Tag Archives: imagination

Made-Up People

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I often get criticized for talking to people who are basically invisible, probably imaginary, and definitely not real people, no matter what else they may be.

The unfinished cover picture is from the novel The Bicycle-Wheel Genius which I just finished the final rewrite and edit for.  All of the characters in that book are fictional.    Even though some of them strongly resemble the real people who inspired me to create them, they are fictional people doing fictional and sometimes impossible things.  And yet, they are all people who I have lived with as walking, talking, fictional people for many years.  Most of those people have been talking to me since the 1970’s.  I know some of them far better than any of the real people who are a part of my life.

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These, of course, are only a few of my imaginary friends.  Some I spend time with a lot.  Some I haven’t seen or heard from in quite a while.  And I do know they are not real people.  Mandy is a cartoon panda bear, and Anneliese is a living gingerbread cookie.  I do understand I made these people up in my stupid little head.

But it seems to me that the people in the world around us are really no less imaginary, ephemeral, and unreal.  Look at the current Presidentumb of the Disunited States.  He is an evil cartoon James Bond villain if there ever was one.

Animated cast of OUR CARTOON PRESIDENT. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Animated cast of OUR CARTOON PRESIDENT. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

People in the real world create an imaginary person in their own stupid little heads, and pretend real hard that that imaginary person is really them in real life.  And of course, nobody sees anybody else in the same way that they see themselves.  Everybody thinks they are a somebody who is different from anybody else who thinks they are a somebody too, and really they are telling themselves, and each other, lies about who somebody really is, and it is all very confusing, and if you can follow this sentence, you must be a far better reader than I am a writer, because none of it really makes sense to me.  I think everybody is imaginary in some sense of the word.

Millis 2

So, if you happen to see me talking to a big white rabbit-man who used to be a pet white rabbit, but got changed into a rabbit-man through futuristic genetic science and metal carrots, don’t panic and call the police.  I am just talking to another fictional character from a book I just finished writing.  And why are you looking inside my head, anyway?  There’s an awful lot of personal stuff going on in there.  Of course, you only see that because I wrote about it in this essay.  So it is not an invasion of privacy.  It is just me writing down stuff I probably should keep in my own stupid little head.  My bad.


Filed under characters, colored pencil, commentary, goofy thoughts, humor, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, rabbit people, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Lazy Sunday Silliness


Imagination is always the place I go in times of trouble.  I have a part of my silly old brain devoted to dancing the cartoon dance of the dundering doofus.  It has to be there that I flee to and hide because problems and mistakes and guilt and pessimism are constantly building un-funny tiger-traps of gloom for me to rot at the bottom of.  You combat the darkness with bright light.  You combat hatred with love.  You combat unhappiness with silly cartoonish imaginings.  Well… maybe you don’t.  But I do.


When reading the Sunday funnies in the newspaper on lazy Sunday afternoons, I spent years admiring Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes for its artistry and imaginative humor, believing it was about a kid who actually had a pet talking tiger.  I didn’t get the notion that Hobbes was actually a toy tiger for the longest time.  That’s because it was basically the story of my own boyhood.  I had a stuffed tiger when I was small. He talked.  He went on adventures with me.  And he talked me into breaking stuff and getting into trouble with Mom and Dad. It was absolutely realistic to me.


I have always lived in my imagination.  Few people see the world the way I view it.  I have at least four imaginary children to go along with the three that everybody insists are real.  There’s Radasha, the boy faun, my novel characters Tim Kellogg and Valerie Clarke, and the ghost dog that lurks around the house, especially at night.  That plus Dorin, Henry, and the Princess (the three fake names that I use in this blog for my three real children).


Have you noticed how Watterson’s water-color backgrounds fade into white nothingness the way daydreams do?  Calvin and Hobbes were always a cartoon about turning the unreal into the real, turning ideas upside down and looking at them through the filter-glasses of Spaceman Spiff.


