Category Archives: humor

Robins, Blue Jays, and Blackbirds

God talks to me through the birds.  I know that sounds crazy.  Only a loony man like Francis of Assisi could ever believe such a foolish thing, right?  But is is true.  I am aware of the birds around me at all times because birds have meaning, and when I need to see certain signs from God to center and redirect my life and spiritual awareness, God puts certain birds in my way, hoping that I will see them and interpret their meaning correctly.

This morning at QT I saw three different kinds of bird.  First I saw a robin while eating my QT pumpkin spice doughnut.  Then a blue jay on the ground hopped out from behind the corner of the building.  Then a pair of blackbirds flew down to watch the jay hunting through the grass.

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Robins are traditionally the bird of spring-time, the harbinger of the end of winter.  As a boy in Iowa, it was always a relief after the long cold winter to see the first robin of spring.  But it means more than that.  Robins are reliable.  They leave for the winter to parts south and always return to bring hope for relief from our troubles.  You can depend on robins to provide that service.  The robin I saw this morning, I saw in early December.  Winter is just beginning.  But Texas is a place where robins spend the winter.  God is telling me through the robin that my troubles are ending, easing into a metaphorical Spring and Summer.  And like the robin, God is asking me to continue being reliable for my family and everyone else who looks to me for signs of hope, candle flames in the darkness, and a return to spring.  How’s that for bird-brained thinking?

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Blue Jays are bullies and thieves.  If you have ever watched birds go about bird-business, and ever specifically watched blue jays do their jobs, then you already know they are bully birds.  A blue jay will arrive at the bird feeder and drive off the sparrows, finches, and chickadees.  They use their superior size to dominate the other birds, eating their fill before allowing the smaller birds their chance.  They are aggressive enough to land on your picnic table and snatch a McDonald’s French fry or six if you are not close enough to swat them.  And it was a blue jay that got me three times on the top of my head with her claws, diving at me like a dive bomber, when I was ten and didn’t realize that her chick had fallen out of her nest and sat shivering next to the sidewalk where I was walking.

Seeing the bird this morning was a reminder that there will be more aggressive folks on the sidewalk of life ahead of me that I will have to avoid.  But this blue jay did nothing but hunt the grass for himself.  He did not bother any other bird.  So relief from the aggression of others is at least possible.

And black birds are the most common sorts of birds to see.  But when you say, “black birds” what do you really mean?  Grackles, creeks, common grackles, starlings, magpies, and redwing blackbirds are all black birds, even though they couldn’t be more varied and different from each other.  The black birds I saw this morning were common grackles, which, of course, aren’t even truly black.  They have iridescent blue-green feathers on their heads that can reflect sunlight with neon blazes of color.  Black birds tend to be scavengers, trash-snatchers of the highest order that live on whatever they find. So they really feel that all business is their business. No trash bin left unattended, or bug that a blue jay scared up and then ignored, is beneath their notice.

So God is telling me to appreciate all those around me.  I should notice and record their many unique beauties  and skills and useful utilities.

There was good reason that Francis of Assisi preached to the birds.  They are always watching, always listening, and, if studied carefully, always telling us about God’s will.

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Filed under birds, goofy thoughts, humor, insight, inspiration, religion, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Home Base

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When you play role-playing games in outer space, like Traveller, it really helps to have a home base.  For my players in the 80’s and early 90’s, that was the planet Gaijin.  Gaijin was an Earth-like planet with numerous archipelagos and far more ocean than found on Earth.  It was also given to much more tropical weather, never really growing colder than temperate zones in Fall.

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The population of Gaijin was made up of a blended race descended from both Japanese explorers from Earth and the very human-like lemon-yellow-skinned people known as the Sylvani.  The Oriental/Alien culture made it very easy for player characters to find training in martial arts and ninja skills, as well as well as the mind and body skills of Psionics that were illegal within the Third Imperium.  The original group of player characters found shelter and training in the Palace of a Thousand Years, the place destined to produce the White Spider of Prophecy.

