Truthfully… I am glad I never tried to use this cover idea for Snow Babies. Naked kids do not give the right impression about the book. The snow babies themselves are spirits of the frozen dead. But this is not a horror story. And besides, the title refers to the kids in the story who aren’t ghosts as well, particularly Valerie Clarke, the female protagonist.
Truthfully… I just got another five-star review on Snow Babies through Amazon. It now has ten, with one four-star review. While at least three of those five-star review are honest reviews by someone who read and loved the story, I believe most of them didn’t read the whole book, or only read a small portion of it, judging it five-star from reading the other reviews. Most of the reviewers come from Pubby where they must read a book and review it in four days or fewer to earn points they can put toward their own books getting reviewed. So, I understand why they don’t fully commit to the reading of the whole book. There is, however, evidence that some of them review my books without reading it at all.
Truthfully…As a reviewer I try to read the whole book, even the long ones, before reviewing them. But some books submitted to the Pubby library are written by really awful or untalented authors. Still, I read as much as I can stand in the four days given, and I rate them as highly as I can justify it to myself. I have given only one two-star review, and no one-star reviews at all. But I have had to put a lot of three-stars on books that didn’t deserve it. Those authors have spent money on the service just as I did. They deserve something for their money. I see a lot of books, though, that I know are awful getting five or four stars.
Truthfully,,, A while back I lost a dog here in Carrollton, my sister-in-law’s dog. And I only got it back because neighbors found it and made an effort to get it back to us. My butt was rescued from my wife’s fury by a good lady who found the dog hiding in her garage and posted it on the local news website, having remembered I had been asking around the neighborhood about it before she found it, but not remembering my name or address. Today my daughter and I rescued another fluffy little poodle-like dog who was obviously lost and wandering about the park near our house.
Truthfully… Our effort didn’t amount to much since we couldn’t get the dog to come close enough to check for a collar with a phone number on it, like the last lost dog we rescued. But, as I went in to call animal control, my daughter watched it sniff around, preventing it from wandering too far or going into the street in front of cars. And as she watched it, the family of the little girl who owned and loved the dog were driving around looking for it, and they found it near our yard, called it by name, and it joyfully hopped in the car and directly into the arms of the relieved little girl. I do love a happy ending.
Truthfully… I still think of myself as a nudist. In my head I have been one since childhood. But I am hardly ever nude. My chances of going back to a nudist facility and experiencing social nudity again are practically nil because my health is too poor and I don’t know anyone who would be willing to go with me and take care of me if I had a health crisis. And even working at my computer nude in my bedroom doesn’t happen anymore because psoriasis sores itch too much, and I end up bloody with developing scar tissue.
Truthfully… My stories about nudism continue to do well. A Field Guide to Fauns now has three reader ratings on Amazon, two of five and one of four stars. One of those five stars has no accompanying review, but it still counts. Especially since that book isn’t even on Pubby’s book list.
Truthfully…I still interact every week with friends who are Twitter nudists on Twitter where I often lose followers, especially fundamentalist Christian followers, once they realize I don’t treat nudists and naturists as sinners and perverts.
Truthfully… My blog and my writing have benefitted from knowing real nudists, because they are usually far more accepting and empathetic than average Christians and Muslims.
Truthfully… I like drawing and painting nude humans. There is something more basic and truthful about it than hiding the true form and structure of it underneath clothes.
Truthfully… Everyone could benefit by telling the truth as they know it more often. It cleans out the constant cobwebbing of the mind by telling lies, both to other people, and to yourself. Even the lies you tell as a fiction writer.
Truthfully… There are things on this listicle that I would not have been able to write about just fifteen years ago. The truth does set you free… Not in every single case… But enough to really matter.
Truthfully… for a fiction writer, a humorist, a former school teacher of junior-high-aged kids, telling the truth is hard. But in this post I intend to try it, and I will see if I can stand the castor-oil flavor of it on my tongue.
The simple truth is, I rarely tell the unvarnished truth. And I firmly believe I am not alone in this.
