Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chapter Two

After eight hours of stomping huge bugs in line after line of drool-enducingly boring code, Eric powered down his Dell laptop and vacated his cubicle in favor of the still-hot downtown streets. As he fired up the V8, he noticed that the temperature gauge was already creeping toward the center line -- not a good sign. Eric resolved to take a look at the engine the next morning, Saturday (assuming the Thunderbird made it back to his apartment).

The old coupe did, indeed, make it back to the apartment, though the temperature was solidly in the red zone when Eric killed the engine. A loud pop echoed through the street, followed by a long hiss as superheated engine coolant flooded out from under the T-bird's hood. Eric watched the steaming green mess flow downhill toward the sewer grate and shrugged. Definitely should take a look at that.

Eric's wrists were killing him, and he was looking forward to getting into a short-sleeved shirt as soon as he got into the apartment. It wouldn't be particularly hard to find one, Eric saw as he walked into the apartment -- his few clothes were strewn all over the living room, and there was a rather large man in a black suit rummaging through the drawers in his kitchen.

Over the past several years, Eric had gotten into the habit of sizing other men up as soon as he met them. Men like Kenny, for example, were easy prey -- one or two solid hits to the skull and they'd go straight down. The man now smoking a cigarette and tearing through his belongings, however, was a different story altogether.

Even hunched down, Eric could see that the man was tall, though not so tall as to be awkward or ungainly. He was also heavy, but not in the typical American too-many-donuts way -- Eric estimated his weight just north of 200, most of it muscle. The gun bulge evident in his suit jacket wouldn't make the guy any easier to take in a fight, either. Eric should have been worried about the huge, buzzcut guy rifling through his possessions, but instead he just sighed.

"You know, you could have called first," Eric greeted, tossing his keys on the small table next to the door.

"Read the terms of the agreement you signed. Surprise visits. Wouldn't be much of a surprise if we called and gave you time to get rid of all of the guns and drugs, would it?"

"One, no guns or drugs. You've probably figured that out by now. Two, technically the person who signed that agreement doesn't exist anymore, does he? And three, would it have killed you to put the stuff you threw out of my closet back in the closet?"

The Federal Marshal straightened up and snuffed out his cigarette in Eric's kitchen sink. He immediately pulled a pack of Marlboro lights out of his suit jacket and lit another, then offered the pack to Eric.


"You're an asshole, Dean."

Dean smiled, showing two rows of straight, nicotine-stained teeth.

"I'm going to need to search your vehicle, as well," he said, inhaling from his cigarette.

Eric picked up his keys and held them out to the Marshal.

"You want these? Or does breaking and entering make you feel more manly?"

Marshal Dean snatched the keys from his hand and walked out the door.

"See if you can fix the radiator while you're out there," Eric grumbled. He walked over to his fridge, pulled out a can of @red_bull_energy, and downed it in a shot. It cooled him off a little, but not near enough, and the air conditioning in his apartment was of course broken, so he downed another, heart palpatations be damned.

Eric plucked a brown T-shirt off the couch and stripped off the long-sleeved shirt and polo, then replaced them with the lighter shirt. The tattoos on his forearms were visible now, but he didn't care -- Dean had seen them already, and it was too damned hot to keep schlepping around his own place in too many layers. He rubbed the long, thin vertical scars starting at the underside of his wrists all the way up to his elbows -- working on a keyboard all day managed to irritate them nicely.

Now, don't fidget, my boy, or Russel here might accidentally nick an artery.

Eric shivered in spite of the extreme heat and shook his head violently. He'd had a bad enough day already without thinking of that.

Mind the tattoos, Russel. It's beautiful work, isn't it? Hate to spoil them.

Eric splashed water on his face in the kitchen sink, trying to ignore the extinguished cigarette Dean had left there. His short hair now wet and plastered to his forehead, Eric collapsed on the couch. He tried to flip through the channels on the TV for a few minutes, but found it hard to concentrate on much. He turned off the TV, tossed the remote on the cigarette-burned surface of the coffee table, and waited for Dean to come back in and give him more shit.

About five minutes later, Federal Marshal Ryan Dean did, in fact, return to the apartment. He pulled up one of the kitchen chairs across from Eric, sat down, and pulled out his notebook.

"Staying out of trouble?" Dean asked, clicking his pen.

