Hidden Kingdom (Chapter 2-adding page 9)

To see the complete Chapter 1, use the following link;https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2018/11/24/hidden-kingdom-chapter-1-complete/

2 Comments

Filed under artwork, comic strips, fairies, Hidden Kingdom, humor, Paffooney, pen and ink

An Unexpected Gift 

thor-ragnarok-end-credits-avengers-infinity-war-870508

This post is a movie review for Thor : Ragnarok , though I don’t really plan on talking about the movie very much.   It was an excellent comic book movie in the same tongue-in-cheek comedy tradition as Guardians of the Galaxy.   It made me laugh and made me cheer.   It was the best of that kind of movie.  But it wasn’t the most important thing that happened that night.

20171128_142504

You see, I spent the weekend in the hospital thinking I had suffered a heart attack during the Thanksgiving holiday. I thought I was facing surgery at the very least.   I knew I might have had an appointment to play chess with the Grim Reaper.   It is a lot to worry about and drain all the fun out of life.

Well, one of the things that happened that day, Tuesday, my first full day out of the hospital and, hopefully, out of the woods over heart attacks, was that I received my new replacement bank card because my old one had a worn out, malfunctioning chip in it.  So, I took my three kids to the movie at the cheapest place we could find.  I tried to run my bank card for the payment, and it was summarily declined.  I had activated it previously during the day, and there was plenty of money in the account compared to the price, but it just wouldn’t take.  So I had to call Wells Fargo to find out whatever the new reason was for them to hate me.  It turned out that it had already been activated, but a glitch had caused it to decline the charge.  While I was talking to the girl from the Wells Fargo help desk, the lady who had gotten her and her husband’s tickets right before us put four tickets to the movie in my hand.

The middle-aged black couple had lingered by the ticket stand before going in to their movie just long enough to see a sad-looking old man with raggedy author’s beard and long Gandalf hair get turned down by the cheap-cinema ticket-taking teenager because the old coot’s one and only bank card was declined. They were moved to take matters into their own hands and paid for our tickets themselves.

That, you see, was the gift from my title.  Not so much that we got our movie tickets for free, but that the world still works that way.  There are still good people with empathetic and golden hearts willing to step in and do things to make the world a little bit better place.  The gift they gave me was the reassurance that, as bad and black as the world full of fascists that we have come to live in has become, it still has goodness and fellow feeling in it. People are still moved to pay things forward and make good on the promise to “love one another”.  I did not have a chance to thank them properly.  I was on the phone with Wells Fargo girl when it happened.  The only thing that couple got out of their good deed was thank-yous from my children and the knowledge that they had done something wonderful.  I plan to pay it forward as soon as I have the opportunity.  Not out of guilt or obligation, but because I need to be able to feel that feeling too at some point.

I do have one further gift to offer the world.

20171129_085142

After we got home from the movie, I opened an email that contained the cover proof for my novel, Magical Miss Morgan.  Soon I will have that in print also if I can keep Page Publishing from messing it up at the last moments before printing.  It is a novel about what a good teacher is and does.  It is the second best thing I have ever written.

Sometimes the gifts that you most desperately need come in unexpected fashion.

6 Comments

Filed under commentary, compassion, happiness, healing, humor, illness, movie review, NOVEL WRITING, strange and wonderful ideas about life

My Bookish Journey (Finale)

by Maxfield Parrish

Like every real, honest-to-God writer, I am on a journey. Like all the good ones and the great ones, I am compelled to find it…

“What is it?” you ask.

“I don’t know,” I answer. “But I’ll know it when I see it.”

“The answer?” you ask. “The secret to everything? Life, the universe, and everything? The equation that unifies all the theories that physicists instinctively know are all one thing? The treasure that pays for everything?”

Yes. That. The subject of the next book. The next idea. Life after death. The most important answer.