Yesterday I battled pirates. (While this is not literally true, it is metaphorically true.) They were the scurvy scum o’ the Bank-o’-Merricka Pirates who are suing me for over ten thousand dollars despite my efforts of the last two years to settle 40 thousand dollars worth of credit card debt.
I hired a lawyer, but in spite of what he told me, I expect to lose the lawsuit and be wiped out financially. I also believe Donald Trump will win as President.
I am a pessimist. And it helps me through life. I am always prepared for the worst, and I can only be surprised by happy and pleasant surprises.
My son in the Marines has developed an interest in survivalist gear and chaos-contingency plans. We are now apparently preparing for the coming zombie apocalypse.
I like to draw nudes. I have drawn them from real-life models who were paid for their participation. But no bad things happened. It was all done with professional integrity even though I am an amateur artist. Chaperones were a part of every session.
In high school I identified as a Republican like my father. In college I became a Democrat (Thanks, Richard Nixon) and voted for Jimmy Carter. I argued with my father for eight years of Ronald Reagan and four years of George H.W. Bush.
My father has now voted for Barack Obama twice and will vote for Hillary this fall if he is still able. We spent most of our conversations this summer exchanging “Can you believe its?” about Donald Trump.
I have been collecting pictures of sunrises for three years now. I stole the idea from my childhood friend who now lives in Florida and takes beautiful ocean sunrise pictures over the Atlantic. But I do it because I know I don’t have many more sunrises to go. I have six incurable diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and COPD. I could go “BOOM! …dead” at any given moment. I believe in savoring it while I have it.
I was sexually assaulted when I was ten years old. I can only tell you this particular truth because the man who assaulted me and inflicted physical and emotional pain on me is now dead. It is liberating to be able to say that. But I regret forty years’ worth of treating it is a terrible secret that I could never tell anyone.
Telling that last truth made me cry. Now you know why telling the truth is not easy.
I really do love and admire all things having to do with Disney. And when I was young, I really did want to find a picture of Annette naked. There was no internet back then. That quest helped me learn to draw the human form. I know how bad that sounds… but, hey, I was a normal boy in many ways. And I don’t draw her naked any more.
Finally, I have to say… in all honesty… I don’t know for sure that everything I have told you today is absolutely true. Truth is a perception, even an opinion. And I may be wrong about the facts as I know them. The human mind works in mysterious ways. I sometimes think I may simply be bedbug crazy.
(P.S.) Bedbugs are insects with very limited intelligence. They cannot, in fact, be crazy or insane. Their little brains are not complicated enough for that. But it is a metaphor, and metaphors can be more truthful than literal statements.
(This is an idea that comes from Bruce the Bottle Imp, so, don’t blame me if this humor blog-post isn’t really very funny.)
The thing I am grumpy about today, besides the dog chewing up last night’s pizza box and spreading the shreds all over the kitchen before I had a chance to take it to the trash barrel, is the fact that it seems like the world is ending.
I know, the “How can you say that?” crowd are going to argue with me if I say it’s because we let Adam Sandler get away with making too damn many movies. But in spite of the existence of Jack and Jill, I actually kinda like the cartoons where he plays Dracula and Selena Gomez plays his daughter. So, Sandler doesn’t give me the feelings of existential dread his movies used to provide.
No, I think the reason is because when I went out to walk the dog this morning on a sunshiny and blue-skyed dawn, and took a deep breath of fresh air, I nearly coughed up a lung thanks to that yellow-gray patina delicately painting the horizon.
We are running out of time.
President Grandpa Joe, the mildly confused one, is proposing a huge infrastructure bill that is even larger than the one he rammed through congress without a single Republican vote in order to keep the poor and the middle class from starving and becoming homeless… and potential fuel for the zombie apocalypse. The infrastructure bill will provide a starting point for building green-energy projects, providing thousands of green-energy jobs to an ailing economy, bullet trains and healthcare improvements, and life-changing transformations to rival FDR’s New Deal, which Republicans will also vote against. And he might actually do it if Senator Turtle McConnell doesn’t convince Senator Grumbly-Grampa Joe Manchin to vote against his own party in dismantling the foofy filibuster and then voting down the infrastructure bill both to fully insure the extinction of the human race.
For some reason, probably involving dark money, Republicans want so badly to see all middle class and poor people die a horrible death that they are willing to sacrifice the lives of their own grandchildren and great grandchildren. After all, they will mostly all be undead and undying critters by that time, and they won’t want pesky younger generations to support using money from their treasure hordes that they are planning to swim in like Scrooge McDuck for eternity.
I am also deeply grumpified by the whole Congressman Eddy Munster… er, I mean… Matt Gaetz thing (seen pictured in the Vampyr Paffooney above.) That happy-go-lucky blood-sucker is facing child sex-trafficking charges involving a 17-year-old girl, and the investigation was started under Attorney General Bill Barr, Trump’s Fred-Flintstone-impersonating, Yabba-dabba-doo collusion-denier. Senator Al Franken(berry) of Minnesota, a leading Democrat, had to resign from the Senate over a picture where he wasn’t actually touching the sleeping Republican-lady’s boobs, just making a crude joke-photo the way former Saturday Night Live comedians will often do… er, well… doo doo. But Eddy Matt Gaetz doesn’t have to resign, or even give up his assignment to the Judiciary Committee. And that’s because we’re okay with unindicted criminals running our country, just not Democrats.
I hate to say it, but, now that we have gotten rid of the Orange Prexydent at long last, if we still can’t prevent human extinction, we deserve what’s coming to us. We have work to do…. and things to grumble about… and Republicans have acts of vampire-evil to commit.
I gave you a list of places where my ideas for fiction come from, and in the end, I failed to explain the thing about the bottle imp. Yes, I do get ideas from the bottle imp. He’s an angry blue boggart with limited spell powers. But he’s also more than 700 years old and has only been trapped in the bottle since 1805. So, he has about 500 years of magical life experience to draw from and answer my idea questions. Admittedly it would be more helpful if he were a smarter imp. His name is Bruce, and his IQ in human terms would only be about 75. But, then, I don’t have to worry about misfired magic. If I asked him to, “Make me a hamburger,” he wouldn’t immediately change me into a fried, ground-beef patty because he is not smart enough to do that high of a level of magic spell.
But he is just barely intelligent enough to tell me a truthful answer if I asked him a question like, “What would happen if I put an alligator’s egg in a robin’s nest as a joke, and the robin family decided it was their own weird-looking egg and then tried to hatch it?” The answer would be truthful according to his vast knowledge of swamp pranks. And it would also be funny because he’s too dumb to know better. In fact, he told me about a mother robin who worked so diligently at hatching an alligator egg that a baby alligator was hatched. She convinced it that it was actually a bird. And when it came time for the baby birds to learn to fly, the baby alligator couldn’t do it… until she talked it into flapping madly with all four legs. Then, a mother’s love and faith in her child got an alligator airborne.
Yeah, that hasn’t proved to be a very useful story idea. I put it into a story I was writing during my seven years in high school, and then lost the manuscript. (I was a teacher, not a hard-to-graduate student.) But it was proof that you can get your writing ideas from a bottle imp.
So, if you decide to use bottle imps as an idea source for fiction, the next step is to find and acquire the right sort of bottle imp. I got mine from Smellbone, the rat-faced necromancer. I bought it for an American quarter and three Canadian loonies more than a dozen years ago. I found it at his Arcana and Horse-Radish Burger Emporium in Montreal. But I am not sure how that information helps you. Smellbone died in a firey magical-transformation accident involving an angry Wall-Street financier and a dill pickle. The whole Emporium went to cinders in an hour.
If you are going to try to capture the bottle imp yourself, which I strongly do not recommend, you are going to need a magical spell-resistant butterfly net, a solid glass jar, bottle, or brass urn. A garlic-soaked cork to fit the bottle. A spell scroll ready to cast containing at least one fairy-shrink spell. And an extremely limited amount of time to actually think about what you are doing.
Now I have told you how I get writing ideas from a bottle imp. Aren’t you glad I did not include this idea in the post about where ideas come from? After all, I am a fiction writer. I get my jollies from telling lies in story form. And bottle imps, especially angry blue bottle imps named Bruce, or Charlie, or Bill, are more trouble than they are worth. They can curse you with magical spells of infinite silliness and undercut your serious nature for a lifetime.
It’s not easy being green…. the color of so many ordinary things…
Especially as you grow older.
Because green is the color of growth and youth and life. But those things seem beyond the grasp of your outstretched fingers on your spotty and wrinkled old hand.
I am definitely no longer green like Littlebit, the Oceanian ship’s boy from the seas of Talislanta and the pirate ship, Black Dragon.
And, yes, an Iowa boy living as far away from an ocean as you can get in the United States, in all directions, you are bound to dream of pirate ships and the high seas, especially when you’re twelve and your favorite book is Treasure Island.
But now that you are old, green is more often your color because you don’t feel well… again… every day….
But there is still bright green in dreams.
You can still go there and be a child again in memories and your imagination.
It’s just that now the green is written down in sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and cantos.
And talking to your kids about movies, art and artists, stories and writers of stories…
Did you know the favorite color of all three of my children is green?
I have known it since they were small and I could sing to them songs by Kermit the Frog, like “Rainbow Connections” and “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”
And with paint, you make green by combining the blue of sadness with the yellow of sunshine and happiness.
King Killer stared out the main viewport of his Flagship, the Sherman Hemsley, looking intently at Grand Admiral Cloudstalker’s new flagship, the Giant Leaf-eater.
“It seems like such an insult for legendary pirates like Arkin Cloudstalker to be flying a dinosaur-shaped space ship. Certainly, the brains behind this new fleet coulda come up with something more respectful. It’s so silly… and green!”
“You are complaining for Cloudstalker? Or f0r yourself?” asked Wicked Wanda.
“Yeah, yeah… I’m not happy for me either. His just has to sit there like some kinda brontosaurus, and he don’t have to charge about like a bison in a stampede.”
“You didn’t have to accept a triceratops ship, you know. And that thing Cloudstalker has is a brachiosaurus. There never was such a thing as a brontosaurus. It was actually an apatosaurus.”
“So, you are now the ship’s dinosaur expert?”
“You know I’m not. I’m your fleet communications officer… and paramour.”
“Yeah, I know it.”
King glared around the bridge at all of the snickering crewmen. All seven of them on the bridge of the Hemsley.
“What? You subordinates have opinions?” He growled menacingly. Everyone ceased laughing instantly.
And then a gray and black trash dumpster materialized on the bridge of Admiral Killer’s flagship as if some gigantic material synthesizer pieced it together from random atoms there.
“What’s this on my bridge?”
“Um… a dumpster?” a timid crewman ventured.
They all heard the familiar snap-hiss of a sealed airlock opening, and then the thing morphed into a 1950s telephone booth. It was almost a familiar sight to Admiral Killer.
The character who stepped out of the time-ship Star Wars was completely unrecognizable to King.
“Yes, it’s me. I ran into some difficulties in Outpost’s near future. I had to be reborn again, as Galagoans do, but at least I get to be younger in this body.”
“Um, why are you different from the old Hooey?”
“I understand perfectly,” Wicked Wanda said. “Having been a holovid star myself, I definitely understand the need to change faces as you start a new season.”
“So glad you get it, old girl. Forgive me if I turn out to be a bit cheekier than the old me.”
“So, why is the new you even here?” demanded King.
“Ah, yes! To make sure you, Admiral King Killer, don’t give up in the coming battle of Outpost. All you have to do to win it and establish the New Star League, is do what you intended to do before you started to have second thoughts. If you just do the things you were supposed to do all along, the plan Ham Aero carries out will work and you all will be victorious.”
“Um, ah… what?”
But not even Wicked Wanda could interpret that one for him. Because when did the second thoughts he was not supposed to have actually begin? Were these old second thoughts? Were they second thoughts that happened after the present time? And what the heck were the first thoughts he actually had to do to win?
“Oh, never mind. You’ll figure it out when the time is right.”
“And if I don’t figure it out?”
“Well, I guess, then, that the universe we know dies this time… once again.” King Killer glared at this new Hooey. Yes, it really was a new Hooey. Just like the old Hooey, only dumber.
