To see the complete Chapter 1, use the following link;https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2018/11/24/hidden-kingdom-chapter-1-complete/
I know I am mixing metaphors again. It is supposed to be blueBIRDS of happiness. But not only am I starting this essay with a berry theme, I happen to be allergic to blueberries, thus solidly symbolizing my somewhat complicated relationship to the state of being truly happy.
You see, blueberries are full of antioxidants that are beneficial in so many ways that I really need that it seems absolutely a bitter irony that they make me sick to my stomach and constrict my lungs. I used to love eating blueberry muffins and blueberry pancakes, as well as fresh, cold ripe berries. They are good for my strained urinary tract and my glaucoma-plagued eyes. They help stave off cancer and help circulation to prevent heart disease. They are good for your blood pressure. But I also learned the hard way that they can stop me from breathing, a habit I really don’t wish to give up.
It is, unfortunately, a universal fact that no human life ever ran on one-hundred percent happiness. It is not possible to be a living, breathing, feeling human bean without knowing a little sadness… a little tragedy… a fair share of sorrow. In fact, I think it must be a rule that the happiest people you know have faced some of the hardest things you can imagine. My Great Uncle Harry was never able to talk about his experiences in Normandy during World War II. But I never knew a man who appreciated a good joke and a laugh more. My Grandpa Aldrich, my mother’s father, was probably the happiest man I ever knew, but his childhood was made difficult because of his mother’s dark secret, and how his father handled the truth about his birth. I too am a generally happy person. Did you know I have been in a psychiatric hospital after midnight admitting someone I love to the suicide-prevention ward? And I have had serious discussions on more than one occasion with more than one other person who was seriously discussing self-harm with me. I think there is probably no one in this life who truly appreciates happiness that hasn’t stared at least once into the dark eyes of despair.
It goes a long way towards explaining why I included a picture of Blueberry Bates in this essay. She’s a character in more than one of my novels, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius, Magical Miss Morgan, and Kingdoms Under the Earth.
Blueberry blames herself for the death of her mother. She was born a cyanotic, or blue, baby at the same time that her mother went into cardiac arrest during childbirth. The tragedy of her birth broke her father’s relationship to reality. He rejected the little boy who had been born to him because the mother, his beloved wife had died in the process. It fell to Blueberry’s two older sisters to take the baby, care for it, and give it a name.
You’ve probably figured out by now that Blueberry was raised as a girl even though she had a penis because her father would never have accepted the son whose birth killed his wife. He secretly blamed himself because the only reason they had a third child was because he so desperately wanted a son. So, he ended up with three daughters, the youngest one with a terrible secret that she really didn’t understand. And Mr. Bates never really came around to accepting that third daughter either. She was raised by her sisters Becky and Carla, and her Aunt Wilma, her father’s unmarried sister. And it took years of therapy and visits to the specialist in Minnesota who became the expert on gender dysphoria to reach the determination that Blueberry was going to be a girl and would transition when she was old enough. You are probably aware that this is a hard thing to deal with, especially when you don’t have any actual parents to help you deal with it.
But Blueberry is one of the happiest characters I have created in my fiction so far. She loves to draw, especially with colored pencil. She loves her boyfriend, Mike Murphy, to whom she revealed the truth, and in spite of Mike’s struggles with it, he eventually came to accept her not only as a girl, but as a girl he was in love with. That was a choice that didn’t sit well with Mike’s best friend, Tim Kellogg. Tim would have to come to terms with either accepting Blue as a girl, or losing his best friend. And that took more than one novel to decide.
Happiness is like that. The higher your kite flies in the April breeze, the harder it crashes to the ground. And if it is not destroyed in the fall, it longs to fly high again.
Happiness is a blueberry. And I like the taste very much. But I am also allergic to blueberries.
