Posting every day keeps the imaginary writing muscles toned and renews my basic energy levels. But it also becomes a chore on certain days. Like today. The weather has got me down with arthritis woes. Typing like this is it not as easy as it should be. And when I have to labor at it to make the paragraphs flow, sometimes I just turn it all into rambling babbling. I spin my mental wheels and get nowhere.
I can use this post to tell you, however, that I have now started a new work-in-progress. I have already pounded out the first four thousand words of The Wizard in His Keep.
This is the final story in the arc of the character Milt Morgan. This story has been gestating in my brain since 1995. Though, if I am honest, it began with fantasies I had back in fifth grade. The main character, Milt Morgan, is half me and half the other Mike from our gang back in Rowan in the 1960’s. Back when Mike and Michael were sometimes good friends and sometimes the brains behind evil plans and terrible tricks. He supplied the devious know-how, and I provided the creative spark that lit the schemes on fire.
But this story is advanced to the computer age.
In 1996, Milt Morgan was a 34-year-old video game designer living a double life in a high-tech, state-of-the-art computer lab. It is then that he mysteriously kidnaps the three children of his child-hood friend’s sister and takes them away to a magical world that only two people in the entire world have the keys to. Milt is the Wizard. The other Key-Master is Daniel Quilp, the Necromancer. A battle for the soul of the world must take place, and Daisy, Johnny, and Mortie Brown are a part of it.
Anyway, the words are beginning to pile up again. And again I have made something out of nothing. My book promotion is still going on until tomorrow. The link above can still get you a free e-book copy until after midnight tomorrow. And nobody, it seems, still wants my book for free. (How’s that for a pathos pitch?) We’ll see how it all ends tomorrow.
On Wednesday I subbed again for a science teacher at Long Middle School. They were eighth graders, the chest-thumping apes at the top of the monkey-house food chain. There was an AVID class with too many at-risk and under-disciplined kids in it. And the Long ESL classes contain too many rabid monkeys who don’t understand monkey-English well and are liberally dispersed through-out the harried eighth-grade teachers’ day. In other words, the Wednesday job caused me brain damage from which I haven’t recovered from fully at this writing.
So, today I am obsessed with finding the magic necessary to avoid having any more teacher-meltdowns and brain injuries like that 6th period debacle. (“Debakkil” is a magic word, but it is an evil magic word),
In the Disney animated classic Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother uses a magic spell called (in a song) “Bibbety Bobbity Boo”. In the course of singing the song, the old F-G turns a pumpkin into a carriage and mice into horses, the swayback horse into a driver, and the dog into a groom. I need a spell like that to remedy the monkey-house meltdown syndrome that I was victimized by.
So, here is how “Dibbletey Dobbletey Doo” will work.
The spell is cast initially on a male student, a monkey-like being swinging from the light fixtures, but obviously smarter than the other male monkey-students. You could magically turn his raggy clothing into a ball gown and embarrass him completely (which would be true to the metaphor, but would turn him into your worst nightmare)… but don’t. Instead, tell him that he is smart enough to be a leader. Put him in a position of power, making him in charge of a group, and telling him his consequences will be either a reward for good leadership, or the blame for the bad behavior of the group. Remind him that he has natural leadership skills. If he speaks to others respectfully, they will be respectful to everybody. If he shows them how to behave properly, they will use him as a positive example. He will get the credit for the good things they will do.
“Dibbletey Dobbletey Doo!”
It works. We had a poster project to do in groups of four. They were supposed to create a diagram of the mechanics of the four seasons of the year, with a sun and four representations of the earth with its axis and equator tilted properly in relation to the sun. That’s the kind of assignment that can result in the explosion of the science lab or the total cannibalization of the substitute. But I made it successfully work in four out of five classes.
Why did it go wrong in that last period? 1. Classes that are out of control for the regular teacher are impossible for even the best sub to control. 2. Too many students in one classroom are impossible to control when you have more groups than work tables. 3. Supplies run out at the end of the day, and empty pens and markers become projectiles. 4. Eighth graders all need to take mandatory naps in the afternoon (using sedative darts and a dart gun when necessary) but no school or principal is aware of that fact. 5. Cranky afternoon baboons grow longer fangs than they had in the morning.
