Grace A. Johnson
project reveal | something bright & beautiful
Over a year ago, I typed “The End” (or, more accurately, “dead”), completing my third (published) novel. Since then, I’ve written a few flash fiction pieces, a couple short stories, a novelette (a story between a short story and a novella...because we have to have specific words for everything 😂). Anything but a novel.
Well, my lovelies, the time has come.
Technically the time came in January, but life happened, so I haven’t actually done anything with that time until now. A n y w a y…
I have at long last begun my next novel. I honestly was 100% unprepared for this event, because when I made it to the last leg of Bound and Determined and was forced to reconcile with the fact that I would no longer be chillin’ with Rina, Keaton, and Daisy like I had for the previous three years.
I would have to move on. To another project. And truth be told, I wasn’t entirely certain what that other project would be, because I have SO many vying for my attention—from Held Captive’s new edition, my Civil War dramanstery (drama + romance + mystery), to my prequel series to the Daughters of the Seven Seas. The one story I hadn’t expected to be on my radar was Something Bright & Beautiful, the full-length sequel to Daylight (my 9/11 short story).
But try as I might to get August and Sylvie out of my head, I couldn’t. (It probably didn’t help that I might have, um, created a huge Pinterest board for their story. 😬)
It just felt…right. Like this was The Story™. The crazy thing is that I have NEVER felt so assured that I was writing the right thing and the right time like I have with SB&B. No, I don’t think anyone’s gonna like it or understand some aspects of it (as per usual), but that doesn’t matter like it did with BAD. (I had really bad anxiety over BAD—pun not intended.)
Regardless of what happens with this story, I know for some reason, I’m supposed to write it. And I want to, despite all the many other stories I crave returning to.
So here it is, folks. My official project reveal.
Meet Something Bright & Beautiful.
~ the book ~
Something Bright & Beautiful is set in rich, vibrant city that's been torn to shreds. Manhattan suffered a lethal blow when the Twin Towers were felled by the evil machinations of terrorists in September of 2001, and one young woman is left to pick up the pieces of her fragile life in the aftermath.
Sylvie Harpe's father lies dead in a small Catholic cemetery and her best friend August has one foot in the grave from his hospital bed at St. Vincent's. As August slowly recovers, it's up to her to hold it all together: keep her father's apartment building running when his insurmountable debt hangs over her head, find a job to pay his medical bills, and hide the heartache that claws at her.
When August's deadbeat father shows up after he left for another woman over a decade before, a new obstacle comes between Sylvie, August, and their healing. Can August find it in his heart to forgive his father, and will Sylvie ever find the hope she craves?
~ the progress ~
I’m currently not even 2,000 words into this story. Writing has been painstakingly slow, since my month has been outrageously busy, and where I could’ve written a chapter in a week (back in 2019, when I wrote Held Captive and Prisoner at Heart), I’m down to roughly a chapter a month (hence why BAD took so long to write 😅).
I expect about 21 chapters and 80k words (give or take, of course), which I’ve been able to determine because I actually...outlined the story...before I started writing...for the first time E V E R.
Y’all. I’ve been writing for eight years, and in those eight years I’ve written, started, and developed literally countless stories…but this is the first time I’ve ever outlined a story before I began writing. I still can’t believe it either!
No, I haven’t officially turned over to the dark side and become a plotter...yet!
I’d love to talk more about the process, but I’m saving that for an exclusive post series on my Patreon!
~ the aesthetic ~
I SO wanna share the whole board and the playlist and everything—but I can’t. So I’ll stick with the graphic below to give you a glimpse into the aesthetic of the story!
~ shattered wine bottles
~ neon lights against an inky sky
~ terracotta flower pots in the window
~ rusty fire escapes
~ smoke hanging in the air
~ crumbling brick buildings
~ forehead kisses
~ crying in the shower
~ dancing in the rain
~ late nights in front of the TV
~ mixtapes scattered across the floor
~ the sneak peek ~
Naturally, I have to include a sneak peek. What’s a project update without one, after all? This one may seem short, but it’s literally half the novel at this point. 😂 So, without further ado, enjoy the first part of Chapter 1!
manhattan, new york
saturday, sept. 15, 2001
The doorway to August’s room looms before me, empty. Hollow. Kinda stinky, to be honest. Like old socks and dirt and smoke—certainly not the type of smell you’d expect to lure a person in...but it does.
My fingers latch onto the door frame for support, my feet sluggish as I try to get them over the threshold.
It feels wrong being in here without him. As if I’m invading his inner sanctuary. Which is laughable, really, because August never spends any more time in his room than he has to. He’ll catch a few winks between nine pm and five am, then throw on his clothes and be out of there.
Come to think of it, he’s not at home that much at all these days. Ever since he was promoted to crew chief, he’s been hard at work every day from six in the morning to eight in the evening. Then it’s straight to Vinny’s to grab dinner and back home for a shower and some sleep. On top of that, he’s always at my place on the weekends, experimenting in the kitchen, working on a new sketch, annoying me as I try to fold laundry.
Loneliness clenches me. It hasn’t ever been so quiet when I’ve folded clothes as it was this morning. And there wasn’t anything of Pops’ this time. No ratty shirts or beer-stained tanks or polka dot boxers or sweaty socks.
Just my stuff and one shirt of August’s I forgot to wash after he threw it in last week.
I block out the images of my clothes all alone in the laundry basket, close off the sight of my dad’s bedroom even emptier than August’s, suppress the roil of my stomach that threatens to toss my lunch.
I’m not here for an emotional breakdown. I’m not here to torture myself with all the memories and the what ifs. I’m here to get August’s sketchbook and leave.
I release the door frame, pushing off of it and launching myself into my best friend’s bedroom. The scent that’s so uniquely August—in all its stinky glory—envelopes me like a heavy coat, gripping my arms and making every movement stiff and unnatural. I fumble through work boots left in random places and wadded-up papers on the floor to reach his desk, which is just as cluttered as the rest of his room is.
August may be the one of the sweetest, gentlest guys I’ve ever met—but he’s still a guy. In other words, he’s still a disgusting mess.
I wrinkle my nose but tamp down the admonishment that rises in my throat. “Oh, Gus, if you were here, I’d get on your tail for this mess, lemme tell ya.” I reach for his sketchbook, with its frayed edges and loose sheets, and a handful of pencils. He never can use just one—apparently each pencil has a different purpose, but I wouldn’t know. He’s as crotchety as an old man when it comes to his sketches—I can never watch him work or even glimpse the design until he is completely finished, and that right there has taken upwards of a year before for just one design.
My fingers trace the edge of the book. I could look in it right now, view the lines and curves he’s spent so many hours perfecting, calculate the dimensions in my head to get an idea of the design in real life. Touch the pages he’s pored over and imagine them as his hands, whole and healed, instead of just paper and memories.
Tears sting the back of my eyelids. The darned things just won’t stop coming, not even after three days.
“Gah, I wish you was here, August. I wish we was together on the floor in the den, throwing stale popcorn at each other, instead of me here and you—” Ah, what’s the use? He can’t hear me. Not miles away in his hospital bed, recovering bit by bit from the injuries those blamed terrorists—and my own stupidity—inflicted on him.
Slamming my eyes shut, I stuff the sketchbook and pencils in my knapsack—the one August gave me for my birthday last year—and leave the room as if it were as hot as my tears.
~ the form ~
For the first time in forever (like, literally ever), I’m searching for alpha readers for Something Bright & Beautiful…just a handful of people (two-to-four) who are willing to give me their honest feedback and reactions on the story. They don’t even have to stick around until the end, but simply read what they can, when they can.
If that’s you, I’d love for you to consider signing up! I’ll be taking in as many “applications” as I can until the first week or so in June, and then I’ll select my alpha reader team! And if you don’t “make the cut” or decide not to sign up, but still want to read, watch out for beta reader sign-ups once I actually finish writing! (Whenever that is. 😅)
Anyway, the form’s below. Do with it what you will. 😂
So there she is, folks. Something Bright & Beautiful. If you’re on Goodreads, consider adding it to your want-to-read list (or even adding it to a list or two!) through the link below! Until then, stay tuned for more updates and sneak peeks on SB&B as time goes on! Y’all will get progress reports every month in my monthly updates posts, and my patrons will receive exclusive behind-the-scenes articles on Patreon!
I’d love to know what you think of SB&B below! Have you read Daylight, the prequel story? Would you be interested in alpha reading? Do the vibes of SB&B sound up your alley? Let me know in the comments! 😊
yours in spirit & script,
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