Unique and wonderful solutions to life’s problems can come about that way.  I mean, I can’t actually use a bloggular raygun to vaporize city pool inspectors, but I can put ideas together in unusual ways to overcome challenges.  I almost got the pool running again by problem-solving and repairing cracks myself.


So, I am now facing the tasks of working out a chapter 13 bankruptcy and having a swimming pool removed.  The Princess will need to be driven to and from school each day.  I will need to help Henry find another after-school job.  And the cool thing is, my imaginary friends will all be along for the ride.  Thank you, Calvin.  Thank you, Hobbes.  You made it all possible.  So, please, keep dancing the dance of the dundering doofus.

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Filed under artists I admire, autobiography, cartoons, feeling sorry for myself, humor, imagination, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Philip K. Dick


There is a major drawback to being so smart that you can perceive the edges of infinity.  It makes you bedbug crazy.  I love the science fiction that populated the paperback shelves in the 50’s and 60’s when I was a boy.  I love the work of Philip K. Dick.  But it leads you to contemplate what is real… what is imaginary… and what is the nature of what will be.


the robot Philip K. Dick who appeared at Comic Con and answered questions

There are numerous ways to investigate life.  But it is in the nature of imaginary people to try to find ways to make themselves real.  When the replicants in Bladerunner try to make themselves into real people, they must try to create memories that didn’t exist.  They try to mirror human life to the extent that they can actually fool the bladerunner into letting them live.  Of course, it doesn’t work.  They are not real.  (Bladerunner is the movie name of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep).


It is like that for me as well.  Being an imaginary person is difficult.  You have to constantly invent yourself and re-invent yourself.  By the time you finally get to know yourself, you have to change again so that the anti-android factions don’t destroy you.  Although, I think I may not actually be an android.

Does that sound a bit crazy?  Well Philip K. Dick’s life story may in fact have led him down the path to really crazy.  In 1971 he broke up with his wife, Nancy Hackett.  She moved out of his life, and an amphetamine-abuse bender moved in.  In 1972, ironically the year I began reading Dick’s work, he fell in love at the Vancouver Science Fiction Convention.  That was immediately followed by erratic behavior, a break-up, and an attempted suicide overdosing on the sedative potassium bromide.  This, of course, led directly to his 1977 novel A Scanner Darkly.

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The story is about a police detective who is corrupted by a dangerous addictive drug that takes him down the rabbit hole of paranoia, and being assaulted by the perception of multiple realities simultaneously.  His novel Ubik from 1969 is a story of psychics trying to battle groups of other psychics even after they are killed by a bomb.  The crazy seems to have been building for a while.


In 1974 he had a transcendental experience when a lady delivering medicine to his door wore a fish-shaped pendant which he said shot a pink beam into his head.   He came to believe the beam imparted wisdom and clairvoyance, and also believed it to be intelligent.  He would later admit to believing he had been reincarnated as the prophet Elijah.


Imagination has its dangers.  It is a powerful thing able to transform reality.  Science fiction writers often use their imagination to shape what the future will actually make come into being.  But it can also turn your mind inside out.  A great science fiction writer like Philip K. Dick can contemplate the nature of reality and turn his own reality inside out.  It is a lesson for me, a lesson for all of us.  Wait, is that a pink beam of light I see?  No, I just imagined it.




Filed under artists I admire, humor, imagination, science fiction, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism

Scheakenschifter’s Totally Imaginary Emporium

For a while now I have been learning the hard way that being a writer means selling lies for a living, and you only get paid in imaginary money.  I mean, I-Universe has a payment policy of 10% royalties, but they only send you a check when they reach $25 dollars that they owe you.  So, the $16 dollars they owe me for book sales in 2014 is still in their bank account.  Blogging on the internet (what I am supposedly doing as a professional author here on WordPress with a site set up for me by I-Universe) pays in reader appreciation, likes, and shares.  I get paid diddly-zilch for that.