And I honestly believe that once found, then you die. Life is over. You have your meaning and purpose. You are fulfilled. Basically, I am writing and thinking and philosophizing to find the justification I need to accept the end of everything.

Leah Cim Reyeb is me, Michael Beyer written backwards.

And you know what? The scariest thing about this post is that I never intended to write these particular words when I started typing. I was going to complain about the book-review process. It makes me think that, perhaps, I will type one more sentence and then drop dead. But maybe not. I don’t think I’ve found it yet.

The thing I am looking for, however, is not an evil thing. It is merely the end of the story. The need no longer to tell another tale.

When a book closes, it doesn’t cease to exist. My life is like that. It will end. Heck, the entire universe may come to an end, though not in our time. And it will still exist beyond that time. The story will just be over. And other stories that were being told will continue. And new ones by new authors will begin. That is how infinity happens.

I think, though, that the ultimate end of the Bookish Journey lies with the one that receives the tale, the listener, the reader, or the mind that is also pursuing the goal and thinks that what I have to say about it might prove useful to his or her own quest.

I was going to complain about the book reviewer I hired for Catch a Falling Star who wrote a book review for a book by that name that was written by a lady author who was not even remotely me. And I didn’t get my money back on that one. Instead I got a hastily re-done review composed from details on the book jacket so the reviewer didn’t have to actually read my book to make up for his mistake. I was also going to complain about Pubby who only give reviewers four days to read a book, no matter how long or short it is, and how some reviewers don’t actually read the book. They only look at the other reviews on Amazon and compose something from there. Or the review I just got today, where the reviewer didn’t bother to read or buy the book as he was contracted to do, and then gave me a tepid review on a book with no other reviews to go by, and the Amazon sales report proves no one bought a book. So, it is definitely a middling review on a book that the reviewer didn’t read. Those are things I had intended to talk about today.

But, in the course of this essay, I have discovered that I don’t need to talk about those tedious and unimportant things. What matters really depends on what you, Dear Reader, got from this post. The ultimate McGuffin is in your hands. Be careful what you do with it. I believe neither of us is really ready to drop dead.

Leave a comment

Filed under book review, commentary, humor, illustrations, novel writing, Paffooney, publishing, reading, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing

My Bookish Journey (Part VI)

Once you become a published author, the next step is truly humbling. You have to become conversant in the language of Bookish. It is the language of marketing, the language of book promotion, the inexhaustible lexicon of bullish book-hawking.

This blog, Catch a Falling Star, was one of the first steps in that process. The I-Universe Marketing Specialist set it up for me and guided me through the first six months of writing an author’s blog. Still, it was mostly a matter of teaching myself how to blog. The marketing department of I-Universe Publishing also put me in touch with an author’s group on Facebook who would eventually become PDMI Publishing, the publisher that Snow Babies would eventually kill. I learned a lot about both marketing and the realities of publishing from that group, most of whom I am still in touch with on Facebook in spite of Facebook’s transition into the recruitment arm of the MAGA Fascist Armada.

I-Universe was also responsible for starting me on Twitter. Hoo-Boy! Twitter is a different universe than I live in. At the outset all I did with Twitter is re-post my blog entries. I had no followers at all… well, besides what I believe were catfish, spammers, and trolls. Between 2013 and 2017 I believe I only surfed on the rough white-caps of Twitter a total of two times.

But I reached seven books published and hadn’t sold any at all when I came to the conclusion that I had to actually tweet with the twit-wits on Twitter.

Of those first seven books, three of them had nudist characters in them. Primarily the Cobble Sisters, based on the combination of my twin cousins who were not nudists, a set of twins I knew from Iowa who were not my cousins and also not nudists, and twin blond girls I taught in Texas who spent time talking about visiting nude beaches and trying to embarrass me by inviting me to visit the one in Austin at Lake Travis known as Hippie Hollow. The books were Superchicken, Recipes for Gingerbread Children, and The Baby Werewolf. My connection to nudism came through a former girlfriend who worked with me in school and whose sister and brother-in-law lived in the clothing-optional apartment complex in Austin.

