Quite a few people ask me how the next book is coming along and usually my answer is simply, “good!” Here is a little more depth to that answer.
I started writing the second book about a week after finishing the first draft of The Freezer. I didn’t get far into it before writing in general ended up on the back burner for several years. When I finally decided to dedicate the time to finishing and publishing The Freezer, I dusted off the old file for book 2 and took a look at what I had. It was good and I spent a little time refreshing my memory on where I wanted to go with it. Since then I have added about 50,000 words to this manuscript and I am a little more than halfway done. I have about 90% of the story written in my head, but putting down another 50,000+ words takes time.
I did hit a big roadblock, however. Two months ago I had surgery on my right arm and wrist. I didn’t expect how much it would affect my ability to type. I am back to about 90% usability of my right hand, and now I can type for more than a few minutes without pain. Unfortunately, between the summer days calling me outside, my day job, my family, and my other hobbies, trying to get back into writing after so long of a break is proving to be challenging. I am dedicated to getting this book finished, however, so for those waiting to read the next book, I hope to have something out before Christmas, possibly sooner. I just re-read the first 10 chapters and made some big changes to one that had been bothering me, and I have to say I am quite happy with the story as it is developing. I am introducing a lot of new elements to the world I created in The Freezer as well as bringing back all the characters you enjoyed in the first book.
Here is an unedited sample of the first chapter of the new book. I don’t have an official title yet, but I have been toying with the idea of calling it “The Unborn”. This first chapter is not a spoiler for those who have not read the first book, just a glimpse of the next saga in The Genesis Endeavor. Enjoy!
A snowflake settled on the lacquered casket, the first of many. Black umbrellas quietly opened without disturbing the Eulogy being delivered. Phil didn’t bother to bring an umbrella. It wasn’t that he hadn’t expected snow, quite the contrary. Rain or snow seemed normal at a funeral, almost a requirement for the ritual of mourning to be complete. Weddings should be sunny and warm; funerals should be overcast and cold. When it was the other way around, things didn’t seem right. His fedora was enough protection from the wet snowfall.
A snowflake landed on his cheek, adding to the moisture already there. He was the only man here not swallowing his tears. Even Jack was holding back. Maybe he doesn’t have any left to give, he thought, feeling a fresh wave of sorrow through his heart. Nobody should have to bury their own child.
The turnout was a larger than Phil expected. Jack spent most of his spare time with Jenny and their daughter, not leaving much room for friends. As far as he knew, their only socializing involved him and Barb. He hadn’t expected to see more than Jenn’s mother, Mabel, her farmhands, and perhaps a few neighborhood women Jenn socialized with during the day. Yet the graveside ceremony was crowded, reflecting the respect so many people had for Jack.
One face stood out in the crowd. The man’s full military dress would have caught anyone’s eye, especially against the sea of black dressed mourners, but there were other military men here and even the General’s large array of shiny adornments weren’t what caught Phil’s eye. His very presence here felt disrespectful to Phil. Surely the man wasn’t using such a solemn occasion to meet for business. He resolved to avoid the General today; whatever the man needed to talk about could wait until tomorrow.
When the second casket finished its final descent the crowd slowly dispersed. Phil stuck around, quietly waiting for the funeral attendees to leave. He knew most of them, but there would be time to socialize at the reception. He purposefully didn’t make eye contact with the General as the man left. Jack stood at the smaller grave, staring at the casket down in the hole. Not wanting to rush him, Phil walked over and put a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Jack, take all the time you need, I’ll be in the car with Barb.” Jack nodded but never looked up.
In the back seat of the limousine, Barb was still sobbing. There was nothing to say; it was a time for silent reflection. He took her hand and held it, patiently waiting for Jack to come to terms with the double funeral.
There wasn’t enough room for all the food, let alone the guests who occupied nearly every inch of the living room and kitchen. Unaffected by the pallor of grief in the house, a few children weaved their way through the adults, bored and looking for something to keep them occupied.
The condensed moisture on the windows sparkled with sunlight, spraying golden rays through the haze of tobacco smoke. Making its first appearance of the day, the sun managed to draw some of the guests out into the yard, relieving the congestion in the house. Phil made his way through the rooms, making small talk with each small group of people, even shaking a few hands and thanking them for coming. He spotted Mabel, sitting alone in the living room, and empty chair nearby. He grabbed it, pulling it over next to her then sat down. “Mabel, can I get you anything?”
She looked up at him, managing to put a fake smile on her heavily lined face. She wasn’t very old, he recalled, barely in her fifties. After burying her daughter and grand-daughter, however, she could have passed for eighty. “No thank you, Phil. This is a wonderful reception. I can’t thank you and your wife enough for the help. It’s been a difficult week.”
“Come on, Mabel, you did most of the work, we barely got the opportunity to help.” The compliment brought another fake smile. “If there’s anything I can do for you, please, don’t hesitate to ask.” He started to rise, not expecting a response.
“Actually, Phil, there’s one thing.” He sat back down, giving her his full attention. “Take care of Jack. He’s really hurting and doesn’t want me around to remind him of Jenn and Ally. He may try to act strong, but this could destroy him, and it wouldn’t be fair if that happened. He’s a good man.”
Phil swallowed a few times, holding back the tears that welled to the surface. Clearing his throat, he said, “I promise you, Mabel, I’ll be there for him. Don’t you worry, though; he’ll come around and realize he needs people like you in his life.” Her smile reached her eyes this time.
