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/


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

An Unexpected Gift 


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.


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.


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.


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

Life is Still a Book, an Open Book

This is the updated version of that last post. I have written more books. I have published more books. And I have gotten more people to read and like my work since 2018.

Here is a better idea how things currently stand;

And of course, I left out the book I was using to copy the list from, The Wizard in his Keep.

So, now I stand revealed as the published author, hard-working writer, and total fool that I am.

And here’s a link to the book I forgot. Only a dollar if you’re interested.

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Filed under announcement, autobiography, humor, Paffooney

Mickey’s Commencement Speech

Before you go into panic mode, let me clearly state: No college or high school was actually foolish enough to invite Mickey to give the commencement address to its graduates. So, don’t worry about a generation of our youth actually taking to heart the advice Mickey is about to give and ruining our world for the next twenty years. This is just the insane drivel that Mickey would say if some superintendent, principal, or college dean were actually stupid enough to ask.

This is not Mickey. It is either George Applebee, or it is Red Skelton pretending to be George, depending on how literal or gullible your brain is.

The most impressive commencement speech I remember from my life in education was given in 1974 by my favorite high school English teacher, Mr. Sorum. He was a gifted speaker and told a mean joke whenever a joke was needed to make the point.

He talked for forty-five minutes about “Taking the next bite of the hot dog.”

Of course, he was talking about a metaphor where the hot dog was a life of being a good citizen and living in service to the greater good. High school graduation, in this speech, was the first bite of the hot dog. Some of us were listening to what Mr. Sorum was actually saying. My second bite of the hot dog was to get an English degree from Iowa State University. My third bite was a teaching degree from the University of Iowa. The fourth was choosing a life of service by being a public school English teacher. So, I followed his advice.

Most of my class, though, took that speech to mean life was all about eating hot dogs. Was I wrong? Do I need to rethink my life?

This is not Mickey either. This is Boris Karloff in makeup having a cigarette, or possibly being Frankenstein’s monster.

If I am going to give advice to today’s graduates, the advice I would have to give is, “For God’s sakes, don’t choose to be a public school teacher! Do you have any idea how hard that job is for how little reward (practically none of it in money?)”

So, what advice do I have for actually doing something with your life that helps with the common good?

The most important one; “After you go to the bathroom, flush! Gol dangit! And afterwards, wash your danged hands!

You wouldn’t believe what kind of bacteriological nightmares are being placed in your hand daily if you have a job where you are supposed to regularly shake hands.

This is Mickey. Or possibly a two-eyed cyclops giving the world the ultimate stink-eye.

Another key recommendation;; “Stop being so gosh-darned ugly!”

Of course, you know that this is not a matter of whether you have a pretty face or you scare rats in dark rooms. This is a matter of behavior. A matter of how many people you hate and treat with scorn and injustice, as well as who you routinely hate, and why you hate them. Hating anyone for any reason is not good for their health and is even worse for yours.

And a final thought about how to improve the world; “Figure out what and who you love in this world. Everyone needs to have something and someone to love and work at sharing your life energy with.” People need other people and they need a purpose, even if they have to forge that purpose out cardboard, imagination, and thin air.

If, by chance, you can already handle all of these things that idiot Mickey is lecturing you about, especially if these things come naturally to you, then totally ignore that first dumb thing Mickey said. Think seriously about becoming a teacher. What you have we desperately need more of. And with your expertise passed on to others, we might just be able to make more of it.


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Notes From the Archangel Michael

I was born and raised a Methodist.  But I married into the Jehovah’s Witness faith.  Yes, those annoying little people who come knocking at your door offering free Bible studies and wanting to talk to you about the “good news from God’s Word the Bible”.  I was one of them for the better part of 20 years.  And I want to tell you from the outset that I have been guilty of knocking on doors.  I have been threatened to have the dogs sicked on me.  I have been threatened with guns by Winchuks, Hickenloopers, and other rednecks.  Laughingboy Larry, a seventh and eighth grade former student of mine even begged me to come to his door so he could throw a pie in my face.  I requested lemon meringue pie because… mmm, lemon meringue!  Jehovah’s Witnesses are not bad people.  They are real honest-to-God Christians who believe and teach the essential lessons of Christianity, Love and Forgiveness.  Some of the finest people I have ever met are self-sacrificing, hard-working Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I would never speak against them.  But this post has to explain why I no longer am one of them.


I have always been a reader of the Bible.  I began seriously reading it in my youth when I was a victim of sexual assault and the life-threatening depression that can cause.  A very thoughtful and loving Methodist minister, the father of my best friend, taught me how to use the Bible to seek answers and find comfort.  As a Jehovah’s Witness, I have read the entire Bible cover to cover twice.

But I have also always been a Christian Existentialist, even before I knew what that was.  I believe that existence precedes essence.  There has to be a real, observable rock in front of me before I grant faith in the existence of a rock.  I don’t accept “rock-ness” as something that is real because other people tell me that “rock” exists.  If God is going to be the rock upon which I build my faith, then I have to observe that God is real.  I need proof.  Superstition is acceptance of something without proof.  As far as I can tell, almost all religions… organized religions… are based on superstitions.  “How do you know that Jesus loves me?”  “Because the Bible tells me so.”  “Why must I believe I go to Heaven when I die?”   “Because your father and his father before him believed it.”  “Can I accept these as real reasons… as evidence?”  “Of course not.  These things follow the patterns of superstition.”

“Kill the infidel! Die a hero’s death, and you will be granted 99 virgins in paradise.”  “How do you know this to be true?”  “Allah has told me in a dream.”

So, if you follow any of this (undoubtedly due to the same curse of relentless intelligence that plagues me), you are probably wondering why I don’t just come out and claim to be an atheist like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens?  Well, because I believe in God.  I have seen the proof.  When I talk to God, he answers me.  When I ask him to guide me, he sends signs and leads me to the answers I seek.  He comforts me, even though it is only by helping me to find comfort in my own mind… my own self.  He helps me find the power within me to do what is right and overcome what is wrong.  Why, then, am I not still a Jehovah’s Witness?  Why am I not still knocking on doors?

The truth, as I see it, is… each of us must find God for ourselves.  Each of us must obtain the certainty we seek with our own efforts, or be satisfied with a perpetual state of not knowing all the answers.  Either result is perfectly acceptable.  Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you that you can’t obtain eternal life unless you believe what they believe, do what they do, and accept everything just as they interpret it from their magic book.  Personally, I believe there is no eternal life.  I am made of star stuff (as Carl Sagan used to say, because science has mathematically proven it is true).  When I die, the configuration of star stuff that is me will simply be no more.  But I have existed.  And my atoms will go through a large number of processes that disperse them and turn them into something else.  My individual consciousness will be disbanded, but the overall consciousness of the universe will remain.  The universe is greater than I am.  In fact, the whole human race could wink out of existence in a massive fireball that consumes planet Earth, and the whole still remains.  I don’t have to worry about any of it.  I am the author of my own story.  I am responsible for its content, both good and bad.  And I am not sorry for any of it.


Most of the angels used in this post are by William-Adolphe Bouguereau…and one is by me.

Now you know the awful truth.  Mickey is a humanist.  He thinks for himself about everything… even matters of religion.  How horrible!

“Tell me, oh great and powerful, Vishnu, will I be offered 99 virgins in paradise if I kill him for you?”

“No, Singh-Rama O’Malley.  You are simply being stupid and superstitious.  And besides, that particular superstition doesn’t belong to my religion.  You are mixing things up.”

“Oh, sorry, Lord Vishnu.  But is it okay if I don’t kill myself for my error?”

“Singh-Rama, you are a child of the universe… no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here.  And whether or not it is clear to you, the universe is unfolding… as it should.”  (Note; These last words are the words of the poet Max Ehrmann in his wise poem, Desiderata.)


Filed under philosophy, Uncategorized

The Haunted Toy Store… Canto 24

Canto 24 – Girl Talk

Maria found herself limited to riding along in her own naked body as she and Esperanza labored to run back to the hacienda where Imelda lived.

“Do we have to run all the way?” Maria asked in her head.

“We do.  Time is short.  Imelda and your Yesenia are in grave trouble.  But your body is so much better than mine…”

“What do you mean?”

“In life I was a little bit of a gordita.”


“Little fat girl.  Not athletic like you.”


“You know some Spanish.  I can see it in your mind.”

“My mom and my real dad are both Spanish speakers.  But they got divorced when I was four.  And we found my stepdad, Stanley.  He only speaks English, so…”

“So, you got out of practice.”

Maria’s body was panting, wheezing, and gasping for air as it ran.  But that didn’t affect either voice in her head.

“And you were out of practice at running.  Let me control the breathing.”

“Okay.  But that might be against the rules.  Promise you won’t use it against me later?”

“We want the same thing,” she reminded Esperanza.

“We surely do.”

The body fell into the trained running style that Maria used in high school track and cross country.  The breathing became regular and easier by far.

“You are definitely good at running,” Esperanza noted.

They pulled up at the gate to the hacienda.

“¿Por qué corres, Esperanza?” asked the guard at the gate.  Maria knew instantly from Esperanza’s memory that the young man’s name was Juanito, even though he was a rust-colored skeleton dressed in gray ghost clothing that you could see through.

“¿Dónde está Imelda? Necesito hablarle.”

“Ella está en el segundo piso. En su dormitorio, creo.”

“Gracias, Juanito.”

They were instantly running again.  The hacienda would’ve been gorgeous in an expensive and colorful way, Maria thought, if only she weren’t seeing it in black, white, and gray.

Esperanza found Imelda’s bedroom door and banged on it with both fists.

Then the door was opened from the inside.


“Maria, you must not say things out loud using your actual voice!  You must tell it to me and let me speak it!”

“You are breaking the rules!” said Imelda in Yesenia’s voice coming out of Yesenia’s tear-stained face.

Maria was hardly listening to the scolding.  She was at once filled with joy at having found the girl she betrayed.   But at the same time she was jealous of how beautiful Yesenia’s naked form would obviously look to Rogelio.

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Filed under ghost stories, horror writing, humor, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney

More Art Day Role Play

Again I go back to artwork done for Saturday role-playing games, a thing which I started doing in 1981. It filled my life for a time. And it also taught me to be a teacher. After all, the DM (Dungeon Master, or Game Master) has to be a story-teller and a master explainer… just like a school teacher.

A Dungeons and Dragons picture from 1981.
A Shaitan Rider, a villain from 1982.
The Giant Sorcerer’s Hand, a monster from the 2011 family game.
A heroine-ally and her pet werewolf.
The father of mys son’s player character was found at the end of an adventure. He is apparently me with fewer legs.
An enemy necromancer
Two versions of the same weretiger
This unused non-player character would become a novel character in 2019.
Some characters are borrowed directly from TV
Some characters are kept around as potential instant player characters.
A Talislantan librarian from 1992


Filed under artwork, characters, Dungeons and Dragons, Paffooney

A Sigh of Relief… for a Short While Anyway

There is a deal that will be voted on to prevent default. Of course, there are still threats to the process. The Republicans that are sane enough to avoid default will probably be punished for their sanity by the rabid base and MTG (I do appreciate how accurately the cartoonist above portrays her teeth-grinding madness.)

Republican backers won’t get the times reversed as far back in history as they want. It is a defeat for regressives.


Of course, this doesn’t make the Republicans any less evil. They still desire to give all the plumbs to the wealthy elite and corporate heads. They have no mercy, empathy, or even pity for the rest of us.

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Why Republicans are EVIL!!!

Yes, they are evil. With three exclamation points.

They will not stay defeated even when their evil has been punished in multiple elections. They will do any evil thing necessary to stay in power.

Joe Biden solved the many fundamental problems Don Cheetoh Trumpaloney caused with tax cuts for billionaires that reduced our government’s income, and mishandling of the Covid pandemic crisis that caused a million deaths, half of which should have been prevented, and crashing the economy because of both of the previous missteps. Joe had the economy coming back, the employment rate at the highest levels in fifty years, inflation overcome after painful measures, and a needed infrastructure bill that was years late in being passed. But Republicans can’t have that. They need Grandpa Joe to be unsuccessful so they can continue to corruptly enjoy power. So, like the mobster criminals they are, they took a hostage and threatened to kill it unless all the progress made is undone.

They have no right to refuse to pay the government’s debts. The budget negotiations are the proper place to make the changes they want. But they are going to have what they want by extortion, or they will wreck the world economy by defaulting on the debt. Solely because they are determined to have everything they want, and no one else matters to them.

They want to control everything school children read and think and learn, but they will not protect them from murderers with AR-15s by passing sensible gun laws. And they want schools to all be private so white kids of rich households don’t have to deal with minorities or poor kids. Public-school-type kids can learn in prison or on the job in the meat-packing plant.

They want to prevent voting by anyone they can identify as a possible Democratic voter. No black people. No Hispanics. No liberals. No young people who are not identifiably Young Republicans. No Jews. And definitely no Muslims.

And they want to be able to tell you what to think, how to worship, how hard to work, and to accept the lowest possible pay for it.

They are the worst sort of selfish, single-minded, melodrama villains. And if Grandpa Joe and Dudley Dooright are going to get us off the railroad tracks in only a week, they both need to stop riding the white horse backwords.

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Red, Yellow, and Blue

That Last Battle

The three primary colors of paint are red, yellow, and blue. Together with the neutrals, white and black, these colors can be mixed to make any other shade, tone, or hue that exists on the color wheel and can be perceived by the human eye. When all three are present in a painting, it inherently has a feeling of completeness, wholeness, and balance.

Young Prinz Flute

How those primaries are mixed, allowed to dominate, or allowed to recede does a lot to determine the feeling the artwork projects into the viewer’s mind.

Great Grandma Hinckley as I most vividly remember her.

All of the artworks I am showing you today haven’t appeared in my blog for some time. But all of them are interpreted in primary colors. I won’t tell you how each picture is supposed to make you feel. I am just the artist. Only you can prevent forest fires, and only you can interpret a painting and tell someone else how it makes you feel.

The Wolf Girl and Dunderella
the Island Girl
Gilligan’s Island
Annelise in Gingerbread Town
Chiron’s School for Heroes
Long Ago It Might Have Been
The Sea Witch

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Filed under artwork, coloring, drawing, humor, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Hope and Beauty

Forgive me for putting a picture of a bear-chested girl in this post.

It has been my intention for a while now to tell funny stories on Friday. Specifically, funny stories about being a teacher and dealing with kids, the thing I know best in life. But, with the things that have happened, the pandemic, the screwball gangster President and his Friday follies, ill health, and other things pressing on my mind, I have failed rather badly.

So, bear with me (pun intended) as I give it another try with a story about Hope and Beauty.

Going back to the last millennium, in the year 1996, I had one solitary class of sixth grade English while teaching mostly seventh graders in a school building that was being renovated while we were learning within it. Often to the sound of electric drills and hammering. (A new wing was being added as our junior high school of grades 7 and 8 was being magically transformed by a school grant, and the addition of 6th graders, to become a middle school.

Esperanza and Bonita were the leaders of that sixth grade class. Fourteen kids, 7 girls and 7 boys. Esperanza and Bonita were the leaders because they were the two biggest 6th graders in the whole school. Not biggest by weight, the fattest boy in 6th grade was also in that class. The most mature. Bonita was hoping to go out for boys’ football in seventh grade, because she had been told that girls had won the right in court to play football if they wished. And she loved to tackle boys. The midgets in that 6th grade class were all terrified of her. One of the midgets spent his 6th-grade days pining in the back row to sit next to her but was too afraid to ever tell her that.

You may already know that this is not Bonita. It is the character in my book The Bicycle-Wheel Genius that I turned her into.

Esperanza and Bonita were best friends, and they were also the two best students in my class. They sat side by side in the front row. They would answer every single question in class if I let them. Of course, I didn’t let them. I got as much of a laugh out of other students’ wrong answers as they did. They were merciless about every goof Sammy Sanchez made, but Sammy had a good sense of humor about it, and I swear, he made some mistakes on purpose just because he loved to hear Esperanza laughing. She was probably the prettiest girl in 6th grade and had an equally pretty laugh. (That is not, of course, Sammy’s real name. I protect students’ real names in my writing. But the double S’s in his name were paired with the word “Stupid” in real life.) I was fond of both girls. And most of the time they were fond of me too.

“You’re my favorite teacher,” Esperanza once told me. “It’s because we can really talk about stuff in your class. Not just book stuff. But real-life stuff.”

Most of the “stuff” she meant was in journal writing that they did at the beginning of class. That is where I learned that she was a virgin. And it was where I advised her that it was entirely up to her when she gave it up and to whom. I told her no boy had the right to pressure her into doing anything she didn’t want to do. I gave similar advice to the boy in question privately after school, and he was actually a bit relieved to get the advice. I know that I was overstepping boundaries to give such advice. But they both believed that nobody else would ever be told about it. I was the only one who read that journal entry, and they knew that. And I have never told it until now, a fact about which you still don’t know the real names to go with it.

That class wanted badly to have a “class party” after Spring Break when the year was winding down. I only agreed if they would turn it into a learning experience. So, Esperanza and Bonita took charge. They planned and executed the lesson; “How to make and appreciate different kinds of Mexican Food”. The two of them taught it. Bonita was in charge of discipline. Esperanza taught us about all the ingredients in her aunt’s prize-winning sopapillas. Sammy gave us a memorable and even remotely possible run-down on how Doritos were probably made. And Max, the white kid, shared his Grandma’s recipe for German chocolate cake. You can’t get better Mexican food than that. And a certain mournful midget got to sit next to Bonita while they ate cake.

Both girls were in my class for two more years after that. I had the honor of being their teacher in both the seventh and the eighth grade.

As an eighth grader, Bonita broke my heart with a story she wrote about forgiving her stepfather for beating her in the third grade. It was a beautiful story. But I was torn. Teachers, by law, have to report child abuse. But Bonita pointed out that the man no longer lived with her, and besides, the assignment was to write a fiction story. (I never told anybody but my wife about my being sexually assaulted at the age of ten at that point in my life, but it was the reason I could clearly see what was true and what was fiction.) That story made more than just me cry.

And in the end, Bonita never got a chance to play boys’ football in middle school… or high school either. The boys eventually got bigger, and she didn’t. But that was a good thing too. Bonita at linebacker… the boys would never have survived it.

I will end by letting you in on a secret. In Spanish, Esperanza means “Hope,” and Bonita means “Little Pretty One,” or even “Beauty.”

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Filed under autobiography, education, humor, kids, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, teaching

Why We Doo

I remember when Scooby Doo, Where Are You? premiered on Saturday Morning Cartoons in 1969. I was thirteen and in the 7th grade. I had been six during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, seven when Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, ten when I was sexually assaulted in 1966, and still twelve when Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon in the Summer of 1969. I was obsessed with monsters, horror comics, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the Pirates threatening Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island. I knew what fear was. And I was mad to find ways to combat the monsters I feared.

Don’t get me wrong. I was under no illusions that Fred, Daphne, Velma, Norville “Shaggy” Rogers and Scooby Doo were the answer to all my fears as viable heroes and heroines. They were goofballs, all of them, based on the characters I vaguely remembered from The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. I was aware that Shaggy was just Maynard Krebs in cartoon form (the hippie character portrayed by Gilligan’s Island actor Bob Denver.)

One of the critical things about the show for me was the fact that there was a rational explanation for the monsters. They were men in masks, special effects and projector tricks, or remote-controlled mechanical things.

And the way you overcame them and saved the day was by having Shaggy and Scooby act as bait, cause the traps to get sprung at the wrong time, and then fall on the villains, trapping them under the butt of the talking dog.

Villains and horror could be overcome by laughing at them. They were more likely to be clowns than carnivores. And even if they were carnivores, the teeth were not real.

There was a universal truth in that. Danger and horror and fear were easier to handle when you could laugh in spite of those things.

And to top it all off, those meddling kids and their stupid talking dog were with me my whole life. Those cartoons got remade and spun off so many times that my kids learned to love them as much as I did. And those four meddling kids and that talking dog are still making new stories even now.

Give us your creepiest or goofiest smile, guys!

And that is why we do the Doo!

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Filed under autobiography, cartoon review, cartoons, commentary, humor, monsters, Uncategorized