The Circle Squared
Part two of the Circulatim trilogy
350,000 words, 21 chapters.
A reader submitted comment.
Warning: This product may be harmful to your health. It may cause
loss of sleep, mood swings, loss of appetite, and result in withdrawal
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A month passes that changes Alex's life forever. Things aren't always simple or easy. Often the best thing to do is to guess; let go, or hold on, or wait? Who knows?
Alex recuperates and returns to school, a school that knows that he is gay and that he had "almost" died in a fire. His very best friend is acting strangely, and keeping secrets from him for the first time. His other best friend is now his lover, but it doesn't fit either of them well. Alex's circle of friends seems to be shrinking, and even his favorite teacher now treats him differently.
Everything was different.
And the nightmares...
Surprising acquaintances vie for his time and lead him into a strange circle of friends, and back into a hobby he had given up. A hobby that raised a ghost from the past only recently laid to rest.
The week of final exams arrives, and Alex finds himself barely keeping up with current lessons. Distractions like Erich, and other old friends as well, take up his time, as well as new ones, like Kevin and the gang, and David. And Alex wasn't sure he could do what they expected him to do.
Torn apart from the familiar support of the Circle, moving in a strange circle of new friends, he is stunned to come face to face with an even older ghost than Toby.
How much more could he handle?
X-rated versus R-rated:
This story has sexual activity in it, but it isn't about the sex, and fewer than half of the chapters have sexual activity in them. The sexual activity is between teen males and is very explicit; if this isn't your cup of tea, do not read the X-rated version. You will miss nothing by reading the R-rated chapters except the sexual content. The X-rated version is identical to the R-rated version except for the sexual scenes. Anything important to the story that happens during a sexual scene, is related in the R-rated chapter as well by relating the pertinent information through the characters' exposition or internal dialog without the sexual description/activity.
I really need to thank all those who worked so hard to help clean up and get this story ready to be read. I don't even remember now who all had a hand in it! Peter Chastain was the first editor, and found things that the rest of us missed. Thanks, Pete! He probably hates being called Pete, lol.
Bill took the second swing at editing this thing, and I thank him for his hours of hard work, too.
For those who may notice: The Circle Squared is set to a sound track taken from Styx's albums, "Paradise Theater" and "Kilroy Was Here."
At the time I wrote the majority of it, it wasn't widely known outside the band and his family, and a few others, that Chuck Panozzo was gay. Had I known that, especially while "Renegade" was beginning to play on the radio, my life might have been somewhat different. Not much, and more inwardly than out. And still not much. But it did change me inwardly when I did find out later.
The music was my own soundtrack to my own life at the time, and meant a lot to me. As the entire Circle series was written by me about me out of my journals from that time, I became the template for the main character, Alex. I timed things differently in places to make things fit the general theme of either the song's title, lyrics, or mood.
I am in no way trying to make money off the music or the artists. I am not trying to associate the story with the group, in any way. No ties exist between characters in the story and anyone associated with the artists.
Other than what was just mentioned, this story has no association to Styx or anyone connected with the band or its members, except to pay homage to the music of my adolescence, which followed me the rest of my life. I am still a passionate Styx devotee to this very day.
When I was sixteen, I began writing a story about myself. More a story about Toby and myself. Okay, mostly a story about Toby. How we met, and our times together. I never finished it, and eventually forgot about it. It stayed in my footlocker as I moved over the years until some years later, for some reason, I pulled the story from the darkness and began to honestly put it together. With the help of a computer, I finished it.
It was longer than I expected, and it was raw and rough, but I'd put the entire story to paper, so to speak, and it was done. I read it, found it painful and personal, and put it away.
A couple of years later, I found myself again looking at that story. I wanted to tell it. Or at least, to tell something of Toby. But it was too personal. After reading it again, I saw a way to tell of Toby without telling of me; I could write a fictional story and place Toby into it.
Alex was born.
The Circle grew around him, my friends became actors, and thus his friends. Suddenly a story emerged. It grew. I wrote.
At last I reached a point where the story could end.
I spent the next months filling in the middle. I changed events around. I changed the story from third-person to first. I changed more names. I added characters and deleted others. I chopped off entire hunks of it. Side stories presented themselves for acceptance or rejection. The only constants were Toby, Alex, Tom, and Jeff. And The Circle.
When it was done, I saw that I had told the story of Alex, and Tom, and Jeff, and that Toby had become a guardian angel of sorts, coming and going throughout. I liked it. I shared it with a few friends. I can only say that they went ape-shit.
Instead of emailing me replies, nearly all of them called me. We'd stayed in touch via emails once every few months, but now they called. They all had nearly identical questions and comments. Some said it made them laugh more than any other story they had ever read, including published books. I suggested they try some Piers Anthony. Some admitted that it had made them cry - all three of the ladies I shared it with, by the way - at least once. And not just the ladies, either. I suggested a good antidepressant.
If they had said so in email, I would have thought they were pulling my leg, or that a Circle prank was brewing. But I heard them say so in their own voices.
So I asked a couple of websites that had stories that I had enjoyed reading on them if they thought it was worth putting on up. They agreed. And so The Circle went out.
And the emails began. It was no avalanche, nor a deluge, but the responses were coming in. And they still do as others find the story on one site or another. From simple one-line statements to multi-paragraph letters, I was thanked for providing a good story. Some even claimed to have laughed and cried multiple times throughout the story, others admitting to tears in public and laughing out loud in quiet public places.
As far as I am concerned, no higher praise could be given a story.
I was honored.
And I was always asked the question, is there going to be more? Well, not always, but more often than not.
High praise for a story indeed, the desire for more.
Now let me tell you of the desire to tell more.
Telling the story of Toby, inside the nearly completely fictional world of Alex, was fun. It was also painful. And sometimes difficult. And it took years.
It began in 1983, and ended that first time in 1986, and was only the story of Toby and me. Untouched for years, it was another two years turning it into a story, and then it was left alone for decades.
All that time later, I went back to it, reworking it. I spent a good chunk of three years off and on working on it. That time includes writing much that never made it into the finished story. Whole chapters were relegated to the 'odd bits' folder. In fact, everything that I wanted to tell in the story after the Sunday with Toby's parents ended up cut when I decided that was the best ending point.
After all, the story up to that point was 330,000 words, just a bit longer than the three books that make up the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I mean, egads, right? It had to end. And what better point than right after meeting Toby's parents, with Alex and Jeff together, Tom sorted out, and Alex having just gotten out of the hospital?
There was just one problem; that wasn't the end of the story I wanted to tell. It was, in a huge way, only the beginning. I wanted to tell the story through to the point when Alex visits Toby's home over the summer. In fact, many emails asked of the things hinted at in the story that I cleared up and answered by the epilogue that I was nearly forced to tack on to the end of The Circle. There was much that happened during the months following the end of The Circle and that visit to Toby's home that I wanted to tell, but I simply had to bring the book to an end. Who would want to read a book that was a million words long?
Yeah, big problem.
So, to tell the whole story, is going to take three books, and is called, "Circulus."
So, here's the beginning of the solution...
... or, rather, the middle of "Circulus" ...
Some things said about THE CIRCLE
Or, as I like to call them, my paychecks.
Leave one here.
"As soon as I finished I went back and started over!"
"Its been a long time since a story did things to me like The Circle did."
"I don't know where Alex and his friends came from but I want more please!"
"I never knew what was going to happen next chapter - if I'd cry or laugh or both."
"Alex and his friends are in my head! I can't get them out and I don't want them out! I want more!"
"I have just finished The Circle. It did what a great story should do......I cried....I laughed.....I smiled... .I got angry....I loved it......."
"I started reading The Circle by skimming through it looking for the sex but ended up reading bits here and there that caught my eye and soon I was reading it word for word and had to start over to enjoy it!"
"Just finished reading The Circle in its entirety and after a short break I'll start in on the sequels. Thank you so much for sharing your gift with us. I enjoyed the story so much over the past few days that now I need to catch up on my sleep."
"I have to write and say I am enjoying your story immensely. I have just finished chapter 24 where [snipped] and I cannot believe how real it felt. The entire story so far feels like real experiences. Back to reading for me! Back to writing for you!"
"I found your story last week and I have been reading since. Late nights, late mornings, lost meals all attest to the magnetic almost hypnotic spell it held me in. Now that its over I don't know how to feel except as if my best friends all moved away. Bring them back!"
"Thank you for a long, complex story worth the time to read. The characters are believable, as is the story. It is full of emotions, from simple fun to the complications of love and hate. Even the sex scenes are believable and intense and belong as part of the story. Well done!"
"Wow. What more can I say? Fell into the story and had to keep reading to the end to climb back out. Beautifully written, deeply moving. Yes, of course, I laughed and I cried. Fell in love with Alex and Tom and the rest. Felt so jealous of Alex for his great, great friend. Wished I had had the same."
"I just finished reading your story "The Circle" from the link on Nifty.org. I like to thank you for writing it. I was captivated by the storyline and spent all my spare time in the last week reading it. I know that sounds like a lot of time to read it, but I do not have much spare time. However, I tried to make the time to read the complete story. I enjoyed every chapter, and I'm happy it was there for me to enjoy."
"I have just read the story you wrote. I am in tears as I write this. The story kept my attention threw the whole thing I couldn't stop reading and omg at the end of it I felt so badly for Alex's pain. .... I wanted so much to reach through the computer and take it all away. I look forward to reading more from you someday..."
"Just to say thanks for your emotional roller-coaster of a tale, and saying something in the afterword of what was truth and what was fiction. It must have brought back both painful and happy memories to talk about Toby. Even reading it was emotionally draining. Thanks for sharing something of yourself...."
wow...I mean what can I say. The circle and circle2 were the most enthralling captivating pieces of work ever written! (in my eyes). I have read plenty of similar material, but none matches your caliber. I don't know what else can be said... I cannot wait until circle3... You sir are a gifted person and thank you for sharing this awesomeness with me and the world... I wish I could travel back in time to 1980's Chitown and be a part of the story! lol... thanks again from a 25yo fan for life!
