Up at 5:30 working. I think it must have rained last night, the car’s wet, but I missed it. I haven’t actually seen it rain down here. When Marie got up she said there was thunder, lightening, and wind along with the rain.
You’d think I would have woken up earlier this morning with the explosion in I,Q2 being the last thing I wrote last night, but I guess nothing disturbs my sleep, including thunder, lightening, wind, and rain.
Marie and her mother rolled in late afternoon yesterday. Biggest purchase? A shop vacuum to suck up some of the construction dust and sealer for the bricks in the courtyard. I realize that most of you may not know what I’m talking about when I say courtyard, etc. But bare in mind that these posts are read by family members and friends who have been down here and I feel obligated to keep them up to speed about things they’re interested in, which may not be my books, or the writing of said books.
Internet update: It’s a little unbelievable, but if you knew me well you would know that it’s not exactly unbelievable. Turns out that in the tangle of Ethernet cords here were actually “two” cords. As luck would have it I hooked one cord into the wireless router and the other cord into the phone, which means that both cords were connected to absolutely nothing. As Marie was on the phone this morning to the phone company to resolve the problem (that did not exist) I grabbed the Ethernet cord to hook up to her computer and discovered my unbelievable mistake. Results: We now have wireless internet. In fact, we had it yesterday too. In a way I’m going to miss our nightly drive up to the end of the dirt road. Not really.
I’ve included a couple odd photos that have nothing to do with this post. I include them because I like them and didn’t know where to put them.
Okay, back to I,Q2
At this point in the writing of a book, even though I’m well over a hundred pages short of finishing, I can see the end. It’s just a glimmer of light, but it’s definitely there and my pace picks up in my hurry to get home, like a horse returning to the barn. I start to think (somewhat ridiculously) that I can actually finish this book by the end of the day. Of course I can’t, but that thought and that little glimmer of light tends to pile the pages up. I’m no longer feeling my way along in pitch-black darkness with a hopeless feeling of never finding my way out of the story. By this evening the light will be a little brighter and tomorrow morning I’ll tell myself again: “I can finish this book today.” And this will go on until one day the story is actually finished.
Another thing that happens to me at this stage of writing a novel is that I start to “see” the final scenes of the story. As I lie in bed at night the story plays in my head as if I’m recalling scenes from a good film I’ve just watched. The next day all I have to do is transcribe those scenes into words on a page. And let me make this very clear: I am not dreaming the scenes. I am consciously recalling them as if I’m lifting them from the film I just saw.
As promised here is the first chapter of I,Q Book Two: The White House in (pretty much) its final form. But I need to explain a bit of how this version came to be for those who have read this chapter in a different form. Just before I,Q Book One: Independence Hall came out my publisher asked me to write the first chapter of I,Q2 so they could put it at the end of Book One. I had no idea what I was going to do in I,Q2, and I was traveling visiting schools and speaking at conferences at the time, but I said I would give it a try. So, on one rather long flight I scratched out that first chapter of IQ2. Some of you have read this chapter and some of you haven’t. There are two editions of I,Q Book One. There is a trade edition, and a Scholastic Book Fair and Club edition. The trade edition is only sold in bookstores, by online booksellers, and you should be able to find it in your public library (not necessarily your school library because they oftentimes buy Scholastic Fair and Club edition for the collection). The Fair and Club edition is only sold in the Fairs and by the Clubs. The first chapter of Book Two is only found in the trade edition. I’m not sure why it wasn’t included it in the Club and Fair edition. (Bottom line… Any I,Q book that has Scholastic on the cover will not have the first chapter of Book Two).
An interesting writing exercise would be for you to read the first chapter of Book Two in the trade edition of Book One and compare the following first chapter with it. It should give you an idea of how a chapter is revised and expanded over the course of writing the novel.
