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Wait, I wrote that? (Or, how 40 Souls to Keep began its life)

Libby Drew


Happy Thursday to me! Thursday is the one weekday I have off. It’s dark, cold and rainy outside at the moment. Perfect for snuggling in front of the fire. 

With the dogs. 

Which is fine. I love a solid dose of unconditional adoration. 

Who develops ideas like I do, I sometimes wonder? When a story starts as nothing more than a concept, leaving you to flesh out everything else -- characters, POV, time period etc. Many of my writer friends focus on characters. They have the perfect protagonist in their head and simply need a story for that person. But that’s not how it works for me, and here is case and point. 

While wading through my Google folders this past weekend, I found a doc titled The one where the protag saves people. I had no memory of it before I opened the file and started reading. It’s the beginning of a story I wrote many moons before I fully fleshed out 40 Souls to Keep. I was in love with the idea of visions, predestination, saving lives and mystery -- with a side of romance. This one obviously never got off the ground, which is one problem I have with starting to write before I outline. It never goes well for me. The one where the protag saves people will never be finished, because this concept has already been realized. It is Jase, Lucas and Macy’s story. 

But before that, it was going to be Issac, Jamie and Maddie’s story. It’s 5000 words of vision that was simply nurtured and turned out into the world in a different way. I do wonder if others share this sort of process.

If interested, I’ve included a short excerpt of The one where the protag saves people, just to show how similar, yet different, it is from 40 Souls to Keep


The vision of the girl’s death hit as the tall glass doors of Toy Villa slid open, beckoning him inside with warmth and bright colors. Isaac stumbled, caught his footing, then leaned on the closest shopping cart, fingers clenched on the handle until the images in his head faded and his stomach calmed. When he was steady enough to stand, he didn’t hesitate, just turned and trudged back into the parking lot toward the shiny black Range Rover, its bleached blonde owner and her chubby-cheeked spawn. On cue, fluffy snowflakes appeared in the air, slithered under his coat collar and melted against his neck. He gulped down the adrenaline and tried to smile.

Chances were, the girl epitomized everything he disliked about kids these days, but Isaac didn’t want her to die. Couldn’t let her die if he had the chance to prevent it. One’s conscience was a bitch like that. 

“Ma’am,” he called, skidding across the pavement. “Ma’am!” He raised a gloved hand and waved.

The woman had released her princess from her booster seat but was still hunched over inside the car. She wore a tight red sweater, knee high boots and (Christ Jesus, please make this fashion trend die already) ripped skinny jeans. Quite the pose. If you were into Internet porn. Which Isaac wasn’t. Mostly. Not straight porn anyway.  

“Ma’am,” he said again, louder, when he reached the side of the car. She continued to dig through her purse. From the corner of his eye, Isaac kept watch on the kid spinning circles in the brown slush, soaking her sparkly Uggs completely through.  “Please be careful of your daughter in the parking lot. The salt trucks came through earlier, but it’s still slick.”

She emerged and slung a handbag the size of roll-on suitcase over her shoulder. When she turned and caught him looming, her mouth drew into a frown. Isaac read the look, knew exactly what she saw. Tall, thin dude, faded khakis, snow-damp leather bomber jacket, brown hair gone over from fashionably shaggy to too damn long, and sparse goatee. Admittedly, he didn’t usually inspire women, or men, to swoon, but the implied distaste in her gaze, that bothered him. 

Tempting as it was to say, “Hey, in about thirty seconds, a pickup truck is going to come barrelling down this row of cars and flatten your kid. That’s what you get for letting her run amuck in an icy parking lot,” he didn’t. Because, of course, when that did happen -- in about twenty-five seconds now -- he’d have some ‘splaining to do. 

“She knows to stay close to the car.” Despite her words, the woman beckoned the child to her side. Isaac let his shoulders slump a bit in relief, but otherwise gave no sign his body was tense, his mind on alert. He sidled closer to the bumper of the Rover as well. It wouldn’t do to get killed himself, and since whatever gave him the visions -- fate, or the universe, or his mom’s prenatal pot habit -- never deigned to show him his own future, it was certainly possible. 

“Thanks. You just never know with weather like this. And some people drive like maniacs.”

“But--” Her laugh straddled bewildered and condescending. “It’s a toy store.”

Struck dumb, Isaac nodded. He wondered on occasion why the whole world didn’t come apart at the seams from sheer ignorance. “It is that. Still, I watch people drive through here all the time. Most go way too fast.”

Her eyes narrowed, speculative. Isaac cut off her line of thought before more of it transferred to her expression, or God forbid, her mouth, and he got really pissed off. “I’m not a stalker or anything. I work here. Asset Protection.” Or, in simpler terms, nab the little urchins before they made off with unpaid merchandise. Big urchins too. Those were the worst offenders.

“Ah.” A sliver of genuine warmth touched her voice. “Well, thank you.”

Distracted by the apparent honest sentiment, Isaac almost died himself. The rev of an engine, the shrill screech of tires, and the woman’s scream of fear happened in the span of two seconds. Which was just long enough, because Isaac was one lucky bastard, to spring away from the bumper, grab the girl who had once again wandered from her mother’s side, and dive to the ground between the Rover and the next vehicle. The pickup slid past, clipping the bumper he had just been leaning against, and careened into a Mercedes three spots over. As frigid, dirty water flooded down the back of his pants and soaked his ass, he couldn’t help but wonder why more children weren’t kept on a leash. They may not bite (well, some did), but they sure as hell had no respect for their own mortality. 

Edited by Libby Drew


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