Category Archives: novel writing

The Quest for Acceptance

We all are on a Quest to find our place in this world. We labor hard at trying to get other people to see us as the people we think we are.

Of course, we always fail.

The problem is, first of all, that we are not even remotely… usually… the person we think we are. Sure, we put that clown paint on our face in the mirror, and we think we look funny. But since sitting in front of the mirror we ate a sandwich and smeared the red around the lips. and we rubbed our left eye with a gloved left hand and didn’t even realize it.

The first wide-eyed child we meet screams and runs away from their parents. To her we looked like some sort of vampire clown who eats children for lunch.

And the parents threaten to call the police because they insist we were leering, not knowing we suffered gas pains at the moment because that damned sandwich had red peppers in it, and we are allergic, now approaching intestinal distress.

So, we run and hide for a while.

What’s that, you say? I’m not talking about you? That never happened to you?

Well, it didn’t really happen to me, either. It was a ding-danged metaphor gone rogue and taking over the post just like you would expect an evil vampire-clown to do.

Harker Dawes, owner of the worst hardware store in Iowa.

The thing is, I have always wanted to be a storyteller. And not just any storyteller, but an extra-funny, goofy-clown of a storyteller. And not a vampire-clown either.

But it’s not easy to be funny every day.

I was the teacher that middle-school kids loved because I had a laughing classroom. I used humor to get the point across. And most of my discipline strategies were to head off bad behavior before it actually happened. Get them to laugh rather than act out.

But even then, there were bad days and sad days sprinkled into every week.

Of course, now that I am retired, I no longer have a captive audience to play to and force to laugh at my jokes with the threat of perpetual after-school detention.

The only audience laughing at my jokes now is the imaginary one in my head. And maybe the three people who read my Twitter tweet-wittiness. And of course the six or seven people who bother to actually read my posts on WordPress.

I have twenty books published, the first of which, displayed above by plastic Batgirl, is Catch a Falling Star. That one is about an alien invasion of a small town in Iowa by totally incompetent aliens. The aliens get blitzen-schmuntzed when they kidnap a child specimen from the town who turns out to be more dangerous to their way of life than any Navy Seal could manage, and accidentally leave one of their own tadpoles on Earth to be adopted by a childless farm couple.

The book won two awards from the publisher, Editor’s Choice and Rising Star Awards, which basically means that they appreciate all the money I spent on editorial services and marketing advisors. The book is not a best-seller. In fact, I have made sixteen little dollars on it since it was published in 2013. And I-Universe Publishing does not send out a check for less than $25, so they are still holding on to my money. And very few people read my books. Fewer still buy them.

Anyway, we keep trying. We are on a Quest. And some day, some way, somebody is bound to accept us. As what is yet to be determined.

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Filed under autobiography, clowns, feeling sorry for myself, humor, irony, novel writing, writing humor

Book Number 20

Between the moment of inspiration and the publication of this novella there was only five weeks of time. It is the fastest I have ever completed a writing project for publication. Catch a Falling Star did the same complete process in a mere 36 years. Some things are just quicker than others.

This book, Cissy Moonskipper’s Travels, is a 55-page novella written for teenagers and inspired by the books, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and Slake’s Limbo by Felice Holman. It is a survival story about being stranded alone in space with a space ship and resources, but no way to make the space ship go anywhere and a knowledge that there are pirates out there who will looking for her to take her space ship away.

I am quite proud of this project and how it turned out. I invite you to see for yourself..

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Filed under announcement, novel writing, Paffooney, publishing

Life as a Humor Blog

Writing, as I have repeatedly said in this blog, is necessary for life to me. I would not still exist today if I couldn’t put words to paper (I mean metaphorically, of course, since I wrote this on my malfunctioning laptop.)

But I don’t mean in any way to imply that it is any kind of “normal human life” to be a blogger. It is, in fact, a rather bizarre and chaotic life where you have to juggle a multitude of wacky, crazy, depressing, unruly, and downright ugly things that happen at random to any and every human being (I was going to say, “living human being.” But the fact is, it happens like that for the dead ones too.) As a blogger, you are trying to take all that chaotic nonsense and organize it into words and paragraphs that makes it all into a reasonably sensible thematic something that people are tempted to actually read. (“Tempted” here probably means lured in to find out what this mass of typing is really all about by the naked fairy-girl that is in the lead illustration.) (You would be surprised at how often my penchant for drawing nudes draws in people looking for porn and gets them to stay and read the story that goes with the picture.)

Technically this is a book blog. It was established for me as an author’s blog by I-Universe Publishing for my traditionally-published novel Catch a Falling Star, which is what this blog is named for. It is supposed to be an effective marketing tool for selling books and getting people interested in finding out more about my books, and about me, and especially about clicking on the ads that appear in this blog-space.

But I am apparently terrible at using it for what it was meant for. There is absolutely no correlation between this book blog and book sales. Through I-Universe I have made about $16,00 (really, sixteen dollars! since 2013, and they haven’t even sent that money to me yet, because the threshold for sending a check in the mail is $25,00,) They have made a lot more money off of selling me marketing services than they ever have off of my award-winning book (Really, again, the Editor’s Choice Award and the Rising Star Award, both together worth precisely diddly-squoot.) My blog itself costs me $98.00 a year, and I have only made back $10,00 on ads revenue. So, being an author is only going to make me a millionaire very, very, very slowly.

But what I do get from this blog is a couple of critical things.

It is a place where my artwork and story-telling skills can see the light of day outside of a middle-school classroom. I learned to fascinate people with my cartoons on a chalkboard and stories that begin with things like, “One time the former President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, was skinny-dipping in the Potomac River while…” (Yes, that one could’ve gotten me fired if kids had told their grandmothers what they were learning in Mr. Beyer’s class when they got home from school, but they laughed so hard that they forgot everything they learned in class.) (Unfortunately, they mostly forgot Math Class and Science Class as well.)

And I get some feedback about how well or how poorly my writing comes across to the reader. (I can get a “LOL” in the comments, or a good “What the hell was that supposed to be about?”) It gives me an idea about what to keep and what to change when I do it all again the next day.

People are actually reading this blog, and my books as well. Yesterday I got 204 views and 21 likes on WordPress and there was only one naked girl in the pictures I used with the blog post. Just today I got a very insightful five-star review on my book Sing Sad Songs. So, I am getting read and being successful as a writer. ($3.75 in royalties from Amazon was paid to me on Friday. So, I could almost claim to be a professional… if I cut down on expenditures quite a bit.)

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, blog posting, humor, novel writing, Paffooney

Novel Tuesday Review

This novel should see publication within a month… or maybe more, depending on how lazy I really am.

For some time now I have been using Tuesdays to show an entire chapter or canto of a novel currently being written. It has resulted in a number of novels being created that I might otherwise have given up on. They may not be my absolute best work, but they are good enough for self-published projects. I have basically been working with novels that needed to be rewritten in order to pass muster with my own in-built “crap detector.” I took apart my first novel, Aeroquest, and turned it into five novels, AeroQuest 1,2,3 and now 4 with 5 soon to begin.

This will be the next novel I take up in this space. It is the tail-end lump of remains of the original novel including the final battle for dominance in the fractured Galtorr Imperium, the rescue of Ged Aero’s infant daughter, the final establishment of the New Star League, and avoiding the destruction of the entire universe in a struggle at the event horizon of a black hole called Little Swirl. I only have to add about 75 percent more detail, action, and event to the story in rewriting it.

You may have also seen other novels come into being in this Tuesday space. Here are the results of those.

These Tuesday posts, then, have been and will continue to be a chance for you to see novels in progress coming together (or failing to come together) as the author (namely nutty old Mickey) works out what they are all about and what happens on the next page written.

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Filed under humor, novel plans, novel writing, Paffooney, publishing, science fiction, self portrait, writing humor

I Sweetpotato What I Sweetpotato

If you are as goofy and cartoon-obsessed as me, you may remember that Popeye the sailor was known for the catchphrase, “I yam what I yam”. And if you do remember that, it will not surprise you that, when told a yam is another name for sweet potato, Popeye was furious. “It cannot be!” he argued. “I would not say I sweet potato what I sweet potato! That’s ridicumess!”

Well he has a point.

But I would like to talk today about the things that I sweet potato, and why I sweet potato those things.

First of all, I yam a humorist.

I yam this thing not because I am funny. You may think I yam funny because I say really goofy things for no apparent reason, and then keep on talking long enough to convince you that I did have a point to make, but my brain leans so far to the left that I am hardly right about anything.

And I make bad puns a lot.

You see, I have to use humor constantly to deal with all the hard things in life, because being too serious in the face of the world’s basic uncaring cruelty only leads to depression and taking a beating from life. In fact, I can think of any number of situations in my past where I avoided a beating only because I made a joke that made the bully laugh.

So, being a humorist is a survival tactic. Humor keeps you alive.

You see someone like me has to face all the pain and heartache and cruelty the world has to offer by using humor. The real reason is that, when faced with a bad situation, if the humor gland can’t empty itself of all the jokes it produces, it will begin to swell. The humor gland is located either in the brain or maybe in the behind (I am not medically qualified to tell you which it really is), and it can only swell to a certain point, and then it will explode. This is very bad thing for you, if you survive it, and certainly unpleasant for anybody nearby.

But the joke, properly launched at the target, will make somebody laugh, even if it is only the humorist himself. And laughter is the best medicine. Unless it kills you. You have to be careful not to die laughing. The angels will be offended, and the demons will all laugh too.

But I yam not only a humorist. I yam also a teacher.

I began to realize that I might be a teacher when, in graduate school to get a remedial master’s degree to help with the fact that plain English majors all starve to death, I discovered I had a talent for explaining things in simple terms. And then, immediately afterwards, I discovered I had an even greater talent for being ignored while the people I was explaining to made the mistakes they wouldn’t have made if only they had listened to me, before they failed spectacularly, and then realized how the solution I had explained would’ve made them succeed instead. There is apparently no better way to learn an important lesson.

Teaching is, of course, a pretty cool job. You tend to have the summers off. And you get paid for summer because they split the amount of money you earn for the year (which considering what a babysitter makes on average per child and per hour is far too little for the hours you put in) into twelve monthly pittances.

Of course you are expected to have a university degree (although no teacher college in the world can teach you what you really need to know in order to face that many little monsters… err, darlings… every day) and preferably some grad school, and a certification to teach in your chosen subject, and an additional certification if you are going to teach more than one subject (and ESL and Speech and Journalism, all of which I was expected to teach, are separate certifications) and you have to take hours of additional training every single year, and you have to get re-certified every five years, and… Well, you have to be basically smarter and much better-educated than Bill Gates… But the school janitor will probably be making more money per month than you do.

Anyway, it’s a job you just gotta love. I yam a teacher.

And really, there are a whole lotta yams in my basket yet that I could tell you about. I yam a Red Skelton fan. I yam sometimes a nudist (when I don’t have to put on clothes to keep myself from scratching all my psoriasis-plagued skin off). I yam also an artist (of the type known as a cartoonist). I yam pig-headed sometimes, and I yam Grumpy sometimes (so I go from being Porky to one of the Seven Dwarfs.) I yam a lotta things. And my sweet-potato basket is large.

But I can’t talk about all of my yams today. Too many yams are bad for my diabetes.

But here’s one last yam. I yam a storyteller. And I have a free Kindle e-book promotion this weekend. The book is the first in my series of AeroQuest books. It is a science fiction story with a humorous bent. And I mean, it is seriously bent in some places.

So, click on the link and get yourself a copy. It’s funny. And I will save the other sweet potatoes for another day.

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Filed under humor, metaphor, novel writing, Paffooney, self portrait, writing teacher

Down the Gravel Road

Today I took my number-two son to the airport. He is determined to see friends in California over the course of his two-and-a-half days off. So, he is traveling during a pandemic. But he has had Covid already and is probably still pretty much immune.

It left me with some thinking time on the drive home from the airport, though it cut into my actual writing time.

Work has begun on The Boy Who Rose on a Golden Wing. It is a project that will take some time.

That is a story about growing up and overcoming bipolar disorder and depression. It will be for older teens.

And I have an idea that blossomed from this old illustration. I was thinking about it while driving. I want to write a book about a talking dog. It will be targeted more for younger kids. He solves crimes on the Niland farm and in the rural Iowa town where the Niland family lives and goes to church. Of course, though the character is based mostly on Mr. Peabody from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Horatio T. Dogg is also based on my own talking dog, Jade Beyer. In the story Horatio T. Dogg, Super Sleuth, the dog actually only talks to his owner, Bobby Niland. Much in the same way that Jade only talks to me.

Dang! Just what I need. Another story idea that I need to write before I die. I will have to stay alive until I’m 125.

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Filed under announcement, battling depression, humor, novel writing, Paffooney

Fairy Tales and Wishing Wells

If you are on a writer’s journey like I am, you have my sympathy. I am not saying it is not worth it. But if it is going painlessly easy for you, you are not doing it right.

If you are doing it right, you are dredging your soul deeply with a huge jagged-edged bucket to find those small gemstones of truth and life and meaning, and then trying to arrange it all into patterns and genres and stories that are artful enough not to just look like a pile of random rocks. If you do it for a lifetime, you may be lucky enough to create a masterpiece or two, a finely-crafted jeweled creation that dazzles the eye and captures the heart of the reader.

I have always been cursed with high intelligence and a vividly over-active imagination. So, in some sense, I was always destined to be some kind of a fantasy writer with dragons, unicorns, wizards, and such crap dancing in my head, and polluting it by farting rainbows too often. Fiction-writing, by its very nature has to tell a lot of lies to get to the truth. It also has to be, in large parts, autobiographical in nature to be any good. You have to write about what you actually know. Because making stuff up without real-world references will only produce crap that you yourself (meaning you, the writer-you) can only see as mud-brown dhrek.

Therefore, my stories have to be the thing that I label as Surrealism. Many experts would call it that too. It is expressed in highly metaphorical imagery, as in a boy moving in with his father and step-family at a nudist park where everybody is naked most of the time, and the boy sees practically everyone as a faun from Greek myths. (A Field Guide to Fauns) ‘Where a boy loses his whole family in a car accident in France and must rebuild himself in the US with family he has never even met before and he does it by putting on clown paint and singing sad songs, and visiting a dream world inhabited by clowns who might actually be angels. (Sing Sad Songs) Or a girl recovering from the grief of her father’s suicide during a once-in-a-lifetime blizzard where she is saved from snow-ghosts by a magical hobo and runaway orphans from a stranded Trailways bus. (Snow Babies) The reality of these stories depends on a willing suspension of disbelief challenged by a myriad of disparate things thrown together into a kaleidoscope narrative.

I have been thinking deeply about the nature of my own writing experience as I spent most of a year working to promote my books through an online author-review exchange called Pubby during a pandemic unlike anything seen in a century.

The author-review exchange thing has been a very mixed blessing. More than half of the reviews I have gotten on my work are done by authors seeking to earn points for their own books to be reviewed by cheating. They don’t actually try to read the books. Instead, they look at other existing reviews and try to cobble together some lies that don’t show any original thinking and merely parrot what other reviewers have said.

And while some reviews come from reviewers like me who work hard at reading and understanding the book and giving honest reactions that delight me by pointing out the things they actually connected with and understood in my books, other reviewers react with unexplained horror at something they found offensive to their own world view in my books, painting them in harsh terms, in one case even calling the book child-pornography and ridiculing the authors of the good reviews as someone who didn’t understand what they were reading.

But even the bad reviews are a blessing, in that they prove that someone has actually read my books. I cannot explain why that is so important, but it is.

So, hopefully you see now why I am talking about fairy tales. A writer’s journey is hard. It burns your very soul. And you are not very likely to see any rewards but the intangible ones. If you are a fellow writer on your own writer’s journey, well, I sympathize. And I can only wish you well.

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Filed under autobiography, book review, goofy thoughts, humor, novel writing, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing

Why My Kids Are Always Embarrassed

Yes, I admit it. I am a goofy old coot and an embarrassment to my children.

That’s my role in life now. Eye rolls abound when I am around.

There are several reasons why, which I intend to list here in detail in order to embarrass my children further. But it basically boils down to the fact that I am a writer, and though I write mostly fiction, another way of saying I lie a lot, a real writer tends to reveal more of the naked truth about himself than a child can stand.

Who wants to see their father naked? Especially when he is old… wrinkled, spotty, and mostly fish-belly white.

Speaking of nakedness, one of the things that my children are most embarrassed about is the fact that I know a lot about nudists and naturists, in fact, I know many real nudists, and I have been nude in at least one social situation with other naked nudists. And, even worse, I admit it in writing where my children and their friends can see it. Of course, none of them read this blog anymore for that reason.

I have written novels where there are nudist characters based on some of the real nudists I have known. The novels with nudist characters in them so far are, Recipes for Gingerbread Children, The Baby Werewolf, Superchicken, The Boy… Forever, and A Field Guide to Fauns. And these novels might not embarrass them so much if they read them to discover that the novels have something to say that really isn’t about their father being a crazy naked coot. But they won’t read them because I am embarrassing to them.

And there is the verified fact that I am something of a conspiracy theorist. I firmly believe that the actor/theater owner William Shakespeare only offered his name to the real writer of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry, the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward DeVere. There is actual evidence that is so, though it was a secret that DeVere took to his pauper’s grave after spending away his entire family estates and fortune. A pauper’s grave that no interested scholar can find the location of to this very day, although maybe he’s buried in the same place of honor as the actor/theater owner, as there are cryptic clues to that as well.

I also believe that Dwight Eisenhower met with alien civilizations in the 1950s and the Roswell Incident was a real crash of more than one spacecraft from other star systems. There exist real deathbed confessions that confirm those details, and the government has been covering up the facts for decades.

The conspiracy-theory skills I have as a crazy, embarrassing coot have resulted in books like Catch a Falling Star, Stardusters and Space Lizards, and the Bicycle-Wheel Genius.

And lastly, I was a school teacher in middle schools and high schools for thirty-one years, which means I can create kid-characters in fiction that are very realistic and have a good-but-comic qualities that make readers generally like my stories.

So, my children are probably right to be seriously embarrassed by my very existence. Of course, I, like all old coots registered with the Crazy, Embarrassing Coots of America, the CECA, am totally immune to being embarrassed by the embarrassment of my children.

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Filed under aliens, angry rant, autobiography, conspiracy theory, humor, kids, novel writing, nudes, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, William Shakespeare

The Dark Side

Every person who is intelligent enough to be self-aware, and that is over ninety percent of all people in spite of Fox News and various extreme religions, has a Dark Side that they are aware of.

And most people are sensible enough to show off the Light Side and keep the Dark Side hidden.

Only fools and geniuses reveal the Dark Side and play down the Light.

I consider myself a fool. Decadent poets like Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine are examples of the geniuses.

Baudelaire himself believed that, “The way down is the way out.” Meaning, I suppose, that you can only be at peace with your personal demons at the bottom of the liquor bottle, the sharp end of the cocaine needle, or the grave.

I myself don’t put the demons forward in drinking or taking drugs. And I am definitely not trying to die young. Instead, I grapple with the Dark Side in fiction where I can kill it with a silver bullet, or pull it down into a pit of computer glitches where it will delete itself.

My personal darkness comes from traumatic experiences in my youth and childhood. I was sexually assaulted as a child and kept it secret for years. I grappled with suicidal thoughts and self harm as a teenager.

So, why am I now thinking about the darkness again?

Well, one of my books is in the process of being read and reviewed at this moment. It is the Baby Werewolf, a book in which I take on the darkness of feeling like I am a monster and only worthy to live in darkness. The story reaches its climax with the firing of a silver bullet.

I wish it was as easy as firing a silver bullet to deal with the Dark Side. It is not. I have fired dozens. Some monsters of the mind are purely bulletproof,

Still, some of my best work only comes about due to the Dark Side. And writing about it is the only way I can control the madness.

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Filed under autobiography, monsters, novel writing

Ending the Story

The first chapter of the story of my life does not open with my birth. It begins with my first memories around the age of three or four, when I first really became aware and my mind began seriously pulling itself together. Similarly, it will not ultimately end the final chapter when the lights go out and I pass away. I myself will not be able to write that particular sentence because, as I die, I probably won’t be in the act of writing about it.

This topic comes up because I have been thinking long and hard about how my AeroQuest series is going to end.

The original story in my terrible first-published novel has been divided into five different parts. Admittedly they are not as stand-alone in nature as I had originally intended.

Of course, since it all evolved from an on-going role-playing game, it was never really supposed to have an end point. And if I manage to finish this number-five novel, I already have a story to fill the number-six novel. It will be called Galactic Fire and the story is already tied to the other five.

At the same time, I am rewriting and updating Stardusters and Space Lizards. This too is an ongoing story. As a sequel to Catch a Falling Star, it takes up the tale of the aliens who tried and failed to invade a small town in Iowa. It takes them to a dying planet where the population of meat-eating lizard people are determined to make themselves extinct.

So, naturally, this book has the problem of the need to kill characters who are not the villain. Characters I have come to love. One of the characters shown on this new cover was supposed to tragically die during the climactic battle of the book. It began my awareness of how I can’t seem to end a novel without killing characters.

Of my fifteen existing novels, only Superchicken and A Field Guide to Fauns make it to the end of the story without killing a character.

I am lucky society doesn’t charge authors with murder for killing off characters in their books. After all, we fiction writers are a murderous lot. And characters are real people, at least to the author.

But, life as a story, is like that. Nobody that we have photographs of makes it out alive. And all the exceptions to the general rule may be highly metaphorical in actual reality.

The character in my initial Paffooney, Orben Wallace from The Bicycle-Wheel Genius, is a good example of the ongoing nature of life’s story. I call that book a prequel-equal-sequel because it tells a story that begins before Catch a Falling Star, includes some of the same story as that book, and ends with a story that occurs well after the other story departs for outer space.

I fully expect my own life to end its story like that one did. There is a story that comes both before and after. Birth-to-death stories are always part of something larger. And it is all connected.

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Filed under aliens, characters, commentary, humor, novel plans, novel writing, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing, writing humor