Of Zendaya’s Phenotype & My Planned Novel Series

by Shelt Garner

I’m a pretty ambitious person, all things considered. While it definitely outwardly seems as though I’m a drunk loser who hasn’t done much with my life, on an abstract basis, I dream big. As such, at the moment, in my mind I have a seven novel project set in the same small town in Virginia that will culminate with the a new series about a young woman who is kind of an American Lisbeth Salander.


Now, obviously, at the moment, this seems rather delusional. Add to this how fucking old I am and there’s every reason to believe my delusions about a seven novel series will remain just that — a delusion.

But I do, on occasion, see a picture of Zendaya and think how her phenotype matches that of the heroine I imagine will be the focus of the new novel series after I finish this possibly seven novel one I’m working on at the moment. But, of course, she will be too old by the time everything is finished.

But the heroine is introduced in the last three novels of the series. I’m really pleased with what I’ve managed to come up with. I just hope I don’t croak before I get near my goal. And that doesn’t even address how any number of unexpected things might happen that will throw my efforts to write seven novels totally up in the air.

I am, after all, abut 25 years too old to be doing any of this.

T & A: Struggling With How To Depict Female Characters In The Age Of The ‘Woke Cancel Culture Mob’

by Shelt Garner

I really enjoy developing and writing female characters because it’s so much more of a challenge than male characters. And YET, the whole notion of me, a smelly CIS white male, writing from a female point of view is fraught with potential problems.

Ugh. ‘Woke’ people.

There are so young women on Tik-Tok are quite strident in their belief that, by definition, I can not write from a female POV. And that is just the beginning of what the potential creative landmines I have to deal with when I do something as now-provocative as write from a female POV.

Again, as an aside, let me be clear — had I know what a potential pain in the ass doing any of this would be, I wouldn’t have done it. But I studied Stieg Larsson’s original Millennium series and HE wrote from a female POV all the time so when I started working on what could now be a seven novel project…I didn’t really give it much thought.

From what I can tell of the “woke cancel culture mob” Tik-Toks I get pushed on occasion, one big quibble that some “woke” readers have is the what they feel is the gratuitous tendency for male authors — like me — to talk about tits and ass.

As someone who actually writing a novel, I really struggle with the idea that this is some big deal. One of the thing that is so appealing about female as opposed to male characters is there is so much to work with. Because women are so much more judged on what they look like than men, the writer — that would be me — has a lot to work with.

This is the general phonotype of my heroine.

So, the issue of how big my female character’s breasts might be is actually pertinent — in my view — when it comes to describing her to the audience. Hell, Stieg Larsson spend a long-ish scene talking about how and why Lisbeth Salander got breast implants. This is especially important when should there be a need to give the reading audience some sense of the character’s self-perception.

All of this sturm and drang about how horrible it is that smelly CIS white males like me talking about tits and ass gives me a great deal of self-conscious stress. I just want to present my female characters as interesting and engaging as possible and sometimes I feel that I need to, in a matter-of-fact kind of way describe their bodies and their self-perception and interaction with them.

The ‘woke’ always have their eye on you. Wink.

It should not be that big a deal if I do it all in a non-salacious manner. I’m WELL AWARE that some ding-dong male authors use their female character as an opportunity to design characters they clearly want to fuck.

Ok, I get it.

While we’re on the subject of female characters, I must note that my one big quibble about Stieg Larsson’s work is how ALL of his female characters are good. It seems a disservice to both the story and the audience for there to be no female characters who are not on the side of good.

Now, obviously, I haven’t really read the post-Larsson novels published by his estate, so that issue may have been fixed.

Anyway. What do I know. I’m a smelly CIS white male. I should nothing at all but sit in my dark bedroom, twiddle my thumbs and stare at the ceiling.

Well, If Nothing Else, I Won’t Embarrass Myself With This Novel

by Shelt Garner

Things are finally beginning to click with this novel. As I’m going through and rewriting many of the scenes of the third draft so I can produce something I can maybe get a manuscript consultant to read — if I can find the money — I’m finally, finally feeling confident that this novel won’t, if anything, embarrass me.

My dream is to write a novel as popular and as successful as Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

I can finally feel some peace about all the hard work I’ve done over the last few years with this project. A lot of why things are moving so fast now comes from how I have a stable outline. All I have to do is go through the outline and smooth out some of the rough edges while leaning into character.

I’m really beginning to use cause and effect on the scenes so they’re not just a series of scenes that move around constantly. There is some sense of a flow from scene to scene. This is why I really feel the Beta Release of the third draft will be good enough that it will feel like a professional novel.

My heroine as a sleeve tattoo similar to the one Megan Fox now sports, even though I thought of the idea first.

All systems are go for me to wrap this novel up around July 22 as I hope. When I finally do finish this novel, the real work begins. I’m at a total loss as to what I’m going to do when I start to query this novel. I’ve been developing and writing this novel in such a vacuum that I fear the transition into trying to sell this particular work could be extremely jarring.

