Tag Archives: writing fiction

If I’m Being Honest…


If I’m being honest, I am a liar.  And that is not really a paradox, because I don’t always lie.  In fact, I often lie in order to reveal a deeper truth.  (I know, I know… rationalizations are simply another kind of lie.)  I lie because I used to be a school teacher.  You know that teachers have to be liars because you can’t say to a parent, “Your kid is ugly and stupid, and I have documented proof.”  You especially can’t say that if it really is provable.  Instead, you have to tell the lie that any kid can learn and do and be anything they want if only they are willing to work hard enough.  And you have to tell that lie often enough that the kid, the parent, and even you, the teacher, believe it to the point that it becomes true.

And now that I am retired and not telling the school teacher’s lie any longer, I have become a novelist, and I have now made it my business to make up fiction stories and compile lies into book form.  And though the people or characters are based loosely on real people I have known, they are really only a narrative trick to make the reader think about and possibly accept as truth the themes my writing puts forward.

(Boy!  I sure am an ugly old hairy nut-job, ain’t I? = a lie in question form.)

But if I’m being honest today, there are a few things I need to say truthfully, straight out without irony or falsehood or exaggeration.  Let me offer these truths.

  • In this political environment where partisan politics divide us to the point of attempted assassinations with bombs, I do not hate the other side of the argument.  I don’t hate Republicans and conservatives.  Some of my old friends in Iowa and some of my good friends in Texas are conservative enough to have voted for Trump.  I do not reject them as my friends because of their politics.  They are good people and worthy in too many ways to list.  And though they may be sympathetic to someone who threatens me because I have looney liberal ideas, I don’t expect any of them to send me bombs in the mail.  That kind of division is the opposite of what we need.
  • I know what statistics say about kids and learning potential.  I have worked hard during my lifetime to create educational achievement in places where it is nearly impossible.  I believe in the value of every student, and some of the worst behavioral problems and some of the most difficult learning disabilities helped me really get to know some of my all-time favorite kids.
  • I will continue to tell lies for the sake of education and art and all the things that matter to me.  Lies can be used for good as much as the truth can be used for injury and evil.  But my lies will always be soap-bubble hoo-haws, easily popped and seen through for what they really are meant to accomplish, never big black cannonball lies meant to rip people apart and destroy the fortresses they live in.
  • If I’m being honest, even though I am a liar, you can believe in me.


Filed under autobiography, commentary, education, goofy thoughts, humor, lying, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, teaching, telling lies

The Hardest Part to Write


I finished a novel rough draft today.  But the end is not the hardest part to write.  Well, this one was, but not because it was the end of the story.  It was the part where a character you have carefully crafted over time, and really learned to love, has to die because that is simply how the story goes.  It was not a sad death, or an unresolved death, as such.  It was a fulfilled life of meaning and magic that simply came to its ending point.  My own real-life story may come to an end sometime in near the future too, and I can only hope it is half as much a satisfying completion as this one was.  And yet, my heart is sore from having written it.

The novel is called Recipes for Gingerbread Children.  It is a story of a little old lady.  She is alone in the world, except for the people in the little Iowa town where she is now living, especially the middle school age people who gather at her house to eat her gingerbread cookies and listen to her German fairy tales.  She was also a concentration camp survivor, so this story has Nazis in it.  Don’t worry though.  They are dead Nazis.  And there is a werewolf in it.  But only a baby werewolf.  Oh, and there are two twin teenage girls who are practicing nudists in it.  But you probably aren’t worried about them.  There are also fairies in it.  She tells fairy stories, after all.  And the whole book is more or less a collection of fairy stories.  And there is a lot of magical gingerbread cookies.

But I had to write the “character dies” part that I knew was coming for about six months.  It is the part that will make or break the story.  It is the part I will most need to polish and rewrite.  But the fact remains, the story ends with a death.  So there is that.  Life with gingerbread in it is also life that eventually comes to an end.


And that part of the story is always really, really hard to write.

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Filed under feeling sorry for myself, humor, new projects, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, writing

Lying as a Form of Social Responsibility

Mark Twain had a lot to say about lying.  Like in this quote from Following the Equator ; Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar; “There are 869 different forms of lying, but only one of them has been squarely forbidden. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

Mark Twain

Now, I would have to agree with the Biblical admonition against lying to get the people you dislike thrown into prison or beheaded.  I am especially concerned with some of the false witness pooping out of the mouths of some presidential candidates that would like us to believe their anti-science, anti-climate change, and anti-immigration lies would make good laws for our country.  If they go with Donald Trump’s idea of taking away birthright citizenship from the children of immigrants, then my three children will lose their citizenship and could be deported from the only country they have lived in.  After all, after twenty years of marriage and applications and legal fees and enough frustration to make her give up on the whole idea, my wife is still not an American citizen.  She is from the Philippines, and Filipinos are one of the main groups that politicians site as reason for taking automatic citizenship away from foreign-born marriage mates back in the 1980’s.  And if we truly believe that climate change is a hoax and disproven by having Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe bring a snowball into the senate chamber, I believe we are all going to fry in Venus-like atmospheric conditions (Venus is 400 degrees Centigrade on the surface due to rampant greenhouse gasses like those emitted by the factories of Senator Inhofe’s primary campaign donors).  Some lies have fatal consequences, (and also, apparently, got Senator Inhofe the chairmanship of the Senate Science Committee).

But not all lies are bad lies.  Twain also says; “In all lies there is wheat among the chaff…”
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

And; “The lie, as a virtue, a principle, is eternal; the lie, as a recreation, a solace, a refuge in time of need, the fourth Grace, the tenth Muse, man’s best and surest friend is immortal.”
– “On the Decay of the Art of Lying”

lil mickeylil hunter2dorin 003

So I have actually started to think that the lies not forbidden by the Bible because of their fatal consequences are actually all good things, and not bad.  Yesterday in a post about talking to stupid people, I suggested that you should tell them lies about how you care about them and want the best for them, and you should lie about it so hard that you believe in the lies yourself.  After all, story-tellers like me tell nothing but lies.  My made-up stories are based on real events and people, and reveal real perceived truths about life, but they are basically nothing but lies.  This essay is a lie.  I was brought up in Iowa to be truthful and always tell the truth… and that was repeatedly reinforced by religious training from every church I ever attended.  And yet, the more I tried to tell the truth, the more I realized that I could never say anything that was not a lie.  Think about it, what is there in all the factual things that you know that you can actually prove is true?  “I think, therefore I am,” (a quote from Rene Descartes) is the only thing anyone has ever said that I can prove by my own perceptions.  Every scientific theory is constantly reviewed for lies and untruth and inaccuracy so that they can be revised for something better that is also not ultimately provably true in every detail.  It is entirely possible that everything else truly is a lie, and then the whole universe, science, physics, logic, and everything is basically untrue.

So, what do I do?   Anything I say is a lie.  Some of the lies are hurtful, even deadly.  So I have to be careful about those lies.  I should fight against those lies.  But the lies that make our existence in life meaningful and full of hope and mystery…  I have to let those lies live, and even learn to do them artfully.

“One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.”
Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain.


Filed under humor, lying, Paffooney

The Liar’s Club

I am a teller of lies.  Yes, I can’t help it.  I do it for a living.  Telling stories is simply what I do.

Now, for those of you who know the secret, that I am employed by a Texas public high school as a teacher of English, I must confess that Texas teachers are all expected to be liars.  Not merely the tellers of small, innocuous white lies, but big, powerful, dark black hoo-haws that would curdle the innards of those you have to tell them to if they ever found out the truth.  In Texas, all teachers must tell these particular lies by State mandate; 

  • Texas values education.
  • We put the students first and make our decisions based on what is best for them.
  • We only put smart people in charge of education in our state.
  • We only put smart people in charge of our state.
  • We don’t let politics affect the quality of our education.

If I just shot down your illusion balloons of sacredly held beliefs, I’m sorry, but you must not have paid attention when our State Emperor for Life tried to step down a notch in his career and run for President of the U.S.  The man with all the tact and wisdom in Texas said that he wanted to do away with the Department of Education at the federal level.  At least, I think he said that… or was that the one he forgot during the debates?  I don’t remember.  Oops.  I guess it rubs off. 

Teachers in Texas have had to deal with billions of dollars in cuts in our education budget.  Yes, I actually meant BILLIONS.  I know the difference between M and B.   And, of course this exercise in thriftiness comes at the same time that the yearly state test by which all programs are evaluated, trimmed, and ultimately obliterated is being morphed into a harder test of higher level thinking skills, and multiplied by four core subjects so that high school seniors will have to pass not one, but TWELVE (or possibly sixteen, the state has not made up its mind yet about what number will do the best job of improving graduation rates) high stakes, pass-or-no-diploma tests.  Sorry, I meant to say TESTS.  We have to shout things in Texas education or no one listens…  No, that’s wrong too.  No one ever listens.

So teachers are professional liars.  That’s the truth of it in the modern world.  You have to go into the classroom every day and tell lies right and left.  You have to say things like; “Welcome to English class, all thirty five of you.  Ask me any question at any time because I have to make sure each one of you individually understands each and every one of the three thousand points of Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.  I am happy to see all your smiling faces.  Don’t carve your name in your desk with your Bowie knife or I will have to call the principal, knowing I dare not lay a hand on you or your property, and confident that the administration will back me up and do something about your behavior instead of lecturing me about classroom management skills (assuming I survive this) and sending me to the teacher re-teaching center to re-teach me how to handle dangerous, aggressive, un-motivated, belligerent, and bad-smelling students with learning disabilities (who are not more than eighty per cent of the student population.)

Now that I am old, and parts of me are drying up and falling off, I am seriously trying to take my talent for lying like a rug and turn it into a new career, a fiction author for young adults.  I mean, I do have some knowledge of youths and adolescents, having taught them for a quarter of a century plus half a decade (sorry, thirty years for those of you who are used to actually being listened to when you talk).  I am also very good at telling narrative lies from having to recount what happened when we had the fight in the classroom because Bozo looked at Bozina from behind and she went into a screaming fit because he’s a creepy guy and she could feel his eyes on her behind even when she was only looking at the girl ahead of her, Bozolette, who was turned around talking to her without permission about how ugly Bozinga is whenever he has to wear shorts for Phizz Ed Class.  Of course the principal sends me to the teacher re-teaching center for more re-teaching even if he believes my little black hoo-haw.  Therefore I hope that means that I really ought to be able to mash together a bunch of my brilliant, witty hoo-haws, put a nice pink ribbon on them, and sell them as a young adult novel.

So, there you have it.  I am a liar.  I freely admit it.  And I am trying to make the transition from one liars’ club to the next before all my parts dry up and fall off.  Dang!  There went one leg already!Image

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