Category Archives: How’s the Writing Going?

Adding up my accountabilities increases my ability

I did this for Bend Me, Shape Me, and got that finished and released in record time, plus it is my best written book to date, so I’m going to try doing the same thing for Box of Rain.

In order to reach my deadline of having the first draft done by August 1 of this year, I will be updating the following word count goals as I reach them.

!!!   Goal Reached !!!

(Now on to the editing)

Word count goal: 70,000

Total word count as of  August 1:



It’s raining titles

Embed from Getty Images

I’m thinking of changing the working title of my third Street Stories novel from Hello Goodbye to something that has the word Rain in it.

[EDITED TO ADD: As you can see from the title of the blog now, Box of Rain won the poll and is currently the working title.]

One of the main reasons for doing that is because the story takes place in Chicago during the spring and it looks like it is going to be raining or threatening to rain every day of the story. (What can I say, the muse must have its way.)

Right now my favorite title is “A Box of Rain” from the Grateful Dead song because I plan to have the cover image show a dumpster in an alley, plus it fits the theme of Jo dealing with her father who is potentially dying.

Vote below to help me decide which title works best. In addition to having the word Rain in the title, I would like it to either be or strongly reflect the title from a rock song of the 60s or 70s. If you want to suggest a title not listed below, try visiting the Songfacts website for inspriation.


Homeless teen documentary has reached its goal

Earlier this month, on my author blog, I mentioned a Kickstarter campaign for a documentary about three homeless youth and their struggles to stay in school and make a life for themselves. I am happy to announce they have reached their goal so the project is moving forward!

I applaud the efforts of Kirsten Kelly and Anne de Mare who are trying to show that there are kids on the street who are just as motivated and just as deserving of success as any kid. I am hoping that the new Street Stories novel I am working on will also highlight that reality.

Meet Booker T

BookerTThe characters and plot for the third Street Stories suspense novel is coming together and the writing has begun. One thing that is essential to creating a story that grabs the reader is knowing your characters inside and out. For me that means getting inside their head before I even write one word about them. I do that by free-writing from their point of view and it is simply amazing what stories they tell me while I inhabit their minds.

Here's what Booker T. Brooks (aka "T" or "Bookworm") had to say:

My mama named me after Booker T. Washington, some famous black dude who used to be a slave but grew up to be an adviser to the President of the United States. She learned about him in grade school, I think. Couldn’t be high school, I don’t believe, because she always say she never went if she could help it and dropped out, pregnant, at 16. I read a book about him at the library once, Booker T that is, just to see why she picked the name and the only reason I could figure out is his picture looks an awful lot like what I remember of my daddy.

My daddy left us when I was seven maybe. Eight at the most. Left all us kids, there was five of us by then, with me the oldest. He just up and disappeared. We never did learn if he went cause he wanted to or if something happened to him. Could be dead for all I know. He was mixed up in some bad shit, mama said, gang stuff, you know. Lots of that happening in Englewood, the Chicago neighborhood I was born in.

Mama left there shortly after. Moved to Uptown with her sister. They was ten of us living there then, (Aunt Suni had three little ones, including Shorty, my cousin). Then Mama got pregnant again ( I think maybe she was whoring it to make some money), twice even, and they just couldn’t keep up with all us kids. We ran wild. I’m not sure who exactly called DCFS on us, probably one of the neighbors complaining about them pesky kids down the hall, but them people didn’t like what they saw when they got there. It was only a one bedroom apartment, and not too big at that. Us big kids got the bedroom. There was a couple mattresses throwed down for us. Mama and Auntie slept with the babies in the front room, except when one of ‘em brought up a beau. Then the other would drag the playpen into our room and make a couple of us sleep on the floor so she could have a spot on the mattress.

Looking back, I can see the place wasn’t too clean—toilet didn’t flush half the time, dishes didn’t get washed till you ate on em two, three times, hell,we even had a cat for a while used to use an old blanket in the closet for a litter box. It didn’t seem too bad to us at the time, though, we always had somebody to play with, or fight with. The worst is I can remember being hungry all the time. And the yelling. Mama and Auntie couldn’t really control the pack of us, but that didn’t stop em from screaming at us to behave. Lucky for us, they usually let it end with the yelling. Swatting our rear ends musta took too much energy. I know they were tired. Both of ‘em. They did the best they could.

It probably didn’t look that way, though, when the DCFS came. I heard words like “shocking” and “filthy” and this one woman had the most disgusted look on her face. Long story short, they took most of us away that day—only left the youngest—and put us in foster care. I always think maybe they got that backwards. If they’d taken the babies and let us big kids stay, I coulda helped somehow. If somebody woulda showed me how, I coulda cleaned the place up a bit, couldn’t I? Taken care of Mama at least.

Lucky for me and Shorty, we got placed together that first time. Shorty was almost my age, but he was always skinny and sick. Caught a cold just by looking outside. That didn’t stop him from being fierce. He got into more fights. If I wasn’t around to step in for him, he’d get beat so bad, but he never give in. Hell, I seen him drag hisself up from the ground when he couldn’t see straight, let alone stand and fight. If the other guy hadn’t knocked him unconscious, I think Shorty woulda kept going till he died. Mrs. C always said he was a corker. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, still don’t really. But the way she said it told she was proud of him.

