Category Archives: inspiration

Heroes of Yesteryear… Part 1

Guy Williams as Zorro

He was the “Fox” that no authorities could ever catch or unmask. In Spanish, Zorro, the fox.

He was the intrepid pirate/adventurer Captain Sinbad, in the 1963 movie of that title.

He was Professor John Robinson in the 60’s TV series, Lost in Space.

And he was briefly Cartwright nephew Will on Bonanza.

All of those were shows I adored as a boy in the 60’s (Though I really only saw Zorro as an after-school syndicated show in the early 70’s.)

Guy Williams was, in many ways, the character I myself truly wanted to be.

Guy Williams as Captain Sinbad

He was the swashbuckling hero, never afraid to take the leap into danger, to face any monster, or take any risk to save his town, his family, his people, or his crew.

His character led from the front and took a bullet or a sword wound now and then to protect the weak. And he got the chance, as Disney’s Zorro, to romance Annette Funicello in a few episodes.

And I particularly wanted to be the kind of explorer he was as the head of the Space Family Robinson in the Lost in Space TV series. Those were still the days of my astronaut-and-rocket-ship daydreams.

Guy Williams as John Robinson

But my hero worship was never about the actor, Armand Catalano, whose screen name was Guy Williams. He was a TV and film actor who started out as a fashion model. He made himself famous with good looks and acting ability. He was, I suppose, a decent hardworking fellow with dreams of being a movie star, a goal he came close to, but never quite reached. It was not him I wanted to be. I wanted to be the real-life embodiment of the characters themselves that he played.

I could probably end this essay by saying something sappy, that by becoming a public school teacher, I became the swashbuckling hero I always wanted to be. Sure, teachers do have to be swashbucklers to do the job right. But that claim is an argument for another day… another post. My point for this essay is that this is what constitutes a hero in my book; a brave person who can smile in the middle of a sword fight, even if he is losing, a man or woman willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of others, and a hero for whom the chance to be a hero is the real reward. And I learned that romantic, idyllic crap from TV in the 60’s and 70’s, when I was but a boy.

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Filed under autobiography, Disney, heroes, humor, inspiration, review of television, TV as literature

Blue Hope Returns

It has always been a hopeful sign for me when my favorite sports teams do well in the playoffs. The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series in 2011 and the blossoming of my novel-writing career began right after in 2012. The Arizona Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl in 2008, and though they lost, they came extremely close to winning, losing only in the final minutes, presaged my successful shift to the ESL teacher position at Naaman Forest High School in Garland, Texas. And now the St. Louis Blues hockey team won a first round playoff series for the first time in a while, against a top-ranked team that was supposed to beat them, and set themselves up for a deep playoff run that might turn into their first ever Stanley Cup championship of the NHL.

Oct 11, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz (17) in action during the third period against the Calgary Flames at Scottrade Center. The Blues defeated the Flames 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Jaden Schwartz, a Blues scoring star, got three goals in one game, called a hat trick in hockey, in the final game against the Winnepeg Jets this last weekend. They are on the road to more victories, and even if they lose going forward, it is still a positive sign for me at a time when I desperately need something positive to happen.

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Filed under hockey, inspiration, sports, St. Louis, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Reading Bag of Bones

This is not a book review. I did finish reading this book in a 3-hour-end-of-the-book reading orgy, spending an hour last night, and two more early in the morning before the rest of my family was awake.

This is certainly not a book review. But I did read a Stephen King book, 1998’s Bag of Bones, which I picked up from the dollar sale shelves at Half Price Books. And I did love the story.

………………………………………………………………………This is not a book review. Instead, I want to talk about what a novelist can learn and reflect on by meta-cogitating over what this book reveals about King’s work habits and style and author’s voice.

Mike Noonan, the protagonist, is a novelist who writes books that routinely land in the numbers 10 through 15 slots in the New York Times Bestseller List. Obviously, this first-person narrative is coming directly out of King’s own writing experience. But, remember, this is not a book review. I am discussing what I have learned about how King puts a story together.

King sets a back-story for this novel that digs deep into the geographica and historica of the city in Maine where the story is set. The literal bag of bones revealed in the book’s climax is almost a hundred years old. And he takes a compellingly realistic tour back in time to the turn of the Twentieth Century more than once to reveal who the undead characters are and why they do what they do. One thing that makes a writer, a novelist, truly solid is his ability to set the scene, to grow the story out of the background in the most organic and realistic way possible. But this is not a book review. I am saying that King always does this with his books. And if you wish to write at that level, you must do that too. I know I am sincerely trying.

At the end of the story, he clearly tells the reader that he learned from Thomas Hardy that “the most brilliantly drawn character in a novel is but a bag of bones”. So, he is definitely aware that a character is a construct that has to be crafted from raw materials. It takes a master craftsman to build one with the right words to make it live and breathe on the page. He does it masterfully in this book with several characters. The protagonist, the beautiful young love interest, the love interest’s charming three-year-old daughter who is nearly slain in a horrific manner at the end of the book… The living villain is a well-crafted bag of bones, as is the ghost, the actual bag of bones in the story. But this is not a book review. Most of his books, at least the ones I have read, have the same sort of masterful characters.

There is so much more to be learned about novel writing from this book. He literally shows you how ideas are captured, how they are developed into stories, how you overcome “writer’s block”, and Noonan’s book he is writing within this book is even used as an example of how to poetically advance the plot. But this is not a book review. You should read this book. It is a very good and scary piece of work. But you should read it because it shows us how to write and do it like a master.

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Filed under horror writing, insight, inspiration, NOVEL WRITING, writing teacher

Lighting Candles in the Darkness

I recently got word that my octogenarian father is in the hospital again for the third time in the last three months.  I am fairly sure the end of my father’s long and epic life is near.  And though I have basically come to terms with not only the coming end of his life but my own life as well, human beings, real ones, were never meant to live forever.

But I do not welcome the coming sadness, never-the-less.  There will always be something in the mysteries of death and darkness that is to be feared… and avoided for as long as possible.

There are many ways to light a candle, and some require no fire.

One of the most important avoidance measures is to light a few candles.  A candle holds back the darkness for a while.  And of course, I mean that in only the most metaphorical of multiple senses.

There are many ways to light a candle.  I have lit three in this essay.  I lit them with my ink pen and my drawing skill (modest though it may be).  And drawing alone is not the sum total of the ways a candle may be lit.

Each of the novels I have written is also a candle.  They may be useless piles of pages that nobody ever reads, but they are the summation of my already long life and work as a writer.  I may not be well known, and probably am not as talented as the better-known writers, but I really do have something to tell.  And being published where someone may eventually… even accidentally read some of it, there is no telling exactly how far into the darkness my light will reach.

And the even-more-amazing fact about the reach my candlelight into the darkness has is this, my candles were only lit because my father first lit the candle that is me.  As I have passed the candle-lighting responsibility on to those who read my writing, and to my children who have many more candles of their own to light.

I love you, Dad.  Raymond L. Beyer.  My next novel is dedicated to you.  Let’s continue to hold off the darkness for as long as we can… together.

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Filed under drawing, healing, insight, inspiration, metaphor, Paffooney

Ravel’s Bolero

One of the first pieces of classical music to grab me by the ears and absolutely force me to love a piece of music with no words was Ravel’s Bolero.

Miss Malek played it on a phonograph for us in the basement of the Rowan Schoolhouse when I was in 3rd grade back in the fall of 1965.  Shortly after that, my father bought a record of it for our record player at home.  I must have listened to it a hundred times before 4th grade.  It was the first piece of music I learned to listen to with pictures creating themselves in my mind.  Here’s the basic picture in fact;

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Yes, it suggests to me that life is a long plodding march toward inevitable battle, a battle that one day will end in defeat and death.  No one lives forever and no song continues without end.  But there is beauty, pageantry, and color to be felt and filled with along the way.  And the march is not without purpose.  What music we will create along the way!  It is glorious to be alive and provide the drumbeat for the march of the creations of your soul, your children and the words you come to live by.  I do not intend to retreat to the castle as many would do.  I will not cower as I await the conclusion.  I will march to meet it in a glorious crescendo.  And that, dear reader, is what Maurice Ravel’s Bolero is about, as far as I am concerned.

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Filed under artists I admire, artwork, classical music, colored pencil, insight, inspiration, Paffooney

Through the Valley of the Shadow

 

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As I wake up every morning feeling more and more foggy-headed and lethargic, more like I barely managed to survive the night, I am aware I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.   I even passed out for a few minutes as I wrote this intro.  I don’t know how long I actually have left.  I no longer have the funds to get tested by the cardiologist, the urologist, or the endocrinologist every time a pain or a lightheadedness concerns me.  I may not still be here when morning comes around again.  But I fear no evil.  When I finish reading the last page of a good book and close the book, I don’t mourn that the reading experience has ended.  I exult in the wonderful story I have read or marvel at the lessons and learning the book has taught me.  The end of my life will be like that.  My life is not one that must be regretted.

