I have heard many of us writers refer to our written creations as children. I have two small boys and let me tell you raising them is easier on my mental stability that simultaneously penning two novels. Two vastly different novels at that.
For the boys I can cook up one box of Macaroni and Cheese or throw a package of weenies on the grill and they will both eat it. These two novels have totally different palets, so I'm continually trying to decide which one to feed. I'll work on one until I sense the other starting to shrivel and die, then its off to provide a bit of nourishment to the other story. This has basically resulted in the starvation of this blog. I sense the quality of my posts lagging and I apologize but unless each of you are going to start sending me a dollar a day to subsidize my dreams of making a living with words, then the blog will be the thing that suffers most from my limited creativity.
Over at the Women of Mystery blog blogger and regular commenter here, Terrie Farley Moran suggested I blog about my attempts at converting an 8,000 word short story into an 80,000 word novel, so that is what I'm going to do. Right after I explain that led me to be writing two novels at once.
Back in February I headed out to Arizona to a writers conference put on by Michael Neff, the man behind Webdelsol. The conference was great, I learned a lot, met several interesting people, including blog regulars Bluefingers and Alex Keto, and made some valuable contacts with agents. At the tail end of the week long workshop Michael sat down with each of us and really went over some of our writing and he offered up his brand of advice.(very insightful, but blunt)
Michael basically told me that he liked my writing but it came across as dark and emotionally heavy and it listening to me over the weak he'd heard a lot of really good humor in my story telling. He encouraged me to try and get some of that down on the page. His suggestion was to sit down and write a short story in the same manner and dialect as I would use if I were sitting in a seedy bar telling a story to the man sitting on the stool beside me.
So I flew back home to Texas and thought about it. I was already on the verge of starting a new novel that I knew would require more a more humorous tone that my previous work so I decided Michael's advice would be a great exorcise to get in that frame of mind. And my short story Plundered Booty was born.
Truthfully, I never intended a word of it to see the light of day but the more i wrote the more I laughed. Finally I decided to send what I had to a couple of people to see if they found it funny or if I had finally gone over the edge. I was surprised at the reaction I got. I literally had people begging to read the rest of it. Only I didn't have anymore. So I hurried and finished the story. Then everyone started telling me this is the best thing you've ever written. You should make it into a novel.
At first I blew the comments off. Sure I appreciated them. I like my ego stroked as much as the next guy but by this time I was already well into another novel. A twisted love triangle involving a woman named Grace who blames sex for ruining her life, her husband, the Texas Panhandle bull semen king, and the father of her teenage son's girlfriend.
But Captain, the first person narrator of Plundered Booty kept whispering in my ear, Feed me. Int he short story he had no name other than Captain, he will keep that moniker for the novel but right off the reader learns his full name. Here is an excerpt from the very end of the first chapter.
I will tell you my name is Hank Petty Zybeck. Hank, after the greatest country and western singer of all time. My dear departed daddy's description, not mine. Petty, for the king of all racecar drivers. Again, my daddy's opinion, but one I happen to share. And Zybeck, because I'm my father's son. Least that was my momma's claim to her dying day.
Who knows, it might even be true, but neither of my parents stood over five and a half foot tall, and I’m a good five inches better than six foot. My dad's hair was the color of axle grease and my momma's was a couple of shades darker if anything, whereas my hair has always been the same shade of red as fender rust.
But this story isn't about my questionable heritage, and it's been a long while since I went by Hank. Most folks call me Captain.
Well, that happens to be where this story begins.
Now I can't get Hank to shut up and Grace is losing weight faster than an incarcerated Paris Hilton. I had to let one of my children starve but Grace better speak up or she's liable to wither away.
This post is long enough for now, but soon I'll talk about the actual process of adding more than seventy thousand words while maintaining the flavor and integrity of the original story. That is if something titled Plundered Booty can be described as having integrity. Here's a better description. Throw a Kinky Friedman novel in the blender with a Jimmy Buffet CD, add in two bottles of Caribbean Rum, a splash of sea salt, and a quart of motor oil and voila -- you have Plundered Booty- The Novel.