"Of course. I don't think there's any trouble to get into in this town."

"Work going all right?"

"It's mind-numbingly boring and way beneath my skill level. Other than that, it's lovely."

"Have you contacted or attempted to contact any friends, family, or other associates in the city of Tampa?"

"I have no friends, family, or other associates, in Tampa or otherwise."

Dean finished scribbling on his notepad and returned it and the pen to his suit jacket.

"Look, Eric. I know we give each other a lot of shit, but sadly, I really do care about you making a life here. So, really. . . if you do have any problems, I want you to tell me about them."

Eric blinked -- this was the first time in months that Dean had acted remotely human towards him.

"Um. . . no. I mean, apart from being bored, nothing wrong, really."

"Good. Just stay out of trouble. Follow the rules. It's tough starting over, but I've seen guys make it," Dean handed Eric a business card, "If you need anything, just give me a call or shoot me an email, all right?"

"Uh, yeah."

"Also, we'll need you to come into the office sometime in the next week. Nothing huge, just a post-trial debreif. Carve out a couple of hours and give me a call, yeah?"

"Will do."

"OK. Oh, and you might want to look at your radiator. Damn thing's leaking all over the street," Dean grinned as he walked out the door.

* * *

The next morning, Eric was up at 6:30. After a quick two-mile run around the neighborhood (which sucked with a long-sleeved running shirt) and a 45-minute weight workout in his apartment, he changed into a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt and dove into the engine compartment of his Thunderbird.

The radiator was cracked, and would need to be replaced. Eric was just about finished removing the old one when he saw blue and red lights flashing behind the T-bird. He stood and wiped off his hands on his jeans, and came face to face with the Sheriff's Deputy that had been driving past his house every morning.

"Um, hi," Eric started.

"Hands where I can see them," @JohnnySix spat. He was shorter than Eric, but visibly a lot stronger. Eric put his chances at beating the Deputy in a fight at about 60%, but he wasn't going to go slugging a cop. Not anymore.

"Sure thing, Deputy," Eric sighed, raising his hands to shoulder level. "Mind if I ask what this is about?"

"The less you say, the better, Killer," Johnny growled, reaching slowly for the handcuffs on his belt.

Eric had been introduced to Deputy Jonathan Teal four months ago upon relocating to Omaha. It was standard Marshals Service practice to alert local law enforcement when a Federal witness was being placed in their town via Witness Security, and Johnny Teal had been the officer assigned to keep tabs on Eric. On that day four months ago, Teal hadn't even bothered to look Eric in the eye or shake his hand -- he'd spoken only with Marshal Dean, acting as if Eric was beneath his contempt.

Johnny cuffed Eric's hands behind his back and ushered him to the waiting cruiser. Eric decided that his best bet was just to play along until he found out what the hell was going on. He knew he still had Dean's card in his wallet, so if they gave him a phone call, he supposed he'd use it.

Johnny didn't say a word on the way to the station, which left Eric with little to do but stare at the back of the Deputy's head. He guessed that Johnny was a couple of years younger than him, probably not yet even 30, but the man's hair was already turning grey. He also had a long, wide scar on the back of his neck, one that looked decades old.

The ride to the Douglas County Sheriff's Station wasn't a long one -- it was just off 16th and Leavenworth Streets downtown, not far from where Eric worked. Still, any ride with a short, burly cop who obviously didn't care much for him seemed much longer than it was. By the time the cruiser stopped at the station, Eric was racking his brain to figure out what he might have done to bring him there. He'd kept very much to himself apart from work and eating out once in a while because he was too lazy to cook (and he never was a terribly good cook, anyway). As near as he could remember, he hadn't even fractured a speed limit since he'd been in town.

"Out of the car, Killer," Johnny barked, throwing open the cruiser's back driver door.

Eric allowed himself to be roughly trundled into the building, though his urge to slip the cuffs and put Johnny on the floor was definitely rising. Johnny tossed him into an elevator, and a few seconds later, hustled him through a door that had "Criminal Investigation Division" painted on the frosted glass. All the way in the back of the large, dimly lit room was a door that said "Shift Commander." Johnny stopped manhandling Eric long enough to knock on this door.

"Come in," a deep voice came from the other side of the door.

