Category Archives: novel plans

The Joys of Editing Yourself

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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.

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Made-Up People

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I often get criticized for talking to people who are basically invisible, probably imaginary, and definitely not real people, no matter what else they may be.

The unfinished cover picture is from the novel The Bicycle-Wheel Genius which I just finished the final rewrite and edit for.  All of the characters in that book are fictional.    Even though some of them strongly resemble the real people who inspired me to create them, they are fictional people doing fictional and sometimes impossible things.  And yet, they are all people who I have lived with as walking, talking, fictional people for many years.  Most of those people have been talking to me since the 1970’s.  I know some of them far better than any of the real people who are a part of my life.

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These, of course, are only a few of my imaginary friends.  Some I spend time with a lot.  Some I haven’t seen or heard from in quite a while.  And I do know they are not real people.  Mandy is a cartoon panda bear, and Anneliese is a living gingerbread cookie.  I do understand I made these people up in my stupid little head.

But it seems to me that the people in the world around us are really no less imaginary, ephemeral, and unreal.  Look at the current Presidentumb of the Disunited States.  He is an evil cartoon James Bond villain if there ever was one.

Animated cast of OUR CARTOON PRESIDENT. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Animated cast of OUR CARTOON PRESIDENT. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

People in the real world create an imaginary person in their own stupid little heads, and pretend real hard that that imaginary person is really them in real life.  And of course, nobody sees anybody else in the same way that they see themselves.  Everybody thinks they are a somebody who is different from anybody else who thinks they are a somebody too, and really they are telling themselves, and each other, lies about who somebody really is, and it is all very confusing, and if you can follow this sentence, you must be a far better reader than I am a writer, because none of it really makes sense to me.  I think everybody is imaginary in some sense of the word.

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So, if you happen to see me talking to a big white rabbit-man who used to be a pet white rabbit, but got changed into a rabbit-man through futuristic genetic science and metal carrots, don’t panic and call the police.  I am just talking to another fictional character from a book I just finished writing.  And why are you looking inside my head, anyway?  There’s an awful lot of personal stuff going on in there.  Of course, you only see that because I wrote about it in this essay.  So it is not an invasion of privacy.  It is just me writing down stuff I probably should keep in my own stupid little head.  My bad.

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Cover Design

I am the first to admit, I don’t know diddly-sqwoot about effective cover design.  But now, with self-publishing as the only option left to me, I am learning things about publishing that I only ever scratched the surface of in my few college forays into publication design and layouts.  I had some experience publishing junior high yearbooks, (and losing money on something that most teachers lose money on).  And I have gotten a lot of serious criticism from sources that matter to me, like my daughter, the Princess.

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With the novel I have been working on with Kindle Publishing on Amazon in view, I came up with this.  I like it.  But it will not cut the mustard with the Princess.  (She uses a knife on mustard, but lately has given up on eating mustard all together).  So I had to work the idea out further.

I tried this;

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The design is a little better.  But Rowan has become so ratty and run down that I hesitate to use the background which is not much like the Rowan of 1974 when the novel was set.  So I decided to focus on character instead.

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Still needs work, right?  You can no longer see the post office sign in the background.  Sherry is still a small head growing out of Superchicken’s neck.  And Milt Morgan is a good addition, but the purple paisley shirt looks terrible.  And besides, this will not fit the whole cover of the Kindle paperback.

It will end up looking something like this;

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Or not.  Because I am still learning how to do it right, and I still have many more mistakes to make.  But as I finish editing and formatting, the time will come soon to see the proof in the pudding.  (And you better hope I don’t put uncut mustard in the pudding.  That would taste terrible.)

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Word Salad and Idea Casserole

In a world filled with interesting and engaging ideas, I get frustrated with the constant barrage of word salad on social media tossed at me by conservative friends.  As Trump seems to be coming closer and closer to ending his administration with his own chaotic behavior, those who supported him are tossing more and more flavorless lettuce and rotted vegetables in the mix.  I have to resist the urge to throw the same thing back at them.  I do not resist such salad-making well.  Witness my attempts to alter this stupid meme from a friend;

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I admit, I kinda barfed half-digested word salad all over this one.  I get tired of debating the issues only to be insulted like this and then accused of only insulting Trump and avoiding what they call the “Real Issues”, like Hillary giving a gazillion per cent of our uranium wealth to the Russians and Obama being the one guilty of colluding with Russians.

