Category Archives: characters

Made-Up People

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I often get criticized for talking to people who are basically invisible, probably imaginary, and definitely not real people, no matter what else they may be.

The unfinished cover picture is from the novel The Bicycle-Wheel Genius which I finished the final rewrite and edit for and then published in 2018.  All of the characters in that book are fictional.    Even though some of them strongly resemble the real people who inspired me to create them, they are fictional people doing fictional and sometimes impossible things.  And yet, they are all people who I have lived with as walking, talking, fictional people for many years.  Most of those people have been talking to me since the 1970’s.  I know some of them far better than any of the real people who are a part of my life.

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These, of course, are only a few of my imaginary friends.  Some I spend time with a lot.  Some I haven’t seen or heard from in quite a while.  And I do know they are not real people.  Mandy is a cartoon panda bear, and Anneliese is a living gingerbread cookie.  I do understand I made these people up in my stupid little head.

But it seems to me that the people in the world around us are really no less imaginary, ephemeral, and unreal.  Look at the recently replaced Presidentumb of the Disunited States.  He is an evil cartoon James Bond villain if there ever was one.

Animated cast of OUR CARTOON PRESIDENT. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Animated cast of OUR CARTOON PRESIDENT. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

People in the real world create an imaginary person in their own stupid little heads, and pretend real hard that that imaginary person is really them in real life.  And of course, nobody sees anybody else in the same way that they see themselves.  Everybody thinks they are a somebody who is different from anybody else who thinks they are a somebody too, and really they are telling themselves, and each other, lies about who somebody really is, and it is all very confusing, and if you can follow this sentence, you must be a far better reader than I am a writer, because none of it really makes sense to me.  I think everybody is imaginary in some sense of the word.

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So, if you happen to see me talking to a big white rabbit-man who used to be a pet white rabbit, but got changed into a rabbit-man through futuristic genetic science and metal carrots, don’t panic and call the police.  I am just talking to another fictional character from a book I finished writing.  And why are you looking inside my head, anyway?  There’s an awful lot of personal stuff going on in there.  Of course, you only see that because I wrote about it in this essay.  So it is not an invasion of privacy.  It is just me writing down stuff I probably should keep in my own stupid little head.  My bad.

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Filed under characters, colored pencil, commentary, goofy thoughts, humor, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, rabbit people, strange and wonderful ideas about life

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

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Role-Playing Game Art

Here I am back to doing D&D and Traveller on Saturdays. All of the art in this post was once used in conjunction with RPGs played with former students, and my own kids. I was always the game master in the past, and I used drawings and illustrations to help the imaginary adventures come to life.

Zoran-Viktor was a Mirin Ice Wizard from the Talislanta D&D campaign. The player of this character was Victor, a gifted dancer and actor from the school’s theater department.
The Lawgiver was a powerful Non-Player Character in both D&D and Talislanta. The character design came from a metal figure I painted myself.
Zoric was a Talislantan Thaumaturge, the player character of a weird kid who told x-rated jokes better than any other high-school boy I ever met.

Harun the Charmer was only ever used as a player-character once. The boy whose character it was provided the face I modeled it after. He was an absolutely arresting boy that had such a winning personality that people fell in love with him almost instantly.

He spent way more time helping another teacher grade papers than he did playing Talislanta games with goofy old Mr. B.

And I promise, only one of the facts presented here about Harun is a lie, in attempt to protect this young gentleman’s identity. We unfortunately lost him back in the 1990’s.

Crane the Sorcerer was an NPC trapped inside his own crystal ball by his own
evil familiar well before my kids met him in the D&D adventure.
Viktor, the Snow Wizard of Ice Keep, was the father of Zoran Viktor. Victor loved playing Talislanta.
Swordpoint Castle

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A Simple Matter of Character (Part 2)

Some characters need to have their story told for reasons that are buried deep in the author’s personal history and damaged psyche. For me, Torrie Brownfield, the Baby Werewolf, was that kind of character.

The book, The Baby Werewolf, is a different kind of horror story. The central question of the book is this, “Am I a monster? And do I know why or why not?” And Torrie has to answer that question because he was born with a rare genetic disorder called hypertrichosis. It is the “werewolf-hair disease” where hair growth happens in unusual places on the body and in Torrie’s case, everywhere but the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet. He is a perfectly normal boy who really only looks like a monster. But how you look can have a profound impact on how people treat you.

And the character of the boy who looks like a werewolf and thinks he is a monster is based entirely on me. Unlike Valerie Clarke whose origins I can pinpoint, I have to honestly admit the way Torrie thinks and feels and acts are all based solely on me and me alone.

You see, when I was a boy of ten I went through a horrible traumatic experience that threw my whole life into darkness. And I kept it secret from everybody. In fact, for a few years, I kept it a secret even from myself.

It is not that I really didn’t remember I had been sexually assaulted by an older boy. The nightmares and remembered pain were a constant even when I couldn’t admit to myself what had happened. I defended myself from it all by burying the knowledge deep, and worrying about things that only sexual-assault victims worried about. I embarrassed myself twice in seventh grade by wetting my pants in class, all because I couldn’t go into the boys’ bathroom at school. Whenever I would have sexual urges of any kind, I would lie down or sit on the heating grate at home, burning scars into my lower back and the back of my lower legs. I fretted about how to fight monsters. And I knew from the movies that if a vampire bit you, you could become a vampire. And if a werewolf bit you, you could become a werewolf. So, if a sexual predator bites you, do you not become a…??

In all honesty I probably became a teacher at least in part to protect other kids from the same kind of thing that happened to me. And I had to write this book to tell the story of how not to be a monster.

The true monster in this monster-movie tale is actually Torrie’s uncle, the person who actually psychologically abuses him. And the villain proves himself to be a sexual deviant, trying to create kiddie porn in his photography studio.

I suppose I just spoiled the whole whodunnit part of the book. But the murder mystery was never the point of the novel. The message of this novel is that no child is ever a monster unless he actually chooses to become one.

And that is the kind of character Torrie Brownfield is. The autobiographical kind. The kind that brings the author’s worst fears about himself to light, and tries to answer the question with… “No, I am not a monster.”

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Portraits of Norwall Kids

An illustration for the WIP,The Boy… Forever

Today’s Art-Day Saturday post is about the pictures I have drawn to establish in my mind the characters that make up the fictional world of Norwall, Iowa. Specifically, the kids in my YA novels.

Milt Morgan, wizard of the Norwall Pirates

I do manage character development and detailed descriptions by creating early on a picture of what the character looks like for me.

Sherry Cobble, nudist, twin sister of Shelly, also a nudist
Mike Murphy and his girlfriend, Blueberry Bates
Edward-Andrew Campbell
Brent Clarke, first leader of the Norwall Pirates
Dilsey Murphy, everybody’s big sister
Torrie Brownfield, the Baby Werewolf
Grandma Gretel Stein, Todd Niland, Sherry Cobble, Sandy Wickham
Francois Martin, the Sad Clown who Sings
Anita Jones, the girlfriend of Superchicken
Valerie Clarke, the most beautiful girl ever born in Norwall

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Filed under artwork, characters, humor, illustrations, kids, novel writing, Paffooney, Pirates

People in My Head at the Moment

Anita Jones

As a writer seriously immersed in a particular work in progress, I find myself talking more and more to certain people who exist only in my head. They are the characters in my novel, The Boy… Forever.

The novel is itself an epistolary novel. That means, like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it is made up of letters, notes, diary and journal entries, and other personal writing of the central characters. It also means that I have to become the different people who write these things. At least while I create each individual artifact that goes into the mosaic of first-person narratives.

