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

The Bare Essentials of Education

“The Bare Essentials of Education”

So, can you say everything you need to say about a topic with only a picture to represent several main ideas about reading and writing and how children learn? And then, to make matters worse, you don’t explain the metaphor that makes the two learners represented be depicted nude? I hope it is possible. Being ill yet again, and working on finishing a novel, I have to hope it is enough. Other things have absorbed almost all of my words for the day.

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto

Canto Twenty-Five – Squirrel on the Lam

Valerie-squirrel found that even though she had rapidly ascended through the hollows of the brickwork, dodging obstacles, squeezing through narrows, and working her paws at a high rate of speed, she reached the top with energy to spare.  Her squirrel-body was almost infinitely flexible and full of muscle.  What skateboard miracles she could perform if her body were only like that as a human!

But she came out under the eaves of the Philips’ house and was soon racing across the roof.  She leaped into the branches of the tall maple that stood in front of Mary’s house.  The leaves were mostly yellow with fall color, but bright reds and scarlet colors tipped the five points of almost every leaf.  The view was amazing from the heights of the tree, especially because of her squirrel eyes that gave her very nearly a 360-degree view around her.  It was like three-dimensional vision warped into surround-see super-reality.  And yet, as amazing as the view was, her squirrel heart knew despair because the Pidney and Mary squirrels were nowhere to be seen.  Had cats eaten them already?  She shuddered to think it.  Was it up to her to save them?  Could they somehow save her?

There was no squirrel-plan that made sense at that moment.  Her instincts were screaming at her to run and climb and jump… and eat nuts.  But how could any of that be helpful?  Especially eating nuts?

She knew this predicament had to be the result of magic, probably evil magic.  How could she turn herself back into a human girl?  The only real magic she was aware of before this terrible curse was the magic revealed to her by the witch, Mazie Haire.  Somehow she had to go and find the Haire woman, and somehow she had to make the woman understand, through a stream of screamed-out squirrel curses, chreeks, and chit-it-its, that magically somehow the witch would interpret, what had happened to Valerie, and that she needed the old witch to change her back.  But how to get there?

“I see you up there!”  The cat’s voice startled her because, even though she could clearly see the cat on the ground far below, it sounded as loud as if she were face to face with the ugly old cat.  She calmed herself with the realization that the cat was somehow telepathic.

She looked intently at the cat, wiggled her blond tail, and thought intensely in its general direction.  “Can you read minds, damned old cat?” she heard herself say.

“I can hear you animal-talking,” said Skaggs from below.  “I can’t hear what you’re thinking.  But I don’t need to know that to know you must come down from that tree to get the help you need.”

She ran along a maple branch and launched herself through the air, landing in a branch of the elm tree next door in the Pixeley’s yard.  “I can travel from tree to tree!” she cried out with her mind.

“Not all the way to where you need to go.  There is too much space for you to cross to go north to the witch’s house.”

“How did you know I wanted to go there?”

“Where else would you go in your present situation?  You need that old witch’s magic to undo what Oojie did.  Am I right?”

“You are about as wrong as anything could be… because you are… you’re evil!  Evil is always wrong!”

“I am not evil.  But I will admit, to a squirrel a cat surely seems evil.”

“I will find a way.”  She leaped down onto the red tar-paper shingles of the Pixeley house.  There was no tree near enough going to the north, but there were bushes around the house.  And there was a line of pine trees in Tom Kellogg’s yard to the north.

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Today I Have No Words

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The New Name Game

Have you ever noticed that some celebrities with weird names are recognizable no matter how badly you mess up or mangle their names?

For example, take a name like Justin Timberlake.

If you call him Timber Just-in-the-lake, everyone still knows who you mean.

Yes, I’m talking about Laker Timberjust, that singer who used to be famous when he sang with that group Out O’ Sink. You know, that guy named Joozin Mimbolake who caused Joanie Jackelson’s wardrobe malfunction in the Superbowl. Muffin Limbersnake… you know, that guy.

Well, there’s this other actor named Ving Rhames.

Actor Ving Rhames (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

Okay, that’s too scary to contemplate. Well, there’s always Kenderbick Bumbersnatch! He’s always good for a name-mangling good joke.

Very astute literary allusion delivered with Sherlockian poise, Benickle Bumberbatch!

I can think of a number of name mangles that make me laugh. Bumbershoot Bandersnatch, or Bimbleroot Snoodersnatch, or Smogthedragon Paddlebatch. What mangled names can you think of for the Mangled Name Game? You can put your bubbling genius-type answers to that question in the comments. For these guys, or any other mangle-able celebrity names you can think of.

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Revision and Rewrite…

The cartoonist making Paffooney-stuff.

I have a confession. I am not faring well enough to continue putting out a page of Hidden Kingdom every Saturday. I know that may sadden one or two obsessive-compulsive fans of Prince Flute psychologically torturing his adventure-mates. But there it is. Arthritis and lack of funds slow me down.

I am not saying I am giving up trying to finish the graphic novel and publish it in some form before I croak (and I don’t mean in the way a bullfrog does it), but the schedule has to accommodate even more physical challenges.

I have to spend more time driving for Uber in return for slave wages and unfair criticisms from dyspeptic passengers.

My drawing hand is letting me down with weather-related stiffness and muscle spasms.

And there are other projects that have to get some priority too.

I am re-reading Recipes for Gingerbread Children, marking up my personal copy for changes I need to make, so that I can re-publish it in better form before I try to seriously promote the hell out of it (too much Hell in anything is not a good idea, so I have to get some of it out).

I am also nearing the end of finishing When the Captain Came Calling. Soon I must think about publishing that book as well. It is turning out better than I thought it was going to be.

And I know that means leaving the poor Rascal naked in the middle of the story, but you never know, he might enjoy becoming a nudist.

I will get back to cartoon page-making as soon as possible. But for now, we are on hold.

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Chewing on Gingerbread Stories

I have started re-reading my werewolf stories again as I intend to promote the heck out of the two books pictured here in the rest of 2019.

Both books are intertwined even though they are both stand-alone novels with different genre ties and different themes. They share the same characters, many of the same scenes (though seen from different viewpoints in each novel), many of the same plot points, and the same werewolf. I like to think that reading both books together makes a better, more nuanced story as a two-book whole. But each book is also a whole in itself. And you can read them in either order.

I started by re-reading Recipes for Gingerbread Children. This book is basically a fairy-tale story-collection contrasted with a Holocaust survivor’s story. It is about how a storyteller manages to shape the world around her to help herself and others make sense out of a cruel world filled with evil and betrayal.

Dunderella and the Wolf Girl (a random werewolf illustration not connected to either book)

The Baby Werewolf is a Gothic horror tale where the real monster is hidden by deeply buried secrets, and lies have to be pierced to protect the innocent. I will re-read and promote this book second. I love both of these books with a paternal sort of overlooking-the-warts-and-birth-defects love.

So, I have a plan. A hopelessly pie-in-the-sky plan. But a plan. And hopefully at least some part of the plan will work.

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Risky Pictures

picture title; “Once I feared the Griffon”

Drawing nudes is a risky business. People judge you more harshly when you draw a nude and don’t explain the context. What a pervert you must be. They forgive you a little when you explain that you are an artist and once you took an anatomy drawing class in college where you were drawing from actual nude models. But understand, artists probably take classes like that because they are perverts to begin with.

And you have the added complication of being a victim of sexual assault as a child, so you have a PTSD-sort-of fear of nudity and physical contact while at the same time having all the natural urges that flesh is heir to.

The nude above was drawn actually from a photograph, a Polaroid. The griffon (who represents the fear in your PTSD-inspired dreams) did not want to pose nude in real life. So, you were given a photograph in which she was actually holding on to her boyfriend’s shoulder. Oh, wait! You mean “he” not “she”. The griffon was a boy. But she smiled when she saw the picture. And she asked why there was an eagle in it.

“But that’s not an eagle, it’s a griffon,” you said. “It represents being afraid of being nude.”

Obviously you did not give her the version of the picture with the “eagle” in it. She was happier with the nude you did give her, though it wasn’t drawn as well as this one.

And you are always a little leery of posting nudes you have drawn over the years on your blog, but somehow they get more views than anything else you post, and while you have to wonder why these pictures are so popular among judgmental people who have told you that you are probably a pervert, you secretly know the real reason.

This picture of Karla gets lots of views. You have posted it three or four times before. (Of course, that is not Her real name.)

It is kinda the thing that started the college nude drawings. She was your roommate’s girlfriend, and she was looking at your drawings because Bill told her about your artworks and she was curious. She challenged you to draw her. It was the first nude model you ever drew outside of class. Bob sat in the room with the two of you and watched you draw. (Oh, wait. You called him Bill before. Change that. Bob Bill. There, that’s better.) You drew in pencil.

You did two versions of it. The pen and ink that you drew of it in 1996 was made from the one that you kept.

If you had never done that picture of Karla, the one of the griffon wouldn’t exist either. She had to go and show her picture off to her friends. After all the great cartoons you drew over the years, you might know that the biggest reputation you ever got as an artist came about because of a pencil drawing of a smiley nude girl. And she had a big mouth… both figuratively and literally. But she was nice, and you couldn’t be mad at her. She and Bob Bill got married, and she probably still has that picture in its little frame somewhere in her house.

My novel Snow Babies reveals things from my life that are only metaphorically nudity.

There was a time in my life, in fact, for a majority of my life, that all these things were pretty much secrets that I kept to myself. I didn’t show the nude pictures to others. I kept them in a portfolio in a closet. I never would’ve admitted to being a nudist at heart either. Or anything about being assaulted as a boy. Or told anyone about any of it in a blog post like this. I can only do that now that I am old and know that none of my sins are really that awful and need to be kept secret. There is a certain beauty in that. You don’t even really need to keep doing it in second person point of view, confusing the audience into thinking it’s about them and not about you. Sorry about the meta-messaging. I just find it funny that I can be completely open at the end of the essay of life, and no longer feel the need to hide all the things that we hide under our clothing. Sometimes there is beauty to be found in the depths of a risky picture.

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