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It was, of course, the leader of the adventuring party, Ged Aero, who became the White Spider.   He was born in the Imperium, but together with his brother, Ham Aero,  and the rogue Trav “Goofy” Dalgoda, they settled in Gaijin’s capitol, Kiro, and established a school for psionic ninjas.

Ged was himself a gifted psionic shape-changer, able to become any creature or person whose DNA he had tasted or absorbed through his skin.

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Ged’s biological daughter, Amanda would later succeed him in his role as Master of the White Spider Dojo for Psionics.  She was herself a quite gifted telepath and ninja warrior.

Many different player characters arrived on Gaijin to let their players experience the life of a space ninja.  These are just a few of them.

As I am sure you can tell by this, a lot of different kids played the game with me over the course of a little more than a decade.  Some of them weren’t terribly creative (Luke Bloodstone was going to be Skywalker until I talked him out of using that name).  Some of them liked other things immensely too (Vince Niel was the captain of the Rock and Roll Starship and had to have a crewman named Nikki Sixx).  Some characters like the idea of massive wealth on a planetary scale (hence the fact that the Marchioness was a noble and owned an entire planet that was not Gaijin).

But this particular home=base planet would become a center for adventure and eventually the inspiration for my novel Aeroquest.

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The Price We Pay

It is becoming obvious that the American experiment with democracy is now over… In fact, it has been over for quite a while.  We can no longer even claim that this is actually a Republic in the sense that the Roman government began as a Republic.  The current emperor, Emperor Bumpkin Pumpkinhead, has no clothes.  The oligarchs own the government, and we are headed down serious paths of fascism and chaos and potential civil war.  We have the Devil to pay for our economic sins, and many of us will be swallowed whole before the end of it.

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I have known since the 1980’s that Reagan’s supply-side theory of trickle-down economics, more aptly titled Voodoo Economics, was a monumentally bad idea.  If you let the rich folks get richer and capable of buying absolutely anything, they will sooner or later buy the government and rewrite the rules to allow them to do anything they want.  That is the system we have right now.  Anything the idle rich want… That’s the reason we are saddled with Trump right now, the fattest jockey that ever broke a horse’s back.  And some of the rich folks who want anything and everything they can afford are truly demented and psychotic, backed up by years of getting their way even in putrid, evil ways.

The reason that the Republican government is so hot to cut taxes for the wealthy is to continue the wealth-redistribution program of the Reagan years.  Apparently the anointed few deserve all the rewards the economy has to give even though they do little besides horde their money and buy politicians who will continue to help them rake more in.  Meanwhile the rest of us continue to slave for them doing all the work under oppressive debt burdens that keep us under control.

24294271_844430295763808_6294495221275275142_n Of course, “Why should anyone believe me of all people?” is definitely the question.  I am only a retired school teacher who spent a career finding and verifying information, followed by a simple and clearly-defined presentation of the information to be learned.  I have revealed myself in this blog to have the letter “L” on my forehead for “liberal” which translate into Republicanese as “loser”.   And that’s where we will stay if we don’t fight back.

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So, how do we fight back?  For one thing, we have to vote.  Current policies and beliefs of the administration do not reflect the will of the people.  The general consensus about health care and taxes is not even considered by the Bozos in charge of the circus.  And we probably won’t win in the coming elections, because, through gerrymandering, voter suppression, and outright cheating the Republican right always gets its own way.   But that should stir us to further action… doing things like I am doing here, using my innate ability to use hyperbole and doofy jokery to spread the word and stir up outrage.  Better than angry fascist propaganda, right?

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Haven’t we, by now, had enough of what Ronnie Raygun wanted?  Isn’t it time we considered what we want?  …What we need?

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Filed under angry rant, cartoons, feeling sorry for myself, grumpiness, humor, insight, pessimism, politics, rants

The Very Best Way to Have the Worst Possible Publishing Experience – Part 3

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A cover proof for my novel Magical Miss Morgan with Page Publishing.

After the good people at PDMI crashed and burned without publishing my book, I needed some way to publish again.  I wanted to repeat the experience I had at I-Universe and I wanted to do it for significantly less money.  So I went in search of another Print-on-Demand publisher to do my second Rosetti Awards 265469780

contest novel which also made the final round of judging and lost, though this time there was more final round competition, some by some books that have done quite well in the marketplace since the contest in 2016.  I finally found a publisher offering print for a price I could actually afford.  (I hadn’t been forced into bankruptcy at that point, and had rebuilt my credit rating.)  Page Publishing was its name. It was only half the price of publishing with I-Universe.  Unfortunately, you got far less than half the services for the price.

Here’s a decent review that didn’t exist when I was searching; Page Publishing reviewed.

The resulting book will be good, but here are the reasons why I should never have gone down this forest path to publishing with all the weasels hiding in the brambles just off the pathway.

  • The money is paid up front and they don’t really do anything for you until the payments are done.
  • Nobody actually reads your book.  The “editor” working on my book was no more than a proof-reader, and not a good one at that.  They didn’t actually read the book.  The primary quibble which led to 157 changes in the manuscript was substituting “Ms.” for “Miss”, even in the title of the goddam book. I spent months working to undo the many mess-ups in my story, dutifully citing every line number and instance of me changing things back to the original.  Only about three proofreading changes were acceptable.
  • The company ignores you for long periods of time, taking weeks to respond to e-mails, being unavailable by phone, and dragging their feet on every change to the next step in the process.
  • Everything they did for me I was able to do for free for myself later with Amazon.  Any real work on the content of my book was done solely by me.  There is no call to be paying people for work done by me.

So, after two years of paying and publisher-initiated problems and foot-dragging, I vowed never to ever in a thousand million billion years pay someone to publish my work ever again.  It should be noted, I think it will be a marvelous book when published.  I love the story and the characters in it.  But I resent having to pay them for the privilege of doing all the work myself.

I finished the writing of an experimental novel in segments on this blog in the meantime, and decided to experiment with publishing through Amazon’s free self-publishing service.  That got me a book which I already have a finished copy of, Stardusters and Space Lizards.

You can find that book on Amazon right this instant by clicking here!!!

Once that was successfully done, I didn’t waste any time getting my best baby into print.  The next publishing project was Snow Babies.

I now proudly own a paperback copy of my best novel too.  I am delighted.  You can find my masterpiece on Amazon by clicking here!!!

So, what advice do I have to give after 3 whole posts about the terrible, icky, horrible experiences I have had in the publishing realm?  Do you really believe after all my confessions of missteps and wrong-headed doofus-decisions that I have any wisdom at all to offer on the subject?  Even one single worthwhile syllable of advice?  Well, of course I do.  People all learn best when they learn the hard way.  So here are Mickey’s rules about stupidly publishing your novels;

  1. Never pay for publishing.
  2. Be prepared to do everything yourself.
  3. Learn from every misstep.
  4. Learn to laugh about every embarrassing mistake.
  5. And never stop writing… at least until you are dead… and maybe, not even then.

 

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Filed under angry rant, feeling sorry for myself, humor, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, publishing

Aeroquest… Canto 5

Canto 5 – The Crown of Stars

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The docking of the Leaping Shadowcat with the station was routine, even though the station was unpowered and unresponsive.  The mission, though, would be an entirely different matter.  With only two vacuum suits on board, only Ged and Goofy would be able to perform the explore and restore.  Ged, not entirely trusting his partner, led the way, while Trav carried his precious blue box.

The airlocks were blown.  As Ged turned up the power in his mag-boots he reassured himself that he wouldn’t drift out into empty space through any hole or opening.  He proceeded cautiously with Goofy ten paces behind.