I confess it. I have not gotten much done since I got the first half of my Pfizer vaccine on Friday evening. I have been lazy and kinda ill for the entire weekend. But I am not feeling any lingering reactions to the medicine at this point. So, reposting an old post for today was simply a matter of me still being lazy. I will get back to regular daily posting later on… maybe tomorrow… but maybe not.
It will probably be clear that I am writing this post because I am currently reading 1941 daily strips from Al Capp’s Li’l Abner.
But I am definitely going to talk about corny jokes, not cheesy jokes, because I grew up in Iowa, not Wisconsin.
And, yes, that is example number one.
There is a certain way of telling a joke or tall tale that is unique to the farmyard. And it does not contain chicken poop, but rather, corn.
Of course, as you can see by this corn-colored definition of what corny means according to Collins Online Dictionary, the word is supposed to be an insult to corniness in jokery. That doesn’t sit well with the people of Iowa, where the tall corn grows. We are also obvious, sentimental, and not at all original. And we are proud of it.
To tell a corny joke right, you have to set a simple scene, and make it clear what happened, and give the audience a simple cue for when to laugh.
For instance, there was the time that Cudgel Murphy had a cat problem with his car, the 1954 Austin Hereford that he has driven since dinosaurs walked the earth. It seems there was this time in 1988 when he kept having engine trouble. The engine would sputter and cough and die, and when Cudgel opened it, he would find a half-eaten dead pigeon or other random bird carcass gumming up the works. He couldn’t for the life of him figure out how dead birds were getting into his car engine. But his grandson Danny happened to see the neighbor’s big tabby tomcat carrying a pigeon he had killed under the front of Grampy’s car, apparently enjoying a fowl meal in the dark with a nice warm engine to lay the food on. Sure enough, when they checked the engine later, there was the half-eaten dead bird laying across one end of the fan belt.
So Cudgel set up a vigil, assigning times for himself, Danny, and his younger grandson Mike to watch for signs of that damned cat taking another bird under the hood of the Austin. With only two day’s worth of watching under their belts, Mike came running into the Murphy kitchen with the news.
“Grampy! I seen that damned cat taking a dead bird under your car! He’s in there right now!”
So Cudgel rushed out, turned the engine on, and stomped on the gas.
There were some worrisome thumps and bangs under the hood, and then the cat shot out from under the front of the car spewing howls and cat curses all the way up the nearest tree.
Cudgel laughed hard and finally caught his breath to say, “How about that, Mike? I’ll bet James Bond doesn’t have a car that can shoot angry cats out the front!”
Now, before you chastise me for enjoying cruelty to cats, I hope you will remember that Cudgel Murphy is a fictional character, and I am merely illustrating the idea behind corny jokes. And, besides, that cat really had it coming to him.
If you are on a writer’s journey like I am, you have my sympathy. I am not saying it is not worth it. But if it is going painlessly easy for you, you are not doing it right.
If you are doing it right, you are dredging your soul deeply with a huge jagged-edged bucket to find those small gemstones of truth and life and meaning, and then trying to arrange it all into patterns and genres and stories that are artful enough not to just look like a pile of random rocks. If you do it for a lifetime, you may be lucky enough to create a masterpiece or two, a finely-crafted jeweled creation that dazzles the eye and captures the heart of the reader.
I have always been cursed with high intelligence and a vividly over-active imagination. So, in some sense, I was always destined to be some kind of a fantasy writer with dragons, unicorns, wizards, and such crap dancing in my head, and polluting it by farting rainbows too often. Fiction-writing, by its very nature has to tell a lot of lies to get to the truth. It also has to be, in large parts, autobiographical in nature to be any good. You have to write about what you actually know. Because making stuff up without real-world references will only produce crap that you yourself (meaning you, the writer-you) can only see as mud-brown dhrek.
Therefore, my stories have to be the thing that I label as Surrealism. Many experts would call it that too. It is expressed in highly metaphorical imagery, as in a boy moving in with his father and step-family at a nudist park where everybody is naked most of the time, and the boy sees practically everyone as a faun from Greek myths. (A Field Guide to Fauns) ‘Where a boy loses his whole family in a car accident in France and must rebuild himself in the US with family he has never even met before and he does it by putting on clown paint and singing sad songs, and visiting a dream world inhabited by clowns who might actually be angels. (Sing Sad Songs) Or a girl recovering from the grief of her father’s suicide during a once-in-a-lifetime blizzard where she is saved from snow-ghosts by a magical hobo and runaway orphans from a stranded Trailways bus. (Snow Babies) The reality of these stories depends on a willing suspension of disbelief challenged by a myriad of disparate things thrown together into a kaleidoscope narrative.
I have been thinking deeply about the nature of my own writing experience as I spent most of a year working to promote my books through an online author-review exchange called Pubby during a pandemic unlike anything seen in a century.
The author-review exchange thing has been a very mixed blessing. More than half of the reviews I have gotten on my work are done by authors seeking to earn points for their own books to be reviewed by cheating. They don’t actually try to read the books. Instead, they look at other existing reviews and try to cobble together some lies that don’t show any original thinking and merely parrot what other reviewers have said.
And while some reviews come from reviewers like me who work hard at reading and understanding the book and giving honest reactions that delight me by pointing out the things they actually connected with and understood in my books, other reviewers react with unexplained horror at something they found offensive to their own world view in my books, painting them in harsh terms, in one case even calling the book child-pornography and ridiculing the authors of the good reviews as someone who didn’t understand what they were reading.
But even the bad reviews are a blessing, in that they prove that someone has actually read my books. I cannot explain why that is so important, but it is.
So, hopefully you see now why I am talking about fairy tales. A writer’s journey is hard. It burns your very soul. And you are not very likely to see any rewards but the intangible ones. If you are a fellow writer on your own writer’s journey, well, I sympathize. And I can only wish you well.
I am a bit of a cartoonist for a reason. I started drawing cartoons at the age of five. I read everything in the Sunday funny pages, not just for the jokes. I poured over the drawings and copied some. I drew Dagwood Bumstead and Blondie. I drew Lil’ Abner and Charlie Brown and Pogo. Cartoonists were heroes to me.
But my parents wanted to protect me from the evils of comic books. Superheroes were off limits most of the time. Things that are associated with evil were out of the question. So Daredevil was beyond reach. And Mad Magazine was full of socialist ideas and led kids down the dark path of satire. So the truth is, I didn’t discover Wally Wood until I was in college. His corrupting influence didn’t take hold of me until I was older and full of hormones. Ah, youth and the propensity for sin! Wally taught me that cartoons could be real.
Wally Wood was one of the original artists working for EC comics who formed Mad Magazine with it’s spoofs and irreverent humor. Wood worked together with the Great Will Eisner on the Spirit. He went on to work for Marvel on the comic book Daredevil where he innovated the red suit and double-D logo, as well as doing the primary story-telling that brought that comic book from the bottom of the Marvel stack to almost the very top. His work on Daredevil resonates even until today where there is now a big controversy that the popular show on Netflix does not list Wood among the creators of Daredevil in their credits. I must remember to complain about that later.
But the thing that drew me to Wood more than anything was the realistic style that he brought to the unreal realm of cartoons. The man could draw! He did marvelous detail work and was a leader in the development of dynamic composition in an artistic industry that tolerated and even often encouraged really poor-quality drawing. He took the comic book from the age of the glorified stick figure to an age of cinematic scope and know-how. Here it is revealed in his classic break-down of innovative comic-book panels;
But it is also important to realize that the more power you put into art, the more it can blow up and hurt people. Wood had a dark side that went a bit darker as he went along. He had an issue with the kind of false front comics had to throw up in front after the anti-comics crusade of psychologist Fredric Wertham’s book Seduction of Innocents. He is probably the artist behind the cartoon poster The Disneyland Memorial Orgy. He started his own cartoon studio that produced increasingly erotic and pornographic comics like Sally Forth, Cannon, and Gangbang. He became increasingly ill, lost the sight in one eye, suffered severe headaches, and eventually committed suicide in 1981. With great power comes great responsibility, and we are not all superheroes in the end. But I will always admire and emulate the work of this great artist… and selfishly wish he could’ve lived to create more of the wonderful art he gave us.