"I just finished your story the Circle and I am still wiping my eyes from the ending. It seemed so impossible that [spoiler snipped] but the way you made it happen was not only so touching it hurt but so real it hurt deeply. Having [spoiler snipped] was another part that could have ruined the story but you made it so real that I wanted and needed it to be real for Alex. I'm still so chocked up and full of emotions! I have never read a story like yours and I hope and pray you write another. Leaving [spoiler snipped] like that was so tender and wonderful it begs for more. I do to. Please more!"
"When a friend pointed me to your story I put it off for a while. He asked how I liked it and I told him I hadn't gotten to it yet. He hounded me to read it and I finally got started. It absorbed my free time (all of it) for the duration. I became lost in your world and your characters and now that the story is done I feel as if I have been evicted from a better place. There friendship is all that matters, and the love and compassion the boys have for one another. I long to return there and hang out with the guys again. Please consider another story about their lives and tell us more of yours."
"Too short! You say it became too long? Nonesense! I will take another 333,000 words please! It took me weeks to read the Lord Of The Rings books but only a week to pour through The Circle and I still want more. I teared up a few times in LOTR but I cried nearly every other chapter of The Circle. I remember giggling at times in LOTR but I know I laughed dozens and dozens of times during The Circle. I felt like I knew Frodo and Sam and the others but I swear I know Alex and Tom and Jeff and they're out there right now doing and living and I cannot wait to join them again!"
"I don't think I have ever written an author of any kind before, but I can't resist complimenting you for The Circle (I & II), which has to be absolutely the most realistic, absorbing story I can remember ever seeing. It's one of those that you literally have to tear yourself away from, the kind that makes people sit up all night even on a work or school night because they get so absorbed. What convinced me to read it all? You name it: the realistic interaction and believable descriptions of the characters, your ability to make a reader feel like he's right there like a fly on the wall, and best of all, thinking what Alex thinks and feeling what he feels. That's a real talent."
"The Circle (and the stories around it) is the first in many years to reach down and touch me in a deep way. Few of the stories connect in such an emotive way. And never has an author gone so far as creating "props" (it feels wrong to call them that) such as the letters. When I read them I can feel the powerful teenage emotions (the hormones of youth can be felt even 20 years later) and I am thrown back to my own youth. Your stories have been compelling, convincing, plausible, but thrilling. The sex in even the X rated versions is not a distraction but instead pushes the story forward and deeper. I just wanted to say thank you for writing something that obviously in some way must come from the heart and from life."
"About a week or so ago, I stumbled onto The Circle. It was like stepping into a look at my own past, just with different outcomes and opportunities. First off, I should say that I'm mad as hell at you for bringing to life Alex and his pals with such realism that I felt angry and upset when they were hurting. It all so resonated with me, at levels that are still clicking into place and that I don't completely understand as yet. But Alex and Toby and Tom and Jeff are in my head now, almost like renters. I see them as clearly as my own reflection, mostly seeing them pointing and giggling like there's some immense prank about to be offloaded. Young, deep, fascinated by life and full of both wondrous imagination and emotional strength and wisdom drawn from common sense and an ability to embrace the truths of life without letting them overwhelm. And completely living in the moment, loving spiritually, sticking together. Pals."
"I just completed reading The Circle, and am practically overwhelmed....I've been kinda keeping track of your progress, and as soon as I realized that it was complete, I went back and started reading again. At first I thought, "Gosh, there are an awful lot of words here to cover the story of a 16th birthday..... is this really gonna be worth the time?" But the story seemed engaging enough to keep me reading. And the more I read, the better it got. And it just got better, and Better, and BETTER! I laughed, and I cried. I rejoiced, and I wept. Openly. And now that I'm done, I don't really have words to describe my ultimate feelings. Overwhelmed? Well perhaps; it's indeed a memorable, and extraordinarily moving tale. At the conclusion, I can say only, "Very Well Done!" Thank you for your dedication and perseverance in creating, editing, and publishing a worthwhile read. And it leaves me longing to indulge in the sequel(s) that you hint might be coming along. And, I'm waiting!"
I've read a great many stories at a number of sites, but rarely have I come across anything like The Circle. Several stories have moved me, or made me laugh, or brought tears to my eyes, and a very, very few have been able to do all three. Yet your story has repeatedly. Often in the same chapter. As I moved through each one, it was very much like living the events as they unfolded. I reacted out loud again and again as Alex struggled to understand his world and his situation. His sense of no control over even his own decisions transported me back to my own teenaged years. His situations and emotions were vivid and powerful and pulled me in so deeply I read far too late at night and woke the next morning anxious to come home that night to return to his story. At first I read it quickly, but by chapter five I had gone back and started again, reading far more slowly, absorbing the finer details and relishing in them as they mixed into the story again later. Now that it is over I am left feeling victorious and triumphant, yet with a deep melancholy at the ending. There is so much more looming, so I sense from that last chapter, and I am so very anxious to partake of more! Write!