So, when I started Tweeting like a songbird with a tin ear for music, I attracted some really odd followers. Other writers, sure. But gay Russians living in England? Tom Hiddleston’s fan club? People who desperately need to talk about the Prophecies of Thoth? They all responded to free-book promotions. And they not only followed me, but engaged with me in ways that appeared in the Twitter notifications. And then came the Twitter nudists.

Now, I admit that I took the foolish step of taking a blogging assignment from a nudist website, promising to visit a nudist park in Texas and write about my impressions of being a first-time nudist. I struggled with my sense of self-worth and body image and finally went to Bluebonnet Nudist Park in Alvord, Texas. I wrote the post and advertised my novels with the nudist website.

And then, Ted Bun, a naturist novelist from England, but running a nudist bed and breakfast in France, made me a member of his nudist-writer group on Twitter. I became connected to nudists enough to write an actual nudist novel, just to see if I could do it.

Nudists not only follow me on Twitter now, but they follow me here on WordPress too.

So, my writer’s Bookish Journey has taken some weird turns, but I am beginning to sell books and getting good reviews from readers. Apparently the secret to selling books is to get completely naked amongst other naked people. I still can’t claim to know anything at all about marketing, though. I am seriously illiterate in the whole Bookish language.

9 Comments

Filed under Paffooney, humor, nudes, writing, writing humor, novel writing

My Bookish Journey (Part V)

Creating myself as an author meant making some conscious choices at the beginning. I made some very clear ones. First of all, I intended to write as much about my real life as I possibly could. Accepting, of course, the fact that my real life was infested with imaginary people and events. There was the faun that slept in my bed with me every night in the form of a large, black pillow my sister made for me as a 4-H project. There were the three-inch-tall fairies that had a complete underground empire that surfaced at the roots of the old willow tree by the Rowan school building and community center. There was the gryphon that circled the skies looking constantly to swoop down and eat me at any opportunity. So, it wasn’t as much about realism as it was surrealism. It was necessary to protect my traumatized psyche from the damage I sustained as a ten-year-old.

Of course, I had literary heroes and inspirations to go by. I read some key books as a college student that deeply influenced how I wanted to write.

Winesburg, Ohio is the first major influence that affected the stories I began writing in my college years. Sherwood Anderson was writing about his own hometown in this short-story cycle, basing Winesburg on his home town of Clyde, Ohio in the very early 1900s.

Arguably he wrote stories about real people from his renamed home town. Thus, I renamed Rowan, my home town, Norwall, mixing up the letters from Rowan and adding two letter “L’s.” His stories were all themed about the loneliness and longings of a small Midwestern town. I would make mine about breaking out of the cages loneliness builds with the people who surround you.

I also determined that like Mark Twain, I would give my characters a sense of realism by basing them on real people from Rowan, Belmond (where I went to high school), and Cotulla, Texas (where I would teach for 23 years.) And I would change some basically minor physical details to hide their true identities behind names I found in the Ames, Iowa phone book from 1978. But I always tried to give them their authentic voices, though that often meant translating Texican and Hispanish into Iowegian.

And like Twain vowed to write stories only about the 19th Century, I decided to only set my stories in the last half of the 20th Century.

Of course, imagination is not easily limited, so I had to also accept that some of my stories of the science-fiction persuasion would be set in the 56th Century in the Orion Spur of the Sagittarius Spiral Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy.

And even before I discovered the genius of David Mitchell through his spectacular novel, Cloud Atlas, I had begun to explore how stories could be expanded and connected and revisited through shared characters, shared histories, and shared places, all of which develop, grow, or deteriorate over time. All things are connected, after all. Anita Jones from that first picture, and Brent Clarke in the last picture were both in the first novel, Superchicken, set in 1974, and Anita appears as an adult in Sing Sad Songs set in 1985, while Brent appears in the last novel in my timeline, The Wizard in his Keep, set in 1999.

