Category Archives: writing

Recurring Villains, Part Two

20160530_144803

Calderus, Vampire Queen of UnderSharn

In Dungeons and Dragons, the role-playing game, there is always a special villain that has to stay alive to the very end of the campaign.  His or her demise may be the ultimate goal of the entire game and, when achieved, may actually bring an end to that adventuring group as they all retire with super-high-level characters and powers to wipe out cities with a snap of the fingers.  This is the ultimate villain, the big bad, the controller who has operated behind the scenes until the very last dungeon door, the very last encounter.

Deep in the bowels of the City of Towers, Sharn, is the lair of Calderus.  She controls the doings of the undead in the entire city, in fact, in the entire southern half of the continent of Khorvaire.  The players have never yet defeated her directly. She is the one who turned the Dark Lantern agent, Lucan Stellos, into a vampire, forcing the adventurers to track him down, capture him, and return him to his Dark Lantern masters.  She is also the one who leaked false information to the Royal Eyes of Aundair, the rival spy agency of the Dark Lanterns, to make Turkoman the wizard believe the player characters are evil double agents, causing him to begin tracking their every movement and learning their every plan.  Of course, my players don’t know about that yet, so please don’t tell them.

Scan61

Big bad villains are very useful to the story-teller known as the Dungeon Master.  They allow the DM to start events moving that make no logical sense until the players begin to figure out that there is someone manipulating events behind the scenes and they must find that BBV out and track them to their castle or lair.

But adventures are not satisfying when the players attempt to cut straight to final scene and murder the big bad to bring about victory.  That kind of meta-gaming strategy has to have severe consequences.  Often that means that the villain must be at such an astronomically high level of ability that the player characters will all be turned into hop-toads after the first round of combat.  Interesting adventure, that.  The group of enchanted hop-toads have to avoid becoming part of the sauce in Calderus’ hop-toad soup, avoid the all the animated cutlery in the vampire’s kitchen, and escape to find Turkoman and get turned back into humans, halflings, minotaurs, and elves so that they can fight again another day and learn from their mistake.

anvil 2

Of course, it doesn’t hurt a bit that the wizard was watching by magical means when the players stumbled upon the big bad villain.  He helped in their rescue because he realized that somebody had told him something untrue about the adventurers, and they really were useful to him and his spy schemes after all.

So, the big bad villain is an important kind of recurring villain to be met and pursued and met again, always driving the game forward to bigger and bigger doings and greater and greater rewards.

Leave a comment

Filed under characters, Dungeons and Dragons, heroes, humor, Paffooney, writing

Silly Sunday Stuff

D65lO

I made a choice, long about 1980 or so.  And I have not regretted that choice.  I became a teacher instead of the writer/artist I thought I wanted to be.  And the more I look back on it now, if I had gone the writer route back then, I could’ve eventually become an author like Terry Brooks who wrote the Shannara books.  I might’ve even been as good as R.A. Salvatore whose fantasy adventure stories have reached the best seller list.  Back then, in the 1980’s I could’ve eventually broke into the business and been successful.  Even as late as when Frank McCourt broke onto the literary scene with his memoir, Angela’s Ashes in 1996, I might’ve been able to transition from teacher to writer the way he did.  But I chose to keep going with a teaching career that enthralled me.

tintin-em-lisboa-original

Publishing and the literary scene is changing now.  And it is no longer possible for someone like me to break into the big time.  I am an author who has come aboard a sinking ship.

But I have stories to tell.  They have lived inside me for more than thirty years.  And I am scrambling now to get them told before my crappy old body completely betrays me and makes the chance go away.  I will get them told… even if no one ever listens.

Tintin-mainSupportingCharacters

And there are some advantages to doing it the way I have done it.  It is, and always has been, about the people in my life.  My wife, my children, my students, my co-workers, my cousins by the dozens, my little town in Iowa…  they are the people in my stories.  My stories are true to life, even if they have werewolves and fairies and living gingerbread men and nudists in them.  I live in a cartoon world of metaphor and surrealism, after all.  I would not have had the depth of character-understanding in my stories without my experiences as a teacher.  And I really don’t have to worry about the whole marketing thing any more.  I am not on that treadmill.  I do not have to be aware of what the market is looking for.  If my writing ever turns a profit, I won’t live long enough to see it anyway.  And that has never been what it is all about.

