Category Archives: autobiography

Into the Spring

The weather, amazingly, is more than fifty degrees Fahrenheit better than it was a week ago today in Texas.

The sun is now out.

Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day...?”

‘Of course not. It is not Sonnet 18 out there.

It… “art NOT more lovely and more temperate.”

And William Shakespeare is just a pen name.

But I saw a pair of Robins in the park while walking the dog.

And I don’t mean Robin Williams and Robin Hood.

I mean the red-breasted birds that herald the arrival of Spring.

Though it is not Spring. And I have trouble sitting here and writing this due to painful hemorrhoids.

Still, it seems like something new is starting.

It has now been an entire year since the start of the pandemic. 501,000+ people have died.

It is definitely time for something new, something better, to begin.

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When Cartoon Characters Take Selfies

I often wonder if there is only one picture of me in this self-portrait.

This is definitely a self-portrait, the character in the novel as well as this cartoon.

This is me in a mirror… at least, filtered through my own self-concept.

Grumpy, square-headed German-American me.
Pirate me when I cannot talk like a real human being and need a wooden-headed puppet to interpret for me.
The character Superchicken (on the left) is a self portrait of me at twelve (in the novel). Sherry Cobble (on the right) is NOT me.
Milt Morgan is also a me character. But this picture is based on a school photo of me at ten.
‘Nuff said.
High school Senior me.

Me as a Charlie Brown/Peanuts character. This was created on an APP, and then photo-shopped by me.

,,,

;;;

The self-portrait I use on the backs of paperback novels.

The science-y version of me from the novel The Bicycle Wheel Genius.

This post is probably evidence that cartoonists should probably not portray themselves.

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Now is the Winter of Our Discontent…

I am not Richard the Third. But I did do that soliloquy in college for my class in oral interpretation and got an “A” for it. I can channel those who think they have been wronged. I know whereof they speak… forsooth.

If you are not happy with the former President’s handling of the pandemic and economic crisis, (and if you are happy, I hope your recent lobotomy is giving you some peace and rest) you are not alone. The former Sun of York has not been the right answer. Hopefully the new ruler will do better, but only time will tell.

I am not, however, a dissembler like Richard. I have no evil plot to remedy the discontent. I can only tell the truth. I will probably die of the virus before this pandemic passes. I honestly do not fear death. I do fear for loved ones who are also at risk. But while I do not welcome death, it will not find me with any sort of burden of regret. I have been an honorable man. I have taught children, and acquitted myself well of the task. I have been a passable husband and father. I have committed serious acts of art… as well as numerous less-than-serious ones. This is not a suicide note. This is simply me declaring myself at peace with the universe.

Proof that Winter has returned to North Texas (and that I finished rebuilding my retaining wall)

And this is also me declaring that I once again am unwell. I’m pretty sure it is not the virus. I have been extremely careful. But this one stalks more successfully than the H1N1 and various bird flus that I have previously survived. It has mutated in an effort to be more virulent. And I always seem to get whatever serious virus is passing around.

Still, it is not the Coronavirus that currently has me sick and in bed. No fever. Only back pain, sinus headaches, and the blues. I also have a variety of other pains, mostly psoriasis in nature, but also some other internal ones. I could be suffering from prostate cancer, heart disease, or mini-strokes brought on by diabetes. My eyes are going bad. And I am not going to any doctors because of the risk of infection in the doctor’s office and the expenses that health insurance expects me to pay for myself. (I hope this pandemic eats all of Aetna’s lunches for the rest of the year. I have finally gotten away from them to Blue Cross and Blue Shield, but still…) There are plenty of ways that this current health crisis can do me in. I will endeavor to die at home on my own terms. And I stayed alive long enough to vote the bast***s out of office.

Proof that I’m not going anywhere by bicycle today.

I apologize that Mickey wasn’t funny today. Sometimes he needs to complain a little. Even Richard the Third was down and blue in between villainies. And he ended on one really bad day at Bosworth Field. I kinda hope that Trumpalump still has his Bosworth Field ahead of him even though he cannot be impeached no matter what he does.

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Filed under angry rant, autobiography, Depression, health, humor, photo paffoonies

Chasing What is Real

In 2012 I completed and published Catch a Falling Star. That novel is about aliens who speak English because they have been watching television broadcasts and absolutely adore I Love Lucy reruns. They invade Earth via one small town in Iowa where they make the fatal mistake of being charmed by humhans. The juvenile specimen they kidnap, Dorin Dobbs, leads a tadpole mutiny aboard the Tellerons’ space ship. The tadpole they accidentally leave behind on Earth is adopted and becomes beloThe ved by a childless farm couple. And Commander Biznap falls deeply in love with a septuagenarian Sunday School teacher who aids him and he rewards with a return to her youthful twenties. The invasion gets defeated. Someone disintegrates himself, and the Tellerons leave have learned to be better people as they flee to Mars in defeat.

Of course, this novel, written while I was still teaching for the Garland School District, is ultimately the origin of my manic love of researching conspiracy theories. After publishing the novel, I had a dream about the book. I dreamed that aliens had read the book and began chasing me, wanting to know how I knew what I knew about them. I tried to tell them that I made it all up, but they didn’t believe me.

So, after I had written and published the book, I took up researching alien contact and flying saucer encounters Wow! I began to see what some really, obviously insane people believe is true as well as some very intelligent and credible people hesitantly reporting some insanely disturbing things. I do not believe any of the stories told by David Icke, the lecturer who sells books and lectures on the existence of shape-shifting lizard-people who masquerade as important government figures and celebrities. He is very easily recognizable as a grifter and con man. Of course, his grifts are all legal. If lying were completely illegal, fiction writers would be out of business, and nobody would fall in love or be able to sell real estate.

But one cannot quickly dismiss the work of journalist and physicist Stanton Friedman so easily. He had an interview experience with Major Jesse Marcel who was the intelligence officer on the New Mexico base in 1947 who told what may be the real story behind the Roswell Incident . This was a credible source telling a story as a whistle-blower years after the actual experience which was very different than the government’s version of events in spite of the fact that Marcel and other witnesses had been threatened to keep the secret.

The real trick to this fascinating search for reality in the bizarre world of alien contact, MUFON researchers, and underground alien facilities is to accept that complete knowledge of reality is unattainable.

You know that something real is being covered up based on the elaborate cover-up efforts that the authorities have gone through. Weather balloons? Really? Even Project Mogul balloons for spying on Russian atomic-bomb efforts? Well, maybe. But there are so many things that subjected to cover-up, misinformation campaigns, threatening witnesses, Men in Black, and deathbed confessions. It is real that lying is going on on both sides. And there are a lot of concerning facts brought out by people who have nothing to gain by their revelations and an awful lot to lose.

So, you have to detect lies and juggle the lies of liars to get anywhere near to reality. And I have applied the process to more than one conspiracy theory.

Here are some things that I have concluded (at least until more information surfaces.)

In the 1940’s and 50’s the U.S. government knocked down a handful of flying saucers and UFOs using high-intensity radar waves developed for World War II. Bob Lazar is probably telling the truth. Linda Moulton Howe is probably telling the truth. Travis Walton is probably also telling the truth, but is less believable than the other two. David Icke and Alex Jones are liars. The Ancient Aliens program from History Channel and now on Netflix is not solid science, but have some very interesting details to add to the mysteries. The government definitely knows about aliens, either because they made contact with other worlds in the Eisenhower Administration, or because they are producing the information themselves to cover up something far more concerning.

The important thing in this topic is not the reality of aliens visiting Earth. The important thing is how the reality of the topic is pursued. Are you going to be crazy or pursue a sensible information-gathering process where the results are tested and retested? ls it about my thinking processes. or am I deceiving myself? These questions are the reasons I do what I do/

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Why Mickey is Surreal

Literary realism attempts to represent familiar things as they are.

Surrealism definition: Surrealism is a type of literature in which the author attempts to display irrational or dreamlike qualities in his or her writing. Surrealism refers to writing that goes beyond the realistic into a creative, imaginative realm that often has dreamlike qualities.

Two definitions of styles of writing that are common in today’s literary realm.

Realism is a tradition that began in the middle of the 18th Century. It includes authors like Balzac, Alexander Pushkin, Mark Twain, Sinclair Lewis, and Charles Dickens. They tend to focus on the details that shine a light on the grungy, dreary realities of the Industrial Revolution, the American Experiment in Democracy, and wars like the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and wars against Napoleon, Hitler, and Communist Russia.

Surrealism, especially as it grew legs and began galloping in the 20th Century is really a reaction to the realities that Realism ground into our souls. Science Fiction imagines the problems and the possibilities presented by applying science and industry into our future. Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, and Aldous Huxley are all surrealists because they apply the power of their imaginations to dealing with the limits reality hangs around the neck of the race horse we call life on Earth.

Fantasy writers like JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Neil Gaiman, and JK Rowlings apply apples of imagination hung from a string in front of the race horse to motivate him onward. The race horse of life on Earth is a dreamlike metaphor, somewhat like a dog who smokes a pipe and solves crimes, and is the kind of literary device that defines surrealism the way that Mickey sees it.

But enough about what surrealism is. It is just realism with a “sur” pasted on the front. So, let me just show you some.

These are Snow Babies from the book of the same name. If you see one during a blizzard, it might mean you will freeze to death.
This is a sample of an illustration for a friend’s children’s book idea that never got made. Accidentally travelling by bubble-gum-chewing goldfish.
This picture shows that, in order to do surrealism, you must make the dreamlike seem very realistic.
In When the Captain Came Calling, the Captain is invisible and Valerie Clarke gets turned into a squirrel by Voodoo.
Mickey is not the only surrealist who thinks of Toys coming to Life.

So, now that you have seen the pictorial evidence that Mickey thinks surreal thoughts, you should be willing to admit… He probably really is a Surrealist. Or, possibly, he surreally is a surrealist.

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Mickey Being Mickey

20170905_074639

A new day dawns.  It leaves me wondering.  Who am I today?  Who will I be tomorrow?

The opportunity to have any sort of control over who and what I am is coming to a close.  I don’t really know how much longer I have before pain and illness dissolve me into nothingness.  But death is not the end of existence. I may be forgotten totally by the day after next Thursday, but my existence will still have become a permanent fact.  Yes, I am one of those dopey-derfy-think-too-much types known as an existentialist.

I am feeling ill again.  Any time that happens may be the last time.  But that doesn’t worry me.

 

 

The important thing is that the dance continues.  It doesn’t matter who the dancers are, or who supplies the music.

We can be clowns if we choose to be.

We can safely be fools if we really can’t help it.

An awful lot of awful things go into who and what we are.  Those things make us full of awe.  They make us awesome.  Aw, shucks.  What an awful thing to say.

 

But what is all this stuff and nonsense really about today?

It’s just Mickey being Mickey… Mickey for another day.

It’s not really poetry.  It certainly isn’t wisdom.  It’s a little bit funny, and only mildly depressing… for a change.

It’s just Mickey being Mickey.  And a partially Paffooney gallery.

…To fill some space today.

And wonder about tomorrow.

And just be Mickey a little bit more.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, cartoony Paffooney, commentary, goofy thoughts, humor, illness, Paffooney, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life

The World Does Not See Me

The world does not see me. I am invisible. I could invade your planet and the world would never know it… or care.

I have told my stories, sung my songs, and raised my family in the shadows while the world was unaware.

I’ve shaped lives from other cultures, and made myself a home in the quiet places there.

My imagination has been soaring, and I create things in mid-air.

And I’ve not forgotten heartland dreams, and the good lands all so fair.

And the world just does not see me, though my eyes, they are upon it as it’s around me everywhere.

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Living in the World I Once Drew

The Grain Mill

It is normal for the world we live in to inspire us to draw pictures of it. But architects do the opposite. They imagine a world we could live in, and then build it.

David and Me in Cotulla

Sometimes, like in the picture above, I draw real people in imaginary places. Other times I draw imaginary people and put them in real places.

Gyro and Billy on the planet Pan Galactica A

Sometimes I put imaginary people in imaginary places. (I photo-shopped this planet myself.)

Superchicken and Sherry before school

In fiction, I am re-casting my real past as something fictional, so the places I draw with words in descriptions need to be as real as my amber-colored memory can manage.

Valerie and her skateboard in front of the Congregational Church

When I use photos, though, I have to deal with the fact that over time, places change. The church does not look exactly like it did in the 1980s when this drawing is set.

Drawing things I once saw, and by “drawing” I mean “making pictures,” is how I recreate myself to give my own life meaning.

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My Bookish Journey

My journey as a writer actually began in grade school. I was writing Star Trek-like comics from the time I was in the fourth and fifth grade, ten and eleven years old. I called my comics Zebra Fleet, about the last fleet in the Star League on the distant, far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy.

I started writing book-length stories in college, at Iowa State University. They weren’t all science fiction. They began to be more and more about the time and place where I grew up, Rowan, Iowa in the 1960s and 1970s They involved the people I knew there and then. My family, my friends, the people of Rowan, and random Iowegians. I based important characters on people I actually knew, mostly those I knew quite well. But I changed and swapped character details to hide their identities a little bit, and I gave them names that were mixed and matched and borrowed from the 1977 Ames, Iowa phone book. Dettbarn, Efram, Sumpter, Bircher, Clarke, MacMillan, White, and Murphy all came from there. Niland came from a famous alumni of the University of Iowa who played for the Dallas Cowboys.

In order to have food to eat and money to spend as an adult, I had to take my BA in English and add to it an MA in Education to get a job as a teacher. I took my closet full of nascent novels and moved to Texas where my dad’s job took my parents before I graduated college. There I added hundreds of characters who were perfect for Young Adult novels as I got to know real kids and learned about their real lives. I changed their names, details, and often cultures as I added them to my stories.

Other than a couple of shots in the dark as submissions of cartoons and manuscripts to publishers, I mostly kept my stories in the closet and focused more on teaching (which, to be fair, is also a form of story-telling.) I put my handful of rejection letters in the closet too.

But then, I got laid off for two years due to health and a wicked witch as a principal, and I spent my non-job-hunting time writing a novel about my science-fiction role-playing games with former students. It was called AeroQuest.

I managed to find a publisher for that book. But it was a bogus sort of experience. They paid me an advance of one dollar. Then they had me sign a seven-year contract in 2007. No editor or proofreader even worked for them. I basically had to edit and format the book myself. All they did is intentionally flub-up some titles and sections of text in the printed form. This was part of the master plan to get me to pay for an extensive fix to the mistakes they made. The only marketing they did was to send a notice for my over-priced paperback to the list of friends and relatives that they required me to make for them. Publish America is no longer in business. They were closed down by a class-action lawsuit from the authors they had tricked into paying them thousands of dollars for totally defective publishing services. Since I didn’t pay them any scam pennies, I didn’t get any of the money from the lawsuit. I only got my publishing rights back.

So, I went back to whole-heartedly teaching. Then, in 2012 I completed another manuscript that I thought was the best work that I had ever done. I submitted it to I-Universe publishers. They read it and loved it. As it turned out, they were in the process of being acquired by Penguin Books. They were the closest thing to a mainstream publisher that would entertain submissions by new and unproven authors like me.

They, of course, were offering a publishing package that included working with real editors and marketing personnel. But I had to go a bit into debt to swing the price. So, I was still paying someone to publish my book correctly. But, as a step in my author’s journey, it was invaluable. I got to work closely with an experienced editor who had previously worked for both MacMillan and Harcourt, two mainstream traditional publishers.

My book was given the stock cover you see here despite the cover requests I made and got approved. My original ask was apparently too expensive to print. There is no girl flying a kite in the story at all, let alone at night. It is a story about incompetent aliens trying to invade a small town in Iowa. I had requested a flying saucer with a kite flying behind it.

That first real publisher, though, made me into a real writer. The I-Universe marketeers got me listed as a winner of the Editor’s Choice Award. And they put that award and the Rising Star award on every paperback copy they printed. Everyone who read the book seemed to really like it. They set me up with this blog, space on their website for my book and bio, and they put me in touch with Barnes and Noble to talk about “meet the author” sessions to promote getting the book on their shelves. But a trip to the hospital with pneumonia and the end of the room on my Discover Card caused me to bring an end to my marketing campaign. I ended up with two five-star reviews and sixteen dollars-worth of royalties.

At this point in the story, temporarily stalled, I must start touting the part two of my essay for today. I should warn you, I have a lot more negative things to say about publishing next time.

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What 2020 Has Done To Me

The year began with me recovering from a bout of flu caught while substituting at Bush Middle School. I had thought it would be the end of me. But, no. I managed to survive. It left me feeling that no mere virus could get the better of me.

Oh, foolish and overly simple me! I had no idea what was coming. I had decided to write a novel set in a residential nudist park in South Texas that I knew nudists from but had never actually visited.

I discovered that my financial situation was headed for disaster if I didn’t earn enough money from substitute teaching. I was trying to pay off my Chapter 13 bankruptcy, and I was committed to paying $2000 dollars worth of our ever-increasing property tax. I wouldn’t be able to earn the money in time to avoid late fees, which meant I needed to earn even more extra money.

I dug down deep and found myself able to substitute teach to the full extent my doctor and the Texas Teacher Retirement System would allow. I was really hitting my stride and enjoying teaching again. I met a couple of kids in classes I subbed for that connected so well, I used them as inspiration for a few things in the novel I was writing, A Field Guide to Fauns. The novel practically wrote itself.

I published it. But it was about naked people. So a majority of people who might be fooled into reading one of my books will never read this one.

I was looking forward, after teaching so much that I could pay off the tax only one month late, to making more money I might actually be able to put in savings for a few minutes. But March ended all hope of that.

The long Covid imprisonment began with one novel published and one more, my AeroQuest rewrite, being more than halfway along.

I found myself with way more time to write and do other stuff than I had anticipated. But, of course, little money to do anything but survive with.

I definitely understood Kurt Vonnegut better in very short order.

I had a chance to reread a LOT of my own writing.

I gave some of my own books a careful reread and proofreading, even updating the content on Amazon. I began collecting my best posts from my daily blog. I put it in book form, becoming not one, but two collections of autobiographical essays.

My quest to put all my teacher recollections, goofy humor and cartoons, and philosophical wacky-waxings into some kind of order, allowed me to get a real sense of the overview of my life as both a teacher and a writer.

But, not only did my number two son get a job with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department as a jailor, but he got Covid in July as well from his job.

Not only did my number one son find a serious relationship with an excellent young lady, but he was forced to stay away from us and limit contact to the point he almost became a stranger.

And not only did my father’s Parkinson’s Disease get worse, it killed him in midsummer during a surge in the pandemic that meant only my mother and two sisters could actually be at the funeral.

But, in spite of setbacks, I managed to stay Covid-free and read and write way more than is probably good for any human man.

I published or re-published six books during 2020. It is an accomplishment that reflects a fear of imminent death and loss of any further chance to make my writing real, not just foolish fantasies and dreams trapped in my stupid head.

So, what has 2020 done to me?

It has made me fearful of the future. It took away enough of my health that I will never be able to stand in front of a classroom ever again. And it took my father away.

But it has also galvanized me with the heat of the struggle to survive. It has made me more careful, and more appreciative of what life is, and especially more determined to have more of it.

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