This is an illustration that goes along with my first good published novel, Catch a Falling Star. I don’t talk about that novel in this blog very much anymore since, in order to actually promote that novel, I am under contract to have to spend hundreds of dollars more to use one of their many expensive promotional packages to get this “award winning” novel promoted in the way the publisher thinks it deserves. I wanted to use a picture like this for the cover of the book. They rejected that. Instead they gave me a silhouette picture of a girl flying a kite at night. That, of course, has nothing to do with the novel inside the book. These two, by contrast, are two of the most important characters from the book, both of them aliens. Farbick is the competent space pilot who gets himself shot and captured during the failed invasion of Earth. Davalon is the marooned tadpole, Telleron child, who gets himself adopted by a childless Earth couple. I definitely like my picture better than the one I got stuck with.
This picture is called, “Long Ago It Might Have Been.” It is a picture I drew in the late eighties, after my girlfriend/Reading-teacher colleague took a job in San Antonio and left me behind. Honestly, she wanted to marry me, and I never got around to telling her that the reason our love life was so difficult was because I had been sexually assaulted as a child, and though I was attracted to her, I hadn’t truly healed enough at that point to become a husband and father. I never told her about my terrible secret. She left. She got married and had more than one blond-haired little girl that probably looked just like her. The boy in this picture looks like a young me with blond hair. He wears a baseball jacket of the St. Louis Cardinals, my favorite team. He’s the child that might’ve been, if only I had grown to adulthood a little sooner.
This picture is even harder to explain without me looking like a real fool. After all, if you are a real fool, it’s rather hard to hide that fact. In that last picture, I depicted something that related to one of the two girlfriends that I had to juggle at the same time back in the eighties. You see, I had set my heart on winning over Mary Ann whom I had worked with in the same classroom as she was the teacher’s aide assigned to the Chapter I remedial program I was teaching. She’s the girlfriend I took on visits to the Austin area on weekends. She had a sister in Austin, the one who lived in the nudist apartment complex, where she stayed during those visits. My parents lived in Taylor, Texas at the time, a nearby suburb. We dated regularly. She knew my terrible secret. She was a divorcee and I knew her terrible secrets as well. Ginger, on the other hand, was looking for a mate, and she lived in the apartment next door. She’s the one who would’ve hopped into bed with me anytime I asked. And she made no bones about wanting me to be hers. Needless to say, I could’ve written a TV sitcom about the majority of my love-life back then. It could’ve starred Jack Ritter as me. And I ended up with neither of those two young ladies. The picture, of course. is in honor of the kids in the eighties calling my classroom Gilligan’s Island because they thought I looked like the Gilligan actor, Bob Denver.
This is, of course, a portrait of Millis the rabbit in his accelerated-evolution form as a rabbit-man from my novel The Bicycle-Wheel Genius. That book, obviously, is a science-fiction comedy with a lot of unexpected plot twists. But the story behind the picture is one of a boyhood spent as a town kid in a farm-town community. Unlike the other kids in the Iowa Hawkeyes 4-H club, I couldn’t raise a calf or a pen of hogs as my 4-H club project. So, instead, I got in as a keeper of rabbits. Of my two original rabbits, a buck and a doe, I had a black one and a white one. The white one was a New Zealand White, a purebred white rabbit with red eyes, because the entire breed was albino. I called the white rabbit, the buck, Ember-eyes because his eyes glowed like fire in the night under the flashlight beam. The doe was a black rabbit I called Fuzz. Out of the first litter of babies Fuzz had, eight of the ten were white And of the two black babies, one died in the nest, and the other passed away shortly after he got big enough to determine that he was a male rabbit. I won’t go into how you determine the sex of a juvenile rabbit. So, almost all of the rabbits I raised before I discovered what a Dutch-belted rabbit was, were white with red eyes.
So, it is my thesis for today that every picture I make has some kind of story behind it. It may be totally boring, but still technically a story. So, there.
I am falling apart. My health is poor and continuing to fail. My memory is suffering from an inability to remember the names of things. I find myself in the kitchen having gone in for a specific purpose, and not being able to remember what that purpose was. That is not to say I am not coping. I have quite a lot of adaptability and significant problem-solving skills. But that will eventually become a losing battle. Especially if I get the virus… any virus. So, what am I going to talk about with a dissolving brain and an hourglass of lifeforce swiftly running out? Fascination. I am fascinated by the details of the process. Like Mr. Spock, I find practically everything, “Fascinating!”
Birds and butterflies
My childhood fascinations turned into obsession first around natural things. When my mother would go to Vey Osier’s Beauty Salon, Vey had this fascinating parrot that was probably a hundred years old and knew how to swear really, really foully. I remember that being the only reason I was willing to go there and wait for Mom to get her hair fussed up (What my Grandpa Aldrich, her father, used to call it.)
I remember waiting for hours to hear that bird say the magic F-word or the horrible S-word. Or even the zillion other bad words I didn’t know anything about when I was seven. And, of course, I never did. The bird was mute the whole time during who-knows-how-many visits. But I did get to look endlessly at that green parrot’s amazing nutcracker bill that Vey always assured us would snap our fingers off like biting a salted pretzel if we got them anywhere close to the bill.
And when I was nine I was given as a present a plastic model kit of a Golden-Crowned Kinglet (the bird in that first picture). My relatives knew I was a burgeoning artist since my teachers constantly complained about all the skeletons, crocodiles, and monsters I drew in the margins of my school workbooks. So, I had a plastic bird to paint with all the necessary paints, but no idea what the bird looked like. We had to go all the way to Mason City to Grandma Beyer’s house because we called up there and checked, and, sure enough, there was a colored picture in the K volume of her Collier’s Encyclopedia. I painted it so accurately, the danged thing looked almost alive.
And if you have ever seen any of my butterfly posts, you know I became a butterfly hunter before ever entering junior high school, where Miss Rubelmacher, the rabid seventh-grade science teacher, made that obsession a hundred times worse. (She didn’t actually have rabies, just a reputation of requiring excessively hard-to-find life-science specimens like a nasturtium that bloomed in October in Iowa, or a Mourning Cloak butterfly.
I was able to find for her numerous Red-Spotted Purples like the one in the picture. I got them off the grill of Dad’s Ford, as well as in Grandpa Aldrich’s grove. And I eventually caught a pair of Mourning Cloaks as well on Grandpa Aldrich’s apple trees, though not until summer after seventh grade was over for me. I could tell you about my quest to catch a Tiger Swallowtail, too. But that’s an entirely different essay, written for an entirely different thematic reason.
Needless to say, my bird fascination led me to become an amateur bird-watcher with a great deal of useless naturalist information crammed into my juvenile bird-brain about birds. Especially Cardinals. And my fascination with butterflies opened my eyes to a previously invisible world of fascinating and ornately-decorated bugs. (Of course, I should’ve said “insects” instead of “bugs” since I absolutely did learn the difference.) And I still to this day know what a Hairstreak Butterfly looks like, what a Luna Moth is (Think Lunesta Commercials,) and how you have to look at the underside of the lower wings to correctly identify a Moonglow Fritillary Butterfly.
During my lifetime, my fascinations have become legion. I became obsessed with the comic books done by artist Wally Wood, especially Daredevil. I became obsessed with Disney movies, especially the animated ones like The Rescuers, The Jungle Book, Pinocchio, and Fantasia. I rode the bucking bronco of a fascination with the Roswell Crash (and the actual alien space ships I am almost certain the U.S. Army recovered there.) And so many other things that it would make this essay too long, and would probably bore you into a death-like coma. So, here’s what I have learned by being fascinated with my own fascinations;
- You do not want to play me in a game of Trivial Pursuit for money, even now that my memory is like swiss cheese.
- I have a real ability to problem-solve because I know so many useless details that can be combined in novel ways to come up with solutions to problems.
- I can write interesting essays and engaging novels because I have such a plethora of concrete details and facts to supplement my sentences and paragraphs with.
- It can be really, really boring to talk to me about any of my fascinations unless I happen to light the same color of fire in your imagination too. Or unless you arrived at that same fascination before I brought it up.
Having finished a novel…
I am now in that awkward spot where I need something more to write before the regular flow of ideas stops gushing out of the well. And unlike the last finished novel, this time I haven’t chosen a follow-up project to work on already.
