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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What We Can’t Keep Mickey From Doing

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Mickey is hopelessly addicted to writing.  He keeps writing and publishing these story-things we refer to as novels.  We are searching for some kind of five-step program to cure Mickey, but we have been forced to conclude the disease is probably incurable.

The book has now gone live on Amazon in its Kindle e-book form.  The paperback version is still pending.

Here’s a link to the book on Amazon.

In an attempt to understand Mickey’s addiction problem from a diagnostic perspective, we intend to present evidence here to arrive at a conclusion about what’s fundamentally wrong with Mickey.

Superchicken, the main character of the book, bears the same nickname that Mickey himself was called repeatedly and without mercy  when he was in junior high school and high school.  Mickey claims that Edward-Andrew Campbell is not him in fictional form, but we find that generally hard to believe, and we can point to considerable evidence that the character has many of Mickey’s own characteristics.  It is disturbing to note that on the cover picture, the derby-hatted character called Milt Morgan in the book, is a self-portrait of Mickey himself drawn from an old school photo.  Milt Morgan in the book is highly imaginative, obsessed with magic, and a creator of truly insane and somewhat wicked plans.  It is disturbingly reminiscent of Mickey himself.

And then there is the whole nudism connection.  The Cobble Sisters in the book are dedicated nudists and manage to talk the Superchicken into going to a nudist camp with their nudist family, though he didn’t know what they were signing him up for until he gets to the campground and sees all the naked people.

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It is not a coincidence that Mickey had a girlfriend whose sister lived in a nudist apartment complex, and he was himself taken by surprise when she took him to visit there.  Besides, Mickey has even confessed in his goofy blog to visiting a nudist camp himself in recent times.

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So, as you can plainly see, we now have new evidence that Mickey is in need of some kind of intervention to help him get over this sinister malady of the mind.  One thing we can do is suggest you find the book on Amazon and read it for yourself.  Maybe, just maybe, you will be the one who comes up with the solution to Mickey’s endless novel-writing nonsense.  This is a problem that may well turn out to be terminal if something is not done about it soon.

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My Secret D&D Identity

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An author can’t resist portraying himself somewhere in his fiction. Even though the entire work of fiction is actually a map of the inside of the author’s self, there will be a character who is the self-portrait of the author buried somewhere within.  It may be the first person narrator of the story.  Or it may be a background character lurking at the periphery of the plot.

In the ongoing work of fiction that is my family D&D game, that me-character is the wizard in red, Eli Tragedy.  Yes, bumbling, doddering, and constantly babbling Eli Tragedy, aged half-elf with a little more than half a wit, is basically me.  His two apprentices, Bob and Mickey the Were-rat, are constantly at his side to open doors for him, set off booby traps stupidly before he gets there, and generally demonstrate the level of his teaching ability by their lazy incompetence and general inability to learn anything.

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Now, lest you think I might really be exactly like this exaggeratedly foolish fool of a character armed with way too much magical ability and arcane knowledge to be safe wandering around freely in public, let me assure you, we are very different, Eli and I.  He’s at least a centimeter taller than I am when he stands up straight.  I have, however, aimed more than a few metaphorical fireballs at my own image in the hallway mirror.  And I may have burned my own eyebrows off more than once.  But Eli’s real purpose is mainly to poke fun at myself and create a few laughs, along with a few D&D style world-ending crisis-es, as when Mickey the Were-rat stole and misused Eli’s magic hat.  Dang, those toe-dancing pink rhinoceroses with the nitroglycerin in their over-sized backpacks were heck to herd back into the King’s Royal Zoo!

But now, I am finally ready to admit it.  Eli Tragedy is my alter ego.  I like the color red.  I am fond of random explosions and acts of inexplicable transformation.  Eli Tragedy is me.  And I promise, I won’t really blow the world up.  It is only a role-playing game after all.

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The Writing Imperative

I am a writer because I write.

I write because I have to.

I have to because somebody has to control the words.

People are made of words.  Their identity, their inner self, their reason for existence… all made of words.  The very thoughts in their heads are… words.

If I want to control the words I am made of, then I must be the writer who writes his own story.

I don’t want anyone else to write the words that essentially become me.  Do you?

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Of course, authors create characters.  Even autobiographers create characters.  Carl Sandburg could no more make his words into Lincoln than a bird can make its tweets into a cat.   Sandburg can, however, help us to understand Lincoln as Carl Sandburg understands the words that are Lincoln.

Lincoln probably did not have the words for “bikini girls” in his head when he wrote those words in the second quote.  But somebody thought that the picture would help us understand the words.  By all accounts, Lincoln was not a particularly happy man leading a particularly happy life.  But he showed us the meaning of his words when he stood firm against the strong winds of harsh words and bad ideas in a terrible time.  And he was as happy about it as he made up his mind to be.

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I, too, have not lived a particularly happy life.  But I was always the “teacher with a sense of humor” in the classroom, and students loved me for it.  Funny people are often not happy people.  But they make themselves out of funny words because laughter heals pain, and jokes are effective medicine.  And so I choose to write comedy novels.  Novels that are funny even though they are about hard things like freezing to death, losing loved ones, being humiliated, being molested, and fear of death.  Magical purple words can bring light to any darkness.  I am the words I choose to write in my own story.  The words not only reveal me, they make me who I am.  And it is up to me to write those words.  Other people might wish to do it for me.  But they really can’t.  The words are for me alone to write.

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And so it is imperative that I write my words in the form of my novels, my essays, and this goofy blog post.  I am writing myself to life, even if no one ever reads my writing.

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Another Unpleasant Surprise

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Yesterday I got a call from the high school to come and get my daughter.  She was in the nurse’s office with a fever.  Last night her temperature went up to 102 degrees.  We were just short of taking her to the emergency room when her fever broke.  Today we go to the doctor.  Life has a tendency to kick you in the teeth every other day.  I am beginning to feel rather toothless.  So how do I bite back?  I will have to discover the answer to write about at a later time.

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Cover Design

I am the first to admit, I don’t know diddly-sqwoot about effective cover design.  But now, with self-publishing as the only option left to me, I am learning things about publishing that I only ever scratched the surface of in my few college forays into publication design and layouts.  I had some experience publishing junior high yearbooks, (and losing money on something that most teachers lose money on).  And I have gotten a lot of serious criticism from sources that matter to me, like my daughter, the Princess.

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With the novel I have been working on with Kindle Publishing on Amazon in view, I came up with this.  I like it.  But it will not cut the mustard with the Princess.  (She uses a knife on mustard, but lately has given up on eating mustard all together).  So I had to work the idea out further.

I tried this;

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The design is a little better.  But Rowan has become so ratty and run down that I hesitate to use the background which is not much like the Rowan of 1974 when the novel was set.  So I decided to focus on character instead.

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Still needs work, right?  You can no longer see the post office sign in the background.  Sherry is still a small head growing out of Superchicken’s neck.  And Milt Morgan is a good addition, but the purple paisley shirt looks terrible.  And besides, this will not fit the whole cover of the Kindle paperback.

It will end up looking something like this;

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Or not.  Because I am still learning how to do it right, and I still have many more mistakes to make.  But as I finish editing and formatting, the time will come soon to see the proof in the pudding.  (And you better hope I don’t put uncut mustard in the pudding.  That would taste terrible.)

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Aeroquest… Canto 21

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Canto 21 – Blue Boy

The entire group of adventurers went aboard the Leaping Shadowcat to work out their problems. The Hammer, an ancient device of incredible power, was now actually in their possession. Junior Aero had detected it hidden within the Synthezoid’s body cavity.

Junior Aero“How was this boy able to read the robot’s mind?” Ged asked Tkriashav.

The almond-eyed Psion Master looked at Ged through narrowed eyes. “He has a Psionic power I’ve never encountered before. His mind reads as a telepath, but he can read artificial minds. He can manipulate computers and robots in the same way Tara and I can bend human minds.”

“Will you teach him to use this power?” Ham asked.
“No,” said Tkriashav, closing his eyes. “I believe he is meant to be Ged’s first student. I can’t touch his mind properly. Neither can Tara. He might prove dangerous to us.”

“But…” began Ged, “I don’t know how to teach! …Not Psion power!”

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“You know more than you realize,” said Tkriashav. “You are a master of the inner eye. You do it so well. It is an instinct with you. From what we saw today, the child is nearly there himself. All he really needs from you is moral guidance, positive support, and, well… love.
Ged looked at the blue-skinned boy. He hadn’t really paid much attention to him before. He looked like a blue version of Ham when he was young. He was small and thin. He hardly ever smiled, but he had dimples when he did smile. He was nine years old, but looked more the size of a six-year-old. It was his Nebulonin curse to be forever small and child-like. Ged nodded. He could learn to love this boy.

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“Lend me a hand, Ged,” said Ham as he hoisted the inert body of the Synthezoid onto the game-skinning table. The Madonna had gone to the galley to cook. Tara and Sinbadh had gone to help. That left Bam-Bam, Ged, Tkriashav, and Ham to do the surgery on the Synthezoid.
Ged helped Ham stretch the body out on the table. They pierced the wrists and ankles with skinning hooks. The flesh oozed green juice as if it were blood, but there the similarity to human anatomy ended. There were layers of circuit-weave mesh under the skin and titanium bones at the bottom of it. On the outside, Sorcerer 4 was made like a human. He even had the naughty bits. But under the skin, he was all robot with fiber optic wires and blinking lights everywhere. Ham easily peeled away synthetic flesh to reveal the metal man underneath.
In the hollow of the Synthezoid’s chest cavity, they uncovered the device itself. Ged almost laughed at Junior’s big-eyed facial expression when the boy first saw the Hammer of God. Everyone had been pretty much expecting a Thor’s Hammer type of thing. What they got was an undecorated tube with two right-angled handles on one end. You would never know it was an ancient artifact without the eerie purple glow coming out the open end. It looked like an ordinary plumber’s tool.
“There are no buttons to use the dang thing!” swore Ham, disappointed.
“No,” said Junior in a small voice, “but the thing is telepathic.”
“He’s right,” confirmed Tkriashav. “I can sense that to use the device, you must be a telepath.”
“Oh, great!” moaned Ham.
“It’s workable,” said Ged. “We have to use these things carefully. We will ask Frieda about it, and we have telepaths that might be willing to help us.”
“You do,” confirmed Tkriashav. “I know I haven’t earned your trust yet, but from here on out, our destinies are all intertwined.”
“Even mine?” asked the little blue boy.
“Especially yours,” said Tkriashav.
Ged couldn’t help but be a little spooked by the Psion Master. He didn’t like knowing so many riddles about the future, and he was not comfortable around someone who did.

Tkriashav picked up the Hammer. “It makes things according to mental directions. It uses some kind of organizing power that can rearrange molecules and energy flows. It is light years beyond any technology on Don’t Go Here.”

“What will we use it for?” asked Bam-Bam.
“This planet,” said Ham. “We can bring space-travel technology here with the thingy. We’ll build downports and dry-docks and spacecraft. We can make this world high tech overnight.”
“Don’t be surprised if they insist on staying cave men,” warned Tkriashav.
“Yeah,” said Bam-Bam. “Most of us grew up in Fredsuits and riding dino-back.”

“If we’re going to make this world home, we need to dress it up a little bit,” sighed Ged.

“Yes,” said Tkriashav. “But this world may not turn out to be home in the long run.”

“Why would that be?” asked Ham.

“I see other places on both of your horizons.”

Ged shivered. “Don’t tell me that. I don’t want to know.”

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Dealing With Falling Apart

2017 was not a good year for me financially. And nuclear winter could also be referred to as, “an unfortunate change in the weather”. I was sued by Bank of America because I had the audacity to try to reduce my debt with the aid of a debt reduction company. The lawyer originally assured me that I would probably get a reduced settlement bill. Instead, I lost the case and had to declare bankruptcy. The city was objecting to the swimming pool needing repair and forced us to have it removed at our own expense at the same time the BoA lawyers were eating my whole pie. And then, when so many were getting at least some tax relief from Trump’s tax cut for rich folk, I had to pay over a thousand dollars because of retroactive accounting errors.
I also got a week’s vacation in the hospital that cost lots of money because it was a an emergency room visit under heart attack conditions, but determined that I wasn’t actually having a heart attack without the added benefit of telling me what went wrong that put me in the hospital in the first place. I am now suffering numerous warning signs of heart attack or stroke without the confidence that I can go to the doctor without another hospital vacation I can’t pay for.
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I deal with it by biting the bullets, paying the bills, and buying myself bargain toys. The Astronaut Barbie play set came from the Walmart post-Christmas Clearance Sale shelves. It cost me less than half of its original price.


The Captain Cassian Andor action figure with barely pose-able inaction joints cost me less than $4 at Ross Dress For Less while I was waiting for my wife to do her shopaholic thing. And Goodwill Barbie got repaired and dressed, even though I had to borrow G.I. Joe pants to keep her from being a bottomless bare semi-nudist. Toys don’t make the headaches go away, but I am a little bit less grumpy and foul-tempered when I play with them. Plastic toys tend to treat you a whole lot better than bankers or Trump or city pool inspectors do.

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