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It’s done, folks. Still needs editing, still full of “tk” (look it up), but the first draft, as of just a few minutes ago, is done. And 11 days ahead of schedule.
Now on to editing.

A Shirker’s Dream?

Or, Is Jerrod Beams Just Another John C. Beale?

This Monday, Slate published a short article that attracted my attention because of the superficial affinity between its subject and the main character in my as-yet-unnamed-but-almost-finished novel. Yes, I know I’ve got to get on that. But about Beale….and Beams.

Apparently, Mr. John C. Beale was a highly-paid EPA scientist who managed to pull the wool over his bosses’ eyes, and enjoy months out of the office goofing off, while never doing a bit of work. His secret? Claiming that he was doing secret work for the CIA. Talk about bold. The full story is here.

In contrast to Mr. Beale, our more understated (not to say prosaic) Mr. Beams simply manages to escape the confines of 9-to-5 and of his cubicle while STILL getting his work done. Granted, he spends far less time doing it, and doesn’t actually do it all himself – having farmed out most of his responsibilities to a virtual assistant. But he proves far MORE effective than he was when he ascribed to the butts-in-seats school of management, as he does when we first meet him. Not exactly your model Federal employee, but that probably says more about the model than about the employee.

And speaking of meeting Jerrod Beams, the first draft of the novel is days away from being done; my goal of finishing up before New Year’s Day is well within reach, and I should actually be at the editing stage before Christmas.

Shortly thereafter, I plan to begin releasing chapters of the work on line, both here and on Facebook, and perhaps for the readers of a few selected message boards. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from the character sketch I drew of Jerrod when first planning the book.


One-Paragraph POV Summary: Jerrod Beams
The dullness, the monotony of my life first became apparent to me as I droned to work in DC, where I contributed to the hive-collective. The hum of tires on the Beltway concrete had for years filled the hollow space that was my life; now I heard an echo. I had sounded the Void. Seeking “escape,” I found inspiration in Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek, and stepped through the looking glass. I didn’t know what I wanted to escape to, just that I wanted to escape from, which was good enough for me. Or so I thought. I cleared all the fillers from my life, from the hum of my tires (telework reduced it, then remote work eliminated it), to the 10-year-old moving boxes in my garage (I can park my car in it!), to every unnecessary email twitch. Following Ferriss’ advice, I started my own business, which grew rapidly, as did that Echo inside me and the unease of my family, until Panic! I retreated to the safety of my office, only to discover in the midst of bureaucratic conformity the strength and peace necessary for a self-directed life.


Until next time, take care and Merry Christmas


A Big Step

So, today I took the plunge, and reached out to the man who inspired the novel:



Subj: A Four Hour Novel

Hi Donna,

I’m a first-time novelist, and a long-time fan of Tim’s (I know, I know…but it’s true), and I’m nearing completion of a book that he should know about.  It chronicles the life of a government wage slave who manages to escape his cubicle with the help of The 4-Hour Workweek.  I’m writing to discuss permission to quote from Tim’s book.

Although it would be possible to limit myself to referencing Tim’s work, and thereby avoid any copyright issues, I feel that a handful of quotations would greatly enhance the dramatic quality of the book.  One scene in particular – when the main character discovers and then pulls an all-nighter reading 4HWW – depends upon quotations to move the main character from skepticism to enthusiasm to action.

My plan is to publish this novel via Kindle by early Spring.  If this project sounds like something Tim would be interested in supporting, then I can provide excerpts for your review, including the sections that quote from 4HWW.  I can be contacted at this email address ( or by phone at <bleep!>.  I look forward to hearing from you.


The first line follows a cold-call formula used by Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, hence the joke.

So, this is it.  As the email indicates, it would be possible to rework the draft and only reference Ferriss’s work – and entrepreneurial advice in general – but doing so would limit the dramatic effect of that one scene.  I guess we’ll see.  But with the draft more than 75% complete, it was time to broach the subject.  I’ll keep you posted.


Word Count Update: 48,179

Some time around 5:30 this morning, I hit 48,000 words, and kept going until a certain little someone came groggily stumbling down the hall, rubbing his eyes and saying, “I want to be with you.”  Hard to say no to an adorable toddler.  He was happy to sit next to me at the breakfast bar for a few minutes of editing, but then that was all she (he? I?) wrote.

Exposing Yourself

Yes, the title was a shameless attention-getting ploy.  Sue me.

Kidding aside, the naked feeling of showing your work to Others is undeniable.  After months of closeted safety, your private thing is no longer private.  Or, rather, it’s still QUITE private, but is now in semi-public view.  Even if you have been writing with an audience in mind all along, the experience is not to be had without trepidation.

Which is a longish way of saying that early segments of The Novel have been released to readers.

How long has it been under wraps, prudishly hiding its shame?  Well, early work started in February of this year, following the Snowflake Method.  I’ll have more to say about this approach at another time, but suffice it now to say that the steps Randy Ingermanson leads you through are exhaustive and can be exhausting, especially if you have distractions in your life…like a family, a day job…you know.  By early May I had all of the plotlines, character sketches, summaries and scenes done, and began drafting.  Five short months later, the first draft was about 75% done, and it was time to get some feedback.

So, I polished up the Prologue and the first two chapters, and hit up a handful of friends to take a look.  Some are scholars.  Some are not.  Some are producers of creative fiction, others just consumers.  I chose the mix on purpose, being interested in how people of differing backgrounds would respond to my work.

So far the results have been gratifying and enlightening.  Two of the four readers have provided comments, and I’m meeting with a third for lunch this Friday to talk it over (leaving one miscreant ne’er-do-well to step up his game.  Yeah, I’m talkin’ to YOU!).  The short of what I’ve learned, though, is that Yes, the main character and his story holds the reader’s interest, and, Yes, my prose is lively enough to do the same.  I’ve also gotten some good substantive and stylistic suggestions that have improved the end product.  Which, of course, is the whole point of exposing your work to the light of day.

In future posts I’ll open up a bit more about some specifics of what I’ve learned from this process.  And maybe even flash a little text on the screen.

Yes, that’s what we call a tease.

A Query: I’d love to hear how other writers handle the review/feedback process.

The Inaugural Post

It’s another dark morning, and once again my head is ringing with the aftereffects of my day job, of staying up too late and of rising too early.  Welcome to my life, and welcome to my website.

What do I hope to accomplish with these pages?  It’s a question I ask myself often: when I’m writing for myself and for others, and now, again, as I steal a few moments from the novel and type out this post and watch the sun rise in its typical Maryland glory.

Well, I’d like to introduce you to my life, and to the processes by which I bring my life to my writing.  I’d like to show you some of that writing, too.  And I’d like to take the occasional opportunity to comment on the news of the day, or on a good book, or on some writing technique, or any other tidbit I stumble across, as it relates to one project or another.

For today, though, let me simply (very simply, Maya Angelou would say) say, “Hello.”  Welcome to my site.  I hope you visit early and often, to follow the progress of my writing, and to leave a little of your own wisdom in the comment lines.