When they had arrived at the house, Jack had headed upstairs to his room without a word, ignoring his guests. He had yet to make an appearance. Phil noticed a couple heading for the door and decided it was time to get Jack down here to at least acknowledge some of the fine people who had come to pay their respects.
Heading toward the stairs, he tried to pass the General and his entourage unnoticed. Despite his efforts, the General spotted him and called out, “Phil, can I have a word with you?”
He let out a sigh. As he had feared since first spotting him at the burial, the tone in the man’s voice suggested he had business to discuss. Impatiently he said, “Can it wait until Monday? I was just heading up to convince Jack to come down here before all his guests left.”
The General put his arm around Phil’s shoulders, guiding him toward the front door. “This will just take a moment.”
The air was brisk but not too bad for early January. He pulled his wool jacket close and watched his breath turn to fog as he said, “What can I do for you, Ed?” The General shot him a look of annoyance, probably at the lack of formality and respect in Phil’s tone. Phil pretended not to notice. He didn’t have to pretend not to care.
Narrowing his eyes at the slight, the General said, “Before you jump to any conclusions, let me say I did show up here out of respect for Jack, not to do business. I still need a quick word.” Looking across the street to an empty park, he said, “Walk with me.” It wasn’t a request, and he didn’t wait to see if Phil would follow.
As the sole owner of his contracting firm, Phil was his own boss. Unfortunately, most of his business came from the military, and that meant he couldn’t just blow off the General. Even so, he nearly turned back to the reception, regardless of the consequences.
“How do you think Jack’s holding up?”
Rolling his eyes and following, he responded, “Well, his wife and child died less than a week ago, how do you think he is?”
Again unfazed by the sarcasm, the General said, “I can’t imagine how difficult that would be to go through. I have three children of my own, and even now that they’re grown up, I can’t imagine losing one of them.”
“Jack’s a strong person, he’ll get through it. If you’re worried about how this will affect the job, don’t be. He already offered to be at work tomorrow, but even with him taking a few weeks off to grieve we will meet our timeline.”
Finally the General stopped, the look of irritation on his face suggested he was no longer going to ignore Phil’s insolent tone. “Did you ever wonder why I told you to hire Jack when he retired?”
Phil shrugged, “I figured you wanted an experienced man who was good at quickly cutting through all the military bureaucracy running these projects.”
“Did Jack ever tell you about how he became an officer?”
“Yeah, something about covering up for an idiot colonel who eventually returned the favor by nominating him for OCS. Why?”
“That idiot colonel is my son.” Whoops. Phil looked off in the distance, not wanting to make eye contact at the moment. “Don’t worry, I know he isn’t the brightest boy, but every father wants to see his children succeed. When Jack covered for my son and kept a potentially career ending mistake off the records, I was the one who pulled the strings to get him into Officer Candidate School. See, that was my way of thanking him for his discretion. However, I never got the opportunity to thank him for saving my son’s life that day. For that I’m eternally grateful and have the utmost respect for the man.” He paused, allowing his words to sink in. “Despite your dislike for me Phil, at least give me the benefit of the doubt for why I’m here.”
Phil felt a pang of guilt. “My apologies, General.” However, he wasn’t about to let the General off the hook that easily. “So why am I standing in the middle of a park and not tending to my grieving friend?”
“I needed to have a discrete word with you, away from certain ears. When I spotted you inside it dawned on me that we wouldn’t have a better opportunity.”
Despite his annoyance, this piqued Phil’s interest. “Go on.”
“There’s another job, and I want your crew to do it.”
“We just started the one here.”
“I understand, this will take some time to plan, and the sooner we start planning, the better.”
“And what makes this different from any other job?”
“Well, aside from me and a couple other Generals, the military won’t be aware of this one. We need to keep it that way.”
This came as a surprise. What other interests could the General be serving? “Who’s funding it then?”
The General laughed. “The military.”
“I’m confused, Ed. What are you saying?”
“I’m saying we’re putting together a very large project, funded with money Congress earmarked for defense, but without anyone’s knowledge.”
Several alarms went off in his head. The last thing he wanted was to get involved with anything illegal. “You’re going to need to be a little less cryptic here, General.”
“I can’t offer a whole lot at this time, but I can tell you this much: the project is coming from the NSA, and despite not even the President knowing of its existence, it is perfectly legal.”
The wind picked up, cutting through the heavy wool jacket. He shivered and said, “Before we start talking specifics, I’ll need a little more reassurance before we get started.”
“I understand, don’t worry about that part now. We need to establish a way to discuss this outside regular channels. I’m pretty sure my office isn’t being watched, but I don’t want to take any chances. I can almost guarantee the NSA watches you closely, and wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that other agencies were keeping an eye on you and maybe even tapping your phones.”
None of this surprised Phil. When a civilian is privy to as many secrets as he is, someone is going to be making sure he isn’t talking to the Russians. It didn’t bother him all that much, they paid him very well and he didn’t have anything to hide from his government. “What do you suggest?”
The General smiled. “How about an occasional trip to Las Vegas?”
Phil chuckled. “I can make that work. Barb loves playing the slots. When do we go?”
“I think next month would be good. I’ll have all the initial information ready to go. This is going to be huge, Phil. I mean it will make the project here look like you’re playing in the sand at the beach. The money will be good too, the kind of money you could retire comfortably on.”