Johnny opened the door and pushed Eric into a chair across the desk from another man, slightly older, in a County Sheriff's uniform. @HuskerNate79 wasn't a Marine, and he never had been, but he looked like one. He had a short, efficient haircut, was meticulously clean-shaven, and rose from his desk chair with an air of command and authority that Eric had only previously seen in members of the military.

"Thank you, Deputy Teal. You can close the door," Deputy Nathaniel Moore said.

Johnny closed the door and posted himself next to it like a sentinel, keeping his eyes locked on Eric as if he expected the man to spring from the chair and kill them all.

"You'll forgive me for the early-morning wakeup call, Mr. Hawkins, but we seem to have a bit of a problem here."

Eric was still getting used to the last name Hawkins, but if he had any doubt that Nathaniel was addressing him, it was erased by the commanding Deputy's intense focus in his direction.

"We do?" was all Eric could think to say.

"Indeed. I'm sure you've noticed during your hundred or so days in this town that we're used to a nice, quiet, pretty stress-free life around here."

"If you mean boring, then, yes. I have noticed that."

"Call it what you want. But not two weeks after you moved from the hotel to your apartment, we found a body on the banks of the river. We do get a few of those around here -- bodies, that is -- but not the way this man was found."

Nathaniel flipped open a file folder and pulled out a crime scene photograph. It looked to have been taken in daylight, and there was, indeed, a body splayed out by the banks of a river, shot more than once in what used to be his head, but was now unrecognizable. The man's left arm had also been severed at the elbow.

"Now, unfortunate and a bit gruesome, to be sure. But not a pattern. Once is unfortunate. Twice is bad luck," Nathaniel continued, opening another folder and showing another picture to Eric. The setting for this one was different -- warehouse, maybe? -- but the subject was the same. Another male body, headshot all to hell, left arm severed at the elbow. "But three times, Mr. Hawkins, is a pattern."

Nathaniel opened yet another folder and produced yet another picture. This one was in an alley, but it was familiar nonetheless -- another body, face down in the dirt, butchered in the exact same fashion as the previous two.

"We found number three late last night. So, I made some calls to a friend in Tampa P.D., and he emailed me these."

Nathaniel pulled three just-printed photos off of his desktop. The setting was again different -- an industrial port -- but in each of the three photos were men splayed on the concrete, shot several times in the head.

"Recognize the work, Killer?" Johnny growled at Eric.

"What was the time of death on your victims, if you don't mind my asking?"

Nathaniel shrugged, as if to say What could it hurt?

"Last one was killed around noon yesterday."

"Ooh. Sorry, can't help you out there. I was at work noon yesterday. Your boy here," Eric nodded at Johnny, "Could tell you that, I'm sure, as he makes a habit of driving by me every four hours or so."

Johnny grumbled something under his breath, and Eric tried not to smirk.

"Look, I know, it's tempting. Something fucked up happens, you pull in the new guy in town with a jacket. Can't say I'd have done much different myself. But, believe it or not, I have been keeping to myself, and keeping to the rules of the program."

"You'll forgive a bit of skepticism, Mr. Hawkins, but it's not easy for me to believe a man with three bodies on him," Nathaniel said.

"Well, technically, Eric Hawkins has no criminal records, but that's just splitting hairs. Check with the U.S. Marshals Service, and you'll find out that those three bodies were classified as killing in self defense, and that any charges their killer may have faced were dropped."

"Cut the bullshit, Killer," Johnny sneered.

"Thank you, Deputy Teal. I think I can handle it from here. Please remove Mr. Hawkins' restraints and return to work," Nathaniel glared at Johnny. Johnny straightened up immediately, uncuffed Eric, and left the room.

"I apologize for him. Johnny's a good cop, but he's a bit of a broadsword. You need someone beat on, he's your man. You need critical thinking, look somewhere else," Nathaniel sighed.

"I know the type," Eric nodded, rubbing his wrists.

"It goes without saying, Mr. Hawkins, that we're going to be keeping a bit closer an eye on you. I doubt you're necessarily responsible for these recent bodies we seem to have found ourselves saddled with, but I would also be remiss to rule you out just because you seem nice enough."

"Understood. Look, Deputy, you seem smarter than your dog out there. I can assure you that I have nothing to do with those three unfortunate souls, but I did notice something in the last picture you showed me."