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Once inside the customs terminal, he began to find bodies.  Two frozen and partly exploded Galtorrian bodies were still staring outward with icy snake’s eyes in the same posture they had been in when catastrophic depressurization killed them.  A little further on, a snake-eyed Galtorrian entertainer in her scanty orange veils, floated dead in the middle of a café.

“Somebody murdered this outpost,” said Trav.

“More than a hundred years ago,” added Ged.  “Their style of clothing and interior decoration are like some of the oldest worlds in the Imperium.  I wonder how long they’ve been entombed here.”

“We’ll give them a decent send-off.”

Three hours work had all twenty-three of the bodies on the station rounded up and floated away for a deep space burial.  Ged located and cleared out the station’s control center, but the electronics were completely fried and not repairable.

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“Never fear, old bean” said Trav.  “I have the answer to our problems right here!”  He sat the blue metal box on a control console.  He gingerly opened the box, and carefully lifted out the alien crown.  It had three glowing crystals mounted on the front of the band, and they pulsated with glowing light.

“How do you activate that thing?” asked Ged.

Trav had no time to answer.  Greenish fingers of energy radiated out from the crown instantly.  Control panels began to melt.  Circuits fused in a pattern that was obviously not random.  Tendrils of energy and realigning circuits exploded outward through the facility.  Ged was instantly afraid for their lives.  Would the station explode?  Would they be consumed by this rampant energy?

In a matter of a few minutes, the ruined space port turned back on.  Doors closed.  Airlocks sealed.  Atmosphere hissed into empty corridors and rooms.  Lights came on.  The station bloomed into fully functional life.

“How did you do that?” gasped Ged.

“I told you we couldn’t just give this thing back to that old jester Tron.  It’s poppa’s little miracle worker.”

“We are now on line,” said a booming female computer voice.  “We are at your service, Grandfather.”

Trav took off his helmet and breathed in the fresh air.  “So, you are at my service, are you?  Who are you, then?  And how did I get to be your grandfather?”

“We are the matrix of Terris Mansill.  Also known as Grandfather of All Stars.  We are the artificial minds of the Crown of All Stars at your service, Grandfather.  Call on us, and we shall do your bidding.”

“Cool,” said Goofy smiling broadly at Ged, “just like a genii in a lamp!”

 

 

 

 

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The Very Best Way to Have the Worst Possible Publishing Experience – Part 2

Yesterday I started a rant about publishing novels.  I guess I only filled that word balloon halfway up with mad gasses and bull puckie.  So it isn’t fully inflated with noxious opinions of publishing, indie publishing, and getting a book into print.

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Having written a competent young adult novel that was well-reviewed by anyone who actually read it, I was faced with the question, “How do you get your work noticed to the point that more than just the members of your family will read it?”  So, I took another of my decades-old manuscripts and transformed it into a contest novel.  It was Snow Babies, the first of my Valerie Clarke novels.  (That’s Val in the cover mock-up to the left above.)  I entered it in the 2012 Chanticleer Book Reviews’ Dante Rossetti YA Novel Contest.  I surprised myself by being one of eleven of the hundreds of contestants that made it to the final round of judging.  Of course, it is a contest open to anybody who could write a novel-length glop of words and pay the entry fee.  But the final round contained only those novels that could be actually considered viable for publication.  While I didn’t win a prize in that contest or get the recognition that might bring, I had my novel confirmed as something worth getting published.  So I vowed to find a publisher that would not charge me for the publication of my novel.

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So this time I found myself working with a small press called PDMI Publishing LLC.  They absolutely loved my novel and gave me a contract.  I had high confidence that I would see the novel in print.  And, as a business, PDMI actively worked not only on printing authors’ books, but on promoting and marketing them, putting in appearances at various Comicons and Dragoncons and other nerdy Con-cons.  They even owned their own bookstore at one point.  They assigned me an editor, Jessie Cornwell from Seattle, and she was a delight to work with, bringing insight and wisdom into the development of my work.  But one small problem developed.  Just as my novel became fully edited and ready for the next step, the whole publishing company broke down and went out of business.  It was sad.  So many, including me, had invested a large portion of themselves into the whole novel business; writing, editing, printing, and marketing.  So many were left scrambling with their hopes and dreams spilling out of the bicycle basket of PDMI after the bicycle crashed into a wall.  I completely lost touch with my editor, so I couldn’t even offer her money that I didn’t have to pay her with anyway for her wonderful work.  Something else had to come along to keep my dreams of putting Snow Babies into the dreams of the reading public truly alive.

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By now you have probably come to the unpleasant conclusion that there will be a Part 3 to this horrible rant.  But for me, it is a good thing.  It will contain the eventual solution I came up with, and will lead to a cold-comfort happy ending.

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The Very Best Way to Have the Worst Possible Publishing Experience

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Publishing a book in 2017 is a real art form.  And there are rules for doing it.  Unfortunately, no one can explain those rules to you.  No one can even explain it logically to themselves.  It is a form of voodoo and bingle-bungle flim-flammery that only the anointed like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling can use to cast publishing spells with.

So I will not try to tell you how to get published in 2017, even though it seems I have done it myself three times this year.  I will only tell you how NOT to do it.  I am an expert on that.  I have the brain bruises to prove it.

First off, here’s my proudest achievement that came as a side effect of doing things in the worst possible way.

Click here to see the magic.

  1. “”The first mistake you need to make in publishing novels in the worst possible way is to turn to an overpriced print-on-demand service called Publish America.  For more information about just how shyster-iffic and icky this publishing scam in sheep-dip clothing is, just click here.  They published my first book in print, Aeroquest.  51ABNW+RWlL._SL500_AA300_

Publishing this novel was a mistake in itself.  I had only worked on it for a year and a half.  Compared to Catch a Falling Star which I worked on for seventeen years and had in my head since 1977, it was thoroughly underdone and only half cooked.  Good novels are either baked at 450 degrees for a decade or more, or composed of prime ingredients that you have been keeping in your mental cupboard since childhood.  The greedy, no good, evil publishers of this overpriced and under-cooked novel actually paid me a dollar up front and sixteen dollars in royalties total.  I didn’t pay them anything.  But they made one intentional formatting error in the climactic chapters of the story and wanted huge sums of money to fix and reprint it.  They never lifted a finger to sell it to anybody but relatives and people I named as friends.  It was a learning experience that thoroughly humbled me and taught me the primary lesson that “Mickey knows nothing about publishing a book.

2.  The second mistake you need to make to have a truly horrible experience in the publishing world is to make up your mind that you will pay for the process yourself, no matter how much it may take to do it, of both money and carefully carved out pieces of your soul.

Here’s the I-Universe propaganda.

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I turned to I-Universe as a publication choice for the first of my babies that have gestated for more than a decade before being born.  They have a submission process where they will evaluate your manuscript and tell you flat out if it is worth publishing or not.  If they tell you it is basically crap and worthless, they will give you a vanity press treatment and let you publish as-is your piece of crap story with no editorial or marketing support.  If they think your book is marketable, as mine was, they begin charging you additional publishing fees to work with editors, proof-readers, and marketers to make it all happen.  The bills keep piling up, but you get to work with editors who have worked in the major publishing houses for years (I-Universe was bought by Penguin Random House so they have many seasoned employees to call upon).  These editors will actually read your manuscript, offer real editorial input, and help you hone your work. They will also grouse about how the publishing business is disintegrating and offer betting odds on whether your book will make money or not that actually are rather distant from the shores of flattering praise.  The marketers will help you set up a blog and recommend promotional programs for more money than you can possibly sustain over time.  I only got a stock cover that didn’t look at all like the suggestion I gave them.

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I have to admit at this point that this particular topic makes me windier than usual, and though I am only about half way done, the rest of this rant will have to be saved for Part 2.   I am already at 700 words and only just getting warmed up.  The full blaze is yet to come.

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