Tag Archives: novel writing

Tess of the D’Urbervilles (by Thomas Hardy)

9781411433267_p0_v1_s260x420I decided I wanted to be a novelist because of Charles Dickens.  I loved the way he told a story with vivid characters, rising and falling crises, and story arcs that arrive at a happily-ever-after, or a how-sad-but-sweet-the-world-is ultimate goal.  Sometimes he reached both destinations with the same story, like in David Copperfield or The Old Curiosity Shop.  I have wanted to write like that since I read The Old Curiosity Shop in 9th Grade.

Thomas Hardy has a lot in common with Chuck.  I mean, more than just being old Victorian coots.  Hardy knows the Wessex countryside, Blackmoor and Casterbridge with the depth and understanding that Dickens bestows on London.  Hardy can delineate a character as clearly and as keenly as Dickens, as shown by Diggory Venn, the Reddleman in Return of the Native, or Tess Durbyfield in the novel I am reading at the moment.  These characters present us with an archetypal image and weave a story around it that speaks to themes with soul-shaking depth.  Whereas Dickens will amuse and make us laugh at the antics of the Artful Dodger or Mr. Dick or Jerry Cruncher from a Tale of Two Cities, Hardy makes us feel the ache and the sadness of love wrecked by conflict with the corrupt and selfish modern world.  Today I read a gem of a scene with the three milkmaids, Izz, Retty, and Marian looking longingly out the window at the young gentleman Angel Clare.  Each wants the young man to notice her and fall in love with her.  Sad-faced Izz is a dark-haired and brooding personality.  Round-faced Marian is more jolly and happy-go-lucky.  Young Retty is entirely bound up by shyness and the uncertainty of youth.  Yet each admits to her crush and secret hopes.  Tess, meanwhile, overhears all of it, all the time knowing that Angel is falling in love with her.  And worse yet, she has sworn to herself never to let another man fall in love with her because of the shameful way Alec D’Urberville took advantage of her, a quaint old phrase that in our time would mean date rape.  There is such bittersweet nectar to be had in the characterizations and plots of these old Victorian novels.  They are more than a hundred years old, and thus, not easy to read, but worth every grain of effort you sprinkle upon it.  I am determined now to finish rereading Tess of the Durbervilles, and further determined to learn from it, even if it kills me.

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Terry Pratchett, the Grand Wizard of Discworld

image borrowed from TVtropes.com

image borrowed from TVtropes.com

I firmly believe that I would never have succeeded as a teacher and never gotten my resolve wrapped around the whole nonsense package of being a published author if I hadn’t picked up a copy of Mort, the first Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett that I ever encountered.  I started reading the book as a veteran dungeon-master at D&D role-playing games and also as a novice teacher having a world of difficulty trying to swim up the waterfalls of Texas education fast enough to avoid the jagged rocks of failure at the bottom.  I was drinking ice tea when I started reading it.  More of that iced tea shot out my nose while reading and laughing than went down my gullet.  I almost put myself in the hospital with goofy guffaws over Death’s apprentice and his comic adventures on a flat world riding through space and time on the backs of four gigantic elephants standing on the back of a gigantic-er turtle swimming through the stars.  Now, I know you have no earthly idea what this paragraph even means, unless you read Terry Pratchett.  And believe me, if you don’t, you have to start.  If you don’t die laughing, you will have discovered what may well be the best humorist to ever put quill pen to scroll and write.  And if you do die laughing, well, there are worse ways to go, believe me.

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Discworld novels are fantasy-satire that make fun of Tolkien and Conan the Barbarian (written by Robert E. Howard, not the barbarian himself) and the whole world of elves and dwarves and heroes and dragons and such.  You don’t even have to love fantasy to like this stuff.  It skewers fantasy with spears of ridiculousness (a fourth level spell from the Dungeons of Comedic Magic for those fellow dungeon masters out there who obsessively keep track of such things).  The humor bleeds over into the realms of high finance, education, theater, English and American politics, and the world as we know it (but failed to see from this angle before… a stand-on-your-head-and-balance-over-a-pit-of-man-eating-goldfish sort of angle).

