I have begun work on novel #10 in my Hometown Series about the imaginary little Iowa town where I grew up. This novel is called Fools and Their Toys. It is basically a novel about how human beans communicate, mind to mind, heart to heart, and mouth to ear.
Now, I should tell you, calling them “human beans” in the previous paragraph was not a spelling mistake. It was the kind of pun that fools like Mickey often employ. And I don’t consider the word “fool” to be an insult. After all, the fool in a Shakespeare play often says the thing that sounds the wisest in the play. And all the world is a stage, and all the people merely players. But I do acknowledge that fools can actually be stupid, too. Their whole purpose is to make you laugh.
Probably the most foolish thing about this novel about fools and foolishness is that the narrator is a zebra sock puppet that the ventriloquist protagonist uses to be able to talk and communicate. Murray Dawes has a condition that makes people think he is slow of mind because he is unable to create speech in his own mouth. He is actually quite brilliant. But that doesn’t come out until he finally has the puppet to do the talking for him. Zearlop, then, is the narrator who puts the entire book in his own words even though he has brains made of wadded newspaper and cotton stuffing.
I have long worried that this particular book would be hard to write. But just like the last three novels it is now flowing out of my word processor as if it is writing itself. I do hope I can hang on to life long enough to make it real.
I have been using the Tuesday post for this blog for a very novel thing. Yes, that’s an ironic pun made with 55% pure iron. This once-a-week exercise in fictional weirdness is basically a forge for failing novel ideas.
I began with the Stardusters manuscript for a stalled sequel to Catch a Falling Star. I worked it out with a rewritten Canto per Tuesday. And I turned the weird little climate-crisis science-fiction comedy into a passable piece of novel noodling. I was also able to use it as a test novel for the Amazon Kindle Publishing method of turning it into a book that I could hold a copy of in my two hands.
Then I tried to rehabilitate my first and worst published novel, Aeroquest. I found I had a lot of very good individual Cantos (which I was using as a faux-poetical and somewhat snooty substitute for the word chapter). But the overall story was fractured and incoherent. What I eventually decided to do with this book is to break it up into at least three separate stories. I don’t know if I will ever republish this book, it is there to be worked on for as long as I’m still kicking.
So, what will I do with Tuesdays now?
This is now the longest stalled manuscript I have going. It has some definite problems and plot holes. I might choose to revise and edit it in this space on my blog. If I do, it will be even more of a real rewrite in front of your eyes than the first two. I initially thought these Novel Tuesdays might yield input and criticism that might prove useful. But of the few people who are actually interested enough to read this word-wrenching and rearranging, I don’t seem to get any thoughts beyond likes and hope-you-succeeds.
Anyway, I am pretty well addicted to this odd writing behavior by now, and next Tuesday yields the start of a new novel, whether you are ready or not.
I was a boy back when the milk man still came around in his blue-and-white panel truck delivering bottles of milk with Elsie the Cow on them. I don’t remember clearly because I was only 4 years old back when I first became aware of being a boy in this world instead of being something else living somewhere else.
There were many things I didn’t know or understand back then. But one thing I did know, was that I loved Elsie the Cow. And why would a farm boy love a cartoon cow? There were many not-so-sensible reasons.
For one thing, Elsie the Cow reminded me of June Lockhart, Lassie’s mom and the mom from Lost in Space.
It may be that June Lockhart’s eyes reminded me of Elsie’s eyes, being large, soul-full eyes with large black eye lashes. It may be that she starred in a TV commercial for Borden’s milk in which Elsie winked at me at the end of the commercial.
Or maybe it was because Elsie had calves and was a mom. And June Lockhart was Lassie’s mom and the mom of Will Robinson, so I associated both of them with my mom, and thus with each other.
Elsie gave you milk to drink and was always taking care of you in that way. Milk was good for you, after all. My own mom was a registered nurse. So they were alike in that way too.
And she was constantly defending you against the bulls in your life. She stood up to Elmer to protect her daughter more than once. Of course, her son was usually guilty of whatever he was accused of, but she still loved him and kept Elmer from making his “hamburger” threats a reality.
And you can see in numerous ad illustrations that Elsie’s family were basically nudists. Although she often wore an apron, she was bare otherwise. And though her daughter often wore skirts and her son wore shorts, Elmer was always naked. And that didn’t surprise me, because no cow I knew from the farm wore clothes either. From very early in my life I was always fascinated by nakedness, and I would’ve become a nudist as a youngster if it hadn’t been soundly discouraged by family and society in general.
So there are many reasons why I have always loved Elsie the Cow. And it all boils down to the love of drinking milk and that appealing cartoon character who constantly asked you to drink more.
I need to figure out marketing if I am ever going to make a dent as an author. So I got together $11.75 and hired two stuffed celebrities to endorse my books. Fozzy comes from Goodwill for $4.75, while $7.00 on E-Bay netted me Alf.
Okay, I guess it’s a start. Maybe not a great start, but a start.
Yeah, maybe Alf needs an attitude adjustment… with a brick.