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The thing about having a shadow hanging over you is that it can be totally defeated by adding a little sunshine.  I have never been a better writer than I am now.  I am nearing the end of what seems to me to be the best novel I have ever written.  I felt that same way as Catch a Falling Star was being written, and it proved to be true.  I won the Rising Star Award and the Editor’s Choice Award from I-Universe publishing which has them on the phone with me again trying to find ways to fund the marketing they think it deserves in spite of my total lack of money.  I also thought Snow Babies was the best thing I had ever written, even better than Catch a Falling Star.  And the publisher I found for that one thought so too, right up to the moment when my curse as an unknown writer killed their little publishing company.  I feel really good about Sing Sad Songs as it continues to basically write itself.  So what if I never live to see any of my books yield success?  The fact that I have caused them to exist is enough to fulfill me.  It is enough to satisfy me.  Of course, I do have more stories in me that need to be told.  That is motivation enough to stay alive and keep writing.

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Francois singing a sad song.

It is the valley of the shadow of death, however.  A novel character I love is about to die.  It seems there are a lot of my novels that end with a death even though they are all basically comic novels, full of things that at least make me laugh.  But I fear no evil.  Thy rod and thy staff,  the stick that whacks me when I misstep and the shepherd’s crook that rescues me from dark crevices, they comfort me.  I will continue to pass through.

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Filed under humor, insight, inspiration, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, religion, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Being Excessively Creative

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It is an unusual position to be in as a kid in the school room to be the creative kid.  First and foremost because you will forever be known as the weirdo, the spaceman, the egghead.

How do I know that?  Because I was that kid.  And I grew up to teach that kid.  And now that I am retired as a teacher, I am still that kid.

If there was a problem to be solved, a picture to be drawn, a group assignment that required somebody to actually think, I was the kid that everybody wanted to be in their group or be their partner.  (That time that Reggie and I blew up the test tube of copper sulfate in Mr. Wilson’s chemistry lab doesn’t count because, although I am the one who dropped it, he’s the one who heated up my fingers with the blowtorch.  Honest, Mr. Wilson, it is true.) But if it was picking teams on the playground, I was the last loser to be called, even though I was pretty good at softball, pretty good at dodgeball, great at volleyball, and usually the leading scorer in soccer (of course we are talking an Iowa schoolyard in the 60’s where soccer was a sport from Mars.)  And as an adult, I enjoyed teaching the creative kids more than the rest because I actually understood them when they explained what they were doing and why, and I was even able to laugh at their knit-witty jokes (yes, I am including those jokes made of yarn with that pun).   Creative kids speak a language from another world.  If you are creative too, you already know that.  And if you aren’t creative… well, how foo-foo-metric for you.

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And another unfortunate side effect of the creative life is that you make stuff.  You don’t have to be seriously infected by bites from the cartoon bug or the art bug to be like that.  My daughter is making a suit of armor for herself from a flat sheet of aluminum that she is pounding out by hand, painting with spray paint and painter’s tape, and edging with felt.  After she’s done with it this Halloween, it will go on one of the piles of collections and models and dolls and stuffed toys and… Of course, sooner or later one of those piles is going to come to life and eat the house.  There is no place left to display stuff and store stuff and keep stuff that is far enough away from potential radioactive spider bites.  I have scars on my fingers from exactor knife accidents, oil paint, and acrylic paint and enamel permanently under my fingernails.  Shelves full of dolls rescued and restored from Goodwill toy bins, dolls collected from sale bins at Walmart, Toys-R-Us, and Kaybee, and action figures saved even from childhood in the 60’s are taking over the house and in an uproar, demanding to be played with rather than ignored.  (Didn’t know dolls can actually talk?  Haven’t you learned anything from John Lasseter?)

Anyway, it is tough to go through life being excessively creative.  I have art projects growing out of my ears.  And book publishers are calling me because my award-winning book is not generating sales in spite of two awards, 5-star reviews, and generally good quality, but the only solutions they have cost ME money I don’t have.  Oh, well, at least it isn’t boring to be me.

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Filed under angry rant, artwork, doll collecting, education, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, inspiration, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life