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Terry Pratchett’s many wonderful books helped me to love what is ugly, because ugly is funny, and if you love something funny for long enough, you understand that there is a place in the world even for goblins and trolls and ogres.  Believe me, that was a critical lesson for a teacher of seventh graders to learn.  I became quite fond of a number of twelve and thirteen year old goblins and trolls because I was able see through the funny parts of their inherent ugliness to the hidden beauty that lies within (yes, I know that sounds like I am still talking about yesterday’s post, but that’s because I am… I never stop blithering about that sort of blather when it comes to the value hidden inside kids).

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I have made it a personal goal to read every book ever written by Terry Pratchett.  And that goal is now within reach because even though he is an incredibly prolific writer, he has passed on within the last year.  He now only has one novel left that hasn’t reached bookstores.  Soon I will only need to read a dozen more of his books to finish his entire catalog of published works.  And I am confident I will learn more lessons about life and love and laughter by reading what is left, and re-reading some of the books in my treasured Terry Pratchett paperback collection.  Talk about your dog-eared tomes of magical mirth-making lore!  I know I will never be the writer he was.  But I can imitate and praise him and maybe extend the wonderful work that he did in life.  This word-wizard is definitely worth any amount of work to acquire and internalize.  Don’t take my convoluted word for it.  Try it yourself.

borrowed from artistsUK.com

borrowed from artistsUK.com

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Spacey Stories

Buster 3

I am usually considered a Sci-fi and Fantasy author when anybody tries to categorize me.  I learned to write during the 70’s when Tolkien and Michael Moorcock and Frank Herbert were growing bigger, and Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, and Isaac Asimov were gods.  Of course, I also have the YA-thing hanging around my neck like a bell.  I learned to tell stories being a dungeon master for middle-school and high-school boys back in the eighties.  And because it was Texas with a deeply-held and violently-enforced religious fear of anything with demons in it, I was forced to change my role-playing games from sword and sorcery to science-fiction.  I played endless Saturday-afternoon Traveller games that could span parsecs and light-years in a single afternoon.  And I was one of those game-masters who used humor to build a campaign and keep the players engaged and interested.  We had epic space battles and conquered large swaths of the Orion Spur of the Milky Way Galaxy.  When I began turning my Traveller games into fiction, I used the personalities of the boys who played the game with me for characters in the stories.  I often used the same plots (applying considerable polish to portions of plot where… well, you know… teenage boys, not remarkably G-rated.)  I created things that made me and some of the players laugh, and even feel sad… with deep, cathartic effects, as if we had experienced those things in real life.  (The deaths of favorite characters and tragic failures of galaxy-saving plans come quickly to mind.)

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I enjoy practically everything Sci-Fi, from Flash Gordon, to Buck Rodgers,  to Star Trek and Star Wars…  I loved Mechwarrior books and comic-book Sci-Fi like Adam Strange, Hawkworld, and Guardians of the Galaxy (the old ones that came before Groot and Rocket Raccoon).  I let it warp and weave my imagination and the imaginary worlds that blossomed from it.
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nd the ideas continued to morph and change and become stories that I really had to tell.

Phoenix1My first published novel, Aeroquest is a compilation of old Traveller adventures.  I published it well before it was ready for market and used a cheap-o publisher that wasn’t worth the free price-tag,  They gave me no editorial help and apparently didn’t even read the novel.  I will not defame them by name here, but if they sound to you like Publish America… well, there might be a reason.

I love stories about time travel and sci-fi gadgets…  trans-mats and starships and meson cannons and sentient plants… oh, my!

And now that I have revealed that I have such a massive nerd-head that I really ought to own Comicon by now, I hope you will not suddenly turn me off and read my blog no more.  I can’t help it.  I was born that way… and any child doomed to be born in the 50’s and a child in the space-race 60’s was bound to have George-Lucas levels of Sci-Fi nerdism.

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Picture Tricks

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I have discovered things about being an artist by blogging.  I have discovered things by learning from other artists.  I have also discovered things by trial and error.  I have also discovered things by random acts of God.  So let me share some of the ill-gotten picture secrets that I have added to my vast bag of useless incunabula-juice squeezed out with my arcane-secret juicer and internet blogger good luck.

#1.  Save everything arty… as you see above, I have three different pictures of my Catch a Falling Star character Dorin Dobbs, all made from the same pen and ink line drawing.  All the color is digital paint from my computer’s own paint program.  Simple and cheap to do.  Save functions multiply the pretty.

#2.  Splice stuff together and make new stuff…  I have the cheapest possible photo-shop program, but using its entire $7 value every time I paste with it, I am able to create new art out of old.

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New art out of old;

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#3.  Weave things together to create unity…  My art is not for its own sake.  I am not Picasso or Van Gogh.  My art is very much tied to the stories I tell as a writer of Young Adult novels.  (Snow Babies is awaiting its turn with the editors of PDMI LLC Publishers.)

#4.  Promote the art and writing of others…  I have spent a ridiculous amount of internet time stalking artists like Loish and sharing their work on my blog.  Writers too.  I do my little book reports in order to connect the reading and the literary influences I have completed (or stolen from) and show where much of my own style and je nais se quois comes from.  If the artist or writer is still living and notices what I have done, they will often return the favor (hopefully, if they don’t find my work to be an offense against the gods of art).  If they can’t return the favor (because they are quite dead or thoroughly disgusted by me), I have at least associated my work with theirs in the minds of my readers,

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#5.  It’s all about digital photography…  In order to share my colored-pencil menagerie of live Paffoonies on the internet, I have to get better at photography.  I have taken far more photos of drawings in the last two years than I have drawn drawings.  That has not been a life-long way of things.  I love color, and poor photography skills turn out various shades of gray.  Sunlight?  Incandescent?  Fluorescent?   I haven’t discovered that secret yet, but it will never be uncovered if I don;t keep trying.

#5. Find connections that help pull your work together in one big, messy bundle…  Facebook, WordPress, and Deviant-Art are all better forums if you can connect them.  I did this by labeling everything Mickey with a meaningless made-up word that no one else in their right mind would use.   The word is Paffooney.

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A picture search on Google using the words “Beyer Paffooney” gives you an almost complete gallery of my artwork and nonsense.  Googling the word itself yields a link to a plethora of my old blogs.  Do you not know what plethora means?  Try it and you will learn that very good word.

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Creating Another Cover

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.

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Filed under artwork, humor, novel plans, novel writing, Paffooney

AeroQuest 2… Canto 39

Canto 39 – Slinking Out of Paradise

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 planet.”

“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 Ged Aero!”

“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?”

“No.”

“Then ain’t no way we’re gonna move from this spot.”

Tkriashav looked 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 me, Daddy-o.”

Fuming, the 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.

“You were 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?”

“It’s not 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 a teacher.”

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 place too.”

“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.

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Filed under humor, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, satire, science fiction

AeroQuest 2… Canto 35

Canto 35 – Gaijin Itself

      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.

“No, Sweet One.  They are good.”

“Why are you so sad, then?”

“Because they 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?”

“Perhaps.”

The little girl put her soft hand into the gnarled old turkey claw that was Naylund’s hand.  He was comforted by the gesture.

The starship 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 meet them.

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.

“So,” said 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 you seek?”

Naylund 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.

“I am 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 do.”

“Naylund-sensei?” 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.”

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 29

Canto Twenty-Nine – In the Arms of an Angel

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 with her.”

“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 asked Ray.

“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.  Someone else…”

“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 too hard.”

“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 him.”

“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?”

“Well, I…”

“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 tell me?”

“About why I need friends now?  Why she thought I needed to be a Norwall Pirate?”

“About why you are so sad all the time?”

“Yes.”

“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’s pregnant.”

“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?”

“Yes.” 

“Your baby?”

“Yes.”

“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 tears.

“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… I mean…ah…”

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.”

“Your brother?”

“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.”

“Replacement child?”

“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 I’m…”

“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.

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 27

Canto Twenty-Seven – Begging for Counter Spells

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 stairs.

“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.”

“Spell?”

“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.”

“Suggestion?”

“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, Barky Bill?”

“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.” Valerie-squirrel swallowed hard and looked back down the staircase.  This was going to be hard.

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 24

Canto Twenty-Four – Squirrel Time

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 the house.

“You cannot kill the girl squirrel!” commanded Oojie with a shout.

“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 cat.

“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.

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