Tag Archives: novel characters

Sailing Through a Sea of Ideas

The LadyI have been steadily chipping away at my science fiction novel about planet-saving in a world crashing with biological and political disaster.  It is a comedy about the end of the world… though it is set on a distant planet that is not our world.  It is not the Earth.  It is the fictionalized world of David Icke’s reptilian aliens (for those of you crazy enough to follow loony-tunes tinfoil hat conspiracies with the same ironic gusto that I do).  I call this novel Stardusters and Space Lizards.  The world of the novel is accidentally being invaded by the Telleron aliens who starred in my novel Catch a Falling Star.   They find there a world that is undergoing massive biological crises caused by war using weapons of mass destruction and injudicious exploitation of the environment for the enrichment of the elite.  I know that sounds totally like Earth at present, but that is the purpose of a cautionary tale.  This is the planet of the lizard people, Galtorr Prime.


But by now you are aware of the fact that I am a tremendously un-focused divergent thinker, and I already have more stories in the works.  I fully intend to follow up this science fiction YA with a fantasy YA about the Norwall Pirates and South Seas Juju following an old sea captain born in Iowa all the way home from the mysterious island where he earned the curse of invisibility.  It will be called The Captain Came Home or other such nonsense similar to that.

Voodoo Val

The novel about the Captain who is invisible has as its main character Valerie Clarke, who was also a main character in the novel Snow Babies.  This novel is, however, set at a moment of time before the events of Snow Babies occur.

Never one to be satisfied with working on two novels at once, I have started a third.  I finally came up with a name for this story that has been in my head since the 1970’s when I first learned about autism and mental disorders that affect communication.  I am calling this one, for now, Fools and Their Toys.

Fools n Toys

This story is about Murray Dawes, a young man who can’t communicate with others due to autism that finally blossoms when a boy genius builds him a ventriloquist’s puppet in the form of a zebra’s head.  Through the puppet the young man finds he has an awful lot to say, and he begins to bring the world around to realizations of some pretty awful things.

To prove that I have been doing at least my 500 words a day, here is the lead that I created today for this third active writing project that I’ve added to the juggling session of three novels at once.

Fools and Their Toys

I know you will probably say this is totally unbelievable, that an inanimate object… or, rather, a puppet who is animated by others, cannot be the narrator of a story.  You are right, of course.  I can’t possibly be the author of this tale.  I am a modified sock puppet of a zebra with mechanically blinking eyes and mechanically enhanced mouth movements.  My head is full of cotton stuffing and old newspapers.  But I was cleverly put together by a genius, and given life by another.

You have to understand, the human mind is like a great complex Labyrinth where no man has ever mastered every single corridor.  Sometimes the most beautifully complex minds become lost or trapped in a dead-end corridor, never to find the light outside again.   But sometimes a special mind that was meant for special things is helped to find the light again… shown a trap door or a secret exit by another who has mastered at least a portion of the great, overly-complex dungeon.   And sometimes it is possible to slip past the Minotaur who guards the secrets of the Labyrinth and keeps us all from unlocking the magic.

Okay, I know that is barely 200 words by itself… but I do get 500 done per day.  I am writing two other books at the same time for gosh sakes!

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Filed under humor, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney

Conversations With the Ghost of Miss M…

DSCN5148Beneath the old cottonwood tree there once stood a one-room school house.  My mother went to school there as a girl, a short walk from home along the Iowa country road.  Misty mornings on a road between cornfields and soybean fields can often conjure up ghosts.

I took this morning walk with the dog while I was visiting my old Iowegian home, and I was writing my fictional story Magical Miss Morgan in my head, not yet having had time to sit down and write.  I was reflecting on times long past and a school long gone, though Miss Morgan’s story is really about my own teaching experience.  Miss Morgan is in many ways me.  But I am not a female teacher.  I am a goofy old man.  So, why am I writing the main character as a female?

Well, the ghosts from the old school house heard that and decided to send an answer.

Miss Mennenga was my third grade and fourth grade teacher from the Rowan school.  The building I attended her classes in has been gone for thirty years.  Miss M herself has long since passed to the other side.  So when she appeared at the corner…  Yes, I know… I have said countless times that I don’t believe in ghosts, but she had the same flower-patterned dress, the glasses, the large, magnified brown eyes that could look into your soul and see all your secrets, yet love you enough to not tell them to anyone else.  Suddenly, I knew where the character of Miss Morgan had actually come from.  I also realized why I was drawn to teaching in the first place.  Teachers teach you more than just long division, lessons about the circulatory systems of frogs, and the Battle of Gettysburg…  They shape your soul.

“You remember getting in trouble for doing jokes in class when you were supposed to be studying your spelling words?”

“Yes, Miss M, but I didn’t make any noise.. they were pantomime jokes that I stole from watching Red Skelton on TV.”

