The Magician’s Spyglass

Val at the barnHere are some of the writing projects I am working on and where they stand in relation to completion;

Snow Babies has been accepted by PDMI Publishing.  I signed the contract this week.  It will become a book both in print and in e-book form.  It is the story of Valerie Clarke (in the Paffooney with the barn and the snow) and four boys who have run away from foster care who are all trying to survive a deadly blizzard in Norwall, Iowa.  I like to say it is a comedy about freezing to death, but it is also much more than that.  You can look for that book to be published within 12 months.



Superchicken is a novel I started writing in the 1980′s.  It is about the secret origins of the infamous gang of Norwall Pirates, a secret society of young boys dedicated to 4-H softball, fighting evil, and seeing girls naked.  Edward-Andrew Campbell, in the Paffooney, is the title character.  Superchicken is his nickname.  He struggles to make a place for himself in the close-knit Iowa farm town where he is the new kid, the weird kid, and the only kid so gone on the subject of superheroes that he doesn’t even notice when the Cobble sisters trick him into going to a nudist camp with them just so they can get revenge and a naked picture of him.  It is not a comedy about freezing to death because, fortunately for Edward-Andrew, it happens in the summer of 1974.  I have finished the manuscript and it has been revised twice.  It is time to start submitting the dang thing.



The Bicycle-Wheel Genius is a novel half-finished in rough draft form.  It is a novel starring Orben Wallace, one of the heroes of Catch a Falling Star and Tim Kellogg, son of an English teacher and also the Grand and Glorious, Mostly Notorious Leader of the Norwall Pirates.  It is a comedy about science and never really knowing what it true and what is actually possible until it has been proven by experiment.  The primary theories involved include the impossibility of time travel, turning rabbits into people, defeating evil government secret agents who want to take away your Tesla ray and intelligent machines, and the answer to the very important questions; “Are all people good?” and “Will you be my friend?”  I hope to have this thing finished shortly after Superchicken gets submitted to a publisher (or two… or seven).

Miss Morgan one


I have also started a novel about being a teacher and fighting the good fight in the war against ignorance.  It is called (as a working title) The Magical Miss Morgan.  It, of course, stars the teacher in the Paffooney, Miss Francis Morgan, who is really me (in a very weird and almost perverted sort of way).  I have two Cantos done on this one.  It may be the next big inspiration after The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.

My Art


The final bit of nutbread I am going to give you a taste of here in this goofy future-looksee postie thingie is the sequel to Catch a Falling Star.  I have written four Cantos in this one (Canto is the inexplicable name I use for chapters in my goofy books).  It follows the aliens after their failed invasion of Earth as they reach and are forced to colonize an even more dangerous planet than Earth (if you can get your mind around such an impossible concept).  It will be called Stardusters and Lizard Men.  I have to confess that I do indeed write more than one story at the same time.  It will probably continue to grow as I write The Bicycle-Wheel Genius and will probably be finished some time after I finish The Magical Miss Morgan.

Now, if you are one of those brave, weird people that actually make it this far in this silly post, I hope I have caught your interest in at least one of these ideas.  If not, I may have scared you off and permanently scarred you.  I apologize.  But if you didn’t read this far, I don’t apologize, because I didn’t actually apologize until the very end.  I’M SORRY!  OKAY?


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What Mickey’s Magical Tome says about Horror and Fear

I never could watch only the start of the monster movie, the late-night Saturday creature feature.  Once begun, I had to see it to the very end.  I had to know the evil was ended and the horror was defeated.If I did not find out, then nightmares ensued.  The night I watched John Carpenter’s original Halloween, I had to get up in the night and check the closet fifteen times.  I almost didn’t survive number thirteen, nearly dying from dread, and the light stayed on for the rest of the night.  I need to see that which scares me in the light of reason and hope.  I need to face my fears and overcome them with mental and spiritual power.  No story is ever wholly unreal, and no enemy stalks me forever without end.

(You probably can’t read it, but my magical tome contains a list of magic words, words that mean “magic”, incantations against the fear of the dark.)


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One… Two… Three Little Things!

One thing you can always count on when you read something by Stuart R. West is a good laugh.  He has such a firm grasp on the awkwardness and life-or-death embarrassments of being a teenager in high school.  I know what I’m talking about.  As a teacher I have been laughing at teenage troubles for 31 years now.  Tex, Olivia, Elspeth, and the gang are so realistic that I could name the kids in real life they correspond to… well, except maybe for the witch thing… and the ghost thing… and the opening the gateway to Hell thing…  Oy!  Two things you can always count on when you read something by Stuart is a good laugh and some utterly creepy and scary supernatural hoodoo.  Yes, ghosts in the boys’ restroom… undead possession of teenage female souls… sleep spells that can save your life and electrical spells that can blow out the lights in the whole city… there’s a real creep-a-thon going on here.  And there’s a little thing about an unsolved murder…  Oy! Oy! Oy!  Okay, Three things you can always count on when you read something by Stuart…!  Yeah, there’s the whodunit factor too.  I used to be pretty clever at reading Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie… I knew the solution to the mystery nine times out of… well, a thousand.  But Stuart always fools me.  I didn’t get this one, and I’m betting you won’t either.  So… now, wait a minute!  Is it four things?  Five?  I’m going math-challenged here!  Anyway, if you know anything about good books, you will like this book, second installment in the trilogy, at least as much as I did.


This is a review of Stuart R. West’s book Tex, and the Gangs of Suburbia, available at (


You should definitely give it a look.


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Stuart’s Tag

So, I get this message from my writer friend Stuart West;

Well, crap, Matthew Peters tagged me in a new writer thingy. So I’m tagging five of you unlucky folks as well. Apparently it’s all about the opening sentences. So…drop the opening sentences of the first three chapters of your current WIP. Then pass on the love and agony.

Here’s mine:

*Bombing, crashing like an airplane dipping into an ocean, but worse, I couldn’t even make a splash.

*So I have a daughter. She just turned eight. She bugs the crap outta’ me with a lotta’ tough questions.

*Twenty minutes after seven, and halfway through my second cup of Sake, I began to experience the sinking feeling I’d been stood up.

Taken out of context, it does read kinda’ strange, doesn’t it? It’s called Demon With a Comb-Over. It’s complicated, it’s complicated.

Okay! Here’re the unlucky writers I’ve chosen to pester/bug/tag:
Suzanne deMontigny, Meradeth Houston, Jeff Chapman, Heather Brainerd, and Michael Beyer. Have at it, gang.

Chat Conversation End

Seen by Meradeth, Jeff, Matthew

My current WIP (Work In Progress) is a novel called The Bicycle Wheel Genius.  It is in the rough draft stage, so I am not even familiar with the chapter leads myself.  Here goes nothing…
Canto One – In the dark corners of the house in 1984
The stupid boy was easily followed home. When he patted the little Pomeranian dog on her fuzzy head, he entered through the back door, unlocking it with his key.  He went in to make his afternoon peanut butter sandwich, stupidly leaving the door unlocked.  The man in black couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.
Canto Two… Norwall, Iowa, population 278, in the Year 1988
Norwall, like many small towns in Iowa, had not changed more than a particle or two a year from about 1919 to around 1982. It had a main street.  The houses were done mostly in the Victorian style, with its various porches and bay windows and corner tower-like structures.  It was a sleepy-quiet   little farm town where practically nothing ever happened.  It was mostly set up for farm business.  There was a grain elevator at the west end of Main Street, and a lumber yard at the southern end of Whitten Avenue.  It was not unusual to see tractors parked in town along with the family cars and farmers’ pickup trucks.

Canto Three – At the Ghost House on the Edge of Pixeley’s Junk Yard

It was hard to believe that it had been almost three months since the last time a meeting of the Norwall Pirates had been called at the Ghost House.Tim arrived there well before the agreed-upon time and was slightly miffed that no one else had shown up yet.  It came from having a girl as a leader.  His cousin Valerie was a good person, and he loved her, and all that, but she was far too caught up in doing girly things to really take her job as grand and glorious and mostly notorious leader of the Pirates seriously enough.  He dropped his bicycle in the un-mowed grass and marched through the burrs and the weeds towards the foundation and cellar that was now all that remained of the Ghost House.

Okay, okay… incredibly mundane, I know…  It’s just a rough draft.  The opening of Canto Two is particularly clunky.  Time and multi-facet crap-detectors with supercharged triple D batteries should help.  Here’s a Bicycle-Wheel Paffooney to make it a little better.



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Sean “Cudgel” Murphy




The kind of writing I do requires a special class of character that I refer to as a clown. I revealed one already that I used in my novel Snow Babies, that character is the unsuccessful businessman Harker Dawes. He is a pratfall clown, the kind used in Three Stooges movies. He is the subject of numerous physical abuses from other characters and from his own incompetent hand. He is funny because he always seems to survive these terrible episodes, and we are really, really glad that we are not him.
The second clown from Snow Babies, and also used in the novel I am now writing, The Bicycle Wheel Genius, is a dirty old man named Cudgel Murphy. He is a Mrs. Malaprop sort of character who says things that are wickedly mistaken, but not totally unintentional. He loves to drink (drinks other than water, coffee, or sodapop), and what he drinks makes him less than sociable. His is Irish by ancestry and by temperament. He is quick to fight, and slow to forgive, but able to laugh at himself when he discovers he is in the wrong. He loves to fight verbally with his daughter-in-law, Mary Murphy, and adores her children, his grandchildren, particularly Danny Murphy and little sister Dilsey.
The great love of his life was not his wife, who apparently died fairly young as a way of escaping the evil old man. It was instead a car, a 1955 Austin Hereford, an English-made car that Cudgel routinely says is, “the finest car made anywhere in the world in 1955.” She is his baby, and he keeps her running for more than thirty years despite driving her far too fast, too far, and with all sorts of evil brews in her gas tank in place of normal gasoline.
The Paffooney shows the evil old man posing with his wonder-car in front of the Congregational Church in Norwall, Iowa. His face, though unnaturally red by both liquid and temperamental fire looks far more innocent and harmless that it really is. One never knows for sure what is on his scrappy old mind, but you can be sure it will turn out to be funny in one way or another.
Clowns are essential to the kind of fiction I like to write. Sean “Cudgel” Murphy is a good one of those. So good, in fact, I may have to kill him off in the current book. He has a tendency to take over the story and make himself a hero.


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William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Forgotten Master

I came to an awareness of Bouguereau in the San Antonio museum of art.  In the 1990′s they had one of Bouguereau’s most famous works on display upstairs in an alcove at the head of the stairway.  I walked up the stairs and this painting, called Admiration hit me right between the eyes.

Admiration 1897

Admiration 1897


Adolphe-William Bouguereau Paintings 50 (1)He was a master of figure painting in the late 1800′s.  He worked in oils from live models, and may-or-may-not have used optical mirrors to transfer images onto canvas, although that sort of cheating does not account for his mastery of color, shape, composition, and form.  In my humble opinion, having tried to do what he has done, he is as great a painter as Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and Donatello.   His figures are alive.  Their skin looks absolutely real.  Even the facial expressions suggest that the character is about to speak.

640px-William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1825-1905)_-_A_Young_Girl_Defending_Herself_Against_Eros_(1880)Of course, he creates nudes at a level that might get him labelled a pornographer.  In fact, you have to realize that he comes from a time when salon painters were the only creators of erotic art, using biblical or mythological themes to cover the fact that they were creating nude female figures (and sometimes male nudes) to appeal to the automatic sensual response common to all living humans (well, most humans… I can’t speak to how prudery and religion can kill desire).  Other painters of his day were definitely little more than the equivalent of Playboy Magazine.  Still, he was able to produce images both nude and clothed that appear ready to step off the canvas and talk to you.

403px-william-adolphe_bouguereau_281825-190529_-_a_calling_28189629Adolphe-William Bouguereau Paintings 185boug_Reve_de_printempsp_65_1bouguereau20peignant20paintingbouguereau_william_2

He lost a lot of his popularity at the beginning of the 20th Century because Renoir, Monet, and the Impressionists actively criticized his worked and divorced the perceptions of good art from the pursuit of realism.  The invention of photography also took away some of the need for photo-realistic art.  Still, in my studies of this particular painter, I believe I have discovered one of the greatest masters of oil of all time.

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The Versatile Blogger Award


Thanks go to Suzanne Leist for sending this award to me.  She has a wonderful blog at and it is actually versatile.  My site is merely a space for uncompromising goofiness and idiocy in prose and pictures.  I don’t know if that qualifies as versatile or not.  As you can see by this post, I am not very far along in the process yet.  I have to choose bloggers to pass it on to.  Soon!  I promise.  Soon!

Here are the rules-for-awarding:

  • Display the award on your blog
  • Announce your win with a post and thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Present 15 deserving bloggers with the award.
  • Link your nominees in the post and let them know of their nomination with a comment.
  • Post seven things about yourself.

Seven things about me;

1.  I am a published author, even though I only make about 16 dollars a year on my books so far.  I have written Aeroquest, Catch a Falling Star, and hopefully will soon be publishing Snow Babies, and Superchicken.

2.  I have been an English teacher in Texas public schools for 31 years and retired for the first time this last May.

3.  I taught sixth, seventh and eighth graders for 24 of those 31, so that explains the goofiness.

4.  I was Ruben’s, Pablo’s, Sofie’s, and Ahmed’s favorite teacher.  (At least, that’s what they told me.  Who knows what they were buttering me up for?)

5.  I love the St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball team.  (And I still love Albert Pujols, even though they tell me I’m not supposed to like him any more.)

6.  I was born in Iowa during a blizzard.

7. I frequently have deja vu experiences because I have vivid dreams sometimes that come true years and even decades later (though the events rarely turn out to mean what I thought they meant when I dreamed them.)


I promise I will nominate 15 bloggers.  Have I ever broken a promise?  (Wait, don’t answer that!)

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