Saturday, September 6th, 2:00AM to 4:16AM
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Boone pulled the motor coach up to the back gate of the White House. It was 2:00 in the morning. While Mom and Roger packed their overnight bags in the master suite, he gestured me and Angela to the front of the coach.
“Buddy and the band are staying at the Willard Hotel two blocks away,” he explained quietly. “I’ll be at Blair House right across the street from here. It’s the official residence for visiting dignitaries and heads of state. My point is that the SOS team will be close by. Not that you’ll be in any danger inside the White House. It’s probably the most secure building in the world.”
“Why do you think my moth…” Angela stopped herself. “…Malak wanted us to come down here?”
“I’m sure she’ll let us know when she’s ready,” Boone said. “Under no circumstances, and I mean this, are you to disable or turn off your BlackBerrys. We’re past all that. We need to know exactly where you are every second of the day from now on. Is that understood?”
Angela and I nodded.
“I’ll be in constant touch with you either by phone, text message, or E-mail. And I expect you to do the same.”
Again Angela and I nodded.
Roger and Mom came out of the bedroom with small overnight bags. They were tired after their concert at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia a few hours earlier, but excited.
“Do you have everything?” Mom asked me.
I gave her a smile and showed her my daypack, which was in a lot better shape than the ratty pack on Angela’s shoulder.
“Let’s go see the president,” Roger said.
I doubted President J.R. Culpepper was going to be greeting us at 2 A.M. at the security gate. And I was right. We walked up to the gate and were met by a man and a woman dressed in business suits with big smiles on their faces. They looked like public relations people, but the earpieces in their right ears gave them away. They were with the Secret Service. I wondered if they had known Angela’s mother, and if Roger and Angela were wondering the same thing.
“I’m glad you were able to make it down here on such short notice,” the woman said. “You must be exhausted.”
“We’ll have to run you through a little security check before we let you in,” the man said. “But it will only take a couple of minutes.”
It took more than a couple of minutes,
Uniformed Secret Service officers checked our identifications against the computer they had in the guard station, gave our bags a quick search, then ran the bags through an X-Ray machine. We walked through a metal detector. I was the last to go, and this is what took more than a couple of minutes. I forgot to empty my pockets.
A security guy handed me a little tray. “You can empty your pockets into this.”
No I couldn’t.
I had six pockets. I always wear cargo pants (cargo shorts in the summer). Four decks of cards. Three lengths of rope. Silk hankies. Seven magic coins. One Blackberry. Camera. Sunglasses. Baseball cap. Goldfinger by Ian Fleming (paperback). My Leatherman tool (Security guy confiscated it, like I was going to stab or pinch The President of the United States with tweezers…but I guess you can’t be too careful). A stack of “special” dollar bills…
“Good grief!” the security guy said.
Mom wasn’t surprised. She’d witnessed the routine countless times going through airport security.
Angela began giggling. “You need a second pack,” she said.
Roger rolled his eyes when I pulled out three juggling balls.
I started on my second pocket.
Four and a half trays later I removed the final item—an origami crane folded from a yellow McDonald’s cheeseburger wrapper.
“That’s mine!” Angela said. “You made it for me.”
“I borrowed it back.”
It took me longer to put everything back in than it did to take it out because everything had its special place. The only thing that didn’t make it back into a pocket (aside from the Leatherman) was the origami crane. Angela grabbed it from the tray while they were wanding me.
“You’re all set to go,” the man in the suit said.
“We are very excited to have you here,” the woman said. “I simply love your music.”
“Thank you,” Mom said.
“The president has put you and Roger in the Lincoln Bedroom, on the second floor,” the woman continued.
“Really,” Roger said flatly.
I think it had just dawned on him that he was going to spend the night in a place where his (presumably) dead wife, Malak Tucker, had spent so much time guarding the former president.
“Where are Q and Angela sleeping?” Mom asked, enthusiastically, obviously unaware of Roger’s mood shift.
