An aspiring author confronts the literary demons of the world and sets off in search of an agent.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Today the Demon pays his respect (well, sort of!) to the bildungsroman, the coming of age novel. Wikipedia describes it as "a genre of the novel which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood."

Here are several, heretofore undocumented, variations of the bildungsroman:

The Rückwärts-Richtung-Bildungsroman. This is the "reverse direction" Bildunsroman. Examples include The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or any novel featuring Merlin, who was reputed to age backwards through time.

The Ich-Will-Nicht-Erwachsen-Werden-Roman. This is the "I won’t grow up novel" and, of course, we're referring to Peter Pan.  Astute readers will likely complain this isn't a bildungsroman since the  protagonist doesn't demonstrate growth. This only proves that astute readers ought not waste their time perusing this blog!

The Déjà-vu-Bildungsroman. Think of the movie Groundhog Day where the protagonist, Bill Murray,  achieves growth only after living the same day over and over and over again.

The Roman-Gladiator-Bildungsroman.  These are stories of ancient Rome featuring young boys sent off to the ludus for gladiator training. This variation of the bildungsroman tends to be problematic as most protagonists do not live long enough to reach adulthood.

The Willy-Loman-Bildungsroman: This fall-from-grace variation was epitomized in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.  Technically, it's not a bildungsroman, but who cares, the phrase just rolls off the tongue!


Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Study in Contrasts: Aging, Atwood and Bradbury

How to describe an aging woman's body?  Here are two examples, starkly different, from two writers, each wonderful in their own way.

First, from Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye:
I think of Cordelia examining the growing pouches under her eyes… Gnarling has set in, the withering of the mouth; the outlines of dewlaps are beginning to be visible, down towards the chin…She drops the bath towel…looks over her shoulder, sees in the mirror the dog's-neck folds of skin above the waist, the buttocks drooping like wattles…
Next, from Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine:

She sat down next to him on the swing in her nightgown, not slim the way girls get when they are not loved at seventeen, not fat the way women get when they are not loved at fifty, but absolutely right, a roundness, a firmness, the way women are at any age, he thought, when there is no question.

Hard to imagine a more stark contrast, eh? And that's the wonder of good writing, folks!


Friday, November 26, 2010

A Grammar Girl Nightmare on Elm Street

The Demon is a fan of Grammar Girl and recommends her book, Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.  To show his appreciation, the Demon offers this little homage:

Grammar Girl versus Freddy Krueger!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Haiku as Query Letter

Recently, I read a fascinating comment about the query letter: "...because it is short, it's like the haiku of writing. It has to convey a vivid and memorable impression with as few words as possible."

What a wonderful image! And that sparked an idea. I looked over several haiku by Bashō, the famed Japanese poet of the Edo era, and tried to imagine which author might have used which haiku for one of their query letters. Here goes!

Nothing in the cry
of cicadas suggests they
are about to die

This feels like a Stephen King novel.

Wrapping dumplings in
bamboo leaves, with one finger
she tidies her hair

Margaret Atwood

A weathered skeleton
in windy fields of memory,
piercing like a knife

The Lovely Bones by Alice Seybold

I would like to use
that scarecrow's tattered clothes
in this midnight frost

Used by Neil Gaiman if he ever decided to re-imagine The Wizard of Oz.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Could I be a Genetic Enchanter?

Last night, I began reading Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. Ah, it does me good to reunite with a favorite author from my youth! However, I do notice that with age I am more likely to read an author’s introduction. When I was a teen, I did not have the patience for introductions – it was dive into the novel, full speed ahead with the plot, onwards with characters development.

Happily, I found the following gem, my reward for taking the time to read Mr. Bradbury’s introduction:

I was amused and somewhat astonished at a critic a few years back who wrote an article analyzing Dandelion Wine plus the more realistic works of Sinclair Lewis, wondering how I could have been born and raised in Waukegan, which I renamed Green Town for my novel, and not noticed how ugly the harbor was and how depressing the coal docks and railyards down below the town.

But, of course, I had noticed them and, genetic enchanter that I was, was fascinated by their beauty. Trains and boxcars and the smell of coal and fire are not ugly to children. Ugliness is a concept that we happen on later and become self-conscious about.

Genetic Enchanter…oh gawd, I love that phrase! Could it be possible that I am one? Could it mean that I, in some tickle-my-fancy manner, bear the slightest of kinship to the likes of a Ray Bradbury?



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Banana Moon

If you had to write a story to save your life, what would you write, where would your story begin?

Perhaps you’d find yourself beneath the desert sky one early evening, listening as young voices cry out, “banana moon!” There’s silver up above and children’s laughter floating in the air. With head bowed, you trace a broken heart in the sand.

The morning comes, the children dream of sand and silver and loving hearts, a plane ascends. Looking down you see, wandering amidst the mirage of bright lights and improbable fountains, those who have forgotten the magic of the desert. You close your eyes and listen for the sound of laughter; thirty minutes and one hundred and sixty miles later passes and you hear none.

Meanwhile, the man besides you, somber faced and grey-suited, is lost, but in a good way, as he reads Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. A flight attendant brings you coffee and you ask for two sugars – the first for the coffee, the second you pour upon your tray so you may trace a broken heart. The plane purrs and rattles, the heart disappears.

