Terry Torok

Founder at Angel Producers, Founder at Live from Earth


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WHAT IF we write a novel together, right here, write now ... [ calling all story-tellers ]

A Novel idea, born & raised in a TED Conversation, August, 2011, several of us started writing a novel. As more contributed, it turned into sort of a global road trip adventure that took off in a retro VW van. Then, oops, TED Conversation time ran out, so we passed it by and editor, who helped create a unified writing style and some edits... I'd like to share the first chapter below, and see if we can continue another chapter... Consider the ways of improve, building without denying and enjoy.
Calling all fantastical Story Tellers... IF you are game... TRY YOUR BEST NOT TO COMMENT ABOUT THE STORY, JUST JUMP IN...
IT began, Like this...
A random road trip around the planet... seemed like a good way for the seven strangers to get to know each other...

The first to respond to the small advertisement that apparently ran in every small town newspaper, was in fact the soon to be ex mayor of Now Town. Mayor Theodore Chase, named after his small-town-famous father, swears he didn't vote for his own kid, his mother claims she carried a placard in the demonstration preceding his election warning the town, Now You See Us - Tomorrow You Won't. Somehow in just 3 years, he had managed to shut down everything that made childhood worth remembering; the public libraries, the educational programs that worked with artists, even the children's wading pool. Needless to say, the town was broke, and free of art and culture. A ban on laughter might have been next, be there was no need.

It might seem no one would miss the mayor, so getting out of Now Town, couldn’t have come soon enough. Mayor Chase, took to the wheel first. The six other strangers seemed happy not to know where they might be headed, at least, for now...

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    Feb 25 2013: Hi, Terry. I would help absolutely.
    Here is a character maybe to throw into the hopper. Linnea is a recent Ivy League grad who just broke up with her boyfriend of several years, isn't ready to return to the family trailer in the little town outside of Mount Rainier, doesn't want to join her roommates heading to Teach for America, didn't want to interview for all the finance and consulting jobs recruiters came to school to fill (yuck!), and certainly wasn't ready to head to grad school! With vague ideas of becoming a change agent via artistic urban interventions (think Street Theater) and ready for any adventure to get her more acquainted with the country (or world!) she had so far seen so little of, she filled out the application and waited anxiously to see if she had been selected for the road trip.

    By the way, a couple of years ago the Richard Hugo House in Seattle hosted The Novel Live. Thirty six professional writers tag teamed in two or three hour stints, writing onstage (with real time online readers observing), a novel.

    The result was Hotel Angeline.

    It's not Anna Karenina, but it turned out okay.
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      Feb 25 2013: Great Fritzie - The end of Part 8 is where the group ended when time ran out, an editor pulled some of the styles and oddities together... jump in!
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        Feb 25 2013: I hadn't realized it was so far along. I will read what you have so far and see if I can fit in with the flow of it.
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    Mar 3 2013: Destiny is always waiting up ahead us.
    Karl Weathermore had been a local policeman in Harborville for twenty one years. His wife Sadie had wanted him to retire last year after an even twenty. She kidded him that he was getting too old to "play at cops and robbers." Karl already had a pension from the military and after twenty years with the Harborville PD he was legible for another pension check, so it wasn't like he needed to work. Karl and Sadie owned their home and lived a fairly modest life. The plain fact was Karl was afraid to retire He just couldn't see himself sitting home everyday with little of nothing to do. And he enjoyed the work for the most part. Haborville was a peaceful town, most of the time. The summer months were when things were busiest, when the city folks came to vacation. They could cause trouble, get a little rowdy but it wasn't like they were bank robbers or terrorists or nothing. The rest of the time the locals knew how to behaved.
    Karl wrapped his Sam Brown Belt around him and sucked in his belly. He had spent 40 years of his life in a uniform of one kind or another, and putting it on provided a certain order to his life. He knew who he was when he had has uniform on.
    "How much fishing can a man do?" he would say to Sadie every time she brought up him retiring. "In two more years I'll be 65 years old. I can claim my full Social Security check then, and we can take that cruise you want to go on." Sadie just give him that same old look, as if to say, "Promises, promises." He gave Sadie a kiss on the cheek like he always did and headed out the door.
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    Feb 25 2013: PART 9 :

