Tag Archives: Sing Sad Songs

Clowns Complete

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Clowns in Color

    Clowns Complete

          Clowns with Smelly,

                    Great Big Feet!

The picture I have been working on of the clowns of Sing Sad Songs is now finished.

These are the clowns;

  • Mr. Dickens (Boz) the clown of character
  • Mr. Shakespeare (the Bard) the clown of creativity
  • Mr. Disney (Diz) the clown of comedy
  • Mr. Poe (with his pet raven Nevermore) the clown of consequences

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The Secret Life of Clowns

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The clowns of Sing Sad Songs; Mr. Dickens, Mr. Shakespeare, Mr. Disney, and Mr. Poe

The truth is, clowns are rarely happy people under the greasepaint and the manic grin.  An underlying feature of every funnyman is a background of hardship, suffering, and sadness.  There is a reason why Robin Williams committed suicide and Lenny Bruce died of a drug overdose.  If you listen to the comedy of George Carlin in his last few years, he became a horribly bitter and cynical man.

The reason for all this wearing of clown masks and underlying sadness is really based on a very simple equation.   Living a hard life, but dealing with it with the power a sense of humor gives you, yields wisdom.  And how do you best deliver wisdom to all the people out there?  A sugar-coated candy shell is just the thing.  A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine to go down, to plagiarize Mary Poppins.  Say your wise words like a wise guy and say it with a smile.

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So why am I so clown-happy and therefore clown-posty today?  Well, I have used clowns in a very metaphorical way in the novel I am now finishing, Sing Sad Songs.  Clowns are definitely on my mind.  And I have a sneaking suspicion creeping up on me that maybe… just maybe… I am myself a clown.

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My Current Novel Project -Sing Sad Songs

Here is a sample chapter from my rough draft to give you an idea of how this nonsense is progressing.

Blue Dawn

Canto 25 – Wish Upon a Star

I honestly was just minding my own business.  The bar, I mean.  I was minding the bar.  Ugly Bill and his idiot child were talking to the FBI somewhere they didn’t bother to inform me about.  Orgus, Bill’s truck-driving uglier son was in the hospital.  And my brother Richard was home in front of the TV pretending to be sick or something.  It was just me, Captain Noah Dettbarn, and an amazing number of unwashed glasses in a business that hardly ever had customers enough to get multiple glasses dirty.

The Captain was busy with his one and only bottle for the day, probably thinking about the South Seas Islands where he used to go by cargo ship.  A place where palm trees swayed in the breeze and tropical girls danced in grass skirts with no tops on.  I envied his memories.  So much more colorful than small-town Iowa in October.  Why did it always seem to be October in Iowa, anyway?  Sweater weather and cold snaps and early frost.

But my regrets and glass-washing were interrupted by the whole gaggle of Norwall Pirates coming into the bar where they really weren’t supposed to be.

Billy was leading the way, followed by that danged Ricky kid.  I knew he would be back.  And Francois and little silent black kid and then the two girls, Mary and Val.

“Ricky wants to try the singing machine,” Billy said.  “Would that be okay? Please?”

I glared at them all.  “What have I got to lose?  The instruction book is on top of it.  And if Ricky breaks it, Ricky’s daddy the cop has to pay for it.”

Ricky grinned at me.  “You know he don’t have no money, right?”

So, like a flock of pigeons or a gaggle of geese they circled around the clunky Japanese squawker box and started chirping and arguing and other things that were hard to ignore.  I couldn’t help but notice how pretty young Valerie really was.  Even in baggy Fall clothes, she had a body and face that were going to take her far in life and going to break more than one heart.  I wondered if she was in any danger from the Teddy Bear Killer that Ugly Bill was going to help capture.  Of course, I knew the pervert only killed boys.  Still, I had to wonder.

“So that’s what you have to do,” Billy was explaining from the manual.  “And now all you have to do is pick one, put the number in, and sing.”

“I try first!” Sang out Ricky.

“Don’t you wanna let the deaf kid sing first?” I asked.  “I have never heard his voice.”

“Uncle Victor, you know he can’t speak except in sign language.”  Billy was glaring back at me.  That skinny little hairball on stick legs was trying to correct my social skills.  Nuts to that.  I ate a few more antacid tablets.

“That would be perfect for me,” I grumbled to myself.

“Here’s the one I want,” Ricky declared, “Steppenwolf, Born to be Wild.”

Billy helped him type in the right series of numbers, then the screeching began.

“Get your motor running…!” he bellowed like a moose during mating season.  “Head out on the highway…”

I regretted not buying earplugs when I bought the damned karaoke thingy.  I regretted it almost as much as not being on a South Sea island with girls in grass skirts and no tops.

“Looking for adventure…!”  I started fixating on counting the bar glasses on the counter behind me, anything but listening to that moose-mating noise pollution.  I also re-stacked the coasters and cleaned the peanut bowls.  I successfully refocused my attention to totally ignore Ricky destroying that song.

“Oh, gawd!  I only get twenty-five percent on that score?  I thought I sang better than that!”

“That was pretty awful, Rick,” Valerie said diplomatically.

Ricky looked angry, but everybody else was nodding agreement.  So, the kid gave up and pressed the microphone into Francois’s hand.  The French boy entered a code surprisingly quickly.

“When you wish upon a star…”

My beloved Jesus!  It was electrifyingly good right from the very first note.

“Makes no difference who you are…”

They were all listening with their mouths open.

“Anything your heart desires… will come to you…”

Even the Captain was listening.  I swear I saw tears in his old red eyes.

“If your heart is in your dreams… no request is too extreme…”

I couldn’t help but think about how depressed this kid had been since I brought him here.  He’d lost his whole family.  He’d been in the back seat of the car with them when they had died.  He’d been sleeping hour after hour at our house because he was too sad to do anything but dream.  And here he was putting his whole soul into a song about dreams and wishes and stars… and I… um… I was about to cry too when he hit that last long beautiful note.

The song ended, and everyone was stunned.  The machine put fireworks on the screen and scored him one hundred percent.

Francois spotlight 2

“Sing it again,” said Valerie, softly.  It was the only thing anyone could say.  And then he sang it again, just as amazingly beautiful as the first time.  And he scored one hundred again.  Everyone was sniffling or openly crying because it was so touching.  Especially pretty little Valerie who had lost her own father only a couple of years ago.  Her cheeks were dripping wet.

“Vicar, you gotta have him sing that again tonight,” said the Captain.  “People have got to hear that.  I mean… gawd dang!  That was amazing!  I gotta bring folks here to hear that.”

And I knew he was right.  That was not something we could afford to keep to ourselves.  That kid had real talent.

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Getting Back to the Writing in my Heart

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I successfully prepared for the possible death of my beloved laptop, and that foresight managed to save a lot of the art and written work that was stored there.  What is lost to me because I ran out of time to back everything up is not beyond my ability to retrieve it.  I not only backed up files on thumb drives in triplicate, I managed to send copies of my completed manuscripts to both of my sisters as well as my oldest son.  I have been almost paranoid about preserving my creations.

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And the reason for that is not because of the onset of mental illness, or obsessive compulsive disorder, although those are probably both factors, but because the most valuable possession I have acquired in my life is the story I have to tell.

The novel I am working on now is going to be the most powerful and complex that I have yet done.  I am confident that it will also be the best I have done.  I wrote what I believe are good novels before this one. I like to think that if people bother to actually read Catch a Falling Star, Snow Babies, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius, and The Baby Werewolf, they will think so too.  Editors have told me that my work is as good or better than some of the good books published by Random House and Penguin Books, and they know from having worked for those publishing houses.  And I waited to write this one because Sing Sad Songs is so good that I had to learn the skills necessary to write it before I tried to get the story down on paper.

Francois the singing boy is based on a real-life student whom I loved and taught and eventually lost tragically.  His talent changed the world for me, even if it didn’t last long enough to change the worlds of so many more people that he could’ve touched had he lived even a little longer.  And I am the only person who can possibly tell this important story.

I made myself cry for ten minutes by writing that last paragraph.  But don’t be sad for me.  Remember, I am a humorist.  I take the tragedies I have known and try to weave it into stuff that makes you laugh twice as much as it makes you cry.  You know, that stuff we loosely refer to as comedy.  And that’s what this story is about, laughing at everything in life except for those few things that make you have to cry.  Writing is about expressing feelings and describing how conflict is navigated in order to find the love or the love lost on the other side of conflict that is what the world is really about.

Blue Dawn

I know this all sounds like hyperbole… bragging even.  I probably will never pull off the actual creation of the monster, certainly not without consequences, torches and pitchforks, and such…  But it is the reason for all the labor, the back-up plans and paranoia, and the notion that I just might’ve reached the level of skill necessary to bring it all to life.

And I am writing again.  Not even the death of a computer has been able to stop me.

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O Mio Babbino Caro

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This beautiful song, an operatic aria by Puccini, is from the comic opera Gianni Schicchi.  But, more important than that is what the song actually means in context.

In the opera, Gianni Schicchi is a con man intent on swindling a family out of their inheritance and knowing all along that he will be destined to go to hell when he dies.  The family is gathered for the reading of the rich man’s will, which is, because this is a comic opera, lost for the time being.  Their main concern is for the money, which rumor has it has all been willed to the church.  But one among them is actually worthy of inheriting the money, Rinuccio the son of the rich man’s cousin.  And, as luck would have it, as it always does in comedies, Rinuccio is the one who, during the manic and desperate search for the will, actually finds it.  And assuming he comes out well in the will, he secures a promise from his mother that if he inherits money, he can marry Schicchi’s beautiful daughter Laurretta whom he truly loves.

But when he reads the will, he is devastated.  The money all goes to a monastery.  He begs Schicchi to help him convince the family that he should marry Laurretta anyway.  This Gianni Schicchi tries and finds it harder than turning water into wine.  So Schicchi is about to give up when Lauretta finally speaks up for herself through the song,

O Mio Babbino Caro (My Beloved Father)

At this point Schicchi is moved by the beautiful song and even more beautiful love his daughter has surprised him with.  He not only agrees to help, but executes a bizarre plan, hiding the rich man’s body and pretending to be him come back to life to rewrite the will.  Now the will favors Rinuccio, and over the protests of the family, he inherits the money and marries his true love, Schicchi’s daughter.  The opera ends with Schicchi singing his case to the audience, telling them in song that going to hell is worth it to aid true love.

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And this, then, is the truth of O Mio Babbino Caro.

Love, expressed through the surprise of hidden talent suddenly revealed, is the most persuasive argument there is.

Whether it is the love in the music suddenly discovered in the overwhelming voice of a little girl like Jackie Evancho or Amira Willighagen, or the late great Maria Callas who also sang the role, or even the singer of Puccini’s greatest work who is yet to perform it and make silly old men like me weep for beauty’s sake, the song is the most persuasive argument there is in favor of true love.

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That is a thing I desperately want to capture in the novel I am writing now, Sing Sad Songs.  Love expressed in music.  Love that reverses loss.  Love that heals all things.  And Love that moves all people.  The love that is masterfully sung in O Mio Babbino Caro.

Francois spotlight

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My Music is Better Than Yours…

My next novel, the one I have just started the first draft of, is a novel about music and dreams.  Sing Sad Songs is the title, unless I decide to change it back into Sing Sad Songs… with Clowns.

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I have an insane urge to write my next novel as music.  I intend to have it narrated in first person by three different characters, none of whom are themselves the main character.  So there are three back-up singers to the lead singer who carries the tune and drives the plot forward.

And there will be death and murder in this music, as well as a touch of the H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands.  And together we will transcend genre and the borders of a single novel and common sense entirely.  Can I do it?  Of course not.  Metaphors are never literally true… even if Bible thumpers claim they are, invoking God as the author.  But it will be the biggest, most complex, and difficult novel I have ever written.  The writing of it may kill me.  But if it works, it will be worth it.

Hyperbole, you say?  An oxymoron come to life?  Well, of course it is.  Believe the worst about it, and it will become true.  But if I believe the best about it…  well, we shall see what we shall see.

I mean to try.

clllown

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The Way Mickey’s Mind Works

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If you’ve read any of the crap that Mickey wrote about before on this goofy blog, you probably already suspect that Mickey’s mind does not work like a normal mind.  The road map above is just one indicator of the weirdness of the wiring that propels Mickey on the yellow brick road to Oz and back.  He just isn’t a normal thinker.

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But having a few bats in the old belfry doesn’t prevent the man from having a plan.  If you read all of Mickey’s hometown novels, you will discover he hasn’t written them in time order.  Main characters in my 2016 novel weren’t even born yet in my 2017 books.  If you look at them in chronological order rather than the order written, you will see characters growing and changing over time.  A shy kid in one novel grows into a werewolf hunter in the next.  A girl who loses her father to suicide in a novel not yet completed, learns how to love again in another novel.

Multiple Mickian stories are totally infected with fairies.  The magic little buggers are harder to get rid of than mosquitoes and are far and away more dangerous.  And there are disturbing levels of science-fiction-ness radiating through all of the stories.  How dare he think like that?  In undulating spirals instead of straight lines!  He doesn’t even use complete sentences all the time. And they used to let that odd bird teach English to middle school kids.

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But there is a method to his utter madness.  He started with the simpler stories of growing up and learning about the terrors of kissing girls when you are only twelve.  And then he moved on into the darker realms of dealing with death and loss of love, the tragedy of finding true love and losing it again almost as soon as you recognize its reality.  Simple moves on to complex.  Order is restored with imagination, only to be broken down again and then restored yet again,.

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And, of course, we always listen Mr. Gaiman.  He is a powerful wizard after all.  The Sandman and creator of good dreams.  So Mickey will completely ignore the fact that nobody reads his books no matter what he does or says.  And he will write another story.

Francois spotlight

It will be called Sing Sad Songs, and it will be the most complex and difficult story that Mickey has ever written.  And it will be glorious.  It will also rip Mickey’s heart out.  And I will put that ripped-out heart back in place and make Mickey keep writing it, no matter how many times I have to wash, rinse, and repeat. This statement of goals is the very spell that will make that magic happen.  So, weird little head-map in hand, here we go on the writer’s journey once again.

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