Okay, money poorly spent… but it is a good idea. I need somebody who doesn’t have sawdust in their heads. How much do you suppose Angelina Jolie charges per endorsement? Yeah, I’m pretty sure it would be too much for my budget. Maybe I could get Bette Davis. She’d be cheap. But how persuasive are dead people?
Yes, there is very definitely a possibility that there is more than one me.
If you look carefully at the colored pencil drawing above, you will see that it is titled “The Wizard of Edo” and signed by someone called Leah Cim Reyeb. A sinister sounding Asian name, you think? I told college friends that my research uncovered the fact that he was an Etruscan artist who started his art career more than two thousand years ago in a cave in France. But, of course, if you are clever enough to read the name backward, you get, “beyeR miC haeL”. So, that stupid Etruscan cave artist is actually me.
It turns out that it is a conceit about signing my name as an artist that I stole from an old episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show and have used for well over two decades through college and my teaching career.
And of course, the cartoonist me is Mickey. Mickey also writes this blog. Mickey is the humorist identity that I use to write all my published novels and blog posts since I published the novel Catch a Falling Star.
Michael Beyer is the truest form of my secret identity. That was my teacher name. It was often simplified by students to simply “Mr. B”. I was known by that secret identity for 31 years.
Even more sinister are my various fictional identities occurring in my art and my fiction. You see one of them in this Paffooney. The name Dr. Seabreez appears in Catch a Falling Star as the Engineer who makes a steam engine train fly into space in the 1890’s with alien technology. He appears again in The Bicycle-Wheel Genius as a time-traveler.
The young writer in the novel Superchicken, Branch Macmillan, is also me. As is the English teacher Lawrance “Rance” Kellogg used in multiple novels.
So, disturbing as it may be to realize, there is more than one name and identity that signifies me. But if you are a writer of fiction, a cartoonist, an artist, or a poet, you will probably understand this idea better. And you may even have more than one you too.
I am now in the final phase of publishing The Bicycle-Wheel Genius. I am merely waiting for Amazon to object to whatever ridiculously minute formatting error I may still have going. And I once again had to publish without benefit of a beta reader or an editor of any kind. You learn things about yourself that you really don’t want to know.
What I have learned;
I can’t depend on my wife to be a beta reader and comment on my work. She tried once and told me, “Your writing is like dog poop. It is full of weird stuff, smells bad, and is impossible to get off your shoe once you step in it.” To be honest, I ironed out that metaphor just a bit. She was actually quibbling about my proofreading style and basically ignored all the content of the story. That’s the way English teachers are about prose.
I can too easily fall into the habit of introducing characters on a fashion model runway. The first time the character enters the narrative I tend to give a head to toe rundown of how they look, what they are wearing, and how they have done their hair. I know better than that, but I still do it.
I… use… ellipsis… marks… toooo… much…!
My creative spellings tend to drive the spellchecker insane. In this novel I had trouble over the spellings of blogwopping, interbwap, and dillywhacking. To be fair two of those words are from the language of the Tellerons, a space-faring race of frog people who happen to ineptly invade the earth. (Oh, and the other is a euphemism used by young boys for something very private. Don’t tell anybody about that one.)
Time travel plots can be laboriously difficult to follow through mobius-strip-like contortions of time, space, and history.
Sometimes my jokes are not funny. Seriously… that can be a problem.
And my characters often act on weird impulses and do things for no rhyme or reason… or rhythm either for that matter… see what I mean about ellipsis marks? Of course, one can always explain that that is exactly how people really are. I myself never do that. There is always a rhyme to be snatched from the ether in the very nick of time… randomly.
And at the end of the novel, when I am tying up the loose ends of the plot in a Gordian Knot, I have strings left over. Maybe enough to knit a shirt with. So I end up picking them up and starting another novel with them.
It is basically heck to be a divergent thinker. You try to make a list of things, and by the time you get to number 9, you have forgotten what the list was about, and you even forgot to number things, so you have to go back to the first one and count. Now what was I talking about?
Oh, yeah. I edited the book all by myself. And now it’s done. Time to start a new novel and make all the same mistakes over again.
I find alliteration to be a useful poetic tool to use for comedy purposes. I like to use it to the point of ridiculousness… as in apt alliteration’s artful aid. The repetition for repetition’s sake in spite of meaning is in itself chuckle-worthy. But when alliteration can further the meaning of the writing itself also… I liberally laugh out loud.
L-Words (a Lousy L-Poem)
Lovely little lambs lament
Little lambs lament the loss of love
Lambs lament loudly and long
Lament the loss of lovely love
Lovely little lambs laugh loudly
Little Lambs laugh at life lived lovingly
Lambs laugh long and loudly
Laugh long and loudly in lieu of love
Life and love and laughter
The three L’s
Laugh lovely little lambs!
Okay, I know… I am the king of bad poetry. But perhaps the alliterative excess makes you laugh a little bit… at my poor poetry skills if nothing else.
Alliteration always awards awesomeness on authors… or not.