    Suddenly the air was filled with a clang from the bong hanging at the side of the bar. Everyone turned to see the man from the oak tree standing with mallet in hand. "Please, pull up a chair and have a seat here at the round" he said to the group. Ted, immediately suspicious, grunted something too low to be understood and followed the rest to the round table grabbing a chair along the way. The man from the oak was tall, his hair a yellowed white hanging loose to the nape of his neck. He wore a tailored black suit, slightly dusty and unkempt. He had leaned over and said something to the bartender before walking over to the table; as he sat he removed an manilla envelope from his jacket...
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    Feb 25 2013: I will have something soon but right now I have writer's block. Can I get an advance?
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    Feb 27 2013: hmmm sorry...I didn't read everything...
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      Feb 27 2013: it's all good, fix as you wish place a big PART 9 or 10 or whatever number it is... and on we go! thanks Victoria!!
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    Feb 27 2013: Always the one that had to ask questions, speak for any reason, and begin conversations where none would be welcomed, Juanita spoke first. "Hey, I heard there was an art fair in the next county over. Can we stop there first?"
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    "I prefer to take my shot orally, but hey, whatever". "Bartender, make sure the next one is on fire" Sierra, was musical and she didn't miss a beat, slammed her shot. Ted now standing up on the bar, as if stumping on his last campaign stop, alcohol dripping from his back pocket "Listen everybody, that thing, is not my van, I do not have any more money than a hundred dollars, and I responded to the same ad you all did" "I just thought I'd be nice and drive first, since I seemed to be the only local"

    "Last call anyone?"

    Dre upheld her vow of quiet, popped the last of the peach in her mouth, Lucky shook his head grabbed a shot, and declared "I aint payin' for this". Sierra was apparently serious about the flaming shot. When the bartender lit it, she decided not to slide this one. Ted looked surprised and Sierra with shot in hand suggested, "try this one orally, water boy, you might want to blow it out first" "Unless you prefer everything to be overheated"...
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    Lucky materialized a crumpled newspaper from his inside, jacket pocket. "The advertisement was pretty clear man... Seven Lucky people..." Lucky stopped and smiled "Shoot man I am the only Lucky on this ride, and I'm not feelin it" he went back to finding his place reading the article "Seven Lucky people, on the ride of their lives, a road trip to their dreams, must be able to travel light- 6-9 months, all expenses paid. Apply today and tell us your dreams... blah, blah, blah," Lucky's eye caught Ted's and Dre leaned in curiously, and said her signature nothing. "You know the deal man, we need some money, some people want to stay here for the night, and the guy from South African got a very healthy bar tab started".

    The old man laughed and offered a peach each to Dre and Mouse, "Look, Lucky" Ted paused realizing he may never have placed those two words together before, so he gave it another shot "Look, I read the ad, why do you think I’m here?" "I applied too, just like you". I had no idea what was next, I just thought a road trip was a great escape".

    "Crap man, everybody at the bar thought you were the one taking us on this journey" Lucky looked disappointed and confused too. Mouse led the way, as they took a more direct cut through the garden.

    The bar was now full, Sierra was mid stream ordering up shots, seated on top of the bar, when she said, "...and catch one for water boy here, you can heat his up" "You're a funny girl" Ted smirked. "Funny yeah, I almost burst into flames fixing your sh(^%t van while you were in the rose bed with Mouse" Ted popped on top of the bar, at the precise moment the bartender slid the shot down the bar right under Ted's unfortunate position.
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    At the base of the oak sat an old man, peeling a pear he had plucked from the orchard, which sat in the east of the garden. Around his feet lay the stones and seeds of the fruit he had eaten today; an apple core, a peach stone and some cherry pips.
    “Welcome”, he said.
    "What is this place?" Mouse asked.
    "I sat here one day, eating some fruit and looking out at grass, and I had an idea. I planted one seed, and then another. Soon it turned into an idea that spread, I guess.

    His words sprouted considerable curiosity, but Ted was torn between asking the next question that could lead to a story too long or attempt to meander further into the fruitful possibility of running into Sierra again. "Is it possible you have a token sixpense sir, somewhere in your garden?"
    "Sixpense?" "So you are the ones? " Well actually Mouse here seemed quite interested and..." before he could decide his next escape clause, two more passengers from the van emerged. It was the guitar-toting quiet Canadian girl Dre and the guy with the big laugh who permanently unscrewed the van's homemade sunroof.

    "Ted, Sierra was wondering if you were ever planning to bring water back for the radiator"... "but no worries man, we got you covered, while you were lost out here in the lilies, Dre and your good man Lucky, we got the water for you man".

    In a comic book moment Ted's eyes popped, as he raised his hand with the empty bottle still in it. "But you know man, we need the money" "Money?" Ted was clearly caught in confusion. "Money, come on, we loaded into that crazy van like we were supposed to" "you know, if I knew it would be so small..." "Wait" Ted tried to hit the reset button. "What are you talking about money?"
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    Her life was a drama worthy of a film script, but no one would likely commission it. It was blancmange; she was blancmange. A public servant, no better than an automaton, at least she was, until summer 2011 beckoned and she resolved to spend the rest of the year saying 'yes' to everything which wouldn't bankrupt her, harm her or land her in jail. Instead, it landed her here...

    Mouse joined Sierra and Ted by the broken stools at the bar, "Have you had a look around?" Ted asked. "Have you found it yet?"

    "Found what?" Mouse answered, thinking that if it was some clue on this kaleidoscopic carpet, it would be lost forever.
    "The sixpence" he said, smiling.
    "The sixpence?"
    "Yeah, apparently you guys spin on it."
    "Well, we don't actually spin on a particular sixpence, but there is a saying that 'life spins on a sixpence'. It's a metaphor for how the direction of life can change quickly. I don't know where it originates but I suspect it was a betting game. But that sixpence it a long way from home."

    Curious to find out more, Mouse followed Ted. He walked out of the door, and turned into the garden, On and on they walked, past cyclamen, chrysanthemums, lavender, lilies, allium, many, many roses, poppies, hollyhocks, a laurel tree, an ash, a magnolia in bloom and a myriad of plants which Mouse could not name, some which she could not even remember seeing anywhere else.

    In the centre of the garden, stood a mighty Oak. It looked like it had been there forever, and the plants around it had travelled here on pilgrimage. In the far distant groves of oranges twinkled in the sunshine. Their pace slowed. She knew they were going to see the sixpence, but, without words, both agreed it would be a folly to race through such beauty.

    Like butterflies they bobbed their heads to drink in the scents from one flower to another, held the delicate flowers in their hands and marveled at the strength of such thin stems.
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    The soon ex-mayor, captain for the moment stayed with the ship. "I haven’t looked under a hood since I was with my…" he stopped, looking through the steam. The silhouette with the angelic voice responded. "Can you hand me that bottle" He did and she poured it over the radiator.

    "Isn't that supposed to go inside?" said Theodore. "Not yet, it's too hot". "I'm Sierra, hi". "hi" "yeah, I need to call you Ted or something, anything, really, who would name their kid Theodore?" "My parents would. I'll get some more water". Prior to that moment, Theodore never settled for Ted, his parents wouldn't have it. Now ex-Theodore, soon to be ex-mayor, from nearly defunct Now Town heard a new voice in his head and it stuck like a song from high school days. With bottle in hand, he followed the trail towards the burnt-out "H".