“But you pulled your heart out of your chest and made it beat in your hand.  You had to know that was going to make the boys smirk and the girls giggle.”

“I did.  But making them happy was part of the reason God put me there.”

“But not during spelling.  I was trying to teach math to fourth graders.  You interrupted.”

“You made that point.  I still remember vividly.  You let me read the story to the class out loud afterwords.  You said I needed to use my talent for entertaining to help others learn, not distract them from learning.”

“I was very proud of the way you learned that lesson.”

“I tried very hard as a teacher to never miss a teachable moment like that.  It was part of the reason that God put you there.”

“And I did love to hear you read aloud to the class.  You were always such an expressive reader, Michael.  Do you remember what book it was?”

“It was Ribsy, by Beverly Cleary.   How could I have forgotten that until now?  You made me love reading out loud so much that I always did it in my own classes, at every opportunity.”

I remembered the smile above all else as the lingering image faded from my view through the eyes of memory.  She had a warm and loving smile.  I can only hope my goofy grin didn’t scare too many kids throughout my career.

10931430_1392374101067123_2624334665191497015_n I needed a post for 1000 Voices that was about reconnecting with someone.  I could’ve used any number of real life examples from everything that has happened to me since poor health forced me to retire from teaching  I could’ve written any number of things that would not make me feel all sad and goopy about retiring and would not make me cry at my keyboard again like I am doing now… like I did all through that silly novel I wrote… even during the funny parts.  But I had to choose this.  A debt had to be paid.  I love you, Miss M… and I had to pay it forward.


Filed under 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, humor, photo paffoonies

Goofy Squared


There are a number of really, really goofy facts about me that I will reveal in today’s post…  No one is trying to blackmail me over these things, believe it or not.  I have no money.  And I have no reputation to protect.  I am nobody.  Just a silly, goofy, loony old nobody.  But I have a few chuckles now and then at my own expense.

Revelation #1; The clown nose in the picture was a souvenir from Cirque du Soleil.  We went to see them in a parking lot in Frisco, Texas.  They had an actual circus tent.  When I was five, I told my parents I wanted to be a clown when I grew up.  Nobody believes me when I say it, but I achieved that goal.  They say, “But you were a school teacher!”

And I say, “How is that different?”

Honestly, I have worn a clown nose and played harmonica in front of a classroom full of twelve-year-olds.  I can make teenagers laugh so hard the principal has to check to make sure they are not gleefully setting me on fire or duct-taping me to the wall.  (Duck-taping sounds funnier, but you have to be accurate when describing real events from modern schools.)

Revelation #2;  I am a closet nudist.lil hunter2

I used to be associated with the AANR, a nudist/ naturist organization in the latter part of the 1980’s,  I met the nudist publishers through stamp collecting and they tried to recruit me.  I bought books and videos from them.  I have actually been naked for an entire day… once.  I knew nudists in Austin where a former girlfriend stayed over several weekends with her sister who lived in the clothing-optional apartment complex on Manor Road.  I am not brave enough to walk around physically naked in front of people on a regular basis though.  So, I am a closet nudist.  Only a nudist in my closet.  I get a lot of mileage out of naked jokes in my fiction, though, because, well… naked is funny.

Goof  Revelation #3;  I keep scrapbooks filled with collages made of pictures from magazines, newspapers, photos I’ve taken, pictures I drew myself, poems, short snippets of things I find funny or ironic or autobiographically important, and secrets like I am sharing with you today.  (The picture of Goofy seen here is one I colored myself from one of the old coloring books left over from my kids’ coloring book days.  I hate to see unused coloring book pictures go to waste.)  I call these my magical tomes because I use them as source material for the spells I weave in my fiction.  I also use many of the images for drawing and painting as models.  I also discovered I can borrow whole images and make new art using my cheap-o substitute photo-shop program.

Revelation #4;  It is totally by accident that I have come to look like the most important character in Snow Babies, the novel that PDMI is slowly publishing for me.  Catbird Sandman is an old hobo who wears a coat that has so many patches on it that it Catbird Mehas become a patchwork crazy quilt.  He wanders around the country, appreciating the world and its people, and using his considerable store of mysterious abilities to charm, help, and change people.  He carries around a book, a well-worn copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and quotes from it, treating it like a sort of Bible-like source of spiritual wisdom.  The character looks like Walt Whitman.  And now, though not intentionally, so do I.  I grew the beard and long hair because of psoriasis.  It attacks me under the edge of my jaw line and all around the back of my head.  It is easily scratched and bloodied, and then infected when someone cuts my hair or I try to shave.  So I have given up that battle and gone all hippy-dippy.  It sorta fits with the whole jobless, shiftless, former nudist sort of persona that I have been cultivating as an author.

