Monday, July 28, 2014

Guest author TIm Desmond: First Novels

Tim Desmond
Retired high school science teacher Tim Desmond is an artist and author. His first novel, For Thou Art With Me, published 2006, is a World War II love and war story. The second published novel is The Doc, a suspense thriller. He was raised in Madera and on a rural California grain ranch and his scholarship to attend California College of Arts and Crafts, in Oakland, was the first art scholarship in the history of Madera. His latest works revolve around conspiracies, education and science. Desmond lives with his wife Bobbi in Fresno, California.

I must say that when I decided to try to write anything, it was always hard. No one told me about “genre rules” and while fiction was my interest, I had no real life drama experiences to really draw from. This gets into the past arguments about writing from the autobiographical experiences versus writing “outside of one’s self” and those pros and cons. There were always story ideas. These were things that happened to people around the town that were interesting, tragic, twisted, or hilarious. People have life’s problems to deal with. Fictionalizing these ideas never produced more than a short story length piece.

At some point, I rationalized that if there were ten to fifteen short stories completed, it might comprise a book. That turned into a first novel attempt. I had recalled the novel called The War Lover in which the author used alternating points of view with his chapters. One chapter was from the protagonist’s story, the next by his girl’s point of view. The next chapter, back to the protagonist's view. That novel, turned into a movie starring Steve McQueen with the same title, seemed like a successful format. Crazy, huh. So, that led to my first novel attempt. I began this novel with the main protagonist’s story in alternating chapters. The other chapters were the bad guys and what was developing with them.

It’s embarrassing now, thinking of the things I wrote in that never published novel called World War IV. It was a “post-apocalyptic” story and part of the last half was like the movie Red Dawn starring Powers Booth. In fact I had sent it to a Los Angeles agency that accepted novel submissions for story treatments. Of course they sent a glowing pitch of their own, and wanted hundreds of dollars to include it in their publishing that gets pitched to producers. I did not follow through with that, but later, I wondered if I wasn’t ripped off.

After that, I changed jobs, became buried in work problems, wrote two articles for a science teacher journal. For five years, amid domestic fun and some travel, I tabled most attempts at writing anything. Then I started two things. One was writing a series of short stories, and submitting to regional journals along the west coast. I began work on a nebulous outline for a novel about World War II. That novel idea languished as more work problems arose for another five years.

Then two things happened. The first I was sitting in a boring staff meeting. A huge document was being created for the institution’s certified accreditation. The staff had contributed to that and sections of it were being distributed for us to edit. I sat there musing, that it would be nicer to be editing my own manuscript instead of that, that thing before us. My exact thought was, “How hard could it be, to knock out something that long, and edit it?”

The second event was when my brother-in-law came for a visit. The wives wanted us to buy several jars of a special barbecue sauce that was made by a local guy. It was only sold at a few of the local bars in our rural area. The four of us went on a pub crawl, in search of the sauce.

 “Mike’s” was a place owned by a friend of my brother-in-law’s. It was described as a biker bar, and had a killing in the front of it once, during a “rumble” between two bike clubs. As we sat in there and sipped our drinks, the paraphernalia hanging and stashed all over, had dust from the gold rush era weighing on the cobwebs. I covered my glass of whiskey as my wife eyed a pair of some woman’s dusty panties hanging on a wire over her head.

Through the open door, there was the chugging sound of pipes of a Harley arriving. It accelerated once and then was shut down. Mike was cordial with us as another fellow came in, shook hands with Mike and ordered a beer. Mike had not seen him in a while and asked the fellow what he’d been doing. As he explained to Mike, he had moved to a town forty-five miles to the south, and was busy doing the first rewrite of his novel.

I listened to the conversation and do not remember much about it. But my exact thought was, “If the biker can get it written, I should be able to write a novel and be rewriting it too.”

We rolled out of there in a heap and had four, one quart jars of barbecue sauce.

~~Timothy J. Desmond

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Liane Spicer said...

Welcome to Novel Spaces, Tim! The stories of how we fell into this writing thing are always interesting!

Charles Gramlich said...

Always interesting to hear the stories of folks who work their way around to writing. How it happens for them.

KeVin K. said...

Welcome to Novel Spaces, Tim.

Years later you were right - those folks in LA were ripping you off. Glad you didn't follow through.

And well I remember grading papers beneath the table while feigning attentiveness at those purposeless staff meetings.

There are thousands of people who say they want to write - or worse, say they would write if they had the time - for every one who sits down and starts writing. And only a tiny percentage of those who do start ever finish. It's always interesting to hear how each person began; the stories are unique, yet bound by a common thread.

(Me? I was trying to get out of working for a living. Hasn't quite gone as planned.)

Good article, good to have you here.