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.
Valerie was on her skateboard on Main Street. She was thrashing. It didn’t matter how dangerous Daddy said it
could be. She was a thrasher, and she
knew how to ride. If he thought he could
forbid her from doing it, well, that was just so boofoo! No.
She couldn’t use that
word. Not after Danny Murphy told her
what it actually meant. Yeesh! Okay, un-cool, then.
She was ten. She was wearing her latex biker shorts. You know, the ones Mom forbid her to wear because they were skin tight. But why did it matter so much? It was not like she actually had a butt to show off. She could ride her skateboard naked and no one would really notice. She did an ollie off the edge of the sidewalk and onto the hot pavement. Summer was ending, but the last day of the Labor Day weekend was still hot. Iowa hot. Eighty degrees in the sun with warm, humid air that boiled you right out of your biker shorts sort of hot. But Valerie wasn’t ready to find out if it was true that no one would notice. She needed to keep them on. They were black with a purple slash of color on the sides. Her favorite thing to wear.
Across the asphalt street her wheels and trucks buzzed as
she rode to the south side of Main Street.
It was a small Iowa farm town.
Only maybe four cars were parked there at any one time, and no one was
on the street but her. Still, she wished
she could burn her way across right in front of someone’s moving pickup truck
and scare them into dropping a bale of hay or two. No one marked her passing by in one of the
most boring places in the whole Mr. Boofoo Universe. No.
The Mr. Un-Cool Universe. She had to remember not to say that other
thing anymore. Especially in front of
Mom, even if Mom didn’t have a clue what it really meant.
She was headed for the Ghost House on the south eastern edge
of town. The Ghost House was the only
remaining haunted house in Norwall, Iowa, and it had collapsed in on itself.
It was more a pile of broken boards and garbage than a house, but it was
the place where she was headed because, unknown to most of the adults in town,
the Ghost House still had a functioning cellar, shored up with railroad ties by
her cousin Brent Clarke and the rest of the original Norwall Pirates. The Pirates had been a secret club in the
1970’s, a secret that nearly everyone knew at least one thing about. They had been a liars’ club of young boys who
supposedly caught a werewolf once and chased an undead Chinese wizard around
town. Liars’ club was more than just a
local nickname for it. It was more of a
literal definition. But she had been
called to attend a secret Pirate meeting.
A meeting that shouldn’t exist because there had been no Norwall Pirates
since they had graduated high school in 1978.
Mom would have a fit if she knew Valerie was headed to the
Ghost House. It was the kind of run-down
rattle-trap that all mothers worried about.
No decent mother worthy of her official Mom-card would stand for a child
of theirs going to such a place, especially not Val’s Mom, the Queen of
She thrashed her way down Whitten Avenue and then around the
corner, zigzagging for two blocks, and then passing Ugly Bill’s Junkyard to the
huge pile of broken crap that had been described to her as being the actual
She came to a stop, kicked up her board and grabbed it, and
looked around, not quite as certain now as she pondered a wilderness of junk,
thistles, and burdock leaves. Ugly Bill
Pixeley had tons of used car parts and wrecked truck parts from which he
salvaged the pieces that he, his brother, and his two idiot sons put together
as trucks and other vehicles which he then sold at a huge profit. Pixeley was a talented mechanic and a very
crafty self-taught engineer.
“You here for the Pirate meeting?” asked Danny Murphy,
pulling up on his bicycle.
“Yeah,” she answered, popping her Bazooka Joe bubble
gum. “Mary Philips says it ain’t just
gonna be for boys anymore.”
“Yeah. I heard that
too. And I’m glad you’re gonna be a Pirate,”
Danny said with a sly grin. He was a
sophisticated man of twelve… well, not really… but he was a boy older than
Valerie by an entire school year, though only about five months in age. Older boys being in the club was one of the
main attractions for her. “It will be
cool to have the most beautiful little girl ever born in Norwall in our club.”
Valerie blushed and dropped her eyes a little bit at
that. Her Uncle Dash had always said
that about her since she could remember.
But it was one thing to hear it from family, and something else to hear
it from somebody she rode the school bus with.
Some things get around by word of mouth a lot faster and farther than
you ever wish they would.
“Do you know how to get inside?” Valerie asked.
“I can show you a secret entrance … for a kiss?” Danny blushed intensely as he proposed the
bargain, a truly dark red that can only be achieved by somebody as
boney-skinny, white-skinned Irish, and shy of girls as Danny Murphy was.
“Boys who think like that all grow up to be rapists,” Val
shot back at him. “That’s what my Aunt
Jennifer says, anyway.”
Danny turned an even darker shade of red-violet. Valerie was suddenly feeling guilty, as if
she might possibly have caused his head to explode from embarrassment by her
cutting remark about his personal urges.
She didn’t dislike him. She just
didn’t want to kiss him.
“Aw, I didn’t mean anything by that. I’ll show you the Tunnel of Doom.”
Danny pointed to a large concrete drainage tile that had been rolled up against the side of the Ghost House’s foundation. She could see that if you crawled through the tile, you could enter through a large crack in the brick foundation. Spiders and potentially snakes to crawl through. Ughh! But Valerie was no Shrinking Violet. She pushed Danny out of the way and went in.
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.
Yes, I published another one within a month of its companion book. The Baby Werewolf is the other part of the story from Recipes for Gingerbread Children. I hold the first copy in my hands today. It is my 8th published novel that I am actually proud of having written.
Its companion book is this one, Recipes for Gingerbread Children. The two books happen at the same time with the same characters and events. But it comes to the story from different viewpoints and weaves different portraits of what happened.
