There is a reason why anything in my artwork starting with a rabbit is assumed to be autobiographical. I raised rabbits as a 4-H project from about the age of 10 and we kept rabbits in pens until I was finishing my undergraduate degree. (Rabbit chores fell to my little brother when I was away from home.) In many ways, I was a rabbit-man. My personal avatar as a school teacher was Reluctant Rabbit.
There is often an exaggerated sense of adventure in my cartoonally weird Paffoonies, the very name of which is a fantasy word.
I have been known to actually believe gingerbread can be magical enough for gingerbread men to come to life once baked. It is the reason I bite the legs off first, so they can’t run away.
I have been known to see elves, fairies, and numerous other things that aren’t really there. In fact, a whole secret hidden kingdom of them inhabited the schoolyard in Iowa where I attended grades K through 6. They were all mostly three inches tall. The biggest ones, like dragons reaching only about six inches tall at their largest.
As a writer seriously immersed in a particular work in progress, I find myself talking more and more to certain people who exist only in my head. They are the characters in my novel, The Boy… Forever.
The novel is itself an epistolary novel. That means, like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it is made up of letters, notes, diary and journal entries, and other personal writing of the central characters. It also means that I have to become the different people who write these things. At least while I create each individual artifact that goes into the mosaic of first-person narratives.
Anita Jones, pictured here, is the letter-writer who starts the plot in motion when she gets a very disturbing letter from her cousin, Icarus Jones.
Icarus writes about his problem with becoming a midget, and his response to it being a plan to kill himself. It seems that he simply stopped growing at the age of ten. Now, being a fifteen-year-old in the body of a ten-year-old, he writes a suicide note in the form of a letter, and then goes to jump off a bridge into the Mississippi River. But when he does, he survives. Or, rather, he succeeds, but cannot remain dead. He doesn’t know it, yet, but he has become a human mutation known in the secret world of unknown things as an Immortal.
Icky’s problem becomes worse when it is discovered he is being pursued by another immortal, a sort of vampiric immortal who needs to consume the essence of other immortals to stay alive. He is a three-thousand-year-old Chinese Celestial Dragon who is able to assume a human form.
Neither Icky Jones nor Tian Long the dragon, though, really needs to be in my head. Icarus himself only writes the first and last letters of the book. Tian Long, the villain, does not have a say at all in telling the story. The only part of it he writes are the wizard spells he uses to confound everyone, and most of those are in Chinese.
Besides the letters that Anita Jones writes to her cousin in Dallas, Dot Jones, the story is also advanced in the journal entries of Milt Morgan, one of the leaders of the boys’ gang in rural Iowa known as the Norwall Pirates. He has been asked by the Freshman English teacher to keep a daily journal and write every day in 1976. This he struggles to do, but gains writing and typing skills as he goes along, especially when he befriends Icarus and learns about the dragon pursuing Icky.
Milt is full of imagination and a sense of adventure, a thing that makes him an unreliable narrator, not above embellishing the truth as he writes his not-so-much- daily-as-infrequent journal entries.
The story is also taken up by Brent Clarke, the leader of the Norwall Pirates. Brent wants to be a policeman or a detective or something like that when he grows up. He takes careful investigation notes on everything, and he is the first one to become suspicious of the Chinese man and his step-daughter who pick a house in the town of Norwall that they want to live in right before the actual owner and occupant of the house mysteriously dies in a falling accident. Brent befriends the local Sheriff’s Deputy and sets out on a serious possible murder investigation that yields some very disturbing results. His notes are very detail-oriented and generally fact-based. He carefully records his own eye-witness accounts of everything.
Sherry Cobble, the more outgoing of the identical twins known as the Cobble Sisters, is a happy nudist with a very positive body image for herself and her twin sister. She is a very positive person over-all. She and her sister Shelly had started out keeping a “Lovely Nudist’s Diary” between them, but Shelly is not nearly as interested in writing and storytelling as her sister. So, Sherry takes over the diarist duties with the same sort of glee and enthusiasm she has for promoting nudism to her friends, especially the Norwall Pirates. It is her goal to eventually see all of the kids in Norwall naked and happy just as she and her sister Shelly always are.
Those four different character voices are the main voices I have to work with in telling this fantasy adventure story in much the same way as Stoker tells the story of Dracula.
So, if I begin to seem like I have a disordered mind full of multiple personalities, it’s because I am a novelist, not a mental patient or a vampire or even a Chinese dragon in human form. I am simply trying to tell a story by allowing four distinctly different characters to live inside my head.
If you have come to my blog in hopes of gleaning some key advice about how to write novels or tell a story, then the wisest advice I can give you is, “Do not take any advice Mickey gives seriously.” He used to be a writing teacher in public schools. That is true. But he is also the writer of weird surrealistic novels full of purple paisley prose. And he is not a successful novelist like Steven King or J.K. Rowling. His writing advice is probably only worth ca-ca poo-poo.
So, let me tell you how NOT to write a novel.
Each of the novels I have written and displayed here took me more than twenty years from the moment I conceived of the idea, through plotting, rough drafts, revisions, re-plotting, expanding the story, to finally publishing them in 2017, 2018, and 2019. I developed the stories from real people, real events, and real themes that were a part of my life and added to each of the stories as time passed. So, obviously, you should never take too long a time writing a story. It is true that Snow Babies is the best novel I have ever written, and I count Sing Sad Songs, The Baby Werewolf, and When the Captain Came Calling among my best work. And I only spent one year in the writing of Aeroquest, which is, ironically, the worst thing I have ever written. So, you can see that following any advice Mickey might give you about taking your time with writing is obviously worthless. I took too long writing and publishing my best books, and that is why I will die a penniless, unknown writer.
But I admit to having even more bad advice to warn you not to take. More, I think, than I can put into this one post. So, I will Part-Two this particular essay and take up the topic again in the very near future. Or forget all about it completely. It has to be one of those.
Here is a brief and very surrealistic comic story that I have published before… but a long time ago.
I know it is a bit bizarre, and hard to tell what the theme really is… but isn’t that what art is really for? Telling highly personal stories that make you think hard about seeing things through the eyes of an artist.
As a comic cartoonist sort of artist named Mickey, I was as a teenager obsessed with making artsy goofy books. One of those was unaccountably called Dreams of the Mastiff. These surrealistic picturations are examples from that silly Donald-Duck thing.
This page is supposed to explain the title. So I guess all of the following pages are somehow supposed to be from the nighttime brain of the dog in the nursery.
And what is this supposed to be about? My old-man memory has not a single clue.
It occurred to me long ago that both Fantasy and Science Fiction were surreal by nature. What is the story behind Black Peter? Ich weiss nicht! I do not know! Old-man memory again.
Inexplicable Sci-Fi from this little surrealist art-book-thing.
And more of the same…
Now back to cockroaches from doggy dreams…
…And mice, monkeys, and tea-drinking ladybird beetles…
…And what…? The whole world in a nutshell?
To a thing I used in two novels, Catch a Falling Star and The Baby Werewolf.
I offer no explanations or excuses for these nonsensical and unaccountable things. I am not sorry I once did them, if you want to know the truth… but I probably should be.
I must confess that I chose to be a surrealist from about the time I discovered the artwork of Salvador Dali at the age of fifteen. I did a report on Dali and Surrealism for 9th grade Art Class. I wanted to be a surrealist because I realized that surrealists got to draw really weird stuff and then pretend it meant something real in the modern real world. So let me show you some of my weirder high school surrealist messings on paper.
Of course, like most teenagers, I was obsessed with death and mortality at a time in which I had not yet learned how to live and stay alive… one of the serious dangers of being a teenage half-brain in a post invention-of-the-atom-bomb world.
So, I start this gruesome dissection of teen-y art apoplexy with a depressingly angst-y picture and poem about the urgency of nameless coming doom.
And at the same time I was basically an angst-y pre-Goth Goth, I was also a lollipop Disneyphile romantic… A pre-My-Little-Pony Brony as it were. I was goofy as all get out and determined to latch onto all the big-eyed art ideals of the many girls I stalked and watched and comprehended incorrectly while never, ever talking to even one of them. (Well, not counting sisters and the several non-aggressive Mickey-lovers who were chasing me and courting me while I was totally oblivious to facts of it.)
But I was also aware of a spiritual something that lurked in my church-going Sunday self that needed to metaphorically tackle ideas of God and life-after-death notions of something that I knew in my head weren’t really real, but were necessary to the heart I possessed and its dire need for love and life and laughter.
And then too, I was seriously teaching myself to draw. And I drew things like nudes from pictures in National Geographic and Post magazines… but of course, only non-sexualized nudes like kids playing soccer in the nude and in the rain in a school yard in Indonesia so they don’t get their school uniforms soaked.
But what is Surrealism that I can accomplish it any way as an Art movement that is really probably in the past and not relevant to anything in the real world now? Well, what I always thought it was… was a way of seeing the world through a rose-colored lens of imagination (with flying purple jelly-bean spots in it). It is a way of taking my Mickey-and-Goofy strangeness and mixing it into the Donald-Duck Soup of Art. It is a way to simply be true to myself rather than the truth nature insists on putting in front of my face.