But I’m prepared to fail — a lot. And I know the odds are against me big time. It will be like winning a creative lottery to get anywhere near my goal of being a published author anytime soon. Even if I stick the landing, I could be a lot closer to 60 than I am now by the time the book hits bookshelves and people can buy it

My heroine has the same phenotype as Corrie Yee.

And that doesn’t even begin to address the possibility of a political “Fourth Turning” happening or a technological “Petite Singularity.” But I have hope. I’m a peace one way or another.

I believe that when this process is over that I will have a finished novel that I can be proud of, regardless of any obstacles I may face to get it traditionally published.

It Appears I May Rewrite The Whole Novel Now

by Shelt Garner

While on a structural basis this novel is really stable – I have a very good outline — when it comes to actual copy on the page, I fear I’m going to have to rewrite pretty much the entire novel.

Lisbeth Salander is a really interesting character and I hope to write characters just as good.

The key reason for this is pretty simple — character.

I have all this plot and just not a lot of character. So, to take things to the next level, I’m going to do a lot of development about character. The more I think about character, the more I realize I just have to scrap about 90% of what I’ve written.

A lot of scenes of the most recent version of the novel were just placeholders from various different versions of the novel I’ve written over the years. Now, I have to go through and give it all some consistency.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that it’s going to take me about three months to rewrite the novel. I think that is pretty fast, all things considered. And this is possible because of how well I know the overall story I want to tell.

I probably need to start working on the sequel to this novel as well, but it’s really difficult for me to focus on such things.

I’m Studying Fleabag and Lisbeth Salander In An Effort To Make The Characters In My Novel Better

by Shelt Garner

It’s embarrassing how much obsessed I’ve been on plot over the years to the disservice of character. But, now, I’m playing catch up. I’m going through this rough version of the third draft and trying to beef up characterizations in the novel.

Fleabag is a very well developed character.

While my heroine is pretty well thought out, the other main characters in then novel too often are pretty piss-poor. I’m beginning to get a better sense of them, however, even if it’s going to take time to turn them from just “moods” into real people you want to spend time with.

My heroine sports a sleeve tattoo similar to the one that Meghan Fox now has, even though I thought of the idea first.

I’m really pleased with my heroine, though. She is very different than Lisbeth Salander, but she’s just about as intriguing, I think, if I do say so myself. I have done a good job thinking up a really, really interesting person. I could totally see her being someone people want to hang out with for a few novels, maybe even seven! (I hope.) I still am uneasy, however, about how there are members of the “woke cancel culture mob” who will be mad at me for being a smelly CIS white male writing from a female POV at times in the novel.

Lisbeth Salander is such a great character.

Ugh. I can’t help who I am.

My fear is that I’m going to get so sucked into trying to improve character that I will get really slowed down and miss sight of the fact that I need A Draft Done by April 19th so I can hand a few physical copies to people at an event I have. I like having a deadline so, lulz, I’m probably just going to buckle down and try to do everything in very short amount of time.

My heroine has the same phenotype as Corrie Yee.

The draft doesn’t have to be PERFECT, just EXIST in a form that isn’t too embarrassing. I really hope to zoom through this rough draft. One real problem I have is I continue to get impatient at the end of the novel and don’t put my all into making the copy as good as possible.

Ugh. I need to figure out a way to be in the right headspace when I work on the later scenes in the novel. I need to be a lot more serious and professional on that front.

Am (Almost) Querying: Worrying About Liberal White Women Literary Agents & What They Will Think Of My Novel

by Shelt Garner

The worst thing anyone else said about me was that I am a “delusional jerk with a good heart.” That was said to me by the late Annie Shapiro while we were in the process of untangling our hearts and minds from each other at the end of ROKon Magazine.

The late Annie Shapiro and me in better days back when I was cute.

She had a point.

But, I’ve had a brain transplant since that statement, said many moons ago. I’m a much more humble, stable person.

And, yet, here I am, about to plunge into the cold, dark waters of querying — in a few months, maybe more — and I am worried about what the liberal white women who make up the vast majority of agents will think of me and my novel.

The novel itself is problematic because even though it’s really good, the idea that a smell CIS white male would write such a novel might make some liberal white women blanch.

My novel is about a part-time stripper obsessed with owning a rural community newspaper in Virginia.

Or not. I just don’t know. I can’t help how the story I worked itself out of my emotional system. It has a lot of spicy scenes but it does, in fact, tell a compelling story about one woman’s obsession to own a small town community newspaper.

It tells a complete, compelling story. And, what’s more, it leaves you wanting more. It is written in such a way that the audience will want to know what happens next. I have a second novel in the series in the hopper — I just have to write the third draft. So it’s at least possible that I may have TWO novels done this year, ready to query.

