Ramblings – Part 10 of 10

Newsletter 051 – November 24, 2023

Hi,

You probably assume by now that I have finished my novella, Flood and Fire, and that I’m deep in the re-editing process for Jagged Man. Unfortunately, I’m still bogged down in the mid-section of the novella, partly because I had a major interruption that may affect my working schedule for the next few months. I’ll update you on all of that in the next newsletter, but let’s finish out this series of ten first.

This is the final one of those pre-written newsletters, and it’s about some of my early writing, some unfinished writing, and what I plan to do with some of it. My current plan is to eventually bundle the best bits of it together into a sampler of some of the good, the bad, and the ugly of my writing. I’m currently calling it A Mixed Bag. I’ve mentioned it in a few of my earlier newsletters. Essentially, it’s something I hope to put together partway through next year to become my reader magnet after I publish Flood and Fire (which will happen at the same time Jagged Man is republished). Before that I’ll be giving Flood and Fire away to new subscribers to this newsletter (a free enticement like that is something writers refer to as a reader magnet). And, yes, you’ll all get a free copy too.

So, what do I mean by *early* writing? Am I talking about elementary school essays. No. I plan to include very little (if anything) of what I wrote before college.  Probably the earliest thing I wrote that meant anything to me (aside from my schoolyard script of Helen of Troy — see Newsletter #50) was my school’s fight song. Putnam Elementary was a brand new school in El Paso when we moved to a subdivision on the northwest side of the city. I attended there from third through sixth grades. At some point in the late-1950’s the administration decided they needed a fight song for the school’s sports teams, the Falcons, so they held a contest. I wrote this brief ditty, to be sung to the tune of The Colonel Bogey March (from the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai), and they were foolish enough to pick it.

Putnam, your colors green and gold,
Putnam, your Falcons brave and bold.
Love you, we’ll always love you,
And serve you until we are old.

I called the school recently and was gratified to learn that today, over 60 years later, they are still using it. I wasn’t too happy, though, to find out that they didn’t have anyone listed as the author. Oh well.

Sometime after that I heard about a national poetry contest and decided to enter it. I spent a lot of time during grade school with my head buried in dictionaries and encyclopedias (we had a copy of Britannica). Somewhere I had encountered the word “omphaloskepsis,” and had also been reading limericks and nonsense poetry (Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, etc.), so I decided to create a poem about yogis meditating on their navels. I was very pleased with it (I still am) so I entered the contest with it and got a notice back that the poem had won a place in an anthology of American poetry, and (guess what, boys and girls???) I could purchase a copy for the low, low, price of $24.95, plus tax and postage. My mom, knowing it was a sort of scam, said she was proud of me but we just couldn’t afford it right then, maybe later. Later never came. I’ll probably put “Omphaloskepsis” in A Mixed Bag, but nothing else from that era. Almost two years ago, in Newsletter #13, I mentioned the poem. If you would like to read it, I included it at the end of that newsletter.

In Junior High I wrote a Mars time-travel story and illustrated it myself. My teacher kept it to use as an example, and I didn’t make copies (big lesson learned there). I remember it as being a fairly straightforward mash-up of H. G. Wells’ Time Machine and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars. My apologies to both of them.

I did, however, keep copies of nearly everything I wrote after that. I finished a lot of poetry (most of it won’t be included for a variety of reasons, largely because of how bad a lot of it is), I wrote several short stories as well, and some of them (I think) are quite good.

Loony Louie is a short story which placed in the top 100 of the 1988 Writer’s Digest competition. It will definitely be included in A Mixed Bag. My much longer short story (almost a novella, just over 20,000 words), Everything’s Okay at Peaceful Pines, will also be in it, along with a ten-minute play that I wrote and acted in during the 1980’s called Baum in Limbo. It’s a Wizard of Oz parody.

I also wrote (for a friend’s birthday) a short story (that I really like) called “Chewbacca, Chewbacca, Chewbacca …Spit!” My friend is a Star Wars geek, in case you hadn’t guessed. The story is about a wager Han and Chewie had with the Mon Calamari, but it won’t be included in A Mixed Bag because it’s fan fiction, and also because I don’t want to get into any lawsuits with George Lucas (or Disney).

I think I’ve mentioned An Ordinary Day before. It’s a screenplay I wrote for the 2005 season of Bravo TV’s Project Greenlight. It would, unfortunately, occupy well over a hundred pages of A Mixed Bag just by itself. I might include a few excerpts from it, maybe ten pages or so, but not the whole thing.

In addition to the poetry and the short stories, I also have a number of unfinished projects that didn’t work out for various reasons. Some excerpts from a few of those could find their way into the book. Like a few pages of the opening of my unfinished play Blithe Hamlet, which merges Shakespeare’s Hamlet with Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. The play begins with the final speech from Fortinbras in Hamlet. Courtiers pick up the bodies to carry them out, and ghosts are left behind, except there’s no ghost for Hamlet. A courtier rushes back in to announce that they dropped Hamlet, and he regained consciousness. The ghosts hang around (and speak in modern day English). Hamlet can see and hear them, but no one else can, which makes for some unusual situations.

And there are other unfinished works that had good starts, but stalled out for one reason or another. I’ll likely include a few of those before closing the book with some opening chapters of one of the other novels I’m working on. That’s the current plan, at any rate. Everything is subject to change, of course.

The next newsletter will be about a recent incident that could possibly keep me frustrated through March 2024.

See you then.

Michael

[“The good things of life are not to be had singly,
but come to us with a mixture.”
         Last Essay of Elia, XIII, That You Must
                          Love Me and Love My Dog (1833),
by Charles Lamb.]

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