Nathaniel handed Eric the picture, and Eric nodded. He turned the picture around to face Nathaniel, tapping the back of the corpse's neck.

"Russian Mafia. I've. . . seen them before."

"How can you tell?"

"The tattoo on the back of the guy's neck. It's a little covered by all the blood, but you can just make it out."

Nathaniel took the picture back and looked closer. There was, indeed, a tattoo on the back of the man's neck -- thin and faded, the Cyrillic characters СЛОН.

"What does it mean?"

"It's an acronym for Solovetsky Lager' Osobogo Naznacheniya, a Soviet prison camp that closed years ago. It's a popular tattoo in Russian prisons, though, with a different meaning." Eric decided not to mention that the tattoo was generally understood to mean Smert' Legavym Ot Nozha, or "death to cops from a knife."

"Now, that just means the guy probably spent some time in a Russian prison. But the severing of the left arm is what clinches these guys as Mafia. They'd all have a tattoo there, a kind of a cross wrapped in barbed wire or a spiderweb design. Someone wanted to throw you off the trail by getting rid of the identifying marks -- they just must not have noticed the one on the back of this guy's neck," Eric explained.

"You're sure about this?"

"Pretty sure."

Nathaniel considered for a moment. It was obvious to Eric that the Deputy didn't terribly like a scumbag from Witness Security's low end of the food chain coming into his house and telling him what was what -- but he probably knew from Eric's record that this particular scumbag had spent several years inside an organized criminal organization. Eric's experience as a criminal lowlife might just be the most useful break they'd had.

"All right. I'll get Deputy Teal to take you back home. Just do me a favor and stay outof trouble, please?" Nathaniel asked.

"That's pretty much my entire mission objective these days, Deputy," Eric nodded.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Five Thousand

Well, if is to be believed (and I have no reason to think it would lie to me), the next set of tweets will put the book just over 5,000 words, which is officially the beginning of a story. Also, doing the math, that means I'll have roughly 2,000 tweets or so (if the story wraps up at around 50,000 words), so we're definitely in it for the long haul.

I'm actually rather having fun with the idea. I've started with the characters-based-on-Twitter-avatars idea, and I'm curious to see how long it will take the people who I've hijacked into the story to realize they've been appropriated as a character model, in a sense. As I've said before, I do know some of them, but not all. Sometimes, as is the case with the Shift Commander character, I just really dug the profile picture.

And now, I am rambling. I may do another update tonight, as I'm still writing from the previous one. Time will tell.

Thanks for riding along!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Chapter One

[Chapter One]

Eric could smell the smoke in the air as he woke. The apartment's previous tenant must have been at least a three-pack a day man, and the bargain-basement carpet shampooer the landlord had rented to clean the place out had done little to neutralize the thick smell of nicotine. For Eric, who was still trying to quit, the smell was maddening.

Still, though, a part of him was grateful for the smell. In the hotel he'd lived in for the first month in the city, he'd woken every morning with disorientation and dread. It got so the feeling of not knowing where he was became familiar to him -- that the disorientation was expected and almost comforting. He knew that, for the sake of his own mental health, he needed to find a more permanent living situation and do it quickly.

Hence, the crappy one-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of an ancient building in what the landlord assured him was a "revitalized" neighborhood. Disorientation and dread each morning had been replaced by need and bitterness, which of course wasn't pleasant, but Eric preferred it to the alternative.

As he rose from the thrift-store-quality twin bed and stretched out his arms -- his shoulder had decided to lock up on him again in his sleep -- Eric willed himself not to go straight to the emergency half-pack of Camel Lights that was singing to him from the top drawer in his tiny kitchen. Instead, he tried to preoccupy himself with getting ready for work.

Shower and shave. Eric still hadn't quite gotten used to the shaving bit -- up until very recently, he'd taken a great amount of pride in his facial hair, which he'd had in some form or another since graduating high school more than fifteen years before. Clean-shaven Eric still looked strange to him, peering back at him from the mirror and wearing a confused look as if to say, "Yeah, I don't recognize you either, pal."

After the stubble had been raked from his face with a dulling blade, Eric grabbed some clothes that looked fairly clean from the pile next to his bed -- a long-sleeved T-shirt worn under a polo shirt, dark blue jeans, and a pair of socks that still appeared more or less white. He laced his boots and checked the time on his alarm clock -- looked like he'd have time to catch breakfast on the way into the office.