Leave a comment

Filed under humor, novel writing, Paffooney, publishing, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism, writing

AeroQuest 4… Canto 124

Canto 124 – Throckpods!

Ged and Naylund together brought the Super Rooster down smoothly in a wide golden field of grain.  The Ugly Pod remained in low orbit, but Luigi the Onion Guy and Carrot Mabutu had come down to the planer with Ged and his students.

In a matter of minutes the field of wavy grain was populated with a huge circle of evil-looking vegetables that had stems of six to eight feet in height.  Their so-called “heads” were either a bushy orb of purple thistle-down or sunflower-like blossoms.  But all of them had eerie, human-like eyes.

“What are these things?” Ged asked Luigi.

“THrocKpodS!  (best possible translation… though maybe, WeEds!)  Two different bRands… (possibly cAtagories)” Luigi said.

“What’s with all the capital letters in wrong places?” Ged asked.

“Dunno, Ged-Aero-sensei.  I programmed it with my Psion ability, all by intuition,” Gyro said by way of an excuse.

“Well, we better go out there to talk to them,” said Ged.

“Ask them to take you to their leader,” added Naylund.

“I foresee trouble, Ged-sensei,” said Billy, using his clairvoyance.

“Can you be more specific?” Ged asked.

“Sorry.  That is as much as I can see.  I think it depends on who we send out there to talk to them.”

“I will go myself.  Junior and Sara are both telepaths.  They will go with me.  Does that change what you see, Billy?”

“No.  Not better.  Not worse.”

“Okay.  Extreme caution, then.  Junior, you will take the point with Gyro’s translator.”

Junior, wearing his white ninja cloth armor, led the way out through the airlock and down the ramp with the stink translator held out in front of him.  Sara in a white top with ninja-armor pants followed close behind him so she could also see and hear the translator.  Ged, giving them only minimal space ahead of him, followed them defensively from behind.

A thistle-headed Throckpod immediately moved in front of junior.  It held up leafy branches, showing off wickedly sharp thorns as it’s weapons.

“Why are you threatening us?” Junior asked.

“I’m a superior Throckpod!  Servant of the almighty Grain-Master! (Best translation.)  I must oppose any who have no chlorophyl to sacrifice!  (95%  certain of translation.)”

Ged was surprised at how much clearer the Throckpod’s voice came through than either Luigi or Carrot.  What made this one so different?  Besides the creepy, human-like eyes?

Suddenly, a branch shot forward and slapped away the translator device.  Junior fell backwards to avoid a lashing pair of thorns.  Sara was not so lucky.  She stumbled forward directly into the grasp of a sunflower-headed fiend.

“What does it mean by no chlorophyl to sacrifice?” Ged asked, knowing the translator was now face down in the dirt.  He didn’t expect an answer.

I aM aFraiD he meAns blood!… no, life force… poWer?? (no direct translation.)”  Luigi was standing, or rather, onioning resolutely next to Ged.

Sara cried out as the sunflower-headed Throkpod began ripping her clothing off as if it were some kind of sex-crazed manga villain.

“This long-head-fur one will do nicely (rough translation)!” Gyro’s stink translator was still working extremely well at a distance.  “We will tear off her blossom (possibly meaning head) and suck out all her sap (93% likely meaning blood.)”

Ged was not going to let that happen.  He immediately began to change shape, into a giant green plant-eating armored ape like the ones he once had to hunt on the planet Misko Skoogalia.

“Let her go!” Ape-Ged roared.  He leapt on the two offending Throckpods, rending their stems with his green gorilla hands.  Then he proceeded to stuff the pieces of the Throckpods into his green mouth and noisily eat them.

