Tag: Writing

The Novel I wrote when I was Ten — “The Cathedral of Cats”

This is Part III of the book I wrote in middle school. If you want to start from the beginning, go here.

In 1999, when I was ten, I wrote a book. It was the worst thing ever written, and I’ve read the collected works of Stuart Warren. Twenty years later, I recovered the manuscript and am now publishing excerpts for the public’s amusement. There’s a delight in watching bad movies. I hope y’all will equally enjoy bad literature.


Chapter Four

To recap. Our hero is lost in the woods, badly wounded from an encounter with a gang of knights. That’s really all you need to know. Seriously.

Javis Kyle is discovered by an ogre named Lars. Apparently my ogres are smart, compassionate creatures.

And this is what ten-year-old-me thinks smart people sound like:

By the way, Lars is dressed like a gentleman scholar. I hired an artist to recreate this.

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The Novel I wrote when I was Ten — “A Wizard with a Beard for a Robe”


This is Part II of my summary of the book I wrote in middle school. If you want to start with Chapter One, go here.

In Several Short Sentences About Writing, Klinkenborg says every good writer starts with a good sentence. They write a good sentence, then write another. But there isn’t a single, decent string-of-words in The Hero on Foot: The War of the Bowl. Even the title chonks like a basketball-sized cat.

But that’s why we’re here. Not to read literature, but to laugh at ugly prose. The following is the first book I ever wrote.

Enjoy?


Chapter Two

First, a recap. Our hero’s family is dead, his village destroyed. Okay, recap over.

We find our protagonist living in the woods Into the Wild style.

Is it?

Is it cool?

I imagine my fifth grade teacher writing “cool” like John Oliver says “dope.”

(John Oliver also has an unimpressed “cool” but the gifs were too grainy.)

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The Novel I wrote when I was Ten — “New Beginnings”

The following is the first ten pages of the book I wrote in middle school. This is a roast, not literary lesson. Come chuckle with me at an author who tossed into his novel everything he thought was cool without regard to plot or complexity or voice or how to tell a good story.

Might be fun.


Prologue

The book begins with a prologue in italics because of course it’s italics. The prologue is less scene, more opening scrawl of Star Wars. It’s pure, unadulterated exposition. Horrible, unnecessary exposition.

We’re introduced to the ancestors of our protagonist for some reason. These early knights migrated to a mountain and created a town. It’s not complicated. They were accompanied by a Talking Cat.

The Cat is murdered and never mentioned again.

That is nearly all I say about the Silver Bowl. While the artifact resurfaces later, its function, its purpose, its abilities are never explained.

Obviously the idea of a tempting, powerful metal object was stolen from Lord of the Rings. Ten-year-old-me must have ransacked his brain meat trying to think of an alternative to The One Ring and settled on a bowl. Maybe he was eating cereal.

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The Novel I wrote when I was Ten

This is my latest installment of project failures.

Think of it as Literary Confession, except these deeds were not done, remain unfinished, or never started.

Read on. Who knows? Maybe you can steal from the ashes.


I’ve finally reached the age where my sexy friends get married and less sexy friends write books. My pal Stuart Warren has written two, and if you’re not careful, he might write another.

Currently, I’m working on YAF about a squirrel who is magically turned into a human. But Roco wasn’t my first novel.

No, I wrote my first novel a long, long time ago. In 1999, when I was ten.

It was called

and was forty pages of the most garbage writing ever conceived in consecutive order.

(And, hey, I’ve read Stuart’s books.)

A few months ago, I recovered the manuscript from my parent’s house. The unpublished genius was wedged between short stories I wrote in middle school—”Vulcan” about a giant volcano exploding; “Fallen Chick” about a baby bird falling to its death; “Remrok” about an art contest between cavemen. Each of these stories was a crowning achievement in my literary life. Now? I feel bad for the trees they’re written on.

The book is a very poor amalgamation of Arthurian legend, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, 90s pop culture, a ten year-old’s love of cats, and puns.

It includes:

  • A bowl-shaped knockoff of the One Ring To Rule Them All
  • An insolent rendition of Taran, the pig-keeper hero from the Black Cauldron
  • A cliché hero’s journey that begins with a village ransacked by barbarians
  • Gratuitous violence that reads like John Wick fanfiction

All laid out in forty pages of godawful prose:

And poetry: The worst thing? It was a school assignment. Someone was forced to read this sword-and-sorcery swill.

In fact, my fifth grade teacher’s remarks are scattered everywhere:

They don’t pay teachers enough.

I will be posting the plot of The Hero on Foot: The War of the Bowl (my wife calls it of the Bowels) throughout July alongside my best impression of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Feel free to read along and laugh at mediocrity.

If anything, this will be a lesson in failure.

Published — “Garden of Forking Palms”

My absurdist flash fiction Garden of Forking Palms was included in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Mojave River Review. My title plays with Jorge Luis Borges’s “The Garden of Forking Paths,” but roads diverge from there. The story is about a man who wakes up to find a garden on his hand. And then he has to go to work.

I wanted to explore our universal experience of not-quite-fitting-in, of having something weird or silly to preoccupy our social discomfort. My argument is that weirdness, silliness, those things that fluster, they might actually be our most beautiful or interesting attributes. Dave doesn’t make the right decision in the end, but he might someday with time and maturity and that steady growth of self-knowledge.

Mojave River Media is a busy publishing center with books, anthologies, and review magazines. This includes Mojave River Review, a prose and poetry anthology produced biseasonally.