So, I have decided to open an online imaginary store.  I found a couple of partners, Junius Scheakenschifter the business entrepreneur, and Sam the Banana Man, a cartoonist like me (but a little more loony).  The thing that makes them difficult to work with is that both of them are completely fictional people, existing only in my imagination.  But that’s okay.  The store is made up of entire lines of imaginary inventory and I only charge a little appreciation and some fantasy money for each item.

Let me make a list for you of the best-selling items in my store.

The patent for this alien technology actually belongs to the ruling council of the Telleron Star Empire.

The patent for this alien technology actually belongs to the ruling council of the Telleron Star Empire.

After the failed alien invasion in my second published novel, Catch a Falling Star, I had a number of these alien ray pistols in my possession.   They are called Skortch Rays by the Tellerons (Who speak Galactic English just like we do as they learned it from watching I Love Lucy episodes from the television signals that have already traveled to the nearest stars).  Testing them out on rats and people who annoy me, I have determined that they are basically molecular disintegration rays that turn solid objects… and rats and annoying people… into loose, free-floating atoms and clouds of gas.  This is particularly useful for those people who annoy you, as no physical evidence is left of the skortching for the local authorities to find and give you disapproving stares over.  Of course, since it really only works on the imaginary people who annoy you, you probably don’t have to worry about the moral aspects of the things anyway.  I believe these items are worth somewhere in the neighborhood of billions and billions of dollars, but I am offering them at the sale price of one imaginary wooden nickel apiece.  Surely you can afford that.  And they work really well on exterminating imaginary rats.

4th Dimensional Hoola Hoops can be hazardous to your health, so I recommend you read the enclosed user's manual from cover to cover.

4th Dimensional Hoola Hoops can be hazardous to your health, so I recommend you read the enclosed user’s manual from cover to cover.

The Fourth-Dimensional Hoola Hoop is really hard to imagine a practical application for, but I think it is obvious that it represents hours and hours of mildly radioactive fun.  I am told that the longer you hula with the hoops, the farther your top part gets from the bottom part.  I am told this by Mr. Scheakenschifter who tested it himself.  But I can’t prove his claims are true because he is still hooping, and the top half of him in the A-ring claims that the bottom half of him in the B-ring is now hooping along the north shores of the Hudson Bay.  I am waiting for the news footage of a wandering pair of legs wearing a hoop to be posted on one of the many conspiracy-theory websites I follow.  (What do you mean that wouldn’t be valid evidence?  I believe them about the crop circles and UFO sightings, don’t I?)  We will happily sell you a 4th-Dimensional Hoola Hoop for the low, low price of one thousand Trans-Orgonian Bleeb-chuckers, the standard transactional currency used on the third planet of the Trans-Orgonia Star System.  The natives there give Bleeb-chuckers away for free, so all you have to do is make a trip there and collect them.  (I also have a special deal available on Earth-to-Trans-Orgonia starships of the imaginary and dream-works variety.)

Moosewinkles are easy to care for and train because they only eat imaginary sauerkraut and speak English particularly well for a moose.

Moosewinkles are easy to care for and train because they only eat imaginary sauerkraut and speak English particularly well for a moose.

The last item I would like to tempt you with today is a Moosewinkle.  These cartoon mooses… er, moosi… er, meese… are the perfect item to use as you discover the strenuous sport of Moose Bowling.  Moose Bowling is good for your heart because a moose weighs in the neighborhood of half a ton.  Throwing one down a lane in a bowling alley takes strength, determination, considerable skill, and… moose muscles.   If you can roll a moose down the lane, you are practically guaranteed a strike on every ball.  The moose tends to knock down all the pins whether you hit the head pin or not.  In fact, it will probably record a strike in the lanes on either side as well.  Wouldn’t it be fun to roll a score of 300 every time you go bowling?  Maybe even 900 if you keep score on both sides of your lane at the same time.  So please buy my Moosewinkle.  In fact, I will send him to you free.  He has already grazed on all the grass and flowers in our yard, and most of the curtains in the house too.  So, where do you live?  I’ll pay the postage and handling myself.