    As the engine cooled, Now Town, Ted, pondered the best way to elicit the relationship status of Sierra. The one already nicknamed, Mouse was the first to scurry off to the 'Obble Inn and was well into the refreshments, and negotiating a bed for the night.

    Meanwhile Sierra, pushed through the semi-swinging doors, surveyed the surroundings. “This place must have been build 50 years ago with some future optimism in mind”. More than 200 seats in the bar sit empty, a dozen more in stacks along the wall, ready for celebrations that have yet to materialize.

    The pattern of the floor swirled on it’s own, which encouraged the first few drinks to slide down unnoticed. Looking at the floor reminded her of what she hoped to forget, for the moment it lay like a stone in the pit of her stomach, threatening to send the drink back the way it came and add to the pattern on the floor.
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    Two minutes into the first song, an angelic voice emerged from the back seat. There in the rear view mirror was a striking silhouette; knees tucked under arms holding a summer dress and letting out an equally striking harmony. The rhythm of the road was in play with the buzz of the engine that sounded like the last margarita in the blender. Someone cranked on the sunroof that looked like it had been painted shut by nine shades of pink and purple. When it finally popped open, the handle flew off, a map escaped and a light rain poured in. Everybody laughed right through the next two towns. It was a perfect warm-up-act for getting to know who exactly was along for the ride...

    "Keep turning left," came a voice from the back. "I know a place to go.” A reserved contribution offered "maybe more interesting to go somewhere where nobody knows anything".

    As the mayor began to turn the wheel, He straightened up and pulled into a layby. The engine sputtered and blew a few last breaths into the heat of the day. It was the first stumbling block; what nothing did they all know...

    The last sputter of the engine produced a loud pop that motivated everyone out of the van. The steamy smoke, stoked the van's aroma for one more round. As unsettling as it might be, the VW van's hand-painted art somehow looked much better, as if revived with steam swirling around it.

    The previous silhouette in the layered sundress wasted no time and had the radiator cap off before the smoke settled. "Dry as bone" she laughed. The Brit from Liverpool, declared "so am I" and made an about face towards a half-lit sign in the distance. The Hobble Inn with the burnt-out "H" became destiny for five of the seven.
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    It would seem no one would miss the mayor and getting out of Now Town, couldn’t have come soon enough. Mayor Chase, took to the wheel first. The six other strangers seemed happy not to know where they might be headed, at least, for now...

    Even he didn't know exactly where he wanted to go yet. "Away," Theodore Chase thought as he gripped the steering wheel of the old Volkswagen van even tighter. "Mommy," he heard a voice ask tentatively, almost afraid of the answer, but too curious not to ask, "why didn't Daddy come with us?"

    At this he laughed out loud and spun the dial until a real voice that wasn't stuck in his head rumbled low through the van's speakers... "-[static]- up next an interview with The Bad Mitten Orchestra, live from Port Townsend".

    While the radio rolled into the music, the first direction rolled into Theodore's head. Port-something or other, sounded like a true north for now until someone else had a different idea to which he remained wide open.

    The VW van looked its’ part, a true throwback to '70 something, it smelled like one too. An aroma of sage, lavender and a thousand joints spiced up the ultimate send off. Outside the back window was a hand painted suggestion of flowers and words that read "...based on a true story".
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    Feb 25 2013: One question, Terry. Could you elaborate on "build without denying?"

    For example, when kids in school embark on this sort of creative enterprise, there are sometimes ground rules like that participants shouldn't come in after people have been developing the potential of characters to kill lots of them off in one swoop or to turn positive sorts of characters into racists or spouse abusers or some other device that tends to cut things off in their tracks.

    Is that what 'build without denying" means?
  • Feb 25 2013: I don't mean to discourage you, but... Too many cooks spoil the cooking, and... No master piece I know has being created by a committee. I wish you luck anyways.