But, enough of that.  It is time to make something healthier out of words and ideas.  I have a lot of things on my mind, and I want to get a lot of them said before I die.  So let me make some idea casserole, cooking a whole lot of very different ideas into one multivitamin dish.

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  • Trump, for all the damage he’s done, will end up being good for us if we can just survive his administration to the end.  Scar tissue is always tougher than the surrounding flesh when the wound heals.  Repairing the damage he has done will leave us stronger, wiser, and more able to cope with the root causes of the Trump phenomenon.
  • My friends and family who supported the whole Trump mess primarily to hurt people whom they feel are smarter than them and so more stuck-up and self-important than them, will eventually get back to leading more productive lives than they did before.  And they will continue not to credit the ones who actually made that happen the way they didn’t credit Obama for healing the blunders of Bush.
  • I will get back to writing gentler, non-political-type humor novels.
  • I have my novel Superchicken half-way through the final edit to publish it on Amazon Kindle.  You can see I have been playing with cover ideas.  I plan to write Sing Sad Songs next.  Also I have two more novel ideas that I will add to this casserole as separate ingredients.  And I have The Bicycle Wheel Genius, Recipes for Gingerbread Children, and The Baby Werewolf finished and ready to edit as well.
  • Here’s new idea number one; The Boy Who Lived Forever is a fantasy novel about Icarus Jones coming to stay with the Jones family of Norwall.  He has survived a house fire that killed his parents and now must evade the dragon that pursues him while trying to figure out what is wrong with him health-wise.  Could he be dying?  Or did he survive the fire because he somehow can’t die?
  • Here’s new idea number two; Kingdoms Under the Earth is a fantasy novel about Blueberry Bates, a troubled young girl, falling seriously ill, and the measures her boyfriend, Mike Murphy, and her friends have to take in a realm made of magic and fever dreams to save her.

The truth is I really can’t do anything about politics and government beyond expressing my beliefs and voting my conscience.  I need to concentrate on telling stories.  It is the one thing that still gives my life meaning through the pain, illness, and suffering.  I am not dead yet.  And, not being dead, I need to be writing.

 

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Now What Do I Write About?

I finished the Baby Werewolf.

This writing project lasted for more than a year.  It ended up being 88 Cantos and 77,000 words.  I poured my soul into it.  It burned up more writing energy than anything I have ever done before.  Is it a good piece of writing?  Maybe.  Is it the best thing I ever wrote?  No.

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After the exhausting process ended, I have to regenerate.  Like Doctor Who, I need a new life, a new face, a new adventure.  If I don’t have something new to write, I might as well be dead.

So, here’s the plan.

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I will turn this, my first completed hometown novel into a published novel on Amazon.  That requires some serious editing and re-formatting.  I have to tone down some of the risque things in the nudist camp section, including some things I have learned about nudists by becoming one.  I intend to soften the language, because it is at times too salty to serve as soup in a young adult novel.  I don’t intend to challenge people’s blood pressure limits.  And you can’t always opt for realism and have kids talk the way they do in real life, totally uncensored.  I don’t know how long this will take.  But it will happen.

Then I will follow that with another story I’ve been itching to write since the 70’s.

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Sing Sad Songs was originally titled The Little Boy Crooner.  It is about a talented little orphan boy from France who is, by way of a fatal car accident and family relationships separated by too much time and distance, suddenly dropped into the middle of a dysfunctional and totally disillusioned family in Iowa.  He doesn’t know them.  He can’t talk to them.  But, oh! when he puts on the clown paint and sings!  Well, I am not ready to tell the story right here and right now.