Oh yeah, Mrs. C. She was our first foster mama. The best and the only one we kept in touch with. She’ll help me get out of this jam I’m in, if she can.

The homeroom

Homelessyouthchi Film director Kirsten Kelly might have been talking about my character Booker T in Hello Goodbye, with her comments below. I found this article, just after writing some dialogue for my fictional Night Moves counselor Jack Prescott:

FROM HELLO GOODBYE: “When you get a kid like Booker–hard working, level headed, smart–all those qualities that should make it easy for him to be a success and live a normal, happy life, you maybe worry a little bit more, even. Because if they can’t make it, if the system and the politics and the just God damn unfairness of life can cancel out all the kid has going for him, you start to think, what the hell chance do these other kids have, you know? What the hell am I breaking my back and my heart for if I can’t even give someone like Booker T a break?” – Jack Prescott FROM THE ARTICLE: “I had these stereotypes, of course, of what homeless kids were or what homelessness [is],” Kelly said, “And this kid broke every single stereotype and was getting good grades, talking about the future, trying to go to college.” He was about to graduate from high school and move on to other projects (he now works as a reporter, Kelly said), so instead of being a subject for the film, he and another homeless CPS student consulted with the filmmakers to help them understand the many ways students cope. “We really wanted to kind of break the stereotype of it’s just kind of the runaway kid sleeping under the bridge,'” said Kelly, who stressed that youth homelessness isn’t just kids living on the streets, but those who live from couch to couch. Kirsten Kelly via ‘The Homestretch’ Documentary – Chicago.

What’s next?

BookerTI’ve had a tentative title for the next Street Stories suspense novel for months now–Hello Goodbye–as well as a character sketch of my main street kid, Booker T. It’s only been recently, however, that the villain reared an ugly head and thus revealed the plot to me. Here’s my one sentence summary of the story. What do you think–sound good to you?

“When a homeless street kid working to get a college scholarship finds a dead body in a dumpster, the trusted mentor he turns to for help does everything possible to make him look like the murderer until reporter Jo Sullivan steps in to search for the truth that will keep him on track for a dorm room instead of a prison cell.”

Outlining is coming along well and that should make the story relatively smooth to write. I’m hoping to be finished and maybe even released by the end of 2014. Stay tuned for more hints and updates as the work progresses.

Breaking open the wrapper

I think I just started writing my third Street Stories novel. I was working on plotting, and suddenly my search for character names turned into this. What you you think?

Embed from Getty Images

Wobble by V.I.C. jammed so loud Shorty’s ass couldn’t stop bouncing to the beat. The whole crowd rolled with the music like scum on waves of water. The new kid finished his fancy footwork with a scuffle and jump that set off a roar of approval, then hopped off the square of cardboard to give Booker T. his shot at pleasing the audience. Booker started off with a tail-feather shake that earned whistles from the ladies in the front.

“Go T! You can beat him.” Shorty leaned in like he could use his own shoulders to help his friend win the battle.

“Bookworm be booking it a’ight,” Teach agreed.

“My man don’t like that byline, Teach, so watch yo’ mouth. Hear me.” Shorty turned to the guy standing next to them. Avery something. “Better pay up now, krill, if you in. Or it be too late to shit in the pot.”

The college drip, slumming it up, no doubt, for a little R & R, handed over a fat fifty. “You better be right, dude. He’s slamming the alley for sure, but that other guy’s no hip hop whore either.”

“‘That other guy’s no hip hop whore,’” Shorty mocked in a high pitch. “Hip hop snore be more like it. He got no moves at all compared to my boy T there.”

“You dance better than that, baby,” said the pretty boy’s eye candy. She batted fake lashes and rubbed her boob on Avery’s arm. “Let’s get to the club, huh? Tiff’s waiting for us.”
Avery shrugged her off with a growl. “That bitch can wait her whole life for all I care. Now shut up and watch while I win some money here.”

Just another round to go and it was over. Booker had the crowd in tears of joy with his last spin and tickle, jumping up with a grin wide as a trucker’s ass-crack. Money started changing wallets, T’s arm was lifted by someone in the crowd, and the loser shook hands with a grin and a good word on a kick-ass game.

Shorty turned to Avery. “See, I tole you, I done tole you, frat boy. Let’s go collect our winnings ‘fore Chubs decides to cut and run without paying his dues.”

I’m excited to start incorporating street dance into Hello Goodbye. Watch for more vids like the one below as I research for inspiration.

Where do you get your ideas?

Read the essay by this homeless youth that provided one of the inspirations for the theme of Box of Rain.

Sliding Into Homelessness

By Zakkiaya Bowen

I am 21 years old and a full-time student at LaGuardia Community College, working toward a degree in writing and literature. I am a writer for Represent magazine and I work as a research analyst for an international company.

I sound like I’ve got it all figured it out, right? Well, I kind of do, but I’m still homeless.

Here’s how it happened…

via Guest Post | ‘Sliding Into Homelessness’: A Student Essay and Teaching Resources –