As I continue working on my work-in-progress, I get ideas for how I am going to make a cover for it. I have kicked around ideas and even tried executing a few of them. And when I say that, it doesn’t mean I literally kicked anything or shot anything in the head. I did drawings and thought seriously about how to put them together.
Remember this one? I drew this because my current novel has two people in it that claim they are actually dragons in human disguises.
One of those people is the girl Fiona Long, who goes by Fi most of the time. She is an aggressive red-headed girl who makes the boys cringe on occasion. She tells them her real name is Firefang, and she’s a red dragon wearing a human meat-disguise. Of course, the boys in Norwall, Iowa immediately believe her, because dragons are so common in Iowa.
So, I took these two image-ideas and slapped them together.
Oh, I forgot to mention, the story happens in 1976, the Bi-Centennial year, and the story climax happens during the 4th of July celebration.
I wasn’t really happy with how this first one looked, so I tried a second shot at putting them together in a slightly different manner.
Of course, the novel is not yet done. It is maybe only half done. So, for that reason, the cover does not have to be done also. And it does bother me a little that the title is The Boy… Forever, and yet, I have a picture of a girl and a dragon on the cover. Maybe Icarus needs to be in the picture too. Icarus Jones is the boy from the title. So, I need to work on that, and maybe redo the whole cover. We shall see. And that will make a possible future blog post too.
Gaijin is one of the most beautiful worlds in human space according to those humans who have visited enough of them to compare. Its lush, tropical-sea environment is pleasant always and fully climate-controlled by old Sylvani technology. It has far fewer cold places than an Earth-like world such as Talos III or Martin Faulkner’s Dream. It has more resources than an ocean-world like Dancer or Design where no land masses are present. And its greatest features are the people themselves. They are disciplined by the Bushido code, and beautified by the natural Sylvani grace. It was no surprise, then, that Vince Niell and the crew of the Megadeath did not want to leave.
“I have to go to
at least three other worlds,” argued Xavier Tkriashav. “I have important missions to complete. You have the only available spaceship on the
“Dude, like, we
don’t got no orders from Ged boss-man,” said Vince Niell. “This ship is his.”
“Ged is very busy
now. I am his friend and agent. I tell you, I have important things to do for
“And we tell you,
Psion Dude, that we don’t go to space for nobody but Ged Aero.”
Xavier smiled. “Can you call him and ask?”
“Dude, we have
commo units on board. Did he take a
walkie-talkie or a commo dot?”
“Then ain’t no
way we’re gonna move from this spot.”
at the stubborn rock-and-roll starship pilot.
He saw only two angry reflections of himself looking back from Vince’s
mirrored sunglasses. The hippie freak
had started wearing a pair of red Moko-bird feathers in his hair as if he were
some kind of Native American from ancient Earth.
“I am going to go
and disturb Ged now, and get him to write a note to let me use this starship
while he is training to be Gaijin’s new White Spider.”
“Sounds good to
turbaned Psion stalked back into the city, making his way swiftly through crowded
streets to the Palace of One Thousand Years.
Ged was on the
practice field with Junior, teaching martial arts.
impressive in the arena,” Tkriashav said when Ged acknowledged his
presence. “Tell me, how is it you already
know the martial arts they teach here?”
something I’m proud of, but I absorbed it by eating the flesh of the man they called
the Black Spider. I inherited the
ability to alter myself into the patterns of his finely trained muscles. Muscle memory is the key to absorbing the
skill. Just like the instincts I’ve absorbed
from animals I’ve eaten.”
“Did you actually
eat one of those invisible cat things?”
“It was during an
episode of survival training on the planet Samothrace when I was young. I guess I had my powers even then, though I
didn’t know it until the last few years.”
“It’s that kind
of knowledge I need you to pass on to other Psions, Ged. Do you mind if I use your starship to round
up a couple of students for you?”
“I would be
honored to serve,” said Ged with a bow.
“Teaching seems to come naturally too, though I don’t ever remember eating
Xavier laughed. “I need a note for your crew, Ged. They don’t want to leave this place. They won’t take my word.”
“No problem. Will you revisit Don’t Go Here?”
“Yes. After completing the missions I have in mind.”
“Check on Tara
for me. Tell her I miss her. And tell Ham about what’s happened here. I want him to come here and learn about this
“I would be happy
to. You like it here, don’t you?”
“How could I help
it? I’m not a monster here. I’m a hero to these people. But I have to say, I don’t understand the
praise any more than I understood the fear.”
The message was
quickly written, and within the hour, the Megadeath roared out of
Gaijinese orbit, headed directly into trouble.
In Japanese the name Gaijin means
“foreigner” or “gringo”. It denotes a
barbarian who is too close to nature to truly ever understand the ways of the
celestial culture of the dragons. It was
an appropriate name for the planet. All
who came there, even the dolphins and whales, were foreigners and off-worlders. The true culture was a secret deeply embedded
in the planet itself.
Dr. Naylund Smith was an immortal. He had lived on 17th Century Earth and been among the first explorers to leave the planet in a space craft stolen from the invading Tellerons. He had met the original Sylvani, and loved them as a people. He used his vast knowledge and medical skill to help them evolve into the people they were now. He and his young daughter, Sara, were standing outside the Celestial City of Kiro as the spacecraft Megadeath touched down on the plains outside the Dragon Wall. They watched the sleek war machine settle gracefully to the soil where no starship had been for nearly 800 years. It was with a mixture of emotions that Naylund watched it. He knew that the ship carried what his daughter needed most. He also knew that it would bring an end to the peace and unspoiled beauty of the world of Gaijin.
“Daddy, are they
bad men?” asked eight-year-old Sara. Her
blond hair fell golden and beautiful over one eye. Her little-girl body was nearly lost in the
graceful white silk kimono she wore.
One. They are good.”
“Why are you so
bring the White Spider back to us.
Things will change here. The
Gaijin I love will be no more.”
“The White Spider
from the stories? That should be
exciting, shouldn’t it?”
The little girl
put her soft hand into the gnarled old turkey claw that was Naylund’s
hand. He was comforted by the gesture.
touched down in sight of the Dragon Gate.
The town was surrounded by an ornately carved wall that was shaped like
a dragon’s body. The only entrance was
through the Dragon Gate, the open mouth of an ornately carved Celestial
Dragon. The city was secured behind the
energy barrier created by the Sylvani Technology in the wall itself. Naylund would have to escort whoever was
inside the space ship through the Dragon Gate, because he did not wish them to
run afoul of either the Gate Guards or the ancient energies of the wall itself. Only those with proper chi, like himself,
could pass through unchallenged.
He walked out to
The first down
the starship’s exit ramp was obviously an Earther by heritage. His skin was pink like Naylund and Sarah’s
skin, not yellow or orange like the Gaijinese.
The boy that followed the man in the fedora hat, though, was a Nebulon,
blue-skinned and yellow-haired. The boy
looked Naylund directly in the eye, and revealed himself as a telepath by doing
so. Naylund was not a Psion himself, but
had come to know them because Sarah was a telepath, born of a Psion mother who
died mysteriously during the birth.
Naylund, extending a hand in a gesture of welcome, “welcome to the planet,
Gaijin, Honored White Spider.”
“Why do you call
me that?” asked the sharp-eyed man in the fedora hat. “I am Ged Aero. I am here because a Psion told me to
come. I don’t know you. Why do you call me by that name that I’ve
been hearing so much lately?”
“I hate to be the
one to break it to you, Ged Aero, but by stepping out of that starship, you
have fulfilled an 800-year-old prophecy.
The people here will hail you as a god reborn. You are like Jesus Christ to them. You are here to teach them, and lead them out
of their millennium of isolation.”
“Perhaps you are
mistaken. What if I am not the White Spider
laughed. “Shan’s Prophecy tells how you
would speak those very words when you arrived here. The people would not follow a White Spider
that never doubted himself and acted without reserve. Those are the qualities of a Black Spider. We have too many of them all ready.”
Ged looked the
old man in the eye. Naylund could see
something there he had never seen before. This man was a different sort of Psion. He was a changer, one who could change himself,
and by doing so, change the worlds around him.
“Exactly who are
you, old man?” asked Ged.
Naylund-sensei. Naylund Charles Smith,
Doctor, Adventurer, and Scholar. I am
from Earth, but from long, long ago.
Ged-kun, I will help you in your new role as leader of this planet. I pray that you will learn to love it as I
said the little blue boy, “who is this lovely girl?”
Naylund looked at
the bright-eyed boy. He was a handsome
child with the beautiful powder-blue skin of a superior race of beings. Naylund felt attraction to him immediately,
though he had no idea yet why.
“This is my daughter,
Sara Smith. I pray that you both will
learn to love her too, just as I do.”
When Valerie awoke, she was no longer on the ground. Someone was carrying her and she had
someone’s jacket wrapped tightly around her bare body. Someone was gently, tenderly lowering her
into a bed loaded with comforter and quilts.
“Be careful of her head, Ray,” said an older woman. Valerie vaguely became aware that a young man
or boy was holding her, and lowering her onto soft bedding. “How did you ever find her in such a condition?” The woman was Patricia Zeffer, Ray’s
Mom. Valerie looked groggily up into the
face of her rescuer. It was Ray.
“I found her in the alley behind Martin’s Bar and Grill,”
Ray said with deep concern in his voice.
“She was just lying there, completely nude and unconscious. Did you call someone?”
“I am going to in a minute.
I will call the hospital in Belle City for advice. Then I’ll call the poor dear’s parents. I just needed to get a look at what’s wrong
“She’s awake,” said Ray, smiling down at her as he pulled a
quilt over her.
“Oh, my poor, sweet girl,” said Mrs. Zeffer, “whatever
happened to you?”
“I… I’m not entirely sure.”
Valerie’s voice was shaky and soft, almost too quiet to hear.
“Did you see if she was bleeding anywhere?” Mrs. Zeffer
“She had some bloody scratches on her shoulder and back,
maybe from an animal.”
“Are you in pain, dear?”
“No… I mean, only
where the cat clawed me. It stings.”
“Why were you in the alley naked? Did something terrible happen?” It was obvious from the look on her motherly
face that Mrs. Zeffer wasn’t too sure she should be asking this question.
“I… I don’t know. I
was with Mary Philips and Pidney Breslow.
I’m afraid they may be hurt worse than I am.”
“They didn’t hurt
you, did they?” asked Ray.
“Of course not.
“Do you know who?”
“Mom, you better call the sheriff too. They will need to find Pid and Mary and make
sure they’re all right.”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
Mrs. Zeffer hustled out of the bedroom headed for the phone downstairs.
“Ray, um… you found me naked?”
“I’m sorry,” said Ray.
“I could see you needed help. I
put my jacket on you. I… um… didn’t look
“Ah… it’s okay. You
saved me. You and Barky Bill.”
“The Martins’ dog? He
fought off your attacker?”
“Well, yes… kinda. I
think he killed my attacker.”
“He did? I didn’t see
anybody lying there in the alley.”
“Well, you wouldn’t have.
It was a cat. I think the dog ate
“You were attacked by a cat?
Come on, you have to tell me the whole story.”
Valerie did. She
filled Ray in on everything he probably didn’t already know.
“Wow, that’s really messed up,” said Ray. “The witchdoctor wants you as a virgin to
sacrifice to the volcano, but the cat wanted to eat you?”
“That’s how I understood it.”
“I’m glad the cat didn’t eat you.”
“You… ah… Ray… can I ask you something?”
“Yes, Val. I can’t
promise I know the answer, but you may always ask.”
“Thanks… uh, Ray… you saw me naked in the alley?”
Ray blushed and looked away from Valerie’s face. “Yes, I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to be sorry… but… um… am I the first girl
you ever saw naked?”
“I know you never had any sisters…”
“No, I didn’t, but…”
“I mean, it’s okay if I’m your first.”
“You aren’t. Mary
didn’t tell you about me, huh?”
“Well, yes, but… I mean, no… well… what was she supposed to
“About why I need friends now? Why she thought I needed to be a Norwall
“About why you are so sad all the time?”
“No, not really.”
“Well, you see… um, I have a girlfriend already.”
“You do? And you’ve
seen her naked?”
“Um, yeah. You see,
“She is? Who is she?”
“Carla Sears from Belle City. She’s the prettiest girl in my class.”
“And she’s gonna have a baby?”
“So, you’re gonna get married, then?”
“No. Her parents
won’t allow it. They blame me for the
whole mess… and I suppose they’re right.”
“She’s going to have the baby all by herself?”
“Well, that’s one of the things they are talking about… I
mean…” Ray’s eyes were filled with
“You mean they might…?”
All Ray seemed to be able to do was nod.
“Oh.” Valerie’s eyes
began to gush tears too. “I’m so… sorry…
She reached up and put her arms around Ray’s neck. When she did, the quilt and the jacket fell
away, revealing her naked self to him.
She was past mere embarrassment, but she held on. He cried against her neck.
As he struggled for control of his emotions, she knew they
had to talk about something else.
Anything else. The walls around
them were painted a warm, sunny yellow.
“This room is very pretty.
Is it your room?”
“No,” he said simply.
“It was my brother Bobby’s room.”
“The one that died before I was born.” Ray had enough control to pick up the fallen
jacket and put it back around the naked girl.
“I never knew him.”
“That’s sad too.”
“Yeah. And hard. I was the replacement child for Mom and Dad.”
“They knew if they had another child, especially a boy, that
he could be a hemophiliac too, just like Bobby.
But they took the chance anyway.
They were heartbroken by his death, and well…”
“So, they had you.”
“They did. And now
“You would be a great dad, Ray… if they… um…
“Yeah… but they won’t.”
Valerie squeezed him tightly. She was beginning to see things in a way she never had before. Ray was worthy of love.
Valerie-squirrel scurried through the cat door in the back
of Mazie Haire’s Gingerbread House. Once
inside the house, she searched all around the downstairs for Miss Haire. Not finding her anywhere around the kitchen
cauldron and fireplace, or the sitting room and reading area, or even the
bathroom, the little blond squirrel finally found the witch upstairs, watching
something through the telescope.
“So, you still aren’t practicing your natural skills of
seeing and knowing, I see,” Miss Haire said to the squirrel at the top of the
“Chit Chitter Chit-it-it!” said Valerie-squirrel angrily,
even though she meant to say, “I need help, I’ve been changed into a squirrel!”
“You don’t have to talk like that, you know. Just say it in regular people words.”
“Chit-chitter… do I use regular people words?”
“Just like that, girl.
You have to use the acuity of your own intelligent mind to see through
the fog the spell put on your brain.”
“Well, that’s what a witch calls it, of course. But it is more like a bit of chemistry in
gaseous form, I believe. Did you not
come in contact with a cloud of purple smoke at one point or another?”
“Yes. The Tiki idol
filled Mary’s basement with purple smoke right before Mary, Pidney, and I all
turned into squirrels.”
“Yes, and somehow you were given some sort of powerful
suggestion right before that, I believe.”
“Ideas were placed in your head prior to inhaling the gas, I
believe. Someone talking, or chanting,
or telling a story perhaps.”
“There was… some chanting… yes.”
“So, that was the trick of it.”
“Can you…? Can you
cure me? Or reverse the spell? I don’t want to be a squirrel, Miss Haire.”
“You are not a squirrel, child. You are a rather stupid and completely naked
girl. I can’t cure stupid, but you can.”
“What do you mean?”
“You will continue to think you are a squirrel until you
take control of your own mind and convince yourself that you are not.”
Valerie-squirrel looked down at her own paws and
golden-blond fur. How exactly was that
done? Everything she saw, heard, and
smelled told her that she was really a squirrel. A human girl in her mind, but definitely a
squirrel in all her body parts.
“So, what do I do?”
“Obviously, me telling you that you are not a squirrel is
not enough. So, you are going to have to
go back out there and find for yourself the proof you need to turn yourself
back into a beautiful young lady, and not a silly, naked squirrel.
“Go back… out there?
Where the cat is? And that dog,
“Yes. Go back out
there and find the focus, find the part of your brain that reminds you that are
not what somebody else says you are. Go
out and find the part of Valerie Clarke that is not a squirrel.”
swallowed hard and looked back down the staircase. This was going to be hard.
It was Skaggs the cat that started the action. He stared at Valerie-squirrel with evil,
mismatched eyes. He licked his evil
cat-lips. Then he launched himself into
the air, intending to come down on top of Valerie-squirrel’s head.
Pidney-squirrel was having none of that. Faster than the eye could follow, he dashed
over to defend Valerie-squirrel, latching on to Skaggs the cat’s left rear
haunch with his sharp squirrel teeth.
“Yeeowehrrrrr-owwwerrrr!” screamed the cat as he tumbled over his wound into a very un-catlike pile of Pidney-squirrel-and-Skaggs-the-cat-awkwardness all wrapped up in a fight to the death.
“Chreee-chit-it-it-it!” cried Valerie, trying hard to say,
“I’ll help you, Pidney-squirrel!” but not managing it very well. She caught the tip of the cat’s tail in her
mouth and bit hard with her own sharp squirrel teeth.
“Have a care, cat!” said Oojie. “You can eat the boy-squirrel, but not the girl-squirrels. I need them alive!”
The enraged cat was, paws and claws, splayed out in agony in
four directions at once, spitting his fury and hatred at the squirrels who still
had him impaled with buck teeth.
“You will die, beautiful one!” swore Skaggs in the mental language Valerie-squirrel had come to think of as cat language. “I don’t care what the juju thing says. He is only someone’s servant! Not the witch-doctor himself.”
Mary-squirrel pulled at Pidney and made him let go of
Skaggs’ hind leg. She dragged him over
to the furnace fixture and up a pipe that was wrapped with black tape where the
squirrels could get a decent claw- hold.
Both Pidney and Mary squirrels shot up the pipe and out the open
basement window above it.
Valerie-squirrel realized too late that she should’ve let go
and followed them up the pipe. The evil
cat whipped his injured tail around and launched her toward the stairs. Mary Philips’ father always kept a waste
basket at the foot of the stairs, and Valerie-squirrel, head over tail,
spiraled into it.
“Get outside and get the other squirrels!” Skaggs commanded
the other cats. “This one is all mine!”
The other cats disappeared up the cellar stairs and out of
“You cannot kill the girl squirrel!” commanded Oojie with a
“Spare me, little familiar… for that’s what you are, only
the witch’s familiar, not the actual witch.
Magic flows through you, but it does not come from you. You can’t control me.”
Valerie-squirrel knew she was in deep and dire distress, so
she felt around in the darkness for possible weapons. But how does one wield a weapon with squirrel
paws? And then she realized that the
waste basket was made of wicker. She
quickly bit into the soft woody fibers with her amazingly sharp incisors.
“I am going to report you to the master!” Oojie said to the
“Go ahead. I will
have a nice squirrel lunch while you get him.
I have her trapped in this human trash thingy.”
The hole was big enough to squirm through. And with luck, there was a mouse hole in the
basement brickwork right near where she tumbled out on the dark floor. She wriggled through the opening and into the
hollow tunnel that was on the inside of the cinderblock wall. She could see light somewhere far above.
“Where are you, beautiful one? How can you be hiding under this paper and
string and old apple cores?”
Valerie-squirrel heard the basket being batted away and new
light flooded in the door of the mouse hole.
“Aha! So that is
where you have gone.”
The cat’s paw came reaching in through the hole, the only
part of Skaggs that actually fit. He
nearly got a hold on Valerie-squirrel’s bushy blond tail. She wasn’t used to having a tail the way a
real squirrel would be. She tucked it up
underneath herself just in time. Then
she began to climb up through the brickwork.
It was a long, hard climb basically going straight up, but she could
manage with four splayed squirrel legs.
“You haven’t escaped me yet!” cried the cat. “I will have you still.” Her tiny heart beat even faster as she climbed.