Like it was with Recipes for Gingerbread Children and The Baby Werewolf, Sing Sad Songs will have a companion book.  That is the story of a goofy family who harbor a talented child of their own, an autistic young man who can only talk through a ventriloquist puppet, but turns out to be a hidden genius.

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It is a completely complicated and confusing mess of a writing plan.  But what does it matter?  I do it for me.  I write what I want to.  What I need to.  Nobody is reading my novels anyway.  Even beloved daughter has only read one of my published novels, about which she says, “Eh…”  So I am not writing to become a millionaire.  I am not committing acts of great literature.  I am writing simply because I have to.  Who knows, maybe one day in the far future, after Trump turns America into an impoverished irradiated wasteland, and aliens from Zeta Reticuli land to find out what humans have done to themselves, Zenu 231 will find a copy of one of my books in the rubble, read it with a dispassionate eye, and say, “Eh…”  It could happen.

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Really? …Fairies?

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I have always thought of myself as a science fiction writer.  I admit that in 2006 I realized that my province was not serious science fiction, but rather humor-driven science fiction.

In 2015 I wrote Magical Miss Morgan, a novel about being a teacher, but basically also a fairy tale.  So, I guess, with fairies invading my fiction and magically taking over at least half the stories they are part of, I am turning into a fantasy humorist rather than a straight science fiction writer.

I am at the moment re-reading my novel Magical Miss Morgan for Goodreads.com now that it has reached publication in 2018.  I am experiencing all the cringes and all the “oh, no!’s” of being a writer in print.  You end up thinking, “How could I have been so stupid as to write THAT?” way more often than is good for your continued mental well-being.  But I am also still tickled by and laughing at the best jokes and funnies in the novel, at least enough to know it is (however self-delusional it is to say this) still a good book.

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But that book is not the end of the fairy invasion.  Oh, no.  In 2016 I wrote the book Recipes for Gingerbread Children.  This book was not only about an old German woman and holocaust survivor who is a very good teller of fairy tales, but also about the fairies of Tellosia who live nearby and invisibly attend to her constantly.  She even creates for them a whole race of magical gingerbread men fairies.

This book is currently a part of the Inkitt novel contest and is available to read for free on their site this month.  Here is the link; Recipes for Gingerbread Children.  You can actually read the whole thing, and hopefully review it to help me get the needed buzz to get it published through Inkitt.

So, why fairies?  I have to admit… I don’t know.  I think I have been be-spelled, bewitched, and serious glammered with pixie dust.

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Writing Myself To Life

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I have been working on my novel The Baby Werewolf, and I am now in the final phase, working on the climax and crisis point.  And I surprised myself.  The killer monologues to the main characters who have now become his intended next victims.  I have played this out over and over in the twenty-two years I have been writing this book.  Last night, for the first time ever, the hero character laughs in this scene instead of the cringing fear that had always been there before.

How is such a thing possible?  What changed?  I have been writing and rewriting this story since 1996.  But it goes much deeper and darker than that.  This story went on my have-to-write list in 1966 when an older, stronger boy who lived near my home trapped me in a place out-of-sight of others and stripped me, gaining some horrible kind of pleasure by inflicting pain on my private parts.  Recovery from that has taken half a century.  The recovery itself probably explains why I struggled so long to pull this story together in a finished form.

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There are things about my writing life that are undeniable.  First of all, I have to write.  There is really no other choice for me.  My mind will never know rest or peace without being able to spin out the paragraphs and essays and stories that make it possible to know those things.  Nothing is real if I can’t write it out.  Secondly, I am a humorist.  If I can never be funny at all, can never write a joke, then I will descend into madness.  My sense of humor not only shields me and serves as my suit of armor, it heals me when I suffer psychic wounds.  This book is a horror story, but like many of the best horror stories, it relies on humor to drive every scene and knit the plot together.  And it was a breakthrough for me to have the hero character laugh instead of cringe in the critical scene.  It allows me to live again.  And love again.  And the real monster that caused this book to be, is now forgiven.  The world continues to turn.  The picture is now complete.  And soon, the novel will be too.

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