Friday, September 21, 2007

Journal of a "Novel"-Entry 37

Not Givin’ Up

Recently, I did something related to this novel in progress that I have been wanting to do for some time – I shipped off a redacted (edited) version of Chapter 1, ‘Sweet Music, Pretty Flowers’ to two fiction periodicals for possible publication. The two journals I sent them to were Story Quarterly and Notre Dame Review. Buoyed by a recent publication success (“Ron Hansen: An Appreciation”, published in the September/October issue of the St. Austin Review – see Duke’s kind-hearted post below), I thought now might be the time to give it a shot, since if I hear back that the journals rejected the excerpt, at least I can have a recent memory of the opposite experience. But if either of the journals accept the piece, not only would it be the first time ever – after at least 12 years of trying – that I would be publishing fiction that I wrote (which remains a highly elusive goal of mine), but it would also be, for my money, the ultimate motivator to get the novel done. For how could I not complete it after some of it was published, with the implicit promise of more? Anyway, for anyone who reads this, stay tuned to this ongoing Journal for updates when they arrive. Given my track record, this will probably be a tiny line or two saying that the chapter will not be published, but on the other hand, I think it’s some of the best stuff I’ve ever written and I do believe I have a chance with the first chapter. So the odds are against it, but they always are, and one thing is for sure: I will not give up on the dream of publishing fiction someday. You can take that to the bank.

The Story Unfolds

Speaking of getting the novel done, I am trying to press ahead on that front, but many things intervene. Not the least of which is the fact that I now work two jobs, one full-time, and one part-time at a community college as a Writing Tutor. This is a new gig for me and is not the easiest thing I have ever attempted. But I am slowly catching on I guess. I only do it two nights a week and some Saturdays, but it has cut into my morning writing time because I have had to take some mornings (there’s only so much time to use, with the jobs, two little children, etc.) to bone up on basic grammar! You have to be able to answer those sorts of questions, and it has been a while since I have had to speak to such things, to say the least.

Nonetheless, Chapter 4 of the novel is progressing. Originally, I had a tentative title for it (‘A Chance Encounter, Overdue’), but I warned readers that this would change, and it looks like it will. But I am not sure of what the new title will be. Maybe I will finish the chapter before titling it – a novel concept. There are many possibilities and I don’t want to commit to anything again here. But I know I have several scenes written and about four more scenes to write. I think it is going pretty well, but I have to deliver on the last four scenes, which if nothing else present the characters in a variety of different settings, including a domestic/conjugal (frankly) situation, a grocery store, a pre-NFL professional football game, and a lakeside convent during a nun’s funeral.

I suppose the main thrust of this chapter, if there is one, is to illustrate that Walter and Greta Brogan have ventured further on with their married lives, but have not quite achieved yet all that they hope to for themselves, mainly a home of their own and a family. Both of them are trying their best to make these dreams a reality, but are encountering certain snags. Brogan is working very hard indeed to try to make his father-in-law’s service station a profitable success, and he’s doing a good job of it. But it’s taking a physical toll on him, and he’s establishing ways of dealing with the stress that may not serve him very well in the long haul. For Greta’s part, she is dutifully holding down the fort, but to put it bluntly, she thought she’d have had a baby by now. Hasn’t happened. And while she has that on her mind, someone she hasn’t seen in a long time has returned to Bentonville – someone with ambition and who could potentially add a distraction to her life she doesn’t quite need.

Meanwhile, P.G. Heinricks is making plans to take his business ventures in a different direction, one that will make him a lot of money, but will require a lot of hard effort. And his son, Peter, is still following along with the questionable schemes of the oil-hunting renegade businessman, Pops Wheeler, somewhere in Texas.

By the time we reach Chapter 5, the landscape will have changed again. Greta and Walter Brogan will have become parents – we know that from the beginning of the novel – and P.G. will have pulled off his biggest entrepreneurial triumph yet – the grand opening of The Golden Wheel, a family restaurant. But by then, it’s late in the decade, and no one yet knows what the 1930s, ‘the dirty thirties’, have in store.

1 comment:

Duke Altum said...

Great little "preview" here Mutt. Each chapter seems to unfold Brogan's concerns/personality a little bit more. Like peeling back the layers of the onion. One cannot miss the obvious parallels to the trajectory of your life in some ways -- not with the delayed baby though!!! DOH!

(And a great baby she turned out to be, I might add!)

You're definitely weaving the different strands of this narrative together in an interesting way. Love the fact that you have one of the characters prospecting for oil on the side, down in Texas... it's going to be interesting to see if that ends up as "boom" or "bust."

Interesting, too, will be finding out how Brogan deals with the first real storms winds in this marital voyage he's embarked on...