So what is the equation Goofy Squared all about?  Well, if you take the square root of the four Goofy revelations in this post, you come up with Goofy times two.  So Goofy obviously equals one.  And I think I have clearly proven that I am the goofy one.

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Filed under artwork, goofiness, humor, Paffooney

What I Have Learned by Writing


I have been doing an edit on a completed novel called The Bicycle-Wheel Genius, and I have discovered that I have grown quite a bit as a writer since I first began practicing the craft.  This particular story has been rattling around in my brain since 1977.  The mad scientist who is the title character, Orben Wallace, is based loosely on me.  It is also to some degree a favorite science teacher from high school mixed up with a rather eccentric college professor whose bizarre nature led, apparently, to some really profound insights about the scientific reasoning process and how a person thinks rationally.  From this character recipe I have learned the scientific method of experimenting, observing, theorizing, and testing theories works in all areas of life, including the complex mess that is our social life and relationship muddle.  Order can be imposed on chaos, and even when chaos is not controlled, it can still be tamed.

I have learned also a thing of two about writing science fiction.  I have made this story very science-y by adding elements of time travel, UFO’s, and conspiracy theories… as well as genetics, nutrition, black holes, and history from 1916 (World War I).   I have done significant amounts of research because, even though the science is all about big, black, hoo-haw lies and prevarications, it sounds a lot more realistic and palatable if the science is right.

I have learned a few things about writing sequels and tie-ins.  This novel is technically a sequel to Catch a Falling Star.  No, that’s not right either.  It is a prequel-equal-sequel because it happens before, during, and after the previously published book.  I have learned to pick up scenes from the other book and rewrite them from the point of view of a different character than the story before.  The dialogue is already fixed, but the interpretations and commentary on everything is from a whole different perspective.  Not easy to do, but very enjoyable and educational.

I have learned that even though I am basically writing a comedy it also has to have its beautifully sweet-sad moments of melancholy to achieve balance and depth of theme.  Two beloved characters die in this book, whereas in Catch a Falling Star only the villain dies without getting a last-second resurrection at the end.  We do terrible things to our characters sometimes if it gives the book deeper meaning and resonance with reality.Millis 2

I do still slavishly rely on the ridiculous.   One of the characters in The Bicycle-Wheel Genius is a rabbit who bites a high-tech carrot attached to the time machine and morphs into a rabbit man.  Millis, the pet rabbit, is the second Paffooney I am repeating for this recycled sort of post.

I have also learned that by using my obsession with that which is surreal, I can actually write things that make me laugh even though I’ve read and re-read them ten times, and am now reading them again.  Humor comes from word-play and cleverness as well as from situations full of slapstick.

So, whether you can stand my purple paisley prose…or not, I am definitely working towards throwing a new novel out there… into the world of publishing… or am I throwing it at your head instead?


Filed under NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, science fiction

Galtorr Prime

Galtorr Prime

Here is the world where Stardusters and Lizardmen is set.  It is the environmental nightmare known as the planet Galtorr Prime.  It is the world where Sizzahl was born and where young George Jetson, the Telleron cadet from Xiar’s exploration command has to find a new place to colonize.  I should explain that of the characters from this novel excerpt, George Jetson, Davalon, Brekka, Menolly, and Tanith are Telleron tadpoles, or children.  Alden and Gracie Morrell are a middle-aged farm couple from Iowas that were turned back into children in a previous adventure.  Let me share with you a Canto from this work in progress….

Canto Ten – Aboard Golden Wing Sixteen Near an Abandoned Space Station

Looking for interesting places to explore, the tadpole crew of Wing Sixteen spotted the abandoned orbital station before sensors could detect it.  The sensors were set to find life-forms, lizard men in particular, and the instruments all said that none existed on the space platform.  In fact, it was apparently devoid of all life but a few plants.

“Can you dock with that thing?” Tanith asked George Jetson.

“Of course I can.   I am programmed to be the best wing pilot you have ever seen.”

“And you are programmed to be the most modest Telleron we have ever seen too,” said Brekka.

“Or maybe the one with the biggest gonopodium and the smallest brain,” said Menolly.

George just laughed as he focused his instruments on the docking bay.

“What’s a gonopodium?” Alden asked Davalon.

“Father, you would call it a penis,” said Davalon.

“Oh.”  Alden’s forty-year-old sense of propriety turned his twelve-year-old face a bright crimson red.

“Why do you suppose there are no personnel on that station,” Tanith asked everyone in general.

“Maybe there is something wrong with it,” suggested Gracie Morrell.  “Maybe they had to abandon ship.”

“Maybe,” said Davalon, looking carefully at the sensor monitor.  “But I don’t see anything wrong with the on-board systems.  They are all operating like they work perfectly.  That station has air we can breathe, water we can drink, and no alarms are going off anywhere.  It’s as if they abandoned a perfectly good station.”

