Of Silly Stories, Facepalms, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Finding Nemo,” the Disney Princesses, Fairy Tales and Swiss Farms Tea Cooler

I should probably be working on CHILDREN, right now. I’ve been on a roll these last few days (82+ pages now). I run the risk of losing momentum if I “break” to write a blog entry. But when something that needs to be written “strikes my fancy,” I’ve learned that it’s best not to ignore it. That is the situation I find myself faced with today. So CHILDREN will have to wait for a little bit while I “do what I’ve got to do.”

Every night that I put my oldest minion, AKA Cara to bed, the routine is the same. We watch the last “Caillou” at 8:47 PM. When it ends 10 minutes later at 8:57 PM we usually go and brush our teeth (if we haven’t already), take our vitamins and thereafter, head upstairs to bed. Nine out of 10 times, her room is already prepped for her arrival: Her fish tank is lit up and her bottle of water is sitting next to the lamp upon her dresser which, for some reason, she has to leave on every night. It’s not fear of the dark. But it comforts her. Hey, if it keeps her from waking me up in the middle of the night no worries. It’s worth a couple of extra bucks on our energy bill, every month.

It’s when she’s watered and under her covers that the majority of my… of our issues begin (I don’t want to exclude Nicole from this; she deals with it as much as I do). Some nights, she decides she needs to use the bathroom. Others, she laments that she’s “going to be all alone.” Generally in response to the latter, I tell her that she’s not alone: She’s got her fish, Lucy, her ghost shrimp Tiana and “all her babies” (i.e. her stuffed animals and dolls) to keep her company. Does that work? Occasionally. Most nights she asks either myself or my wife to read her a story and we do. But then… then, after the story is read and she’s been hugged and kissed goodnight (“sweet dreams, Bear; I’ll see you in the morning”), she hits us with it. The kicker: 

“Daddy/Mommy, can you tell me a silly story?”

Insert Facepalm HERE. Or, if you’re looking for something a bit more visual:

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That’s my reaction every night when those words emanate from Cara’s mouth, a reaction made extra poignant by the fact that my chosen .GIF is one of Jean Luc Picard Facepalming. Nicole handles it swimmingly. She’s always got a silly story at the ready, be it the one about the time that she popped her head into check on Cara after she got home and Cara woke up and thought it was morning or another, similar one. Apparently, Nicole and Cara share many silly stories. But me and Cara? Um…

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If I had a “Number One,” and not just an alternate personality that I call the Madchronicler, he or she’d be Facepalming, as well. Because despite the fact that I’m a writer… despite the fact that I am now a published, albeit self-published author (who’s debut book, ENDWORLD – A Novel is currently available to purchase; links to buy HERE; end shameless self promotion), I don’t know many silly, “G” rated stories. I’ve got a million and one rated “PG” and up, but “G?” Nada. Zilcho. Zip-a-dee-doo-da, zip-a-dee-aye, my oh my what a precarious situation to find yourself in: A storyteller without a story to tell.

Generally, I find a way to extricate myself, i.e. I find a way to wiggle out like a coward. “Not tonight, Bear. Daddy’s tired,” or “Daddy’s got a lot of work to do,” or “Daddy just wants to get the f*ck out of this room before you break into tears because while I’m good at formulating grown up stories on the fly, I completely reek when it comes to telling kid stories.” Consider that the one kid’s story that I’ve ever written–“Princess Cara and the Yellow Dragon”–was primarily dictated to me by Cara one night when she couldn’t sleep, i.e. she told me what the story was about, and I remembered it/later wrote it down.

But lately, escape hasn’t been so easy.  I’ve had to resort to more drastic tactics, i.e. paraphrasing pre-existing, silly stories to satiate her. My best was “Finding Nemo.” “Once upon a time, there lived a fish named Marlin. He had a son named, Nemo. One day, Nemo got tired of Marlin’s overprotective attitude toward him and he swam out, into open water to touch a ‘butt,’ which was, in all actuality, a boat. Nemo was captured by a diver named P Sherman who took him back to a dentist’s office on Wallaby Lane in Sydney, Australia, where he was to become a birthday present for the dentist’s sadistic niece, Darla (good thing Cara doesn’t know what “sadistic” means, huh?). But Marlin had other plans. He set out on a grand adventure, side-by-side with his short-term memory impaired friend, Dory, to rescue or, ‘find’ Nemo, hence the title, ‘Finding Nemo.’ Along the way, they met a shark named Bruce, a school of Bluefish that sounded distinctly like the piggy bank from ‘Toy Story’ and the Abominable Snowman from ‘Monster’s Inc.’ They tangled with jelly fish and rode the East Australian Current on the back of a 175 year old sea turtle named Crush. After an epic adventure, they felled Darla with the help of a pelican named Nigel, saved or ‘found’ Nemo, and returned home to the coral reef upon which they existed. Thereafter, they lived happily, ever after. The End.”

Not bad, huh? You can probably tell that I’ve seen that movie once or twice (try two dozen times, at least; I’ve about perfected Bruce’s voice). Silly, right? I was quite proud of myself. But Cara’s reaction as I tried to escape quickly brought me crashing back down to earth.

“Thanks, Daddy. I know that story, already. Crush was 150, not 175.”

You can probably guess what happened next:

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You know that when Lieutenant Worf… hell, when any Klingon Facepalms it’s bad. Real bad. I think my face turned as red as Lucy the Fish’s skin (in truth, she’s more of a deep pink but she’s close enough to red for the reference). That night, I exited her room a defeated man. I resolved myself to futility. I sought solace at the bottom of a glass of Swiss Farms Tea Cooler… and I didn’t take a Metformin before I drank it. I know: I’m a f*cking rebel. What can I say? I was out of Scotch. Ah, who am I kidding? I can barely stomach Scotch straight at this juncture. Three sips and my head’s spinning faster than Marlin and Dory did upon being ejected from the EAC.

It was hopeless, I understood. I’ll never be able to tell Cara a silly story, I thought as I savored the damp, tea and lemon flavored goodness that remained in my flavor saver, i.e. my mustache. It was then–as the luscious drops of sugary goodness siphoned down from my upper lip to my tongue and a few landed on my t-shirt–that I decided to act. I will not be defeated, I determined, not by the whims of an almost four year old and CERTAINLY not by something that is supposed to be a strength of mine, i.e. storytelling. I WILL come up with a silly story to tell her. I WILL SUCCEED…! 

By my best reckoning, that was about a month ago. In the intervening time since, I’ve written 82+ pages of CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD and multiple blog entries both here on “Random Musings” and over on the ENDWORLD site. I’ve read and written two book reviews. I’ve composed a thousand emails to my customers and my vendors about everything from pumps to motors to pump to motor adapters. But to this day? I still have not come up with a silly story to tell Cara pre-bedtime. That ends now. The reason for this blog entry is to hash out a decent, silly story to tell her before she goes to bed, tonight. I don’t have a lot of time, so I don’t expect that it’ll be a very long silly story, but then again, the longer the story the more time I have to spend trying to coax her to sleep and not popping Metformin/drinking Swiss Farms Tea Cooler while I ruminate on just what the hell Free Caymen looks like (Free Caymen = A location referenced in ENDWORLD – A Novel and seen in CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD). I’ll stop there lest I give away something crucial, i.e. “spoilers.”

So here goes. It needs to be about a topic that Cara likes. Right now, Cara loves the Disney Princesses, so I’ll start there:

Once upon a time, there lived, in the kingdom of Enchantia (stolen from “Sofia the First”), every Disney Princess: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Rapunzel, Tiana and Merida, not to mention Princess Leia (forthcoming, I hope) and Nita from ‘Brother Bear 2’ (what can I say? Cara loves Nita. Creative license. Please, Disney, don’t sue me). Their lives were wonderful, and the kingdom was big enough for all of them and their husbands (or, in Merida’s case, her bow and arrow).

One day, they were all sitting down over a Cajun feast, prepared for them by Prince Naveen when Merida–always the troublemaker–brought up the idea of doing something different for once.  Initially, the princesses deigned to entertain her idea. Their respective existences were fine. They liked only having to show up for work every time someone at Disney got it in his or her head to either A.) Make a direct to DVD sequel or B.) Have Princess Sofia the First call for help, leading to a guest spot on her television show. And their husbands enjoyed their respective, simple existences after their complicated, pre-Enchantia lives (see: The Beast and Aladdin/Prince Ali).

But Merida was undaunted. “I want to have an adventure!” she exclaimed, and tossed her gumbo across the table. Sadly, it hit smallish bear Koda in the face but the little cub didn’t care: He loved gumbo and lopped it all up.

Despite the fact that the other princesses were happy with their respective, partial retirements in Enchantia, they knew that the only way they’d ever get Merida to calm down and not have her personal witch/wood cutter hex them all and turn them into bears was to appease her. So they agreed to go along with Merida’s request. At least until they were summoned to fulfill one of their two, post-partial retirement duties.

“Hey,” Kenai and Nita said suddenly, “being a bear isn’t that bad.”

The other princesses and princes told biggish bear and his lady-friend to keep their yaps closed. Other than Koda, they were the only bears in Enchantia, and the movie that had brought them together–“Brother Bear 2”–wasn’t even the original one. It was a direct to DVD sequel, albeit a superior sequel to the sub-par, original “Brother Bear.” This caused Kenai and Nita, as well as Koda to quiet down as had been requested of them, for they knew, deep down in their hearts that they were not really a part of the accepted, Disney canon. They silently slinked away from the dinner table and went off on their own. No one knew where or what they were up to. Nor did anyone pay their departure a second thought.

“Okay then, Merida,” Snow White said, “what did you have in mind?”

Pause. Not a bad start, and I hammered it out pretty quickly, which gives me hope that I might actually have this done by nine PM tonight. Now for their adventure. What does Cara like doing? Other than dressing up and playing Disney Princess, she enjoys playing with Natalie, going to the park, ballet, gymnastics, watching/playing “Puss in Boots…”

Bam! “Playing ‘Puss in Boots.'” Puss in Boots is a well known fairy tale. Cara loves fairy tales. Time to continue:

Merida folded her arms across her chest and blew the strand of red, curly hair that had fallen over her forehead out of her face, “I think we should break into teams of two couples each, one old princess and one new one, randomly select a traditional fairy tale and go experience what happens in it,” she said, “we’ll put them all in Aladdin/Prince Ali’s turban, and each pick one. Then, we’ll petition the Disney writers to create a scenario for us in it. Then we’ll do it, come back here, and compare notes.”

All the other princesses and princes agreed that it was an equitable, albeit somewhat far-fetched solution. Why not just go on a road trip, they thought, or maybe ask for a spot in the next “Epic Mickey” video game? But no one questioned Merida, for no one wanted to be turned into a bear. They placed a handful of fairy tales in Aladdin/Prince Ali’s turban, and one by one, the princesses selected.

Snow White and Prince Charming teamed with Tiana and Naveen and selected “The Three Little Pigs.” Cinderella and her Prince teamed with Rapunzel and Eugene and selected “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Aurora and Phillip teamed with Mulan and Li Shang and selected “Peter and the Wolf.” Ariel and Eric teamed with Pocahontas and John Smith and selected “The Gingerbread Man.” Belle and the Beast teamed with Jasmine and Aladdin/Prince Ali and selected “The Ugly Duckling” and lastly, Merida teamed with Princess Leia and selected “Little Red Riding Hood.”

“What about Kenai, Nita and Koda?” Princess Leia asked, “shouldn’t they be included?”

The other princesses shook their heads, “Nita’s not really a Disney Princess. Besides, they’re bears, not people.” Princess Leia thought about crying out that bears are people too which, if you’ve ever seen “Brother Bear” and/or “Brother Bear 2” you know is true. But she didn’t. She kept her yap shut. She was still only a trial princess, after all. And she wanted so badly to be accepted as a part of the Disney canon, especially since her husband, Han Solo, had opted to go and try to break his own, personal record of making the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs with his fuzzball of a side kick, Chewbacca and his scoundrel of a friend, Lando, rather than stay with her in Enchantia. I’ll show him, she thought as Lumiere measured her for her red lamay, Little Red Riding Hood outfit. 

One by one, the teams went and solicited the Disney writers for their approval. Sadly, they were not given it because A.) Dreamworks held the copyrights for all the fairy tales that didn’t involve them and B.) They had all been written into the upcoming “Sofia the First,” feature length movie. Dejected, they all returned to the table around which they had been sitting, plopped down into their chairs in front of their now-cold bowls of gumbo, and lamented their loss. Actually, only Merida lamented the loss. Leia lamented the loss of her red lamay, Little Red Riding Hood outfit, but the other princesses were actually quite happy that Merida’s latest, crazy idea had fizzled out. They began to eat the last of their gumbo when…

The door to the dining hall swung open. The princesses and princes all turned and saw Kenai, Nita and Koda come purposefully marching into the room. They were all about to say something when Merida’s personal witch/wood cutter stepped out from behind them, and started laughing. Apparently, while they had been away petitioning the Disney writers to participate in Merida’s latest, hair-brained scheme, she had, at the urging of the bears, snuck in and spiked their remaining gumbo with the same magic she had once used on Merida’s mother. Within seconds, each of the princesses and their princely counterparts morphed into bears. All but Merida, who had thrown her gumbo at Koda earlier. Merida watched as her counterparts surrounded her. Afraid, she fled from the dining hall with her bow and arrow and was never seen in Enchantia again which, under normal circumstances, would have been quite a crippling loss to the Disney canon. But it wasn’t. For her selfless support of the biggish bear, his smallish brother and Nita, Princess Leia was promoted from trial princess to full-fledged, Disney Princess, and was given the color white to wear as her signature color.

In time, the bears all transformed back into princesses and princes, but they had all learned a valuable lesson. From that moment forth, they each accepted Kenai, Nita and Koda into their ranks as equals. All starred in the “Sofia the First” feature length movie, which became the highest grossing film of all time, and won not only the Best Animated Feature Oscar, but the Best Picture Oscar, as well. Eventually, Han, Chewie and Lando returned after making the Kessel Run in under 10 parsecs. They are all still living together in Enchantia to this day, happily ever after. The End.

Or is it? I’m not really sure. Something tells me that Merida’s part in the story isn’t quite finished yet. To be shunned like that by your fellow princesses? I can only imagine the pain that she’s had to endure since it happened. In my mind’s eye, I see her once again living in the Highlands of Scotland in the ruined castle of her father, her mother and her three baby brothers (who had long since relocated to eastern Australia, and were living out their lives, happily guiding “walkabouts” through the Outback). I see her sitting alone in an abandoned dining hall when suddenly, her once-personal witch/wood cutter shows up and offers her a way to repay her once-sisters and their spouses. “By doing what?” Merida asks, and the witch/wood cutter’s response? “By becoming Mordoon,” she says as she removes a familiar looking cake from behind her back and hands it to Merida. What happens next?

Well? I guess you’ll just have to get it when it goes direct to DVD.

And there you have it. What do you think? Is it a silly enough story to appease Cara’s pre-sleep desire for comedy? What’s nice about it is that it doesn’t have to end there. Maybe the princesses go back to the Disney writers and petition them again, and this time they get their wish. Part of me would really like to see Princess Leia in that red lamay, Little Red Riding Hood outfit, though instead of Merida, her partners would now be her husband, Han, his fuzzball sidekick Chewbacca and his scoundrel friend, Lando. That’s the nice thing about stories, silly or otherwise, adult or kid: They can be whatever we as writers want them to be. Whether they’re called ENDWORLD – A NovelCHILDREN OF ENDWORLD or whatever-the-hell-I-just-wrote-should-be-called, at their core, they’re all the same. They’re a product of our experiences and our imagination. Whether you’re me, Nicole, Cara or one of the Disney writers. Whether you’re a published, self-published or not-at-all published writer, they’re all the same. Just make sure you tell ’em well. And if you’re paraphrasing a pre-existing one? Make sure you get the details right. As Cara deftly pointed out to me a few weeks ago, there’s a big difference between being 175 and 150 years old.

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Stay thirsty, my friends. Swiss Farms Tea Cooler is two for $4.00 this week only. Get yours today.

A Sh*thead Writer’s Post-Mortem – Sizing Up The “Finished” Product

Good Morning, fellow Sh*theads! In my subjective universe that qualifies as a greeting, not an insult. If you take offense to it I apologize, but you were forewarned about Sh*theads and my definition thereof previously. For those of you that are new to “Random Musings,” or those of you that are in need of a refresher course on my psuedo-insanity, a Sh*thead is pretty much anyone that leads a relatively normal, nine to five existence, myself included. That’s it. Not exactly earth shattering, huh?

I say “relatively” because there is a gray area. Take me, for example. I have a full time job. I am a homeowner. I have a wife, two human children and two feline ones. I have favorite television shows and movies, favorite books and websites. I kinda’ have a bedtime though lately, that bedtime has fluctuated between roughly 10:30 PM and 1:30 AM. I occasionally drink and catch a smoke. Normal, right?

On the surface? Yes. But beneath the surface, my life is anything but normal. I’m trying to complete and publish a novel. I’m grappling with certain events that are poised to transpire within the next few weeks–events which I will not go into on this blog. There are some things about me that I don’t mind putting out there… out here for the world to see but others? They are for me, and me alone to contend with. That said…

My always perplexed mind has been highly preoccupied these last few weeks. I wouldn’t say “vexed.” I don’t know that I’m vexed by anything but preoccupied? Most definitely. You see, this whole novel writing, rewriting, re-rewriting and re-re-rewriting process has been equal parts invigorating and taxing. Invigorating because I’m doing what I love with a story idea that remains as much a part of my heart, soul and mind as my wife and my children. But taxing because so much has changed since I originally wrote ENDWORLD – A Novel almost two decades ago. Getting back into the mind(s) of the character(s) is, at times, incredibly difficult.

Consider: The novel’s protagonist, William MacNuff is an 18 year old kid on the run from the totalitarian society which holds him, his family, and everyone else under its proverbial boot heel. I’m a 37 year old father staring down 38 with equal parts dread and… well, just dread, living in a democratic society. The fact that the society that William inhabits is a machine run one is not beyond me. The fact that I’ve gone hard-core dystopic and layered in another, more ambitious story on top of (or beneath, depending on your perspective) the original story is not lost on me, either. I know the risk that I am taking, not just with what many would consider outdated subject matter(s) but with scope. Aspiring writers simply don’t write about post-apocalyptic worlds run by robots anymore, and they sure as f*ck don’t write about alternate realities. As for a synthesis of the two? I don’t know that it’s ever been done before. Asimov’s days as a top of the chart author are long past, as is Asimov (RIP), and Multiverse Theory? It is a subject generally left to the Stephen Hawking’s and Michio Kaku’s of the world.

Nowadays? Aspiring authors write about vampires and witches, werewolves and zombies. I hold nothing against them. I would never hold anything against anyone that is trying to perfect and profit from their art. We’re all the same, deep down inside “in places we don’t like to talk about at parties.” (Nicholson? Booyakasha. Respect). You, me, Asimov and Meyer? One. Just because I prefer “Foundation” to the “Twilight” series doesn’t mean that “Twilight” sucks. Look at how much money it’s made. Obviously someone out there likes Edward and Bella’s story. But my tastes remain traditional, reared in the same kind of subject matter that I grew up reading, back when vampires were of the Bram Stoker variety, witches had green skin and black, pointy hats, werewolves were played by Michael Landon (RIP) and “The Walking Dead” wasn’t even a glint in Robert Kirkman’s eye.

Still, there is the problem of a 37 going on 38 year old writing an 18 year old’s story. In the First Person, no less. I thought I’d left things like teen angst and naivete far behind me. But the process of re, re, re… re-imagining ENDWORLD – A Novel has forced me to reexamine it and let me tell you something, guys: Its f*cked up. Really. I’ll admit, I’ve grown quite complacent in my “old” age. It’s been a while since I felt the same kind of emotions that I used to feel back then. That’s not a bad thing, nor is it something that I miss. Far from it: It’s mental evolution, otherwise known as “growing up.” But I can honestly and truthfully say that I believe the book works on many levels as both a testimony to that era of mine and most people’s lives and a testimony to the things and the people that inspire me, presently. Nicole? Cara? Natalie? ‘Dorna and Roxy? Booyakasha. Respect. I love you all.

Others will disagree–it’s inevitable–but I feel confidant that the story that I set out to write originally at 18–back when I and my brethren lived on a two square mile plot of prison ground that we endearingly referred to as “Oz” and no one lived anyplace else–is well-preserved within the framework of the story that I ended up writing at 36 and 37. There’s still an echo of my original motivation… my original concept of an “Autobiographical Fiction” in it, but it’s only an echo. One of Pat McClane’s ethereal “haints.” Like randomly hearing a song that you haven’t heard in a couple of decades and smiling, despite the fact that the person you were… the person who once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such…

…attached so much significance to said song no longer exists as anything other than a memory: A fading, mental picture of a lovelorn, pre-adult who set out to fictionalize in words the life he wanted to live because he was disenchanted with the one that he was living. That ripped and yellowing picture? It was captioned “Endworld.” ENDWORLD – A Novel, though? It’s a JPEG. And while I still have a soft spot in my heart for the old, captioned picture that I keep right here and right here 

[POINTS SIMULTANEOUSLY TO HIS HEART AND HEAD]

…despite its physical, nonexistence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of being, it is no longer relevant. That’s not to say that the JPEG is. I’ll let the people that chose to read ENDWORLD – A Novel decide that. What’s the worst that can happen? I put it out there, people read it and hate it? Not everyone is going to like it. Hell, not all of my Beta readers liked it though in my defense, very few have yet read what I hope will be the final, final draft. Any of you reading this right now that are afraid of what my reaction will be if you read it and tell me that it stinks take heart: You can. Me = Mentally strong like bull. My ego is lead-lined. Or Black Shale lined if you’re an ex-pat member of the People’s Rebellion for Freedom and Equality (PRFE for short). But I digress. I don’t want to give away too much, too soon. That said…

It’s a gray and dreary afternoon here on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. The wind is howling, the rain is falling and soon, said rain will begin transitioning to snow. You’ve gotta’ love a good winter storm–this one is called “Saturn.” I hope the snow holds off until after I’ve picked up my girls from school and gotten them home safely. I hope it holds off until my wife gets home securely from work later this evening. I don’t really mind a winter storm so long as I’m home for its duration and not out in the middle of it. It puts me in mind of a scene from the planned sequel to ENDWORLD – A NovelCHILDREN OF ENDWORLD. In it, the protagonist, William MacNuff has been reunited with his brethren after… well, just after (no spoilers, especially when only a handful of people have read the first book and no one save for me has read what I hope will be the final, final draft). They sit down around a makeshift table in a makeshift tent in the middle of a raging blizzard to eat a “feast” which, by the minimalist and rationing-influenced standards of the PRFE is little more than the proverbial equivalent of bread and water. But the quantity of food available is not the essence of this scene. As the meal progresses, William is brought up to speed on all that he has missed in the last X-amount of X’s. It is, hand’s down, one of if not the most lighthearted scenes, written or planned in what was once called THE ENDWORLD CHRONICLE. And it remains my favorite, written or planned.

The kicker? It’s a past meets present kinda’ scene. Archetypes of my past turned elements of William’s sit down with archetypes of mine and William’s shared “present.” And despite an initial aversion to each other eventually? They are talking and laughing like old friends. That scene? I like to think that it is metaphorical of my life at this juncture: A healthy dose of the present, influenced occasionally by the past. Why? Because as the Captain of the USS Enterprise once said…

 

Sometimes, being a Sh*thead writer is not enough. Sometimes, you just gotta’ turn to Jean Luc Picard for the right words. Not to mention Will Riker’s reply:

“Speak for yourself, sir. I intend to live forever.”

A healthy dose of cockiness? Will sh*t, guys. That never hurts, either. Stay safe out there, fellow Sh*theads.