Wrestling with Themes – Part 4

The Central Timeline of my Hometown Novels picks up again in 1988-1990

My first good published novel, Catch a Falling Star, was published in 2013 by I-Universe, an imprint belonging to Penguin Books of Random House Publishing. This is one of those special imprints where the author is expected to hire the editors, proofreaders, and marketing experts out of their own pockets and, essentially, pay to publish. I had to have my manuscript read and approved. This was serious publishing, and my book did win a Publisher’s Choice Award and a Rising Star Award. But I had to pay for everything and the publisher insisted on pricing the book out of competitiveness. The book has earned me $16.00 so far that I am aware of in spite of about $3,000.00 invested in making it salable. So, the theme of this book should be, “Traditional publishers screw beginning authors out of money as gleefully as any publication scam does.” Of course, they would never do that to Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. But I am definitely not them. All the books I wrote and talked about in Parts 1, 2, & 3 (except for Superchicken) were completed after this book.

Catch a Falling Star

This is the cover idea I submitted for Catch a Falling Star, but it was, of course, rejected.

So, the main theme of this book is not about publishing and being cheated. It is about my small home town in Iowa being invaded by invisible aliens from outer space. But they are totally incompetent aliens who have in-bred almost all the intelligence out of their generational mother-ship, eat their own children to maintain their population, and have totally given up love, creativity, and empathy because of an over-reliance on their stolen technology. They are also descended from frog-like amphibians.

The aliens make a critical mistake in their sinister plan. They kidnap a young specimen to study for weakness, a member of the Norwall Pirates named Dorin Dobbs. And they accidentally lose one of their own tadpoles on Earth where he is adopted by a childless couple.

As each side learns about the other, the invasion is doomed and the alien children rebel against becoming dinner. The theme of this book is something like, “If only you get to know me, you cannot overcome me by force, especially not if you learn to love me.”

The Bicycle-Wheel Genius

The second novel of the 90’s is this one, which I call a prequel/equal/sequel because it begins prior to Catch a Falling Star, includes untold events during the previous book, as well as retold events from a different point of view, and subsequent events that occur after the alien invasion goes away leaving an invisible starship behind. It involves an inventor who lost his wife and son in a fire caused by his experiment, making him now suspicious of electronics and only willing to invent new ways to use bicycle parts. And this sad inventor/scientist has moved in next door to Tim Kellogg, leader of the Norwall Pirates. Tim has had his best friend and key partner in crime move away. And he needs a new best friend. So, you can probably guess what Tim has in mind.

You can probably see already that this book is going to have a Toy-Story-sort of theme, Everybody needs a good friend to make their way through life.” (And if you don’t have one, you can always make one. But not out of bicycle wheels. This is another example of a long-winded parenthetic aside.)

Magical Miss Morgan

This is my teacher-story. Of course, Miss Morgan is not really me. I am not a woman. She is based on a gifted teacher I knew and worked with named Enedina Mendiola who gave her whole life to teaching, was naturally gifted with the power to teach kids and make them love her, and who died shortly after she was forced to retire from teaching for health reasons. She was an incredible human being, and I miss her mightily. But Miss Morgan teaches my subject, Language Arts, rather than the Science that Mother Mendiola taught.

The story is about how a gifted teacher with her own way of doing things deals with the ups and downs of the classroom, difficult students, even more difficult parents, and nearly impossible administrators. She goes through a tough period where she proves that good teaching is a subversive act. The theme is simple, “A good teacher has her own set of golden rules, and to be successful, she must continue to apply them consistently. Even if she has to give up teaching to do it.”

Given enough time, there are two more titles in this series of 90’s stories that I hope to write. Kingdoms Under the Earth and Music in the Forest.

So, now I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is I have more things to teach you about my struggle with themes. The bad news is… that means there will be a Part 5 to this essay.

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Filed under autobiography, humor, novel writing, Paffooney, writing

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