Hidden Kingdom (Chapter 2-adding page 8)

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

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An Unexpected Gift 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Harvey Comic Books


“Joker”, a harlequin jack-in-the-box logo for Harvey

When I was a kid old enough to begin to see and interact with the real world in the tragic and magical 1960s, the first comic books available to me, long before my parents would allow me to pick up and buy Spiderman and Batman and (shudder) comics with monsters in them, were the kid-friendly comics of the Harvey Brothers.

Now, you have to understand that Harvey Comics had been around since the 1940s and made their money on characters licensed first from the Brookwood Publications company that Alfred Harvey bought out in 1941 to provide the building, equipment, and publishing personnel to start producing comic books.

Robert B. Harvey and Leon Harvey joined the company to help produce titles they now owned the rights too like Black Cat, the Shield, Shock Gibson, and Captain Freedom.

…………………………………………Of course, most of those characters didn’t last very long. Black Cat was the only title still being published by Harvey in the 1950s.

They would go on to license characters from Famous Studios, the animated cartoon works of Max Fleischer and his brother Dave. That’s when the kid- friendly, parent-approved comic books of Fleischer creations like Casper the Friendly Ghost opened up the world of comic books to seven-year-old Mickey circa 1963.

In spite of this cover art, Casper rarely wore clothing.

Now, it is probably obvious that there are many ways that Harvey Comics influenced me as a storyteller later in life. It goes without saying that my dedication to childish humor in stories derives from this comic-book source. The cuteness of characters is another necessity of comic storytelling gleaned from these ripe fields of baby faces. And stories advanced by magical means and absurd sidetracks also come from here. But did you ever notice that Casper and the other ghosts all perform in the nude? Yes, I think my childhood longing to be a nudist began with Casper’s naked adventures. But unlike Casper, my urges along those lines were suppressed and repressed by parents and society as a whole. So watching Casper and Spooky and Pearl (Spooky’s goilfriend) romp naked through comic book hijinks were a sublimated substitution for that childhood desire. (Sure, none of them had genitals, but it wasn’t about that.)

…………………………………………….Of course, there were many other Harvey characters to enjoy that actually did wear clothes. I was particularly fond of Hot Stuff because he made such an art out of burning things and being a bad kid and roasting the backsides of fools and hypocrites with his trident. And he only ever wore a fireproof diaper, so he was almost a nudist too.

There were many other characters licensed by Harvey as well, including Felix the Cat, Little Audrey, Baby Huey, and the characters from Walter Lance Studios like Woody Woodpecker, Andy Panda, and Chilly Willy.

Dell would later take over the comic book rights to Walter Lantz Studios creations.

So, now you know the true story of how my innocent childhood was warped and woven and corrupted by the characters of Harvey Comics.

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Picture Tricks

When I am as ill as I am today, it is always a good thing to have a backlog of re-postable blog posts to fill in for the day’s writing. It is even better if it turns out that I still have some non-crappy old posts to choose from.

Catch a Falling Star

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I have discovered things about being an artist by blogging.  I have discovered things by learning from other artists.  I have also discovered things by trial and error.  I have also discovered things by random acts of God.  So let me share some of the ill-gotten picture secrets that I have added to my vast bag of useless incunabula-juice squeezed out with my arcane-secret juicer and internet blogger good luck.

#1.  Save everything arty… as you see above, I have three different pictures of my Catch a Falling Star character Dorin Dobbs, all made from the same pen and ink line drawing.  All the color is digital paint from my computer’s own paint program.  Simple and cheap to do.  Save functions multiply the pretty.

#2.  Splice stuff together and make new stuff…  I have the cheapest possible photo-shop program, but using its entire $7 value every time I paste with…

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Talking for Dummies

The secret to this essay is that the title is a pun. And yes, I know you probably don’t find it very punny. But I wanted to talk about the difficulties of portraying the difficulties of communication in a talk-a-lot-sometimes-talk-too-much world.