As I continue to draw nearer to publishing my comic horror novel, The Baby Werewolf, busily polishing paragraphs and tweaking the format, I had to find time to do some drawing, some colored pencil cartooning, actually, in order to draw even closer to a comprehensive understanding of the title character, Torrie Brownfield.
I decided that what I wanted to draw was a full-bodied portrait of Torrie, displaying in short pants the full impact of his “werewolf hair” caused by his full-body hypertrichosis syndrome, a genetic hair-growth disorder.
So, I began by printing out a reduced version of the scan of Torrie’s face and shoulders that I created from the drawing I made of him back when the story itself was merely in outline form. I pasted that colored print onto a larger piece of drawing paper and first penciled and then inked the rest of his body. I then used my colored pencils to go all Crayola on the bulk of it, ending up with the complete Torrie Brownfield, holding the one and only copy of Dr. Horation Hespar-White’s recipe book for Magical Airborne Elixir.
Now it doesn’t make sense to create an image like this for no particular reason. Was it just something I was doing to keep my hands busy while watching Netflix? Well, yes, but I did get something out of it after all. I was able to think seriously about my monster theme as heavy-handedly I continue to beat the reader over the head with it. I am obsessed with this particular portrait because, minus the facial fur, it actually looks like and reminds me of the charming little former student the character in the book is actually based on. He was a thirteen-year-old Hispanic boy, naive, innocent, and thoroughly sweet-natured. And he shared with me a history of abuse during childhood. He was not sexually abused, but psychologically and physically abused. And that, of course, led me to the revelation while drawing that the monster of my horror story is not a real werewolf. Not even the murderer who is the villain of the book. The real monster of the story is a systematic abuse of children. It can have two possible results. It can make you into a sweet-natured determined survivor like Danny was, and like Torrie is. Or it can turn you into a vengeful psychotic potential serial killer lashing out because of mental scars and lingering pain. Believe me, I knew a couple of that kind of kid too. Drawing can, in fact, lead you to revelations about yourself and the universe around you. And so, this little obsession has done that very thing for me.
So, I end with this scan of the completed artwork so you can get a better look at it than you can from my crappy photography skills. Drawing something obsessively does have its uses.
After three days of Ged’s attempts at teaching, Shu Kwai was still kneeling stark naked in the practice grounds. He refused to accept any clothing he felt he had not earned. Ged quietly shook his head in despair. Junior Aero and Sarah Smith each had a linen robe with the White Spider symbol stitched into it. They also had tabai boots for their feet, cloth footwear with the big toe tied off for climbing and sure footholds. The two of them worked together with their telepathy to absorb the thoughts of their sensei. Shu Kwai would only stubbornly continue to struggle.
“What is it about the inner eye that you can’t get, Shu-sama?” Ged asked.
Aero-sensei, I do not see the pictures in my mind that you suggest. What do they look like to you?”
“I suppose the
problem is that all Psions do not use the same inner eye to focus their power.”
“How do you mean, honored one?”
“I mean, I see molecules. I can read DNA strings with my inner eye. If I have eaten the meat, I can call up the proper shapes and spirals to make the creature. I can focus my power and shift my own DNA molecules in every cell of my body. I don’t know how I know this, or can do this, but the power wells up in me like a cup that fills itself.”
Shu Kwai’s face showed stern concentration. As the boy knelt there, quivering in the cool breeze, he continued trying with all his youthful might.
“Please, Master Ged, let me help,” said Sara, large eyes pooling with liquid sympathy for Shu’s dilemma.
“All right,please, Sara-san.”
“Shu-bozu, it is true that we all see the inner eye in different ways. Mine is like Ged-sensei’s vision. I can see molecules and DNA. I can rearrange the flow of power in the minds of others to effect healing. I have seen into Junior’s mind as well. His is different. He sees circuits and electrical links. He can trace the patterns in a human mind as I can, or in a computer mind, as I cannot.”
“So, what does my mind, my eye, look like?” asked Shu Kwai, looking with puzzled eyes into Sara’s face.
“Can I take a look?”
Sara reached over to Shu with a tender hand and touched his temple. Shu cracked a smile as her beautiful essence flooded into his head.
“Your inner eye sees motion. Flickering motions. Energy paths of movement.”
Shu nodded with his eyes closed. “I see it. It is just like chi.”
“Spirit force, yes,” said Ged, finally realizing where he had gone wrong. “Girl! Come here!” He motioned to a girl attendant who waited beside the practice field for just such an order. “Girl, we need a loose-jointed doll or a puppet. Can you fetch one for me?”
“Yes, Ged Aero-dono!” she said in breathless awe.
In minutes the girl had returned with a small wooden marionette from the Akito House, smiling and well-pleased that she had been honored to do this service for the White Spider’s special school. Ged took the doll and gratefully patted her powdered cheek.
“Picture this doll in your mind’s eye, Shu Kwai.” Ged sat the doll on the grass. “Picture it rising to its feet. Make it do something.”
As Shu Kwai concentrated, the doll stood up and bowed to Master Ged. Then it slowly began an undulating dance. The dance got wilder and happier as Shu Kwai began to feel his success. Finally, it ended with a flourish and a bow.
“Clever boy!” said
Ged, feeling warm inside for the first time all day. “Let me give you a robe!”
“No, Sensei. I made only a first step. Give me a loin cover only. I must work harder still.”
“As your teacher, I say you accomplished at least two steps today. You learned to focus the inner eye, and you learned not only from me but from your classmate Sara. That is worth a robe, surely.”
“You are anxious to cover me in cloth, Sensei. If I may choose, I would rather have the tabai boots like Sara and Junior.”
“Very well,” said Ged with a smile. “You are determined to remain a naked barbarian. But I respect you very much as a student, Shu Kwai. Your victories make me proud.”