Tag Archives: colored pencil

That Silly Old Writer, Me!


I was invited to take part in the “My Writing Process” blog tour by a fellow young adult fiction writer, Stuart West.  (https://stuartrwest.blogspot.com)  Stuart is the author of the Tex, the Witch Boy series of paranormal YA thrillers.  He is something of a mentor to me, and easily the best published author I am personally acquainted with.  Before you take me seriously, you should definitely check out his blog.

For this little exercise, I have to answer four questions, then invite three other authors to do the same.  I’m a little slow on getting others to agree to this plan, but I am shameless when it comes to opportunities to talk about my own writing.  I will post the three authors later this week, after I am done begging and bribing.  

Step 1: Acknowledge the person and the blog site that invited you to take part.

As you can see, I’ve done that above, but here is the second mention; Stuart R. West .  (https://stuartrwest.blogspot.com

Step 2: Answer four questions about your writing process.
1)      What am I working on?
2)       How does my work differ from others of its genre?
3)       Why do I write what I do?
4)       How does your writing process work?

  1. What I am working on now is a story that is sequel-requel-prequel to my novel Catch a Falling Star.  That means that it uses characters from that novel, a bunch of new ones, and some from other stories of mine as well to tell what happened before that novel, during that novel, and after that novel.  Silly plan!  Believe me, I realize that while sweating over re-quel details (a phrase that here means a retelling of parts of that novel – I do also realize I stole this particular conceit from Lemony Snicket).  The book will be called The Bicycle Wheel Genius about a scientist who is a super-genius inventor trying to live incognito in a little Iowa farm town after leaving government service.  He is trying to live down a family tragedy while at the same time befriending the boy next door, avoiding government agents and assassin robots, dealing with an alien invasion by invisible alien frog people,  juggling time travelers, creating rabbit-men, and engineering old-fashioned high-wheel bicycles. 
  2. How does my work differ?  You have to ask?  Unlike all the careful plotters, step-by-step writing crafters, and picky editor types out there, I put words and ideas in a blender, mix on the “Are you insane?” setting, and then let it all come pouring out into pages and scenes and chapters (although I call them cantos for some bizarre reason).  I also have to admit that I base a lot of my characters on real people that I either grew up with in Iowa, or met over my thirty plus years as a mostly middle school teacher.  And these stories have percolated in my head for twenty to thirty years.  Did I mention already that I am not a person who thinks in straight lines?  You can tell by the shifts, reverses, and loopty-loops in this paragraph that much of what I call humor comes from my purple paisley prose (a phrase which here means overly ornate, wordy, and down-right convoluted sentences and paragraphs).  (Thanks again, Lemony).
  3. Why do I write it?  Let me think.  Could it be because teaching middle school students for too long leads to insanity, and if the insane are going to be useful in society, they have to do something at least mildly interesting for people who live in the real world?  I mean, if I just sit in a room all day drooling and counting and re-counting my Pez dispenser collection, that wouldn’t be entirely helpful.   Writing honors all the people I have known, alive and now departed, who touched my life and made a difference to my heart.  It also helps me make sense of things that have happened to me over time and shaped me as person… hopefully a person you might like to get to know.  And you can know a person through their writing long after they are personally worm food.  How could I live without Mark Twain or Charles Dickens in my life, and both were dead long before I was born?  And I know you’re going to ask yourself what makes me think that other people couldn’t live their lives better without knowing me?  But don’t ask.  I have developed a certain amount of wisdom over the course of my life, and I know I really don’t want an answer to that question.
  4. How does my writing process work?  I have taught the writing process in the classroom so many times, that the only answer I am still sane enough to give is that everyone’s process is entirely different.  I can, however, drop an insight or two on you.  First of all, everything I have ever written is still a part of what I call Prewriting… with a capital P.  Everything ever written can be rewritten and improved.  Secondly, it is important to re-read what you write.  I hate typos and mistakes in what is supposed to be “finished” writing.  It is the reason I hate the entire experience of my first published novel, Aeroquest.    That writing will never be okay until I have a chance to re-write it and re-tell it and re-everything it.  Dang it.  Thirdly, you must carefully consider who to allow to have input on your rough draft and re-worked copies.  Even some professional editors don’t bother to try to see things in a way that reflects the fact that they care about what you have written.  You need someone on your side to share it, and love it, and cherish it the way you do.  Only that person will give you input that is worth listening to.  Fourthly, if you reach fourthly your list is too dang long.  And finally, publish it.  Share it.  Don’t put it away in a drawer for the mice and spiders to read when you are long gone. 

So, Stuart, how did I do?  I hope at least it proves what you have known all along.  That Mickey guy writes like his hair is on fire and his pants are unraveling… in front of girls.

(Three writers to be named later will take up this same blog tour… I hope.)

