The building itself was one of the strangest constructs King Killer had ever seen. It was like a disintegrating pyramid, but, impossibly, it defied gravity and hung above the jungle floor in an upside down position. The stone it was made of looked sandy and crumbly, but was cold and metallic to the touch.
Ookah pointed upwards at what appeared to be an upside-down doorway with a vaulted roof. It didn’t take Slythinus’ expertise to understand what he meant. All the many monkey-people quivered with fear as they stared upward at the opening.
“Up there?” moaned King. They want me to get up there?”
“The Lemurians can do it,” offered Hooey helpfully.
“Yeah, well, I don’t have a tail to swing by.” King’s face darkened as he felt ready to bop the old Time Knight on the nose.
Wicked Wanda was grinning at King. Her green eyes were full of satire and insults as she laughingly got King’s attention. He would’ve hit her instead of Hooey, except he suddenly noticed how beautiful and shapely she was. Why did women do this to him? He hadn’t recovered yet from the loss of Sheherazade.
“I’m wearing the answer,” said Wanda.
“Yes. You’ve heard of grav boots, haven’t you?”
“You mean you’ve been wearing grav boots all this time and never told us?”
“Well, not exactly. It’s the same anti-gravity technology, but it’s in my brassiere.”
“You know… When a woman reaches a certain age, she needs a bit of extra support in strategic ways.”
“So how does your anti-gravity bra help us?”
“Oh, it has an intensity control.”
Hooey began to laugh. “I get it! If she turns the thing up high enough, she can fly!”
“That isn’t the funniest part,” said Wanda. “In order to get us all up there, I’m going to have to take it off and throw it back down to you. Each of you has to wear it in order to get up there.”
Hooey rolled on the undergrowth, howling with laughter.
“I don’t think it’s funny,” said King, frowning.
“Ahh,” moaned the eyeless Emperor, “there are times when I really regret losing my eyes.”
There are probably too many things on my mind today. My daughter is graduating from High School today at the Texas Motor Speedway. A graduation in cars going around a circle because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
My daughter the Princess is graduating today. That is probably what has my head swirling.
When I was a rookie teacher in the Spring of 1982, I had to take two busloads of eighth graders nearly a hundred miles to see the State Capitol in Austin for their annual 8th Grade Field Trip.
If you don’t see the potential for disaster in that, well, you are in for a tougher life going forward than the one I am about to complain about.
Anyway, it was an extra-warm sunny Texas day and we had an endless-hours journey in an un-air-conditioned bus with sixty kids and four teachers per bus. And I was the new teacher filled with sizzling rage from enduring eight months and fourteen days worth of get-the-new-teacher tricks by fourteen-and-fifteen-and-sixteen-year-old kids (I didn’t have to rage at the eighteen-year-olds on the field trip because the same things that kept them in the eighth grade until they were eligible for Medicare were the things that disqualified them from going on the field trip). And because the principal was convinced that you could prevent death by throwing things on a bus by having a teacher sitting near the perpetrator, or the potential target, the teachers had to spread out and sit with the kids. Of course, our bus had 59 perpetrators and one potential target (Tomasso, the kid nobody could stand). And the coaches got to sit by the vatos locos most likely to fling metal and hard food. I, of course, got Tomasso.
So, I sat for five hours on the way up to Austin practicing trying to kill apple-core tossers with my best teacher’s stink-eye while ducking gum wads, wrapper balls, and half-eaten Rice-Krispies Treats. And I was also listening to Tomasso’s endless weird questions and comments about penguins that made him the popular target. I got extra practice recognizing bad words in Spanish and resisting the urge to call them “pendejos” in return.
And we got to Austin tired, sweaty, and hungry because it took extra time in both San Antonio and San Marcos traffic, and we missed our lunch connection in a parking lot in central Austin. The kids were mostly not hungry. They were full of chips and hot Cheetos and other salty, unhealthy snack food. Instead of hunger, they were dying of thirst. And while the History teacher in charge of the trip and the coaches were consulting maps and trying to reach the lunch connection with a walkie talkie, I spotted a herd of students going over a wall into a nearby parking garage. I followed to see them walking over the hoods of parked cars to get to a fire hose that they were using as a watering hole.
We were, of course, unable to single out any individuals for punishment. They were dying of thirst, and it was a three-hundred-degree-in-the-sunshine parking lot where we were waiting.
We got to the Capitol and walked around, bored by the tour guide, and found the one entertaining fact about the Texas Capitol Building. Governor Hogg once had two daughters named Ima and Ura. Their pictures hang in an upstairs display case. Kids laughed and called them “pendejos”. Even the white kids.
Then, the way home took an additional seven hours. All of the coaches fell asleep on the way home, and I was the only teacher awake and standing between unpopular nerds and death by de-pantsing. I was told that somewhere in the middle of the writhing masses of eighth grade arms and legs and ultra-loud voices, a shy kid the teachers all liked lost his virginity to one of the more sexually aggressive girls while the other kids close enough to see in the general darkness watched. Was it true? When he got asked in the classroom, he just grinned.
I remember a lot of “Oops!” School Stories happening on field trips. I went on more than twenty of the big trips like that one, and I only remember a handful that went smoothly. But this one stands out in my memory because it was the first. And first experiences set the standard the rest are judged by. And I tell you this because, this time of year, if things were still like they used to be, and there was no pandemic, field trips to hell like that one would be going on for first-year teachers.
It is a fairly difficult thing to face a blank page every single day. I usually win in the battle to write something every day. But not always. Some days it is just too hard. Some days I am not well enough to make my stupid old brain spin up a spider-web of words. Some days the words are just Teufelsscheiße (poop coming out of the Devil in German).
But staring at a blank page today got me thinking about the process again, how the words come, where they come from, and why.
I just finished the most successful free-book promotion I have ever had. I gave away more books than ever before, and I gave some away every single day of the promotion. Some who downloaded the e-book even thanked me and told me they would read it. One even promised to read it right after he finished reading one of my other books.
Of course, you can see that this novel has nudist characters in it, and it is even set in a nudist park. So, naturally, the copies were mostly grabbed by members of the Twitter-nudist circle of friends and acquaintances I have on Twitter. But it is thrilling to know someone is actually going to read one, or even two of my books. I haven’t gotten enough of that feeling as an author. It is one of the main purposes of my writing, to have readers.
But this post is supposed to be about process, not publication. So, how did I come to write this thing? This nudist novel and this blog about writing it?
Well, like most real writers, I choose to write about what I know. And I am acquainted with naturism. I had a girlfriend once whose sister lived in a nudist apartment complex in Austin. I was inside that place a dozen times or so. I have also been to the nudist park north of Dallas. I have experience of nudists and at least some idea of what it is like to be one.
And the characters in the story are all based on real people. The main character is at least fifty percent me. The other fifty percent is a member of my family. The stepmom in the story is a combination of two former girlfriends. Her twin girls are partly based on my twin cousins (who have never been nudists) and on twin girls in my class in the 80’s (who lived naked at least once in a while, if not as much as the twins in the story).
But the critical themes in the story are not really about being a nudist. Naked is a metaphor for honesty, being able to hide nothing because you no longer wear the armor that you once used to hide from repressed memories of abuse. The main character, Devon, is battling depression and suicidal thoughts brought on by a life full of abuse. And he learns to overcome these life-threatening things by being honest with others, especially by being honest with himself. A little bit of naked honesty turns out to be the key that unlocks his prison cell.
As I put words and stories and blog posts together, I invariably find myself writing about certain things over and over and over again. They are the things I wrestle with daily. I write to keep my mind active, and to keep my heart and soul alive.
It isn’t too much to expect to look at a blank page every day, and to find there the words that I need to say. It is daunting, but doable. And it gets easier with practice.
Canto 90 – Little, Medium, and Big Are All the Same (the Blue Thread)
Unlike other impending revolutions, the upheaval of the planet Djinnistan was so far overdue that the inequity and inequality between races was laughable.
The gigantic Afrits were all treated as machinery rather thinking, feeling, sentient beings. The Faulkner Genetics executives who ruled the star system felt that someone with artificially limited intelligence didn’t have to be treated as equal to anyone. They continued to follow orders blindly because they were simply not smart enough to question them, although there was no doubt about whether there was suffering going on in the Afrit community. No one bothered to suggest to them that they might vomit lava on their oppressors and be easily done with them.
The tiny Peris had an opposite sort of problem. They were child-sized even as adults, and though they were highly intelligent, some of them more intelligent than their corporate masters, they were easily frightened and intimidated by the security beasts (basically genetically enhanced primates in Nazi uniforms who were excessively violent, limited in thinking ability, and fond of the taste of Peri children).
The security beasts themselves enjoyed conflict and violence. They understood two-word sentences like, “Kill Peris,” “Eat children,” “Throw this,” “Scare Peris”, and “Hit that.” A few were genius enough by comparison to understand, “Hit that hard!” But they, themselves, were unjustly tormented by bosses that starved them on purpose to make them fiercer. And they were not smart enough to realize they could do to their corporate masters the same things they did to Peris and Eaglemen because they were so physically more powerful.
The winged Djinn, also called Eaglemen, were of average intelligence. They were mostly manipulated by the genetic coding that made them docile unless their masters needed them to be warlike, and then code words could instantly turn them into crack shock troops.
This was the situation Arkin Cloudstalker found himself in as he, Lazerstone, and Black Fly sat down to a meal with the leaders of Djinn Rebellion.
The meeting was held in a huge light-blue desert tent. In the far corner sat a group of three Afrits, keeping their distance from everyone to avoid choking them with the natural Afrit corona of sulfur and black smoke. A smoke-hole had been placed in the tent roof directly above where they sat.
The head table held a party of Eaglemen, ten male and five females. There were exactly two Peris at the table, a male and a female, both of indeterminate age.
The head Eagleman stood and introduced himself. “I am Alsama’Alzirqa’. I am the sultan of the enslaved ones. I lured you here because agents of the White Duke have been urging me to rebel.”
A second Eagleman stood and spoke also. “I am Mutasabiq Alsama’. I am the sultan’s adversary. And I am disappointed that you did not arrive with an army.”
Arkin didn’t have much of an idea what was expected of him, especially in the matter of what to say next. Both bird-men stood looking at him expectantly.
The male Peri then stood.
“Ahem! I am Another Danged Boy 152. And, yes, that really is my name. I am brother to the famous Another Danged Boy 143, may he rest in peace. What the sky-guys are trying to get across in their bird-brained way is that we know the White Duke wouldn’t have sent you, specifically, the three of you, unless he thought you could solve our problem.”
“Ahem, also!” said the female Peri. “I am Pretty-in-Patches. That is also really my name. I am the sister of the famous Uggo Uglygirl. And I am here to come up with a creative solution if you goony birds fail to figure it all out.”
“Um, yes, I see,” said Arkin. “We are supposed to help you rebel against your corporate masters. The trouble is, I really don’t know anything about you people or your world.”
ADaB (Another Danged Boy 152) then spent twenty minutes recounting all the information about Djinnistan that I have already explained earlier, so you don’t need to worry about his recitation of it. Besides, PiP (Pretty in Patches) spent considerable time and effort in contradicting and correcting him, so I will try not to bore or confuse you more than I already have.
“So, if I understand everything rightly, you outnumber the bad guys by a thousand to one, but you simply can’t take the fight to them because you are scared of the security beasts.”
They all looked at Arkin with some surprise registering on their faces, partly because Arkin had understood ADaB perfectly, and partly because PiP didn’t believe she hadn’t worked hard enough to fudge up ADaB’s explanation.
“Okay… But you still don’t seem to have an army to solve our problem with,” said ADaB.
“We do have an army,” said Lazerstone.
“We do?” asked Arkin.
“Plenty of harmonic crystal out there in the sand, yes. But also, look at them.” His sweeping gesture took in all the Freaks present. “They can take this planet by sheer force. They just have to be willing to try.”
“We can trap Dr. Bludlust in his lab easily, if we just don’t have to worry about the security beasts,” said ADaB.
“Would the Afrits be willing to aid us in battle against the security beasts if Lazerstone and I took them on by ourselves?” Arkin asked.
“You are powerful enough to do that?” asked Alsama’ Alzirqa’.
“Are we powerful enough?” Arkin asked Lazerstone.
“Uggo Uglygirl?” Black Fly asked PiP.
“Daddy had just endured a twenty-five-year run of only daughters, and he was desperate for another son.” “Okay, then, let’s get this battle underway,” said Arkin.
I have had a rough time since the pandemic began. I still get my pension check at the beginning of each month… for now. So, I am a lot better off than those whose jobs were taken away by the lock-down. But I did lose all potential income from substitute teaching. And the plumbing in the house is still aging badly, sprouting leaks everywhere that I have no money to fix with professional plumbers. I can barely afford Fix-it Tape which only slows a leak and does not completely end it. Notice I said “leaks”, not “leeks”. Onions I can defeat. But water is not my element to master.
Today my faithful microwave, the one that I had for four years in my last classroom, gave out. A spark and some smoke and she cooks no more.
But it is not all bad news.
My wife secretly has two more microwaves in her secret evidence-of-hoarding-disorder stash. She let me use one. She also found a leak-clamp for temporarily staunching leaky pipes at Home Depot where I haven’t dared to go in the pandemic because of my diabetes and high blood pressure. So, the weekend was slightly more un-yuckified than I expected.
And this weekend I was having a free-book promotion for A Field Guide to Fauns. I was expecting to give away too few free books again. I expected the Twitter writing community to turn up their noses because it is a story about a family of nudists living in a nudist park. But the Twitter nudists that follow me because of Recipes for Gingerbread Children were delighted. I gave away more books in the first two days of the promotion than I have given away in any other promotion.
It feels good to have someone reading my books, even if they are naked when they read it.
And I have reached a point where I am relatively certain, without being tested, that the illness I have been feeling is all just diabetes and allergies, and I have not yet fallen ill with Covid 19.
So, I can honestly say that I feel very… Meh, okay right now. Better than expected, and a lot better than dead.