It was then that he tasted a weirdly familiar genetic pattern.  He couldn’t quite place it, but he knew it definitely wasn’t plant-based. Meanwhile, Junior had gathered up Sara, and he carried her back into the ship, aided by Luigi who bounced along like a basketball rather than running… having no legs to speak of.

Leave a comment

Filed under Paffooney, humor, novel, aliens, NOVEL WRITING, satire, science fiction

My Bookish Journey (Part IV)

Once I settled into a publishing plan where I was basically in control of the whole process, the center of my world became the execution of my overall plan to commit acts of actual literature. I had to decide what I wanted to write and the reasons why I was going to write it.

Surrealist Reasons for the Season.

I began the most serious part of my journey into authorship once I was fully retired from my last teaching job. And the darkest part of that truth is that if I weren’t ill enough to be forced to leave teaching, I would still be doing that. It is what God made me for, if there is a God. But since I am stuck in this retirement reality, I really have to use fiction for what fiction-writing is for.

And let me assure you, I know what writing fiction needs to mean for me. I need to rewrite the story of my life in the surreal reality of perceived truth. And what does that mean in simple words? I have to lie a lot. Because fiction is lying in order to reveal the truth.

Two of the most important books I wrote tell the same story for the same purpose.

The Two Stories are really One Story.

I had a childhood full of monsters. And who I became in adult life was not done in spite of what those monsters did to me, but because of it. I was sexually assaulted as a ten-year-old. What he did to me was not pleasurable in any way. He tortured me because causing pain turned him on. I was severely traumatized by the experience. So much so that I experienced PTSD-induced amnesia for a while. These two books are about my fear of monsters and evil, and the deeply embedded fear that when directly faced with evil, I would not know what it really was.

Things in the two novels are not exactly what they seem.

Torrie Brownfield, the Baby Werewolf, is not a monster. He is a boy who suffers from a genetic hair disorder called hypertrichosis, the same disorder that caused the star of Barnum’s freak show, Jojo the dog-faced boy, to have excessive hair growth.

He looks like a monster, but he is really the sweetest, most innocent character in the story.

..

..

..

The Cobble Sisters, both Sherry and Shelly, are nudists. That is a detail that was both kinda true about the real twin girls that inspired the characters, and true enough about these characters in the story to make fans of my fiction from real nudists I befriended on Twitter.

The nudism, however, symbolizes innocence and truthfulness. Sherry labors in both books to get the other members of the Pirates’ Liars’ Club to accept nudism and try it for themselves. Sherry tells them repeatedly that nudists are more honest than other people because they don’t hide anything about themselves.

The ultimate villain of both novels is, ironically, one who hides everything and manipulates from the shadows.

Grandma Gretel is the main character of Recipes for Gingerbread Children. She is a story-teller that has to come to terms with her own monsters from the past. She is a survivor of the Holocaust during WWII. She lost her entire family to the monsters of the Third Reich.

Ironically, she is the one who, through stories and her own keen perceptions, reveals the ultimate villain and his evil. She also, through stories, is coming to terms with her own trauma and loss.

So, what I am saying about my bookish journey at this point is that I have to write the novels I am writing because they allow me to rewrite the world I live in and the facts of my past life in it. I am rewriting myself. I am becoming the me I need to be by writing.

Of course, I am not yet done talking about my bookish journey. Keep an eye out for Part V.

Leave a comment

Filed under Paffooney, humor, book review, writing, novel writing

My Bookish Journey (Part III)

As I indicated in Part II, I killed PDMI Publishing with my first contest novel, Snow Babies. Not because it was that bad of a novel. Rather, it was the endless compounding of my bad luck over time, caused by the Publishing Gods’ keen desires to keep my stories from being generally read and enjoyed. Fickle and cruel are the Publishing Gods.

I took some of the most memorable events in my time as a teacher, put them in a cook-pot and added a batter made of characters based on real teachers I have taught with, learned from, and copied their methods, mixed it with a wooden whisk made of fairy tales, and then baked it with the high heat of the love of teaching to make the next manuscript I would submit to the same YA Novel contest, the Rossetti Awards.

I thought it was an excellent novel. And, like Snow Babies before it, it made the final round of the judging. And there was a range of prizes for the best in about five categories of YA novel for which Magical Miss Morgan qualified for two of them. If it had taken any of those prizes, it would’ve gained me the attention of major publishers looking for new talent.

Alas, there were more novels in competition in that second contest, and I only won the placement in the final round of judging. The Publishing Gods are powerful and implacable.

I submitted it to another publisher that I meant to kill, and they promptly rejected it. They could not handle many novels, got an avalanche of mostly terrible novels, and rejected mine after the first page didn’t dazzle them enough. My consolation had to be that, even though they didn’t give me a contract, they did die shortly after, being closed the next time I checked on them.

Mike Murphy and Blueberry Bates, two of Miss Morgan’s students

So, I gritted my teeth and tried the pay-to-publish publishers one more time. I chose Page Publishing because they only cost a third of what I-Universe did. I could, at that time, barely still afford it with my partially-restored credit rating.

Unfortunately, as a Publisher, Page was worth only one one-hundredth of the value of I-Universe. They didn’t actually have editors. I basically edited the whole thing myself. Their “editor” only communicated to me once with a proof-read copy that I basically had to re-edit and change everything back to being correct English usage. The major editorial contribution? They tried to change every instance of my use of Miss Morgan to Ms. Morgan. Even in the title. The young bozo-editor didn’t understand that even married female teachers are addressed as “Miss.”

As hard as they tried to mess up the novel for me, almost as badly as Publish America did to AeroQuest, I was pleased with the final outcome and the ten copies they sent me. However, I had already vowed to myself that I would never again trust my work to fly-by-night small publishers. And, of course, no major publisher was accepting unsolicited manuscripts. So, I began my relationship with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

That, then, will be the topic of Part IV.

Leave a comment

Filed under humor, novel writing, Paffooney, publishing

Another Saturday, Another Art Day

“The Island Girl”

The picture called “Dorothy Gale” is an example of today’s theme. “What Mickey thinks girls look like.”

“Leopard Girl and Dilsey Murphy”
“Grandma Gretel holding General Swift”

“Rihanna”

“Journalist of the Future”

“The Wolf Girl”

Leave a comment

Filed under artwork, cartoons, characters, humor, Paffooney

My Bookish Journey (Part II)

It is possible, I suppose, that after my unlooked-for hiatus from teaching, and the subsequent employment as an ESL teacher for the Garland, Texas School District in 2007. I might never have tried picking up the magic pencil again.

I loved teaching. And I was seriously considering doing it until the day I dropped dead.

But, God, of course, usually has other ideas for everybody. My last three years as a Texas public school teacher were my hardest health-wise. I had the H1N1 flu twice in one year. Both strains, one time each. I spent a week in the hospital with pneumonia. I reached a point where I was sick more days every semester than I had sick days to cover. My paychecks began to shrink. And it got harder to make it through the day standing in front of classrooms holding the big pencil of lesson delivery.

As I contemplated the inevitable dropping into deadness that happens even to English teachers, I began to realize that I couldn’t just let my stories disappear when I did. I needed to actually get serious about publishing them. I wrote another. I took an old manuscript called Nobody’s Babies and rewrote it as Snow Babies. I submitted it in manuscript form to a writing contest. I entered it into Chanticleer Book Reviews’ YA novel-writing contest called the Dante Rossetti Awards. https://www.chantireviews.com/contests/ I made it through to the final round of judging, one of twelve books. I didn’t win, and I couldn’t legally put on the eventual cover of the book that it was a finalist, but it was. So, it was time to find a new publisher. Preferably one that didn’t require my indentured servitude to Mastercard and Discover for the rest of my life.

I found a publisher that loved my book. PDMI Publishing was a business operated as an Indie publisher by a poet and his wife and supported by all the writers and editors and artists whose work he put into print. They were expanding when I signed a contract with them. I was given a brand new book editor who joined them shortly after I did. Jessie Cornwell was her name.

My book was humming along towards publication for two years. Then, rather suddenly, the business collapsed and they released me from my contract. Being the next book in line to be published, I believe it was my incredible luck as an author trying to get published and actually make money from writing that killed the publisher. I didn’t get the final draft of my novel back, so, now I give credit as Editor to Jessie, but the only changes she made to it are the ones I remembered and agreed with.

I would make one more stab at working with an actual publisher for the next book I wanted to publish, Magical Miss Morgan. But that debacle is the subject of Part Three.

But I would go on to self-publish Snow Babies on Amazon, and, to date, it is the book I consider to be the best thing I have ever written.

Leave a comment

Filed under Paffooney, publishing, writing, novel writing

Classroom Clownery (Not to be confused with Sean Clownery… He’s James Blond)

16473244_1449448801783847_8086681324837506057_n

See Dick?

See Jane?

See Sally?

See Dick run?

See Jane run?

See Sally…?   Wait a minute!  Why don’t I remember Sally?

Did Dick forget to feed Spot and Spot was forced to kill and eat Sally?

No…  I had Dick and Jane books in Kiddy-garter and they did have Sally in them.  And Spot never killed anyone.  But with all the running she did, Sally did not do anything memorable.  If my teacher, Miss Ketchum, had told the Spot eats Sally story, I’m sure I would’ve remembered Sally better and learned to read faster.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

But I actually did learn to read faster because there was a Cat in the Hat, and a Yertle the Turtle, and because Horton the elephant heard a Who, and a Grinch stole Christmas.  Yes, humor is what always did it for me in the classroom.  Dr. Seuss taught me to read.  Miss Mennenga taught me to read out loud.  And in seventh grade, Mr. Hickman taught me to appreciate really really terrible jokes.    And those are the people who twisted my arm… er, actually my brain… enough to make me be a teacher who taught by making things funny.  There were kids who really loved me, and principals who really hated me.  But I had students come back to me years later and say… “I don’t remember anything at all from my classes in junior high except when you read The Outsiders out loud and did all those voices, and played the Greek myth game where we had to kill the giants with magic arrows, and the stupid jokes you told.”  High praise indeed!

funny-pinoy-jokes-grammar-nazi-natzi-hitler-alert-2013

I think that teaching kids to laugh in the classroom was a big part of teaching them how to use the language and how to think critically.    You find what’s funny in what you learn, and you have accidentally examined it carefully… and probably etched it on the stone part of your brain more memorably than any other way you could do it.  And once it’s etched in stone, you’re not getting that out again any time soon.

dr_cat.jpg

12140070_10153033719407821_7711720876061693795_o

Humor makes you look at things from another point of view, if for no other reason, then simply because you are trying to make somebody laugh.  For instance, do you wonder like I do why the Cat in the Hat is trying to pluck the wig off of Yelling Yolanda who is perched on the back of yellow yawning yak?  I bet you can’t look at those two pictures positioned like that and not see what I am talking about.  Of course, I am not betting money on it.  I am simply talking Iowegian… a totally different post.

But the point is, humor and learning go hand in hand.  It takes intelligence to get the joke.  Joking makes you smarter.  And that is why the class clowns in the past… the good and funny ones… not the stupid and clueless ones… were always my favorite students.

3 Comments

Filed under clowns, goofiness, high school, humor, irony, kids, philosophy, teaching, word games

My Bookish Journey

My journey as a writer actually began in grade school. I was writing Star Trek-like comics from the time I was in the fourth and fifth grade, ten and eleven years old. I called my comics Zebra Fleet, about the last fleet in the Star League on the distant, far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy.