It was already warm outside, like Eric remembered Florida being warm on summer mornings. The damp air made him start sweating under his long sleeves almost immediately, and he wondered how the weather here in the middle of the country could feel almost exactly the same as the weather on the Gulf Coast. He'd expected warm summers, but the humidity? Where was that coming from? Near as he was aware, Nebraska was a land-locked state.

The police cruiser was just driving by as Eric made it out to his car, a slightly worse-for-the-wear 1994 Thunderbird he was still getting used to driving. For the first several weeks, the cruiser and Eric had ignored each other, but nowadays Eric put on a big, goofy grin and waved at the car. Its driver had yet to wave back.

It wasn't as though Eric expected he and the cop to become bestest buddies or anything (he knew it was the same cop every time, as the number on the Douglas County Sheriff's Cruiser was the same every morning), but would it kill the guy to throw a wave? Honk the horn? Flash a grin? Give some indication that, yes, he knew Eric was there and Eric knew the cop was there. Did he actually think he was being subtle?

More likely, Eric thought, was that the guy wanted to be seen. He probably waited every morning just at the end of the block for Eric to pop out of his apartment, then drove by slowly, delivering a none-too-sly "I'm watching you" message. Eric wondered how many crimes were going on while this jackass was sitting at the end of the street idling, waiting to intimidate someone he hadn't even spoken to yet.

Probably not too many crimes, really. Eric had lived in more than one big city in his lifetime, and Omaha struck him as sort of a third-grader's idea of what a big city was like. For the sheer size of it, he had yet to find a single strip club or a bar that stayed open past one in the morning. It was as if someone had taken, for example, Chicago, then thrown out all of the interesting people and Disneyfied whatever was left. All of the "undersirables" in the city seemed to be corralled in the Northeast corner, and the rest of the town was thick with fat, middle-class white families.

It actually reminded Eric of a place that was perpetually stuck in an 80s sitcom. Kids probably still hung out at the fucking *mall* here, for Christ's sake. Even the radio stations were lame, pumping out only the most nonoffensive of the oldies or, worse, the current Top-40 crap. With his first paycheck from his new job, Eric had probably spent more than the car was worth on an in-dash MP3 player, as listening to the censored-by-majority-opinion radio was bound to drive him to drink again.

So, as he started up the once-proud Thunderbird, Eric blared The Exploited's "I Hate Cop Cars" as a none-too-subtle "fuck you" to the Sheriff's Cruiser that was still creeping slowly down the street. He rolled down both of the power windows, amazed that they still worked, and again waved at the cop as he passed him and headed out onto the street.

Work was less than a ten-minute drive away, in the area that Omaha proudly called its Downtown. Two not-very-tall skyscrapers seemed to be the main centerpiece of the area, and the natives that he'd spoken to were actually in awe of the larger one, which had apparently just been constructed a few years before. It stood a pitiful 40 stories high, and looked like it was designed in a Kindergarten art class. Unfortunately, Eric had to see it every day -- he worked just down the street at a much older, more run-down iron-fronted building that seemed much more at home in the area.

Eric parked the Thunderbird in one of the many downtown parking garages, this one a little over a block away from the office. The walk was only brutal in the winter or the dead of summer, and it was now the latter. Trying to think about anything but the fact that the walk from the garage to the office was exactly one cigarette long, Eric stuck to the shadowed side of the street, still sweating slightly as he approached the door to the office.

Security Software Associates, Inc., took up the third floor of the building that Eric guessed had once been a bank headquarters. The company made enterprise-level data-encryption software, and Eric was employed as a base-level software engineer. The job was $18 an hour, 40 hours a week, and painfully boring. Eric was pretty sure he could do the work in his sleep, which, he supposed, wasn't far off from the plugged-into-an-iPod-starting-at-the-screen state he ended up in most days.

There was a small greasy-spoon diner on the first floor of the building, built entirely to cater to the several companies in residence inside. Six tiny formica four-tops crammed the small space, and a long, narrow window afforded every one of those tables a view into the kitchen. During the lunch hour, the place was always packed, but Eric never had a problem finding a table for breakfast. Most of the people in the building tended to show up right at eight, hung-over and with hair that had not yet dried from a quick dash through the shower. Eric had made a habit of showing up just after seven when the place opened -- the diner's single waitress never had to ask for his order anymore, as it was always the same. She just nodded to him as he took a seat and filled his coffee cup, then went off to tell the cook to prepare the two egg whites, dry toast, and hash browns.

He checked a couple of news sites on his phone as he sipped the first of many cups of diesel-grade coffee the day had in store. The @Omaha_dot_com version of the town's local paper didn't have too much of interest, but it rarely did. @cnn had an unintentionally amusing story about the global economic crisis, which pretty much could have been restated as one paragraph repeating "We're all doomed!" Eric vaguely remembered when CNN had reported on interesting things, like science and technology, rather than sensationalizing every bit of celebrity gossip they could get their hands on.

As he plowed into his breakfast, Eric sighed internally. He liked to tell himself that he hadn't always been this cynical, and that recent events had just made him that way. He tried reminding himself that Omaha wasn't such a bad town, really, and that there were plenty of worse places he could have ended up. This, too, was part of his morning ritual, this resigned internal pep-talk. As with most mornings, it failed to work yet again.

The waitress -- she never wore a name tag, and Eric had never asked her name -- was clearing the plates and refilling his coffee cup when Kenny plopped down in the metal-and-plastic faux-50's-diner chair across from Eric. Kenny was the guy at the office who spent more time wandering around trying to be pals with everyone than getting any work done. Though it had been nearly a decade since Eric had last worked in an office, he remembered the type well -- there seemed to be one in every workplace, and they were all, without question, as annoying as fuck.

"Hey, Big E! How's it hangin' this morning, my man?" Kenny gushed, looking for all the world like he still thought he was in the same fraternity house where he'd puked away his college career several years before.

Eric wasn't in the mood for company that morning, but really, he hardly ever was. Gone were the days when Eric could just tell someone like Kenny to fuck off. He remembered those days somewhat fondly now, and how, back then, if such a confrontation got physical, so much the better. It was one of the few (read: many) things Eric missed from his old life.

Eric sighed, wishing he could just deck Kenny right in his stupidly grinning face and knock out some of that expensive, parentally funded dental work. Instead, he forced a smirk.

"Kenny," he replied flatly.

"Toppin' off on the coffee before work, eh? Good plan, man, good plan. Think I'll join you. Darlene, can I get a cup of regular, hon?"

The waitress smiled at Kenny and nodded. For all of the shit he'd just been mentally giving the guy, Eric admitted that at least Kenny had bothered to learn the waitress's name, which put him a couple of rungs up on the sociability ladder from Eric. He knew he'd have to try to be, in some ways, more like Kenny from now on, as painful as that thought was.

"So, Big E. It's already gotta be 90 degrees out, and it's just going to get hotter. What's with all the sleeves, bro?"

Eric had already been asked the same questions several times over the summer, and he couldn't believe his co-workers had nothing better with which to occupy their minds than his wardrobe choices. Sadly, though, he still hadn't managed to come up with a decent response.

"I'm. . . not a big fan of short sleeves, I guess. I get cold easy," he shrugged. Smooth, he thought. You didn't sound like a developmentally challenged child at all, there, Chief.

"Man, I love that they let us wear pretty much whatever we want here. Last place I worked, full suits, every day, no matter how hot it was," Kenny rambled. Darlene filled his coffee cup, and he finally stopped talking long enough to pour some of the beverage into his head.

Eric took a moment to study Kenny's wardrobe du jour -- a pair of pleated khakis and a peach-colored, short-sleeved knit shirt. Was that what he was supposed to be dressing like to fit in? If so, Eric decided that he'd rather be thought of as that quiet, strange guy who never left his cubicle.

Two things --

First, Chapter One is finished. With today's update, we're hovering around 2500 words, or roughly 1/20 of a novel. I'll be posting Chapter 1 here to the blog in a few minutes, so it's less annoying to read.

Now, for something ultra-cool -- yesterday morning, I noticed I had grabbed a new follower. I checked it out to find it was none other than Dennis "Machinegun" Thompson, drummer for the most brilliant proto-punk band the MC5. If you haven't heard the MC5, you're truly missing out -- and if you have heard them but don't hear Dennis' influence in every decent rock band since, you're not listening. The man revolutionized rock and roll drumming -- just try to think of, say, Nirvana without his influence on Dave Grohl -- so I'm more than a little honored and humbled that he's following this hairbrained little project of mine.

