Category Archives: characters

When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 2

Canto Two – Bait Worth Biting On

Describing the feeling of entering the Ghost House for the first time would prove quite difficult for Valerie when she tried to do it later on in Miss Bierstadt’s class for an English essay assignment.  But at the moment she crawled through the Tunnel of Doom, she would’ve described it as a feeling in her belly like eating a bowl of iced earthworms and trying to find a place to throw up in a jungle full of man-eating plants that smelled an awful lot like marigolds or something.  It was that kind of combination of anticipation, bad smells, icky things to see and touch, and the sensory deprivation of entering a candle-lit darkness from the bright September world outside.

“Welcome, Miss Valerie Clarke,” said freshman football hero and huge Polish hunk Pidney Breslow.  Valerie was deeply in love with the square-shouldered giant, and sincerely hoped he would be the leader of this Pirate club.

“Hello,” she said, almost timidly.

“You are just in time for the first official meeting of the reforming Norwall Pirates’ Club,” said Mary Philips brightly.   Mary had extended the official invitation to Valerie to come here, although Val didn’t really know why.  Mary had said that she didn’t want to be the only girl in the club, but why would a girl like Mary want to be in a boys’ club?  She had a bad feeling that the high school freshman girl also had her cap set for winning Pidney as a boyfriend.  But, plain-looking as Mary was, Val was only mildly concerned.

A quick look around as Danny Murphy crawled in after her revealed the other boys in attendance at the secret meeting.  Ray Zeffer, another high school freshman was there.  He was kinda handsome in a way, too, but he was always so sad-looking with those big puppy-dog brown eyes of his.  He had a neatly combed mess of jet black hair too, which was also attractive.  Val could easily learn to like this club.

The other boy, a high school junior, was kinda creepy.  His name was Conrad Doble.  He was the only one at the meeting who had been a member of the original Norwall Pirates.  He was tall and thin, with lank blond hair that hadn’t had a haircut in too long.  He had a distinct problem with facial Acne.  And he insisted on leering at Valerie, like he wanted to take a bite or two and eat her up.  For the first time Val understood why he had the semi-Shakespearian nickname of King Leer.

“You know that re-forming the Pirates is a sucky idea, right?” said Doble, leering at Mary Philips for the moment.   “There’s no way to go back to those things.  Milt Morgan had all the ideas and told us what to do.  Brent Clarke was the leader and made the ideas happen.  How are we gonna fight werewolves or undead Chinese wizards without them?”

“You know that those adventures were mostly lies and fairy tales,” Mary said.

“Still, who will be the wizard?  And who will be the leader?”  Doble glared at Mary accusingly.  “I actually saw the werewolf!”

The two older boys, Ray and Pidney looked at each other sheepishly.

“Re-forming the Pirates was my idea,” said Mary.  “I think I should be the leader.”

“A girl as leader?” asked Doble.  “We only used to let girls in for sex parties.”

“Be careful what you say to Mary, Goon,” said Pidney.

“Or what?  You’ll beat me up with your football muscles?”

“No,” said Ray.  “The two of us will beat the crap out of you.”  The fire flashing in Ray Zeffer’s eyes was even more intimidating than Pidney’s football muscles, and Pidney’s football muscles were seriously huge.

“Yeah, well…  I guess there might be benefits to having girls in the Pirates,” grumbled Doble menacingly.

“So, it’s settled.  The Norwall Pirates exist once more,” said Mary with a sparkly smile.  “I will be the leader and Pidney will be second in command.”

“Who is the wizard?” growled Doble.  “Milt is the hard one to replace.”

“I get that you always thought of Milt Morgan as Merlin and Brent Clarke as his King Arthur,” said Mary, “but do we really need a wizard?”

“Yeah, I think we do,” insisted Doble.

“You know we don’t have to let you be a Pirate this time,” warned Pidney.

“I’m the only real Norwall Pirate here,” said Doble imperially.  “You have to have my permission to even do this.”

“It’s all right,” said Mary.  “What is it you think we need a wizard for?”

Conrad Doble stood up to his full height and lightly bonked his head on a cellar rafter.  After he rubbed his somewhat flattened head of hair, he went over to a nearby cabinet, and removed the right hand door which basically fell out when you touched it.  He reached in and brought out a large peanut-butter jar filled with formaldehyde.  Floating in it was the severed head of a huge black cat, its dead eyes popped and staring.  He placed that on the crate in front of the old couch.

“Gack!  What’s that?” asked Pidney.

“The secret mystical symbol of the Pirate leader,” said Mary.

“Smart girl,” said Conrad Doble.  “If you know that, then surely you know what a wizard is for.”

“I’m guessing the keeper of secrets,” said Mary.

“The teller of stories!” Valerie blurted out.

“Yes!” said Doble.  “Both of those things.  But story-teller most of all.  That’s what Milt used to do.  He told us stories and made us believe in stuff.”

“So, who here is a story-teller?” asked Ray Zeffer.

“Tell us the story of your Uncle Noah,” Pidney said to Mary.

“He is NOT my uncle,” said Mary.  “He’s just Dad’s friend.  I used to call him uncle when I was little.”

“But that’s the idea, isn’t it?” asked Pidney.  “That story you were telling me about your dad’s friend on the freighter in the South Seas?  You could tell us that.”

“Maybe.  You have to give me time to pull it all together.  I think we need to leave that position open for the moment, to give others here a chance to tell a story of their own.”  Mary glared in Conrad’s direction for a change.

“Okay,” said Doble.  “It’s a deal.”

“Who will be in the club?” asked Pidney.

“I invited everyone here to be a Pirate,” said Mary.  “I think all of us need to be here.  The Norwall Pirates used to be a group of friends that supported each other and helped each other through hard times.  That’s what we all need again.  Especially Ray.”

Ray Zeffer blushed and looked off into the darkness of the far corner of the cellar.  Valerie wondered why.  She decided she would find out… soon.

“Why didn’t you invite Billy Martin?” asked Danny Murphy.  “He needs to be a Pirate too.”

“You are right,” said Mary with a smile.  “But I didn’t know where to find him or how to get the message to him.  Inviting him can be our first club project.”

“Club project?   You make it sound all girly!” complained Doble.

“Adventure, then.”

“Yeah, better.”

So it was decided.  Valerie Clarke was now the second girl ever to be a Norwall Pirate.  She smiled to herself, but when she caught Doble looking at her again, she changed the smile for a frown.                                                                              

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Filed under artwork, characters, humor, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 1

Canto One – A Secret Meeting Awaits

Valerie was on her skateboard on Main Street.  She was thrashing.  It didn’t matter how dangerous Daddy said it could be.  She was a thrasher, and she knew how to ride.  If he thought he could forbid her from doing it, well, that was just so boofoo!  No.  She couldn’t use that word.  Not after Danny Murphy told her what it actually meant.  Yeesh!  Okay, un-cool, then.

She was ten.  She was wearing her latex biker shorts.  You know, the ones Mom forbid her to wear because they were skin tight.  But why did it matter so much?  It was not like she actually had a butt to show off.  She could ride her skateboard naked and no one would really notice.  She did an ollie off the edge of the sidewalk and onto the hot pavement.  Summer was ending, but the last day of the Labor Day weekend was still hot.  Iowa hot.   Eighty degrees in the sun with warm, humid air that boiled you right out of your biker shorts sort of hot.  But Valerie wasn’t ready to find out if it was true that no one would notice.  She needed to keep them on.  They were black with a purple slash of color on the sides.  Her favorite thing to wear.

Across the asphalt street her wheels and trucks buzzed as she rode to the south side of Main Street.  It was a small Iowa farm town.  Only maybe four cars were parked there at any one time, and no one was on the street but her.  Still, she wished she could burn her way across right in front of someone’s moving pickup truck and scare them into dropping a bale of hay or two.  No one marked her passing by in one of the most boring places in the whole Mr. Boofoo Universe.  No.   The Mr. Un-Cool Universe.   She had to remember not to say that other thing anymore.  Especially in front of Mom, even if Mom didn’t have a clue what it really meant.

She was headed for the Ghost House on the south eastern edge of town.  The Ghost House was the only remaining haunted house in Norwall, Iowa, and it had collapsed in on itself.  It was more a pile of broken boards and garbage than a house, but it was the place where she was headed because, unknown to most of the adults in town, the Ghost House still had a functioning cellar, shored up with railroad ties by her cousin Brent Clarke and the rest of the original Norwall Pirates.  The Pirates had been a secret club in the 1970’s, a secret that nearly everyone knew at least one thing about.  They had been a liars’ club of young boys who supposedly caught a werewolf once and chased an undead Chinese wizard around town.  Liars’ club was more than just a local nickname for it.  It was more of a literal definition.  But she had been called to attend a secret Pirate meeting.  A meeting that shouldn’t exist because there had been no Norwall Pirates since they had graduated high school in 1978.

Mom would have a fit if she knew Valerie was headed to the Ghost House.  It was the kind of run-down rattle-trap that all mothers worried about.  No decent mother worthy of her official Mom-card would stand for a child of theirs going to such a place, especially not Val’s Mom, the Queen of Worrywarts.

She thrashed her way down Whitten Avenue and then around the corner, zigzagging for two blocks, and then passing Ugly Bill’s Junkyard to the huge pile of broken crap that had been described to her as being the actual place.

She came to a stop, kicked up her board and grabbed it, and looked around, not quite as certain now as she pondered a wilderness of junk, thistles, and burdock leaves.  Ugly Bill Pixeley had tons of used car parts and wrecked truck parts from which he salvaged the pieces that he, his brother, and his two idiot sons put together as trucks and other vehicles which he then sold at a huge profit.  Pixeley was a talented mechanic and a very crafty self-taught engineer.

“You here for the Pirate meeting?” asked Danny Murphy, pulling up on his bicycle.

“Yeah,” she answered, popping her Bazooka Joe bubble gum.  “Mary Philips says it ain’t just gonna be for boys anymore.”

“Yeah.  I heard that too.  And I’m glad you’re gonna be a Pirate,” Danny said with a sly grin.  He was a sophisticated man of twelve… well, not really… but he was a boy older than Valerie by an entire school year, though only about five months in age.  Older boys being in the club was one of the main attractions for her.  “It will be cool to have the most beautiful little girl ever born in Norwall in our club.”

Valerie blushed and dropped her eyes a little bit at that.  Her Uncle Dash had always said that about her since she could remember.  But it was one thing to hear it from family, and something else to hear it from somebody she rode the school bus with.  Some things get around by word of mouth a lot faster and farther than you ever wish they would.

“Do you know how to get inside?” Valerie asked.

“I can show you a secret entrance … for a kiss?”  Danny blushed intensely as he proposed the bargain, a truly dark red that can only be achieved by somebody as boney-skinny, white-skinned Irish, and shy of girls as Danny Murphy was.

“Boys who think like that all grow up to be rapists,” Val shot back at him.  “That’s what my Aunt Jennifer says, anyway.”

Danny turned an even darker shade of red-violet.  Valerie was suddenly feeling guilty, as if she might possibly have caused his head to explode from embarrassment by her cutting remark about his personal urges.  She didn’t dislike him.  She just didn’t want to kiss him.

“Aw, I didn’t mean anything by that.  I’ll show you the Tunnel of Doom.”

Danny pointed to a large concrete drainage tile that had been rolled up against the side of the Ghost House’s foundation.  She could see that if you crawled through the tile, you could enter through a large crack in the brick foundation.  Spiders and potentially snakes to crawl through.  Ughh!  But Valerie was no Shrinking Violet.  She pushed Danny out of the way and went in.                                                                                

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Filed under characters, humor, magic, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, Pirates

Artistic Obsession and its Uses

Torrie Brownfield

As I continue to draw nearer to publishing my comic horror novel, The Baby Werewolf, busily polishing paragraphs and tweaking the format, I had to find time to do some drawing, some colored pencil cartooning, actually, in order to draw even closer to a comprehensive understanding of the title character, Torrie Brownfield.

I decided that what I wanted to draw was a full-bodied portrait of Torrie, displaying in short pants the full impact of his “werewolf hair” caused by his full-body hypertrichosis syndrome, a genetic hair-growth disorder.

So, I began by printing out a reduced version of the scan of Torrie’s face and shoulders that I created from the drawing I made of him back when the story itself was merely in outline form.  I pasted that colored print onto a larger piece of drawing paper and first penciled and then inked the rest of his body.  I then used my colored pencils to go all Crayola on the bulk of it, ending up with the complete Torrie Brownfield, holding the one and only copy of Dr. Horation Hespar-White’s recipe book for Magical Airborne Elixir.

Now it doesn’t make sense to create an image like this for no particular reason.  Was it just something I was doing to keep my hands busy while watching Netflix?  Well, yes, but I did get something out of it after all.  I was able to think seriously about my monster theme as heavy-handedly I continue to beat the reader over the head with it.  I am obsessed with this particular portrait because, minus the facial fur, it actually looks like and reminds me of the charming little former student the character in the book is actually based on.  He was a thirteen-year-old Hispanic boy, naive, innocent, and thoroughly sweet-natured.  And he shared with me a history of abuse during childhood.  He was not sexually abused, but psychologically and physically abused.  And that, of course, led me to the revelation while drawing that the monster of my horror story is not a real werewolf.  Not even the murderer who is the villain of the book.  The real monster of the story is a systematic abuse of children.   It can have two possible results.  It can make you into a sweet-natured determined survivor like Danny was, and like Torrie is.  Or it can turn you into a vengeful psychotic potential serial killer lashing out because of mental scars and lingering pain.  Believe me, I knew a couple of that kind of kid too.  Drawing can, in fact, lead you to revelations about yourself and the universe around you.  And so, this little obsession has done that very thing for me.

So, I end with this scan of the completed artwork so you can get a better look at it than you can from my crappy photography skills.  Drawing something obsessively does have its uses.

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Sci-Fi Characters

I have slowed down on revamping Aeroquest.  You may have noticed, I did not spit out the next Canto yesterday.  But I am still noodling around with the characters and the story.  I took as my model the short chapters and many characters of Frank Herbert’s Dune series.  And since it was intended as a comedy novel along the lines of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it has a lot of ridiculous things in it that subvert the plot and the many subplots.

The story is salvageable.  But I will have to do some very big changes.  I need to streamline the plot.  I need to cut out unnecessary characters.  And I need to give more extensive development and stage time to the characters I keep.

So here is an insight into critical characters and who they are.

The Aero Brothers are the two main characters who give the book its name.  They were not created by me, but, rather, by one of the high school boys who played the science fiction RPG Traveller with me back in 1985.  He created both characters loosely based on Han Solo from Star Wars.  Ham was a hotshot space pilot.  Ged was a rogue hunter who developed the psionic power of changing his shape.  He was so powerful that he could use this mind power to change not only his size and shape but also his species.  The boy who created these characters was a natural born leader even though he was small for his age and often taken for granted by his fellow players in the game.  So these characters both reflect his real-life personality.

Trav Dalgoda, known as “Goofy” for his weird obsessions (like the eyepatch he doesn’t actually need), is a clown character who is constantly driven by his worst impulses to move the plot forward.  He doesn’t mean to betray anybody on purpose, but he is obsessed with treasure hunting and watching things blow up.  He can’t help causing massive destruction on planetary scales.  Tron Blastarr, the scar-faced space pirate, is a bad guy turned hero who is often on the wrong end of Goofy’s plot-moving missteps.  He ends up deciding that instead of merely being a pirate leader, he needs to lead a rebellion and form a new interstellar government.

These four are the most important characters in the entire story.  I cannot rewrite it without any of them.  All four of them are based on real people who played the science fiction role-playing game with me in the 80’s.  I will tell you more about Aeroquest characters in future posts.

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Characters in Colored Pencil

As a novelist, certain characters, as I understand them, have to be portrayed in a certain specific way.  It may be because the character is based on a real person, so those characteristics are tied to reality and changing them will impair the character’s realism.  It may also be because the character has a very special function in the story, possibly a metaphorical or thematic function so a change in those particulars can derail the entire story.  But portraying them in colored pencil is not nearly so arcane.  Colored pencil is my own preferred medium, the one I know best how to use as an artist.

Snow Babies 2

Snow Babies

These characters are not specifically people.  They are created in nature when a person dies in a blizzard by freezing to death.  They act like banshees in that they serve both as omens of impending death, and collectors of the spirit forms of the deceased.  Snow ghosts after a manner of speaking.

They are from my novel Snow Babies and give the book its name.  Of course, they are not the only snow babies that the title refers to.  But they are essential to the basic theme of the story.

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Brent Clarke

Brent is the leader of the Pirates.  He appears in the novels Superchicken, and The Baby Werewolf, though I have another couple of stories in my head where he plays an important role as well.

Brent is an amalgam of two real people.  One was a boy from my boyhood gang, and the other was a student I taught more than a decade after that.  He is a farm boy, naturally outgoing and athletic, but also a bit of a bully and a bigger bit of a jerk, especially around girls.

 

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Miss Francis “Franny” Morgan

Miss Morgan is a middle school teacher based on a real-life colleague who had a gift for reaching and teaching challenging kids, though she’s also got a bit of me in her since the major challenges she faces in the story are mostly things that happened to me, and I made her an English teacher like me instead of the Science teacher she really was.  She is the main character in the novel that bears her name, Magical Miss Morgan.  She is also a minor character in Superchicken, almost twenty years earlier in time.  I pictured her wearing a purple paisley dress to represent her magical abilities.  That magic is, of course, the ability to make stories come to life through imagination and creativity.

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Sean “Cudgel” Murphy

Cudgel is “Grampy” of the Murphy Clan, living in the home of his eldest son Warren.  He is basically a clown character, being an irascible, evil old man who loves his family, only ever drives his beloved Austin Hereford motor car (“the best goddam car in the whole goddam world from 1954”), and will fight for any reason or excuse at the drop of a hat.

He has already played a role in the novels The Bicycle-Wheel Genius and Snow Babies.  And I hope to use him in several more.  He is loosely based on several old men I have known throughout my life, but he functions mainly as a clown, a comic relief character that breaks up the tension in developing plots.

So there you have some characters that I have written about in my novels and illustrated in living colored pencil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Character References, Part 3

When choosing who’s picture to publish of all the many made-up people that live in my head and my fiction, I often wonder, do I have an accurate sense of who is important and who is merely minor?  I offer now some characters I don’t feel comfortable leaving out.

Mazie Haire

Mazie Haire

One of the Haire Sisters, rumored to be a witch, and proud to prove it to you, Mazie is a severe and highly focused individual with a knack for seeing and convincing you of the truth.  So, maybe she really is a witch.

She appears in;

Snow Babies

 

 

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Milton John Morgan (Milt)

I can’t tell you about the witch without mentioning the wizard.  Milt Morgan is the Merlin of the Norwall Pirates (an adventuring gang and 4-H softball team).

He is one of the founders of the gang and the one who got them into the most trouble in the 1970’s.

He appears in;

Superchicken

The Baby Werewolf

Torry2 (640x480)

Torrie Brownfield

Torrie is the hair-everywhere boy with hypertrichosis, the werewolf-hair disease.  He was genetically doomed to life looking like a werewolf.  He was discovered living in hiding in Norwall by the Pirates’ gang who decided they simply had to make him a member.

He is, of course, the main character of;

The Baby Werewolf

And also appears in;

Recipes for Gingerbread Children

 

Harker

Harker Dawes

Harker is a clown-character based on a real person living in the real town of Norwall.  He buys the local hardware store and runs the business into bankruptcy.  He is not only a ne’er-do-well, but he also is a truly loveable fool.

He plays a key role in;

Snow Babies

He is also in the upcoming novel;

Fools and Their Toys

dils1

Dilsey Murphy

Dilsey is Mike’s slightly older sister who seems to be in a lot of my stories.  She is a tomboy and a Daddy’s girl.  She is also beloved by her irascible Grampy, Cudgel Murphy.  Mike Murphy both hates her and loves her, but mostly just depends on her.

She is in;

Magical Miss Morgan

The Bicycle-Wheel Genius

and a large number of upcoming stories

 

 

cudgels car

Sean “Cudgel” Murphy

Grampy of the Murphy Clan, Cudgel is the meanest old man you’d ever want to meet.  He is excellently suited to the job of teaching kids to swear.  And he only drives his Austin Hereford, “The finest car made anywhere in the whole goddam world in 1954!”

He appears in;

Snow Babies

The Bicycle-Wheel Genius

Crooner

Francois Martin

Francois, the French orphan, is the main character in my current manuscript,

Sing Sad Songs.

He paints his face in clown paint and sings beautifully enough to save his Uncle’s business.  I am halfway finished with this new novel.

So, now I feel like I have exhausted myself in character introductions and will probably eschew a “Part 4”.  But with Mickey, there are no guarantees.

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A Character Reference, Part 2

Yesterday an inconvenient internet outage interrupted my fountain of character gushing.  So let me splash a couple more on here.

tim

Tim Kellogg

Tim is a school teacher’s son who is sorta, kinda, based on my own oldest son… and maybe a little bit on me.  He’s clever, creative, a natural leader, and only slightly evil part of the time.

Tim is a main character in;

Catch a Falling Star

The Bicycle-Wheel Genius

Magical Miss Morgan

 

Grandma Gretel

 

Grandma Gretel Stein

Gretel is a German survivor of the concentration camps who sees and talks to fairies on a regular basis.  She also bakes magically delicious gingerbread cookies.  And loves to tell stories to those who eat her cookies.

She is a main character in;

Recipes for Gingerbread Children

She is an important character in;

Superchicken

The Baby Werewolf

ginger1

The Primary Cast of Recipes for Gingerbread Children (left to right) Grandma Gretel, the cookie baker, Todd Niland, handsome young farm boy and cookie-eater, Sherry Cobble, nudist and junior high cheerleader, and Sandy Wickham, cookie-eater and Todd Niland’s crush.

My Art 2 of Davalon

Farbick

He’s the alien Telleron pilot and good guy aboard Xiar’s space ship who gets shot during the failed invasion of Iowa and helps save the planet in the near future.  He’s a main character in;

Catch a Falling Star

Stardusters and Space Lizards

Davalon (re-named David by the couple who adopts him)

Dav is the alien boy accidentally lost on earth in Catch a Falling Star, and leader of the young explorers in Stardusters and Space Lizards.

Superchick

Edward-Andrew Campbell, the Superchicken

It is possible E-A is really me.  He bears my high school nickname.  He is a boy trying to cope with being the new kid in a tightly knit little Iowa farm town.

He is the main character in;

Superchicken

 

 

I fear I am still a long way from done with referring to characters in my books.  But more waits for another day.

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