But that’s a little bit down the road. I need to chill out for a little bit today then sit down and start writing again. It sucks so bad that I have to do all of this sober, and yet, that’s the reality I face.


Wish me luck.

The Name Game

by Shelt Garner

I try to do what is right, I really do. And when it comes to developing and writing a novel, there are all the unexpected landmines floating around that you have to avoid.

Lisbeth Salander is the type of name that is so great I wish I could think of something as strong.

One is the subject of names.

In general, I feel pretty safe with all of my character names. And YET it is inevitable that somehow, someway along the process there might be a hitch. There is one character — a huge character in the project six book series, in fact — who has a surname that MIGHT be a problem.

But I’m really, really being paranoid, all things considered.

And I’m not attached to that specific name. If I have to, I have a few backup names I’m willing to switch to. I’m very pragmatic about such things, I just want to be a published author and if it requires a significant rethinking of some element of the six novel project to become one, so be it.

In general, things are going pretty well with this first novel. I’m rather pleased. I just have to press forward. I can’t keep just driving towards my goal. I have to give my life focus and structure if I’m going to wrap this thing up by no later than around July 22th.

I Have A Pretty Great Novel On My Hands

by Shelt Garner

I have very, very high standards for myself when it comes to storytelling. To the point that it’s very, very difficult for me to consume anyone else’s storytelling if it doesn’t meet what I believe is the quality worth my consumption. I’ve just started watching House of Cards and it is one of the few TV shows that actually DOES meet what I think is the “right way” to tell a story.

My heroine looks like Nathalie Emmanuel as I write her.

It joins TV shows like Mad Men, 30 Rock, Mare of Easttown and Fleabag as TV shows that linger in my mind as I struggle to write my novel.

Having said all that, I’ve finally reached a point in the development and writing of the third draft of this novel where I feel I’m coming into my own. This novel is really fast paced and accessible. While there are some obvious issues — it’s still not dark enough and there’s probably too much sex in the first act — the actual characters and what their motivations are really strong, interesting and intriguing.

Now, for me to sprint to the end of the first act, beginning of the second act which was the first act of the second draft of the novel. I’ve been re-writing a lot of the novel as I’ve transition from the second to third drafts and that has slowed me down.

But I’ve gamed out the entirety of the fourth chapter of the third draft and I think I’m going to cool it for about a day so I can throw myself into writing it all as quickly as I can with fresh eyes. I don’t want to “run hot” and overheat and over extend myself.

In general, however, this novel is beginning to shape up in a way that I feel I won’t embarrass myself when I try to query it later this year.

A lot is going to depend on luck now, I think. Given my vision for the total of six novels in this project if ding-dong Trump becomes POTUS again and we turn into an autocracy, then, lulz, I think this is going to be a very successful series of novels.

Ah ha! I’ve Finally Figured Out What Hollywood Star My Heroine Looks Like — Nathalie Emmanuel

by Shelt Garner

I’ve finally found who I’m thinking of in my mind as I write my heroine and her adventures in my first novel — Nathalie Emmanuel.

Nathalie Emmanuel

My hope is, of course, that I will write a heroine who is as interesting as Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander. It will be interesting to see how things ultimately work out. A lot of writing a successful novel is just dumb luck. So, lulz, I could write The Bible and because I’m a smelly CIS white male writing from a female POV at times….the woke cancel culture mob will pillory me.

The dream is to write a character as interesting as Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander.

An Issue Of Verisimilitude

by Shelt Garner

If I ever needed a clear sign that, in general, no one takes me seriously, it’s my overall failure to get anyone from my past life with the press industry to answer my call for help about something. (I finally got one person, but that’s really not very many given how many people I reached out to.)

The issue is, I really want to make the situation I’ve come up with for my heroine — that she owns both a strip club (where she occasionally strips to relax) and an alternative weekly — as real as possible. Like, how would that REALLY work out, especially in mid-1990s Richmond, VA?

I’m WELL AWARE that because of human nature and the needs of marketing, that there is a real risk that this novel would be reduced down to two tropes being fused together — “hooker (or sex worker) with a heart of gold” and “sexy slutty assassin” solves a murder mystery.

I think about this even more given how many men my heroine beds in the first act for the purposes of the plot. All the sexxy time is not gratuitous and definitely serves the overall plot. And, in general, I don’t even really show the spicy stuff that much. I do show it some, but it’s hopefully not so much that people get turned off.

And, what’s more, I’ve cut back the sex in the second act. I don’t know, but I think that best practices for storytelling is you delay sexxy time as much as possible. But, lulz, I never do anything the right way.

But the story is getting much, much better in general. I’m really pleased. But I have to prepare for people to attack me for how much sexxy time there is in the novel. While I’m very sex-positive and don’t see my heroine’s sexual activity as “slutty” I’m afraid there will be some people who think I’m replicating Debby Does Dallas with how my heroine seems to have so much sex on the fly.

Ugh. Anyway. Wish me luck.