So, Mickey must revise and rework this particular spell for the afternoons. And he must refuse the next job coming from this particular teacher.
My most-recently-published book is now available for free from Amazon. I have tried this free-book promotion idea with other books, but this is the newest book I have available. I need to give away a bunch of books, so help yourself to one with the above link.
My new novel, finished the first time the day before yesterday, is not what writers call a rough draft. My writing process consists of doing rough draft, revision, and proofreading chapter by chapter. Or, as I call them, canto by canto.
It was written following an outline that existed first in my imagination as it was played out like a television show, dreamed up episode by episode knowing what would ultimately happen by the end of the story.
So, the process about to begin is not a second draft. It is not a revision-step either, though minor revisions may happen in the final pass before publishing. It is merely a final proofread where the story is reread as a whole, and given necessary corrections of typos and boo-boos. As a writing teacher, I have seen too many young writers skip this final, critical step. They don’t go back and read the whole thing as one piece of writing, stepping back far enough to view the work of art as a whole. How can any good writer only read the thing through as he or she writes it and figure it is good enough as it is? It may be that, but it is probably not.
Adjustments will occur for me because this new novel uses characters from a series of novels in which time passes and people change. Those adjustments are what you can safely call revisions. The character of Milt Morgan is appearing in the novel as a narrator. He has appeared in the story cycle three times now, in three different novels, and this is the first time he is ever used as a first-person narrator. He has changed and grown up a bit from novel to novel. This time he is no longer a virgin. He has freed himself from the cycle of abuse that he and his older sister both endured from alcoholic parents. He has a deeper understanding now of what magic really means and what meaning it gives to his life to call himself a wizard. But he has yet to come to terms with how lying and fantasizing about life can lead to consequences. That part of his future story will be tackled in another story that is a novel in my head, but not yet written out in novel form. That is a future writing project called TheWizard in His Keep. So, I must check this novel to be sure that all the pistons in the engine of his personal story arc firing properly in this book to ensure that it carries him forward into that new adult character he must later become. Those pistons in the engine are what revision is really all about.
Characters will die in this novel, as they do in almost every novel I write. Usually at least one bad guy, and one good guy. Of course, the doomed ones are not fated to change in this book. The story is set. I won’t be surprised by a death in this story the way I was with Snow Babies, and The Bicycle-Wheel-Genius. Of course, this story is about Immortals, and it is possible that a character dies in this book who doesn’t stay dead.
The final pass through The Boy… Forever will not be a rewrite either. Rewriting is what I am doing to AeroQuest where whole chapters (cantos) are added and left out, New characters are created. Old ones are deleted. And the plot changes in how the details come together. And though the main plot points remain, spread over four books instead of one, they are reorganized and better fleshed out.
That book is becoming books. The original and the rewritten are quite different from each other. For one thing, the new versions will make use of my cartooning skill and allow the books to be far more illustration-filled. Rewriting is a total do-over.
So, my baby book is still not quite ready to be born. But it is a complete book. Only the messy business of giving birth remains.
Japanese Manga is a complicated and difficult-to-understand thing. Of course, it is also a very beautiful art form when done well. There are many features of Japanese culture that play a prominent part in the comic book genre known as manga.
It is a strange fusion of the art of Meiji culture in Pre-War Japan and the Western influence of the U.S. Occupation forces after WWII. You read the comic from right to left, opposite to American comics, and the dialogue in speech balloons go from top to bottom rather than horizontally.
I first discovered Ken Akamatsu’s manga brilliance in 2004 through Half-Price Books copies of his manga series Negima! I was reading the last two Harry Potter novels at that time and the Harry Potter-ness of the main character, Negi Springfield is what attracted me. He is a ten-year-old boy who is secretly a wizard. He is also so accelerated in school that they make him an English teacher in a Middle School where they give him an all-girl class. Of course, Negi is definitely NOT like Harry Potter. I learned that after three books worth of Negi’s magic sneeze that blows girl’s dresses off and all the other accidentally-seeing-middle-school-girls-naked jokes. Gushering nose-bleeds and the most-important girl character, Asuna, constantly ending up standing in front of the older instructor she has a crush on stark naked soon convinced me that Japanese humor and sense of adventure are very different from their American counterparts.
The students in this ten-year-old teacher’s class are a diverse group of girls. One is a deadly ninja. Another is a dead-shot gunslinger. A third is an expert swordswoman who fights with a katana in each hand. Several of them wield magic like their teacher.
The adventures in this multi-book story are filled to the brim with magical battles, martial arts, demon summoning, Japanese festivals, and the many ups and downs of young love.
There are lots of instances of girls losing their clothing. Some of it happens in Japanese outdoor baths and spas. Some happens by magic. And some happens completely by accident.
Though, the writer seems to focus on it an awful lot.
Ken Akamatsu has been at the business of creating very similar manga stories for many years. He started in 1994 with A.I. Love You.
He has written three series since.
Love Hina came before Negima!
UQ Holder! is his current manga series.
So, I love the artwork of Ken Akamatsu. And it isn’t necessarily the story that makes it so good. The stories are chaotic and full of things that make very little sense to American sensibilities. And I do like artfully done naked girls. But the real attraction for me is something that I can’t quite name.
I just know it is there. Ken Akamatsu definitely has it. Whatever it is. (Maybe it IS naked girls?)
It was Skaggs the cat that started the action. He stared at Valerie-squirrel with evil,
mismatched eyes. He licked his evil
cat-lips. Then he launched himself into
the air, intending to come down on top of Valerie-squirrel’s head.
Pidney-squirrel was having none of that. Faster than the eye could follow, he dashed
over to defend Valerie-squirrel, latching on to Skaggs the cat’s left rear
haunch with his sharp squirrel teeth.
“Yeeowehrrrrr-owwwerrrr!” screamed the cat as he tumbled over his wound into a very un-catlike pile of Pidney-squirrel-and-Skaggs-the-cat-awkwardness all wrapped up in a fight to the death.
“Chreee-chit-it-it-it!” cried Valerie, trying hard to say,
“I’ll help you, Pidney-squirrel!” but not managing it very well. She caught the tip of the cat’s tail in her
mouth and bit hard with her own sharp squirrel teeth.
“Have a care, cat!” said Oojie. “You can eat the boy-squirrel, but not the girl-squirrels. I need them alive!”
The enraged cat was, paws and claws, splayed out in agony in
four directions at once, spitting his fury and hatred at the squirrels who still
had him impaled with buck teeth.
“You will die, beautiful one!” swore Skaggs in the mental language Valerie-squirrel had come to think of as cat language. “I don’t care what the juju thing says. He is only someone’s servant! Not the witch-doctor himself.”
Mary-squirrel pulled at Pidney and made him let go of
Skaggs’ hind leg. She dragged him over
to the furnace fixture and up a pipe that was wrapped with black tape where the
squirrels could get a decent claw- hold.
Both Pidney and Mary squirrels shot up the pipe and out the open
basement window above it.
Valerie-squirrel realized too late that she should’ve let go
and followed them up the pipe. The evil
cat whipped his injured tail around and launched her toward the stairs. Mary Philips’ father always kept a waste
basket at the foot of the stairs, and Valerie-squirrel, head over tail,
spiraled into it.
“Get outside and get the other squirrels!” Skaggs commanded
the other cats. “This one is all mine!”
The other cats disappeared up the cellar stairs and out of
“You cannot kill the girl squirrel!” commanded Oojie with a
“Spare me, little familiar… for that’s what you are, only
the witch’s familiar, not the actual witch.
Magic flows through you, but it does not come from you. You can’t control me.”
Valerie-squirrel knew she was in deep and dire distress, so
she felt around in the darkness for possible weapons. But how does one wield a weapon with squirrel
paws? And then she realized that the
waste basket was made of wicker. She
quickly bit into the soft woody fibers with her amazingly sharp incisors.
“I am going to report you to the master!” Oojie said to the
“Go ahead. I will
have a nice squirrel lunch while you get him.