Yes, my current work in progress, Fools and their Toys, is about a man who can hardly talk at all because of undiagnosed autism who suddenly, miraculously finds a voice through ventriloquism, and then finds himself needing to communicate to a boy who is deaf and only speaks sign language and another boy who is profoundly distracted with ADD and bipolar disorder. He needs to communicate desperately because he knows things that have been locked up in his head for years that may help the FBI stop a cereal killer. No, that is a pun again. Shame on me. The murderer commits multiple murders of young boys, not breakfast food

Danny O’Day… not mine, but very much like mine.

I chose to write this rather insane novel about how not to communicate with real people because I, myself, as a kid was given to all kinds of communication theatrics and tricks of entertainment. I was also a shy kid after the age of ten for very sinister reasons.

It is important to realize that you absolutely have to communicate with others in life. Even if something is preventing you, like my own bout of self-loathing brought on by a sexual assault committed against me by an older boy. I got a ventriloquist’s dummy for Christmas near the time of the terrible event. It was Danny O’Day from the Montgomery Ward’s Christmas catalog. I taught myself to do ventriloquism. And then I gave it up when I realized the puppet would say things I didn’t want anyone to hear.

Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy, and Mortimer Snerd

Never the less, I continued to be fascinated life-long with ventriloquists and the little people they created.

Edgar Bergen was often in movies on TV during the Saturday afternoon matinee on Channel 3. I often saw his lips move. I was actually a better mouth-still ventriloquist than the old master.

Jerry Mahoney, Paul Winchell, and Knucklehead Smiff

Paul Winchell used to have a TV show in the 50’s which I saw on re-runs as a boy in the 60’s. He was also the voice of Tigger, Dick Dastardly, and Gargamel. (If you don’t recognize any of those cartoon characters, I mourn for your inadequately-filled childhood.)

Shari Lewis, Lambchop, and Charlie Horse

And, of course, I was fascinated and enthralled by Shari Lewis and Lambchop any time they were on TV, especially Sunday nights with Ed Sullivan.

Learning about ventriloquism never solved any problems for me. But it gave me a way to talk to myself that simulated having real friends. It helped me survive the dark years of being a teenager.

It is, of course, Jeff Dunham who fascinates me now.

Ventriloquism, humor, made-up characters, and the ability to talk with them is what I am chiefly concerned with now. My life and my current novel is taken up with talking, though not the normal talking of normal people. Talking with the voices that come from strange locked trunks inside you, the secrets you always meant to keep, but sooner or later have to be said out loud by someone. And maybe that someone is a dummy.

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Crashing to the Ground

I have given up trying to write humorous posts about politics. Nothing the government does now helps me. It only hurts. I have already financially crashed personally. They continue to make noises threatening my pension. I can’t go to the doctor. I can’t even afford office visits now that the deductible is so large and the monthly premiums are so high. We are not covered for any of the things that are killing me. I am a diabetic who can’t afford insulin. And I am ill again with a viral infection, not able to earn extra money from Uber. There is very little humor to find in current situations.

Our house and property are falling apart, desperately in need of repairs that I can only handle by doing the repairs myself. And I am unable to pay the property taxes this year that have ballooned to four times the size that they were when we bought the house. We are going to have to lose the house and return to apartment living.

But hardships seem to be good for sparking creativity. I have never written so much or so well as I have in the past four years. I have started novel number nine in the days in which the new year, 2019, has brought a steady stream of misfortunes. I have been writing at least a novel and a half every year since 2014. And the best work I have ever done is a part of that. Snow Babies, Magical Miss Morgan, and Recipes for Gingerbread Children are works I am deeply proud of having written, even though no one besides a few editors, proofreaders, contest judges, and relatives have ever read any of them. I don’t make any money at it. But wait till I publish Sing Sad Songs and Fools and their Toys, a pair of novels that will knock the socks off of all six of the people who will eventually get around to reading them.

But if I sound bitter and defeated, please don’t think that of me. I knew from the time I chose teaching as a career that if I was ever able to retire, I was bound to face illness, poverty, and pain. I don’t think anything it may have cost me, in the long run, makes my decision to be a teacher, or to become a writer afterward, into a bad decision. It has basically all been worth it. I would do it all over again if I could. And who knows? It may all be ending badly, but it ain’t over yet.

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The 13th Sense

I am thinking with that old 13th sense again because my daughter and I are both sick with a severe cold, I am almost out of money in the middle of the month after paying doctors for flu tests that thankfully proved negative for actual flu, and I still am not well enough to drive for Uber and make any extra money. So this re-p0st should adequately explain the loopy Mickian thinking I am using in my sick, stupid old head.

Catch a Falling Star

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I know that you are probably thinking, “What the heck are you thinking, Mickey? There are really only five senses!”

And I am probably thinking, (ignoring the fact that I should know for certain what thinking is present at least in my own stupid head), “Oh, I think you are probably wrong about that,” considering carefully that I should only think this and not say it out loud, because people get mad when you suggest that you are smarter than they are.”

Besides the five senses we all claim of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell, there is also that one people often refer to as “the sixth sense”, and by that phrase they don’t necessarily mean that you “see dead people who don’t know they are dead”. Instead, that sense is kinda like a sense of intuition. A feeling that you simply know what is about to occur, or…

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 2

Canto Two – Bait Worth Biting On

Describing the feeling of entering the Ghost House for the first time would prove quite difficult for Valerie when she tried to do it later on in Miss Bierstadt’s class for an English essay assignment.  But at the moment she crawled through the Tunnel of Doom, she would’ve described it as a feeling in her belly like eating a bowl of iced earthworms and trying to find a place to throw up in a jungle full of man-eating plants that smelled an awful lot like marigolds or something.  It was that kind of combination of anticipation, bad smells, icky things to see and touch, and the sensory deprivation of entering a candle-lit darkness from the bright September world outside.

“Welcome, Miss Valerie Clarke,” said freshman football hero and huge Polish hunk Pidney Breslow.  Valerie was deeply in love with the square-shouldered giant, and sincerely hoped he would be the leader of this Pirate club.

“Hello,” she said, almost timidly.

“You are just in time for the first official meeting of the reforming Norwall Pirates’ Club,” said Mary Philips brightly.   Mary had extended the official invitation to Valerie to come here, although Val didn’t really know why.  Mary had said that she didn’t want to be the only girl in the club, but why would a girl like Mary want to be in a boys’ club?  She had a bad feeling that the high school freshman girl also had her cap set for winning Pidney as a boyfriend.  But, plain-looking as Mary was, Val was only mildly concerned.

A quick look around as Danny Murphy crawled in after her revealed the other boys in attendance at the secret meeting.  Ray Zeffer, another high school freshman was there.  He was kinda handsome in a way, too, but he was always so sad-looking with those big puppy-dog brown eyes of his.  He had a neatly combed mess of jet black hair too, which was also attractive.  Val could easily learn to like this club.

The other boy, a high school junior, was kinda creepy.  His name was Conrad Doble.  He was the only one at the meeting who had been a member of the original Norwall Pirates.  He was tall and thin, with lank blond hair that hadn’t had a haircut in too long.  He had a distinct problem with facial Acne.  And he insisted on leering at Valerie, like he wanted to take a bite or two and eat her up.  For the first time Val understood why he had the semi-Shakespearian nickname of King Leer.

“You know that re-forming the Pirates is a sucky idea, right?” said Doble, leering at Mary Philips for the moment.   “There’s no way to go back to those things.  Milt Morgan had all the ideas and told us what to do.  Brent Clarke was the leader and made the ideas happen.  How are we gonna fight werewolves or undead Chinese wizards without them?”

“You know that those adventures were mostly lies and fairy tales,” Mary said.

“Still, who will be the wizard?  And who will be the leader?”  Doble glared at Mary accusingly.  “I actually saw the werewolf!”

The two older boys, Ray and Pidney looked at each other sheepishly.

“Re-forming the Pirates was my idea,” said Mary.  “I think I should be the leader.”

“A girl as leader?” asked Doble.  “We only used to let girls in for sex parties.”

“Be careful what you say to Mary, Goon,” said Pidney.

“Or what?  You’ll beat me up with your football muscles?”

“No,” said Ray.  “The two of us will beat the crap out of you.”  The fire flashing in Ray Zeffer’s eyes was even more intimidating than Pidney’s football muscles, and Pidney’s football muscles were seriously huge.

“Yeah, well…  I guess there might be benefits to having girls in the Pirates,” grumbled Doble menacingly.

“So, it’s settled.  The Norwall Pirates exist once more,” said Mary with a sparkly smile.  “I will be the leader and Pidney will be second in command.”

“Who is the wizard?” growled Doble.  “Milt is the hard one to replace.”

“I get that you always thought of Milt Morgan as Merlin and Brent Clarke as his King Arthur,” said Mary, “but do we really need a wizard?”

“Yeah, I think we do,” insisted Doble.

“You know we don’t have to let you be a Pirate this time,” warned Pidney.

“I’m the only real Norwall Pirate here,” said Doble imperially.  “You have to have my permission to even do this.”

“It’s all right,” said Mary.  “What is it you think we need a wizard for?”

Conrad Doble stood up to his full height and lightly bonked his head on a cellar rafter.  After he rubbed his somewhat flattened head of hair, he went over to a nearby cabinet, and removed the right hand door which basically fell out when you touched it.  He reached in and brought out a large peanut-butter jar filled with formaldehyde.  Floating in it was the severed head of a huge black cat, its dead eyes popped and staring.  He placed that on the crate in front of the old couch.

“Gack!  What’s that?” asked Pidney.

“The secret mystical symbol of the Pirate leader,” said Mary.

“Smart girl,” said Conrad Doble.  “If you know that, then surely you know what a wizard is for.”

“I’m guessing the keeper of secrets,” said Mary.

“The teller of stories!” Valerie blurted out.

“Yes!” said Doble.  “Both of those things.  But story-teller most of all.  That’s what Milt used to do.  He told us stories and made us believe in stuff.”

“So, who here is a story-teller?” asked Ray Zeffer.

“Tell us the story of your Uncle Noah,” Pidney said to Mary.

“He is NOT my uncle,” said Mary.  “He’s just Dad’s friend.  I used to call him uncle when I was little.”

“But that’s the idea, isn’t it?” asked Pidney.  “That story you were telling me about your dad’s friend on the freighter in the South Seas?  You could tell us that.”

“Maybe.  You have to give me time to pull it all together.  I think we need to leave that position open for the moment, to give others here a chance to tell a story of their own.”  Mary glared in Conrad’s direction for a change.

“Okay,” said Doble.  “It’s a deal.”

“Who will be in the club?” asked Pidney.

“I invited everyone here to be a Pirate,” said Mary.  “I think all of us need to be here.  The Norwall Pirates used to be a group of friends that supported each other and helped each other through hard times.  That’s what we all need again.  Especially Ray.”

Ray Zeffer blushed and looked off into the darkness of the far corner of the cellar.  Valerie wondered why.  She decided she would find out… soon.

“Why didn’t you invite Billy Martin?” asked Danny Murphy.  “He needs to be a Pirate too.”

“You are right,” said Mary with a smile.  “But I didn’t know where to find him or how to get the message to him.  Inviting him can be our first club project.”

“Club project?   You make it sound all girly!” complained Doble.

“Adventure, then.”

“Yeah, better.”

So it was decided.  Valerie Clarke was now the second girl ever to be a Norwall Pirate.  She smiled to herself, but when she caught Doble looking at her again, she changed the smile for a frown.                                                                              

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