Frank Writing Update

Posted on December 11, 2013 1:00 pm

So, just wanted to give you all an update on what I’ve been doing as I feel like I’ve been blogging quite a bit less and haven’t been doing columns as often as I used to. Anyway, I just finished the manuscript for my next humor book for HarperCollins. It should come out next year — though I don’t know when yet — and will be available in print in addition to ebook. So it will be my first print book by an actual publisher… I’ll be like a real author. So look forward to that.

My big focus for a while, though, has been to finally break into fiction. Actually, you may have noticed a lot of my political commentary is just making stuff up, as that’s my favorite thing to do. Anyway, as I mentioned some time ago I wrote a full novel version of Superego and submitted that, and I still have good hopes of it getting a traditional publisher… it’s just moving slower than I thought. Being someone who is used to writing something in the morning and getting feedback by the afternoon, the publishing world moves quite a bit slower than I was prepared for. But hopefully I will get word on that soon. Also, I have a humorous short story which in the next month or two should get published.

And, I just finished a third draft on a new novel and am looking to get more opinions on it. Anyone interested in giving it a look? I’ve included the first chapter here to give a feel for it; it’s more lighthearted than Superego, though still not quite what I’d call a comedy. If you want to be a beta reader, just say so in the comments and make sure to fill in the email part of the comment form with an actual email, and I will get back to you. I’m looking for upstanding, trustworthy people, so no regular commenters (just kidding).

Anyway, here is the first chapter of my novel tentatively titled “The Clearing” as I haven’t thought of anything better yet:


Terrance Denby had always wondered about the unmarked road. In between the second McDonald’s and the third McDonald’s he passed by on his way to work, there was a short section of undeveloped, forested area where one briefly lost sight of the modern world. It was a short respite, and halfway through it there was a right turn one could make that seemed to lead further into the woods. The road was paved and modern looking, but there was no sign for it. In the thousands of times Terrance had taken this route, he had glanced numerous times at the road and briefly wondered where it led. The thought was always gone in seconds, though, and it only ever seemed something of mild curiosity. But one day, Terrance slammed his brakes to avoid hitting a squirrel which decided to sit on the road and just stare dumbly at his car. Stopped, Terrance found himself right next to the right turn. He was actually a little early for work that day and decided on a rare bit of whimsy to go ahead and see where the unknown road led.

The road twisted and turned deeper into the forest. The trees seemed to rise even higher above him now, the sky completely concealed in a high canopy of leaves. Just as Terrance began to decide that perhaps this was a better thing to explore on a day with more time, he saw that the trees ended shortly ahead of him. And so did the road, the asphalt fading into a patch of dirt near the edge of the forest. Terrance parked his Hyundai and got out of the car.

He walked beyond the trees to a vast field of green grass and the occasional wild flowers covering rolling hills. In the far distance loomed mountains larger than he had ever seen. The sun seemed larger than normal in the clear blue sky, it’s heat enveloping Terrance like a warm blanket. Also in the sky he could make out moons… but larger. Other worlds perhaps.

Terrance walked further until he reached a clear stream of water. And that’s when he saw it: a palace of crystal floating perhaps a hundred yards above the field. From it a few winged figures descended. They looked like women clothed all in white but with wings like those of butterflies — yet the wings were clear, as if they were made out of crystal. Three floated down to him, hovering a few feet above his head. “You have come,” one of them said, a blonde faerie who fluttered in front of him.

Terrance stared at her a few moments, her perfect silken features and eyes that seemed to be peering right through him. Finally, he regained enough composure to speak. “Huh?”

“You came seeking,” said a red-haired beauty floating to Terrance’s left, “and you have found what you sought.”

Terrance adjusted his glasses. “Oh, I was just curious where that road led. I didn’t mean to get in the middle of anything.”

“Your journey is about to begin,” said a silver-haired faerie to Terrance’s right.

“Oh no, I can’t journey right now.” Terrance checked the time on his smartphone, having trouble seeing the screen against the bright sun. “Yeah, I’m going to be late for work. I really need to get going. Nice meeting you all, though. Interesting place you have here.”

