. It’s not right. Not fair. The Blue Ridge Mountains are my mountains. It was where Pop had taught him to hunt and fish and think.

Pop was wrong about the Fellowship though. He thought it just needed some improvements. Pop used to talk about a time when he was young when he could walk where ever he wanted, even the streets of Lynchburg, without fear. Pop had said that was before the Prophet Josiah Shephard and billionaire J. D. Wagner created the Fellowship. Pop said at first it was about love and God and good stuff so he wanted to save that part of the Fellowship. Ian wasn’t about to try to save the Fellowship. Not after what they’d done.

When he got back to the old neighborhood his sense of danger increased. He pulled his collar up and the bill of his cap down. He couldn’t afford to be identified. One of these neighbors had turned his parents in. How could he find out who? His reporter’s brain didn’t give him an answer. He couldn’t interview people. Or visit the newspaper morgue—not that that would do him any good. How did he stay hidden and find out who betrayed his family? If it were just him, he’d not care. He’d suss out the details. But he owed it to Ma and Pop to keep Leslie and Travis and Kenny safe. So he couldn’t just go up to Monty’s house and knock like he used to.

He made a second circuit and passed the park again. Kids were playing, swinging, running around. A dark-haired boy about Kenny’s age ran smack into Ian’s legs.

“Whoa, kid. Watch where you’re going.”

The boy looked up at Ian. “Sorry mister.” The kid’s walkie talkie squawked. “Paulie. Come in Paulie.”

Ian caught his breath and squatted on his heels to be eye-level with the kid. “Say, if you let me use your walkie talkie for a minute, we’ll call it even, okay?”

The boy gave him a dubious look then stared at his walkie talkie.

“Don’t worry. I’ll give it back.” He grabbed the walkie talkie. For a moment he thought the kid wouldn’t let go, then he released it. “I’m gonna take three giant steps,” Ian said. “You can still see me, but I can talk to my buddy.” It was a long shot, but Monty loved to listen to CB radios and said he got kid chatter all the time. Ian took three giant steps and changed the walkie talkie’s channel. “This is Thorn calling Blackbird. Thorn to Blackbird. Do you read?”

Nothing but static answered. Ian glanced back at the little boy whose dubious look had changed to a pout.

“Thorn to Blackbird. I have a situation.”

“This is Blackbird,” Monty answered. “How do I know this is really Thorn?”

“I’ll meet you at the GTH in ten,” Ian said. “Over.”

“Holy cow. It really is you?” Monty sounded almost reverent. “Meet at the GTH in ten. Over and out.”

Ian’s chest filled with air and hope for the first time in days. He changed the walkie’s channel back and returned the walkie talkie to the little boy. “Thanks, little man.”

He zig-zagged through the park to be certain no one followed him. His steps were more sure, more energetic than they had been. His circuitous route still got him to the Green Tree House five minutes early.

He climbed the rope, crawled inside the patched-together little house, and pulled the rope up behind him.

Four and a half minutes later someone thumped a three-three-four rhythm on the tree. Ian peeked out. Monty flashed a mouthful of white teeth up at him.

Monty climbed into the tree house and bumped his fists against Ian’s shoulder. “Man, it’s good to see you,” Monty said.“What happened? Your whole family— I was afraid that you all were—you know.”

“Ma, Pop, and Henry were.” Ian’s throat thickened.

Monty gaped at him. “How did you—?”

“I was at the paper, the kids were at school…” Somehow Ian couldn’t say more.

“Where have you been?” Monty asked. “You look like you’ve slept in your clothes.”

Ian gave him a wan smile. “I did. All of our stuff was gone. I grabbed some stuff, but blankets, a hatchet, and a knife doesn’t help much.”

“Wow.” Monty scratched his neck. “I’ll be you’re hungry.” He pulled a napkin-wrapped lump out of one pocket then the other, handed them to Ian.

One napkin held a sandwich, the other an apple. Roast beef! Ian wolfed down half of the sandwich in two bites. “Thanks, man,” he muttered and took another big bite.

Monty folded his legs Indian-style. “Maybe you could hide in my basement?”

Ian shook his head. “Thanks, but we can’t put you in danger.”

“We? Who else made it?”

“Leslie, Travis, and Kenny.”

Monty’s mouth made an “O” but no sound came out. He closed his mouth and gave Ian an expectant look.

“I need help, Monty. We’re cold and hungry.”

Monty snickered at that one.

“We need a tent, clothes, food, and a hunting rifle.” Ian looked down at his feet. This asking for help was hard.

Monty rubbed his chin. “Mother has been collecting for the poor. I could bring you some blankets and canned goods, she’ll never miss them.”

Ian swallowed the lump that had risen in his throat. “That would be great.” He hesitated. “I could really use a hunting rifle. Know where I could get one?”

Monty wrinkled his brow and pressed his lips together, his concentrating face. “You know I’d have to get a license approved through the Second Sphere to get a rifle. I sure as heck don’t want to bring them down on you. I’ll have to think on that one and a tent. Haven’t ever seen a tent donated.”

“Sure,” Ian said, his voice showed more of his disappointment than he’d meant to do. He forced a smile. “Don’t do anything that’ll get you in trouble. Canned foods and blankets will be a big help.”


The Real World

I don’t remember what prompted me to look up walkie-talkies after I wrote the scene, but I did.

The first device to be widely nicknamed a “walkie-talkie” was developed by the US military during World War II, the backpacked Motorola SCR-300.

Wikipedia

The first handheld walkie-talkie was the AM SCR-536 transceiver from 1941, also made by Motorola, named the Handie-Talkie (HT). 

Wikipedia

After the war, surplus handheld radios made it into the market. The public called them “walkie-talkies.” At least one toy version of the handheld radios first appeared in the 1950s from Remco. Their limited availability, popularity, and particularly their limited range made them not acceptable for use in this story. Gulp. Lesson learned: do your research before writing thousands of words. Or, do as I did, but be prepared to cut your darlings.

The scene was cut. I used surplus Handie-Talkies instead of walkie-talkies.

Shameless Plug

You’ll have to read the book to see how the Handie-Talkie became important in the story. The book is available for preorder on Amazon. You can read an early draft of the beginning of Fellowship or check out the book page. And, if you are a Facebook user, follow my page and search for and join the group “Band of Dystopian Authors and Fans for my launch party. (Date to be announced soon.)

I hope you enjoyed reading this outtake from Fellowship and a lesson learned. Sometimes lessons are expensive. Sometimes they are simply a lesson for this story.

Through the Haze, a Poem

Through the Haze is a poem I wrote a very long time ago. I wrote it during a time when my life had been turned upside down and nothing was comfortable or clear or certain. It is an uncomfortable poem from a troubled time.

a girl behind a sheer curtain trying to see through the haze

I am full grown, an adult.
I had a childhood once.
It is lost and I cannot find it.

I search for a memory to cherish and find
Curtains of fear and pain
And I don't know why.

The fear rises up
The curtains become walls of iron,
But I must know.

Fearful, hopeful, I tear a curtain down,
And only get a glimpse, a fragment,
More curtains, fear, and pain.

The fear rises up.
Do I really want to know
What is on the other side?
I must.

Terrified, I yank a curtain down.
Too much, too soon.
The curtains harden.

Black walls with sharp edges.
Do they hold me out
Or hold me in?

I cry with frustration, fear, and pain.
My tears soften the walls
And I face the curtains again.
Because I must.

I am very fortunate. Caring therapists and friends and family helped me through that dark time. It took some time and a lot of soul searching. But I came out of that dark place. I can visit the things I wrote then without becoming overwhelmed.

If you’re in a place where frustrations, fear, or pain overwhelm you, I urge you to seek help. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. Your strength. Your resolve. Use the tools in your mental health first aid kit.

It is possible to get past those feelings. You can get through the haze of whatever you’re experiencing. You are strong enough. You are enough. Get help. Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

A Growl in the Dead of the Night

Years ago my husband was out of town and I was alone when I was awakened by a warning growl in the dead of the night. Our six-month-old Dalmatian pup had never growled before. He hadn’t even barked. That event sparked the inspiration for this vignette. I hope you enjoy it.