Make sure to check out Machinegun's blog, and follow him on Twitter @MC5Dennis.

Stay tuned for the Chapter One posting, and, until then, Kick Out The Jams, Motherfuckers.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Day Three -- you said no @replies! You, sir, are a liar and a scoundrel.

True. I did say no @replies. However, @'s will show up in the story for a variety of reasons, and it's all part of the awesomeness that is Twitter, that very awesomeness that inspired me to do this goofy little project of mine.

Whenever I mention a real-world person (i.e., celebrity), product, or establishment that I find represented on Twitter, I'm going to @ it. More fun, though, is that some people on Twitter will show up (on first reference, at least) as characters in the novel. Some of them I know personally, and some of them I'm just picking because their profile pictures look interesting. Now, none of the people I'm going to use as characters actually know I'm going to use them, even the ones I know personally. That's probably because none of them know I'm even doing this project, though some of them will probably figure it out (as well as who I am) rather quickly.

I'd like to make it clear that, no matter who I end up using in this way, the characters are entirely fictional, and bear absolutely no relationship to the person I'm basing the character on. As I said, in a lot of cases, I just liked the profile picture.

See? It's fun living in the future, isn't it, kids?

Friday, February 20, 2009

And so it begins.

The first 24 story tweets (and one admin tweet) are now up, representing the first 500-odd words of the first draft. I've decided I'm probably going to periodically collect and post the tweets in a more linear order here on the blog, be it weekly or by chapter (I haven't really figured that out yet).

So, it's begun. I managed to grab a few followers before I'd even tweeted, so I'll count that as a good sign. As always, feel free to drop all comments, complaints, criticisms, and "YOU SUCK!"-type missives right here on the blog, or email me if you feel like it.

500 words down. An estimated 49,500 or so to go. Let's ride.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Details (Now With 30% More Devil)

So, here's the specifics on how I see the project, brought to you in convenient bullet-form (but otherwise devoid of any sort of actual order):

  • I will post no fewer (but sometimes more) than 20 story tweets per day. I may post an administrative tweet or two, but those won't, of course, count towards the story, and I'll keep them as either the first or last tweet of the day to minimize story intrusion.
  • Sorry, folks. I probably won't @ reply or RT anything. That will seriously screw with the story flow, but that doesn't mean I don't want feedback. That's what the blog is for -- feel free to post any comment right here.
  • If you follow me, there's a pretty good chance I'm going to follow you right back, unless your tweets are really, really offensive to me -- and I'm pretty damned hard to offend.
  • Speaking of offending people, if one of my characters says or does something that offends you, first take a nice, deep breath and remind yourself that these are fictional characters, and thus should not be taken too seriously. If you've taken said deep breath and counted ten-Mississippi, but you still want to give me shit, have at it. Again, that's what comments on the blog are for. Just try not to be too much of a dick (you can be a bit dickish if you like -- Lord knows I tend to be). The more cogent and well thought-out your rantings are, the better the chance I will respond with more than a passing insult or deletion of your comment (I try never to delete comments, but sometimes obvious trolls do get zeroed out).
  • Everything I write is under Creative Commons Attribution - Share Alike, so feel free to use it as a jumping-off point for your own ideas. The only thing I ask is not to copy my work word-for-word and claim it as your own -- nobody likes plagarists. However, if you want to retweet, go ahead and retweet the hell out of anything I put up. Just make sure it's attributed properly.

Well, folks, that's about it for the moment. Ground Zero is in just over 27 hours. I look forward to the ride -- and feel free to drop comments and shoot emails my way.

Wot's all this, then?

In a nutshell, the Twitter Novel Project is an attempt to write an entire first draft of a novel on Twitter. The idea is to tweet around 20 times a day, every day, until the story is finished.

Mad, you say? Perhaps. (Or perhaps you didn't actually say anything. I'm known to hear voices from time to time.) However, I'm fascinated by the way Twitter delivers information instantly, and reaches those people who want said information wherever they are. So why not try a first draft on Twitter?

I'll post a bit more information before the project actually starts, so stay tuned. Ground Zero is Friday, February 20, 11:59 p.m. PST.

It's great to have you along for the ride!