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Novel Novel Writing Thoughts

For the last year and change, I’ve decided I wanted to become a novelist. Novelist, of course, is Latin for pretentious dingbat who thinks he knows just enough about something but doesn’t have the confidence to do a non-fictional account of a story. Even though I have the authority on subjects ranging from the movie Tremors and the collective works of Entertainment Weekly, I dipped my toe in the long story pool and wrote a trio of books.

The first “novel” is/was Hibernate. It’s about a fat guy named Karl who passes out drunk one night and wakes up five months later. Think Rip Van Winkle meets a jug of Fireball and half a pack of Kools. Because I don’t appreciate solid story writing, it dissolved into a history of a fictitious town in Daggett County and a rescue mission at a space station orbiting Ganymede. I know what you’re saying right now, “Jeez, Benny, I’ve like read that story like a hundred times already.” Well, you’re probably correct—it is sheer plagiarism from Stephen King, Danny Boyle and Thomas Jefferson.

The next “book” is called Decade. It’s about a boxer here in the good ol’ SLC who lives with his mommy in a near dystopian future where child birth is illegal for ten years. Get it? Ten years, Decade? Literally the most clever thing I have ever come up with not stupefied on Wild Turkey and Vicodin. If you’re looking for the inspiration, look no further than Children of Men, Rocky III and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Believe it or not, I actually like this story. It’s got a love interest, lots of Salt Lake City, boxing action and a nice little button at the end.

What I learned about working on Decade was you needed a three-part act to tell a story. There is a beginning, middle and end. There are well constructed heroes and villains and enough supporting players to fill in the blanks with the story. I actually enjoyed working on this bad boy and at a little over 83K words, it’s the longest thing I’ve ever done with the exception of the blog post about Mountain Dew and Everclear.

The third “tale” is Shivers. Shivers is fucked up. It’s a road trip story about baseball great Harmon Killebrew as he travels throughout the West trying to do an errand for the Devil (conveniently disguised as Colonel Sanders) all the while drinking and screwing his way through major metropolitan towns like Modesto and Fresno. I am literally begging people to read Shivers so I know what to describe it. I guess any book that starts with Walt Disney on a “muff hunt” while mainlining speedballs defies definition, but the self-publishing houses will want to know which dumpster fire they should deposit Shivers into.

In all fairness, Shivers was a hoot to write and absolutely bonkers. Plus, I really like the ending.

Ok, now you’ve been patient, let me tell you about the fourth “installment” in the Henderson Refinery and Die Cast world, Cockpit. Cockpit is a hoot. It’s about two buddies fishing in the Uintas who are nearly crushed by a crashing commercial plane. They investigate the crash and don’t like what they find. That’s the first half, the second half of Cockpit takes place in SLC (see a trend, I’m writing what I know). This portion of the story follows one of the fishing buddies’s wife.

Now, I was able to knockout the first half super fast because I knew what I wanted to write about, but I didn’t see where to take the SLC portion of the story. It wasn’t until today did I realize why I was struggling. The first half of Cockpit was written in first-person. Because I struggle writing for women, I thought it would be easier to do it in third-person. Clearly, it screwed up the entire book. Thank goodness, I stopped after 800 words or so.

I’m scrapping the second part and starting over, but in case anyone wants to read it (doubtful), I’m going to tack it on to the end of this blog post.

What I’ve learned about writing novels or long stories is it is a lot of work. You have to be diligent with getting your words in everyday and this is a lot easier said than done. Writing is thankless work and getting published is nearly impossible. With that said, I am shocked how many books are at Barnes and Noble. Who the hell is buying all of these books? Moreover, who the hell are writing all of these books? Who the hell has time? When I was bartending full-time, it was a piece of cake because I would just hide in the basement and crank words out. Now that I have a fancy day job, getting my words in each day is a royal pain in the butt.

I’m thinking of dropping a bunch of ducets this year on the self-publsihing route for Hibernate. Since it sets up the world in which all of the other books live, I thought it would be nice to have a hard copy to show my mother. Don’t worry. I’m not doing the crowd sourcing route. I’ll just harass each and everyone of you on Facebook until you shell out the ~$15 for my ridiculous tome.

