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/

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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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I Really Hate 7th Graders

The scene of the crime = Barbara Bush Middle School, in Irving, Texas, January 23rd, 2020, in third-period 7th-grade Language Arts.

The nature of the crime = attempted murder, cooking, and eating of a substitute teacher… namely, me.

I know I am using hyperbole, and the teeth marks on my old bones are actually metaphorical. But that’s what they did, treating me to the worst things that students routinely do to substitute teachers.

It started first period with a surprise lock-down drill, the kind you have to have in schools to train them how to survive the next mass-shooting on a school campus. First period went well, even after the drill. But after you make them crouch down in the corner away from the windows with the lights out and the door locked so that the killer won’t know there are twenty-some potential victims there hoping not to be shot, it is really hard to get them back to interpreting literature, even a good book like Nothing But the Truth, without having ants in their monkey-pants and evil ideas in their monkey-heads.

When you get the new class coming in the door, you have to plant them in seats and make them shut their little megaphone-mouths and at least pretend to be listening so you can catch hold of the learning-parts of those students who will willingly learn something.

Third period started going wrong before they ever came in the door. They deceived me. They acted like they were normal, human-headed human beings with basic sense and an understanding of how school works. But, once seated, they pop out again like popcorn kernels on a hotplate. The drill-churned monkey-brains in their little monkey-heads begin executing evil monkey-plans full of disruptive lesson-killing behaviors.

One boy, strutting like a peacock, used the magic F-word in front of the three girls he was supposed to be doing group-work with in order to make them giggle and guffaw… which they did on cue and off-key musically.

I took him to the hallway and issued ultimatum number one. That particular child, hormonal nightmare that he was, was probably the brightest boy in class, knowing enough to partner with smart girls who knew most of the right answers. He took the opportunity to not be the child the sub has to kill in front of the class to get the rest of them quiet. He was an angel for the rest of the period and actually kept the three girls out of further trouble.

Villain number two, however, wasted no time in using his illegal cell phone to blast music from the back of the room eliminating any opportunity to do the oral reading the lesson called for. This one had the class in an uproar because of his music choice. I took him out to the hallway to kill him, asking the teacher next door to call the assistant principal. He and his cell phone were to be delivered into the executioner’s cold hands.

Villain number three, meanwhile, a highly aggressive female with a self-proclaimed right to complain about anything and everything and get all the boys to do her bidding decided she needed to argue about something with me without first picking a clear something to rage about. She ended up next to Villain two and was also fed to the principal.

Once they were quieted down by the realization that the sub was executing them for obvious unexceptable behavior, they started writing answers to questions a bit more quietly. Mostly wrong answers, but quieter and less rebellious answers.

Still, a boy waved his arms and jumped up from his seat, throwing some of his belongings about telling me I was picking on him for being black, but calming down as I put him in a new seat nearer to the execution queue and all by himself.

Someone else had the blue-tooth on his or her cellphone tuned in on the teacher’s computer, making it bleat rap music with the touch of an invisible finger inside a pocket. They all laughed and told me that it happened to the regular teacher all the time, and that the only cure was to unplug the computer, which I couldn’t do because of the possible consequences to such an out-dated, possibly antique electronic abacus-like device.

So, I weathered a truly terrible class. It was not my first one. Unless I drop dead tomorrow, it will probably not be the last.

I noticed three other instances of classes going bonkers after the mass-shooter drill on my way out the door after a half-day sub job that I am really glad was not a whole day. That poor assistant principal in charge of discipline! I know he doesn’t face that level of student terrorism every day. But he had a worse day than I did.

So, I left that horrible class behind with a smile on my face. I had a bad time with those monkey-headed criminals. But I got a measure of revenge. And they taught me some of their new tricks that I will be ready for next time. And, truth be known, I secretly love mixing it up with seventh graders like that. I got through to a few, and the rest got what they deserved.

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Novel Number Fourteen

Novel #14 is now complete and published. The Norwall Pirates, softball team and liars club, take on an ancient undead Chinese wizard. All of it takes place in small Iowa farm towns during the Bicentennial summer of 1976. But some of the major players in this life-or-death struggle are immortal, and most of them are only high school freshmen, fifteen-years-old and still quite awkward in the face of a dangerous and arcane world full of the difficult problems of growing up.

The novel is called The Boy… Forever. Icarus Jones is a main character like Peter Pan, faced with the possibility of living forever, but never growing older than ten.

For now, I haven’t settled on the next one. But Number 14 is done.

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AeroQuest 3… Canto 76

Canto 76 –Practicing Practical Practices

Ged had begun to feel at ease with the strange ninja powers he had absorbed by eating the Black Spider Leader while in the form of a dinosaur.  He was a master of The Discipline now.  Back on Earth in the time before travel between the stars, this Discipline had been known as K’ung Fu.  The Black Spider Leader had mastered the jump-kicks of WuShu and the graceful, swift hand-to-hand combat known as Wing Chung.  Because the skill had been trained into The Black Spider Leader’s muscle memory, Ged had absorbed it whole, even if he did not have the philosophies that were supposed to go with it.  One thing he liked about it, though, was that it allowed him to defeat and overpower an opponent without doing permanent damage.  Ged had never loved killing the way Trav Dalgoda loved it.  He always preferred the bloodless victory, whether over man or beast.  The prey was always to be honored and respected.  And the prey was not to be stalked if it was not capable of self-defense.

In the heart of the Celestial Dragon was a large, gym-like room that was perfect for giving students lessons in the art of the Discipline.  It had a soft, forgiving floor, plenty of room, and a pair of bathing pools that provided purified water for drinking or bathing.  It was in this room which Ged now called the Practice Center that he was trying to impart his skills to Shu Kwai, Junior, Billy Iowa, and Rocket Rogers.  The Phoenix and Hassan Parker sat at the side, both cross-legged, watching with great interest.

“The simplest form of this move is a shield, making it an effective block to the offensive strikes I have shown you,” said Ged, demonstrating an arc of the right arm in a circle to his right side.

“You know,” said Phoenix, “Master Bres taught Alec and me a very similar stroke, but it led to a killing strike to the neck or groin.”

Ged looked grimly at the red-haired boy.  “I prefer not to attach that sort of thing to this move, if you don’t mind.”

“Oh, I don’t mind.  I think I prefer your way,” said Phoenix with a smug grin.  “It will prolong the battle and make things much closer.  You know, more challenging.”

“It allows you to protect yourself without killing,” reminded Ged.  The other boys all looked at him with questioning faces.

“If Alec were here, he’d say it protects you better to end it quickly.  Bres would say that the kill is the only worthy goal.”

“I would rather not be compared to Bres, if you don’t mind.”

Phoenix smiled a more genuine smile.  “You don’t have to convince me, sensei.  You are much better at this than the new Black Spider Leader.  It is because your motives are so much purer than his, I think.”

“Thank you.”

Ged allowed Billy Iowa to try an offensive strike.  Four times he deflected it easily.  The move worked.

“Practice with your partner,” said Ged. 

Shu Kwai paired himself with Rocket.  Junior squared off with Billy.  All four of them were dressed simply in loin covers and tabai boots.  Rocket also wore his ever-present cowboy hat.  Ged watched bare arms and legs flashing as they worked on the technique.  All four boys were distinctly different from each other.  Shu’s skin was yellow-orange in the Gaijinese manner.  Rocket was a pale peach color like Ged himself.  Billy was Indian bronze, while Junior was blue.  Still, Ged couldn’t help but marvel at how they meshed together whenever they tried to accomplish the same goal.

“You know,” said Ged, “It is our differences that make us strong as a whole.  We are blessed by being different, complementing each other.”

            Phoenix laughed.  “Is that wisdom, sensei?”

“I hope it is,” said Ged, somewhat sheepishly.  It wasn’t easy to tell if he’d really won Phoenix over or not.  The boy was more dangerous than the others, his Galtorrian lizard eyes so much harder to read.

Suddenly there was a loud fwooping noise.  Two more students appeared in the Practice Center.  They were both naked and connected to each other in the most embarrassing way possible.  It was a deeply blushing Alec Songh with a writhing, moaning Jadalaqstbr held in his arms.

Ged was a little shocked, to say the least.

“What is going on here?” asked Shu Kwai, immediately incensed at what he saw.  Rocket and Billy couldn’t help but giggle.  Junior looked on with fascination.

“Ooops!” said Alec.  “I guess it’s pretty obvious what is going on.”  He pulled away from the girl, trying to cover his embarrassment with his hands.  “What I’m wondering is how we ended up here?”

As young Jackie came to her senses again, she couldn’t help but blush deeply also.  “I guess I lost control of my power.  I’m so sorry, Alec.”

“Hmm,” said Ged.  “I believe this is a breakthrough, although I would’ve preferred to find it out a different way.”

“What do you mean, sensei?” asked Shu Kwai.

“Well, we did not know before it was possible for a Psion like Jackie to teleport two people,” said Ged.  “We need to know if it can be done again.”

“I’m sorry, sensei,” said Jadalaqstbr.  “I was so overpowered by a new experience that I didn’t know what I was doing.  My inner eye activated almost by itself.”

“Can you teleport back to the room you were in, get your clothes on, and both come back here again?”

“I don’t know,” said the embarrassed girl.  “Do you think we have to be doing the same thing on the way back?”

“Yes!” said Rocket.  “Try that again!”

Jackie blushed.

“No,” said Ged.  “Hold onto him and try to take him with you.”

The girl gingerly took hold of Alec’s arms again.  The fwooping sounded again and the two students were gone as suddenly as they had come.

“Should you have let them go like that?” asked Shu Kwai.  “Don’t you think they need to be punished for what they were doing?”

Ged shook his head.  Perhaps Shu was right.  Still, who was Ged to judge the guilt of others in this area?  “We cannot punish them for being humanoid.  I will talk with Alec about it, but it is really a thing between their consciences and themselves.”

In a few more moments, the two children reappeared, this time fully clothed from head to toe.  It was obvious they had felt quite mortified by their experience.  Jadalaqstbr had demonstrated before that teleporting with clothes on was not difficult.

“Before the lectures begin,” said Alec with a frown, “I want to tell you, sensei, that I love her.  I am not just defying you.  And, Shu, it’s none of your frakking business what Jackie and I do.”

“I love him too, sensei,” said Jadalaqstbr.  “He didn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to do.”

Ged nodded.  “We need to have a private discussion.  This class is dismissed for now.”

The boys all filed away, Alec and Jackie staying behind to face the music.  Alec had a look of determined defiance on his face.  The music would have to be about birds and bees, and right and wrong.  Ged knew what a parent and teacher would have to say in this situation, his mother had once had this discussion with Ham and Ged.  It wasn’t going to make things any easier for any of them, though, especially Ged.

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The Pain That Sharpens My Edges

I am ill again. No apparent reason. Just headaches, body aches, and a pain in the chest. Day-after-day sort of pain for a sufferer of diabetes and arthritis. But pain is a reminder that you are still alive. It grabs you by the collarbones and shakes you with the realization that whatever you are going to accomplish will be done over, under, or around the difficult obstacles thrown in your way. So, I better pick myself up and get going.

On with the battle, in spite of the wounds.

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After the Last Novel

Me completing a page of my graphic novel, Hidden Kingdom.

I finished a novel this last week. But my health is poor, and there is definitely no guarantee that I will have a chance to complete another. So, what if that was my last novel?

To be clear, I’m okay with whatever comes next. I am not afraid to die. I don’t regret anything I have ever done in my life. And if I have a stroke or a heart attack (myocardial infarction is too funny of a phrase to use here, so don’t read inside the parentheses) tomorrow, I will be satisfied that my life is complete. I have written good books, and I have done good work.

But I do still have novels written in my head. One of the oldest completes the character arc of Milt Morgan (See portrait on the left, and you are allowed to read inside these parentheses.) The story is called The Wizard in his Keep.

It is the story of Milt as an adult, a lonely, unmarried, and unloved man, taking the newly orphaned kids of his childhood friend’s sister and spiriting them away to a secret world, and his friend, Brent Clarke, the FBI agent, Tracking him down to retrieve the Clarke’s kin.

There is also a novel in me about the grown-up adventures of Sherry Cobble-Clarke. It completes her story. She is trying to connect with her new stepson while having to bring her new husband together with her two twin daughters, Tandy and Mandy Clarke.

It is a novel called A Field Guide to Fauns. And it is set entirely in a nudist park.

I am also underway with the third book in the re-write of my sci-fi comedy novel AeroQuest.

But whatever else I can get completed is gravy on the meatloaf that is my literary legacy. Who even knows if anyone cares? But I will do what I can do, and then the best that I can do will be did and done.

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Taking to the Air (Saturday Art Post)

“The Wings of Imagination”
Bird-brains speak out
Yes, this is in the air. See? No space suits.
Travel by “airship”
If we cannot fly, at least our spirits do
Travel by bubble-blowing, gum-chewing goldfish.
We all have wings… sometimes.

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Hawking Books

My book advertised here is the best book I have that hasn’t gotten a single reader yet. I am trying to promote it by giving out free Kindle e-book copies for free this weekend. That tactic is supposed to generate readers and reviews. So far, two days in, only one free book has been selected by anybody on Facebook, Twitter, or here on WordPress. I mean, even clicking on a free book and then never reading it helps me as a marketer. But I am not getting any of that.

I did better with Recipes for Gingerbread Children, especially the first two days. But I admit, even though it shares a time, parts of a plot, and characters with The Baby Werewolf, it is a better book.

But tying the two books together has no visible effect.

I will, however, keep trying. I have other good books to promote as well as this one. Perhaps people are too afraid of werewolves to buy it, even for free.

Click on this if you’d like a free e-book. Every single one clicked on helps.

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