I followed the naked girl and her pet red panda about a mile
along the beach. She skipped and sang
songs in a language I didn’t recognize, but sounded a lot like the Filipino
language. The panda sported about like a
playful puppy, following her devotedly.
I didn’t think you found red pandas on small Pacific islands like the
one we were on, but it didn’t matter what I thought. I was no scientist or naturalist, so I didn’t
really know. I kept looking worriedly
out to sea. I mean, I did know for a fact that Chinooki the
mermaid could eat people.
“We have been coming to this house, my tahanan,” she said
proudly, showing me a beached submarine from World War Two. It had a large rising sun flag from the
Empire of Japan painted on the conning tower.
“You live in a submarine?”
“It is where Mangkukulan wants me to stay while we wait for
“Oh. It’s like that,
is it? Well, show me. Do you have any guns aboard? Or swords?
Something to protect us from Chinooki?”
“Oh, silly captain man, Chinooki serves Mangkukulan. She will not be harming me. And she is ordered not
to be hurting you also.”
I was a little worried about the actual intentions of this
coo-coo man. I didn’t think he really
had Malutu’s best interests at heart.
Not if he meant to toss her naked into an erupting volcano. I followed her warily up the side of the
submarine and down into a hatch near the nose.
“My goodness, this is certainly rusty and rather dreary,” I
said as I surveyed the narrow candle-lit corridor in the center of the
submarine. I followed her into the
forward section where I really expected to see a forward torpedo room. I found, however, that it had been hollowed
out, lined with bamboo, and turned into a cozy and rather decent living
space. It had a bed in the center of the
not over-large room. There was a
potbellied stove that had obviously been put there for cooking. The room was also decorated with carved
wooden idols. They were the kind of Tiki
idols that you could buy in Honolulu if you were a tourist who liked kitschy
stuff to decorate your porch back in Iowa with.
Especially one large ugly idol with a man-like body and wearing a
frightful carved mask.
“You have a nice home here.
Didn’t you say something about clothes you could put on?”
“Oh, yes. Or… you
could be getting naked too, Captain.”
“No, no. Put on a
dress please. You need to be decent
She pulled out a rather nice red cloth dress with a white
flower pattern on it. It was a Hawaiian
sort of wrap-around affair.
“This okay? Or are
you wanting the kimono?”
“That one is fine.
You are very beautiful like that.”
“Yes, I am being beautiful for you. It is being important that I get you to like
me very, very much.”
“I am liking you. But
I must be telling Mangkukulan that you are here now. Chinooki has done well.”
“Um, maybe we can hold off a bit on telling the coo-coo
“Why? I am supposed
to be telling him immediately… faster if it is being possible.”
“Are you sure that coo-coo man has our best interests at
heart? I mean, it seems to me like he
might be trying to hurt us in some way.”
I was imagining being tossed into the volcano along with the girl.
“Oh, no. This he will
not be doing. I will be sending the juju
to tell him you are here.”
She went over to the biggest, ugliest Tiki idol and tapped
his tattoos, once each until she had tapped them all. And she sang;
“Juju do dah goodah… oojie-magoober!” Purple smoke poured out of the top of the
Tiki’s head and filled the room with a smell like burnt sugar.
“Is that a magic spell or something?”
“Yes, it is being something.
We are wanting you to be very comfortable here, Captain mans. Will you not be taking off your clothes?”
“I most certainly will not.”
“Okay. We will be
doing the talking about it. You will
To my utter shock and horror, the Tiki man began to glow
with an unearthly greenish-blue light.
He moved as if he were alive and trying to shake himself awake.
“Don’t be being silly.
It is made of wood. But,
Oojie-magoober, please be telling Mangkukulan that the Captain is here.”
“Juju doo dah! Yaya!”
said the wooden creature. Then it
scampered out of the room and out of the submarine.
“You are liking Malutu, yes?” she asked me.
“Yes. You are very beautiful.”
“Good-good! Now you will be taking off your clothes, Captain.” And just like that she had me naked. I was as much under her spell as the wooden Tiki man.