There are a couple of other books circulating around my head. There is a Harlequin novel called Moist (I know you’re already throwing up in your mouth) and another spaceship story about going to Mercury, but for the meantime, I’m going to focus on finishing Cockpit.

Check out the discarded “lost” chapter of Cockpit and let me know what you think. Per usual, be a mensch and tell a friend.

It sounded like a cocktail party above her house.

Squawking and trouble-making was afoot as the merriment continued as she quietly cursed at the ceiling. It wasn’t even 10 a.m.

Jill rolled over and tried to find a cool place in bed to hide before having to get up to go to work. She was disappointed how easy it was with her husband gone on his fishing trip.

And the cocktail party continued. Ugh.

The screeching geese were heading south but no trip out of Salt lake City was complete without a fly by over her home. They were loud, messy but Jill loved them even though they were notorious for interrupting her sleep in September.

She was always relieved William was a fisherman and not a hunter. She didn’t know what she would do if he showed up from his yearly excursion to the Uintas with a bag filled with bloodied feathers. It was bad enough he tried to kill as many trout as he did.

Bracing herself, Jill got out of bed, quickly showered, and changed into her hospital scrubs. There was barely time to make coffee and a bowl of oatmeal before she rushed out of the house and up to the hospital.

Jill went through the same emotions every year during William’s annual fishing trip.

The first night was bittersweet watching Mike drive away with her husband, but by the time she got back into the empty house and pulled the cork on a special trout-widow bottle of wine, she hoped he’d never return. This feeling lasted only as long as the wine before she crawled into bed and wondered what sort of trouble Mike and William might have found themselves.

Jill hoped they had enough sense to put down the whiskey bottle long enough to actually try and catch some fish.

Pulling onto 900 East and heading north to St. Paul’s Hospital, Jill turned on NPR and it seemed like hell had broken loose. There was another mass shooting in Salt Lake and she winced as she listened to the broadcast. It happened at a courthouse of all places. Jesus, she muttered, as she thought what has happen to the city. Gun violence has become the norm in recent years and too often she found herself assisting in the emergency room with some bystander getting shot for no apparent reason. Her father and brothers owned guns and she has even gone out to the west desert with them when she was a kid to shoot cans or other discarded household items, but the idea of just randomly shooting somebody was inconceivable.

Traffic seemed worse than ever as she drove up to the Avenues. People were driving as if they had no where to be. Since it made no sense to get off of 900 East, Jill slowly crept along begging the crummy drivers to pick up the pace. Her mind wandered as she looked at the houses along the road with people loading up trucks. There was way too much activity for a Wednesday—especially for the first Wednesday after Labor Day. She just gritted her teeth and inched along wishing at every moment she didn’t have to leave the house.

Parking at the hospital was no better.

The lot was filled and the entrance to the emergency room was filled with ambulances and police cars. Jill wondered what exactly had happened at the courthouse as she checked in and looked for her supervisor. Lois found her first.

“We need help up in pediatrics, Jill,” Lois said. “Everybody has been sent to the ER. That shooting was nuts.”

“What happened?” Jill asked. “How did some madman get a gun into the courthouse?”

“Uh, Jill, it wasn’t a madman,” Lois said confused. “It was the judge.”

“Are you kidding me?”

Lois just shook her head and ran down to ER. Jill looked at her phone in vain hoping some more information would pop up. It didn’t. She shook out her head and went to the third floor pediatrics. Reporting to the shift supervisor, she got to work tending to the patients and trying to keep the level of gossip to a minimum.

It didn’t last long.

Reports kept coming regarding the shooter. Judge Millsap Peterson was presiding over a security fraud case with a couple of bankers trying to out-cheat the other. It was a full house because one of the bankers worked for Wasatch Trust and Home, the bank controlled by Henderson Refinery and Die Cast. Most people, including Jill, banked with the regional powerhouse. While most people would never care about a security fraud case, most people in Utah were aware of this one. There was rumors that anyone with Wasatch Trust and Home could benefit from the class action suit with monies up to $3,000.

“Why would the Judge do that?” Jill asked.

 

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

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