Tag Archives: novel characters

A Low-Fat Essay With One Third Fewer Calories

Val B22

Yesterday I posted a political satire in which I accused Rand Paul and Chris Christie of being the reincarnation of Laurel and Hardy.  I may have also suggested that Republican Presidential candidates are mostly possessed by the spirits of old comedy teams who share the bully and the idiot style of comedy made famous by Stan and Ollie.  That post had about 380 calories from empty carbohydrates and the saturated fat was off the charts.  If I am to provide a healthy diet of low-quality purple paisley prose to those who ready my pretentiously faux-literary blog, then I need to alternate in some high-fiber, low calorie fare.  After all, this is a place where people come to sample my ideas and my so-called humor.  Any and all fat that they get from here goes straight to their head.  It can clog the arteries of the thinking organ.  So, let me offer something light and fibrous today.

Yesterday I finished the first-pass edit of my novel Snow Babies.  I also got it sent to my editor at PDMI, Jessie Cornwell.  Her edits caused serious pain and minor bleeding, but that is merely an indicator that she is very professional and does the job well.  And on occasion, she makes me laugh.  She identified and corrected my creepy fascination with the word “penis” and cut it out of my novel.  I am sure you can imagine how painful something like that can be.  But I deserved it.  A writer has to be aware that there are quirks in his thinking that interfere with communicating ideas to the reader.  And the nutritional value of the ideas and thinking in a book are not only what makes it worth reading, but worth writing in the first place.

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It is a little odd to be working on a novel about a blizzard in Iowa in deep December when it is August in Texas and we are undergoing 100-degree plus weather during the yearly heat wave and drought.  It is hard to imagine deadly cold and Christmas-wish thinking when you have to sit naked by the air conditioner and you still sweat out gallons.  (Notice I did not use the word “penis” even once in this paragraph, Jessie.)  (Oops!  Okay, don’t count the parenthetic expression, please.)

But I love these characters.20150813_113902

Valerie Clarke, the main character, is an eleven-year-old girl trying to make her way in a cold world after the death of her father.  She finds and latches onto a mysterious old hobo who goes by the name Catbird.  The man wears a coat which is a crazy quilt of colorful patches.  He carries around a dog-eared copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and quotes from it as if it is his Bible.  She gives him a place to stay, with her and her grieving mother in the nick of time before the blizzard hits her little Iowa town.  Valerie is based in part on my own daughter.

A bus gets stranded in the rural farming community and the bus contains four boys who are not only passengers, but runaway orphans escaping from the Illinois foster care system.  The youngest boy is crippled.

So, I am for the moment only posting something light that you really don’t have to work too hard to consume.  The main idea is simply that I have finished another step in the process of publishing my long-delayed novel.  And hopefully this post isn’t needlessly fattening, like many of my posts are.

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Timeline – Finale

MickeyX22

So how do I end this little trilogy of timeline terror?  I have to fit in the remaining novel projects that are related or at least partially done.  And the unrelated ones too.  I have way more in the Mickian bag of tricks than I will ever have the magic-using years to actually use.  The thing about wizards is that, by the time they have accumulated all the knowledge, wisdom, and arcana that it takes to do the wizardry, they are already old and near to death.  How much time is left for the actual magic?  I have been living this weekend in fear of imminent stroke.   But I believe the random brain pain has actually turned out to be sinus problems.   So here are the projects that finish the timeline and are the projects least likely to get written and published.

Galtorr Primexvx

Connected to Catch a Falling Star is its sequel, Stardusters and Space Lizards.  This is a novel I have most recently been trying to finish.  I am in the home stretch at 40,000 words.  It is the story of the failed Earth invaders  continuing their journey to another planet, an even worse place than Earth.  Galtorr Prime is the planet of the humanoid lizard people.  Their world is on the very brink of extinction by global warming, toxic politics, and war.  The remnants of the Telleron aliens who tried to invade Earth and their Earther-human friends not only have to make a colony for themselves here, but have to save the planet itself as well.  It is a cautionary-type science fiction tale in the same comedy-young-adult-novel genre as Catch a Falling Star.  It also happens in the early 1990’s (intended to mean the time on Earth which is not relevant in any case).

The next novel is Monstro, a ghost story in which the Norwall Pirates have to take on the Lonely Ones, the spirit-echoes of the crazy people of the past in a haunted farm house that awakens to feed on the living.  The story is more than half written, but is looking at a near total rewrite to make it conform better with comedy young adult fiction.  It is set in the mid 1990’s, around 1995.

None of my Hometown Novels will go beyond the 20th Century.  Monstro is ostensibly the last of the novels.

I am a science fiction writer as well, though.  The first book I ever published, Aeroquest, is set more than three thousand years in the future, at a time when the Orion Spur of the Sagittarius Spiral Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy (where Earth has its street address) is largely colonized and thoroughly inhabited.  As the novel now stands (a sorry mishmash that no decent publisher would’ve ever printed) it is in need of a total re-write and make-over.  It is a novel that I humorously say is about teachers in space… though I do realize that “humorously” has to be qualified as a big bald-faced lie.

Aeroquest baby ninjas

So this is run-down in time order of all the stuff I want to do as an author.  How much gets done in reality is anyone’s best guess.  Who knows?  I may live another twenty years and finish at least one novel every year.

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Timeline

Editing my novel Snow Babies has led me to realize that I need to align the events and character progressions in all the related Home-Town Novels.  So here is a feeble attempt to make sense of the wealth of crap that this whole project has generated.

The first novel in the series is called Superchicken.

superchick_novelThis story is about a boy who comes to live in the small town of Norwall, Iowa and struggles to make friends and fit in with a close-knit and inter-related group of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.  It contains the origin story of the Norwall Pirates, a boys’ gang and liars’ club who cause most of the chaos in the story.  It is intended to be an Iowa-River version of Tom Sawyer, a picaresque novel where the main character uses his natural instincts to try and gain the recognition of the world that he exists and has worth as a person.

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The second novel is not completed yet.  It is a story called The Baby Werewolf.  It is about the Norwall Pirates pursuing an encounter with a very unusual child shut away in the attic of an aging house by the harried adults in his life.

All of these stories are humor novels written for a Young Adult genre audience.  This one, however, also introduces elements of the horror genre.

anita n supe_nThree more unwritten novels exist between this set of Norwall stories and the next set which introduce a whole new group of Pirates.  Of the original Pirate stories there is an encounter with immortal beings who are somehow more than human and include a villain who is secretly an un-dead Chinese wizard looking to kill and consume another immortal who has taken refuge in Norwall.  This novel does not yet have a name.  The working title is The Forever Boy.  Another novel involving the Pirates is called Sweet Pickles.  It takes up the story of a girl nicknamed Pickles who is desperate to be loved and joins the junior high football team to impress boys.  The novel includes the sexual awakening of more than one member of the Pirates, and though it is half-written, it may never see publication.  I am not a pornographic writer, but the issues of this book have become so explicit, that it would have to be gutted and rewritten completely to be acceptable to my chosen genre.  A more likely story is Under Blue Glass, the story of the Pirates handling their teens and high school and the excitingly horrible prospects of leaving home.

Voodoo Val cover

The next set of Pirate novels cover the 1980’s.  The Captain Came Calling is about the reformation of the Pirates with Mary Philips, the story-teller’s little sister, taking on the daunting task of leading the Pirates through a new decade.  South Pacific island magic brings the cursed Captain Noah Dettbarn to a farm town about as far away in all of North America as you can get from any ocean.  The captain is cursed with invisibility and has to get to the bottom of a terrible family secret to cure it.  Meanwhile, another terrible secret is destroying the family of Valerie Clarke, the main character of the novel.

Snow Babies is actually the second novel of this group, although it is the second novel being published.  I will talk more about it as the process goes along and it actually reaches a state of publication.

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After that comes a group of unwritten novels that are nebulously plotted out.  I am thinking I probably need to declare halftime on this post at 600 words and do the second half of this timeline tomorrow.

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Working on Snow Babies

I really don’t have to put very much into this blog since most of my 500 words are already taken up with novel editing.  So I will just put in a few comments on this novel that has consumed me since 2012.   It is called Snow Babies Val at the barn

because it is basically about lost children and a blizzard that threatens to take them away completely.  Now, there are fantasy creatures in the story, child-like ghost-things that come in the teeth of the blizzard to take away the souls of those who die in the cold.  But the title actually refers more to the child characters in the story, Valerie Clarke (as seen above) and the four runaways from the Trailways bus.  It is a story of survival during a blizzard, and survival when you have lost the ones you love.  It is also a story of quilts… patchwork quilts… of many colors and varieties all stitched together seemingly at random.  Because that is what life is like.  Random stuff.  Stitched together…to make something beautiful that can save your life in the cold.

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This novel was submitted in manuscript form to the Chanticleer Book Reviews novel writing contest for Young Adult fiction.  The contest is called the Dante Rosetti Awards as seen in this logo.  The book didn’t win, but of the many manuscripts submitted it made it all the way through to the final cut and was a finalist in the contest.

I am currently working with editor Jessie Cornwell of PDMI Publishing to get the book ready for print.  I hope to have it published soon.  Clay Gilbert, Managing Editor of PDMI LLC recently did a profile on me because of my upcoming book.  Here is the link for that;

Portals and Pathways by Clay Gilbert

Let me leave you with a look at the frost spirits from my novel.

7snowbabiesAI hope you don’t feel hopelessly mooned by that, because there are worse things that Snow Babies can do than that.

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Updating Futzbatter and Foohbah Recipes

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Having already written well over a thousand words today on a different writing project, I don’t really have to worry about length on this one.  But it is intended to be a scrapbook piece anyway.  Thing #1 is the completion of a mini-collection.  I now have all three of the main Minions from the new Minions movie.  From left to right are Kevin, Stuart, and Bob posing for their picture with their fully pose-able arms in the middle of Cardboard Castle.  There are still many many many Minions left to collect, but the first three are the most important bit… I think.

Galtorr Primexvx

I have now reached the climax of the plot in my Sci-fi novel Stardusters and Space Lizards.  I am at that moment in the story when characters, even the most important main characters, may die.  I know, in fact, because of the ending that already exists that some of the main characters will die.  I am not entirely certain that I know which ones yet.  The three I have portrayed here are (left to right again because I am an English speaker/reader and horribly addicted to the same-old same-old) George Jetson, Davalon, and Sizzahl the Lizard Girl.  At least one of them has to die for the plot to work out.  But which one?  I am deeply in love with all three.

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My experimental flower wagon has been producing blossoms, but only one at a time.  Each one blooms, I take a picture of it, and then the hot Texas sun burns the poor thing to blazes, and I have to wait for the next one to appear.

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And finally, I think I need to define the two Mock-Iowegian words in my title today.  Mock-Iowegian (as I am sure you are bright enough to already realize) is a made-up language spoken by Iowan farm folks in Mickian fiction where the object is to capture their eccentricities and mock them ferociously because I love them.  Futzbatter… noun, meaning things that are fudged or made up on the spur of the moment and mixed together into the overall plan (or impending disaster… depending on the situation).  Foohbah… noun, meaning something you tell a fool and expect him to believe, as in a honking-big-fish story, and nobody else will contradict for fear the fool the speaker is trying pull a foohbah on is the hearer, and they don’t want to let on that the foohbah-teller laying the big, fat, hairy foohbah on the group is talking about them, and they are only feebly trying to stop him.

So, there you have it… almost 500 words in spite of myself.

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Notes from the 70’s; the Master Plan

I have wanted to be a writer and cartoonist from childhood onward.  I didn’t really begin in earnest until the last few years of my teaching career with retirement looming directly ahead.  Now I have made the leap off the cliff.  I retired a year ago.  I did everything short of bankruptcy to put my accounts in order, and transformed myself into a starving artist.  I have a full retirement from Texas, subject to a grandfather clause (no relation to the Santa Clause) that allows me to receive enough money to live on for the rest of my life (thanks to the trick of being a teacher back before George W. Bush and Rick Perry came along to pillage Texas education and reduce what they pay those lazy, lousy teachers for their lifetimes of service).  Of course, I must try to limit my expenditures as much as possible, because… well, it is a teacher’s pension.

Norwall

But my plan from the 70’s, begun in high school and carried out through college and my teaching career has allowed me to stay on track to create something massive and complex.  My story ideas have been collected over time and are all based on a very simple rule… “Everything is connected.”  Every story I now labor to put into prose mentions other stories and has story fishhooks in it to catch readers and pull them into something else.  Most of my work is set in farm-town Iowa in the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s.  I made them all a part of the 20th Century on purpose because the personalities the characters are all based on were a part of my life then.  Certain elements run through all the stories.  Let me explain a few.

1.  Some characters appear in many stories (sometimes as a main character, and more often as a supporting character.  The French boy who sings karaoke beautifully and makes his cousin’s bar business a success by entertaining people there appears in two stories that happen at about the same time.  Both of those stories are still waiting to be written.  Tim Kellogg appears in my stories from the time he is but a twinkle in his parents’ eyes until he becomes the leader of the infamous boys’ gang of liars called the Norwall Pirates.

Crooner

giant bat2.  Most of the stories are centered around members of the Norwall Pirates.  They are a group of small town boys dedicated to adventure, telling lies, and seeing girls naked.  Much of the magic, science fiction, fantasy elements, and just plain hallucinations in my stories are the fault of boys who tell stories and lies so well that sometimes they believe them themselves.

3.  Character arcs that begin in one book will often continue in another.  Sometimes I go back in time and explain something that happened much earlier.  The Pirate’s club first appears in my novel Catch a Falling Star set in 1990.  The origin of the club is told about in Superchicken, a novel I have blogged about, but not yet published.  That story happens in 1974.  Valerie Clarke is introduced in the novel PDMI Publishing LLC is currently working on, Snow Babies,  which takes place in Winter of 1984.  She is the leader of the Pirates in the finished, but not yet submitted novel The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.  That story spans 1988 to 1991.

peterlie

4. Much of my nuttiness was originally created in the 1970’s.  Even though the stories were given a setting much later, all the illustrated Paffoonies I have dropped into this post were drawn in 1977 and 1978.  I keep these cartoon character model sheets in one of my magical tomes, the Norwall Book, a loose-leaf binder full of drawings and junk carefully preserved in plastic page-protector sheets.

So, this is all the proof that my leap off that cliff into retirement will either make a very big splash or hit the rocks very hard.  It will be very something.  And I hope to live to see it… especially to get all of the stories I can possibly finish written and published… with a ghost of a hope that my own drawings, cartoons, and illustrations will count for something.  So, now my plan is revealed.  Let the enemies plan their counter-moves, and may the devil not move the water at the bottom of the cliff.

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Farming Family

the ClarkesI have been working on the beginnings of the novel When the Captain Came Calling.  It is not the first draft.  It is the third entire re-write.  I wrote this as a graphic novel before graphic novels were an established form.  Then I tried to rewrite it as a traditional novel, and it is now coming into its YA novel form.  But I can’t begin to explain this novel-writing project without telling you about the Clarkes.  Yes, they are a very important Iowegian family who farm and are entirely fictional.  (Kids, what other words do you know that begin with the letter F?)  They are based, at least a tiny bit, on my own family when I was a kid, but very specific parts of it.  My Uncle Larry, mother’s older brother who is now gone (but never forgotten) was the inspiration for Dash Clarke.  Kyle Clarke, the father in the picture, is Dash’s younger brother… though he is not based on my other maternal uncle.  The daughter in the Paffooney picture, Valerie Clarke, is based on my own daughter combined with a girl I had a crush on in grade school and a girl who had a deeply felt crush on me when I was a young teacher.  The Clarkes are third generation farmers, just as my own family were back in the time this story is set.  Unlike my family, the Clarkes do not come out of the 80’s with their family farms intact.  What grandparents built, the sons lose hold of, and the world becomes a much sadder place because of it.  The story is about a lot of things in addition to a family losing their farm.  It is filled with magic, telling sea stories and other lies, and the truth behind both the magic  and the lies.

I posted this today because today is the day I finished the Paffooney illustration that started the post.  Here is what it looked like in progress;

pencil sketchClarkes

Paffooneys are a made-up thing by which I name the whole great glob of artwork and stories I have created that represent the never-ending music in my soul.  I am not a singer or a song-writer.  The only way these tunes come to life is through the toons which I ignorantly call the Paffoons because the loons have nothing on me.

Here is a cover mock-up for the novel which shows another picture of Valerie Clarke, the most beautiful little girl ever born in Norwall, Iowa (a phrase that her Uncle Dash christened her with when she was small, and it caught on with the entire town.)Voodoo Val cover

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