I started writing book-length stories in college, at Iowa State University. They weren’t all science fiction. They began to be more and more about the time and place where I grew up, Rowan, Iowa in the 1960s and 1970s They involved the people I knew there and then. My family, my friends, the people of Rowan, and random Iowegians. I based important characters on people I actually knew, mostly those I knew quite well. But I changed and swapped character details to hide their identities a little bit, and I gave them names that were mixed and matched and borrowed from the 1977 Ames, Iowa phone book. Dettbarn, Efram, Sumpter, Bircher, Clarke, MacMillan, White, and Murphy all came from there. Niland came from a famous alumni of the University of Iowa who played for the Dallas Cowboys.

In order to have food to eat and money to spend as an adult, I had to take my BA in English and add to it an MA in Education to get a job as a teacher. I took my closet full of nascent novels and moved to Texas where my dad’s job took my parents before I graduated college. There I added hundreds of characters who were perfect for Young Adult novels as I got to know real kids and learned about their real lives. I changed their names, details, and often cultures as I added them to my stories.

Other than a couple of shots in the dark as submissions of cartoons and manuscripts to publishers, I mostly kept my stories in the closet and focused more on teaching (which, to be fair, is also a form of story-telling.) I put my handful of rejection letters in the closet too.

But then, I got laid off for two years due to health and a wicked witch as a principal, and I spent my non-job-hunting time writing a novel about my science-fiction role-playing games with former students. It was called AeroQuest.

I managed to find a publisher for that book. But it was a bogus sort of experience. They paid me an advance of one dollar. Then they had me sign a seven-year contract in 2007. No editor or proofreader even worked for them. I basically had to edit and format the book myself. All they did is intentionally flub-up some titles and sections of text in the printed form. This was part of the master plan to get me to pay for an extensive fix to the mistakes they made. The only marketing they did was to send a notice for my over-priced paperback to the list of friends and relatives that they required me to make for them. Publish America is no longer in business. They were closed down by a class-action lawsuit from the authors they had tricked into paying them thousands of dollars for totally defective publishing services. Since I didn’t pay them any scam pennies, I didn’t get any of the money from the lawsuit. I only got my publishing rights back.

So, I went back to whole-heartedly teaching. Then, in 2012 I completed another manuscript that I thought was the best work that I had ever done. I submitted it to I-Universe publishers. They read it and loved it. As it turned out, they were in the process of being acquired by Penguin Books. They were the closest thing to a mainstream publisher that would entertain submissions by new and unproven authors like me.

They, of course, were offering a publishing package that included working with real editors and marketing personnel. But I had to go a bit into debt to swing the price. So, I was still paying someone to publish my book correctly. But, as a step in my author’s journey, it was invaluable. I got to work closely with an experienced editor who had previously worked for both MacMillan and Harcourt, two mainstream traditional publishers.

My book was given the stock cover you see here despite the cover requests I made and got approved. My original ask was apparently too expensive to print. There is no girl flying a kite in the story at all, let alone at night. It is a story about incompetent aliens trying to invade a small town in Iowa. I had requested a flying saucer with a kite flying behind it.

That first real publisher, though, made me into a real writer. The I-Universe marketeers got me listed as a winner of the Editor’s Choice Award. And they put that award and the Rising Star award on every paperback copy they printed. Everyone who read the book seemed to really like it. They set me up with this blog, space on their website for my book and bio, and they put me in touch with Barnes and Noble to talk about “meet the author” sessions to promote getting the book on their shelves. But a trip to the hospital with pneumonia and the end of the room on my Discover Card caused me to bring an end to my marketing campaign. I ended up with two five-star reviews and sixteen dollars-worth of royalties.

At this point in the story, temporarily stalled, I must start touting the part two of my essay for today. I should warn you, I have a lot more negative things to say about publishing next time.

Leave a comment

Filed under autobiography, commentary, novel writing, Paffooney, publishing, writing