Category Archives: NOVEL WRITING

Cover Design

I am the first to admit, I don’t know diddly-sqwoot about effective cover design.  But now, with self-publishing as the only option left to me, I am learning things about publishing that I only ever scratched the surface of in my few college forays into publication design and layouts.  I had some experience publishing junior high yearbooks, (and losing money on something that most teachers lose money on).  And I have gotten a lot of serious criticism from sources that matter to me, like my daughter, the Princess.


With the novel I have been working on with Kindle Publishing on Amazon in view, I came up with this.  I like it.  But it will not cut the mustard with the Princess.  (She uses a knife on mustard, but lately has given up on eating mustard all together).  So I had to work the idea out further.

I tried this;


The design is a little better.  But Rowan has become so ratty and run down that I hesitate to use the background which is not much like the Rowan of 1974 when the novel was set.  So I decided to focus on character instead.


Still needs work, right?  You can no longer see the post office sign in the background.  Sherry is still a small head growing out of Superchicken’s neck.  And Milt Morgan is a good addition, but the purple paisley shirt looks terrible.  And besides, this will not fit the whole cover of the Kindle paperback.

It will end up looking something like this;


Or not.  Because I am still learning how to do it right, and I still have many more mistakes to make.  But as I finish editing and formatting, the time will come soon to see the proof in the pudding.  (And you better hope I don’t put uncut mustard in the pudding.  That would taste terrible.)

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Aeroquest… Canto 21

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Canto 21 – Blue Boy

The entire group of adventurers went aboard the Leaping Shadowcat to work out their problems. The Hammer, an ancient device of incredible power, was now actually in their possession. Junior Aero had detected it hidden within the Synthezoid’s body cavity.

Junior Aero“How was this boy able to read the robot’s mind?” Ged asked Tkriashav.

The almond-eyed Psion Master looked at Ged through narrowed eyes. “He has a Psionic power I’ve never encountered before. His mind reads as a telepath, but he can read artificial minds. He can manipulate computers and robots in the same way Tara and I can bend human minds.”

“Will you teach him to use this power?” Ham asked.
“No,” said Tkriashav, closing his eyes. “I believe he is meant to be Ged’s first student. I can’t touch his mind properly. Neither can Tara. He might prove dangerous to us.”

“But…” began Ged, “I don’t know how to teach! …Not Psion power!”

“You know more than you realize,” said Tkriashav. “You are a master of the inner eye. You do it so well. It is an instinct with you. From what we saw today, the child is nearly there himself. All he really needs from you is moral guidance, positive support, and, well… love.
Ged looked at the blue-skinned boy. He hadn’t really paid much attention to him before. He looked like a blue version of Ham when he was young. He was small and thin. He hardly ever smiled, but he had dimples when he did smile. He was nine years old, but looked more the size of a six-year-old. It was his Nebulonin curse to be forever small and child-like. Ged nodded. He could learn to love this boy.

Ged Aero
“Lend me a hand, Ged,” said Ham as he hoisted the inert body of the Synthezoid onto the game-skinning table. The Madonna had gone to the galley to cook. Tara and Sinbadh had gone to help. That left Bam-Bam, Ged, Tkriashav, and Ham to do the surgery on the Synthezoid.
Ged helped Ham stretch the body out on the table. They pierced the wrists and ankles with skinning hooks. The flesh oozed green juice as if it were blood, but there the similarity to human anatomy ended. There were layers of circuit-weave mesh under the skin and titanium bones at the bottom of it. On the outside, Sorcerer 4 was made like a human. He even had the naughty bits. But under the skin, he was all robot with fiber optic wires and blinking lights everywhere. Ham easily peeled away synthetic flesh to reveal the metal man underneath.
In the hollow of the Synthezoid’s chest cavity, they uncovered the device itself. Ged almost laughed at Junior’s big-eyed facial expression when the boy first saw the Hammer of God. Everyone had been pretty much expecting a Thor’s Hammer type of thing. What they got was an undecorated tube with two right-angled handles on one end. You would never know it was an ancient artifact without the eerie purple glow coming out the open end. It looked like an ordinary plumber’s tool.
“There are no buttons to use the dang thing!” swore Ham, disappointed.
“No,” said Junior in a small voice, “but the thing is telepathic.”
“He’s right,” confirmed Tkriashav. “I can sense that to use the device, you must be a telepath.”
“Oh, great!” moaned Ham.
“It’s workable,” said Ged. “We have to use these things carefully. We will ask Frieda about it, and we have telepaths that might be willing to help us.”
“You do,” confirmed Tkriashav. “I know I haven’t earned your trust yet, but from here on out, our destinies are all intertwined.”
“Even mine?” asked the little blue boy.
“Especially yours,” said Tkriashav.
Ged couldn’t help but be a little spooked by the Psion Master. He didn’t like knowing so many riddles about the future, and he was not comfortable around someone who did.

Tkriashav picked up the Hammer. “It makes things according to mental directions. It uses some kind of organizing power that can rearrange molecules and energy flows. It is light years beyond any technology on Don’t Go Here.”

“What will we use it for?” asked Bam-Bam.
“This planet,” said Ham. “We can bring space-travel technology here with the thingy. We’ll build downports and dry-docks and spacecraft. We can make this world high tech overnight.”
“Don’t be surprised if they insist on staying cave men,” warned Tkriashav.
“Yeah,” said Bam-Bam. “Most of us grew up in Fredsuits and riding dino-back.”

“If we’re going to make this world home, we need to dress it up a little bit,” sighed Ged.

“Yes,” said Tkriashav. “But this world may not turn out to be home in the long run.”

“Why would that be?” asked Ham.

“I see other places on both of your horizons.”

Ged shivered. “Don’t tell me that. I don’t want to know.”

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Is Mickey Icky?

This post is about writer doubt. And Stephen King. Do those two things go together? If they don’t then Mickey is an awful writer and does not know how to do what he does. It would mean Mickey is icky.
I used to think Stephen King was a totally over-rated writer. Back in the early eighties I read Carrie, King’s first novel, and got halfway through Firestarter, and had to give up. Partly because the book was overdue at the library, and also because I found the books mechanical and somewhat joyless in the writing. I thought he suffered greatly in comparison to writers I was in love with at the time like Ray Bradbury and Thomas Mann. I began to tell others that King was somewhat icky.
But King was obviously also somewhat successful. He began to get his books made into movies and people who don’t read discovered the evil genius of a man who tells stories to scare them and laces them with a bit of real humanity, real human feeling, and love.
I saw it first in Stand by Me. That movie, starring young Wil Wheaton as the Steven King autobiographical character, really touched my heart and really made for me a deep psyche-to-psyche connection to somebody who wasn’t just a filmmaker, but somebody who was, at heart, a real human being, a real story-teller.

Now, the psyche I was connecting to may very well have been Rob Reiner, a gifted story-teller and film-maker. But it wasn’t the only King movie that reached me. The television mini-series made from It touched a lot more than just the fear centers of my brain as well. And people whose opinions I respect began telling me that the books The Dark Tower Trilogy and Misery were also amazing pieces of literature.
So I picked up a copy of Hearts in Atlantis at Half-Price Books and began reading a Stephen King novel for the first time since the 80’s. MY HOLY GOD! King is not a little bit icky. He is so NOT ICKY that it makes Mickey sicky to have ever thought King was even a little bit icky! Here is a writer who loves to write. He whirls through pages with the writer’s equivalent of ballet moves, pirouettes of prose, grand jetés of character building, and thematic arabesque penchées on every side of the stage. I love what I have discovered in a writer I thought was somewhat icky. Growth and power, passion and precision, a real love of both the words and the story. He may not know what he is doing. But I know. And I love it.
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And so, while I have been editing the first novel I ever wrote, Superchicken, to make it ready for self-publishing, I have begun to ask myself the self-critical question, “Is Mickey really icky when he writes?” My first novel is full of winces and blunders and head-banging wonders that make me want to throw the whole thing out. But I can’t throw it out. It is the baby in the first bathwater that I ever drew from the tap. The answer to the questions of Micky ickiness have yet to be determined, and not by me. I guess I have to leave it up to you.

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Aeroquest… Canto 20

Canto 20 – Seize the Hammer

In the caverns of Don’t Go Here, Ged and Ham and company had arrived at the coordinates of the so-called Hammer of God. Instead of some large ancient construct resembling Thor’s Hammer, however, they found a small army awaiting them. They were not an un-schooled, low-tech army of cave people. They were leather-clad laser jerks, complete with plasma laser rifles and allosaurus mounts.
The army was led by a white-skinned conehead in fake tiger fur. He rode the largest of the allosaurs and he had a small electrical star orbiting his cranium.
“So, you are the Aero Brothers!” cried the cone-headed leader. “You are too late to thwart me this time. I have the Hammer already, and I mean to kill you all now!”
“Ged,” said Ham, “You have such ill-mannered friends.”
“I’m sorry. I hang out in too many low places, I guesssss,” answered Ged, already transforming into the familiar raptor body.
A beam of green energy lanced out of Ham’s weapon and sliced the torso of a bald allosaurus rider in two pieces. Sinbadh’s twin laser pistols splashed angry red beams along the flanks of two different allosaurs, spilling intestines. The beast that didn’t fall dead immediately lashed out in pain and took the head off of another laser jerk.
Chaos erupted before the Synthezoid leader could give any orders to his army. Ged and Ham had never fought an army before, but they knew dangerous beasts from years of hunting experience. They could split up and de-fang a large group of xenomorphs with great skill.
Beams of blue-white plasma leaped out of the laser jerk barrels and skewered things in their path mostly in random directions. One beam passed through the craniums of two of the ten allosaurs in one shot. It wasn’t enough to kill the two-ton carnivores, but it put them both down with smoking holes in their heads.
Ged had transformed and used the raptor’s innate leaping and clawing ability to great effect. He was quickly up on the allosaurus backs and slashing away at laser jerks, piercing leather armor with the wicked hooked claws he wore on each foot. Growling in triumph, he twisted the head off another laser jerk.
Tkriashav used his telekinetic powers to shield the group from laser fire. Plasma and heat splattered off his invisible force fields to set the rocks alight. Puddles of magma began to form around the group of adventurers as rock melted under the rain of deflected plasma.
Tara sent streams of mental fire into the brains of untouched laser jerks. Most fell from their mounts into the burning lava puddles, or to be eaten by their own agitated mounts. Riderless allosaurs did not stick around for a further fight. They scattered into the darker recesses of the back part of the cavern.
The artificial man, unhorsed from his allosaurus, lay glaring up at the raptor Ged with a fierce defiance on his white face. “I shall not underestimate you again, Ged Aero,” he said. “There are ways to defeat even your kind. Psions have weaknesses too!”
“Who are you?” demanded Ham, pointing his laser weapon at the face of the Synthezoid. Bam-Bam Salongi, unable to do anything but watch in the battle, had picked up a plasma rifle. He leveled it at the Synthezoid and showed him that Bam-Bam had seen how they operated by observing laser jerks. He fingered the trigger switch menacingly.
“I am called Sorcerer 4. Remember that name. I will be the death of you all.”
Suddenly the Synthezoid began to hum internally. His eyes rolled back, and his orbiting spark went out like a light bulb.
“He’s going to explode!” shouted Tkriashav. His inner eye had warned him.
“I will get it!” shouted the little blue boy. His naked body vaulted over the corpses to lay hands on the Synthezoid’s head. “He’s still downloading to somewhere else!” Junior closed his eyes and directed a bolt of mental energy into the metal mind.
“The boy can’t do anything!” warned Tara. “We can’t read that artificial mind!”
Suddenly the whirring and the humming ceased.
“I stopped him,” said the boy, smiling. “I mentally diffused the bomb. I can see into robot and computer minds.”
Ham stepped forward and picked up his new Nebulon son. He glared down at the defeated Sorcerer, and then grinned at the boy.
“You know,” said the boy, “you are really handsome when you smile.”

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Word Salad and Idea Casserole

In a world filled with interesting and engaging ideas, I get frustrated with the constant barrage of word salad on social media tossed at me by conservative friends.  As Trump seems to be coming closer and closer to ending his administration with his own chaotic behavior, those who supported him are tossing more and more flavorless lettuce and rotted vegetables in the mix.  I have to resist the urge to throw the same thing back at them.  I do not resist such salad-making well.  Witness my attempts to alter this stupid meme from a friend;


I admit, I kinda barfed half-digested word salad all over this one.  I get tired of debating the issues only to be insulted like this and then accused of only insulting Trump and avoiding what they call the “Real Issues”, like Hillary giving a gazillion per cent of our uranium wealth to the Russians and Obama being the one guilty of colluding with Russians.

But, enough of that.  It is time to make something healthier out of words and ideas.  I have a lot of things on my mind, and I want to get a lot of them said before I die.  So let me make some idea casserole, cooking a whole lot of very different ideas into one multivitamin dish.


  • Trump, for all the damage he’s done, will end up being good for us if we can just survive his administration to the end.  Scar tissue is always tougher than the surrounding flesh when the wound heals.  Repairing the damage he has done will leave us stronger, wiser, and more able to cope with the root causes of the Trump phenomenon.
  • My friends and family who supported the whole Trump mess primarily to hurt people whom they feel are smarter than them and so more stuck-up and self-important than them, will eventually get back to leading more productive lives than they did before.  And they will continue not to credit the ones who actually made that happen the way they didn’t credit Obama for healing the blunders of Bush.
  • I will get back to writing gentler, non-political-type humor novels.
  • I have my novel Superchicken half-way through the final edit to publish it on Amazon Kindle.  You can see I have been playing with cover ideas.  I plan to write Sing Sad Songs next.  Also I have two more novel ideas that I will add to this casserole as separate ingredients.  And I have The Bicycle Wheel Genius, Recipes for Gingerbread Children, and The Baby Werewolf finished and ready to edit as well.
  • Here’s new idea number one; The Boy Who Lived Forever is a fantasy novel about Icarus Jones coming to stay with the Jones family of Norwall.  He has survived a house fire that killed his parents and now must evade the dragon that pursues him while trying to figure out what is wrong with him health-wise.  Could he be dying?  Or did he survive the fire because he somehow can’t die?
  • Here’s new idea number two; Kingdoms Under the Earth is a fantasy novel about Blueberry Bates, a troubled young girl, falling seriously ill, and the measures her boyfriend, Mike Murphy, and her friends have to take in a realm made of magic and fever dreams to save her.

The truth is I really can’t do anything about politics and government beyond expressing my beliefs and voting my conscience.  I need to concentrate on telling stories.  It is the one thing that still gives my life meaning through the pain, illness, and suffering.  I am not dead yet.  And, not being dead, I need to be writing.


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Aeroquest… Canto 19


Canto 19 – Let’s You and Him Fight

Tron Blastarr was a masterful combat pilot.  The wraith corsairs were too much for several of his less talented pilots, but Tron himself began chewing them up.  He found their weakness.  They merely had to be pounded twice on the same part of the hull to open a major hole in the surface of their state-of-the-art ablative armor.  He had taken out six of them before one could even circle behind him.  That lucky one that sneaked behind was taken out in the next instant by Elvis the Cruel, himself the owner of four victories over wraith corsairs.  The Infamous King of Killing was next with three kills to his record.

“We have to get aboard the space station and get the Crown!” hissed Sorcerer 3 grimly.

Dana Cole took the pilot seat from him on their black clipper and showed her own considerable skill as she spiraled into the nearest space port docking bay.  The landing and attachment was silky in its perfect execution.

“Good girl,” cooed Sorcerer.

“Yeah!  Primo flying, young Jester!” added Trav.

“Let’s get the Crown before your pirate friend atomizes us!” growled Cole.

The three treasure hunters ran into the space station as if it were on fire.  Their footfalls clanked down the tube-arm to the central control station.  There, just where Trav had left it, was the blue box, the Crown of All Stars sitting on top of it.  The three crystals were all lit up, though the central stone was a sickly green color, much paler than the two bright stones on either side.

“Ah!” said Sorcerer, snatching it up, “very good, Trav.  Now I no longer need you two.”

“What!” cried Dana, “How can you betray both of us?”

“My dear, did you really think Count Nefaria needed either one of you?”  Sorcerer 3 pulled out the Skortch ray and pointed it at Dana.  “If you thought you were an indispensable agent, you are as much a fool as Goofy here!”

“Tell Count Nefaria that Goofy is mine to kill,” said Tron from the tube-arm behind Sorcerer 3.  Tron’s Advanced Combat Rifle spat a five-slug burst into the Synthezoid’s back.  Sorcerer’s evil smile turned to a scowl as he slumped to the metal floor.

“Tron, you are a dead man!” threatened Sorcerer.

“Can’t be as dead as you are,” said Maggie from behind Tron.  “We’ve killed you twice!”

“Have you down-loaded yet?” asked Tron.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” sneered Sorcerer 3.

Tron ripped a fully automatic blast through the back of the Synthezoid’s head.  Computer chips, wire, and exotic fluids sprayed everywhere.  The spark orbiting Sorcerer’s head winked out.

“You killed him!” marveled Trav.

“Maybe not,” said Tron.  “He apparently can download his mind to new body somewhere else in space.  I don’t think we have seen the last of old Pasty Face.”

“Are you gonna kill Trav Dalgoda this time?” asked the beautiful red-headed Maggie the Knife.  “You have him right where you want him again!”

Tron smiled.  “As irritating as this clown is, he’s done me a favor.”

“How so?” asked Trav.

“You helped me find out who’s collecting Ancient artifacts.  I didn’t know it was Count Vladimir Nefaria until Sorcerer 3 let it slip to you.  I finally know where to go to intercept the packages that rat-man has stolen from me.”

“You’d better kill Trav before he messes things up again!” insisted Maggie.

“Maybe you had better not,” suggested Dana Cole as she picked up the Crown of Stars.  “I happen to be a former agent of Count Nefaria.  I can open doors for you on the planet, White Palm.  But I won’t if you kill Trav Dalgoda.  I have fallen in love with this goofy man.”

“Well,” said Tron, “I pity you, woman, but I will take you both along as we assault White Palm.  This little venture is not over yet.”

“Tron, old Jester?” began Goofy, “you wouldn’t really hurt an old, dear friend like me, would you?”

“I’ll be the death of you yet, Goofy.  I need you a little longer, though.  Get your gear together.  My boy, Artran, missed you while you were gone.”


“Ooh!  I give up!” moaned Maggie, glaring at Goofy.  “Give me that!”  She viciously tore the Crown of Stars out of Dana Cole’s hands and put it back in the blue box.  She took the box with her as she stormed out of the station.

Trav smiled.  He picked up Sorcerer’s Skortch ray. “She likes me too, underneath,” he said.

“Sure she does,” said Tron sarcastically.

“She better not,” said Dana, narrowing her eyes.

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Aeroquest… Canto 18

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Canto 18 – Spelunking with Dinosaurs

    Ged had gotten the planetary coordinates from Frieda for the so-called Hammer of God.  As they took instrument readings on the surface, they could accurately determine by use of a gravitometer the device was located in one of the deep places in the Bedrock Undercity.   An expedition would be organized to retrieve it before they believed Trav and his Slaghoople connection would be able to mobilize the criminal element.

Ged took both Tara and Tkriashav along to teach him more about Psions.  He couldn’t help but look longingly at the beautiful teenager, Tara Salongi.  The facts of it made him feel terrible.  Bam-Bam Salongi and Sinbadh went along for muscle.  Ham couldn’t help but bring the beautiful Nebulon Princess and her young son.  The two of them seemed to persistently attach themselves to Ham, though Ged noticed the boy looking at him more than once.

The Slate Cliffs had a huge cavern opening in their northernmost face.  It was there that most people gained access to the Bedrock Undercity.  The rocks there were an oily gray and led into a series of caverns that were torch lit and gloomy.

“Do you know anything about these Ancient artifacts?” asked Ged, looking sternly at Tkriashav.

“Yes,” said the almond-eyed master.   “I know what prophecy says.  The Prophecy of Master Xan says that the White Spider shall be reborn and he shall use the sacred tools of God to remake the Great Web Across Darkness.”

“Good God!” said Ham.  “What does that mean?”

“Ged is the White Spider, the Weaver of Golden Destiny.  I have foreseen this myself.  The tools of God are the ancient relics of Grandfather whom some describe as God Himself.  These would be the Crown of Stars, the Hammer of God, the Celestial Dragon, and the Orb of Essence.  Ged will use these, I believe, to remake the very stars into a new and better Empire.”

Ged sighed.  “That’s a lot to ask of a simple hunter.”

“You will do it, I have seen.”

Tara slipped her hand into Ged’s and smiled up at him shyly, more like a teenager now than when Ged first met her.  He felt uncomfortable, thinking of what they’d already done together.  She was still very much a young girl.  Still, he couldn’t make himself let go of her soft and delicate hand.

They entered a wide and much-traveled stone footpath into the middle of the Undercity.  Many cave men and women were already there, going about stone-age business.  A billboard advertised the big Rock-ball game on Monday night, and another mentioned Stone Cold Cola in glowing terms.

“What will you teach me about being a Psion?” Ged asked morosely.

“I can’t teach you much.  You are already a Master of Shape-changing.  You can control cellular regeneration.  That power alone will make you immortal as long as your brain doesn’t die.  Your power as a hunter will also make you formidable.  And Tara telepathically gifted you with most of the instincts you didn’t already have.  If you know enough about a creature, if you can read its DNA, then you can become that creature.  Unlike most who can change shape, you are not limited by your size.  You can change into things both larger and smaller than yourself.”

“How do you know this?” Ged asked, puzzled and irritated.  “Is it by your vision?”

“Oh, no.  I can also read your mind.”

Ged looked violated and perturbed.  He had not even sensed another’s presence in his head.

“Don’t be offended, my son,” said Tkriashav soothingly.  “It is not as intimate a reading as Tara did.  You still have secrets that I will not violate.  I am as strong a telepath as you are a shape-changer.  I can even read the Nebulon boy, and he’s going to be a very powerful telepath with tutoring.”

Ged looked at the naked blue child clinging to Ham’s reluctant hand.  “What can you tell me about the two Nebulons?” he asked.

“The Princess has a very important father.  He will not be pleased with the boy, a child caused by abuse as a prisoner in the Imperium.  His father was a Galtorrian-fusion bully.  The boy as yet has no name.  What he does have is psionic ability, and a strong connection to your future as the White Spider.”

Ham, on hearing this, stroked the boy’s bright yellow hair with a loving, sympathetic touch.  “What’s the Princess’ name?” Ham asked.

“In her language, she will now be called the Madonna.  She is mother to a fatherless boy.  The name is Inouijuc.  She is very much in love with you Ham.  She believes she owes her life to you, Trav, and Ged.”

“Princess Inouijuc,” said Ham, “What shall we name our boy here?”  Ham put a hand on the blue child’s soft shoulder.

“Hamfast Aero Junior,” said the Madonna clearly and without hesitation.

Ham blushed.  Then he smiled.  He didn’t say another word or protest the decision.  Ged also smiled.  He couldn’t help hoping that Ham decided to settle down with this pretty blue princess.

Ahead of the party, a row of raptor riders lined themselves up across the road.  Nine of them.  The riders were armed with stone-flingers and spears.

“What do you want, Goober?” Bam-Bam Salongi asked of the beady-eyed leader.

“We mean to help you and your friends, Bam-Bam,” Goober Slaghoople answered the silver-haired caveman.  “A friend of mine witnessed the death of Rocko Slaghoople.  That other group after the Hammer is evil and foul.  They must not have the thing.”

“We welcome your help,” said Tkriashav.  “As Rocko’s nephew and only living male relative…”

“I am now leader of Don’t Go Here! Yes,” proclaimed Goober Slaghoople.

“We are honored to have your help,” added Ged.  “My brother, Ham, and I are the new owners of the Don’t Go Here Space Port and the Grange Station.  We will be working with you from now on for the planet’s own good.”

“Don’t Go Here has a star port?” asked Goober Slaghoople, flabbergasted.














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