“Well,” said George Jetson, “we can find the answer by going in and taking a look around.”  He said that just as he pulled a control lever that thrust the wing forward to meet the docking ring and impacted the station so hard that everyone on board was knocked senseless.

“George!  What did you just do?” Davalon asked from his new position prostrate on the floor of the control pit.

“Um, I meant to dock with the docking port, but it appears I may have embedded the wing in the side of the space station.”

“Oh, this can’t be good,” moaned Tanith, rubbing the greenish-brown knobby bruise that now blossomed on her pretty forehead.

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My writing time of late has been mostly absorbed by a Sci-fi novel, Stardusters and Lizardmen, a sequel to my novel about aliens invading Iowa, Catch a Falling Star.  It is not set on Earth.  It is a post-apocalyptic story about an Earth-like world and a civilization of lizardmen that have destroyed themselves by abusing their environment, wallowing in greedy politics, and fighting biologically manipulated war.

The Tellerons, who have failed to invade Earth, accidentally end up at the lizardmen’s planet and have to find a home, though they would rather find it anywhere else in the universe if they had a choice.

If the visitors from outer space, both Telleron and Earthmen are going to survive, their best hope is the character featured in the Paffooney.  Her name is Sizzahl.  She is very unusual in many ways.   She is a little-girl genius who is the only Galtorrian lizard-person on the whole planet who doesn’t eat meat.  She also is a scientist studying ecology and genetics, hoping to bring her people back from the brink of extinction.  I like this character, and she is the reason that I have decided to follow this novel project through to the end.  I hope you like her too, even though she’s a dedicated nudist and hippie-style back-to-nature commie freak.

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Filed under aliens, humor, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney

Work in Progress

Val inked up

Here is the straight poop.  (Wait a minute!  Not poop metaphors again!)  Okay, better idiomatic expression… Here is the truthful statement about work habits.  (Better!  But that was idiomatic not idiotic, right?)  Right.

Sometimes I mess up.  I am working slowly and steadily on the next story burning to be told, When the Captain Came Calling.  In the illustration I am working on, you can probably see the mess-ups already.  I very carefully blot my black ink pens when I am doing the pen and ink work.  Even ball point pens can blot.  I will admit I press entirely too hard on both ink pens and colored pencils.  I break a lot of colored lead and make a lot of black pens bleed.  I have arthritis in my hands and often push too hard because I am pushing back against the pain.  I can sometimes use a lighter touch with the colored pencil, the area being covered may require a more lightly penciled mark and have more paper whiteness showing through.  Black pen lines are never like that.  To get a steady, even line, I push with pressure to get things dark and full and even.  The pen that I was using had developed a leaky ball and had to be blotted with every use.  When it made the first smear, I changed to a new pen.  I cussed a little too.  (Cussing makes it better.  I learned that from Mark Twain.)  But I didn’t panic and throw the drawing out.  I can fix it up a bit when I add the color.  But the second pen I was using was a pen I switched out earlier for bleeding.  That’s how I got the second smear.  Dang me!  It almost ruined what I think is a very promising portrait of my main character Valerie Clarke.  (Valerie, whom you may remember from Snow Babies posts, is based on a girl I once had a crush on, and my own daughter, the Princess.)Mina & Val

Now, ink smears are not the only thing that had to be twisted and worked around to get this project underway and at least a little bit tamed.  The title was originally a problem.  I tried to call this story The Captain Came  because of the primary antagonist and the fact that he is returning from the South Seas to the little Iowa town of Norwall.   This was a problem because Captain Dettbarn was running from a bunch of psychotic little Juju men (animated Tiki idols) who were chasing him because he made the witch doctor’s chief’s daughter pregnant.  That made the title an R-rated joke that I hadn’t intended even before I considered this story a YA novel idea.

The Juju men themselves are problem.  In this time of unintended racism, I had to work on them to make them be something other than a racial stereotype.  They were not originally made entirely of wood.  I had to eliminate cartoonist’s shortcuts in depiction that made them look like little black men or little dark brown men.  They are of an indeterminate South Seas racial stock.  Their language is mostly Tagalog (because it is a language I have tried to learn due to Filipino relatives).  Their culture is mostly movie fiction that comes from the Captain’s own liar’s brain.  Most of the information about the witch doctor and the mysterious island come from the Captain’s logbook which is a work of fiction written by a drunkard with a vivid imagination.  So I am trying to be fair to a people and race that don’t actually exist outside of the story within the story.  Whew!  I’ve got to stop explaining complicated things now before my brain melts.  Smoke is already coming out of my ears and making it hard to see here in my studio.

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Filed under humor, illustrations, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney