Category Archives: fairies

How to be a Truly Terrible Poet

I can’t tell you how to write a good poem.

As a poet, I am pretty terrible myself.

So, I can’t really tell you how to do it.

I am, however, an expert on how NOT to write a good poem.

A truly terrible poem might begin with an over-extended metaphor.

It might begin by saying, “A poem is like a fairy tale, filmed in black and white on 35 mm film stock, with Orson Wells as the director.”

And for the meat of the poem, you use details about the fairy acrobats having an accident on the trapeze, and the circus train derails and has a terrible accident, and the clown never takes his makeup off because he’s on the run from the police… and you totally forget that the movie “The Greatest Show on Earth” was directed by Cecil B. DeMille and filmed in color.

And you have a tendency to “squinch” the rhymes, rhyming “good” with “food” and “dud” with “odd,” and at the same time you put trochaic warts all over the iambic pentameter because as a poet you are not William Shakespeare, and you are not even Buddy Rich because the rhythm sounds more like banging trashcan lids than drumbeats.

In the middle of the poem somewhere it suddenly becomes free verse without a rhyme scheme or reason for the change. And the theme circles back on itself and does a pretzel twist with no logic to salt it with.

And you are a terrible poet like Mickey because, when you write a poem you don’t realize;

the gemstone at the center of your poem must go from your mind, to pen, to paper, to eye of the reader, to mind… and finally to heart…

And the blaze of its beauty must be strong enough to resonate…

and be able to SHAKE THE BONES OF THE UNIVERSE.

And you can’t do it because you don’t even get the irony of that rule.

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Filed under fairies, humor, irony, Paffooney, poetry

The Bottle Imp Implementation

I gave you a list of places where my ideas for fiction come from, and in the end, I failed to explain the thing about the bottle imp. Yes, I do get ideas from the bottle imp. He’s an angry blue boggart with limited spell powers. But he’s also more than 700 years old and has only been trapped in the bottle since 1805. So, he has about 500 years of magical life experience to draw from and answer my idea questions. Admittedly it would be more helpful if he were a smarter imp. His name is Bruce, and his IQ in human terms would only be about 75. But, then, I don’t have to worry about misfired magic. If I asked him to, “Make me a hamburger,” he wouldn’t immediately change me into a fried, ground-beef patty because he is not smart enough to do that high of a level of magic spell.

But he is just barely intelligent enough to tell me a truthful answer if I asked him a question like, “What would happen if I put an alligator’s egg in a robin’s nest as a joke, and the robin family decided it was their own weird-looking egg and then tried to hatch it?” The answer would be truthful according to his vast knowledge of swamp pranks. And it would also be funny because he’s too dumb to know better. In fact, he told me about a mother robin who worked so diligently at hatching an alligator egg that a baby alligator was hatched. She convinced it that it was actually a bird. And when it came time for the baby birds to learn to fly, the baby alligator couldn’t do it… until she talked it into flapping madly with all four legs. Then, a mother’s love and faith in her child got an alligator airborne.

Yeah, that hasn’t proved to be a very useful story idea. I put it into a story I was writing during my seven years in high school, and then lost the manuscript. (I was a teacher, not a hard-to-graduate student.) But it was proof that you can get your writing ideas from a bottle imp.

So, if you decide to use bottle imps as an idea source for fiction, the next step is to find and acquire the right sort of bottle imp. I got mine from Smellbone, the rat-faced necromancer. I bought it for an American quarter and three Canadian loonies more than a dozen years ago. I found it at his Arcana and Horse-Radish Burger Emporium in Montreal. But I am not sure how that information helps you. Smellbone died in a firey magical-transformation accident involving an angry Wall-Street financier and a dill pickle. The whole Emporium went to cinders in an hour.

If you are going to try to capture the bottle imp yourself, which I strongly do not recommend, you are going to need a magical spell-resistant butterfly net, a solid glass jar, bottle, or brass urn. A garlic-soaked cork to fit the bottle. A spell scroll ready to cast containing at least one fairy-shrink spell. And an extremely limited amount of time to actually think about what you are doing.

Now I have told you how I get writing ideas from a bottle imp. Aren’t you glad I did not include this idea in the post about where ideas come from? After all, I am a fiction writer. I get my jollies from telling lies in story form. And bottle imps, especially angry blue bottle imps named Bruce, or Charlie, or Bill, are more trouble than they are worth. They can curse you with magical spells of infinite silliness and undercut your serious nature for a lifetime.

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Filed under Paffooney, goofiness, strange and wonderful ideas about life, humor, goofy thoughts, fairies, insight, conspiracy theory, writing

Hidden Kingdom… Chapter 2 Complete

Here is the link to the complete Chapter 1https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2018/11/24/hidden-kingdom-chapter-1-complete/

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Filed under comic strips, fairies, Hidden Kingdom, humor, Paffooney

Saturdays With Gingerbread

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This is the pen and ink start of an illustration of the novel I am working on, Recipes for Gingerbread Children.

I admit that my obsession with the benefits of gingerbread is mostly in my head.  Specifically, in my sinuses.  I find products with ginger in them, diet ginger ale, ginger teas, and especially gingerbread cookies, help reduce the tightness in my COPD-laced lungs, clear my sinuses, and make breathing mercifully easier.  Gingerbread cookies are also seasonally wonderful in that they are slightly Christmassy and help bring my family together.

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So, yesterday, a Saturday, my daughter the Princess and I executed a perfectly evil plan to commit evil acts of gingerbread and whip up some wicked little gingerbread men in a frenzy of deliciously evil bakery.

Okay, maybe not evil exactly…  but I have diabetes and the Princess desperately wants to lose some weight, neither condition being one that benefits by having the temptation of wicked little gingerbread men around.

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And, as with any evil plan, many things proceeded to go awry.  We did not have any actual flour available to make the gingerbread dough less butter-and-egg sticky.  All we had was some corn starch… which had bugs in it.  After struggling to craft sticky little bodies a few times, we decided to go ahead and use the tainted corn starch.  After all, a few little larvae that get overlooked and not picked out will only add a bit of extra protein, right?

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And we had the added bonus that you can make just as much mess with corn starch and margarine as you can with flour and butter!

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But we did get the corn-starchy little buggers baked.  (And they were probably literally buggers due to the potential for having bugs in them.  Oh well, it should fortify the old immune systems.)

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The only decoration we had was chocolate frosting, since someone ate all the sprinkles and sugar dots we bought last year for the gingerbread house.  (Don’t look at me.  I have diabetes.)  So we frosted them, prompting the Princess to begin calling them “little burnt souls blackened in hell”.

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So then the cookie cannibals could allow the eating to begin.

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Mmmm!  Good cookie!

Okay, I know it looks like the Princess did all the work, and all I did was eat them.  But somebody had to do the hard work of taking all the pictures, right?

 

 

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Filed under bugs, fairies, family, humor, illustrations, imagination, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Fairy Tales and Dragons (with pointillism)

Going through my old drawing portfolio, I found my children’s book project from my undergrad college years.  I have no idea now looking at the illustrations what the story was even about.  I lost the actual story, and I never made a cover for it.  But here is a look at old hopes and dreams and a way of seeing the world that begins; Once Upon a Time…

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I have no earthly idea what the heck this story is even about, but I do like the pen and ink work, and probably couldn’t repeat it if I had to.

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Hidden Kingdom… Chapter 2 Complete

Here is the link to the complete Chapter 1https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2018/11/24/hidden-kingdom-chapter-1-complete/

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Filed under comic strips, fairies, Hidden Kingdom, humor, Paffooney

Small Town Inspirations

Pesch Street

I grew up in a small rural town in North Central Iowa.  It was a place that was, according to census, home to 275 people.  That apparently counted the squirrels.  (And I should say, the squirrels were definitely squirrelly.  They not only ate nuts, they became a nut.)  It was a good place to grow up in the 60’s and 70’s.  But in many ways, it was a boring place.

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Yes, there were beautiful farmer’s daughters to lust after and pine for and be humiliated by.  There was a gentle, supportive country culture where Roy Rogers was a hero and some of the best music came on Saturdays on Hee Haw where there was a lot of pickin’ and grinnin’ going on.  There were high school football games on Friday nights, good movies at the movie theaters in Belmond and Clarion, and occasional hay rides for the 4-H Club and various school-related events like Homecoming.

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I lived in a world where I was related to half the people in the county, and I knew at least half of the other half.  People told stories about other people, some of them incredibly mean-spirited, some of them mildly mean, and some of them, though not many, that were actually good and actually true.  I learned about telling good stories from my Grandpa Aldrich who could tell a fascinating tale of Dolly who owned the part of town called locally “Dollyville” and included the run-down vacant structure the kids all called the Ghost House.   He also told about Dolly’s husband, Shorty the dwarf, who was such a mean drunk and went on epic temper tirades that often ended only when Dolly hospitalized him with a box on the ear.  (Rumor had it that there were bricks in the box.)

And I realized that through story-telling, the world became whatever you said that it was.   I could change the parts of life I didn’t love so much by lying… er, rather, by telling a good story about them.  And if people heard and liked the stories enough, they began to believe and see life more the way I saw it myself.  A good story could alter reality and make life better.  I used this power constantly as a child.

There were invisible aliens invading Iowa constantly when I was a boy.  Dragons lived in the woods at Bingham Park, and there were tiny little fairy people everywhere, in the back yard under the bushes, in the attic of the house, and building cities in the branches of neglected willow trees.

Donner n Silkie

I reached out to the world around me as an artist, a cartoonist, and a story-teller and plucked details and colors and wild imaginings like apples to bake the apple pie that would much later in my life feed the novels and colored-pencil pictures that would make up my inner life.  The novels I have written and the drawings I have made have all come from being a small town boy who dreamed big and lived more in stories than in the humdrum everyday world.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, colored pencil, dreaming, fairies, farm boy, goofy thoughts, humor, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

How Good Things Grow from Bad Things

In the deep woods of the Pacific Northwestern portion of the United States, a great tall pine tree is struck by lightning. Of course, the threat of fire in this day and age is very real. But luckily, this time as the tree falls in flames and ignites the brush around where it falls, the sky opens up and a deluge of rain extinguishes what the lightning has ignited.

Time passes as time always seems to do. The burned area heals. The slain giant is broken down by bugs and heat and bacteria and rot. And before you know it, flowers begin to bloom there. The tree’s carbon-based flesh has fertilized the ground. And where the tree once created shade, there is now a hole to let the sunshine in. Life gets wildly busy growing.

Because of what the tree suffered, the forest floor, especially the part of it where flowers bloom, got its chance in the sun.

The same sort of rule of nature happened in politics in 2016. Bozo the Crime Boss got elected because the wave of pus and anger he surfed into power on had been festering under the skin of the country since Reagan brought judgemental, self-righteous, and fear-mongering rich-types into the political power pinnacles in 1980. The boil finally burst. De-regulating environmental protections has been a Republican priority since Ronnie Ray-Gun put James Watt in the job of Secretary of the Interior just so the forests in National Parks could be opened up to logging and oil exploration. And we have seen in the past few years how badly those changes in policy have affected our lives. The environment is on fire. We don’t have enough trees to absorb all the carbon dioxide that is causing the warming. Most of this country’s fresh water is now contaminated with an industrial waste of one sort or another. But Don Cheetoh’s recent implosion is threatening not only to wither the poisonous fruits of Republican policies but fundamentally destroy the evil-making machinery that the Republicans have worked so hard at maintaining for decades. We human beans who actually value human life over money thought 2016 was a deadly disaster. But it may instead have been more of a lancing of the boil as the twice-impeached Prexydent of the Disunited States did all his high crimes and misdemeanors in the public eye and then was routinely given a pass by Republican leaders in Congress. It reached a point with the stolen presidential documents that his crimes can no longer be covered up. The poisons may well be draining out of the holes the spoiled mango of a man poked into the very skin of our government. Look at how much climate-correction legislation was recently passed by the new, non-Cheetoh President. And look at how polls are suggesting that Democrats might not have to endure the traditional punishments for doing something good for the people that Republicans were so looking forward to. Good things are seemingly growing where the manure of the previous Republican administration has been spread.

Maybe I should be more careful about drawing young ladies in the nude. This is not a sexualized depiction, but not everybody who sees it will judge it that way. Many Texans are convinced nakedness is always a sin.

My own life is also an example of how something terrible grew into something good. As a victim of childhood sexual assault, I spent many years grappling with trauma. But the incident made me a school teacher, determined to fight dark things like sexual assault, violence, and a will to do harm to others with the power of education, empathy, and love. As a retired teacher, I have fully embraced naturism, and am nakedly honest about many things. One of those things is that you really need to endure some badness in your life to truly understand and appreciate the good that directly comes out of having survived that evil.

I should be very clear about the fact that when I was a teacher, I was not also an active nudist at the same time. I never suggested that any child should be naked in public and never saw any of my students nude (a feat achieved by never being a coach of athletics in charge of monitoring behaviors in the shower room after events and practice.) My nudism is entirely practiced after I retired and mostly at home by myself. But it is also a good thing to grow out of the badness that occurred before. It is a chance for me to finally be at peace with who I am inside my own skin (hopefully free of boils.)

Looking out at the end of the drive at our family farm in Iowa.

As I am now a Medicare recipient, I have to face the badness on the horizon that comes with reaching an age considered a fully-lived life. There could be heart attacks, strokes, and possibly Parkinson’s in the near future. I could lose so much of my mental self-control that I end up being charged with drawing child pornography (though I don’t believe I have done any of that. Former President George HW Bush didn’t believe he sexually harassed any young nurses from his deathbed either.) But whatever badness comes, I do believe there will be some mitigating goodness that follows because of it.

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The Education of PoppenSparkle… Canto 11

Canto 11 – Battle Plans

The meeting that followed the feast was limited to the Mouse King and Zam his wife, Prinz Flute and his three companions,  Lord Lancelot, and the Rascal, who was forced to sit next to PoppenSparkle because he was apparently no longer welcome as Lancelot’s Squire.  Schtinker, of course, wanted badly to be there, but he was taken to the bathhouse with the other Sylph children that didn’t pass the smell test before bedtime.

“I think the solution is obvious.  We use Poppy’s Polymorph Spell to turn as many Gobbuluns into Fairies as it is possible to do.  We bolster our army with the converts from theirs.” Prince Flute looked pleased with himself as he announced the plan to the whole table.

“Nonsense!”  Lancelot sat with his arms folded in front of him and his reddish, tired eyes glaring at the map on the center of the table.

“Why is it nonsense?”  Flute insisted.

“Because we are doomed here.  The Stoor has his ugly army, and Lord Toxiss brought his vast army all the way from distant Sheek-a-go.”

“The Slow Ones actually pronounce that place Chicago,” Tod corrected helpfully.

“I don’t care what you call it.  The point is… we are so outnumbered, they will overwhelm us, slaying everybody who is not immortal, and then swarming down to Cair Tellos to do the same to them.  We have only one play here.  We make a glorious last attack, kill so many of them before they overwhelm us that they can’t muster a big enough force to overwhelm Cair Tellos.  We will die heroes.”

“You won’t die,” pointed out the Rascal.  “You are an immortal Storybook.  The rest of us will all die for your glory and you’ll walk into Cair Tellos to claim all the credit.”

“You wound me, Rascal.  Did I not save your life a dozen times over in the Battle of the Arcanum?”

“You did.  But you decimated the entire army doing it.  We would have sold our lives better defending the castle rather than fighting them on the open fields.”

“Okay, perhaps we choose to die on the parapets of Castle Cornucopia.  Maybe we can take more of them out if we make them climb our walls and pour down the hot oils as they try to climb up…”

The Mouse King cleared his throat.  “Zam and I have three little mouselings to care for.  And there are hundreds of Sylph and Elf children left orphaned by the war that could use new parents.  We don’t want anyone to die who doesn’t have to.  And don’t we know that at least a few of the Gobbuluns out there are citizens of Cornucopia that have been changed by Lord Toxiss?”

“We won’t do ourselves any good to change a few of the Gobbuluns the way the girl did today.  It won’t make a sizeable enough difference, and she will just exhaust her magic getting Gobbuluns changed so other Gobbuluns can kill them.  It would be futile… a wasted effort.”

“I think, Lord Lancelot, that the point where your heroics are sorely needed, is at the gate where you and your best soldiers can defend and gather the changed ones into the castle as we change them.”  Flute smiled as he obviously was trying to manipulate Lancelot’s ego.

“You cannot change enough of them with one little girl casting one little spell.”

“We can do better than that!” said Glittershine.  “I helped PoppenSparkle write the spell into her spell book.  I already am familiar with the spell.  Tod and Flute can also study it.  We will have four Wizards, not one, changing bad guys into good guys.”

“If we should happen to accidentally win the war that way, what will you do with all the new Fairies?  Where will they live?”

“You know good and well, Lancelot, that the Castle Cornucopia is huge.  We have thousands of towers, secret rooms, mushroom gardens, Fairy houses, businesses, and entertainments in this big, old barn that haven’t had enough Fairy people to live in them since King Pallas and his army were destroyed by Darvon Redsoul, the Great Dragon.”  The Mouse seemed to be getting a bit hot under the collar to Poppy.

“And as Glitter mentioned, there will be four talented Wizards helping to repopulate the place,” said Flute, grinning like a fox.

“Very well, then.  It is obvious that you have to learn the hard way.  I will go along with this plan if only to prove you wrong.”

“Will your plan really work?” the Rascal whispered to Poppy.

“I think so.  I am not as confident as any of the rest of you, but I am just learning how to be a Wizard.  But if Flute believes in the plan, then, I think I believe in it too.”

“I hope so.  I thought it was a great honor to be chosen as Lord Lancelot’s Squire.  But right now, I just need to see him proven wrong… even if it kills me.”

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Stories with Gingerbread

Yes, this post is a shameless promotion. But this is a good book that not enough people are reading to truly appreciate that fact. When I was a boy in the 1960’s, there really was an old German lady who lived in a small tar-papered house, all ginger-brown in color, which we all called the Gingerbread House. She really did love to give out sweets and cookies and popcorn balls to the kids in our town. And she really did love to talk to people and tell them little stories.

Grandma Gretel Stein

Her name, in real life, was Marie Jacobson. She was, in fact, a survivor of the holocaust. She had a tattoo on her right forearm that I saw only one time. Our parents told us what the tattoo meant. But there were no details ever added to the story. Mrs. Jacobson doted on the local children. She regularly gave me chocolate bars just because I held the door for her after church. But she was apparently unwilling to ever talk about World War II and Germany. We were told never to press for answers. There was, however, a rumor that she lost her family in one of the camps. And I have always been the kind that fills in the details with fiction when the truth is out of reach.

Ignore the dates above. The Free-Book Promotion runs from June 24th to June 28.

I based the character of Grandma Gretel on Mrs. Jacobson. But the facts about her secret life are, of course, from my imagination, not from the truth about Mrs. Jacobson’s real life.

Marie Jacobson cooked gingerbread cookies. I know because I ate some. But she didn’t talk to fairies or use magic spells in cooking. I know because the fairies from the Hidden Kingdom in Rowan disavowed ever talking to any slow one but me. She wasn’t Jewish, since she went to our Methodist Church. She wasn’t a nudist, either. But neither were my twin cousins who the Cobble Sisters, the nude girls in the story, are fifty percent based on. A lot of details about the kids in my book come from the lives of my students in Texas. The blond nudist twins were in my class in the early eighties. And they were only part-time nudists who talked about it more than lived it.

Miss Sherry Cobble, a happy nudist.

But the story itself is not about nudists, or Nazis, or gingerbread children coming to life through magic. The story is about how telling stories can help us to allay our fears. Telling stories can help us cope with and make meaning out of the most terrible things that have happened to us in life. And it is also a way to connect with the hearts of other people and help them to see us for who we really are. And that was the whole reason for writing this book.

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Filed under autobiography, fairies, gingerbread, humor, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney