Category Archives: work in progress

People in My Head at the Moment

Anita Jones

As a writer seriously immersed in a particular work in progress, I find myself talking more and more to certain people who exist only in my head. They are the characters in my novel, The Boy… Forever.

The novel is itself an epistolary novel. That means, like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it is made up of letters, notes, diary and journal entries, and other personal writing of the central characters. It also means that I have to become the different people who write these things. At least while I create each individual artifact that goes into the mosaic of first-person narratives.

Anita Jones, pictured here, is the letter-writer who starts the plot in motion when she gets a very disturbing letter from her cousin, Icarus Jones.

Icarus writes about his problem with becoming a midget, and his response to it being a plan to kill himself. It seems that he simply stopped growing at the age of ten. Now, being a fifteen-year-old in the body of a ten-year-old, he writes a suicide note in the form of a letter, and then goes to jump off a bridge into the Mississippi River. But when he does, he survives. Or, rather, he succeeds, but cannot remain dead. He doesn’t know it, yet, but he has become a human mutation known in the secret world of unknown things as an Immortal.

Tian Long, the Celestial Dragon

Icky’s problem becomes worse when it is discovered he is being pursued by another immortal, a sort of vampiric immortal who needs to consume the essence of other immortals to stay alive. He is a three-thousand-year-old Chinese Celestial Dragon who is able to assume a human form.

Neither Icky Jones nor Tian Long the dragon, though, really needs to be in my head. Icarus himself only writes the first and last letters of the book. Tian Long, the villain, does not have a say at all in telling the story. The only part of it he writes are the wizard spells he uses to confound everyone, and most of those are in Chinese.

Milton John Morgan, the Wizard of the Norwall Pirates

Besides the letters that Anita Jones writes to her cousin in Dallas, Dot Jones, the story is also advanced in the journal entries of Milt Morgan, one of the leaders of the boys’ gang in rural Iowa known as the Norwall Pirates. He has been asked by the Freshman English teacher to keep a daily journal and write every day in 1976. This he struggles to do, but gains writing and typing skills as he goes along, especially when he befriends Icarus and learns about the dragon pursuing Icky.

Milt is full of imagination and a sense of adventure, a thing that makes him an unreliable narrator, not above embellishing the truth as he writes his not-so-much- daily-as-infrequent journal entries.

Brent “the Cat” Clarke

The story is also taken up by Brent Clarke, the leader of the Norwall Pirates. Brent wants to be a policeman or a detective or something like that when he grows up. He takes careful investigation notes on everything, and he is the first one to become suspicious of the Chinese man and his step-daughter who pick a house in the town of Norwall that they want to live in right before the actual owner and occupant of the house mysteriously dies in a falling accident. Brent befriends the local Sheriff’s Deputy and sets out on a serious possible murder investigation that yields some very disturbing results. His notes are very detail-oriented and generally fact-based. He carefully records his own eye-witness accounts of everything.

Sherry Cobble, the nudist, calls herself the smarter and more beautiful twin.

Sherry Cobble, the more outgoing of the identical twins known as the Cobble Sisters, is a happy nudist with a very positive body image for herself and her twin sister. She is a very positive person over-all. She and her sister Shelly had started out keeping a “Lovely Nudist’s Diary” between them, but Shelly is not nearly as interested in writing and storytelling as her sister. So, Sherry takes over the diarist duties with the same sort of glee and enthusiasm she has for promoting nudism to her friends, especially the Norwall Pirates. It is her goal to eventually see all of the kids in Norwall naked and happy just as she and her sister Shelly always are.

Those four different character voices are the main voices I have to work with in telling this fantasy adventure story in much the same way as Stoker tells the story of Dracula.

So, if I begin to seem like I have a disordered mind full of multiple personalities, it’s because I am a novelist, not a mental patient or a vampire or even a Chinese dragon in human form. I am simply trying to tell a story by allowing four distinctly different characters to live inside my head.

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Wrestling With Themes – Part 2

In Part 1 I set out to uncover the major theme of each of the books in my Hometown Series, the stories set in the imaginary version of my home town and filled with mixed-and-matched versions of the people I have known in my life. Unfortunately, I have been allowed to write and self-publish novels for long enough that I can’t do the entirety of that task in one go. So, last time was the analysis of the novels set in the 1970’s.

The Central Time-Line Picks Up Again in 1983.

Valerie Clarke is the most important character in the novels of the 1980’s. She is the combination of a girl who I grew up with and was in the same class at school with until we both graduated from high school in 1975, and a girl who was a favorite student of mine in the early 1990’s and impacted my classroom and my life during both the 7th and the 8th grades.

When the Captain Came Calling

The first book of these four novels is When the Captain Came Calling. Admittedly, this is not the best book I have ever written, and is closer to the worst. But it is necessary back-story for the books that come after. The story begins with the reformation of the Norwall Pirates (the original Pirates all having graduated from high school and gone their own ways) under the leadership of a strong-willed girl named Mary Philips, aided by her boyfriend and next-door neighbor. Valerie is recruited to be the second girl in the club full of boys. And then an old Norwall resident, Captain Noah Dettbarn, returns to Norwall after years of being a South Pacific captain of a merchant ship. But he is cursed with being invisible by an enraged voodoo priest whose daughter he fell in love with.

The theme of the book is how, “A band of friends can help each other overcome loss and trauma, even the invisible members of the group.” But it was a particularly difficult story to write because of the death by suicide of Valerie’s father, and the subsequent suicide of my cousin’s son during the writing of the novel.

The second book of the 80’s series is the best book I have ever written. Snow Babies is the story of how a blizzard unexpectedly traps the entire town of Norwall under a blanket of snow, snow flurries, white-out winds, snow-drifts, and the threat of freezing to death. In this story, Valerie takes in a hobo who wears a coat of many colors made out of crazy-quilt patches. And he turns out to be a father figure for the fatherless girl, and a little bit of everything else the town needs him to be to survive the blizzard.

The actual theme of the story, one of many, is that, “In times of crisis, everyone needs to come together and find enough love for one another to make survival possible.” There are a large number of characters that come together to make this theme work; the Trailways bus driver, four runaway orphans on his bus, the deputy marshal who finds and rescues the stranded bus, the members of the Norwall Pirates, the bumbling owner/operator of the hardware store, the many members of the Murphy clan, the social worker who lost her job by pursuing the orphans, the school-bus driver, and many more.

Sing Sad Songs

If this book isn’t the second-best thing I have ever written, it is at least in the top five. It is also the book that makes me cry the hardest every time I reread it. It is an emotional roller-coaster ride.

The story is told by three narrators in equal parts. Vicar Martin is the owner of Martin Brothers’ Bar and Grill. His business is failing and his family (a sister, a brother, and a nephew) is dysfunctional. Billy Martin, 13, is his nephew. And Valerie Clarke is the friend of Billy who made him part of the Norwall Pirates.

The main character is Francois Martin, the soul survivor of his family’s car accident in France. His father’s will sends him to live with his cousins, the Martins of Norwall, whom he has never met. Once brought to Iowa, he puts on sad-clown face paint and begins singing karaoke in Martins’ Bar. That, of course, is a surprising and unlooked-for success. Of course, there is a serial killer being hunted by the FBI. This story doesn’t have a happy ending.

But the theme is simple, “Love is the solution to most of life’s problems, and when you lose the ones you love, it is time to grieve and sing sad songs.”

Fools and Their Toys

The follow-up to the book Sing Sad Songs is a story narrated by a ventriloquist’s puppet. The Teddy Bear Killer, murderer of young boys, has been caught. And yet, the wrong person is being held for trial in the case. And the only one who can reveal the truth is a talking zebra puppet who has gone missing.

This is the most complicated story I have written because the narrator is not only a ventriloquist’s puppet, but he is given voice by mumbling Murray Dawes. And Murray is in a place on the autism spectrum where he not only can’t talk without the puppet, but he can’t remember things in time order. And a further complication, he not only isn’t the real killer, he is a traumatized former victim who survived his encounter. And while the puppet is lost, he can only talk to his adopted brother, Terry Houston, who is deaf and communicates only in sign language.

The theme is, “Communicating with others is one of the most important things in life, but not everyone has equal gifts in this area.”

This book has been the least read and commented on of all my books. That is understandable. It is hard to read in more than one way. The story is not in time order. It is also about a sado-masochistic serial killer. It is the one book in this part of the series where Valerie does not appear.

He Rose on a Golden Wing

The intended last book in this part overlaps with the next part occurring in the 1990’s. I am writing it now. You can follow it chapter by chapter on Tuesdays. I reserve the right to explain its theme until I have actually gotten it down on paper.

You have probably realized by this point in the essay that there will be one more part to come (at the very least.)

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Wrestling with Themes – Part 1

As a reading teacher I often pounded on the theme, “If you read and truly understood a book, you should be able to make a relatively short statement of the broad general themes of the book in your own words.” This is not merely truth about proving to a skeptical teacher that you are not just holding a book for several class hours of sustained silent reading without absorbing anything, but is also a measure for the author of a book to see if he or she really had a purpose for writing the ding-dang thing.

So, I propose to do that very same sort of theme-searching test to prove that I actually know the reasons why I wrote such a time-consuming pile of purple paisley prose.

The Central Time-Line Starts in 1974

I decided to write the Hometown Stories back in college in 1977. At the time I didn’t truly understand the full scope and size of this project. But I knew I intended to write a series of interlocking stories about life in my hometown of Rowan, Iowa. I brainstormed a bunch of surrealistic fantasy stories that I could set in the fictional version of Rowan that I renamed Norwall. I peopled the stories with renamed and recombined real people from my family and my home town.

Superchicken

The first novel I wrote is Superchicken. Edward-Andrew, the main character, is an outsider. He is treated as such in a small town where everybody knows everybody, and are sometimes related to everybody. He encounters the newly-formed Norwall Pirates Liar’s Club. He is forced to perform an initiation task that is entirely embarrassing and inappropriate, involving wearing a dress and naked girls. But the theme is that you have to open yourself up completely to new experiences in order to make a place for yourself in a new community.

Recipes for Gingerbread Children

The second novel in the series is not the second one I wrote. Actually, I was writing two novels at once with many of the same characters in them. Recipes for Gingerbread Children is a companion story for The Baby Werewolf. They both happen at the same time, the Fall of 1974. Grandma Gretel Stein is an old German lady who has a magical way with the baking of gingerbread. She was also once a nudist in Germany after World War I. Because of that, she is befriended by the Cobble family who are also devoted to living life nude. The twin Cobble sisters lure their friends to Grandma Gretel’s “Gingerbread House.” There they learn of her bewitching ways of telling a good story.

The theme of this story is about telling stories. Gretel tells stories about good versus evil. And she knows something about that subject as she was married to a Jewish man and had a Jewish daughter in Germany during World War II.

The theme is that “No matter how badly life has harmed you and deprived you, you can eventually overcome it by taking control of it, telling your own story about it, and coming to terms with the truth of life as you have lived it.

The Baby Werewolf

The children who visit Grandma Gretel for stories and cookies in Recipes for Gingerbread Children, Todd Niland, Sherry and Shelly Cobble, and Torrie Brownfield, become the main characters in the monster story that is The Baby Werewolf. Torrie is a boy born with hypertrichosis, the”werewolf-hair disease,” that makes him look like a monster to the people of Norwall. And to make matters worse, somebody is using vicious animals to murder people. The theme of this story is the question about , “What makes somebody a monster? And if you are a monster, how do you keep from acting monstrously?

The Boy… Forever

When the Norwall Pirates go to High School in the Fall of 1975, Anita Jones’s cousin Icarus comes to live with her family after a failed suicide attempt. It turns out that Icky is immortal. He cannot be killed and cannot die, unless it is done by the ancient Chinese wizard who claims to be a dragon, and his daughter Fiona.

The theme in this book about immortals and their affect on the daily lives of the Norwall Pirates is that, “The promise of living forever, when it becomes a reality, is more of a nightmare than it is a dream come true.”

The one possible book from the 1970’s that I haven’t written yet is tentatively titled Under Blue Glass. It is about the Norwall Pirates facing graduation from high school… or failing to graduate. And the consequences of success or… failure.

So, Part 2 will take the Norwall Pirates and the Hometown novels into the 1980’s. That is both a promise and a threat.

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People in My Head at the Moment

Anita Jones

As a writer seriously immersed in a particular work in progress, I find myself talking more and more to certain people who exist only in my head. They are the characters in my novel, The Boy… Forever.

The novel is itself an epistolary novel. That means, like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it is made up of letters, notes, diary and journal entries, and other personal writing of the central characters. It also means that I have to become the different people who write these things. At least while I create each individual artifact that goes into the mosaic of first-person narratives.

Anita Jones, pictured here, is the letter-writer who starts the plot in motion when she gets a very disturbing letter from her cousin, Icarus Jones.

Icarus writes about his problem with becoming a midget, and his response to it being a plan to kill himself. It seems that he simply stopped growing at the age of ten. Now, being a fifteen-year-old in the body of a ten-year-old, he writes a suicide note in the form of a letter, and then goes to jump off a bridge into the Mississippi River. But when he does, he survives. Or, rather, he succeeds, but cannot remain dead. He doesn’t know it, yet, but he has become a human mutation known in the secret world of unknown things as an Immortal.

Tian Long, the Celestial Dragon

Icky’s problem becomes worse when it is discovered he is being pursued by another immortal, a sort of vampiric immortal who needs to consume the essence of other immortals to stay alive. He is a three-thousand-year-old Chinese Celestial Dragon who is able to assume a human form.

Neither Icky Jones nor Tian Long the dragon, though, really needs to be in my head. Icarus himself only writes the first and last letters of the book. Tian Long, the villain, does not have a say at all in telling the story. The only part of it he writes are the wizard spells he uses to confound everyone, and most of those are in Chinese.

Milton John Morgan, the Wizard of the Norwall Pirates

Besides the letters that Anita Jones writes to her cousin in Dallas, Dot Jones, the story is also advanced in the journal entries of Milt Morgan, one of the leaders of the boys’ gang in rural Iowa known as the Norwall Pirates. He has been asked by the Freshman English teacher to keep a daily journal and write every day in 1976. This he struggles to do, but gains writing and typing skills as he goes along, especially when he befriends Icarus and learns about the dragon pursuing Icky.

Milt is full of imagination and a sense of adventure, a thing that makes him an unreliable narrator, not above embellishing the truth as he writes his not-so-much- daily-as-infrequent journal entries.

Brent “the Cat” Clarke

The story is also taken up by Brent Clarke, the leader of the Norwall Pirates. Brent wants to be a policeman or a detective or something like that when he grows up. He takes careful investigation notes on everything, and he is the first one to become suspicious of the Chinese man and his step-daughter who pick a house in the town of Norwall that they want to live in right before the actual owner and occupant of the house mysteriously dies in a falling accident. Brent befriends the local Sheriff’s Deputy and sets out on a serious possible murder investigation that yields some very disturbing results. His notes are very detail-oriented and generally fact-based. He carefully records his own eye-witness accounts of everything.

Sherry Cobble, the nudist, calls herself the smarter and more beautiful twin.

Sherry Cobble, the more outgoing of the identical twins known as the Cobble Sisters, is a happy nudist with a very positive body image for herself and her twin sister. She is a very positive person over-all. She and her sister Shelly had started out keeping a “Lovely Nudist’s Diary” between them, but Shelly is not nearly as interested in writing and storytelling as her sister. So, Sherry takes over the diarist duties with the same sort of glee and enthusiasm she has for promoting nudism to her friends, especially the Norwall Pirates. It is her goal to eventually see all of the kids in Norwall naked and happy just as she and her sister Shelly always are.

Those four different character voices are the main voices I have to work with in telling this fantasy adventure story in much the same way as Stoker tells the story of Dracula.

So, if I begin to seem like I have a disordered mind full of multiple personalities, it’s because I am a novelist, not a mental patient or a vampire or even a Chinese dragon in human form. I am simply trying to tell a story by allowing four distinctly different characters to live inside my head.

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Character Developments

If I am ever going to sound at all like an author talking about his craft, then I guess there is really no better place to start than with character development.

This is the first illustration in my work in progress, The Wizard in his Keep.

One of the most important factors in starting a new novel is how you put together the jigsaw-puzzle pieces that are the characters. I have had the characters in my head since about 1974. Daisy Brown and her two younger brothers, Johnny and little Mortie (short for Mortimer Snerdly Brown, named after his Great Grandpa Mortie and his Grand Uncle Snerdly) are the three characters that the story starts with on the night of the car accident.

Notice that the plot throws the three children above directly into a conflict right from the start. They were all in the back seat of the car. Their parents were in the front. Dad (who’s name is Brom, short for Bromley Mortimer Brown) has a bad reputation for reckless driving and being an alcoholic. He is driving. But he is sober. Mom (who’s name is Stacey Clarke Brown) is in the front passenger-side seat. Both of them are killed in the wreck. (Ironically the young man who hit them also dies, but he is the one guilty of drinking and driving on the night of the accident.) Some of those details come out in the first two chapters. Some of those details never actually come out in the course of the story. That’s the thing about characters, the author must have an idea of all the important details of their lives from early on in the creation process. But many of those details are not necessary to use in the story. You just need them so that you sound like you know them as you write about them.

Let me start by describing the development of my protagonist, Daisy Stacey Brown. She has been the protagonist of this tale since 1974. She was originally based on the younger of my two younger sisters. That is where the adventurous spirit comes from. And the slightly ditsy quality of her highly-imaginative inner monologue comes basically from my sister’s daughter who was born about 1993-ish (and the story, of course, happens in 1996, so it is based more on the present form of my niece shoe-horned into Daisy’s fifteen-year-old skinny body). Daisy is followed as the focus-character in a third-person-limited-point-of-view narrative. Here is a sample of that described in the story’s opening and filtered through Daisy’s unique brain;

The sound of the ambulance siren was raucous behind the car, like someone trying to play an AC/DC medley with a circus air-horn.  And a clown playing it who was drunk on too many pre-show hits from the gin bottle in the straw at the bottom of the lion cage.

It kinda made Daisy smile to think of that analogy.  She needed something like that to get her mind off what had happened that horrible night, a mere half an hour before.

I haven’t given any physical descriptions of Daisy in the first chapter of the story. Those things are slipped in later in nearly unnoticeable bits and drops. The fact that she has strawberry-red curly hair doesn’t get said until well after the reader sees it in the black-and-white illustration. Her skinniness, pale coloring, and awkwardness will be in descriptions that happen later in separate and isolated spots.

Far more important is the way her mind works, which I try to show rather than tell. She is one of those people who is both innocent without being ignorant, and imaginative without being merely random.

Other characters will be established too with an eye on what they are like at the beginning, and a mindfulness of what they will become as the plot changes them over time.

Johnny is a sad-sack introvert who blossoms as he overcomes problems associated with the initial tragedy. He grows as he proves to himself that he is neither a coward nor a fool.

Mortie is unflappable from beginning to end in the way small children often are. He possesses a powerful sense of wonder that overwhelms fear and sadness over his losses.

That is probably enough of an insight into how I am shaping these characters for now. If you look inside this process too closely, and compare it to my last post, I run the risk of letting you see how I may be using this story to process my own upcoming loss of a parent. The pandemic and my father’s Parkinson’s disease ironically is hitting this story with enough irony to iron out more than just the wrinkles. It may well iron me flat.

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A Work in Progress

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.

This is the most recent illustration done for the novel. This one above, not the one below.

And, finally, here’s a reminder about my book promotion, beginning today.

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People in My Head at the Moment

Anita Jones

As a writer seriously immersed in a particular work in progress, I find myself talking more and more to certain people who exist only in my head. They are the characters in my novel, The Boy… Forever.

The novel is itself an epistolary novel. That means, like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it is made up of letters, notes, diary and journal entries, and other personal writing of the central characters. It also means that I have to become the different people who write these things. At least while I create each individual artifact that goes into the mosaic of first-person narratives.

Anita Jones, pictured here, is the letter-writer who starts the plot in motion when she gets a very disturbing letter from her cousin, Icarus Jones.

Icarus writes about his problem with becoming a midget, and his response to it being a plan to kill himself. It seems that he simply stopped growing at the age of ten. Now, being a fifteen-year-old in the body of a ten-year-old, he writes a suicide note in the form of a letter, and then goes to jump off a bridge into the Mississippi River. But when he does, he survives. Or, rather, he succeeds, but cannot remain dead. He doesn’t know it, yet, but he has become a human mutation known in the secret world of unknown things as an Immortal.

Tian Long, the Celestial Dragon

Icky’s problem becomes worse when it is discovered he is being pursued by another immortal, a sort of vampiric immortal who needs to consume the essence of other immortals to stay alive. He is a three-thousand-year-old Chinese Celestial Dragon who is able to assume a human form.

Neither Icky Jones nor Tian Long the dragon, though, really needs to be in my head. Icarus himself only writes the first and last letters of the book. Tian Long, the villain, does not have a say at all in telling the story. The only part of it he writes are the wizard spells he uses to confound everyone, and most of those are in Chinese.

Milton John Morgan, the Wizard of the Norwall Pirates

Besides the letters that Anita Jones writes to her cousin in Dallas, Dot Jones, the story is also advanced in the journal entries of Milt Morgan, one of the leaders of the boys’ gang in rural Iowa known as the Norwall Pirates. He has been asked by the Freshman English teacher to keep a daily journal and write every day in 1976. This he struggles to do, but gains writing and typing skills as he goes along, especially when he befriends Icarus and learns about the dragon pursuing Icky.

Milt is full of imagination and a sense of adventure, a thing that makes him an unreliable narrator, not above embellishing the truth as he writes his not-so-much- daily-as-infrequent journal entries.

Brent “the Cat” Clarke

The story is also taken up by Brent Clarke, the leader of the Norwall Pirates. Brent wants to be a policeman or a detective or something like that when he grows up. He takes careful investigation notes on everything, and he is the first one to become suspicious of the Chinese man and his step-daughter who pick a house in the town of Norwall that they want to live in right before the actual owner and occupant of the house mysteriously dies in a falling accident. Brent befriends the local Sheriff’s Deputy and sets out on a serious possible murder investigation that yields some very disturbing results. His notes are very detail-oriented and generally fact-based. He carefully records his own eye-witness accounts of everything.

Sherry Cobble, the nudist, calls herself the smarter and more beautiful twin.

Sherry Cobble, the more outgoing of the identical twins known as the Cobble Sisters, is a happy nudist with a very positive body image for herself and her twin sister. She is a very positive person over-all. She and her sister Shelly had started out keeping a “Lovely Nudist’s Diary” between them, but Shelly is not nearly as interested in writing and storytelling as her sister. So, Sherry takes over the diarist duties with the same sort of glee and enthusiasm she has for promoting nudism to her friends, especially the Norwall Pirates. It is her goal to eventually see all of the kids in Norwall naked and happy just as she and her sister Shelly always are.

Those four different character voices are the main voices I have to work with in telling this fantasy adventure story in much the same way as Stoker tells the story of Dracula.

So, if I begin to seem like I have a disordered mind full of multiple personalities, it’s because I am a novelist, not a mental patient or a vampire or even a Chinese dragon in human form. I am simply trying to tell a story by allowing four distinctly different characters to live inside my head.

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Filed under characters, humor, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, surrealism, work in progress, writing humor

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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Updates and Transitions

I still can’t believe my hockey team, the St. Louis Blues, lost to that upstart Nashville team whose logo is a cross between a cat and a beaver with really bad teeth problems.  But that was the other post for today.

I am probably going to kick the bucket soon.  I hate that bucket.  I just don’t like it. But in spite of impending doom for me and the world in general, I am making some changes.  After all, life is change.  We can either change or be dead.  And I am definitely not going to kick that bucket today, no matter how grumpy its existence makes me.

One change I have made is in Toonerville.  I finished snowing all over Al’s General Store.  I added two kids and their cat on the bench outside (in short pants during a winter scene… stupid kids) and fat old Huckleberry Wortle on the front steps looking for someone to play checkers with and tell lies to.  But don’t offer to be the one playing checkers with Huck.  He’s a conservative Republican with Tea Party leanings, and he will tell you things about Obama, government, and people in general that will make you so mad that you will want to go to the bench and kick the kids’ cat.

Toonerville is undergoing a winter renovation.  If I ever get to rebuild the layout, it will now have snow where grass used to be the plan.  It is still temporarily in storage on streets that are really book shelves.  And the Trolley goes nowhere.

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I have also been experimenting with shifting focus, as you can tell by the blurry trolley and track light in the foreground.

In addition to photography, I am making changes to my publishing directions.  I recently bought a subscription to a video-editing program and now intend to inflict Mickey-made videos to my blog.  To be completely honest, I made the purchase at the begging of my daughter who was using the free trial for a school project and ran out of free before she ran out of ideas.  Sound genetic to you, does it?

I have been forced to make publishing changes.  I am almost done paying the huge penance for publishing Magical Miss Morgan with Page Publishing.  That is a mistake that won’t be repeated.  I will self-publish from here on out.  After MMM, I will attempt to publish Snow Babies via Amazon.

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My current manuscript, The Baby Werewolf, is undergoing forced changes as well.  The primary factor here is my unique ability to lose things all together.  Two of the three parts of the original hand-written manuscript are now missing, and have been since we moved to Dallas in 2004.  Bummer.  Coatimundies from South Texas are probably reading it, laughing up a storm, and cursing me for not having lost part three along with the rest of it.  They surely can’t wait to find out what happens.  But since I have to do it all from memory, it will be different from what they read.

And even though writing a blog post every day is hard, I have decided it is worth it to continue.  After posting every day for thirty consecutive months, I have learned that the practice not only sharpens my basic writing skills, but also generates more ideas than it consumes.  I am a writer because I write.  And continuing to write makes me even more of a writer.  So the madness will continue.

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Filed under autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, humor, Paffooney, photo paffoonies, sharing from YouTube, Snow Babies, Toonerville, Trains, work in progress, writing, writing humor

The Moaning Writer

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I am not Charles Dickens.  I wish I were.  I want to be a writer of wry humor, social commentary, and have an effect on the soul of the world I live in.  The way he was.  Heck, Dickens invented Christmas the way we do it now (with considerable help from department stores like Macy’s) by writing A Christmas Carol.  But the chances for that are growing ever dimmer.

The small publisher with which I was associated, and who gave me a contract to publish Snow Babies, has died.  The business folded while my novel was still in the editorial phase.  PDMI Publishing was a worthy group of writers and entrepreneurs who in a different time might’ve gone far.  I know by reading some of their works that they had talent.  But between the ferocious grip of the mega publishers and the waves upon waves of self-published stuff on Amazon, real writers with talent are drowning in a sea of mediocrity and media indifference.  Writers who succeed are the ones with the most luck or the most direct connections to the gate keepers.  Profit is far more important than literary merit.  You don’t really have to have talent any more.  You don’t have to know what a split infinitive is or how to compose a compound sentence properly or how to spell.  Shoot, you barely have to know how to write.  Just write about sparkly teenage vampires falling in love with high school girls or sexual perverts who are into torture devices, and you can be a millionaire… if you can somehow luck out over the millions of wannabes writing the same exact crap.

There was a time when writing teachers and published authors were telling me that sooner or later good writing gets published.  It was supposed to be inevitable.  But that was a different time than now.  Different rules for the game.  I will have two published books with two different publishers.  I-Universe published Catch a Falling Star.  And Page Publishing will publish Magical Miss Morgan.  But I paid both of those publishers to turn my books into published paper books with ISBN numbers and access to customers of Barnes and Noble and other outlets.  But I don’t expect to earn the money back that I invested.  Not while I’m still alive at least.

My Art 2 of Davalon

My I-Universe publishing experience was worth it.  I spent a lot of money to get Catch a Falling Star published, but I got to work with real editors and advisers who had experience working for Knopf and Random House.  They gave me a real evaluation of my work and taught me how the business of promoting the book was supposed to work.  And the help that they gave me ended there.  No advertising budget beyond what I could afford myself.  I learned a lot for my money.  But I had to come to terms with the fact that marketing was going to take more time and effort than I was physically capable of doing.  I have six incurable diseases and am a cancer survivor after all.

Page Publishing was a mistake.  They were cheaper than I-Universe, but I am not getting anywhere near the value for my money.  Instead of real editors reading and suggesting and modifying my work, I get nit-picky grammar Nazis who don’t even know as much about grammar as I do.  They are only copy editing.  And the last rewrite was me spending time changing all the incorrect changes they made back to the original text.  They did not even tell me the name of the editor making the changes.  I talked to the I-Universe editors over the phone and discussed changes in detail.  Page gives me email copies to read over and fume about silently.  They are no better than the vanity presses of old who were really no more than a re-typing and printing service.

So, from here on, I will only do the self-publishing options available through Amazon.  I have no more money or energy to spend on the black hole of literary dreams.

I can’t help but be a writer, though.  That part is genetic.  I will continue to write and tell stories that I need to tell.  I can’t help it.  Not to do so will cause me to shrivel and die almost instantly.  And I am only exaggerating just a little bit.  Well, maybe a lot.  But it is still true.

Whatever promises the future holds, I am not depending on them for my feelings of success, closure, and self-worth.  The world as I have come to know it will always be a ridiculous stew-pot of ideas and ego and cow poop, and I am not so much giving up as stepping out of the stew.  I wish to tell stories for the story’s sake.  I have no delusions of becoming as wealthy as Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.  I will never be Charles Dickens.  And I am okay with that.

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