The blonde floated near Terrance, staring deeply within his eyes. The silence got a bit awkward, and Terrance nervously adjusted his tie. Finally, the faerie slowly floated away and motioned to the ground. “Learn to use this, or you will perish.”

On the green grass was a sword with a silver handle in an intricately detailed black sheath. Terrance carefully picked it up. “Um… this looks kind of expensive, are you sure…” He looked up to see that faeries were already returning to their palace. “Hey! What exactly is this about?” he called out. There was no response, the faeries having disappeared back into the floating crystal structure above him. Terrance looked back to the sword. He wasn’t sure about taking it, but it seemed wrong to just leave it lying in the field. And he really had to be getting to work. So he headed back to the car carrying his new weapon wondering all the while if there were some laws against walking around with a sword.

* * * *

“You going on a quest?” Lance asked, spying the sword leaning against the wall of Terrance’s cubicle.

Terrance stopped his work on debugging a problem on a login page. “No, I just had a weird morning. I found some hidden… um… clearing, I guess, with faeries in it. And–”

“I don’t think you’re supposed to use that word.”

“Huh? Oh no… I mean like women with butterfly wings.”

“Little tiny women?”

“No, they were full-sized.”

Lance nodded. “So were they attractive?”

“Well… they were kind of otherworldly. That wasn’t really my focus.”

“Just answer the question.”

“Yeah, they were pretty attractive. Anyway, the point is they came out of a floating crystal palace and gave me a sword and basically said, ‘It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.’”

Lance looked at the sword again. “Did you have to pay for it?”

“No, they just tossed it to me and flew off. Have you heard of anything like that?”

Lance thought for a moment. “Nope. Have you tried googling it?”

“No, not yet.” Terrance picked up the sword by its sheath and felt the weight in his hands. “So, weird morning.”

“Are we allowed to bring swords into the office?”

“I… don’t know.” Terrance set the sword down. “Maybe I should have left it in the car.”

“So do you think it’s a magic sword? Like a magic faerie sword?”

Terrance threw up his hands. “Like I said: no idea.”

“Think you’re going to slay something with it?”

“I wouldn’t know what.”

“You ever slay anything before?”

“Just flies… with a flyswatter.”

Lance looked carefully over the sword. “What kind of sword is it?”

Terrance shrugged. “I don’t know. A sword sword. A long sword maybe.”

Lance sipped his coffee. “A katana would be cooler.”

“Well, obviously.”

Karen walked over holding a notepad. She was a very pretty brunette except for the constant expression she had that was if the whole world annoyed her. “Hey guys, we have another empowerment ceremony coming up, and we’re having a potluck afterwards. What can I put you two down for?”

“I don’t know how to cook anything,” Terrance said. “Can I just bring chips?”

“Yeah… sure.” She wrote in her notepad. “And… hey, what’s with the sword?”

“It’s a magic faerie sword,” Lance said. “Terrance is going on a quest.”

She looked at the sword and then at Terrance. “That’s kind of weird.”

“I’m not going on a quest. The faeries just–”

“You probably shouldn’t have a sword in the office.”

Lance nodded. “That’s what I told him.”

Karen turned to Lance. “So what can you bring?”

“What do you need?”

“We could really use more main dishes… you know… not just chips.”

“I make this really good chicken fried rice. You are going to love it.”

“That sounds great.” Karen smiled at him and then wrote in her notepad. “See you later, and have fun questing, Terrance.”

“I’m not questing!” Terrance shouted as her as she walked off. He looked to Lance who was smiling. “You getting anywhere with her?”

“The question, my boy, is whether she’s getting anywhere with me.”

A dark figure in a blue cloak approached them. It had dark — nearly black — rocky skin, and slightly curled horns protruded from its skull. It had sharp teeth that seemed almost too big for its mouth, and at the edges they were stained with blood. It’s yellow, snake-like eyes fixed on Terrance. “The login page.”

“I’m… I’m working on it,” Terrance said.

Darlor looked to the sword still leaning against Terrance’s cubicle wall. “What is that?”

“It’s a weird story…”

“I don’t want it in the office.”

“Oh, okay. Well, when I finish the fix on the login page–”

“Get rid of it now,” Darlor hissed and then turned and left.

Terrance stood up from his chair and picked up the sword. He watched for a moment as Darlor disappeared back into his windowless office. “You ever notice how Darlor isn’t human?” he asked Lance.

Lance thought a moment. “He doesn’t wear a tie.”

“Excuse me?”

“Dress code is that we have to wear a tie, but the dress code only applies to people and Darlor never wears a tie. So it makes sense he’s not human.”

Terrance nodded, the sword feeling heavy in his hands. “Instead, he’s like a demon or something.”

Lance thought again. “Yeah, I guess that’s what you could call him that.” He looked a moment at Terrance. “You have a point?”

Terrance stared out the office window down the aisle from his cubicle. A shadow passed over everything as something large flew in front of the sun. He felt a general sense of unease, but he couldn’t figure out about what. Everything was normal. “No. No point.”

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22 Responses to “Frank Writing Update”

  1. Steve H says:

    I’d like to beta this – interesting premises, realistic characters. Good so far (although he picked up a “word” not a sword).

  2. Steve H says:

    And Lance’s rice recipe secretly should be Rice-a-roni with peas added (and maybe a dash of cheap white wine thrown in so he feels a little better about it not being homemade, or that’s too much detail for something that probably should be a throwaway – nevermind…)

  3. Frank J. says:

    Oh yeah, I should warn that it’s only been proofed by me so far — not edited by my wife. I have gone through it multiple times now, but expect many typos.

  4. jack says:

    I like it. Sounds like it’s going to be funny. It sort of reads a little like Piers Anthony. If that’s what you’re going for you need some puns. Lots of puns. BTW forested not “forrested”

  5. reliapundit says:


  6. Burt says:

    I am a little troubled that Terrance hasn’t checked the edge on the sword yet.

    Your writing has cast me into a period of dark introspect. I just realized that I haven’t worn a tie for 15 years.

  7. Wyrmlaf says:

    Sign me up as a beta reader as well. I like the premise this story is built on.

    One of my sons is going through his first revision of a book he’s written and I’ve enjoyed being part of the process for him providing feedback.

  8. Iowa Jim says:

    Actually, you may have noticed a lot of my political commentary is just making stuff up, as that’s my favorite thing to do.

    You possess the primary qualification for employment at MSNBC or the New York Times.

  9. Jimmy says:

    Can we speculate on the outcome of your “Faerie tale,” Frank?

    * Faeries turn out to be Obamacare navigators and Terrance lobs off their heads instead of the Tea Party people he was hypnotized into killing.

    * With a name like “Terrance,” he accidentally falls on the sword and discovers he’s immortal and doesn’t need Obamacare after all!

    * Faeries turn out to be hostile, crop circle aliens with poisonous gases. There’s your sign.

  10. Frank J. says:

    RE: forested

    That’s a redline error; don’t know how I missed that one.

  11. Frank J. says:

    BTW, make sure you clearly state in the comment if you want to be a beta reader.

  12. Sam says:

    I decided to read this instead of pay attention in my bio-terrorism prevention class. I obviously made the right decision! I would like to be a beta reader

  13. Veeshir says:

    I’d like to beta your next book.

    I’ll try to do it better this next time.

    This time I’ll actually read it instead of just flicking through while I watch Firefly.

  14. RAML says:

    I would like to be a beta reader

  15. Carla says:

    I will be a beta reader. The office section is better than the “I was passing near a mysterious shining wood one day when the magical ladies of the the mysterious shining wood compelled me towards them, there to lob Excalibur at me with a dark command of action…” Not sure if the tone is consistent. Is this supposed to be funny? Ironic? Metaphorical? Sword and sorcery? Regular guy on a questy?

  16. Kevin C. says:

    Please include as a beta reader.

    “Terrance shouted as her as she walked off.”—should be “at her”

    “It had dark — nearly black — rocky skin”—I’m thinking better without spaces around the m-dashes

    “Yeah, I guess that’s what you could call him that.”—lose the second “that”

    Also, I like ” . . . ” for ellipses rather than “… ” but that may be just me.

  17. Kevin C. says:

    Oh, another suggestion, at “we have another empowerment ceremony coming up,” I’d change to “coming up Thursday,” After all, people committing to bring stuff need to know the day. Plus, “Thor’s day”—ha!

  18. Seth says:

    I like the premise and would like to beta read for you if you don’t mind. I can tell it’s gonna be humorous to see how the mundane/fantasy aspects collide…

  19. Fly says:

    I’m a slow reader but I want to be a beta reader, too, please!

    I like it so far. I like the change in tones — reminds me of a Joss Whedon story. You think it’s our reality, then he finds the clearing with oddities and you think, “He’s taking this pretty well. A little too well.” (maybe he should be dazed by it to distract the reader, or run back to the car to check the sky there and a burst of smiling curiosity spurs him on).

    Then interlude Lance offering chicken fried rice, which I’m 99% sure he’s just going to pick up at the local Chinese restaurant.

    And then Darlor comes in and you’re like, “Yay! Some action!”, but no, this is simply Ter’s reality, not ours, and his manager is a daemon (or a woman; women don’t where ties either), which is oddly fitting.

    So, fun! And I like the harken back to login page woes.

    grammar: “the constant expression she had that was [as] if the whole world annoyed her.”

    grammar: “[It’s -> Its (it's irrational, I sympathize)] yellow, snake-like eyes fixed on Terrance.”

    What kind of input are you looking for? I don’t want to be picayunish in an unwanted direction if the point is grammar or logic or flow or fun or other emotive response.

    Should I submit diff patches or markup a Word .doc? Are you using svn, git, or hg? (I’ve never beta read a book before).

  20. IMAO » Blog Archive » The Clearing – Chapter 2 links:

    […] I posted the first chapter of the new novel I just finished the third draft of, and I’m going ahead and posting the […]

  21. mrsizer says:

    I’ve been a lurker, so I don’t count as a “regular commenter”. I’m trying to get a book (or at least a decent start at one) written. I would love the opportunity to be a beta reader. If you want another, sign me up. I, too, would like to know what you are looking for. Good hooks in the first chapter to keep the reader going; it sounds intriguing.

    For example: I would change “In between the second McDonald’s and the third McDonald’s …” to “Between the second and third McDonalds’” although the trailing apostrophe looks bad. At least get rid of the “In”.

    “…avoid hitting a squirrel which decided to sit…” perhaps “who” if there are going to be talking animals, later, which seems possible.

    “He was actually a little early for work that day and decided on a rare bit of whimsy to go ahead and see where the unknown road led.” Lots o’ extra words. “He was early for work that day and decided, on a rare bit of whimsy, to see where the road led”.

    “And that’s when he saw it:…” to “Then he saw it: ”

    Nice job getting the gender of blonde correct.

    As opposed to the “actually” above, “really” works here “I really need to get going” because it’s a quote. Here it does not: “And he really had to be getting to work.” Ditch the leading “And”, too.

    “…staring deeply within his eyes.” to “…into his eyes.”

    “Karen walked over holding a notepad. She was a very pretty brunette except for the constant expression she had that was if the whole world annoyed her.” This is a hard one. Perhaps, “Karen, a pretty brunette except for her expression that the whole world annoyed her, walked over holding a notepad.” I don’t like the “that” in there. If you want “very pretty” go with “beautiful”. If you want “very beautiful” go with “stunning”. Perhaps, “Karen, a stunning brunette except for her expression of constant annoyance, walked over holding a notepad.” It’s cleaner, but decidedly different.

    As for the ellipses and em-dashes, find out how the publisher wants them (style guide) and do that. I think, but do not know, that there should be no spaces around either. Same thing with paragraphs and line spacing. This is very email formatted. In print, there is not a full extra line between paragraphs and they are indented. That may be fine or it may end up getting the story thrown out without being read.

    Anyway, that’s the sort of feedback I would provide. If there are plot holes, I’ll notice them, too, but there isn’t enough here to tell, yet.

  22. Andrew Felsher says:

    I just wanted to throw my 2 cents in real quick.

    This is absolute, 79-proton gold. I almost hurt myself laughing at “Huh?” and the TLOZ reference.

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