When I was writing Beside the Music, Todd hooked me up with the YA author Kelly Easton. I went to her house for a few writing lessons, and we did an exercise where she dealt out pictures of various objects and I had to build a story around the item in the picture. She kept dealing out the pictures and whatever the next picture was, I had to incorporate that into the story--like some crazy literary game of improv.

I didn't know that I would end up using it as my first chapter. I couldn't find a place for this in Beside the Music. But it will make for an excellent first chapter, and I am so excited to finally use it. So, to give you an idea of what's going on here, Before the Music is going to be told from the perspective of the band, probably from Keith Kutter's perspective--I haven't decided yet. This is the story of the band's rise to fame prior to meeting and moving in with Brenda and Tim Dunkirk in Beside the Music. I brought up Keith's back story--he got into a drunk driving accident with his family in the car. His son, Damien, was rendered quadriplegic as a result. Keith, out of guilt, ends up addicted to Damien's pain killers, then Tamsen--his wife--throws him out. Keith kicks his habit by taking off on his yacht.

I give you, my faithful readers, Chapter One of Before the Music.

I can feel the wind as I brought the last of the supplies down the dock and onto the deck of Mustang Sally. Her halyards flap against the mast and I close my eyes for only a moment to feel the breeze blow my hair back. I don’t indulge myself for too long; I know I have to set out soon and leave. There’s nothing for me here now; Tamsen hates me, Damien doesn’t understand.

I stash the duffel under the bunk and looked up at the carving that Damien made in art class last year, a heart with a dagger through it. The assignment was to imitate a tattoo onto wood. He stained the heart in a mahogany finish and it seems to throb from the impalement. He’ll probably never have use of his right arm ever again.

The last thing I stash is the box. I don’t want to leave it at the house, but I don’t want to bring it with me either. I considered leaving it in the car, but I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. There’s no way I could leave it at my mother’s house either so I wedge the box in the galley to deal with later. I let the anticipation of the boat cutting through the water on that teetering angle take over and climb back on deck, and untie the dock lines. It’s time to go.

I follow the channel markers under the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I set the auto pilot and lie down on the cabin top to watch Sally’s mast cross under the bridge and then follow the shoreline south until the sun touches the horizon and set the anchor for the night.

Back below deck I see that my plan had failed. Damien’s blood encrusted clothes spilled onto the floor. I know I have to clean them up, but I can’t bring myself to put them back into the box again. I step over them, give up on the idea of having dinner and settle into my bunk for sleep.

The dream is always the same. First I am eating an apple under the most luscious shade tree I’ve ever seen. Then the birds, happily chirping in the branches above, fly away simultaneously and the tree descends into the ground leaving only a dark hole with a glow emanating from miles below. I consider climbing down there to see where the glow is coming from. I lose my step and fall until I jolt awake every time.

I rub at my eyes and see the sky is gray and the rain is tapping the windows. It’s long been my belief that if you don’t like the weather then stay put. I pull the covers tightly up to my chin and ignore Damien’s clothes in a heap on the floor in the galley. I’ll starve before I have to touch those again.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.