Henry Miller Once Said,

“Work on one thing at a time until finished.” And I sorta-kinda follow that advice. It depends on the definition of “thing” which most people would take to mean a writing project like a novel, short story, screen play, or any written work of fiction or non-fiction.

Yeah, sure, but when does a writer’s idea for a writing project actually achieve a state of thingness? It is a well-known fact that muses inspire writers with a blockbuster idea every week of the year. These ideas excite the mind to various degrees and some begin to grow into an embryotic story and some eventually become written to some degree – meaning that a lot of story ideas never get realized, never even get their own desktop file. But let’s say that a writing project achieves thingness when the main characters, the setting, and a situation are chosen, and at least an introductory scene is composed. If that’s the measure of thingness then I have to admit I’m Mr. Miller’s prime rule breaker. Continue reading

What’s in a Name

We have forgotten the exact moment and circumstances when Ed said he’d illustrate a story of Tonton Jim’s. The author himself can’t remember when he’d told Ed that the book, later to be Max and the Lowrider Car, would have the nom de plume “Tonton Jim” on the cover. Ed so liked the idea that he invented a pseudonym of his own: E. Felix Lyon. The publisher and editor, Linnea Dayton, indulged the two.

There is a story behind the worthy name of E. Felix Lyon. TJ vaguely Continue reading

Magnum Opus Nullus

After JM returned from his Swiss trip he put in extra effort and time to finish Storybook Land’s sixth story (The Tarzana Treehouse). His intent was to finish that story, take a recess from writing children’s stories and create his magnum opus. It was to be a three-act play based on real people and real events in his eventful life. Well, the recess bell never sounded, or the playground had turned barren. In any case and after pounding the recess metaphor lifeless, he found himself without a hint of how to write it. Continue reading

Pay Attention! will be your desperate cry

“Through the eyes of a child God sees us as we really are.” Tonton Jim said this in a moment of longing to be deeply wise. I referred him to a previous article on pithy sayings, but did pause to consider what he’d said. I also suggested that TJ leave out the adverb ‘really’ which only betrays  his desperate longing to sound really, really profundo. But TJ is right: a child’s vision can be brutally sharp.

I did have an occasion to be seen through the eyes of a child when I was a fourth-grade teacher. In an Open Court reading anthology, there was a free verse poem enjoyable enough in its original form. With some of its nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs removed it served as a fill-in-the-blanks poem which the students could use to create their own poems about whatever subject interested them. One bright and bold girl (a favorite student) choose to write about her teacher, me. Continue reading

Writing for Kids

Ed Roxburgh illustration for Max and the Lowrider car

Assigned to teach first graders it became my responsibility to launch the little ones on the path to literacy. The task daunted me. Fortunately, just about all first graders eagerly desire reading ability and most of my class, by the end of the school year, were on the road to wherever reading would take them.

One of the cheap devices for that literacy launching was small booklets made from eight-by-eleven paper folded twice to make a four page book if the cover is counted as a page. Each book had a theme and about a five single syllable vocabulary. For a short while, for one little girl, making the top of her list of best loved books was, “Bird”. Continue reading

Disney, Religion, and my Stories – part 3

Some people describe the message in Disney films as secular humanism. Maybe it is. It’s debatable and so is the value of secular humanism relative to morality derived from God’s love. Whether the films philosophize secular humanism or not, all the classic Disney films are based on stories that didn’t have religious overtones to begin with: Snow White (though in one scene she prays to God); Dumbo; Pinocchio; 101 Dalmatians; Bambi; The Lady and the Tramp; or any of the classic animated films made while Walt was alive. Continue reading

Disney, Religion, and my Stories – part 2

Other writers have already expressed good insights into Walt Disney’s religiosity. Mark I. Pinsky’s The Gospel According to Disney does a thorough job of examining the subject.  After having read the book and some other sources I can say: Walt definitely believed in God, believed in Christianity, and believed in an American mainstream moral system. He just didn’t believe it necessary for him to go to church on Sundays. He especially didn’t want religion or any theology in his art or entertainment. And even though his Main Street lacked the realistic touch of a Christian church, his Disneyland, his cartoons, and his movies promoted good morals and values. Continue reading

Disney, Religion, and my Stories – part 1

The novelette Tragic Kingdom of Authorial Ghosts – now part of Heaven Bound in Anaheim – marked the beginning of the mix of my Catholic Christian beliefs, my love of a handful of 19th century Children’s classics, and my love of Disneyland. Religion came first. I’d begun two stories with Christian themes, but in the summer of 2017 the idea of a Disneyland story attracted me greatly.

There are quite a few Disneyland stories out there, the most popular in sales being the Kingdom Keepers series (Amazon sales rank of the first book is in the top twenty of three different categories), published by Disney Hyperion. There is also the Tales of the Haunted Mansion series (Amazon sales rank of the first book is in the top two hundred of two categories), published by Disney Press. A newer series is Tales of Adventureland, published by Disney Hyperion, released in the summer of 2017 with sales rankings only in the mid thousands, but it’s new. Continue reading

Nitpicking: Fantasy vs Sci-Fi

Nitpicking the Star Trek transporter

original art by Ed Roxburgh

Little guys dream big. Illustration by Ed Roxburgh

The Star Trek’s transporter depends on doing something so astronomically improbable, you might as well say it is impossible. It only came about because Roddenberry wanted to cut production costs; namely the cost of building a docking bay set for small transport craft, like the ones in the Star Wars movies. That wasn’t known by the fourteen year old me and I probably wouldn’t have cared if I had known the real reason for Scotty beaming people here and there. Nowadays… it bugs me, man.

Actually, I still enjoy watching the Star Trek series’ and movies. In spite of knowing the transporter is much closer to fantasy than to futuristic reality, my enjoyment would diminish if I heard Spock say, “To the Tinkerbell room. Continue reading

Tomorrowland Au Naturel, the play, and my other plays

When I started writing Part Three of Heaven Bound in Anaheim, I relied so much on dialogue to tell the story that it only seemed natural to turn it into a play after finishing the story. After accomplishing the hassle of formatting it into a play script, I entered it in a play contest. From a list of about fifty contests, there was only one that seemed to fit the bill and so, now I wait for the winner to be picked sometime in the fall of this year.

However, shortly after emailing the script to the contest, I realized Continue reading