by Jon Batson
Unpublished novelist Jack Richmond is given an assignment by a publisher, write a book that is relevant to our time. He begins researching the book, not knowing that his task is an exercise in data gathering. But there are factions who don’t want the data gathered, and other factions who want it gathered but not evaluated. Jack and his girlfriend find themselves the target of numerous attempts on their lives. This is a NaNo novel.
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When author Jack Richmond researches his next novel, he uncovers the biggest conspiracy in history, happening under our noses and in plain sight. Now Jack and his girlfriend are running for their lives.
The great lions outside the New York Public Library watched me walk down the great stone steps, my breath reaching out before me in the cold. They seemed to be there as my personal protection, looking out for me as I stood waiting for the bus.
I pulled my coat collar up against the freezing rain of the January evening and looked around to smile at the stone guardians, still and vigilant. But they didn’t blink as the dark SUV swerved, jumped the curb and headed straight for me. I caught it out of the corner of my eye and rolled toward the great steps, notebooks flying.
A woman screamed and horns blared as I came to rest at the bottom step, sitting in a puddle of slush, my knees and elbows pulsing. The black monster, twice the size of a standard sedan, squealed, tires skidding and swung back onto the street. Four frightened pedestrians were also sitting on the sidewalk, thanking whatever deity protected them for their narrow escapes.
“Are you OK?” asked a man in a uniform. The patch indicated a private company. He was a hired security guard, possibly for the library.
“I think so.” I took the offered hand and pulled myself to my feet. “Shaken is all.” My notebooks were blowing across the intersection, ignored by the ever increasing number of cars filling the street.
“I’ll help you gather up what we can,” said the guard.
“Thanks,” I replied, glad for the help.
It was dark when I finally gave up on the rest of my notes. The incident was ignored by the passing police, as there was no one hit and no injuries. An SUV jumps the curb a lot these days, so many people are on the phone, driving with one hand, while drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette.
“Student?” asked the guard, handing me the pieces of a loose-leaf notebook.
“Novelist. I’ve got a pipe and a bottle of Jack Daniels at home to prove it.”
“Ah! Researching a story?”
“Yeah, my publisher wants something relevant.”
“Well, OK. Keep an eye out for wild SUVs.” He slapped me on the arm like a drinking buddy and turned to lope up the steps.
“Thanks,” I called after him. He waved a hand over his shoulder and was gone into the great hall of the library. The twin lions said nothing. Their protection was apparently at an end. From here out, I was on my own.
The bus pulled up, further soaking my pants cuffs. I got on, thinking of myself as lucky to have been missed by a run-away vehicle, unlucky for losing my notes in the slush. Maybe I was lucky to have lost no more than a few pieces of paper in a city with one of the highest crime rates in the country.
I didn’t really care for New York, but it’s where the agents and publishers are. And after all, I am a novelist. I have a laptop: cheap, reliable, and portable, containing a basic writing program and not much else. I didn’t need anything else, I was a novelist and colorful as hell. That was what I reminded myself as I opened the door to my tiny apartment in the Village. “I’m a New York novelist and I’m colorful as hell!”
I threw my coat over the back of the couch and my notebooks down on the rug. I’d sort them out later and see what I had salvaged. Most of the concepts were in my head, but the details were on paper.
I used to think that the trick of being a novelist is to make enough money to survive until you are dead and your novels and worth something. It seems it is also a matter of staying alive until you finish your novel. If one is on the right track, there are people along that track who want to kill him. The SUV might have been a fluke. Or maybe not.
I moved to New York to be a novelist. My short stories had won a few competitions, appeared in a few presses and occasionally got printed in my hometown mag, the Durham Scuttlebutt, just because I’m from there. I had three novels written: a murder mystery about a man unjustly accused, a sci-fi about alien invasions and an urban action book about the residents of a small, inner-city neighborhood. I got tired of sending, waiting and getting rejected by half of the publishers I approached, and ignored by the other half. A company tapping into the new technologies of print-on-demand, Lapazoo-dot-com, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse – self-publish for free. I liked that last word – free. I put the first two on Lapazoo and sat back to wait for my millions to come in.
My third novel was still going around, getting the same responses so far. If I didn’t make headway soon, I planned putting it out on my own through Lapazoo like I had the previous two. Do all the work, and keep all the money. There were only two things wrong with that thinking. One: there was no money coming in, and two: I would sure like to be a published novelist.
To truly be a published novelist, you had to have your ticket stamped by one of the bona-fide publishers of the world. A pat on the head and a writer’s advance from a name publisher was what made you a writer. That’s why I was in New York. But when the offer came it didn’t come from New York, but from Canada.