A hand reaches for the doorknob in the vignette, A Growl in the Dead of the Night, by Lynette M. Burrows

The growling woke her. Sandy groggily shushed her dog, Max. Her usually obedient dog’s throat rumbled with a warning. Alarmed she rose on her elbows and whispered, “What is it, Max?” 

The weatherman had predicted a thunderstorm for tonight. Was distant thunder what had upset Max? She listened. An eerie silence filled the air. There was no purr of the furnace, no hum of the refrigerator, no whoosh of tires on the asphalt street below her second-floor bedroom window. Max, a black and white Dalmatian, lay on the rug along her side of the bed, his head up, an ear cocked. He listened better than she did. She reached down and petted his hindquarters. He’s heard an outdoor cat. Max hated cats. “Go back to sleep, Max,” she whispered and sank back onto the bed. 

Max’s tags on his collar jangled as he leaped to his feet. He walked stiff-legged to the closed bedroom door, his growl now a snarl. 

The hairs on her arms, her back, and legs crawled. She sat up. Did a branch outside fall? Maybe a neighbor just got home. 

Max lowered his head to the crack at the bottom of the bedroom door, bared his teeth, and growled some more. 

Sandy’s heart tapped a don’t-panic, don’t panic rhythm against her ribs. She sat up, eased her legs out from under the covers and over the side of the bed. Maybe he had a nightmare. Nothing to get excited about. 

Max’s unrelenting, deep-throated growl unnerved her. 

A dry, sour taste rose in the back of her throat. Maybe Max hears someone outside. Someone who shouldn’t be there. She reached for the phone, lifted the receiver to her ear. A two-toned wail pierced the air. 

“If you’d like to make a call, hang up and dial again.” The flat, unemotional computer voice didn’t reassure her.

 Her heart fluttered. Trembling, she clung to the receiver, held it against her chest. Her teeth chattered. There wasn’t enough air. She’d counted on always being able to call the police. What now? 

Max’s growl rumbled relentlessly. 

The two-tone wail and the computer voice were on endless repeat. She replaced the receiver. 

Maybe it’s the weather that’s spooked Max and me. They predicted a bad storm for tonight. But she still couldn’t hear wind or rain. She shivered, uncertain if was because of cold or fright. 

Max barked—sharp and loud. Once. 

She didn’t think but now stood, wedged in the farthest corner of the room. Max never barks. Not without reason. She didn’t remember grabbing the five-cell flashlight, but she clutched it with both hands. She couldn’t move. Couldn’t catch her breath. Couldn’t stop her tremors. She strained to hear what Max heard. 

Seconds stretched into eternities, one after the other. The pitter-pat of rain on the roof made her tighten her grip on the flashlight. She tried to breathe slower. To listen better. Her heart beat rang in her ears. No house noise. No traffic noise. No wind. An occasional pit-pat. And still, Max growled, head low, ears flattened. 

What did Max sense beyond that door? She twisted the long flashlight in her hands. What if a burglar stood on the other side of the door, frozen for fear of Max? And here I stand frozen for fear of the burglar. Is this a Mexican stand-off? 

A deafening clap of thunder rattled the house and lightning strobed in the windows. She jumped, then gave a timorous laugh. It was the weather! Poor Max. The pressure changes must be hurting his ears. She blew out a long relieved breath. Silly dog. Silly me. The cold tile had long since leeched body heat from her feet and legs. Gooseflesh peppered her skin. The pressure in her bladder urged her forward. 

“I don’t need this anymore,” she said louder than necessary and tossed the flashlight onto the bed. “Good boy, Max.” Extra loud. Just in case. Uneasy, she giggled. I let my spooked pup spook me. “It’s ok, Max,” she said loud and clear and reached for the door.

A Growl in the Dead of the Night-a vignette by Lynette M. Burrows

Reality

Now I can laugh about the experience that inspired the vignette above but laughter was the last thing on my mind at the time. I don’t know how the story above ends—yet. In reality, I turned on every single light in the house, sat in the dining room, and spent the rest of the night doing a jigsaw puzzle. Our telephone line service was restored the next day. Strangely, our dog never exhibited that kind of behavior ever again. I don’t think too long about what that might mean. 

Be sure to check out my other fiction samples. You can find the links on this page.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the growl in the dead of night and I hope you never experience such a fright.