196edb41b51bfb2744c33d995edc0ea5

I can do anything I please with my stories.  They belong to me.  I do not owe the world anything.  What I give you now in this blog and in my books, is given for love, not profit.  I can even write a pointless blog post about Sunday blather and illustrate it with Tintin drawings by Herge. And you can’t stop me.  And, hopefully… you don’t even want to.

Leave a comment

Filed under autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, humor, NOVEL WRITING, publishing, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing, writing humor

Updates and Transitions

I still can’t believe my hockey team, the St. Louis Blues, lost to that upstart Nashville team whose logo is a cross between a cat and a beaver with really bad teeth problems.  But that was the other post for today.

I am probably going to kick the bucket soon.  I hate that bucket.  I just don’t like it. But in spite of impending doom for me and the world in general, I am making some changes.  After all, life is change.  We can either change or be dead.  And I am definitely not going to kick that bucket today, no matter how grumpy its existence makes me.

One change I have made is in Toonerville.  I finished snowing all over Al’s General Store.  I added two kids and their cat on the bench outside (in short pants during a winter scene… stupid kids) and fat old Huckleberry Wortle on the front steps looking for someone to play checkers with and tell lies to.  But don’t offer to be the one playing checkers with Huck.  He’s a conservative Republican with Tea Party leanings, and he will tell you things about Obama, government, and people in general that will make you so mad that you will want to go to the bench and kick the kids’ cat.

Toonerville is undergoing a winter renovation.  If I ever get to rebuild the layout, it will now have snow where grass used to be the plan.  It is still temporarily in storage on streets that are really book shelves.  And the Trolley goes nowhere.

C360_2017-05-08-08-40-46-040

I have also been experimenting with shifting focus, as you can tell by the blurry trolley and track light in the foreground.

In addition to photography, I am making changes to my publishing directions.  I recently bought a subscription to a video-editing program and now intend to inflict Mickey-made videos to my blog.  To be completely honest, I made the purchase at the begging of my daughter who was using the free trial for a school project and ran out of free before she ran out of ideas.  Sound genetic to you, does it?

I have been forced to make publishing changes.  I am almost done paying the huge penance for publishing Magical Miss Morgan with Page Publishing.  That is a mistake that won’t be repeated.  I will self-publish from here on out.  After MMM, I will attempt to publish Snow Babies via Amazon.

tree time banner

My current manuscript, The Baby Werewolf, is undergoing forced changes as well.  The primary factor here is my unique ability to lose things all together.  Two of the three parts of the original hand-written manuscript are now missing, and have been since we moved to Dallas in 2004.  Bummer.  Coatimundies from South Texas are probably reading it, laughing up a storm, and cursing me for not having lost part three along with the rest of it.  They surely can’t wait to find out what happens.  But since I have to do it all from memory, it will be different from what they read.

And even though writing a blog post every day is hard, I have decided it is worth it to continue.  After posting every day for thirty consecutive months, I have learned that the practice not only sharpens my basic writing skills, but also generates more ideas than it consumes.  I am a writer because I write.  And continuing to write makes me even more of a writer.  So the madness will continue.

Leave a comment

Filed under autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, humor, Paffooney, photo paffoonies, sharing from YouTube, Snow Babies, Toonerville, Trains, work in progress, writing, writing humor

What the Heck is this Blog About?

I read a lot of other people’s blogs for a lot of reasons.  As an old writing teacher and retired Grammar Nazi, I love to see where writers are on the talent spectrum.  I have read everything from the philosophy of Camus and Kant to the beginning writing of ESL kids who are illiterate in two languages.  I view it like a vast flower garden of varied posies where even the weeds can be considered beautiful.  And like rare species of flower, I notice that many of the best blossoms out there in the blogosphere are consistent with their coloring and patterns.  In other words, they have a theme.

Fox logic

So, do I have an over-all theme for my blog?  It isn’t purely poetical like some of the poetry blogs I like to read.  I really only write comically bad poetry.  It has photos in it, but it isn’t anything like some of the photography blogs I follow.  They actually know how to photograph stuff and make it look perfect and pretty.  It is not strictly an art blog.  I do a lot of drawing and cartooning and inflict it upon you in this blog.  But I am not a professional artist and can’t hold a candle to some of the painters and artists I follow and sometimes even post about.  I enjoy calling Trump President Pumpkinhead, but I can’t say that my blog is a political humor blog, or that I am even passable as a humorous political commentator.

One thing that I can definitely say is that I was once a teacher.  I was one of those organizers and explainers who stand in front of diverse groups of kids five days a week for six shows a day and try to make them understand a little something.  Something wise.  Something wonderful.  Something new.  Look at the video above if you haven’t already watched it.  Not only does it give you a sense of the power of holding the big pencil, it teaches you something you probably didn’t realize before with so much more than mere words.

20150807_135323

But can I say this is an education blog?  No.  It is far too silly and pointless to be that.  If you want a real education blog, you have to look for someone like Diane Ravitch’s blog.  Education is a more serious and sober topic than Mickey.

By the way, were you worried about the poor bunny in that first cartoon getting eaten by the fox and the bear?  Well, maybe this point from that conversation can put your mind at ease.

Fox logic 2

Mickey is tricky and gets good mileage out of his cartoons.

You may have gotten the idea that I like Bobby McFerrin by this point in my post.  It is true.  Pure genius and raw creative talent fascinate me.  Is that the end point of my journey to an answer about what the heck this blog is about?  Perhaps.  As good an answer as any.  But I think the question is still open for debate.  It is the journey from thought through many thoughts to theme that make it all fun.  And I don’t anticipate that journey actually ending anytime soon.

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under humor, insight, inspiration, music, Paffooney, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life, word games, wordplay, writing, writing teacher

Wisdom From a Writer’s Life

Don’t get too excited.  I searched every box, trunk, bag of tricks, safe, closet, and jelly bean jar that I have in my rusty old memory.  I didn’t find much.  In fact, the old saying is rather applicable, “The beginning of wisdom is recognizing just how much of a fool you really are.”  The little pile of bottle caps and marshmallows that represent the sum total of my wisdom is infinitely tiny compared to the vast universe of things I will never know and never understand.  I am a fool.  I probably have no more wisdom than you do.  But I have a different point of view.  It comes from years worth of turning my ideas inside out, of wearing my mental underwear on the outside of my mental pants just to get a laugh, of stringing images and stupid-headed notions together in long pointless strings like this one.

20160725_152657

Mason City, Iowa… where I was born.  River City in the musical “The Music Man“.

One thing I can say with certainty, nothing makes you understand “home”, the place you grew up in and think of as where you come from, better than leaving it and going somewhere else.  Federal Avenue in Mason City looks nothing now like it did when I was a boy in the 1960’s going shopping downtown and spending hours in department stores waiting for the ten minutes at the end in the toy section you were promised for being good.  You have to look at the places and people of your youth through the lenses of history and distance and context and knowing now what you didn’t know then.

20160720_063221

Grandpa Aldrich’s farm in Iowa is now Mom and Dad’s house.  It has been in the family for over 100 years, a Century Farm.

The only thing that stays the same is that everything changes.  If I look back at the arc of my life, growing up in Iowa with crazy story-telling skills inherited from Grandpa Aldrich, to going to Iowa State “Cow College” and studying English, to going to University of Iowa for a remedial teaching degree because English majors can’t get jobs reading books, to teaching in distant South Texas more than a thousand miles away, to learning all the classroom cuss words in Spanish the hard way, by being called that, to moving to Dallas/Fort Worth to get fired from one teaching job and taking another that involved teaching English to non-English speakers, to retiring and spending time writing foolish reflections like this one because I am old and mostly home-bound with ill health.  I have come a long way from childhood to second childhood.

C360_2017-04-25-09-04-57-680b

If “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is really true, I should be Superman now.  I look like I’ve seen a lot of Kryptonite, don’t I?

Six incurable diseases and being a cancer survivor since 1983 have left their marks upon me.  Literally.  Little pink bleedy spots all over me are the mark of psoriasis.  The fuzzy-bad photo of me spares you some of the gory details.  The point is, I guess, that life is both fleeting and fragile.  If you never stop and think about what it all means then you are a fool.  If you don’t try to understand it in terms of sentences and paragraphs with main ideas, you are an even bigger fool.  You must write down the fruit of your examinations and ruminations.  But if you reach a point that you are actually satisfied that you know what it all means, that makes you the biggest fool of all.

If I have any wisdom at all to share in this post about wisdom, it can be summed up like this;

  • Writing helps you with knowing, and knowing leads to wisdom.  So take some time to write about what you know.
  • Writing every day makes you more coherent and easier to understand.  Stringing pearls of wisdom into a necklace comes with practice.
  • Writing is worth doing.  Everyone should do it.  Even if you don’t think you can do it well.
  • You should read and understand other people’s wisdom too, as often as possible.  You are not the only person in the world who knows stuff.  And some of their stuff is better than your stuff.
  • The stuff you write can outlive you.  So make the ghost of you that you leave behind as pretty as you can.  Someone may love you for it.  And you can never be sure who that someone will be.

So by now you are probably wondering, where is all that wisdom he promised us in the title?  Look around carefully in this essay.  If you don’t see it there, then you are probably right in thinking, just as I warned you about at the outset, “Gosh darn that Mickey!  He is a really big fool.”

Leave a comment

Filed under autobiography, education, empathy, goofy thoughts, humor, nostalgia, photo paffoonies, psoriasis, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life, wisdom, writing, writing teacher

The Moaning Writer

david-c2

I am not Charles Dickens.  I wish I were.  I want to be a writer of wry humor, social commentary, and have an effect on the soul of the world I live in.  The way he was.  Heck, Dickens invented Christmas the way we do it now (with considerable help from department stores like Macy’s) by writing A Christmas Carol.  But the chances for that are growing ever dimmer.

The small publisher with which I was associated, and who gave me a contract to publish Snow Babies, has died.  The business folded while my novel was still in the editorial phase.  PDMI Publishing was a worthy group of writers and entrepreneurs who in a different time might’ve gone far.  I know by reading some of their works that they had talent.  But between the ferocious grip of the mega publishers and the waves upon waves of self-published stuff on Amazon, real writers with talent are drowning in a sea of mediocrity and media indifference.  Writers who succeed are the ones with the most luck or the most direct connections to the gate keepers.  Profit is far more important than literary merit.  You don’t really have to have talent any more.  You don’t have to know what a split infinitive is or how to compose a compound sentence properly or how to spell.  Shoot, you barely have to know how to write.  Just write about sparkly teenage vampires falling in love with high school girls or sexual perverts who are into torture devices, and you can be a millionaire… if you can somehow luck out over the millions of wannabes writing the same exact crap.

There was a time when writing teachers and published authors were telling me that sooner or later good writing gets published.  It was supposed to be inevitable.  But that was a different time than now.  Different rules for the game.  I will have two published books with two different publishers.  I-Universe published Catch a Falling Star.  And Page Publishing will publish Magical Miss Morgan.  But I paid both of those publishers to turn my books into published paper books with ISBN numbers and access to customers of Barnes and Noble and other outlets.  But I don’t expect to earn the money back that I invested.  Not while I’m still alive at least.

My Art 2 of Davalon

My I-Universe publishing experience was worth it.  I spent a lot of money to get Catch a Falling Star published, but I got to work with real editors and advisers who had experience working for Knopf and Random House.  They gave me a real evaluation of my work and taught me how the business of promoting the book was supposed to work.  And the help that they gave me ended there.  No advertising budget beyond what I could afford myself.  I learned a lot for my money.  But I had to come to terms with the fact that marketing was going to take more time and effort than I was physically capable of doing.  I have six incurable diseases and am a cancer survivor after all.

Page Publishing was a mistake.  They were cheaper than I-Universe, but I am not getting anywhere near the value for my money.  Instead of real editors reading and suggesting and modifying my work, I get nit-picky grammar Nazis who don’t even know as much about grammar as I do.  They are only copy editing.  And the last rewrite was me spending time changing all the incorrect changes they made back to the original text.  They did not even tell me the name of the editor making the changes.  I talked to the I-Universe editors over the phone and discussed changes in detail.  Page gives me email copies to read over and fume about silently.  They are no better than the vanity presses of old who were really no more than a re-typing and printing service.

So, from here on, I will only do the self-publishing options available through Amazon.  I have no more money or energy to spend on the black hole of literary dreams.

I can’t help but be a writer, though.  That part is genetic.  I will continue to write and tell stories that I need to tell.  I can’t help it.  Not to do so will cause me to shrivel and die almost instantly.  And I am only exaggerating just a little bit.  Well, maybe a lot.  But it is still true.

Whatever promises the future holds, I am not depending on them for my feelings of success, closure, and self-worth.  The world as I have come to know it will always be a ridiculous stew-pot of ideas and ego and cow poop, and I am not so much giving up as stepping out of the stew.  I wish to tell stories for the story’s sake.  I have no delusions of becoming as wealthy as Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.  I will never be Charles Dickens.  And I am okay with that.

2 Comments

Filed under commentary, feeling sorry for myself, humor, insight, publishing, self pity, the road ahead, work in progress, writing

Mickey Notes

C360_2017-04-01-08-23-09-870

This is the purple-furred Mickey Icon done Don Martin-style.

If you are one of those readers who has taken to regularly reading Mickey posts on Catch a Falling Star ( a habit that is probably bad for you, but certainly not fatal), there are some things and random recent developments that you should probably be made aware of.

  • Mickey recently finished a rough-draft novel.  After giving birth to a massive 12-month-long-gestating thought artifact like that, there is bound to be some necessary recovery time involved.  He may be difficult to understand for a while as he puts the pieces of his psyche back together again.  Using mental duct tape for such things takes time and patience.
  • The novel is called Recipes for Gingerbread Children.  If that arouses curiosity in you (a condition that I also hope is not fatal… You are not a cat, are you?), there are instances of rants and delusional spoutings about this story to be found in recent posts on this blog.  Unfortunately, it will not be published immediately.  You will have to wait to actually read it until I or my heirs eventually get it published… by whatever means necessary (though I have my doubts about the plan involving kidnapped alien slaves and mimeograph machines.)
  • The novel I do have nearing publication is Magical Miss Morgan.  I recently submitted approval for final edits to my project manager for Page Publishing.  Since I am investing my own money in this publication project, I am expecting that it will get published before 2017 is done.  I will continue to relentlessly plug the thing here.
  • Page Publishing is a less expensive and less professional publisher than I-Universe that did Catch a Falling Star for me.  If you are reading this for ideas about pursuing publication yourself, I would recommend the more expensive publisher first, due to the quality of their professional editors, though I intend to continue publishing my books with less expensive self-publishing options like Amazon from here on.  As I finish the publishing process I am now involved in, I promise to complain about publishers and throw Mark-Twain-like insult fits in future blog posts.  No one should have to repeat the egregious mistakes that Mickey has made.
  • Catch a Falling Star, the blog, will continue to be a blog about my artwork, my story-telling, my teacher memories, and my generally confusing and bombastic opinions about life, the universe, and everything… including pies.  Mmm!  Pies are good.  You might even want to look at my essay on Gooseberry Pie.

c360_2017-02-08-10-44-05-487

In case you were not aware of it, this purple mouse-man is Mickey, and Mickey is the writer-spirit within me.  Mickey is not actually me.  You know how Mark Twain is not really a real person?  The real person was Samuel Langhorn Clemens.  Mickey is not a really real person either.  Michael Beyer, cartoonist, writer, and former middle school teacher is the real person… if any former middle school teacher can ever be considered a real person.

2 Comments

Filed under feeling sorry for myself, humor, Mickey, novel, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, publishing, strange and wonderful ideas about life, work in progress, writing, writing humor