Time is probably running out for me. I am too susceptible to this pandemic, and I am living in a Red State where they didn’t take social distancing seriously until Tuesday of this week.
But I have been living one day at a time for six years now. I have already lived longer and written more novels than I ever expected to since the beginning of my health crisis in the year 2000.
Still, I am now adding almost a thousand words a day to one novel or another. With A Field Guide to Fauns, I am currently on page 100 and at about 28,000 words of a planned 35,000. I reached crisis point one of three planned for the plot.
I have to admit that several surprises have added themselves to this story. When a novel comes to life like this one has, it often surprises you with directions you never expected it to take. Hence the family trip to Fiesta Texas and Mandy’s inexplicable love of Selena and dancing the Cumbia.
Just a reminder, if you haven’t been following my sporadic narration of the writing of this novel, the Field Guide is set primarily in a nudist park in Texas, and it is about a boy who is forced to become a nudist, and at the same time confronting the naked truth about himself. This novel will be done before the quarantine is over. Hopefully also before I get sick and die.
I will be ready to take up The Wizard in His Keep soon after it is done.
Plus, I have been working hard on the rewrite of AeroQuest 3 : Juggling Planets.
Juggling Planets now stands at about 20,000 words and 82 pages.
I will try to finish both that and AeroQuest 4 : The Amazing Aero Brothers before I breathe my last. (Though possibly not writing my last. Remember, I plan on getting a job as a ghost writer after I am dead.)
If I have time after all that, I have an idea ready to go for Kingdoms Under the Earth, my graphic novel, Hidden Kingdom, and a rewrite of my ghost story, Monstro.
I am doing my best to write as much as I can before the end.
Canto 84 – The Lords of the Jungle (the Green Thread)
King Killer returned to consciousness in the midst of an elaborately built tree house. His right arm and shoulder were burning with excruciating pain. His vision was somewhat blurry, but he could make out two smiling faces looking at him, neither of which was familiar in any way. The boy was nearly nude, wearing only some kind of fur loin-cover that really wouldn’t have covered anything if he had had anything to cover. His red hair was wild and uncut, something like a lion’s mane with tangles. The woman was dressed in an expensive leather suit, the kind nobles often wore in order to tour the more dangerous parts of resort planets. She was a beauty with large red lips and liquid brown eyes. Her hair was well kept and perfectly arranged in this steamy jungle.
“Who… are you?” King finally spit out.
“I am the former movie star known as Wicked Wanda,” said the woman. “You may have seen me in the holo-epic AllSpaceways Lead to Galtorr, or the romantic comedy The Corsair’s Wife.”
“That’s okay. I know my fame and talent haven’t reached all the way to the frontier, yet.”
King looked around. Hooey and Willie Culver were sitting a short distance away, talking to a man in a black robe with a hood over his head. He wanted to get up and go over there so he could kick Hooey in the head for doing this to him.
“What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get up from here?”
“You have a terrible infection in the wound from the creature’s carnivorous mouth. I’m a pretty good medic as well as a holo-epic star, so I’ve been trying to treat it without antibiotics.”
King looked at the boy. “I guess I owe you my life,” he said soberly. “Thank you.”
“Me Randy,” said the Jungle Boy, pounding his chest with one fist.
“That’s all he can say,” said Wanda. “He was apparently the only one to survive from his crashed spaceship, and the monkey people of this planet raised him.”
“The Lemurians. They live on several jungle planets, or the jungle parts of medium life-belt planets. They have a whole city here in the trees. They built this place. If Admiral Tang knew they were here and rescuing some of the people he maroons here, he’d probably throw a mechanoid fit.”
“Yes, I owe them too. I have to survive this place to get revenge on Tang.”
Wicked Wanda smiled a sinister smile. “Revenge is not a good enough motivation for most people, but I can tell it fits you perfectly.”
“Yeah, I’m a dangerous man.”
“Sure you are.”
“How smart are these Lemurians?”
“Oh, they are very clever. They can’t talk though, unless Oook means something in monkey-talk.”
“You can’t communicate with them?”
“Oh, we can. Slythinus over there can use some kind of telepathy on them.” She pointed at the man in the robe.
“Slythinus? As in Emperor Slythinus?”
“Yeah, that’s him. Mr. Golly Bigdeal is a prisoner here just like the rest of us.”
“How? I mean, he’s still the Emperor, isn’t he?”
“Not really any more…” Wanda looked at him sadly. “There was a coup by some guy called Prince Ali. Slythinus was left here to die while other people took over his empire. I understand the Imperium belongs mostly to Mechanoids and Galtorr-Human Fusions now. That’s how I got here, taking pity on a human leader that had fallen out of favor with his planet. You may have heard of him. You know, Duke Ferrari of the Coventry Sector?”
“I’ve heard the name. Don’t know much about the man, other than the fact that we freed him from a dungeon on the planet White Palm. I guess that’s how Tron’s Pinwheel Corsairs got our behinds handed to us in a basket, payment from the Imperium for freeing the Duke.”
“He’s free? Oh! I love you for that!” Wanda leaned in and planted a big, passionate kiss on King. He was instantly surprised and embarrassed.
“Well, well, well,” said Dr. Hooey. “I see you’ve met your future wife already.”
“I swear, Hooey, I will kill you one day.”
“Oh, no you won’t. I’ve read the proof in one of King Ryan Beowulf’s books about the future.”
“The future?” Wanda was puzzled.
“Oh, yes,” said King sarcastically. “Dr. Hooey here is a Time Knight, and destined to get us all off this planet.”
“Really?” said Wanda, obviously contemplating another thank-you kiss. King found that he hated that idea. “How will we get off?” she asked.
“There’s a certain device hidden in the ruins,” said Hooey.
“What ruins?” asked the robed man, walking up to King also. “I know of none.”
As Slythinus approached, King could see that his Galtorrian lizard eyes were gone. The former Emperor was now blind. “Your monkey friends know,” said Hooey. “Although, I have to wonder why they’ve kept the knowledge from you. It is the way they have gotten from planet to planet, you know.”
This illustration is also from the book The Boy… Forever. It is a pen-and-ink illustration of a moment in the story when Anita Jones and Sherry Cobble are being held prisoner through mind control by the evil vampire/dragon, Tian Long.
The boy is Tanis, a living mummy from ancient Egypt, kept alive by a horrible process the villain is intending to use on at least one of the imprisoned girls.
This illustration is part of the exposition from my comedy science fiction novel, AeroQuest 3 ; Juggling Planets. It explains about the residents of the planet Djinnistan being genetically engineered humans with bizarre characteristics.
The evil Dr. Havir Bludlust has created these humanoid mutants to aid the human star empire known as the Imperium to make excessive profits from the people they supposedly govern, but actually enslave.
The novel takes place in a nudist park where the main characters are mostly year-around residents, it is also the reason why they appear nude in a majority of the illustrations. It is not a book of pornography, however, just as being in a nudist park is about living a sensual, nature-filled life, and not about people having sex. I will not categorize this as a young-adult novel, though it will be tame enough for kids to read.
This is Devon Martinez’s self-portrait. He tends to draw people as mythological creatures like fauns, satyrs, and nymphs.
He tells the story in first-person narrative. He doesn’t start out as a nudist. But he is thrust into the middle of it because he is forced by a tragedy to move in with his father, stepmother, and twin stepsisters.
They are full-time residents of a nudist park. To live there, he has to get comfortable being naked.
Canto 82 – Siege of the Seadome (the Blood-red Thread)
Ham Aero was chafing in the wrist cuffs. He’d been stripped of his yellow and blue combat armor, as had Ferrari and myself. We all lay on the hard metal floor of the seadome brig. Ham was working at the cuffs, seemingly knowing how to break free in a Houdini-esque fashion. He twisted them back and forth, rolling his knuckles over in a very interesting fashion. I have never seen such a form of double-jointedness before.
“I am supposed to execute all three of you,” the black-suited commander was saying. “I know I am supposed to, but I can’t see killing someone like you, Duke Ferrari.”
“Why don’t you let me go, then, soldier?” said Duke Ferrari in his oiliest political voice. He almost seemed sympathetic to our captor and potential executioner.
“Admiral Tang has personally ordered your immediate execution. What will I do?”
At that moment, the Commander of the commando team we came with came in with two armed guards. He still wore his armor and seemed remarkably fit compared to the wear and tear that showed on the rest of us.
“Why haven’t you killed them yet?” he asked of the Black Commander.
“I had to confirm that the orders were not a mistake,” said Blackie.
“Nonsense. You know what the Admiral wants. Just do it!”
“I called Planet Mingo Command to confirm the order before I do it. I don’t want to kill the former ruler who did the most to help my people in his lifetime.” The Black Commander took off his helmet to reveal a snake-eyed Human-Galtorrian face. He was of the fusion race that dominated the Imperium.
“What happened to your loyalty?” Duke Ferrari asked the yellow and blue Commander. “I thought you were on our side?”
“I am. I don’t want his people to claim that you made a mess of things with your little rebellion. The people idolize you, but they don’t realize what is actually good for them. A government of a space empire cannot be a democracy. You have to have order to maintain the rule over so many worlds.”
“Save me from military intellectuals!” moaned Ferrari.
“Give me the fusion gun, Commander,” said our former friend. “I will take responsibility for their deaths.”
“Ruts rowing on here?” said the metallic voice of a mechanoid mutt, possibly a Great Dane.
I looked at Ham. He had his hands free, ready to grab a gun and fight for our lives against impossible odds.
“Commander Doo!” The two commanders stiffly saluted in utter surprise. “What are your orders, sir?” said Commander Blackie.
“I rahnt rorder! Rese men are under the protection of Rord Rayrond King! Roo will not harm them!”
“What? Lord Doo! We have to kill them. They are a danger to the Imperium.”
The snake-eyed commander seemed visibly relieved. It was as if this message from the dog’s mouth was exactly what he wanted to hear.
“Will you release us, then?” asked Duke Ferrari.
“Res!” said the mechanoid dog. “Roo are free. Rord King rahnts it that way.”
“You’re a weasel,” said Blackie. His slug-thrower gave off a quick blast, piercing the traitor in the chest plate of his armor. As he slumped dead to the floor, Ham began freeing us from our cuffs. The Black Commander helped.
“We are grateful,” said Duke Ferrari. How can we repay you?”
The dog-mechanoid looked at us with artificial eyes, creepy eyes. “Roo rill rule Farwind as risely as roo took care of riss sector before. Re are all allies now.” It didn’t seem right to be set free by a mechanical talking dog, at least, not without a set of meddling kids to go with him, but I was in no mood to question our good fortune.
I have looked deeply and longingly at my own writing time and again trying to determine what is good and what is poorly done and what is the best that I have written. How does one examine what is good? What are the standards that you must meet?
I had a writing teacher who was teaching a class in fiction writing and said to us, “You write fiction to create that special bittersweet something, that je ne sais quoi, that you need in order to come to terms with reality. Everything necessary to say something that satisfies a nameless desire.” I wish I remembered his name so I could credit him with having said that wise thing. Or, at any rate, I wish I could remember the name of the wise guy that he was quoting.
So, basically I am trying to capture in prose something that I have no idea what it is, but both you and I will know it if we see it. Easy-peasy, right?
Good fiction that I have read and liked makes me feel something. If it is truly literary quality, like the novels of Charles Dickens, Terry Pratchett, and Mark Twain, it will make me both laugh and cry. Funny things balanced by things that hurt to know and make you weep for characters that you have come to love. If it is a downer kind of novel, as some very good bits of science fiction and horror fiction are, it will make you laugh a little, cry a little, and think a lot; think with dread, or despair, or even impossible hope. Steven King, George Orwell, H.P. Lovecraft, and Ray Bradbury are good examples of this.
I am grappling with how you do that. I am not fool enough to think I am some sort of literary great. I am a school teacher writing stories for school children, stories I wanted to hear when I was a kid. Stories of good versus evil, good people coming together in the face of chaos. Heroes, villains, and clowns being heroic, villainous, or foolish. And themes that both warm and chill your little blue heart.
. So, what can I do besides keep on writing and keep on trying and keep on begging people, fools, and children to try reading my writing because they will like it, even if it is the least best thing I have written?
I finished a possible cover for my work in progress, A Field Guide to Fauns. It is a book about re-forming families from tragedies and divorce. It is also about suicidal thoughts and depression. And it takes place in a nudist park where the family has a permanent trailer.
This book will definitely be about some of my own experiences with these things and issues. And I hope to distill a bit of high-quality wisdom from this brewing novel. After all, when it comes to depression and battling it, I have deep scars and burned-in notions of how you overcome them. It is ironic that I know so much about fighting depression and darkness, even though it was mostly about the depression of other people, not me.
I have come to know how to stitch families together out of used and discarded parts. Hopefully not creating a new monster. And again, it is ironic that I know this mostly from other families, not ours.
The book is flowing, practically writing itself. And that is always a sign of a big idea turning itself into a great novel. I look forward to finding out what happens in each and every next chapter… or, in this case, Canto.
Canto 81 – Mong the Miser-like (The Midnight Blue Thread)
Tara Salongi stood next to the conference table in the reception room of the main hall. She wore a diaphanous blue gown that, with its see-through fabric, was quite revealing of her newly-healed feminine form. In fact, it was the kind of dress that, if this story were a Japanese anime, it would be called fan service. But, of course, it was no more so than the fur bikini she had worn for most of her old life back on Don’t Go Here.
At that moment, Emperor Mong, who had summoned Tara, entered through the double-door entrance.
“Ah, the beautiful sorceress Tara Salongi, I believe,” said the sinister looking bald man with the goatee that came to a sharp point under his chin.
“Yes, I am here. What do you want of me?”
“I am told that Wormheart Toadsucker, Admiral Tang’s left-hand sycophant, delivered you here by giving you over to Lord Dark Doo.”
“That is correct, if I know who you are talking about.”
“But the question is, my Lady, why weren’t the admiral’s specific orders carried out?”
“What do you mean?”
“Yes… whatever do you mean, Mong?” said Raylond, appearing from behind a curtain on Tara’s right.
“Excuse me, Lord King. I do not believe it is business you were supposed to know anything about.”
“Am I not one of the ruling triumvirate of this star system with it’s multiple inhabited worlds?”
“Yes, that is so. But the Admiral…”
“Wait a moment… do you mean Admiral Tang started a business in secret that he didn’t want me or Lord Hardretter to learn anything about?”
“That is correct… er, I mean… It was a local matter from another star system that the Admiral wishes to control… for Imperial security reasons.”
“So, tell me, what is the Admiral’s specific plan involving Tara, whom I consider to be under my protection for now?”
“Um, well… Lord King, the fact is… this woman is a dangerous Psion. The Admiral captured her at great personal risk to himself.”
“I am aware that she is a Psion. But we have the proper shielding capability available to us, do we not?”
“Um, yes… but the Admiral wanted to ship her to the planet Djinnistan where Dr. Havir Bloodlust could possibly use his genetics skill to transfer her unique abilities into a suitable Mechanoid or even a controlled genetic Freak.”
“No sir. I will not have it, sir. She is under my protection. Lord Hardretter and I have discussed ways to use her here on our worlds to better life for all of us.”
“Ah, but since Lord Hardretter isn’t here now, and I have the Admiral’s proxy vote in the matter…”
“Ah, but I am here, Mong.” Smoky Hardretter, the teenage ruler of the system’s manufacturing worlds, stepped out from behind the curtain on Tara’s left.
“Lord Hardretter? Uh, are you suggesting you are siding against me and Admiral Tang with Lord King?”
“That is exactly what I am suggesting. We have use for the cooperative and lovely Psion, and two thirds of the ruling triumvirate can overrule even the Imperial Grand Admiral.”
“So, maybe you should go back to playing with your rot warriors and tin men, Emperor Mong, and leave us to the business most beneficial to the Imperium,” said Raylond King.
Mong, white in the face and obviously frustrated, stormed out of the room.
“Thank you, Lord King. And thank you too, Lord Hardretter,” said Tara.
“Think nothing of it,” they both said simultaneaously.