I now stand ready to start raking in the imaginary money.  And I will get rich this way just as quickly as I will by being a novelist with I-Universe publishers.

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Filed under humor, Paffooney, writing humor

Being Old Enough to Know Better…

I am the man from the Setting Sun,

Come to the future to deliver the past.

What does that even mean, that silly little two-line poem I wrote twenty years ago?  Am I not old enough to know better than to create a snippet loaded with goofy contradictions?  Apparently not.  But I am old enough to deliver the past.  I have been around long enough that I remember when President Kennedy was assassinated.  I saw Neil Armstrong take that “small step for man” on the surface of the moon.  I have learned a number of lessons from the past.  And as a writer, I can deliver those lessons in the form of stories.  I was born in a different century.  I have been around for more than half of one… approaching two thirds.  I have collected all kinds of wonderful things in my goofy old brain.  And make no doubt about it, with six incurable diseases and being a cancer survivor since 1983, my Sun is about the set.  So, I have a mission, to open the eyes of people who are too foolish to avoid listening to what I have to say, or to read what I have written.

I saw The Sound of Music starring Julie Andrews in the Cecil Theater in Mason City, Iowa in 1965 when I was not yet ten years old.  I heard the song My Favorite Things for the very first time on the old black and white Motorola TV set in the clip I posted at the start of this post.  Kukla, Fran, and Ollie was a puppet show I never missed on Saturdays if I could help it.  In a world before video games and computers and even color TV, kids still had priorities.  And my world was definitely a world of imagination.

Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Moose

Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Moose

Fess Parker as Davy Crockett, and then as Daniel Boone

Fess Parker as Davy Crockett, and then as Daniel Boone

Paul Winchell with Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff

Paul Winchell with Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff

So, what kind of knucklehead must I be to think younger folks would want to know about any of this stuff from the time of dinosaurs and black-and-white TV?  I write books that are basically genre-breakers and about way too many different things to make sense to adults.  As a result, I classify myself as a Young Adult novelist, a writer for children… but not the beginning reader kind, or the early chapter-book kind… the kind like Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, Light in the Forest, or Dicey’s Song.  I write books about what it was like to be a kid in the past… the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s… last century.  And I have some knowledge and expertise in this area because I was one of those teachers during that time period that got to know the kids in my classes.  I made the horrifying mistake of actually talking to kids, asking them about their lives, and listening to their answers.  I talked about all manner of things with all manner of kids… brilliant things and stupid things… with dumb kids, smart kids, smelly kids, charming kids, and the kids everybody else hated.  You know… I did all the stupid mistakes that teachers who have no earthly idea how to do discipline would do, and got those kids to learn to behave at least halfway like human beings by being somebody they trusted and respected and… on rare occasions… believed.  Right now I am working on Snow Babies.  It is set in 1984.  And I hope to be good enough of a Sunset Man to be able to deliver it to the future.


Filed under humor, NOVEL WRITING, oldies

Blue Monday Visit to the QT


I have to admit to having cheated on my first love.  But I have come back now to be faithful from here on out.  Last Summer I bought one of those free-refill cups at RaceTrac.  But it was unfulfilling.   You only get 20 oz. in the free refill cup.  And the free refills expired at the end of July.  So I have come back to the daily, or even twice daily, 32 oz. cup of Diet Coke from QT.  You knew that’s what I meant, right?

I know all the employees at QT at least by sight if not by name.  I don’t even have to tell them any more that the plastic cup I am using is a carefully saved and cleaned cup so that I deserve the refill price.  (I am not a curmudgeon who has to save ten cents on every purchase.  I do it to re-use and recycle and save the planet Earth from wasted plastic.  Really I do.)  They also know without my saying that even though it says “debit card” on the front, it works as credit.  (Except for that one kinda stupid guy who only works the really late and really early shifts.)  One of the workers there is a neighborhood kid that was in my class for two days when I was a substitute history teacher at Long Middle School nine years ago.  He’s changed a lot from when I first knew him.  He has turned from a goofy, bean-bodied twelve-year-old with big brown myopic eyes and a fly that never stayed zipped into a massive hulk of a twenty-one-year old service station associate worker.  He doesn’t even realize that I knew him when…