It’s not that ideas don’t already exist, some of which have existed for many years. The problem is that I need something i can keep going on that won’t be derailed by further health crises or the possibility that Donald Trump may get reelected dictator for life. It needs to be a durable, fireproof idea.
Here’s the ideas I already have…
Kingdoms Under the Earth is a character study about a core group the Norwall Pirates falling victim to a mysterious and possibly fatal virus. This idea existed long before the pandemic of Covid 19. But it seems timely to take something like this up now. Especially if it is the last novel I write because this pandemic eventually kills me.
The story starts with Blueberry Bates, a transgender girl, falling victim to the mysterious illness. She fails to make it to school one day, and the other Pirates soon learn she is in the hospital in a coma. Mike Murphy, the love of Blueberry’s life, is distraught and worried that Blue is going to die. Tim Kellogg, the leader of the Pirates, gets a message from the fairy kingdom that the only way to cure Blueberry is to get sick too and go searching for her kidnapped soul-seed in the Kingdoms under the Earth. Of course, we as intelligent readers would realize that Tim is excessively imaginative and this is, in reality, a very bad idea. But Mike will try anything to be with Blue again. Mike kisses Blueberry on the lips and gets sick too. And Mike’s older sister, Dilsey Murphy, vows to rescue both of them and kisses Blueberry too.
Tim, of course, feels responsible for the three sick kids in comas, and he has a secret crush on Dilsey. So, he kisses Dils on the lips. And of course, four kids searching blindly in the realms of Purgatory isn’t quite enough. Just because he has nothing better to do, young Leo Toy also kisses Dilsey on the lips after she becomes ill, and joins the group in the realm of pestilence. Nobody seems to like him anyway, so he figures if they all five die, then at least he will have been a part of the group about something.
I know that is a pretty squirrely-sounding idea, but if Francis of Assissi can preach to the birds, then I should be allowed to write novels for squirrels.
I could also choose to tell the even older story I call There’s Music in the Forest.
This is the story of Dabney Calhoon, the autistic son of the late Joe and Sassy Calhoon who had the child late in life. Too late, as it seems they waited until only four years before they both succumb to stroke and old age.
The story is told by a school counsellor who worked with the boy after the authorities have returned him to foster parents following the year he spent living as a total wild child in the Sumpter Park woods.
Dabney was believed to be autistic, unable to talk, read, or write. But the school counsellor discovers he can do all three. He has apparently taken the books My Side of the Mountain and The First Jungle Book as his guidebooks for living off the land. How he lived in the wild for a year comes out slowly because he will only tell the story in the form of poetry. And somehow the guidance counsellor has to interpret all of it to help the boy learn to live with his foster family once again.
The choice is basically between those two novel ideas. I am, however, also working on another book of essays I am calling Mickey’s Rememberries. And I am about half way through the next AeroQuest book, Book Four. It goes without saying, I will definitely be working on those two projects also.
If you would like to have input on this decision, by all means, tell me in the comments how dumb you think these ideas are, and I promise to ignore everything but what I myself want to do.
The situation: I finished the last novel I was working on, The Wizard in His Keep. I like it. It is not the best book I have ever written, but it might be the fifth best. I am now in the between-projects doldrums. There is no wind in my sales. And I have a cough that is making me miserable, especially if it turns out to be COVID 19. If that’s actually what it is, then the only place I’ve been where I could’ve caught it is the voting precinct. That means voting against Donald Trump may have cost me my life.
I have no real reason to go in and get tested, though. When I was in the most misery yesterday, I took some of the antihistamine the doctor gave me for the last illness I thought might be COVID, and my head cleared up during the night. I have no fever today. And the virus plaguing me now might actually be a cold brought on by allergic reactions to California smoke in the Texas air and the gawd-awful astronomical pollen counts created by global warming.
If it is the start of my final illness, I definitely blame Trump and the Republican Party of Texas. My mother in Iowa got to vote by mail-in ballot. My sisters got to vote by mail. But Texas requires you to get approval of your excuse to get a mail-in ballot. This I could not obtain by the deadline over two months ago in early August because we were in quarantine as it expired. And I had to go into a polling place that has mostly Republican voters coming in to vote early. I didn’t see any maskless wonders there, but the potential for virus in the poorly-ventilated air was pretty good.
And these sour grapes really do make for very poor whine. Even though they ferment pretty easily and stink to high heaven, they are not very funny or delivered with the least bit of dramatic irony. It will only be more sour if I manage to live to election day to see Trump, Cornyn, and their evil minions manage to win by cheating. The eternal pessimist in me is expecting that result. It has a 95% chance on Rotten Tomatoes.
So, I will leave the idea there for now, a moldering stew of sour grapes and rotten tomatoes. It stinks. And I feel too ill to do anything more with it.
So, I have no idea if anybody is following my Tuesday novel-writing posts or not. But since I have reached the halfway point in novel #4 of the series, I thought I would take a slight break to explain and re-elucidate the whole ugly process before it comes to life and swallows me whole.
The original intent is to take my horrifically bad first-published novel and expand, improve, and reorganize it into a series of novels. Basically turning one badly written swamp full of plot holes and monstrously confusing characters into five equally terrifying pieces of pulp-fiction parody-satire-trash… er, I mean, treasure.
I have already turned 80 percent of the 327 pages of the original piece of garbage into three and a half 35,000 to 45,000 word novels. They have all been displayed here as the novel-writing proceeded, a Canto (what I call a chapter) at a time. Hopefully they show how I rewrote and modified each new Canto.
I have published AeroQuest 1 : Stars and Stones. It relates how the Aero Brothers find and reclaim the cave-man planet called Don’t Go Here, and the first conflict in the Foundation War of the New Star League is begun.
I have also promoted the first book in the series with a free give-away e-book, to a rather insignificant degree of non-success.
This book was the easiest to revamp. It started off the old novel with the most coherent plot lines and story structure of the entire old monstrosity of a manuscript. And publishing with Amazon gave me the option of including lots of illustrations which were already made and waiting to be scanned and inserted. So, this was mostly a cut-and-paste rather than rewrite process. Very little new material needed to be written.
The second part took a good deal more sorting and re-arranging as I had to gather scattered Cantos from the whole rest of the original manuscript and link them together more coherently than I had before.
This would become AeroQuest 2: Planet of the White Spider. This would chronicle mainly the story of Ged Aero finding and embracing his destiny as the teacher of psionics written about in obscure books of prophecy (Somehow all the same book written by Xan, Zhan, Shan, and Stan who may actually all be the same guy.)
Ged would be united with and begin to teach twelve Psion students with significant reality-altering mind powers… As well as the ninja skills that Ged’s own Psionic power gave him when, in velociraptor form, he ate a ninja and absorbed its skill.
That left me with the task of sorting out the messy middle of the original manuscript into as much of a novel-like form as it was possible to do.
AeroQuest 3 : Juggling Planets was about the journeys of Ham Aero as he and the crew of his spaceship, The Leaping Shadowcat, went from planet to planet convincing people, or even conquering them, using charm, tactical skill, but mostly sheer dumb luck into joining the rebellion against the old Imperium and trying to form the New Star League.
All three of these books are already published and promoted at least once. Interest has been building. Some among the possessors of the free copy of the second book found it interesting enough to go back and buy copies of book one. Each new promotion found new readers. Nobody, however, has reviewed any of these books yet. But… we can’t have everything we want in life, right?
So, next Tuesday the story of book four will continue with newly written material that I have not written yet. The fourth book, AeroQuest 4 : The Amazing Aero Brothers, is written in two parts. Ham Aero’s part is about continuing the fight against the Imperium and evil Grand Admiral Brona Tang (the Darth Vader parody who leads the bad guys) . Ged Aero’s part will continue to be about training his students to meet a terrible destiny in the prophesied future.
And, of course, the fifth book will bring a conclusion to the series as a whole. But I haven’t really had time to think about that very much yet.
I forgot to add to that last post that my book of essays, Laughing Blue, is still free to own until tomorrow midnight.
