Tag Archives: novel writing

When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 1

Canto One – A Secret Meeting Awaits

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 Worrywarts.

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 place.

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.                                                                                

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Writing a Horror Story

Candle-lit nightmares become stories and keep me awake late at night.

I am now closing in on the publication of The Baby Werewolf, a novel whose story began with a nightmare in 1978.  It was a dream I had about being a monster.  I woke up in a cold sweat and realized, to my complete horror, that I had been repressing the memory of being sexually assaulted for twelve years, the thing that almost brought me to suicide in 1973 and that I couldn’t put into words when I talked to counselors and ministers and friends who tried to keep me alive without even knowing that that was what the dark black words were about.

I don’t normally write horror stories.  Yes, it is true, a character of some sort dies at the end of practically every novel I have ever written, but those are comedies.  I am sort of the anti-Shakespeare in that sense.  The Bard wrote comedies that ended with weddings and tragedies that end in death.  So, since my comedies all seem to end in death, I guess if I ever write a tragedy, it will have to end with a wedding.

Torrie Brownfield

But writing this horror story is no joke for me, though I admit to using humor in it liberally.  It is a necessary act of confession and redemption for me to put all those dark and terrible feelings into words.

The main theme of the story is coming to grips with feeling like you are a monster when it is actually someone else’s fault that you feel that way.  Torrie, the main character, is not the real werewolf of the story.  He is merely a boy with hypertrichosis, the werewolf-hair disorder.  He has been made to feel like a monster because of the psychological and physical abuse heaped upon him by the real werewolf of the story, an unhappy child pornographer and abuser who is enabled by other adults who should know better and who should not be so easily fooled.  The basis of the tale is the suffering I myself experienced as a child victim.

It is not easy to write a story like this, draining pain from scars on my own soul to paint a portrait of something that still terrifies me to this day, even though I am more than sixty years old and my abuser is now dead.  But as I continue to reread and edit this book, I can’t help but feel like it has been worth the pain and the striving.  No one else in the entire world may ever want to read this book, but I am proud of it.  It allowed me to put a silver bullet in the heart of a werewolf who has been chasing me for fifty-two years.  And that’s how the monster movie in my head is supposed to end, with the monster dead, even though I know the possibility of more monsters in the darkness still exists.

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Another New Novel Cover

My morning was used up making a cover for The Baby Werewolf out of old works of art and art-editing programs.  I will soon start the final edit and formatting of the book, and I hope to publish it in December.  It is a related story to the one I just published, Recipes for Gingerbread Children.  The two books share some of the same characters, events, and even dialogue.  The two stories, however, have a very different focus and thematic approach to what happened.  It is a gothic novel with humorous overtones.  The Baby Werewolf himself is not really a werewolf.  He is a boy with hypertrichosis, the werewolf-hair genetic disorder that gave Jo-Jo the Dog-faced Boy his carnival freak all-over fur.  The story is a first-person narrative told by three different characters who all were in Recipes.  Torrie Brownfield, the Baby Werewolf himself, is one of the three narrators.  I can’t wait to see how this two-novel story arc comes together, and if anybody at all will actually read it.

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Aeroquest… Canto 41

Canto 41 – The Pyramid of Evil

     Dr. Hooey proved to be as wild and eccentric a character as Trav Dalgoda.  He wore outlandish clothing and said remarkably stupid things without a moment’s hesitation.  He was not pretty to look at with a big nose and uncombed hair.  He was consistently frazzled and at his wit’s end.  Still, he was probably the highest-level problem-solver that Tron had ever met.

     Outside the pyramid that no one had been able to detect two miles outside the borders of Oasis City, Hooey was hunkered down next to Tron and Hassan as the wind blew fierce, stinging sand all around the base of the pyramid.

Dr. Hooey

     “I don’t know how you found this thing, Hooey!” said Tron, having to yell over the roar of the storm.  “It seems like this sandstorm never ends.  It’s been here since my people arrived within scanner range of the planet.”

     “I think it’s more or less permanent.  All I had to do to find it is scan for a focus of artificial radiant energy large enough to create a concealed feature of the planet, like this one.”

     The King of Killers came back to his leader, running with his head bent down into the wind.  He had a breath mask on to keep the sand out of his lungs, and brought three more for Tron, Hooey, and Hassan.

     “The doorway seems to be over there,” he yelled, pointing with the breath mask on his chin while he handed out the remaining masks to the others.

     “Okay, King.  Lead the way!” ordered Tron.

     Tron had his laser pistols attached to the powerpack on his back.  The King had an ACR hanging from the leather strap over his back, while Hassan had a net-pistol that had a one-shot net trap loaded.  Hooey carried a thing that looked like a small plastic water gun that he called his really big gun.

     The four men ran to the pyramid door, hands up to protect their faces from the cruel white sand.  King brought them to a dark alcove in the base of the pyramid. 

     “This is where we go in!” hollered King.  “I don’t know what’s in there.  My sensors read nothing at all, not even the stone that it should be reading!”

     Worried, the group inched forward into the darkness.  Tron took over the lead and allowed King to drop back and cover the rear.  Hooey hovered over Tron’s right shoulder, while Hassan limped along on his new leg to Tron’s left, trying to get used to the unfamiliar device.

     “I do hope there are no mummies in here.  I hate battling the living dead!” said Hooey firmly.

     “How could a man of science be stupid enough to think that mummies could ever come to life?” asked Tron, rolling his eyes, the artificial one looking more disgusted than the natural one.

     “Pretty easily!” remarked Hooey.  “Look there!”

     In the long Gallery ahead, hard to see in the dim light, four shapes lurched toward them.  They were skull-faced and bandaged.  Mummies come to life!

     “No.  I’m not sitting still for this crud!” growled King.  “I have a wife to get back to.”  The infamous King of Killers rushed to the front and tried to prove that he deserved his ruthless nickname.  He went fully automatic with his ACR and sprayed bullets all over the approaching undead creatures.  Bone splintered and wiring sparked.  Two of the creatures fell completely to pieces.  A third one lost its head, but still kept stumbling forward.

     “There’s something fishy about these mummies,” grumbled Tron.  “They walk too much like movie monsters to be real.  And what’s with all the electrical sparking?”

     The two wounded mummies kept coming towards King even though men who were punctured that much by armor-piercing shells should have died and fallen still.  King tried feverishly to load another clip of ammo, but before he could, a mummy grabbed his shoulder.  Electricity shot out of the bandaged hand and King went unconscious, his hair smoking profusely.

     “Hooey!” shouted Tron, about to demand that the Time Knight do something. 

     Dr. Hooey stood and pointed his little plastic water pistol.  He sprayed the two remaining mummies and completely shorted out their control circuits.  They fell in smoking piles of bones.

     Tron rushed forward to help his fallen man.  King Killer would live, but he’d had a nasty shock.

     “What were those things, Hooey?  Tell me straight, or I might have to shoot you.”

     Hassan picked up a severed hand wrapped in rotted bandages and took a close look.  “Rot warriors,” said the Space Elf.  “They are Mechanoids made from completely dead men.”  He handed the boney hand to Tron.

     The bones were inlaid with glittering microcircuitry that you could only really see up close.  A nearby skull yielded up a wrecked computer processor.  The main control pod was found in the chest cavity.

     “The perfect soldiers,” said Tron.  “They’re too dumb to question orders.”

     “Yes,” said Hooey, “and designed to put a real scare into any locals who might come in here.”

     “What do you suppose they are protecting?” asked Hassan. 

     “Oh, I already know,” said Hooey.  “They are protecting a Galtorrian agent of Count Nefaria called the Lizard Lady.  She’s here in this complex somewhere.”

     “You already know what’s supposed to happen here, don’t you?” said Tron.  “That’s how you knew to bring the water pistol.”

     “Well… In a sense, that’s true.”

     “All right, King is already hurt.  Spill it, Doctor.  What will happen next?”

     “Patience, Tron, my boy, only time can really tell.”

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Why I’m on This Aeroquest

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For those of you who are breathlessly following the weekly episodes from my first published mess of a novel, I apologize that I am not following through on my regular Tuesday feature today.  Of course, I know that the number of regular followers of this novel is actually zero.  Understandable because of what a confusing mess it is.  But I need to explain things anyway.

This whole saga began back in 2006 when I had time on my hands from being laid off from my teaching job by the Wicked Witch of Creek Valley.  I had two years worth of substitute teaching because said witch first hired me for my teaching philosophy, and then fired me for implementing it in my classroom.  (She had never actually been a teacher herself, just an administrator.)  I found myself with ample time to do a lot of writing, and I created my first published novel.  It was inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune saga combined with Douglas Adams’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series.  So, naturally, it was doomed from the very start because it had too many characters in a long and rambling plot that was three novels too long in only one novel.

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And on top of those serious rookie-writer mistakes, I added getting it published long before I actually had it ready for publishing with a fly-by-night publishing house called Publish America whom I can safely ridicule and defame here after they have been sued by authors numerous times because my contract with them expired in 2014, well after the company had morphed and changed its name to avoid paying any of their authors damages.  They did all the things they were accused of in lawsuits to my book.  They published it without reading it (proven by some of their authors who copied and pasted Wikipedia pages and got the company to publish that in book form).  They screwed up my chapter numbers and font styles intentionally to get me to pay for publishable revisions.  And they marketed my book only to friends and family for five times the price of a normal paperback.  They were the worst publishers I ever dealt with.  But in the end, I didn’t pay them a cent.  My relatives, however, bought the horrible book and refused ever after to fall for buying another Mickey Book.

The result is a large pile of garbage chapters with some good things and funny moments in them that I can use to mess around with, rewrite, reorganize, post here weekly, and eventually form into new novels.  That’s why I claim that this Tuesday feature is about novel writing in categories and tags.  I will take the first part of this mess and whip it up into a new book called Aeroquest 1: Stars and Stones.

It will have the whole first adventure on the planet Don’t Go Here where the entire planet’s population is trying to live within an episode of the Flintstones cartoon show.  It will reach the point where the three main characters will split up and go their separate ways, Ged Aero becoming the prophesied teacher of Psions known as the White Spider, Ham Aero becoming the rebel hero in the fight against the Imperium, and Trav “Goofy” Dalgoda taking his chaotic clown act to depths of dangerous depravity.  I am not, of course, trying to claim it will be good for anything.  But never let it be said that Mickey ever wasted a really bad idea.  Or even a really, really bad idea.  Or a terrible idea.  Or… well, you get the picture if you were fool enough to read this far.  If you put in that kind of effort, you certainly deserve to give yourself a “Yay me!” in the comments.

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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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