Grandma, Henry, and the Princess on the Beach

Grandma, Henry, and the Princess on the Beach

…and I know it is kinda pathetic that I am now so limited in my contact with the rest of humanity, especially with the family away in Florida for Spring Break, me stuck at home with illness and a pooping dog, and being retired without any working-man’s daily duties any more, that a visit to QT is the highlight of my day.  But it isn’t.  The highlight occurs when I start writing.  I enjoy laughing at my own funny-bits in this post, and the novel that I am working on… well, flights of fancy is putting it mildly.  I have been up in World War I biplane, in the midst of a dogfight between a promising young Allied pilot for the Lafayette Escadrille  and a German ace who represents evil incarnate and is being controlled by an evil alien-designed robot from the future.  I also have been in the tunnels under Castle Sinistre, or Château Sinistre as it is known in the Somme.  There I have been with the time-travelling heroes who are trying to rescue a rabbit-man created by an evolutionary science experiment gone wrong and an insane brother-in-law of the scientist who created the rabbit-man.  My imagination breaks free of the stifling cage my old, lame body and my current life have become.


This little essay quite accurately reflects what I write and why I write it.  Happy people and healthy people and normal people would all be on the beach instead of where I am now.  They would never be home-bound Emily-Dickenson writer-people whose daily highlight is a cup of Diet Coke from QT  But I am in the clouds now, somewhere over the rainbow, and I am content, because that’s the corner I’ve written myself into.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, humor, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney

Why Space-girls Come from Iowa


Yes, Iowa is a State with very little going on.  Not overly populated.  Not a center of arts and culture and the avant garde.  In fact, it is a State so literally boring that it is a perfect place for someone like me with cancer of the imagination to live.  I grew up in the town of Rowan, Iowa.  275 people if you count the squirrels (and believe me, some of the squirrels are premium corn-nuts).  I confess to peopling the place with the characters and creatures that welled up from the crazy, dark depths of my imagination.  Yes, they were real people, but the things I knew about their secret lives as international spies and alien invaders masquerading as humans were probably not provably accurate.

There was a time when alien potato people gave me an embryo to guard that would be raised as a human being.  When I showed it to my friends, they claimed it was a carved potato with spherical-headed pins for eyes.  Now how were they going to pass off a carved potato as a human being when they wanted him to take his place as a Russian cosmonaut to interfere with the space programs of two countries?  And how did they expect a twelve-year-old boy to make a carved potato grow up to look and act like a human being?  Alien potato people never adequately explain themselves.

And Iowa girls are something else that you have to see to believe.  Are they pretty?  Well, I went to Moo-U, Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.  Why did they always call it Moo U. or Cow College?  Well, more than one of my friends told me that it wasn’t because it was an agriculture and mechanics sort of college.  Oh, it was definitely that.  But they suggested all the girls at Moo U. were fat and desperate and at college to get an M.R.S. degree with a specialty in ball-and-chain.  I must admit to being chased by a couple of cow-shaped co-eds, but I always found Iowa girls to be absolutely fascinating.  I always imagined them in bikinis and nearly nude, even though, with Iowa weather, there is really only about fifteen minutes a year in August when you could really say we had bikini weather.

I was thirteen in 1969 when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon.  My dreams were space fantasies.  My connections with alien invaders were nearly exposed by the potato-people’s embryo snafu, but most of my day-dreams took me to Mars alongside Alicia Stewart, the prettiest girl in my sixth-grade classroom.  She was always wearing a bikini when we explored Mars… usually underneath her space suit… her see-through glass-and-plastic space suit.

So, as I claimed in the the title, space-girls come from Iowa.  At least, in my mind they do.  In my feverish retro teen-aged imagination they do.  And if I can continue to successfully put fiction into print before I die, you will probably see a lot more of them.

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Filed under autobiography, humor, Paffooney