When you get to your sixties, but are in poor health, you can’t help but obsess about your own mortality. No man lives forever.
That point was driven home yesterday. My aunt, whom I have known for my entire lifetime, had her 80th birthday on Monday. Yesterday she had a heart attack and died. It was sudden. It was shocking. It occurred five days before a planned family reunion of Great Grandma Hinckley’s extensive family of descendants. My aunt, of course, was related to all of us, so there is no way the reunion occurrs without a dark cloud over it.
Of course, there are many dark clouds hovering over us in these times, The threat of nuclear war has returned to terrorize us again in the way it did in the 50’s and 60’s.
The climate crisis threatens to make life on Earth extinct. That could all begin this year with crop failures due to excessive rain and flooding during planting season.
But the corn this year, which world-wide food supplies depend upon because of the versatility of corn oil in foods of all kinds, is taller than I am in July and beginning to sprout tassels. So there is reason to hope.
And our moron criminal president seems to be self-destructing instead of fulfilling the promises of Dr. Strangelove.
And I am reaching the final home stretch on my novel, When the Captain Came Calling. Soon this twenty-year story-telling quest to tell a tale of family struggle and fathers versus daughters will be at an end. I have successfully negotiated the suicide scene. I have also achieved the character balance and plot completion that had eluded me for a handful of years. The story is basically about family resilience in the face of adversity. It is ironically consistent with the adversity my family faces this week.
And this is the week I chose to promote my book Recipes for Gingerbread Children. I had some success giving away copies of Snow Babies four months ago. And I had hoped to do the same for Recipes. It is also a book about resilience in the face of tragedy and adversity.
So, as far as I am concerned, the tree of life is a family tree. We are its branches, it’s knots and warped bark, its parasites and possibilities. And in its final analysis, many leaves are still soaking up the sunshine and nourishing every branch, even the dead ones soon to fall off. And I am not a dead branch yet.
I have started re-reading my werewolf stories again as I intend to promote the heck out of the two books pictured here in the rest of 2019.
Both books are intertwined even though they are both stand-alone novels with different genre ties and different themes. They share the same characters, many of the same scenes (though seen from different viewpoints in each novel), many of the same plot points, and the same werewolf. I like to think that reading both books together makes a better, more nuanced story as a two-book whole. But each book is also a whole in itself. And you can read them in either order.
I started by re-reading Recipes for Gingerbread Children. This book is basically a fairy-tale story-collection contrasted with a Holocaust survivor’s story. It is about how a storyteller manages to shape the world around her to help herself and others make sense out of a cruel world filled with evil and betrayal.
The Baby Werewolf is a Gothic horror tale where the real monster is hidden by deeply buried secrets, and lies have to be pierced to protect the innocent. I will re-read and promote this book second. I love both of these books with a paternal sort of overlooking-the-warts-and-birth-defects love.
So, I have a plan. A hopelessly pie-in-the-sky plan. But a plan. And hopefully at least some part of the plan will work.
I spent today’s blogging time working on a novel idea I can’t seem to let alone. I keep picking at it like a five-year-old with a scab on his elbow.
The idea is to take two published novels, Sing Sad Songs and Fools and Their Toys, and put them both together as the first and second parts of the same book. The stories are already enmeshed. Where they share the same scenes in several chapters, the second book re-narrates the scene from a different viewpoint. New insights, new things revealed. Maybe I want to do this because I’m a terrible writer with terrible instincts. Or maybe it is actually a good idea. Who knows? The worst that can happen is the idea blows up in my face and causes author’s brain damage. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Besides these two novels I am already working on, I have ideas for several more that have been building in my mind and my notes for as much as 40 years……………………………..
And I have forgotten to add in things I have in the works that are not exclusively Home-Town novels, including whatever I can make out of the mess that is Aeroquest, and the graphic novel fairy tale, Hidden Kingdom.
So, there’s my shameless self-promotion for my growing body of fiction that no one ever reads. And, as you can plainly see, no explanation of the productive spate I have been going through is offered. I am in too much of a daze right now to figure that out.