Anita Jones, pictured here, is the letter-writer who starts the plot in motion when she gets a very disturbing letter from her cousin, Icarus Jones.

Icarus writes about his problem with becoming a midget, and his response to it being a plan to kill himself. It seems that he simply stopped growing at the age of ten. Now, being a fifteen-year-old in the body of a ten-year-old, he writes a suicide note in the form of a letter, and then goes to jump off a bridge into the Mississippi River. But when he does, he survives. Or, rather, he succeeds, but cannot remain dead. He doesn’t know it, yet, but he has become a human mutation known in the secret world of unknown things as an Immortal.

Tian Long, the Celestial Dragon

Icky’s problem becomes worse when it is discovered he is being pursued by another immortal, a sort of vampiric immortal who needs to consume the essence of other immortals to stay alive. He is a three-thousand-year-old Chinese Celestial Dragon who is able to assume a human form.

Neither Icky Jones nor Tian Long the dragon, though, really needs to be in my head. Icarus himself only writes the first and last letters of the book. Tian Long, the villain, does not have a say at all in telling the story. The only part of it he writes are the wizard spells he uses to confound everyone, and most of those are in Chinese.

Milton John Morgan, the Wizard of the Norwall Pirates

Besides the letters that Anita Jones writes to her cousin in Dallas, Dot Jones, the story is also advanced in the journal entries of Milt Morgan, one of the leaders of the boys’ gang in rural Iowa known as the Norwall Pirates. He has been asked by the Freshman English teacher to keep a daily journal and write every day in 1976. This he struggles to do, but gains writing and typing skills as he goes along, especially when he befriends Icarus and learns about the dragon pursuing Icky.

Milt is full of imagination and a sense of adventure, a thing that makes him an unreliable narrator, not above embellishing the truth as he writes his not-so-much- daily-as-infrequent journal entries.

Brent “the Cat” Clarke

The story is also taken up by Brent Clarke, the leader of the Norwall Pirates. Brent wants to be a policeman or a detective or something like that when he grows up. He takes careful investigation notes on everything, and he is the first one to become suspicious of the Chinese man and his step-daughter who pick a house in the town of Norwall that they want to live in right before the actual owner and occupant of the house mysteriously dies in a falling accident. Brent befriends the local Sheriff’s Deputy and sets out on a serious possible murder investigation that yields some very disturbing results. His notes are very detail-oriented and generally fact-based. He carefully records his own eye-witness accounts of everything.

Sherry Cobble, the nudist, calls herself the smarter and more beautiful twin.

Sherry Cobble, the more outgoing of the identical twins known as the Cobble Sisters, is a happy nudist with a very positive body image for herself and her twin sister. She is a very positive person over-all. She and her sister Shelly had started out keeping a “Lovely Nudist’s Diary” between them, but Shelly is not nearly as interested in writing and storytelling as her sister. So, Sherry takes over the diarist duties with the same sort of glee and enthusiasm she has for promoting nudism to her friends, especially the Norwall Pirates. It is her goal to eventually see all of the kids in Norwall naked and happy just as she and her sister Shelly always are.

Those four different character voices are the main voices I have to work with in telling this fantasy adventure story in much the same way as Stoker tells the story of Dracula.

So, if I begin to seem like I have a disordered mind full of multiple personalities, it’s because I am a novelist, not a mental patient or a vampire or even a Chinese dragon in human form. I am simply trying to tell a story by allowing four distinctly different characters to live inside my head.

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The Latest Character Portrait

Yes, I drew Blueberry Bates one more time.

I drew her as an illustration for the novella I am currently working on, Horatio T. Dogg, Super Sleuth.

The original is in pen and ink, shaded on the Microsoft paint program that came with the computer.

She is not a main character in this story. But she is a key character in the plot.

The essential details about the character Blueberry Bates include the fact that she was named by her older sisters. She was born a blue baby, her Infant Methemoglobinemia (Blue Baby Syndrome) was caused by too little oxygen in her blood. Her mother died during childbirth. Her father never quite recovered from the loss, leading her sisters and her aunt to raise her as a girl even though she was born with a penis. When x-rayed as a young child, she was found to have internal female organs, including ovaries and uterus. Blueberry is highly imaginative, loves to draw with colored pencils, and pursued Mike Murphy to be her boyfriend until he finally gave in and fell hopelessly in love with her at the edge of ten and a half. She is based on two different real transgender students I encountered as a teacher.

Here is the final, color version of the new portrait.

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Portraying Key Characters

Since I have written my Hometown Novels as a series with certain recurring characters, it becomes important that I know what they look like in my own stupid head. So, I draw them. Mike Murphy and his girlfriend Blueberry Bates are good examples. They appear in The Bicycle-Wheel Genius, Magical Miss Morgan, and Catch a Falling Star.

Valerie Clarke is a main character in When the Captain Came Calling, Snow Babies, Sing Sad Songs, and He Rose on a Golden Wing.

Farbick the pilot and Davalon the tadpole are main characters in Catch a Falling Star, Stardusters and Space Lizards, and both appear in The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.

Sherry Cobble and her twin sister Shelly, both dedicated nudists, appear in Superchicken, Recipes for Gingerbread Children, The Baby Werewolf, The Boy… Forever, and Sherry by herself appears in A Field Guide to Fauns with her own twin daughters, Mandy and Tandy Clarke.

Brent Clarke is the leader of the Norwall Pirates in Superchicken, The Baby Werewolf, The Boy… Forever, and he appears as an adult in A Field Guide to Fauns, and The Wizard in his Keep.

Milt Morgan, from boyhood onward, is a wizard. He appears in Superchicken, The Baby Werewolf, The Boy… Forever, and he is an adult character in The Wizard in his Keep.

Tim Kellogg is the leader of the Pirates in the 1990’s. He appears in Catch a Falling Star, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius, and Magical Miss Morgan, as well as brief appearances in When the Captain Came Calling, Sing Sad Songs, and He Rose on a Golden Wing.

Torrie Brownfield is not actually a werewolf. He suffers from a genetic hair disorder called hypertrichosis. He appears in Recipes for Gingerbread Children and The Baby Werewolf.

Some characters have a single starring role, as Francois Martin does in Sing Sad Songs.

And Devon Martinez does in A Field Guide to Fauns.

I can always tell a better story when I know exactly what a character looks like. And I do that by drawing a picture.

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An Original Superhero

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I love Marvel Comics, and, as a result, I am also falling in love with the Marvel Superhero movies.  I spent this morning drooling over the Flash TV series which has that wonderful comic book wiseacre flavor.  And I decided that Dallas needs its own superhero.

So, using the toxic pollution in the city air and the natural ability of the human body to adapt to anything, Muck Man is born.  Yes, Muck Man, the toxic hero who smells so bad that bad guys don’t have a chance.  Severe odor is his super power.  He can remove his shoes and take down a regiment of evil villain minions with a wave of foot-fungus incredo-stink.  He can radiate infected ear-wax smells through the earwax antennas on his helmet.  And, of course, he can go fully nuclear with a Muck Man power fart.

The Magnificent Muck Man has a secret identity too.  He is a mild-mannered retired school teacher by day, pursuing a mundane and forgettable career as a writer until the city is threatened by a super villain.  And he is coming.

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Behold, the Angry Orange King.  He is tramping toward us in Angry Tramp Boots looking to tramp all over the basic human rights of people he doesn’t like.  Especially poor people he doesn’t like.  He gives rude finger gestures to the masses with the fingers of his tiny, tiny hands.  And he likes to build gigantic things and make other people pay for them.  He has recently defeated the homegrown lizard-man super villain that represents our state.  He used his super villain power to hang insulting nicknames on people, and we all know that nicknames can be fatal, especially to lizard-people.  Many would argue that the Angry Orange King hasn’t won total victory yet.  He still has to defeat one more opponent before the frightened nation turns the keys to the kingdom over to him.  But there is no guarantee that he will be beaten, as no other contender has beaten him yet, despite everything the wise monkeys claim to be true.

So the confrontation is set to happen.  Blow-hard insult master against the world’s greatest source of stinky justice.  Who will win?  Nobody knows for sure.  But for me, I tend to side with goodness over evil.

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Animal Town in Daylight

This is a place I explore in cartoons and daydreams.  It is a little town known as Animal Town for fairly obvious reasons.  It is populated by silly anthropomorphic animals who wear clothes and keep naked people as pets.

Animal Town

Animal Town is one of the all-time silliest places to visit in the cartoon dreamland of Fantastica.

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Mandy Panda and little brother Dandy are my constant companions and guides when I tour the dangerous streets of wild Animal Town.  In my cartoons, Mandy is an immigrant from the Pandalore Islands.  She is also the cartoon version of my wife.

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Three of the Town’s most important head monkeys.

It was Mandy who introduced me to the government officials who run Animal Town.  Judge Moosewinkle is the head of the Animal Town court system.  He is a hanging judge, so I am very careful about littering and loitering when I am in town.

Constable Geoffrey Giraffe does all the arresting and police work.  He used to work in a toy store, but quit his job there when he couldn’t get them to stop writing the R backwards on all their signs.  Grammar infractions annoy him more than any other crime.

Linus the Kitten-Hearted is the mayor of Animal Town.  They wanted to crown him as king, but he always says that’s only for when he’s in the jungle.  In town he prefers to be a democratically elected leader.  Of course, if you refuse to vote for him, he might eat you.

Most of my dreams in Animal Town are about the school there.

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                                                                                                                                                         Yes, this is a yearbook picture from Animal Town Elementary School.

Miss Ancient’s Class of 5th graders is usually rather rowdy and difficult.  You may have noticed there is a bare bear in the old buzzard’s class.  The fact is, the bears in Animal Town are all naturists and refuse to wear clothes.  This disturbs poor Miss
Ancient greatly, and it is therefore a real godsend that a fig leaf just happened to be drifting down through the air at the time this picture was made.  Bobby Bare is not shy, but some things are better not put into a cartoon.

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                                                                                                                                                   Yes, this is another yearbook picture. And I am in it twice, since Mr. Reluctant Rabbit is also me.

As a visitor to Animal Town, Cissy Bare took me to Mr. Rabbit’s class as her pet for show and tell.  She is also a bare bear, and she also benefited from a passing leaf at picture time. You may notice students putting rabbit ears behind each other’s heads in pictures… something that human children do too in real life.  But when I study this picture, I can’t help but think that maybe Mr. Rabbit started it.  Now, Animal Town is located in Fantastica, a part of the Dreamlands.  So that sort of explains how I ended up in school naked.  My dreams are like that.  You are in school in the middle of lessons before you realize that haven’t got a single stitch of clothing on.

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When I am inevitably charged with public indecency for being in school naked, I can turn to Animal Town lawyer Woolbinkle Moosewinkle.  He is totally incompetent and not very bright, but unlike most of the animals, he is friendly and on my side.  Spot Firedog is a Dalmatian who knows how to use a newspaper.  He is a reporter, publisher, and all-around good dog.  He wrote an expose on me being naked in the Animal Town Elementary school.

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Big Bull Beefalo runs the local hamburger emporium, which might seem like collusion to cannabalism, but Bull is a very gentle and very large soul.  He is himself a vegetarian, but he is a gifted fry cook and chef.  I can go to his restaurant when I get out of jail, though hopefully not as food.

So, Animal Town is a very different kind of place.  It is the result of dreams and goofiness and uncontrolled spurts of cartoonist creativity.  It is a cartoon sort of place where spontaneous and random humor happens.

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