I have her trapped in this human trash thingy.”
The hole was big enough to squirm through. And with luck, there was a mouse hole in the
basement brickwork right near where she tumbled out on the dark floor. She wriggled through the opening and into the
hollow tunnel that was on the inside of the cinderblock wall. She could see light somewhere far above.
“Where are you, beautiful one? How can you be hiding under this paper and
string and old apple cores?”
Valerie-squirrel heard the basket being batted away and new
light flooded in the door of the mouse hole.
“Aha! So that is
where you have gone.”
The cat’s paw came reaching in through the hole, the only
part of Skaggs that actually fit. He
nearly got a hold on Valerie-squirrel’s bushy blond tail. She wasn’t used to having a tail the way a
real squirrel would be. She tucked it up
underneath herself just in time. Then
she began to climb up through the brickwork.
It was a long, hard climb basically going straight up, but she could
manage with four splayed squirrel legs.
“You haven’t escaped me yet!” cried the cat. “I will have you still.” Her tiny heart beat even faster as she climbed.
Wizards do magical spells. It kinda goes without saying. But to do magical spells, you have to know how the magic works… and why.
The secret is in knowing what the word “magic” actually means. It is not supernatural power, nor the creation of something out of nothing. It is entirely the act of uncovering and understanding the underlying truth, the actual science that most people don’t yet comprehend that underpins the thing you are trying to accomplish. Jonas Salk was a wizard. His polio vaccine was a successful magical potion. But magic can be evil too. Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer were wizards. And the atom bomb was an act of necromantic evil.
So, being a wizard, I have learned lessons over a lifetime that uncovered for me the secrets of practical interpersonal magic. Being a teacher has taught me far more than I taught to others.
So let me share with you some of my hard-won practical magic.
In a room full of rowdy children, most of whom are not minding any of the teacher’s directions, you can get their attention easily by shouting, “What the poop is going on here?” with the biggest evil grin on your face that you can manage. They will immediately quiet down like magic and look at you. Some will be wondering if their teacher is having a fatal stroke. Some will be wondering what punishments their behavior has earned as indicated by your evil grin (and here it should be noted, their little imaginations will cook up something much worse and much scarier than anything you could’ve thought of to unwisely threaten them with. A few will begin recording you with their cell phone cameras in hopes of future behavior they can post online and get you fired with. And the rest will laugh at the word “poop” and forget why they were acting out. At that point, with their full attention, you can ask them to sit down and look at page 32, and, not knowing what else to do, they will probably do it.
Here are some other rules of practical magic that apply to the wizarding arts of being a public school teacher;
Violence is never the answer. Change their actions and reactions by making them laugh, making them cry, or making them think about something else entirely. The last thing you would ever want to do is hit them, even if they hit you first.
Anything they can be forced to repeat eight times in eight different ways is something that will be fixed in their memory for more than just the duration of a class period. It moves things into their long-term memory, and that is itself a very magical thing.
Students laugh when you surprise them or present them with the absurd. Tell them they should imagine themselves as pigeons who have to act out Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. What costumes will they wear, and why? What stage directions are necessary to add to the play that are unique to pigeons, and how will they word them? How does pigeon Mercutio go about his death soliloquy when stabbed by pigeon Tibault? Will he have to say, “Look for me tomorrow and you will find me a very grave pigeon?” By the end of the lesson they will have learned more about this play they are supposed to learn about as ninth graders than they ever would have otherwise.
Being able to do any of those things is actually a manifestation of magical power, and only producible by a wizard. The simple fact is, every good teacher is a wizard.
“This is a very strange story,” said Pidney, blushing
“It’s practically pornography,” said Mary softly.
“I think the interesting part is where it tells about the
juju man,” said Valerie. “It tells us
how to make it work.”
“Yeah, it does kinda, doesn’t it?” said Pid.
“It doesn’t say the order to tap them in,” said Mary,
looking at the ugly wooden man with the even uglier wooden mask on his face.
“It doesn’t say they have to be tapped in order,” reminded
Valerie. “It just says to tap them each
one time and say the magic words.” She
reached out her hand and tapped each of the twenty-eight tattoos only one time.
“Good gawd, Val, don’t do it!” whimpered Pidney.
“You mean say the magic words?” asked Mary.
“Yes!” said Pidney.
“Juju do dah goodah!” sang Valerie as if on cue. Nothing happened.
“Don’t !” screeched Pidney.
“You must also have to say oojie-magoober,” said Mary.
“Oh, Mary! No!”
cried Pid. At that moment a cloudy
stream of purple smoke boiled out of the top of the wooden juju man. The idol began to glow with an eerie greenish-blue
neon light. The smoke was sweet
smelling, like burning sugar.
The little wooden man began to shake himself as if he was
trying to wake himself up.
“Who are you?” Valerie asked him with a Cheshire Cat’s grin.
“Juju do dah! Yaya!”
cried the little wooden man. “I am Oojie
Magoober. You have summoned me!”
“What?” said Mary.
“It was an accident. Go back to
sleep or something.”
“I cannot sleep again until my task is complete,”
“What’s your task, then?” asked Pidney. “We will help you do it if we have to.”
“I must take a virgin back to my master, Mangkukulan!”
“Which virgin do you mean?” asked Valerie.
“You will do nicely, but my master asked for the other one.”
“No!” said Pidney.
“Not that! You may not do
that!” The football hero drew himself up
to his full height and towered over the little wooden man.
“Very well. Be
warned. I shall cheat and use
magic. Oojie Magoober squirrelly doo
The little wooden man twitched his stubby wooden fingers at
Pidney, and suddenly the football hero shrank down into his clothes, until
nothing was left but a twitching pile of empty boy’s clothing piled upon empty
“What have you done!” cried Mary. “Pidney!”
From out of the collar of the empty shirt, a reddish-brown
squirrel popped his squirming, chittering body free.
“You turned him into a squirrel?” cried Valerie, distraught.
“Smaller and easier to deal with.”
“But there are still two of us against one of you,” said
Mary menacingly. “Both of us are bigger
“Oojie Magoober squirrelly doo dah, two dah, yaya!” The fingers waggled at Valerie and Mary both.
Valerie felt a wave of nausea pass through her tummy and
then the room swirled around her.
Everything went dark. Except, it
was a colored darkness. Roughly the same
color as the pink blouse Val had been wearing.
She pushed at the darkness around her and felt that it was cloth. Her hands felt funny. Not the kind of funny that makes you
laugh. It was a funny tingly feeling in
the finger nails as she clawed at the cloth around her. Then she found an opening.
As she freed her head and eyes from the darkness, she saw
one of Mary’s saddle shoes. In it sat a
confused and forlorn-looking squirrel covered in about the same shade of auburn
fur as Mary’s hair. Then, horrified, she
looked at her own two hands. Squirrel
paws. Her arms and body were covered
with a golden-blond fur that was not far from Val’s own hair color.
“We’ve been turned into squirrels!” she tried to say to the
chit-it-it-it!” was what actually came out.
“No one understands squirrel talk,” said Oojie. “Now get into my sack.”
Valerie-squirrel rushed to the side of the saddle shoe where
Pidney-squirrel had joined Mary-squirrel.
“Chit-it-it-it Chree-eek!” cried the Pidney-squirrel, leaping
onto the wooden-head’s mask and sinking gnawing buck teeth into it.
“You can’t hurt me,” said the wooden man. “You are just squirrels. And I don’t even have to get you into the
sack by myself. That is the very
reason I asked the cats to help.”
at the top of cellar stairs, five cats appeared. Valerie shuddered as she recognized
flat-headed old Skaggs. And he was
leering evilly at her.
I was all alone on the island for all I knew, so I
immediately got busy on my best Robinson Crusoe plan. And then my headache made me rethink that,
and I went back to sleep for another two hours.
I think it was two hours, estimating by the sun, but I don’t really know
how to estimate time by the sun, and as I decided the first order of business
had to be to locate any useful wreckage from the ship that had washed up on the
shore, my head started hurting again, so I slept again. Now, I know from re-reading this paragraph
that I was probably sleeping way too much… and I didn’t know for sure that
Chinooki wouldn’t come up on the sand to eat me, but, well… having this kind of
horror-story adventure in the South Seas was really tiring.