“They’ll be down the hall in the residential quarters,” the woman said. “Their bedrooms are not quite as historical, but they are very nice rooms right next door to each other. You can all sleep in tomorrow. The president and first lady have a brunch planned for you at 11 A.M., but if you get hungry before then all you have to do is call the kitchen and they’ll bring whatever you want to your rooms. The kitchen is open twenty-four hours a day.”
Whatever I want. Twenty-four hours a day.
I was going to pick up that phone bright and early and order a platter of food with absolutely no vegetable matter on it whatsoever.
Angela and I left Mom and the glum Roger in the Lincoln Bedroom, after a brief tour, and followed the woman to our bedrooms, which were great. I said goodnight to Angela, put on my pajamas, and crawled into the biggest and most comfortable bed I had ever slept in. I thought about testing the whatever-whenever-I-want kitchen by ordering a vanilla milkshake and a chilidog before going to sleep, but I decided to wait until I woke up.
I closed my eyes thinking that J.R. Culpepper, the most powerful man in the world, the commander-in-chief of the United States, Potus, was probably only a few yards away, snoring.
I fell asleep with a smile on my face, but I wasn’t asleep long. I woke to a light tapping on my door and Angela slipping into my room before I was able to sit up.
“What’s the matter?” I asked groggily.
“I just got a text message from Malak,” she said.
I sat up. “What’d she want?”
“See for yourself.”
I turned on the light and read the short message on Angela’s BlackBerry. I was suddenly wide awake and out of bed. “Did you call Boone?”
“I forwarded him the message,” Angela said. “He wrote right back and said that he would be in touch.”
“Did you text Malak back?”
“Yes, but I doubt she got it. She probably destroyed her cell phone right after she sent the text.”
I wondered how much cell phone manufacturers made on terrorists cells.
“What should we do?” I asked.
“Wait,” Angela said.
Angela sat in one of the chairs. I sat on the edge of the bed.
“Have you been here before?” I asked.
“When I was little,” Angela answered. “The former president had a dinner for the families of his Secret Service detail. There was a tour, but I was too young to remember much about it. We weren’t allowed up to the residents quarters. I know that.”
“So, Roger’s been here too,” I said.
“Yes. I don’t think he realized where we were actually staying until we were met at the gate by the Secret Service.”
“Buddy T. warned him about that,” I said.
“He warned him about staying at the White House?”
“No. He warned him about the high he was going to get after a performance before they ever went out on tour.”
Buddy T. was our parent’s pugnacious, annoying, arrogant, but usually right, manager. Before we left San Francisco, Buddy said that if he could find a way to bottle the high Mom and Roger were going to get out on tour in front of the fans he’d be the richest man on earth.
“I remember,” Angela said.
“Even my mom was jacked up,” I continued. “Can’t blame them. They did the Today Show, Oprah, then preformed at the Electric Factory last night. That’s a lot of attention. If that had happened to my real dad he probably wouldn’t have remembered he had a son if I was standing in front of him.”
“He’d recognize you,” Angela said.
I shook my head. Angela had never met my biological father. His name was Peter “Speed” Paulsen. The nickname came about because he could pick guitar strings faster than any human alive. Speed was also the name of his band, who Mom used to sing for before I came along. Oh, and my dad was crazy, which is one of the reasons Mom left the band and raised me on a sailboat moored in Sausalito, California.
“My point is that Roger and Mom are going to be zoning out on us from time to time, and there’s nothing we, or they, can do about it.”
I was kind of jacked up too. I got up and started pacing, expecting Boone to call any moment, but he didn’t call. Instead there was another knock on my door. I opened it.
Standing in the hallway was a very serious and alert (considering the time of morning) Secret Service agent.
“The president would like to see you both in the Oval Office,” he said.
“Now?” I asked. It was 3 A.M.
He gave me curt nod.
“Maybe we should change,” I said.
“You’re fine,” the agent said. “He’s waiting. Follow me.”
Angela and I were going to meet the President of the United States in our PJs.