Tag Archives: novel writing

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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Werewolf Writing

dscn5093 (640x480)I am now in that period of deflation after having finished a draft of a novel.  My brain is drained and mostly empty.  I am left with leftover piles of stupid words and guileless thoughts that I didn’t use in the book and none of that is good fuel for thinking.

But I can tell you a few things about my novel.

First of all, the werewolf of the title is not really a werewolf.  He is instead a boy afflicted with a genetic hair-growth disorder called hypertrichosis.  It is genetic in nature and runs in families.  It may skip generations.  But it is a hard thing to deal with in terms of self image for the sufferer.  Once the wearers of werewolf hair were treated as circus freaks, to be marveled at, pitied, and sometimes reviled.

 

But this is a horror novel of sorts, not really about the hypertrichosis sufferer, but more about another member of the family who has become abusive in increasingly horrible ways.  And the murders in the book are committed using canines as weapons.

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The wolfishness is not located in the animals, but in the heart of a man.

There is a lot of Saturday night black and white horror movie watching in the 70’s that went into this book.  It also comes to fruition by way of my own experience being sexually assaulted at the age of ten.  The fear and self-loathing that this story has to tell about are metaphorically very real things.  I was not myself a monsterous-looking creature in my youth, but I felt the same feelings of isolation and rejection that one of the main characters, the boy with werewolf hair feels in this book.  Part of why it took me twenty years to write this tale is my own personal struggle to overcome my own fear and self-loathing.

But even though this book comes to its conclusion with silver bullets and death by wolf fang, it is basically a comedy.  Comedy, in the Shakespearean sense, always ends with the hero getting the girl and the monsters defeated.  And it has a few laughs that not even the death-by-teeth parts can overturn.

So, I am glad I am finally finished with this book.  Not edited and published, but finished as an exercise in wringing things out of the terrible nightmares and monstrous memories buried in my cluttered old brain.

 

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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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A Girl Called Dilsey

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Mary Murphy, mother of Dilsey and Little Sean… among others.

If you have never written multiple novels about the same set of characters, you will not have inside knowledge of the process I am going to talk about in this goofy blog post.  Because you don’t fully understand what I am talking about, you are welcome to call me an obsessive-compulsive fool.  I am definitely a fool, but I prefer to believe the obsessive-compulsive part is off base.

I fell in love with Dilsey Murphy.

“You’re kidding!” you say with a disbelieving smile.  “You fell in love with a fictional character from one of your stupid hometown fantasies?  Nonsense!  Not only is she not real, she’s just a supporting character.”

I think that might be the one thing I love most about Dilsey.  She’s never the one demanding to be on center stage.  She’s a shy, sweet-natured girl from a big family who does the best she can to avoid being the ant under her brothers’ magnifying glass.  And yet, when she is called upon for empathy, or a little bit of sister wisdom, she mines the gold from King Solomon’s mine.

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A new picture of Dilsey Murphy wearing her father’s old Carl Eller T-shirt.

You may not know this if you are not a writer of fiction, but a lot of the character-building process consists of compiling the character’s personal facts, personal history, and back story, developing an in-depth storehouse of details that may, in fact, never get used in any book, short story, or other writing.  In order to create a character that feels real to the reader, an author must know the character far more intimately than the reader will ever be made privy to.

Dilsey is a member of the Murphy family who live in Norwall, Iowa.  Her parents are Warren Murphy and Mary Murphy.  Her father was a member of the infamous Murphy Boys, all of them brothers, that played brutal linebacker defense for the Belle City Broncos high school football team in the 1960’s.  Mary Murphy is famous for being a small woman with a very large personality.  The family is Catholic and of Irish heritage, determined to avoid church and yet hoping to get into heaven.  They ar e also devout Minnesota Vikings football fans.

Dilsey’s older brother is Danny Murphy, a skinny, goofy kid that grows up into a reliable problem solver and mature young man.  Danny eventually falls in love with Carla Bates, the sister of Blueberry Bates, Mike Murphy’s girlfriend.  Danny and Carla marry in 1992.

Dilsey is the second oldest, born in 1977, so she is a young teen in most of the stories she appears in.

Mike Murphy is her younger brother, a member of the Norwall Pirates, a kids’ gang and 4-H softball team.  Mike is a year younger than Dilsey. His girlfriend, Blueberry Bates, has a terrible secret, one that makes Mary Murphy turn resolutely against her even though she previously loved her.  Mike and Dilsey refuse to abandon Blueberry even when Mike is forbidden to see her any longer.

Tim Kellogg is Mike’s best friend.  Dilsey believes him to be a jerk and a hopeless goon. And yet, even though Dilsey hates him and is a year older than Tim, he is the only boy she dreams about naked.  They eventually go on dates in high school and it is rumored that they will be married in 2000, though my hometown stories never progress beyond the 20th Century.

Dilsey is based on my unmarried sister and my daughter, though she really isn’t very much like either one in the long run.

Okay, so I know I haven’t sufficiently explained why I am so much in love with Dilsey Murphy.  I, of course, take that as a challenge.  I will write more stories.  You will fall in love with her too.

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The Hardest Part to Write

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I finished a novel rough draft today.  But the end is not the hardest part to write.  Well, this one was, but not because it was the end of the story.  It was the part where a character you have carefully crafted over time, and really learned to love, has to die because that is simply how the story goes.  It was not a sad death, or an unresolved death, as such.  It was a fulfilled life of meaning and magic that simply came to its ending point.  My own real-life story may come to an end sometime in near the future too, and I can only hope it is half as much a satisfying completion as this one was.  And yet, my heart is sore from having written it.

The novel is called Recipes for Gingerbread Children.  It is a story of a little old lady.  She is alone in the world, except for the people in the little Iowa town where she is now living, especially the middle school age people who gather at her house to eat her gingerbread cookies and listen to her German fairy tales.  She was also a concentration camp survivor, so this story has Nazis in it.  Don’t worry though.  They are dead Nazis.  And there is a werewolf in it.  But only a baby werewolf.  Oh, and there are two twin teenage girls who are practicing nudists in it.  But you probably aren’t worried about them.  There are also fairies in it.  She tells fairy stories, after all.  And the whole book is more or less a collection of fairy stories.  And there is a lot of magical gingerbread cookies.

But I had to write the “character dies” part that I knew was coming for about six months.  It is the part that will make or break the story.  It is the part I will most need to polish and rewrite.  But the fact remains, the story ends with a death.  So there is that.  Life with gingerbread in it is also life that eventually comes to an end.

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And that part of the story is always really, really hard to write.

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What Mickey is Really Up to Now

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I have not been well.   Six incurable diseases combined with colder, wetter weather will do that.

But Mickey has been busy.  Yes, my goofy writer alter ego has been pecking away at a novel that pushes the boundaries of “strange” into a purple dimension where having a president that looks like a racist sour-lemon-flavored cookie dipped repeatedly in Orange Fanta with fingers covering the eye holes almost makes sense.

The novel is called Rezepte für Lebkuchen-Kinder which translates to Recipes for Gingerbread Children.  The more I let Mickey work on it, the stranger it gets.  It currently is about an old German lady who lives in a little Iowa town where she likes to bake gingerbread for children.  But it is also a fairy tale where the fairies of Tellosia are still fighting their never-ending war against darkness.  And in this story with a magical fairy war in it, there are gingerbread men who magically come to life.  There are also teenage nudists, evil Nazis from the past, fairy tales that can solve life’s problems, and a lurking possibility of werewolves.  (This is a companion novel to The Baby Werewolf and happens simultaneously to that story.)  It has hit the 20,000 word mark.  And you know how novel writing works.  Too many words all put together into the same thing will magically merge and metastasize into book form.  I know this is true, because I’ve seen Mickey do it before.

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Grandma Gretel Stein talking with fairy General Tuffaney Swift.

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Stardusters… Canto 19

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Canto Nineteen – Back Aboard Xiar’s Base Ship

Harmony Castille had been searching for an hour for little Davalon and little Tanith.   It was well past time for their Bible School lesson on the story of David and Goliath.  Nothing was more important to Harmony than pounding Bible wisdom into the heads of these little green heathens.  She had gotten practically all of the grown-up frog folks to wear clothing for the majority of their day.  Tadpoles, however, were much harder to train to have some modesty about gadding around the space ship totally nude.  The very idea!  She had to overcome this nonsense about Telleron children needing to absorb nutrients and moisture through their skin.  She could dose them a whole heckuva lot better while they were wearing clothes.  All she needed was a few large tablespoonfuls of cod-liver oil and a generous helping of a good laxative.  You couldn’t help but feel healthy and whole with your bowels thoroughly emptied and roasted clean from the inside.  And where had these naked heathens gotten to?  Brekka, Menolly, and George Jetson were missing too.  Rapscallions as bad as any of those awful Pirates back in Norwall, Iowa.  Definitely a bad influence.  And the trail led directly to…

“Sublieutenant Studpopper?”

“Erm, yes, Miss Castille?”

“Is it possible you know the whereabouts of Captain Xiar’s children, Davalon and Tanith?”

“Erm, yes, ma’am.  They were assigned a support mission and went out on Golden Wing Sixteen just after Commander Biznap’s mission went down to the planet.”

“Support mission, hmm?”

“Yes, ma’am, er…  I mean… erm, um…”

“Land sakes, young man, why ever are you so nervous?”

“Erm, well… no offense, ma’am, but you have a great a deal of power over Captain Xiar’s family and crew.  And I can’t afford to be making any more mistakes.  I may already be headed for the protein vats to be made into tadpole cookies for my blunders on Earth… while following that awful, terrible, traitorous Commander Sleez.”

“Please!  No one is going to make you into tadpole cookies while I have anything to say about it.  Those would obviously turn out to be the most bad-tasting, foul cookies ever baked.”

“Oh, thank you, ma’am…  I, uh, think.”

“So who gave the order for this support mission?”

“Um… erm… Captain Xiar?”

“Hear it from his mouth didja?”

“Um… well, no…  Oh, no.”

Harmony gave him one of her meanest old-lady lion-tamer stares that could turn rattlesnakes non-poisonous and boil the truth out of any evil little Sunday-school student who ever tried to get away with a big, black belly-thumper of a lie.

“I will report the mistake immediately.”

“You are dadgum right you will!  And take responsibility for it too.  You won’t be turned into tadpole cookies, but I guarantee you the top of the list for latrine cleaners, and you will probably head the list of those asked to go out there and get them back!”

*****

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