When I did finally search the beach, I found almost nothing
at all to help me. I needed a knife, or
a hammer, or a gun, or a shovel… but all I found was this log book and a wooden
crate full of Pink Fizz Cherry Soda Pop.
Luckily, I also discovered I still had a pencil in my jeans pocket,
otherwise I might’ve forgotten everything that happened before I could write it
all down. I know my thinking was a
little fuzzy at the time… or possibly Pink Fizzy… but I wrote down everything
as truthfully as I possibly could so that whoever found the book would know
what happened to the Reefer Mary Celeste
and her crew.
Inland on the island was jungle… a rather thick jungle. But I desperately needed food and fresh water. And if I tried walking the beach until I
either found civilization or discovered I was on a deserted island; I might die
of dehydration and thirst before I discovered I was all alone for certain. So, I made a brief foray into the island. If I met headhunters or an evil killer
gorilla, I couldn’t do any more about it than writing a scathing commentary on
why they shouldn’t be eating me raw in this log book. I could write that I hoped to give them a
fatal case of indigestion as long as they ate my writing hand last.
The jungle was very hot and humid, but I found a rainwater
pool a short way into the jungle and was able to slake my thirst. Coconuts and
bananas were growing in abundance near the pool. I also ate.
And it was then that I saw her for the first time. She was a young girl. I admit, at the time, I didn’t really know
how young. But she was lovely. She was Asian-looking with slanted eyes and
caramel-brown skin. She had black hair
and dark brown eyes that twinkled at me as she smiled. And she was standing on the edge of the pool
completely nude. The only thing she wore
was an adolescent red panda sitting on her shoulder and grimacing at me with a
“Parlez vous Francais?” she said. “Tagalog?
“I understand English,” I confessed.
“Ah, so good. I am
liking practicing my English. We don’t
be speaking it on this island. Maligayang
pagdating sa masasamang isla. That means
be welcome to Evil Island.”
I didn’t know whether to be frightened or worried about the
name of the place, or be incredibly embarrassed that I was talking to a
completely naked girl. “I… I’m sorry… I
didn’t mean to spy on you while you were bathing. I will give you some privacy…”
“Huwag pumunta! I
mean… don’t be going away! I be liking
you. I don’t be wearing clothings on
this island, but I am having a kimono back at my bahay… my house. I can be putting it on if hubad is wrongness
“Um, well, I…” I
didn’t know what to say. I was seven kinds of flustered and at least three
kinds of embarrassed.
Lalaki and I are wanting to be talking to you.
It is lonely on the island, waiting for sa galit na bulkan… for the volcano.”
“You… you are waiting for the volcano?” I looked up at the high mountain peak about a
mile inland. Black smoke curled nastily
out of the top of it.
“Yes. I am being the
virgin bride. I am waiting for my
husband to be.”
This of course sounded like some of the worst rumors I had
ever heard about South Seas islanders.
It seemed they intended to throw this beautiful, naked young girl into
the volcano to appease an angry god or some such nonsense.
“We have to get you out of here,” I said as bravely as I
“Yes, yes, that is what I am waiting for.”
“Um, you are?”
“Oh, yes, my husband is to be coming and taking me away from
I was determined to rescue the poor girl.
“What is your name, sweetie?”
“I am Malutu… the Red Flower of Matuling Lupa.”
“I don’t have a way off the island at the moment, but I can
build us a boat or something…”
“First you are coming to the house of Malutu and Gwapong
Lalaki. Follow us.”
She padded out of the clearing on bare feet and back towards
the beach. She apparently had a house to
live in while she waited for her evil people to throw her into the
volcano. I followed her, not knowing
what else to do.
“Um, Malutu? You
haven’t seen any mermaids on the beach have you?”
“Mermaids? You are
meaning sirena Chinooki?”
“You actually know about her?”
“Of course, silly man…
She is being the one who brought you to me.”