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Thanks for the Memories, Mr. Disney

This post is going to sound an awful lot like stuff and nonsense, because that is what it primarily is, but it had to be said anyway.    Last night my family took me to see the movie Saving Mr. Banks, a deeply moving biographical story of P.L. Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins, and how she had to be convinced to surrender her beloved character to the movie industry which she so thoroughly detested and distrusted.  It is also about one of my most important literary heroes, Walt Disney, and how he eventually convinced the very eccentric and complicated authoress to allow him to make her beloved character into a memorable movie icon.

“We create our stories to rewrite our own past,” says Disney, trying to tell Mrs. Travers how he understood the way that her Mary Poppins character completed and powerfully regenerated the tragedy of her own father’s dissolution and death.  This is the singular wisdom of Disney.  He took works of literature that I loved and changed them, making them musical, making them happy, and making them into the cartoonish versions of themselves that so many of us have come to cherish from our childhoods.  He transforms history, and he transforms memory, and by doing so, he transforms truth.

Okay, and as silly as those insights are, here’s a sillier one.  In H.P. Lovecraft’s dreamlands, on the shores of the Cerenarian Sea, north of the Mountains of Madness, there roam three clowns.  They are known as the Boz, the Diz, and the Bard, nicknames for Charles Dickens, Walt Disney, and William Shakespeare.  These three clowns, like the three fates of myth, measure and cut the strings of who we are, where we are going, and how we will get there.  They come to Midgard, the Middle Earth to help us know wisdom and folly, the wisdom of fools.

Why have I told you these silly, silly things?  Do I expect you to believe them?  Do I even expect you to read all the way to paragraph four?  Ah, sadly, no…  but I am thinking and recording these thoughts because I believe they are important somehow.  I may yet use them as the basis of a book of my own.  I enjoy a good story because it helps me to do precisely as Mr. Disney has said, I can rewrite my own goofy, silly, pointless past.


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Maxfield Parrish Pictures

Much of what I draw is inspired by Maxfield Parrish, the commercial artist who created stunningly beautiful work for advertisers in the 1920’s and 30’s, and went on to paint murals and masterworks until the 1960’s.  He is noted for his luminous colors, especially Parrish Blue, and can’t be categorized under any existing movement or style of art.  No one is like Maxfield Parrish.  And I don’t try to be either, but I do acknowledge the debt I owe to him.  You should be able to see it in these posts, some of mine, and some of his.

Mine; (In the Land of Maxfield Parrish)


His; (Daybreak)


Mine; (Wings of Imagination)

Wings of Imagination

His; (Egypt)


Believe me, I know who wins this contest.  I am not ashamed to come in second.  I will never be as great as he was.  But I try, and that is worth something.  It makes me happy, at any rate.


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Mangled Metaphors and Purple Paisley Prose

Color boy

I have rather regularly been revising and editing old writing.  One thing I have discovered is that I am capable of the most gawd-awful convoluted sentences filled with mangled metaphors and ideas that can only be followed while doing mental back-flips or managing miracles of interpretation.    That last sentence is a perfect example of purple paisley prose.  Paisley, in case you didn’t know this, is a printed pattern on clothing or other cloth that makes an intricate design out of the basic twisted teardrop shape borrowed from Persian art.   The basic motif, the teardrop shape, is a leaf or vegetable design often referred to as the Persian pickle.  I write like that.  You can pick out the Persian pickles in this very paragraph.  Alliterations, mangled metaphors, rhyming words, sound patterns, the occasional literary allusion, personification, bungles, jungles, and junk.  “How can you actually write like that?” you ask.  Easy.  I think like that.

To make a point about mangled metaphors, let me visit a couple of recent scenes in novels I have been working on;

From The Bicycle Wheel Genius; page 189

Mike Murphy and Frosty Anderson sat at the kitchen table eating a batch of Orben’s pancakes, the twentieth try at pancakes, and nearly edible.  Mike could eat anything with maple syrup on it… well, maybe not dog poop, but these were slightly better than dog poop.

From The Magical Miss Morgan; page 7

Blue looked at Mike and grinned.  It was an impish and fully disarming grin.  It made Mike do whatever Blue said, even being willing to eat a lump of dog poop if she asked him to, though she would never ask him to.

So, here’s the thing.  Why is there a repetition of the dog-poop-eating metaphor?  In one case it is Mike Murphy expressing in metaphorical terms his love of maple syrup.  In the other, it is Mike Murphy expressing his love of Blueberry Bates’ dimpled grin.  He is a somewhat unique character, but why would anybody associate love with eating dog poop?  I don’t know.  I just wrote the dang things.

I like to take a convoluted plot and complicate it with complex sentences and numerous running gags, with a seasoned-sauce of mangled metaphors poured on top like gravy.  I will use sentences like this either to make you laugh, or give you a headache.  I’m almost sure it is one of those.  So if you have gotten this far in this post without a headache, then I guess it must be funny.


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Making Hay

I call this post “Making Hay” as a goofy farmer reference.  I spent an hour this morning weed-whacking the yard that hasn’t had any attention for the month of August.  I know… lazy me… lazy arthritic, diabetic, lung-diseased me.  At the end of the hour I had a quarter of the yard weed-whacked and a great pile of hay lying in the middle of the sidewalk where it has no right to be according to the city.  And, of course, I did not have any energy left to rake it up.

So I came inside to re-learn how to breathe, to stop losing fifty percent of my body weight in sweat, and to rest my aching bones.  And while I was recovering, or possibly re-animating myself, I decided to try re-photographing an old work of art.  My portrait of Prinz Flute, the wizard-prince of Tellosia, is difficult to photograph because the colored pencil has a developed a sheen to it over time that reflects glare every time I try to photograph it.  The result isn’t that great.  But hey, I’m tired from making hay.


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Stardusters… Canto Seven

Galtorr Primex 1

Canto Seven – The First Golden Wing

Farbick was aboard the golden wing to serve both as pilot and navigator, though he was fully aware that Commander Biznap could also do both.  He watched the three cadets strap in to the secondary seats behind the cockpit.  They were all wearing red shirts over their cadet uniforms, and Farbick wasn’t sure that it didn’t reveal a Star-Trek joke in very poor taste.

“Well, Farbick, old Fmoog, the Galtorrian Adventure is about to begin,” said Biznap, strapping himself into the cockpit seat next to Farbick.

“It may be more enlightening than you fear, Commander,” said Farbick.

“Fear?  I’m not afraid.  I’m just cautious.”

“Well, I’m afraid,” Farbick admitted.  “I was lucky enough to survive the Earth invasion fiasco, but this time more is at stake.  It isn’t just my life on the line.  Our whole population could be seriously decimated or even destroyed.”

“I don’t see why you’d be concerned about anybody but yourself,” said Commander Biznap.  “What does it benefit you to worry about anybody but you?”

“I could argue that I wouldn’t have survived on Earth if it hadn’t been for my friendship with young Davalon.  I was saved from death on Earth partially because Davalon cared enough to come looking for me when I was shot by the Earther policeman.”

“It isn’t normal behavior for a Telleron to care about a tadpole.  They are so easy to replace that it seems pointless.”

“They are not easy to replace if you consider them as individuals.  What would you feel if you lost Harmony Castille?”

Biznap opened his mouth, but the retort never came out.  He must’ve been thinking about what life would be like if he no longer had the one being in all the universe he actually seemed to care about besides himself.

The golden wing spiraled down through the cloud cover into the denser part of the atmosphere of Galtorr Prime.  Warning buzzers went off.

“The warning is because of the presence of acid rain,” said Starbright from the seat behind.

“In the name of Charlie!” swore Commander Biznap, “this world appears to be horribly polluted!”

That almost appeared to be an understatement.  The clouds around them boiled with storm winds and were a sickly yellow-green in hue.  Lightning was accompanied by flaming puffs of ignited methane.  The wing’s instruments indicated high concentrations of various poisons.

“Do we abort the mission?” asked Farbick.

“No.  We take the risk of landing.  We have environment suits.  We need to find a place to live in all of this mess.  Cadets?  Does anyone find any evidence of the native population?”

“Negative, sir,” said one of the nameless cadets.  “Is it possible they have polluted themselves to extinction?”

“I’d say it’s not only possible,” said Commander Biznap, “but it is highly likely.”

“We are definitely going to have to look out for one another on the surface,” warned Farbick.

“I will definitely watch your back, Mister Farbick, sir,” said Starbright.  “Some of us have learned the lessons about loving your fellow Tellerons from the Earthers on our crew, especially Mrs. Castille.”  Farbick looked at her, and her green face bloomed with a beautiful smile.


(Pictured Above; Commander Farbick (on left) and Starbright)

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Growing the Gallery


My bedroom walls serve as a gallery of my Paffooney artwork.

I have been collecting pieces of colored-pencil Paffoonery for a very long time now.  I am a life-long scribbler and doodler.  You are bound to build up an ocean of old drawings that you could easily drown in if you live that way long enough.  I recently found a few more in an old scrapbook I had squirreled away in the library between cartoon books.


These are all drawings I did for my three kids when they were little.  I suppose that gives them sentimental value.  They are all imitations of copyrighted characters.  But I am not selling them.  I haven’t actually stolen anybody’s intellectual property yet.  But it makes a good filler post as I continue to rest and work on other things.


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Imaginary People

Millis 2

It pretty much goes without saying that, since I am an author of fiction, determined to be a storyteller, I spend most of my time talking to people who exist only inside my goofy old head.  Sure, most of the imaginary people I create to keep me company are at least loosely based on real people that I either once knew, or still know.  You can tell that about Millis, the rabbit-man, pictured here on the right, can’t you?  Sure.  I had a New Zealand White pet rabbit that I raised as a 4-H project.  His name was Ember-eyes… because, well, yeah… red eyes.  It just happens that my goofy old memory transformed him into an evolution-enhanced science experiment in my unpublished novel, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.  But he was a real person once… ’cause rabbits are people too, right?


Anita Jones, a character from my unpublished novel, Superchicken, is based on a real person too.  I admit, there was a girl in my class from grades K through 6 that I secretly adored and would’ve done anything to be near, though every significant event I remember from my life that involved an encounter with her, involved red-faced embarrassment for me.  That’s why I remember her as having auburn-colored hair.  Charley Brown’s Little Red-Haired Girl… duh!  I would’ve died sooner than tell her how I really felt, even now, but by making her into one of a multitude of imaginary people who inhabit my life, I can be so close to her that sometimes I am actually inside her mind.  There’s a sort of creepy voyeurism-squared sort of thing.

dorin 003

Dorin Dobbs, the main human character of my published novel, Catch a Falling Star, is an imaginary character based mostly on my eldest son, though, in fact, I started writing that novel five years before he was born.  Like most of the imaginary people in my life, I talk to Dorin repeatedly even when the real Dorin is half a world away in the Marine Corps.  And even though the Dorin I am talking to is not the real Dorin, he is still constantly using language that is extra-salty far beyond his years, and is often defiant of my fatherly wisdom, and always argues for the exact opposite of any opinion I express.  That’s just how it is to be the father of an imaginary son.

Realistically, I have to admit that even the flesh-and-blood people in my life are imaginary.  No one ever actually inhabits another person’s head except through the magic of imagination.  Even though I am talking to you at this moment, you are only an imaginary person to me.  I don’t even know your name as I write this.  And I am the same to you.  You may have read my writing enough to think you know something about me… but you really only know the Mickey in your mind that I have worked at putting there with my words.  And I really have no idea what that imaginary Mickey you have in your head is like.  He is probably really the opposite of who I think I am.


I am, after all, married to this girl panda, Mandy Panda from the Pandalore Islands, and my three children are all Halfasian part-panda-people.  Yes, this is the imaginary person who is my real-life wife.  The secret is, we only ever know the imaginary people we have in our goofy little heads.  We don’t know the real person behind anyone in our lives, because it is simply not possible to really know how anybody else thinks or feels, even if they write out their lengthy treatise about how all people are imaginary people.  That stuff is just too goofy-dippy to be real.

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Stalling for Dollars


Sometimes you have to scrape the bottom of the barrel for every-day posting ideas.  But, luckily, I stumbled across a computer file of artwork I had thought I lost when I upgraded to Windows 10.  Sometimes bad things turn out well, and sometimes good things go bad.  So, I figured I would share some of the inexplicable things I found in the lost file.  Why would I do such a thing?  Because I am not entirely lazy and out of ideas.  No, of course I am not.











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In the 1980’s when I was a Dungeons and Dragons nut, I found a role-playing game that was sort of unique.  It was called Talislanta.  Created by Stephan Michael Sechi, it was a game like D&D, but totally without elves and dwarves and orcs and even humans.  It was set on the world of Talislanta with many weird and wonderful races that didn’t exist anywhere else in literature.  I used it to play RPG games with South Texas kids, and the Baptists preached against the demons and devils in D & D.  The only way I could get away with D & D games was by playing Talislanta, where the Baptists couldn’t preach against me because they didn’t know what the heck it was.  So, I created stories and art from Talislanta, inspired by the work of the game’s lead artist, P. D. Breeding Black.


Kastur, hero and adventurer

Hal Vas was a Jaka wilderness scout, while Xeribeth was a Zandir Sorceress who specialized in spells of flight and levitation.

Orrin, the headless snow wizard, and Teveron, the Tanasian pyromancer were both bad guys who tried to defeat the heroes at every turn.

Magnolia and Willowleaf were both Muses, the butterfly-winged people who used magic mostly for the purposes of entertaining others.  They were attended by the tiny butterfly-winged people called Wisps.

Talislantans were many different colorful races.  There were green ones like the Cymrillians, the Tanasians, and the Oceanians.  There were blue ones like the Mirin.

Sunnyjias was a Cymrillian enchantress while Zoran-Viktor was a Mirin alchemist.

Spooky was a Man-ra Shapechanger who could alter his body shape drastically.  Harun was a Phantasian astromancer who could fly using sailing ships powered by anti-gravity wind crystals.


And Tazian Thralls were warriors who had elaborate colorful tattoos over every inch of their bodies.

It was a fun world to play in.  Magic and mystery and wacky wizards abounded.  And it wasn’t all about throwing fireballs and whacking stuff with swords… although there was a lot of that too.


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