My book advertised here is the best book I have that hasn’t gotten a single reader yet. I am trying to promote it by giving out free Kindle e-book copies for free this weekend. That tactic is supposed to generate readers and reviews. So far, two days in, only one free book has been selected by anybody on Facebook, Twitter, or here on WordPress. I mean, even clicking on a free book and then never reading it helps me as a marketer. But I am not getting any of that.
I did better with Recipes for Gingerbread Children, especially the first two days. But I admit, even though it shares a time, parts of a plot, and characters with The Baby Werewolf, it is a better book.
But tying the two books together has no visible effect.
I will, however, keep trying. I have other good books to promote as well as this one. Perhaps people are too afraid of werewolves to buy it, even for free.
Click on this if you’d like a free e-book. Every single one clicked on helps.
The question came up on Twitter. “What things aren’t safe to write about in a Young Adult novel?”
I have personally never questioned myself about that before. The writer asking for input was writing something science-fiction-y about a telepath using telepathy to torture someone. He was apparently worried that a younger audience would be traumatized by that.
Really? Anyone who can ask that has never spent much time talking to young readers.
I base my answer on over thirty years of trying to get kids to read things of literary quality. My very first year of teaching a male student stood up when the literature books were passed out and announced, “I don’t do literature!”
“Really, Ernie? You are going to lay that challenge before me?”
We slogged through The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that year, using and reusing 20 paperback copies of the novel purchased with my own money. Ernie maybe didn’t like it. But he did literature.
And I went on a thirty-four year quest to find out what literature kids really would do and what literature kids really neededto do.
Here’s a tiny bit of wisdom from Mickey’s small brain and comparatively large experience; Kids are not traumatized by literature in any form. Kids are traumatized by life. They need literature to cope with trauma.
Kids want to read about things that they fear. A book like Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card has some graphic violence in it and a war against faceless aliens, but it does an excellent job of teaching how to empathize as well as fight against bullies, and it helps them grapple with the notion that the enemy is never clearly the thing that you thought it was to begin with.
Kids want to read the truth about subjects like love and sex. They are not looking for pornography in YA novels. They get that elsewhere and know a lot more about it than I do. They want to think about what is right and how you deal with things like teen pregnancy, abortion, matters of consent vs. rape and molestation. Judy Blume started being objectively honest with kids about topics like puberty and sex back in the 60’s with books like Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. and Iggie’s House.
If you are writing for young adults, middle grade and high school kids, even kids 5th Grade and below who are high-level readers, it is more important to worry about writing well and writing honestly than it is to worry about whether they can handle the topics and trauma that you wish to present. Write from the heart and write well.
I can honestly say I know these things I have said are true about young readers from having read to them, read with them, and even taught them to read. As an author, my opinion is worth diddly-squoot since I have hardly sold any books, and no kids I know have read them (except for two of my nieces, both of whom are pretty weird and nerdy just like me.)
I am now deep into the plot of my novel, The Boy…Forever. How deep you may ask? Well, at least up to my eyeballs.
I am busy looking at the story through the eyes of four characters, each telling their part of the story in a different way, but in first-person narrative.
I should explain that I am writing this novel as an epistolary novel, a novel made up of written artifacts.
So, let me comment on each of the four main narrators.
Anita Jones is telling her views of what happened in a series of letters to her cousin in Dallas, Dottie Jones. She starts off the plot by getting a letter from her cousin in St. Louis, Icarus Jones, that is basically a suicide note. Dottie’s answer letters are included in the novel, but only as commentary on the action, since she is far removed from the events being narrated. Anita is a highly sensible girl who has started a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship with Eddie Campbell, and her highly sensible life is thrown into serious disarray by her cousin’s somewhat bizarre plight.
Icky himself is only the author of the suicide note, so his involvement in the story, as the most important character (even mentioned in the title), depends on the narration of others.
Sherry Cobble is writing her Nudist’s Diary to chronicle life in the 9th grade in Iowa as a happy and enthusiastic naturist whose main goal is to recruit all of her 9th grade friends to be naturists. Her twin sister Shelly is also a nudist and is supposed to being doing her half of the diary, but her boyfriend has happily accepted the invitation to become a naturist already, and her interest in the diary has waned.
But Sherry’s diary entries soon reveal a serious conflict. Icky Jone’s girlfriend talks her step-father into moving all the way to Norwall, Iowa in order to be near to Icky. And Fiona Long soon becomes interested in Sherry’s boyfriend, Brent Clarke. In fact, she crashes Sherry’s Spring Nude Picnic party so that she can spend time playing football in the nude with Brent. And to make matters worse, Fi turns out to be a red dragon disguised in human form. Fi is obviously not one of the narrators of the book. So, her part in the story depends solely on what Sherry says about her.
Brent Clarke is the third narrator of the book. He is the leader of the local gang of farm kids and 9th graders known as the Norwall Pirated. He’s obsessed with police work and investigating bad guys. He keeps investigator notes in which he sees himself as a great detective. And it is his detective instincts that start him recording what he can learn about Tian Long, Fi’s stepfather. His suspicions lead him to the conclusion that Mr. Long is an evil Chinese dragon in human form.
Milt Morgan is the fourth major narrator of the story. He is a highly imaginative 9th grader who is supposed to be keeping a daily journal for his English teacher (who desperately wants Milt to become a better writer and put his high-powered imagination to better uses than thinking up ways for the Norwall Pirates to get into trouble).
Milt, naturally, hates to write, but does it on a typewriter, mistakes and all, because he is a story-teller at heart. And this story has a potential to stop any and all hearts involved. You see, in some ways, it is a story about a monster. A monster who wants to eat Icky Jones. It wants to eat him because… he is boy who can potentially live forever.
And, finally, here’s a reminder about my book promotion, beginning today.
As a writer of novels, like all passable to good writers of novels, I read novels. Not just any novels. Novels that are the kind of novels I aspire to write myself.
David Mitchell is one of those novelists who can write the way I want to write. His stories are detailed and yet, compelling enough to follow wherever the story leads you. Characters are vivid and seem to have an actual life beyond the pages of the novel. And there is a chance that you will meet them again in another David Mitchell novel, even if they died in the previous David Mitchell novel you read. He writes across swaths of time and gives the story a sense of history.
Slade House is basically a haunted house story, a horror story about a house that is itself a sort of ghost. It can only be entered by a single small iron door that only appears in an alleyway every nine years. And every time it does appear, in October of 1979, 1988, 1997, 2006… , at least one somebody will go in and never come out again.
The story is side-linked to the masterpiece Mitchell novel, The Bone Clocks. It is also a plot less convoluted and multifaceted than Bone Clocks and Cloud Atlas, so much easier to follow
David Mitchell is an author I study to learn about writing and storytelling. I don’t copy him. I do take note of his bag of tricks, his writer’s toolbox, so to speak, and I pick up and play with those same tools and magician’s secrets. I would like to suggest that if you truly wish to be a writer of fiction, you must put David Mitchell’s books on your must-read-before-I-die list. If you can’t put Mitchell on that list, then here are a few others on my list; Michael Crichton, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Louis L’Amour, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, H.P. Lovecraft, Steven King, Mark Twain, and J. K. Rowling. It should be obvious that these names are all on my list for different reasons. And if you don’t read David Mitchell, there are artisan’s techniques there you can get nowhere else. But you are the reader. And if you have chosen to read this far through this essay, then you are at least fool enough to want to know the things I am telling you in this book review.
As a storyteller, David Mitchell is Rumpelstiltskin. He weaves straw into gold. And if you are canny and careful enough of a reader, you can gain some of that value from his work without giving up your firstborn.
The Amazon rain forest is burning. It filters our atmosphere, removing carbon, and producing about 20 percent of our breathable air. The Latin Trump, newly elected leader of Brazil, wants it to burn to make arable land for growing soybeans to sell to China and profit over the Pumpkinhead President’s stupid trade war.
I already worry about having a heart attack at any moment. I can’t afford insulin for my diabetes, or another trip to the emergency room. The next concerning chest pain may well be the onset of the end of everything for me. If it is just another mystery pain caused by the inflamed joints in my rib cage, or the arthritic bones pressing on my spinal chord, I will not be able to pay for the inevitable surgery I discussed with doctors before. Better for my heart to go boom and the suffering to end.
But I believe in the Dylan Thomas solution. “Do not go gentle into that good night, rather, Rage! Rage! Against the dying of the light!”
So, how do I do that? How do I rage against the end of days? Whether for the entire planet facing heat death and a destroyed environment, or just for myself?
I will write the next home-town novel about the boy who cannot die. I am calling it A Boy Forever… at least for now. That’s a working title.
The Paffooney for today pictures Firefang, a girl who comes to the little town of Norwall, Iowa, against her will with her adoptive oriental father. She is not the protagonist. Young Icarus Jones is that. Rather, she is the antagonist, the fire-breathing troubled teen dissatisfied with life and longing for chaos and escape.
This will not be a teen romantic comedy. Well, not only that, anyway. It will be a book about an imprisoned dragon, the undying, and the undead. It will be about murder and the quest for immortality. I am working on the plot of it as an epistolary novel, made up of letters, interviews, and first-person accounts. And it will be both funny and sad, both an allegory and a farce, a parody and a prose poem.
Okay, I know it’s a tall order. But when faced with imminent death, you gotta do something, right? I intend to write another novel.
The picture is modeled after a girl from Brazil that I met over the internet, on Twitter. The character is not based on her. I barely know her. But I used her internet selfie to draw the picture portrait of Firefang.
Here is a brief and very surrealistic comic story that I have published before… but a long time ago.
I know it is a bit bizarre, and hard to tell what the theme really is… but isn’t that what art is really for? Telling highly personal stories that make you think hard about seeing things through the eyes of an artist.
I have started re-reading my werewolf stories again as I intend to promote the heck out of the two books pictured here in the rest of 2019.
Both books are intertwined even though they are both stand-alone novels with different genre ties and different themes. They share the same characters, many of the same scenes (though seen from different viewpoints in each novel), many of the same plot points, and the same werewolf. I like to think that reading both books together makes a better, more nuanced story as a two-book whole. But each book is also a whole in itself. And you can read them in either order.
I started by re-reading Recipes for Gingerbread Children. This book is basically a fairy-tale story-collection contrasted with a Holocaust survivor’s story. It is about how a storyteller manages to shape the world around her to help herself and others make sense out of a cruel world filled with evil and betrayal.
The Baby Werewolf is a Gothic horror tale where the real monster is hidden by deeply buried secrets, and lies have to be pierced to protect the innocent. I will re-read and promote this book second. I love both of these books with a paternal sort of overlooking-the-warts-and-birth-defects love.
So, I have a plan. A hopelessly pie-in-the-sky plan. But a plan. And hopefully at least some part of the plan will work.