Four days’ mail crams the mailbox and the unpacked suitcase is left to fend for itself. You walk to the bathroom, open the medicine cabinet and scowl; the door is open so the mirror reflects the wall, not your face. Soon, forty-two red and green pills float in the toilet bowl. You urinate but the deadly little armada refuses to sink. There’s nothing else to do but flush and walk away.

If you had to write a story to save your life, what would you write? Perhaps you’d write of a seemingly ordinary man in a grey suit who had an ordinary job, ordinary friends and uneventful days. But once a month, about the time the banana moon comes, he remembers the magic of the desert. One those days, while everyone else still sleeps, he rises early to usher in the dawn with soft laughter. 

Later, when all are sleeping, he smiles as he remembers the sound of children’s voices.

Yes, on those days when the banana moon comes, he is the first to laugh and the last to smile.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Literary Jewels

From  Littlefy Jewelry: Littlefly jewelery is made by laminating hundreds sheets of paper together, then carefully finishing to a high gloss. The paper is selected and carefully removed from a book, and the jewelery re-inserted in the excavated space.


Friday, November 12, 2010

An utterly ridiculous posting about LOTR

The recent news that director Peter Jackson will be taking the reins of upcoming Hobbit movie has gotten the Demon thinking about how books eventually end up as movies. Clearly, the LOTR movies benefited greatly from Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI). Ironic that a movie about such an ancient time could only be rendered by the most modern of technology, eh?

The first book in the LOTR trilogy was published in 1954. But what if (and here comes the ridiculous part of this post) Tolkien had published it much earlier, say in the late 1920s? One could imagine the first LOTR move being made back in the 1930s with stars such as Clark Gable and, who knows, even WC Fields! 

Here are two screen capture from this movie. (Note: The graphics may look amateurish; it's simply my attempt to painstakingly recreate what the special effects would have looked like for a movie from the 1930s)

Clark Gable as Aragorn as he speaks to
the troops before the Black Gates of Mordor

WC Fields plays Gollum!
A note to readers of this blog: it's okay to groan!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Commas - in or out?

The Demon came across an interesting post by Daniel Adler entitled, Lamentation for the Comma, in which he states, "Oh, comma! Dear friend, connector of clauses, I am ridding my writing of you!" He correctly observes that commas are "sometimes burdensome."

Thus, it easy to imagine Lady Macbeth declaring, "Out, damn'd comma! out, I say!" Or maybe it should be “Out damn’d comma! out I say!” Okay, it's easy to imagine if you're me!

But as a counterpoint, let's invoke Oscar Wilde who said, “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again."

Commas! You can't live with 'em and you can't live without 'em!

'nuff said!

Monday, November 8, 2010

One Word for Ten...or a Hundred?

I found the following observation (confession?) from Kate DiCamillo at The Pippin Insider: "Telling stories is hard work; the stories that I like, the ones that seem most powerful to me, have an ineffable quality of one word seeming to do the work of ten words."

One word for ten? Sounds daunting, eh? How about one word for a hundred? Let flash back to an earlier post of mine where I asked whether it was possible for one hundred words to the job of ten thousand. (i.e., a ratio of one word for one hundred).  Here’s what I wrote:

Is it possible for one hundred words to the job of ten thousand?

I've been contemplating this question since reading a wonderful short story, Bog Rhubard Shoots, by Yamashiro Tomoe (it's from the book, Reflections on the Way to the Gallows). It tells the tale of Mitsuko, a young Japanese woman, who, in the 1940s, was sent to prison for her involvement in the left-wing political movement (as was her husband, who was assigned to different prison).

Under the terms of her conviction, Mitsuko "could write only one letter of postcard length each month. Even though the frequency and length of the letters were limited, they still had to be checked over by four persons: the guard, the chief guard, the chaplain, and the supervisor of the guards. Under these circumstances, one hundred words had to do the job of ten thousand in the letters that Mitsuko and her husband exchanged. If a letter written under restricted conditions failed to pass the censors and was stamped 'To be handed over upon release,' the letter itself would probably shed tears."



Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Bookstore with Just One Book...Your Book!

What if there was a bookstore that specialized in just one book? And it happened to be your book? Shelf after shelf would have but one tome, your tome! A customer walks to the Self-help section and finds…your book! Another customer goes to the Exercise section and finds…your book!

Guess what? This really happened. In 1997 Al Fahden was looking for a way to promote his book, Innovation on Demand.  So he opened a bookstore in downtown Minneapolis that was stocked with just one title, Innovation on Demand. 

Kinda cool, eh?

There was even an article, Tome Alone, in People Magazine


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kindle: Semaphore Edition

Following on the spectacular success of our Kindle: Morse Code Edition, we are introducing Kindle: Semaphore.

For more literary semaphoric thrills, check out Monty Python's version of Wuthering Heights in Semaphores.


Monday, November 1, 2010

If you had to choose one song...

Here's an interesting thought exercise for a writer: if you had to choose one song upon which to base a novel, which song would you choose?

After much cogitation, reflection and sundry caffeinated-related activities, I would choose Black Horse and a Cherry Tree by KT Tunstall. The first two lines of the lyrics make for a killer book opening: Well my heart knows me better than I know myself/So I'm gonna let it do all the talking.

And the last line of the song makes for a boffo novel ending: I can't quite get there 'cause my heart's forsaken me.

Okay, I got me a beginning and an ending, now I gotta fill in the rest. In the meantime, here's video of Ms. Tunstall: