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.”
I suppose it was inevitable, given my spectacularly bad luck at marketing. that I would have to move into new ways of self-promoting and marketing my books. So, I decided I had to move on into the realm of YouTube video blogging. I can handle this, right? It is just talking to people on video. I don’t expect to be as skilled as some of the other content creators you find there, but if I can get some people to be foolish enough to click on my videos, I might… well… you know, sell a book.
My goodness! That was certainly more difficult than I thought it would be. Of course, I only did one take. After all, as a teacher. you don’t normally get do-overs. I know some of you do videos, and you know how to do them a lot smoother than that, and time them better too. But I am trying to teach a really old dog new tricks here. (My age expressed in dog years is 434.) I will get better with practice. And since the first video is always expected to be the worst video, I anticipate having nowhere to go but up.
Well, maybe the second one is worse. I can’t help it. I am old and not exactly media savvy. I know too that video editing software is available to make things better. But I don’t really have the time and money to spare on that right now. Seriously, even five dollars is too much to spend on this blog post. But perhaps it will add to my two huge paychecks from Amazon this month, one of $0.85 and the other at $0.35, to help me afford better in the future. Creativity can help you through a lot of things. But technology you can’t afford ain’t one of them. And I hope you weren’t too badly traumatized by my hairy old face. We’ll try again next week, next Thursday most likely, and hopefully do a bit better.
The secret to this essay is that the title is a pun. And yes, I know you probably don’t find it very punny. But I wanted to talk about the difficulties of portraying the difficulties of communication in a talk-a-lot-sometimes-talk-too-much world.
Yes, my current work in progress, Fools and their Toys, is about a man who can hardly talk at all because of undiagnosed autism who suddenly, miraculously finds a voice through ventriloquism, and then finds himself needing to communicate to a boy who is deaf and only speaks sign language and another boy who is profoundly distracted with ADD and bipolar disorder. He needs to communicate desperately because he knows things that have been locked up in his head for years that may help the FBI stop a cereal killer. No, that is a pun again. Shame on me. The murderer commits multiple murders of young boys, not breakfast food
I chose to write this rather insane novel about how not to communicate with real people because I, myself, as a kid was given to all kinds of communication theatrics and tricks of entertainment. I was also a shy kid after the age of ten for very sinister reasons.
It is important to realize that you absolutely have to communicate with others in life. Even if something is preventing you, like my own bout of self-loathing brought on by a sexual assault committed against me by an older boy. I got a ventriloquist’s dummy for Christmas near the time of the terrible event. It was Danny O’Day from the Montgomery Ward’s Christmas catalog. I taught myself to do ventriloquism. And then I gave it up when I realized the puppet would say things I didn’t want anyone to hear.
Never the less, I continued to be fascinated life-long with ventriloquists and the little people they created.
Edgar Bergen was often in movies on TV during the Saturday afternoon matinee on Channel 3. I often saw his lips move. I was actually a better mouth-still ventriloquist than the old master.
Paul Winchell used to have a TV show in the 50’s which I saw on re-runs as a boy in the 60’s. He was also the voice of Tigger, Dick Dastardly, and Gargamel. (If you don’t recognize any of those cartoon characters, I mourn for your inadequately-filled childhood.)
And, of course, I was fascinated and enthralled by Shari Lewis and Lambchop any time they were on TV, especially Sunday nights with Ed Sullivan.
Learning about ventriloquism never solved any problems for me. But it gave me a way to talk to myself that simulated having real friends. It helped me survive the dark years of being a teenager.
Ventriloquism, humor, made-up characters, and the ability to talk with them is what I am chiefly concerned with now. My life and my current novel is taken up with talking, though not the normal talking of normal people. Talking with the voices that come from strange locked trunks inside you, the secrets you always meant to keep, but sooner or later have to be said out loud by someone. And maybe that someone is a dummy.
I have given up trying to write humorous posts about politics. Nothing the government does now helps me. It only hurts. I have already financially crashed personally. They continue to make noises threatening my pension. I can’t go to the doctor. I can’t even afford office visits now that the deductible is so large and the monthly premiums are so high. We are not covered for any of the things that are killing me. I am a diabetic who can’t afford insulin. And I am ill again with a viral infection, not able to earn extra money from Uber. There is very little humor to find in current situations.
Our house and property are falling apart, desperately in need of repairs that I can only handle by doing the repairs myself. And I am unable to pay the property taxes this year that have ballooned to four times the size that they were when we bought the house. We are going to have to lose the house and return to apartment living.
But hardships seem to be good for sparking creativity. I have never written so much or so well as I have in the past four years. I have started novel number nine in the days in which the new year, 2019, has brought a steady stream of misfortunes. I have been writing at least a novel and a half every year since 2014. And the best work I have ever done is a part of that. Snow Babies, Magical Miss Morgan, and Recipes for Gingerbread Children are works I am deeply proud of having written, even though no one besides a few editors, proofreaders, contest judges, and relatives have ever read any of them. I don’t make any money at it. But wait till I publish Sing Sad Songs and Fools and their Toys, a pair of novels that will knock the socks off of all six of the people who will eventually get around to reading them.
But if I sound bitter and defeated, please don’t think that of me. I knew from the time I chose teaching as a career that if I was ever able to retire, I was bound to face illness, poverty, and pain. I don’t think anything it may have cost me, in the long run, makes my decision to be a teacher, or to become a writer afterward, into a bad decision. It has basically all been worth it. I would do it all over again if I could. And who knows? It may all be ending badly, but it ain’t over yet.
Being retired is a total pain in the Biblical word for donkey. I thought I would be challenged with nothing to do and probably die from lack of challenge as so many do who find their identity in their profession. I was a public school teacher. I loved being a public school teacher. I lived for the challenge of working with kids, especially trying to teach them to write well. And then my health began to betray me, and I was forced to retire.
In this country, loss of a job that defines who you are makes you basically worthless. Republicans will tell you that you go from being a “maker” into being a “taker”, and takers are basically parasites.
So, now I am a parasite, a blight on society, a “taker”. Decent hard-working people shouldn’t have to put up with a burden on society like me.
“If you don’t work, you shouldn’t be allowed to eat,” they self-righteously tell me.
“So, if I’m too ill to stand in front of a class all day, I should starve to death?”
“No, of course not! Don’t dramatize! You just need to do something else.”
So, I haven’t just sat back and enjoyed my pension which I worked 31 years to get. I have done things. I rebuilt the siding on the back wall of the house. I repaired all the cracks in the pool twice (once getting it back into shape for swimming, and then fixed only to be forced by the city to remove the pool because I couldn’t spend $9,000+ to bring the 1970 electrical system up to code.) I am now re-setting the bricks in the retaining wall.
I also took up driving for Uber to earn extra money. I needed extra money because hospitalizations cost me so much money I had to take out a bankruptcy which I will be paying off for the next five years while supervised by a State-appointed executor. And then a lovely Texas motorist bashed my car in the driver’s-side door costing me car-repair money (because insurance can’t be expected to pay everything) and leaving me unable to get well enough to return to driving for at least five months (up to the present day).
I have at no point had money enough to go on vacations or do the recreational activities that other retired seniors get to do (at least the rich white ones with lots of investment money and property). I haven’t been well enough even to be a substitute teacher (which I loved doing back in 2006-2007 when I was well enough and between teaching jobs). So what can I do with all my “free time”? Besides deal with aches and illness without the medicine I can’t afford, I mean?
Well, I did start out in life with a passion for writing and drawing. I am living proof you can’t even make pocket change for indulging those passions unless you’re as lucky as former teacher Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes. But I have the time and the incurable obsession.
I began the most creative and productive period of my life by writing eight YA novels. I have two more well into the writing of the first draft. I also re-started work on my graphic novel which takes lots of time when you have arthritic hands to draw with. And I have been blogging practically every day.
So, since I retired I have basically been doing nothing. Well, nothing for the greater good and advancing the fortunes of mankind as a whole as my Republican friends who criticize me for being a “taker” on the dole apparently do with their retirements.
I have published my eighth novel in the last six years. Sure, it is through mostly self-publishing of novels that no one but me has ever read. Catch a Falling Star and Snow Babies both had a professional editor, one who had worked for Harcourt and one who worked for PDMI. Magical Miss Morgan has had a proofreader who made numerous stupid-mistake errors that I had to change back to the original meticulously by hand. But all three of those novels won an award or were finalists in a young adult novel contest. I do have reason to believe I am a competent writer and better even then some who have achieved commercial success.
But what is the real reason that I am so intent on producing the maximum amount of creative work possible in this decade? Well, to be coldly objective, I am a diabetic who cannot currently afford insulin. I have been betrayed by the for-profit healthcare system that treats me as a source of unending profit. I am like a laying hen in the chicken house, giving my eggs of effort away to a farmer who means to eat my very children if time and circumstance allows. I am the victim of six incurable diseases and conditions that I got most likely as a result of exposure to toxic farm chemicals in the early 70’s. I am also a cancer survivor from a malignant melanoma in 1983, and for three years now I have not been able to get the preventative cancer tests I am supposed to be receiving every year for the rest of my life. My prostate could very well be cancerous as I write this. If that is so, it will kill me unawares, because I don’t even want to know about having a disease I can’t possibly afford to fight all over again.’
So, the basic reason I am going through the most productive and creative period of my entire life is because I have a great rage to create before I die and I could be dying as soon as tonight. All of the countless stories in my head clamoring to be written down before it is too late cry out to me desperately for my immediate attention.
I will, then, continue to write stories and draw cartoons and other Paffoonies for as long as I am still able, and possibly even afterward. I have, after all, threatened repeatedly to become a ghostwriter after I die. And, yes, I understand when you scream at my essay that that is not what a ghostwriter is. But if a woman can channel the ghost of Franz Schubert and finish his unfinished symphony…(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary_Brown_(spiritualist))
—then I should also be able to tell my stories from beyond the grave. I have been percolating them in my head and writing and drawing them in whole or in part since 1974. I have too much time and too many daydreams wrapped up in them to let it all just evaporate into the ether. In summation, I am claiming stupidly that my novels, crack-brained and wacky as they are, are somehow destined to exist, either because of me or in spite of me. So just be happy that I write what I write, for there is an art to being Mickey, and I am the one artist and writer who is the best Mickey possible if truly there ever was a real Mickey.
When you spend most of your time writing and thinking with the Sword of Damocles hanging over your head and the hourglass of your life looking more and more like the sands of time are running out, you are tempted to take the curves too fast and make extremely stupid mistakes that make your brain crash into a brick wall of stupidity. You are stuck in a stupor of stupidity that must somehow un-stupid you with downtime and do-nothing brainless activity. I won’t try to explain what I did wrong, because, after all, I am still stupid at the moment and don’t really know what I did wrong.
I bought myself a doll yesterday. I spent some of my birthday money on it. My octogenarian mother sends me birthday money every year to remind me how many years beyond sixty I have aged, especially now that, after more than twenty years spent not celebrating birthdays as a nominal Jehovah’s Witness, I am now no longer associated with prohibitions from God due to the arbitrary rules of religion. It was a stupid act based on the fact that I have been avoiding wasting money on my doll-collecting hoarding disorder for a matter of months. It could be like an alcoholic taking a drink after months of being sober. But the doll is pretty in a magical sort of way and provides me with someone else to talk to when I am brooding about being stupid.
It may seem like, since I am writing this while still stupid, that I am saying that being stupid is, by definition, a bad thing. If I am saying that, it is only because I am currently stupid.
If you look at the smiles on the faces of the gentleman with the brown cap and Scraggles the mouser, you can easily see that being happy is a simple thing. And it is the province of simple people, not complicated and extremely smart people. I can testify from hard experience that being too smart is a barrier to being simply happy. So, I benefit emotionally from being stupid this Sunday.
As to being stupid today and what caused it, well, it may have something to do with the fact that I am currently editing The Baby Werewolf, the most complex and potentially controversial novel I have ever written. Horror stories often mine and expose the author’s own traumas and fundamental fears. And I am trying to publish it as the fourth novel I have published in 2018. Is that biting off more than I can chew with my old teeth? I don’t know the answer. I am currently pretty stupid.