It now has four five-star reviews. Wow! 20 whole stars! I must not have gotten everything wrong.
I have just now recovered from a computer crash. So, this post will have to be brief. I am still restoring programs with passwords I may have forgotten.
Yesterday Amazon delivered my first copy of The Wizard in his Keep. The novel was written almost entirely during the time I had to struggle with a computer that is breaking down more and more frequently.
How do you foretell the future? Simply put, you don’t. But if you approach each new day, each new week, or each new set of circumstances without a plan and a rough idea of the near future, you are even more of a hopeless fool than Mickey is.
While it is true that a crystal-ball connection to the future would be really handy for figuring out what to do next with our little lives, it is also provably true that crystal balls, Ouija boards, and divining rods don’t actually work. Statistically even the best users of these fortune-telling devices are no better at foretelling the future than are well-informed guessers.
Ghosts are not provably real. You cannot actually talk to them. Not even in a graveyard at midnight with a dead cat to throw at the devil.
Oh, and that reminds me, the devil is not provably real either.
But I admit to talking to the dead.
My Grandma Beyer was one of the wisest people I knew in my childhood. She advised my Dad who was her son. She was a guide for the Beyer side of the family. And I talk to her a lot when I have a tough decision to make.
In 2017 I irrationally made a commitment to write for a nudist website. The article assigned was to go to a nudist park or resort and write about my first-time experience there. Of course, getting my wife to go along with her RV camper was out of the question. She was a Jehovah’s Witness in good standing then, and was sure that nakedness in a group was a terrible sin. But I had known nudists back in the 1980s when a previous girlfriend’s sister was living in a clothing-optional apartment complex in Austin, Texas. We visited there a number of weekends. I never actually stayed there or got nude while visiting. I saw naked people there, male, female, and children. And after my eyes popped out on the first visit, I picked them up, put them back in, and learned a lot about nudists while at the same time turning down all invitations… which I could do because my parents were living nearby, and I could stay with them and keep all my clothes on. But the nudist website assignment weighed heavily on me. Grandma Beyer had been the one that threatened to spank me before I was supposed to take a bath at her house because I wanted to run around the house naked rather than get in the tub with my sister. I was five at the time, not in high school… honest. So, she was the one I consulted when it came time to decide if I would actually go to a nudist park and be naked in front of other people just because I had made a commitment to a writing assignment.
Of course, she had been among the no-longer-living for fifteen years when I asked her about it.
The thing is, however, that I knew my grandmother well enough to know what she would say as I basically discussed it with her memory rather than her ghost. I even saw what facial expressions she used as she explained that it was more important to keep my word than it was to be a little bit embarrassed. And besides, it was not like I was going to an orgy or anything. Nudists are merely ordinary people who are dedicated to the belief that getting your vitamin D directly from the sun without any clothes between you and nature was good for you.
So, I made the visit, got naked, and wrote the article, as well as articles on this blog that were used on other nudist websites as well. It is how I came to be a member of the nudist writing community on Twitter. And that has helped me promote my books whether there were nudists in them or not.
Even with consulting a Ouija Board you are not really talking to ghosts. You get an answer from somebody with their fingers on the piece of plastic that picks the letters and is accessing their unconscious mind, or even their conscious mind if they are a bit of a dershenbugle (a word which doesn’t mean anything at all, just like the answer they picked.)
I often use a coin-flip to make decisions, adding an element of total chance to the decision I am making. (I admit, that’s how the decision to accept the writing assignment from the nudist blog was made.) If either answer to the question being asked is acceptable, but one causes a bit of anxiety, I flip a coin. Not just one coin. I throw three. Yes is three heads. No is three tails. Ten straight no decisions is indication not to decide at that time. In truth, this only works for me because it forces me to take an arbitrary amount of time to think about the decision. And often, I toss three heads when I have already decided to say no. And then I go with no.
So, divining the future is silly superstition, and I don’t do superstition. But that is not to say I don’t try to divine the obstacles ahead and prepare for them. And what looks like Mickey being an idiot about consulting coins or other signs, is really only Mickey being only slightly an idiot as he makes up his own danged mind.