Nonfiction — “Blood Sucking Worms”

My father had many stories about monsters and his favorite were the Blood Sucking Worms. The story went like this: Three children (three of us) would be lost in the woods (why we were in the woods was never explained – we lived in the city) and fall asleep beside an old oak. In the morning, one of our number would be missing, usually Zach, the youngest.

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Writing Process — “Zelzer Stiff”

I want to talk about how I wrote “Zelzer Stiff.”

The reason? It’s an odd, little piece that is both a successful execution of my idea and far better than I intended.

As a science-fiction writer, this is a rare event. Often we shoot for the stars and bounce off the moon. But my hope is that by logging the process, I will gain some insight, and fellow writers something useful.

Brainthumping

Idea, first. As a writer, I operate under the Laws of Association. This principle works like the conceit of a poem (where two unlike things are compared in metaphor, becoming the piece’s central image), constantly linking the unfamiliar into surprising meditations of meaning.

My role is to extend comparisons, contrasts, and contiguities to their logically absurd conclusions.

How does this look in practice? I knew I wanted to write about guns, about the limit of a gun, about the promotion of the Second Amendment, about the moral circle of who ‘should’ own a gun and who is disqualified. In my mindful maelstrom, I connected this to robots, to android rights, to the possible inability for machine intelligence to prioritize, empathize, and detect subtlety like a human being,  My love of the western pulled in the image of a robot sauntering into a bar, packing a revolver.

All of these thoughts became notes on a page, including other images, impressions, strains, threads, solutions. Conflicts emerged. I wanted the robot to misuse their trust; to misread the situation and end lives unjustly. Yet, what better logical and absurd conclusion to a robot-rights story than an android committing a massacre but justifying the action with a data-dump?

Outline Time

I love it when ideas appear like pokémon in tall grass, but we don’t always have time to roam. Instead, I carefully and intentionally construct my narrative outline. The idea is to make each step a logical continuation of the last one, and to slip in natural character development. Readers might not intuit the architecture, but they’ll want something anthropocentric (i.e. gossip about the human condition—good, bad, or weird) and easy aesthetic (something simple to read).

With “Zelzer Stiff,” this started as a basic summary. Something like this:

Second Amendment has given robot’s rights. Robot with a gun walks into a bar. Confronted by a bigot. Kills the bigot, bartender, and anyone else who flinches (“offensive actions”). Robot uploads cam-feed and data to the police, gets a drink.

Now I needed to decide my medium. I knew what I wanted to write, but how should I write it? Prose? Poetry? A newspaper article? A story some couple thousand words? Flash?

I chose the drabble-esque, worried too much development might reduce shock. Pithy over the prolonged.

Daft Draft

I wrote the piece, following the preconceived plot with the poetry of words. My focus was on specific details. Done poorly, abstraction kills good literature. I wanted my reader ferociously engaged in the intensity of my images. There was a bit of internal debate about exposition. I decided to insert the historical account (“…the landmark decision to include artificial humans in the Second Amendment”) between a reference to processing speeds (foreshadowing?) and conflict (a robot with a gun).

The rest was matter of opinion. My original names were conventional. Place-holders. I decided to replace them with bizarre concoctions like “Kghoshi” alongside quips like “You packing, tin can?” (When, as a writer, do you ever get the opportunity to use the overused in an interesting way?). My best lines were developed in the vivid haze of brain thumping. The rest, intentionally, unintentionally, while drafting.

Tittles (I mean Titles)

Serious thought should go into a title, or you will be tempted to keep your initial project title. Suddenly, the weird and wonderful is stunted under “The Dragon” or “The Hunt.”

Personally, I have titles I am happy with (Black Bear on White Paper) and titles I’m unhappy with (The Spheres) and titles that were pragmatic but not poetic (Flexible Groups). My story House Divided continues to frustrate me because it’s (a) the perfect moniker for a piece about a suburban home split between two dimensions, and (b) its too Abraham Lincoln-esque.

For this piece, I chose random over revealing.

Finally, the result:

“Zelzer Stiff” by Desmond White

The android was making them all uncomfortable with its Zelzer Stiff eyeing them from its hip. It’d only been forty point three seconds since the landmark decision to include artificial humans in the Second Amendment and this son of a manufacturing plant had just walked into the Rig & Rattle with a laspistol holstered, twinkling. Kghoshi—a real bastard on a good day—splashed his drink on silver chestmetal and said, “You packing, tin can?” The bartender—a saint on a bad day—put an arm on the droid: “C’mon, now, let’s not do this.” The move was registered as an offensive action and the android shot the bartender between his eyebrows. Kghoshi’s finger moved a centimeter toward his gun when a second shot put a red dot on his forehead. The men in the bar leaped to their feet. Offensive actions. The men in the bar toppled over chairs and tables. By the time the android reached the counter, empty now of breathing souls, a feed of reaction times, facial registers, psycho-prints—all pointing to self-defense—had been submitted to the authorities.

As you can see, there are many arbitrary decisions. The decision to keep everything in one paragraph. The decision to use a whimsical name for the gun that also sounds like a cocktail. The em dash couplet describing Kghoshi and the bartender. The repetition of “offensive actions.” Flourishes as fickle as free verse.

I would argue aesthetic can be like that, can seek music without meaning, as long as the foundation is laid rationally.

Was I successful? I think so. Others do too. Some, not. The final step:

Move on, my dude

Don’t dwell. Write your piece. Get it to where you’re 85% happy with it. Then write something new. Experiment. Exercise. You will fail. You’ll succeed. Tuck away the failures, submit successes, and keep lying, dreaming, writing.