My daughter the Princess often disses my cover designs for my novels. The one I created for my half-written manuscript, displayed above, is really too yellow by about 500 degrees. I wanted to write a yellow book about sea stories and island magic set in Iowa, a State about as far removed from an ocean in any direction as a State can be (Well, maybe tied with Kansas and Nebraska). But yellow is not the right color. In fact, the green accent color makes me a bit nauseous next to the yellow. So, I vowed to my critic I would try again and do better.
Take a look at these alternative designs;
Will this one attract woodpeckers, do you think? Or is that too racy an idea for a novel about a young girl growing up. Woody Woodpecker is a sex symbol, isn’t he? No? Whereever did I get a fool notion like that?
I could really use your input. If you wanted to vote, you could choose a cover name from this list to tell me about it in the comments;
Purple and Wood
Something better, Stupid!
I promise not to get mad about any commentors who choose the last one. But I don’t promise to make any new ones either. It is, however, quite easy to make changes using computer programs. I don’t have to redraw anything. Although I could be slightly worried that the Tiki totem could be viewed as racist, even though his race is “little men made out of wood.”
Francois is now an orphan. He was in the car with his mother and father and twin sister when it went over the edge of the cliff, but somehow he survived. The only survivor. And even worse news, his only living relatives able to take him in live in Iowa in the United States, not in France, the only home he has ever known. So, what can a boy do about such a tragic situation? Well, Francois puts clown paint on his face and starts to sing. He can sing only sad songs. His heart is broken. But people hear his beautiful voice and begin falling in love with him. Soon the only one who does not love Francois is a secret serial killer who stalks young boys, leaving their poisoned bodies with a teddy bear for comfort in their coming life as a ghost. It is safe to say this is not exactly a happy comedy. But can despair be overcome by sheer beauty?
There is a certain amount of satisfaction in this publication effort. When I retired as a school teacher, I promised myself I would at least get to the publication of this book before I left this Earth and became a ghost writer… literally. So, now, if I can publish the next novel, Fools and Their Toys, it will be a step beyond my original goal. My legacy for my family will never be a monetary one, but at least I have this to leave behind.
Describing the feeling of entering the Ghost House for the
first time would prove quite difficult for Valerie when she tried to do it later
on in Miss Bierstadt’s class for an English essay assignment. But at the moment she crawled through the
Tunnel of Doom, she would’ve described it as a feeling in her belly like eating
a bowl of iced earthworms and trying to find a place to throw up in a jungle
full of man-eating plants that smelled an awful lot like marigolds or
something. It was that kind of
combination of anticipation, bad smells, icky things to see and touch, and the sensory
deprivation of entering a candle-lit darkness from the bright September world
“Welcome, Miss Valerie Clarke,” said freshman football hero
and huge Polish hunk Pidney Breslow.
Valerie was deeply in love with the square-shouldered giant, and
sincerely hoped he would be the leader of this Pirate club.
“Hello,” she said, almost timidly.
“You are just in time for the first official meeting of the
reforming Norwall Pirates’ Club,” said Mary Philips brightly. Mary had extended the official invitation to
Valerie to come here, although Val didn’t really know why. Mary had said that she didn’t want to be the
only girl in the club, but why would a girl like Mary want to be in a boys’
club? She had a bad feeling that the
high school freshman girl also had her cap set for winning Pidney as a
boyfriend. But, plain-looking as Mary
was, Val was only mildly concerned.
A quick look around as Danny Murphy crawled in after her
revealed the other boys in attendance at the secret meeting. Ray Zeffer, another high school freshman was
there. He was kinda handsome in a way,
too, but he was always so sad-looking with those big puppy-dog brown eyes of
his. He had a neatly combed mess of jet
black hair too, which was also attractive.
Val could easily learn to like this club.
The other boy, a high school junior, was kinda creepy. His name was Conrad Doble. He was the only one at the meeting who had
been a member of the original Norwall Pirates.
He was tall and thin, with lank blond hair that hadn’t had a haircut in
too long. He had a distinct problem with
facial Acne. And he insisted on leering
at Valerie, like he wanted to take a bite or two and eat her up. For the first time Val understood why he had
the semi-Shakespearian nickname of King Leer.
“You know that re-forming the Pirates is a sucky idea,
right?” said Doble, leering at Mary Philips for the moment. “There’s no way to go back to those
things. Milt Morgan had all the ideas
and told us what to do. Brent Clarke was
the leader and made the ideas happen.
How are we gonna fight werewolves or undead Chinese wizards without them?”
“You know that those adventures were mostly lies and fairy
tales,” Mary said.
“Still, who will be the wizard? And who will be the leader?” Doble glared at Mary accusingly. “I actually saw the werewolf!”
The two older boys, Ray and Pidney looked at each other
“Re-forming the Pirates was my idea,” said Mary. “I think I should be the leader.”
“A girl as leader?” asked Doble. “We only used to let girls in for sex
“Be careful what you say to Mary, Goon,” said Pidney.
“Or what? You’ll beat
me up with your football muscles?”
“No,” said Ray. “The
two of us will beat the crap out of you.”
The fire flashing in Ray Zeffer’s eyes was even more intimidating than
Pidney’s football muscles, and Pidney’s football muscles were seriously huge.
“Yeah, well… I guess
there might be benefits to having girls in the Pirates,” grumbled Doble
“So, it’s settled.
The Norwall Pirates exist once more,” said Mary with a sparkly
smile. “I will be the leader and Pidney
will be second in command.”
“Who is the wizard?” growled Doble. “Milt is the hard one to replace.”
“I get that you always thought of Milt Morgan as Merlin and
Brent Clarke as his King Arthur,” said Mary, “but do we really need a wizard?”
“Yeah, I think we do,” insisted Doble.
“You know we don’t have to let you be a Pirate this time,”
“I’m the only real
Norwall Pirate here,” said Doble imperially.
“You have to have my permission to even do this.”
“It’s all right,” said Mary.
“What is it you think we need a wizard for?”
Conrad Doble stood up to his full height and lightly bonked
his head on a cellar rafter. After he
rubbed his somewhat flattened head of hair, he went over to a nearby cabinet,
and removed the right hand door which basically fell out when you touched
it. He reached in and brought out a
large peanut-butter jar filled with formaldehyde. Floating in it was the severed head of a huge
black cat, its dead eyes popped and staring.
He placed that on the crate in front of the old couch.
“Gack! What’s that?”
“The secret mystical symbol of the Pirate leader,” said
“Smart girl,” said Conrad Doble. “If you know that, then surely you know what
a wizard is for.”
“I’m guessing the keeper of secrets,” said Mary.
“The teller of stories!” Valerie blurted out.
“Yes!” said Doble.
“Both of those things. But
story-teller most of all. That’s what
Milt used to do. He told us stories and
made us believe in stuff.”
“So, who here is a story-teller?” asked Ray Zeffer.
“Tell us the story of your Uncle Noah,” Pidney said to Mary.
“He is NOT my uncle,” said Mary. “He’s just Dad’s friend. I used to call him uncle when I was little.”
“But that’s the idea, isn’t it?” asked Pidney. “That story you were telling me about your
dad’s friend on the freighter in the South Seas? You could tell us that.”
“Maybe. You have to
give me time to pull it all together. I
think we need to leave that position open for the moment, to give others here a
chance to tell a story of their
own.” Mary glared in Conrad’s direction for a change.
“Okay,” said Doble.
“It’s a deal.”
“Who will be in the club?” asked Pidney.
“I invited everyone here to be a Pirate,” said Mary. “I think all of us need to be here. The Norwall Pirates used to be a group of
friends that supported each other and helped each other through hard times. That’s what we all need again. Especially Ray.”
Ray Zeffer blushed and looked off into the darkness of the
far corner of the cellar. Valerie
wondered why. She decided she would find
“Why didn’t you invite Billy Martin?” asked Danny
Murphy. “He needs to be a Pirate too.”
“You are right,” said Mary with a smile. “But I didn’t know where to find him or how
to get the message to him. Inviting him
can be our first club project.”
“Club project? You
make it sound all girly!” complained Doble.
So it was decided. Valerie Clarke was now the second girl ever to be a Norwall Pirate. She smiled to herself, but when she caught Doble looking at her again, she changed the smile for a frown.