Category Archives: writing

Blogging Advice

The only advice I am actually qualified to give here is… don’t take any blogging advice from me as worth more than diddly-squoot.

Life is like moose bowling because… In order to knock down all the pins, you have to learn how to throw a moose.

That being said, my blog views are gradually going up year after year.  I am followed by readers all over the world, and some of them actually read my blog regularly, rather than just looking at the pictures and occasionally hitting the like button.

I have not yet, however, learned to throw the moose.  I started this blog in order to promote my published writing.  I now have seven published books available on Amazon.  I made $2.60 in royalties during 2018 so far.  So, as a marketing ploy, it has been a total failure.

But as a tool in my writing life, here are some things I definitely count as benefits;

Writing a blog post every day makes the ideas flow more easily and does away with any threat of writer’s block. 

Writing every day is practice and it makes me a better writer.

I have learned how to engage with an actual audience.

I am able to try out various writing ideas without worrying about success or failure.

So, all of these things add value and keep me at this blogging thing which didn’t exist in my early life when I was planning for becoming a writer when I left teaching.

If you are tempted to make the huge mistake of following my advice and emulating me, I would warn you, I do not make a living as a writer, and I never will.  I am a writer in the same way I am a diabetic.  I can’t help it.  I wouldn’t change it even if it were possible.  I have a body of work that I intend to continue to build on until I am no more.  The creation of it is a necessity of my existence.  And I certainly don’t regret a single syllable, though what happens to it when I am gone is not important to me in any way that matters.  I hope my children will keep it as a legacy, but I only do it because it shapes the story of my life.

And so, I continue to throw meese (or mooses… or moosi… or whatever the hell the funniest plural of “moose” is) and continue not to knock down any pins.

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Filed under blog posting, humor, Paffooney, Uncategorized, writing, writing teacher

Dang! I Might be Too Creative for My Own Good!

I have significantly slowed down in my production of fiction. Not so much because I don’t have any ideas to write about, but because my eyes are limited in function by glaucoma that I am treating with eye drops. And also because my fingers on the keyboard are slowed by arthritis and the repeated need to make corrections from hitting so many of the wrong keys.

I currently have four novel projects where I have started writing and begun to fill pages. AeroQuest 5 : It Ain’t Over Yet continues the slogging rewrite of my first published novel, Aeroquest. It was simply a matter of following the story arcs set up in books 3 and 4. I have about six chapters done with absolutely no idea how many more are yet to come.

I have had a sudden-inspiration novel hit my brain, and I am also well into the story of The Haunted Toy Store.

The biggest project I have going is the novel I have been working on since 2021. He Rose on a Golden Wing is about teen depression and using imagination and a tight circle of friends to overcome it. The novel draws together story threads that began in four previous novels. And it dovetails with another story, Kingdoms Under the Earth, that deals with a health problem that overcomes a group of younger characters that is happening at the same time. Kingdoms does not exist on paper, or in computer file, at all yet. That story is merely percolating in my head as the prior writing continues to involve cross-over points and story links

This picture is inspired by Disney’s Fantasia, and so will not be used in any of my books. I do not wish to be copyright-sued by Disney.

The novella seen to the left is about two chapters from being finished. But it got caught up in the need to reformat it as I transformed it from a document on my Chromebook to the more friendly word-processor on my HP laptop.

I have almost completely lost the momentum on finishing that… which should have been finished six months ago.

While all of this is on my to-do list, I have also begun planning and doing drawing for a book I will call Naked Thinking, a non-fiction meditation on being a nudist, drawing and painting nThouude figures, and baring my soul in the books I write (Though I do not plan to bare my own naked body in the process… probably… at least not in a photo.)

So, with all of this nonsense going on in my writing life, you can see why I always seem to be arguing that I do not have writer’s block.

An illustration for The Haunted Toy Store

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Writing Every Day

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These are volumes 3&4 of my daily journal that I have kept since the 1980’s.

Writing every single day is something I have been doing since 1975, my senior year in high school.  It is why I claim to be a writer, even though I have never made enough money at it to even begin to think of myself as a professional writer.  I kept a journal/diary/series of notebooks that I filled with junk I wrote and doodles in the margins up until the middle 90’s when I began to put all my noodling into computer files instead of notebooks.  I have literally millions of words piled in piles of notebooks and filling my hard drive to the point of “insufficient memory” errors on my laptop.  I am now 66 years old and have been writing every day for 48 years.

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There are days in the past where I only wrote a word, or a sentence or two.  But there were a lot of words besides the words in my journal.  I started my first novel in college.  I completed it the summer before my first teaching job in 1981.  I put it the closet, never to be thought of again, except when I needed a good cringe and cry at how terrible a writer I once was.  I have been starting, stopping, percolating, piecing together, and eventually completing novel projects ever since… each one goofier and more wit-wacky than the last.  So I have a closet full of those too.

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It would be wrong of me to suggest that my journals are only for words.  As a cartoon-boy-wannabee I doodle everywhere in margins and corners and parts of pages.  Sometimes the doodle is an afterthought.  Sometimes it precedes the paragraph.  Sometimes it is directly connected to the words and their meaning.

Sometimes the work of art is the main thing itself.

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But always, the habit of writing down words and ideas every single day takes precedence over every other part of my day.  That’s the main reason I am stupid enough to think of myself as a writer even though I don’t make a living by writing.

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But I did put my words into my profession too.  As a teacher of writing, I wrote with and to my students.  I did that for 31 years as a classroom teacher, and two years as a substitute.  I required them each to keep a daily journal (though they only got graded for the ones they wrote in class, and then only for reaching the amount of words assigned).  We shared the writing aloud in class, making only positive comments.  I wrote every assignment I gave them, including the journal entries.  They got to see and hear what I could write, and it often inspired them or gave them a structure to hang their own ideas upon.  And often they liked what I wrote and were surprised by it almost as much as I liked and was surprised by theirs.   Being a writer was never a total waste of time and effort.

So am I telling you that if you want to be writer you have to write every day too?  If I have to tell you that… you have totally missed the point.

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The Creature I Have Become

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I identify as a humorist, writer, cartoonist, and certified fool (Yes, I have a certificate from the Children’s Writer Institute that proves I once foolishly believed I could learn how to make money as a writer).  But my current novel project is a horror novel, The Baby Werewolf, which I twice before tried to turn into a completed rough draft novel. This time I followed through to the bitter end.  I published it on Amazon.

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Torrie Brownfield, hypertrichosis sufferer and possible werewolf.

In order to reign in the goofiness enough to deal with the issues in this novel, I have been doing a lot of horror reading. I have also undertaken the reading of a very good author examination of the life of Edgar Allen Poe.

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Poe’s life was highly instructive.  You may not have realized this, but most of the giants of American Literature prior to and contemporary with Poe did not make most of their money as writers.  Emerson was a clergyman.  Nathaniel Hawthorne worked as a customs clerk. Poe, the first to try to make a living solely on work as a writer, editor, critic, and poet, was subjected to the horrors of poverty, illness, and want.  His wife was chronically tubercular and ill.  He never made the money he was obviously worth as a creator of popular horror fiction, poetry, critical essays about other authors, and as an editor for profitable magazines of the day.  Other people made loads of money from his work.  Poe, not so much.

It is instructive to a writer like me who can’t seem to land any sort of income from my own creations.  There is no demand because there is no recognition of my work.  I have come close, having my work praised by editors and fellow authors, and being a finalist in novel writing contests twice.  The goal is good writing.  I will probably never see a return on my investment in my lifetime.  My children may not acquire anything by it unless one of them really devotes a lot of effort to it.  Like Poe with his drinking problem, chronic depression, and ill wife, I face physical limitations and poor health, grinding financial issues, and family factors that make it near impossible to put marketing effort into my literary career.

And this novel is a hard journey for me.  I was sexually assaulted by an older boy when I was ten.  A lot of the fears outlined and elucidated in this particular story leap right out of that iron cage in my psyche where they have been contained for fifty years.  Fear of nakedness.  Fear of sex.  Fear of being attacked.  Fear of the secret motivations in others.  Fear of the dark.  And, most of all, fear of what fear can make me become.  Fear of being a monster.

But I have not become any of the dark and terrible things that fear can make me into.  Instead, I became a school teacher, and mentor to many.  I became a family man, a father of three children.  I became a nudist, hopefully not a dark and terrible thing in itself.  I became Mickey.

This novel will become my Halloween free-book promotion later this month. Probably next weekend rather than Halloween.

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Filed under autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, horror writing, humor, monsters, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing

Just Write Something, Mickey

“Lately Mickey hasn’t been doing much of any writing on his work in progress. I, a professional Professor of knowing practically everything and knowing most of it wrongly, am here to give the hopeless goofy guy some much needed advice. Of course, I shall offer that advice incognatively… err, incontranatively… err… anonymously because Disney enjoys suing schoolteachers and other criminals who misuse their intellectual property.”

“But I can’t help myself when it comes to giving opinions on stuff that ain’t really my business but fascistinates… err, fusstinates… err… highly interests me. So, here goes.”

“Write about something Over the Rainbow. I mean your imagination is really garganteelian… err… gigantickingly… err… really pretty big. You can make up something being about made-up worlds, witches who fly around in soap bubbles and other such nonsensical things. Maybe talking scarecrows and heartless metal guys and really big kitty cats… make a story with something beautiful and imaginative, though maybe not as beautiful as that Judy Garland chick… she was really georgeous… err… magnifical… err… really hot-looking! But she is so old she is dead now. So, you can’t put her in the film version of what you write.”

“Or you could write something extra creepy. Something totally like the Addams Family. You’ve got a talent for writing stuff that seems extra morbeedious… err… mackahbreebrious… err… extra spooky. You can turn peoples’ stomachs inside out and make them feel all gooey in their courageousness because of weird evilness and dark happenstances… err… murderiferous scenarios… err scary stuff. It helps that you can be funny here and there when you scare us. You can be totally spooky-ooky in your stories and sometimes you make us sharpen wooden stakes and make necklaces of garlic. Do an Uncle Fester shtick. Of course, Jackie Coogan is so old he is dead now, so you can’t use him in your film version.”

“Or there is always the absolutely romantical… like a story about a three hour cruise where funny guys get shipwrecked on a desserted island with girls that wear bikinis where you don’t see the cutie’s belly button. And “desserted” is the right word because the dessert is actually coconut-cream pie. But you are good at writing about faskinating… err… interesstrial… err… attention-requiring young women and really dorky guys and how they can fit together like puzzle pieces that you don’t even have to use scissors to make them fit together. Romantical comedy is a thing you can do too. So, we don’t even need to talk about Dawn Wells who played Mary Ann. You couldn’t cast her in the movie version because you’re still sad about Covid having taken her away in 2020.”

“But anyway, you got no excuses now, Mickey! You know you can write It’s just getting anybody to read the danged thing you can’t do. So, write something!!!”

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The Diminishing Man

We get smaller as we age. Both physically and mentally and in terms of property…. smaller is what we get.

The car problem was solved by buying a new car (a new used car.) I bought a 2015 Ford Focus that I am quite happy with in spite of the fact that I will have to pay for it for 72 months and may well have to give up driving for medical reasons well before that.

But then the car problem got significantly complicated when the insurance company, instead of totaling the car that hit the pothole and giving me the current value of it less the deductible, decided to okay the repair of the transmission, in spite of the fact that the total cost couldn’t have been more than a few dollars less than the total value of the car. So, I will pay $800 to get back a beat-up car that I no longer want or need.

As a writer, I am also diminishing in my ability to produce output on my laptop keyboard. My mind is still churning out story ideas and daily progressions, but my fingers, arthritic and covered with numerous band-aids, can’t seem to control the typing anymore. Just typing this paragraph forced me to correct letters that seemingly for no reason appear in the wrong space, even in the wrong sentence, paragraph, and wrong page. How does that work? Muscle twitches? Not remembering where the proper letter goes? Or possibly the curser is simply wandering for no reason, highlighting and deleting things at random.

Just as the fairies I have been obsessively telling stories about lately have diminished from human-sized in the Middle Ages to three inches tall today, so too have I become much smaller as a storyteller than I was when I was teaching. I used to have 6 captive audiences 5 days a week. Now I have had 28 pages read on Kindle in the last week, and only made $2.25 in the last month as a writer. Definitely not challenging James Patterson for space on the Walmart bestseller display.

So, I am tiny now. Less well known than I was as a school teacher. Less wealthy than I was two weeks ago. And, if you measured me with a yardstick, probably shorter than I used to be too. Only three inches tall before you know it. And not even any magic to overcome my disadvantages with.

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K.I.S.S.

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When learning to write, you have to learn the rules.  And then you start writing, and you learn that you have to break all the rules to do it well.  But what do I know?  You have to be pretty desperate to get your writing advice from a Mickey.  After all, it’s not like Mickey was a writing teacher for over thirty years… oh, wait a minute… yes, he was.

Okay, so I decided to write today about the K.I.S.S. rule of writing.  That’s right, Keep It Simple, Stupid.  Other writing teachers tell me it should be, Keep It Simple, Sweetie, because you can’t say “stupid” to a kid.  Okay, that’s mostly true.  But I use “stupid” when I use the rule myself.  I’m talking to Mickey after all.

So, I better stop “bird-walking” in the middle of this essay, because “bird-walking”, drifting off topic for no purpose, is the opposite of keeping it simple.

I try to write posts of no more than 500 words.  I write an introduction that says something stupid or inane that speaks to the theme I want to talk about.  Then I pile in a few sentences that talk more about the theme and do a good job of irritating the reader to the point that they can’t wait to get to the conclusion.  Finally I finish up with a really pithy and wonderful bit of wisdom to tie a knot in the bow of my essay.  I save that bit for the end as a sort of revenge for all the readers who don’t read all the way to the end, even on a short post like this one.  Of course, I could be wrong about how wonderful and pithy it is.  What does “pithy” even mean?  It can be like the soup in the bottom of the chili pot, thicker and spicier than what came before… or possibly overcooked with burned beans.

That was another bit of “bird-walking”, wasn’t it?  See, you have to break the rules to make it work better.

So, in order to keep it simple, I guess I need to end here for today.  Simple can be the same thing as short, but more often you are trying to achieve “simple and elegant” and pack a lot of meaning and resonance into a few lines.  And I, of course, am totally incapable of doing that with my purple paisley prose.  And there’s the knot in that bow.

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Playing to an Audience

After five years of bankruptcy, I have finally started collecting dolls again. These are purchases since my debt was put to rest.

As a writer, I am often asked what kind of audience I think I am writing for. “Who, Mickey, is going to read your silly fantasy stories?”

To be perfectly clear… I started out as a writer intending to be a YA novelist, writing for more mature middle school and high school readers, probably more female than male. But any good YA writer writes stories that appeal to the adult, even if it is only the adult part of teenagers. Books like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Giver, The Hunger Games, and Ender’s Game are well known because of the adult readers who read, love, and praise those stories. I’m not saying you can’t intentionally write for a young adult audience. But I am saying you can’t write down to those readers, or you will certainly offend and lose them before the end of your story. You have to understand that they are becoming adults.

Uh, oh! I forgot that there is also a doll of Wanda, the Scarlet Witch. Now she wants to murder everyone with magic. Is Batman immune since he comes from DC rather than Marvel? Does Marvel Magic work on DC heroes?

But you can’t please all readers. Two readers who left devastating reviews on two of my books basically over-reacted to what I wrote, and let me have it with both barrels of their “Save-the-world-from-icky-Mickey” crusades. One thought Sing Sad Songs was reprehensible and evil because two of the characters, young Valerie, and Francois, the boy from France, experience sexual attraction to each other, and then both have to deal with the emotions it causes by talking about it with friends and families. The reviewer insisted that children should not talk or think about sex in a story. That was a moral violation according to her, even though no actual sex scene occurs in the story beyond a French kiss. The other lady reviewer objected to depictions of the nudist Cobble sisters in The Baby Werewolf. She claimed that the depiction of the girls, particularly Sherry, was entirely too “creepy” even though the book is a horror comedy and built on creepiness in the central conflict. Authors apparently have to have a thick skin, as every kook and prude is entitled to their own opinion.

On the positive side, though, I have gained a lot of readers who are nudists because of the Cobble Sisters and their status as at-home-on-the-farm nudists. Particularly in the companion book of The Baby Werewolf, Recipes for Gingerbread Children. The idea of nudist characters and naked people in a story makes many potential readers turn up their noses, assuming it is something perverted or pruriently sexual. I think, though, that I have successfully depicted nudists as they actually are, having been a part of the Texas nudist community, at least on the fringes. They are definitely not perverts and sex fiends, as the girls are routinely explaining to their non-nudist friends.

But I can basically describe my personal philosophy of writing for a target audience this way;

I write with an imaginary member of my target audience reading over my shoulder. Sometimes they sock me in the back of my head for things I have written. But I am not writing for him or her. I am writing for me, the things I want to write, like to write, have to write, and need to write to live.

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Being Prosaic

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I admit it.  I am prosaic.  I think in sentences.  I speak in paragraphs.  I write in 5-paragraph essays.  I should stop with the repetition of forms and the parallel structures, because that could easily be seen as poetic and defeat my argument in this post.  I write prose.  Simple.  Direct.  Declarative.  But those last three are sentence fragments.  Does that fit the model of prose?  How about asking a question in the middle of a paragraph full of statements?  Is that all simple enough to be truly prosaic?

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Prose is focused on the everyday tasks of writing.  It seems like the world thinks that the mechanical delivery of information in words and sentences should be boring, should be functional, should be simple and easy to understand.

I don’t mean to be pulling your reader’s mind in two directions at once, however.  I need to stop confusing you with my onslaught of sentences full of contradictory and complex ideas.  I should be more clear, more direct, and more to the point.

So here is my thesis, finally clearly stated; The magic of writing prose, it turns out, makes you the opposite of prosaic.

20160705_214055Ah, irony again!  It ends up being anything but simple.  You can write in simple, adjective-and-adverb-free sentences as Hemingway did, and still manage to convey deeply complicated and thoughtful ideas.  One might even suggest that you can create poetic ideas in mere prose, dripping with layers of emotion, conflict, theme, and deeper implied meaning.  You can also write prose in the intensely descriptive and convoluted style of a Charles Dickens with many complex sentences and pages-long paragraphs of detail, using comic juxtapositions of things, artfully revealing character development, and idiosyncratic dialogue all for comedic effect.  Prose is a powerful and infinitely variable tool for creating meaning in words.  Even when it is in the form of Mickian purple paisley prose that employs extra-wiggly sentence structure, pretzel-twisted ideas, and hyperbolically big words.

Simply stated; I am a writer of prose.  I am too dumb about what makes something poetry to really write anything but prose.  But I do know how to make a word-pile like this one that might just accidentally make you think a little more deeply about your writing… that is, if you didn’t give up on reading this three paragraphs ago.  I find it useful to examine in writing how I go about writing and what I can do with it.  I try to push the boundaries in directions they haven’t been pushed before.  And hopefully, I learn something from every new essay I write.  What I learned here is that I am prosaic.  And that is not always a bad thing.

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Writing for Love

I think the most important thing to know about being a writer… I mean, really being an honest-to-god hard-thinking if not also hard-drinking author… is that you don’t have a choice. If you are a writer, you have to write. Words on a paper. Ideas communicated by putting squiggly little alphabet marks in some language and form that you know and can effectively express yourself in.

You write because you have to.

You have to because you love it. All of it… everything.

Life, love, laughter, learning, and longing… All of it.

You make yourself naked by putting your innermost truth out there for all to see.

Not clothed in lies or distracting details. But the innermost truth… the words that are written on your heart.

And it’s not about positive or negative. All writers have both stewing together within them. I am a pessimist by my practical, logical nature… always expecting the worst to happen. But when the plan comes together, the story gets written, the thing you love is revealed… I can also glory in it. Your truth or mine. No matter. The truth is simply the truth. And once you are weaned of mother’s milk, and your infant mind is filled with words, you need it daily to live.

And you find it in great gobs in larders and cupboards where it has been stored in writing for you to consume with gusto by reading.

Or you find it under stones you have turned, barely enough to keep you alive… and you praise God for it, for even this tiny little bit is a miracle to sustain you.

And sometimes they will ask you, “What’s it like to be a writer?”

And I will say, “I can’t really tell you. No mere words can explain it. If you already are one, you already know what it means. And if you don’t know what it means, I weep for you.”

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