Creative Writing and the Jensen Michaels novels.

“Why shouldn’t truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense.” – Mark Twain

Creative storytelling begins in our childhood almost as soon as we can form complete sentences.

Parents call it fibbing.

Small children often get away with the best whoppers. It’s because of their innocence. We think they always tell the truth.  Those big, doe-y eyes, rumpled shirts and tousled hair – the perfect foil!

The veneer of innocence lasts until around 3 or 4 years old. Then one day, something unfortunate happens: You broke your mother’s favorite planter.

Fortunately, you have a younger sibling who has not yet joined the ranks of the articulate, and the first story plot of your life is hatched: Blame it on sister or brother!

That was easy.

Or; … not.

Some of us are terrible story tellers. We don’t have a game face. We blush, we stammer. We make up impossible tales:

A Martian came down and held a ray-gun to Bobbie’s head and he, he… and he knocked over the vase.

Some of us are more creative;

Oh, mother. [dramatic pause] I have some unfortunate news: Bobby was trying to take his first steps and he stumbled. Thinking nothing of my own safety [establishing the fact of your reliability], I ran to catch him, but we accidentally knocked over your vase.

 

Those of us who succeed in the art of misdirection eventually become either writers or politicians.

Fortunately for the world; I chose the former.

Creative writing is something that comes naturally to me.  Every time a school teacher would assign an essay project in lieu of actual work, I inwardly cheered – even as my classmates groaned.

Convinced, however, that the life of a novelist would be one of poverty and loneliness, I pursued the next best thing: Journalism. More specifically: Photojournalism.

To my consternation, Photojournalists are not supposed to be writers, even though we took the same writing classes in college as our writer colleagues. Union newspapers actually forbade Photojournalists from writing our own cut-lines (the captions to photos).

A convenient way around this dilemma was the Photo Essay.

The photo essay evolved into more full length articles, and for a time, this tamed my inner storytelling beast. The only disappointing aspect of this genre was being constrained to what actually happened. It put limitations on my churning imagination.

A change from staff member of a daily newspaper to photo editor of several weekly newspapers allowed me more freedom to choose the story. I now had the option of at least one photo essay a week.

I left the newspaper business behind when I became convinced that the economics of Journalism were not sound. I was working nearly 80 plus hours a week for a compensation that barely rose above minimum wage. Thus began my various careers in sales – more “creative story-telling?”

This is when I began working on my novels.

For years I’ve carried the plots of various stories around in my fertile imagination. One story involves an intrepid newspaper photographer (autobiographical?) who discovers a secret, mystical religious cult operating out of his own small town in Ohio. This story is called Raising the Dead, and will explore the vast and complex world of mysticism in religion.

Tea Party was an idea that came to me as I was reading about a little known plot to overthrow President Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency in 1933. It was at the height of the Tea Party movement, and this polarization we’ve seen as a result is uncannily similar to how divided the country was at that time. The fear of socialism was a call to action.

So, I ceased all of my other novels in progress and pursued this idea until completion. You can order Tea Party through Amazon. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can download a copy for free for 14 days.

It took me two years of writing at least one hour a night from midnight until sometimes 2AM to complete. I would also write while on vacation.

My writing style is character driven. I visualize a personality in my mind and build a story around that person.

Jensen Michaels, the main character in Tea Party, is a composite of what for me defines a true hero. My father was my hero growing up. He was intellectual, but unassuming. He was brave, but not rash. He was the type of person who had a clear understanding of what the priorities in life are. He would not hesitate to come to the aid of those in need, and would never sacrifice integrity for self-gain.

The risk of this type of personality is that on occasion, you are led down the wrong path pursuing what you think is a noble cause. Perfect fodder for a novel!

Tea Party is a fun read. It is chock- full of little factoids, but not so pretentious that it becomes bogged down.  The plot is fast-paced, and takes several twists and turns that will reward the reader with anticipation and relief. It took me, the writer, on an unexpected adventure and hopefully, you will share in that pleasure.

More importantly, I think that Tea Party sends a message. One reader described it as “a cautionary tale.”

I think that as a nation, we have lost the ability to discuss political issues with civility and common sense.  More often than not, I have witnessed close friends and family members feuding over political and religious issues because we have the mistaken notion that we must be resolute in our beliefs, otherwise we show weakness. Certain radio and television talk show hosts have made fortunes on this notion that there is only one correct worldview and political orientation.

We have reduced our arguments to “talking points” and are missing the whole middle field upon which we can build common ground. It is my hope that Tea Party will begin the dialogue.

 

The next novel in the Jensen Michaels series, currently being written, is called The Farmer with a Dell, and is about Ralph and Adele Farnsworth, pig farmers in southern Illinois, who become tossed about by the Alternative Energy lobby and Federal regulators.

One day, Adele decides to blog about these experiences – on an old Dell computer – and becomes a folk hero for all the zanies itching for a fight. When things spiral out of control, they call on our hero, Jensen Michaels, to help.

A Farmer with a Dell will be available this fall.

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