I have started re-reading my werewolf stories again as I intend to promote the heck out of the two books pictured here in the rest of 2019.
Both books are intertwined even though they are both stand-alone novels with different genre ties and different themes. They share the same characters, many of the same scenes (though seen from different viewpoints in each novel), many of the same plot points, and the same werewolf. I like to think that reading both books together makes a better, more nuanced story as a two-book whole. But each book is also a whole in itself. And you can read them in either order.
I started by re-reading Recipes for Gingerbread Children. This book is basically a fairy-tale story-collection contrasted with a Holocaust survivor’s story. It is about how a storyteller manages to shape the world around her to help herself and others make sense out of a cruel world filled with evil and betrayal.
The Baby Werewolf is a Gothic horror tale where the real monster is hidden by deeply buried secrets, and lies have to be pierced to protect the innocent. I will re-read and promote this book second. I love both of these books with a paternal sort of overlooking-the-warts-and-birth-defects love.
So, I have a plan. A hopelessly pie-in-the-sky plan. But a plan. And hopefully at least some part of the plan will work.
I am now writing every novel as if it will be the last one that I ever write. So it is with my current work-in-progress, When the Captain Came Calling. It is a story that comes before my best novel, Snow Babies, already written and published, but was actually formed in my head and in my libretto long before I began putting Snow Babies down on the page. It is a good novel, but not the best I have ever written. I am very near to completing it.
But, unfortunately, I am also very near to completing my whole life. Pain is a constant reminder that my health is so poor, that each new day could easily literally be my last.
The IRS is trying their best to help me on towards the grave.
While I am currently dealing with the tax burden from 2018, they dug up another unpaid bill from 2017, a late-payment penalty they forgot to tell me about last December. More than $200 dollars worth. I am flatter than broke.
So, I am forced to Uber drive once more. Yesterday and today I picked up fares again for the first time in the last ten months. And I am not really well enough to do it. The curse is heavy.
But this grumpy old man ain’t quite dead yet.
One more novel to finish, and maybe another one after that.’
I followed the naked girl and her pet red panda about a mile
along the beach. She skipped and sang
songs in a language I didn’t recognize, but sounded a lot like the Filipino
language. The panda sported about like a
playful puppy, following her devotedly.
I didn’t think you found red pandas on small Pacific islands like the
one we were on, but it didn’t matter what I thought. I was no scientist or naturalist, so I didn’t
really know. I kept looking worriedly
out to sea. I mean, I did know for a fact that Chinooki the
mermaid could eat people.
“We have been coming to this house, my tahanan,” she said
proudly, showing me a beached submarine from World War Two. It had a large rising sun flag from the
Empire of Japan painted on the conning tower.
“You live in a submarine?”
“It is where Mangkukulan wants me to stay while we wait for
“Oh. It’s like that,
is it? Well, show me. Do you have any guns aboard? Or swords?
Something to protect us from Chinooki?”
“Oh, silly captain man, Chinooki serves Mangkukulan. She will not be harming me. And she is ordered not
to be hurting you also.”
I was a little worried about the actual intentions of this
coo-coo man. I didn’t think he really
had Malutu’s best interests at heart.
Not if he meant to toss her naked into an erupting volcano. I followed her warily up the side of the
submarine and down into a hatch near the nose.
“My goodness, this is certainly rusty and rather dreary,” I
said as I surveyed the narrow candle-lit corridor in the center of the
submarine. I followed her into the
forward section where I really expected to see a forward torpedo room. I found, however, that it had been hollowed
out, lined with bamboo, and turned into a cozy and rather decent living
space. It had a bed in the center of the
not over-large room. There was a
potbellied stove that had obviously been put there for cooking. The room was also decorated with carved
wooden idols. They were the kind of Tiki
idols that you could buy in Honolulu if you were a tourist who liked kitschy
stuff to decorate your porch back in Iowa with.
Especially one large ugly idol with a man-like body and wearing a
frightful carved mask.
“You have a nice home here.
Didn’t you say something about clothes you could put on?”
“Oh, yes. Or… you
could be getting naked too, Captain.”
“No, no. Put on a
dress please. You need to be decent
She pulled out a rather nice red cloth dress with a white
flower pattern on it. It was a Hawaiian
sort of wrap-around affair.
“This okay? Or are
you wanting the kimono?”
“That one is fine.
You are very beautiful like that.”
“Yes, I am being beautiful for you. It is being important that I get you to like
me very, very much.”
“I am liking you. But
I must be telling Mangkukulan that you are here now. Chinooki has done well.”
“Um, maybe we can hold off a bit on telling the coo-coo
“Why? I am supposed
to be telling him immediately… faster if it is being possible.”
“Are you sure that coo-coo man has our best interests at
heart? I mean, it seems to me like he
might be trying to hurt us in some way.”
I was imagining being tossed into the volcano along with the girl.
“Oh, no. This he will
not be doing. I will be sending the juju
to tell him you are here.”
She went over to the biggest, ugliest Tiki idol and tapped
his tattoos, once each until she had tapped them all. And she sang;
“Juju do dah goodah… oojie-magoober!” Purple smoke poured out of the top of the
Tiki’s head and filled the room with a smell like burnt sugar.
“Is that a magic spell or something?”
“Yes, it is being something.
We are wanting you to be very comfortable here, Captain mans. Will you not be taking off your clothes?”
“I most certainly will not.”
“Okay. We will be
doing the talking about it. You will
To my utter shock and horror, the Tiki man began to glow
with an unearthly greenish-blue light.
He moved as if he were alive and trying to shake himself awake.
“Don’t be being silly.
It is made of wood. But,
Oojie-magoober, please be telling Mangkukulan that the Captain is here.”
“Juju doo dah! Yaya!”
said the wooden creature. Then it
scampered out of the room and out of the submarine.
“You are liking Malutu, yes?” she asked me.
“Yes. You are very beautiful.”
“Good-good! Now you will be taking off your clothes, Captain.” And just like that she had me naked. I was as much under her spell as the wooden Tiki man.
The next day Valerie had a chance to hang out with Pidney
and Mary again, so she took it. She road
into town on the school bus after school with Danny Murphy. They didn’t actually talk about anything the
whole way. Anticipation is often better
than the real thing. And it wasn’t often
that Mary and Pid were both off directly after school. Pidney had no football practice that
afternoon, and Mary canceled whatever school meetings she had planned that day
in order to come back to Norwall with him after school. The four Pirates were supposed to meet in the
Library for Pirate business.
“There’s Mary and Pid,” said Danny pointing as he and Val
stepped off Milo’s school bus.
“Yeah, but who is that?” Valerie asked, pointing at a
mysterious cloaked figure standing behind the tree by the Library door. She was instantly reminded of the cloaked man
she had seen the day they got the Tiki idol.
“Hey, Pidney!” Danny shouted, “who is that near you behind
Pidney was holding the door of his step-dad’s old 70’s
Lincoln Mercury to help Mary get out.
Mary carried a tall stack of books.
They had driven home from the high school in Belle City together.
“What man? Where?” The figure moved out of sight behind the
large fluffy pine tree.
“Look behind the tree!” shouted Valerie.
Pid walked around to where he could see behind the
tree. He looked back a Valerie and Danny
and shrugged. “Nobody here that I can
see,” he said.
“You guys need to see what we found in the high school
library,” said Mary waving them to come towards the Library building.
Valerie looked at Danny.
He shrugged. They both walked
toward the Library.
“I found some old high school yearbooks in the library,”
said Mary. “We can use them to get an
idea what Captain Dettbarn used to look like.
He’s kinda hard to describe any other way.”
“And there’s a book about the ship, Mary Celeste. It tells about the old ghost ship, not the
Captain’s ship, but I still think it is important,” said Pidney.
Valerie and Danny walked across the street from the bus stop
to join the two high school kids.
“Here’s the 1962 Belle City Bronco yearbook,” said Mary,
handing the black-bound thin book of pictures to Valerie. “The Captain is in the Junior Class in that
one. He had a beard then, just like the
one he had on his face the last time I saw him.”
Valerie opened to the page of Junior portraits and ran her
finger over the C’s and D’s until she got to Dettbarn. He was kind of a dumpy fat boy even then,
with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a derfy smile that showed his crooked
teeth. He had a rather ratty looking
beard, which was perfect for a rodent-like face, that, while it didn’t look
like a rat, it did look an awful lot like the face of a woodchuck, or some kind
of short-toothed beaver.
“He’s kinda funny looking,” Val said to herself, but loud
enough for all to hear.
“Now, see here! I
take exception to that remark!” said a cloaked and hatted figure stepping out
of the shadow of the evergreen tree by the door.
“Who…?” croaked Mary, leaping away from the figure and
“Help me…!” squawked Danny as he awkwardly leaped into
Pidney’s arms, the football muscles catching hold of the smaller boy easily.
“Don’t you get mad at me!” said Valerie hotly. “It is not like I was talking to you… whoever
you are!” She lunged toward the
stranger, grabbing his yachting cap and yanking it off his head.
But where the head was supposed to be… nothing at all there
except a pair of thick bifocal glasses hanging in the air like they were
weightless in outer space.
Valerie looked at the glasses, and then down at the yearbook
picture still in her other hand. Yes, it
was an updated version of the same style of thick glasses.
“Erm… Captain Dettbarn. It’s you!”
“Uncle Noah?” Mary said.
“What happened to your head?”
“Oh, um… it’s still there, Mary dear. Head-hunters didn’t eat it or anything. I am just the victim of a curse. A curse that makes my body completely
invisible.” He removed the cloak to
reveal a free-standing pair of pants, a short-sleeved red-and-white-striped
shirt, and empty neckerchief, and floating white gloves that didn’t seem to be
properly attached to the invisible dumpy body wearing the sailor’s clothes.
“Er, uh… sir?” asked Pidney, “What is all this purple smoke
coming out from behind the pine tree? It
has a funky smell, like burning sugar or something.”
“Well, I hate to say it, but that is an indicator that the
witchdoctor himself is watching us at the moment from somewhere not too far
away. That purple smoke always seems to
come around right before some evil magic happens.”
“Oh, that’s not good.
Maybe we better go inside the library before anything bad can
happen.” Mary was looking around the
street for signs of the evil witchdoctor.
Pidney put Danny on the ground and both boys headed up the
Public Library steps.
“Um, uh… Pretty girl, can I have my hat back. I want to go in the library in disguise. No sense in scaring the librarian.”
Valerie frowned at the invisible man as she handed him back
the hat and the disembodied gloves placed it back on top of his invisible
“Let’s go inside the Library,” said Mary. “We have things to talk about and questions
to ask… Lots and lots of questions to ask.”
I was all alone on the island for all I knew, so I
immediately got busy on my best Robinson Crusoe plan. And then my headache made me rethink that,
and I went back to sleep for another two hours.
I think it was two hours, estimating by the sun, but I don’t really know
how to estimate time by the sun, and as I decided the first order of business
had to be to locate any useful wreckage from the ship that had washed up on the
shore, my head started hurting again, so I slept again. Now, I know from re-reading this paragraph
that I was probably sleeping way too much… and I didn’t know for sure that
Chinooki wouldn’t come up on the sand to eat me, but, well… having this kind of
horror-story adventure in the South Seas was really tiring.
When I did finally search the beach, I found almost nothing
at all to help me. I needed a knife, or
a hammer, or a gun, or a shovel… but all I found was this log book and a wooden
crate full of Pink Fizz Cherry Soda Pop.
Luckily, I also discovered I still had a pencil in my jeans pocket,
otherwise I might’ve forgotten everything that happened before I could write it
all down. I know my thinking was a
little fuzzy at the time… or possibly Pink Fizzy… but I wrote down everything
as truthfully as I possibly could so that whoever found the book would know
what happened to the Reefer Mary Celeste
and her crew.
Inland on the island was jungle… a rather thick jungle. But I desperately needed food and fresh water. And if I tried walking the beach until I
either found civilization or discovered I was on a deserted island; I might die
of dehydration and thirst before I discovered I was all alone for certain. So, I made a brief foray into the island. If I met headhunters or an evil killer
gorilla, I couldn’t do any more about it than writing a scathing commentary on
why they shouldn’t be eating me raw in this log book. I could write that I hoped to give them a
fatal case of indigestion as long as they ate my writing hand last.
The jungle was very hot and humid, but I found a rainwater
pool a short way into the jungle and was able to slake my thirst. Coconuts and
bananas were growing in abundance near the pool. I also ate.
And it was then that I saw her for the first time. She was a young girl. I admit, at the time, I didn’t really know
how young. But she was lovely. She was Asian-looking with slanted eyes and
caramel-brown skin. She had black hair
and dark brown eyes that twinkled at me as she smiled. And she was standing on the edge of the pool
completely nude. The only thing she wore
was an adolescent red panda sitting on her shoulder and grimacing at me with a
“Parlez vous Francais?” she said. “Tagalog?
“I understand English,” I confessed.
“Ah, so good. I am
liking practicing my English. We don’t
be speaking it on this island. Maligayang
pagdating sa masasamang isla. That means
be welcome to Evil Island.”
I didn’t know whether to be frightened or worried about the
name of the place, or be incredibly embarrassed that I was talking to a
completely naked girl. “I… I’m sorry… I
didn’t mean to spy on you while you were bathing. I will give you some privacy…”
“Huwag pumunta! I
mean… don’t be going away! I be liking
you. I don’t be wearing clothings on
this island, but I am having a kimono back at my bahay… my house. I can be putting it on if hubad is wrongness
“Um, well, I…” I
didn’t know what to say. I was seven kinds of flustered and at least three
kinds of embarrassed.
Lalaki and I are wanting to be talking to you.
It is lonely on the island, waiting for sa galit na bulkan… for the volcano.”
“You… you are waiting for the volcano?” I looked up at the high mountain peak about a
mile inland. Black smoke curled nastily
out of the top of it.
“Yes. I am being the
virgin bride. I am waiting for my
husband to be.”
This of course sounded like some of the worst rumors I had
ever heard about South Seas islanders.
It seemed they intended to throw this beautiful, naked young girl into
the volcano to appease an angry god or some such nonsense.
“We have to get you out of here,” I said as bravely as I
“Yes, yes, that is what I am waiting for.”
“Um, you are?”
“Oh, yes, my husband is to be coming and taking me away from
I was determined to rescue the poor girl.
“What is your name, sweetie?”
“I am Malutu… the Red Flower of Matuling Lupa.”
“I don’t have a way off the island at the moment, but I can
build us a boat or something…”
“First you are coming to the house of Malutu and Gwapong
Lalaki. Follow us.”
She padded out of the clearing on bare feet and back towards
the beach. She apparently had a house to
live in while she waited for her evil people to throw her into the
volcano. I followed her, not knowing
what else to do.
“Um, Malutu? You
haven’t seen any mermaids on the beach have you?”
“Mermaids? You are
meaning sirena Chinooki?”
“You actually know about her?”
“Of course, silly man…
She is being the one who brought you to me.”
I received the first copy of my book Fools and Their Toys.
It is the story of an autistic man with hidden talent for ventriloquism, an irrepressible ventriloquist’s puppet. a zebra. with a habit of insulting the right people at the wrong time, and a lurking serial killer who targets young boys for sexual torture and death.
It is in many ways a continuation of the story in Sing Sad Songs.
I have so many books published now that it is rather hard to photograph them all together in one picture. Of course, this fool feels compelled to put some of his toys in the picture.
I spent today’s blogging time working on a novel idea I can’t seem to let alone. I keep picking at it like a five-year-old with a scab on his elbow.
The idea is to take two published novels, Sing Sad Songs and Fools and Their Toys, and put them both together as the first and second parts of the same book. The stories are already enmeshed. Where they share the same scenes in several chapters, the second book re-narrates the scene from a different viewpoint. New insights, new things revealed. Maybe I want to do this because I’m a terrible writer with terrible instincts. Or maybe it is actually a good idea. Who knows? The worst that can happen is the idea blows up in my face and causes author’s brain damage. It wouldn’t be the first time.