Mark Kistler Says This Will Be Great Practice (And I Hope He Is Right; Also, I Feel Completely Worn Out)


What you’re seeing here is a pencil tracing of the David to study the human form. Tracing old masters is a suggested exercise in a drawing book I got.

I am worn out because I’ve been parenting my children constantly. They have to break some really disrespectful habits, and it’s exhausting to follow through every second to train them into having manners. (!!!) Have you ever needed to follow through every three seconds on a kid? Geesh.

Good/Bad Writing Example

Good Writing

I really didn’t expect Leora to turn out so badly when I built her. I mean, she was only going to be a kind of permanent housekeeper and moving statuary, and I thought I might use her to hand round the tea from time to time when I had guests. You know, a sort of robot maid who looked pretty.

I worked really hard on her exterior, and didn’t skimp at all for materials. I expected her to last forever, or at any rate for a good three thousand years or so, and I wanted her to be a sort of family heirloom to pass down. I had no intention of the future Mrs. Drefán objecting to the machine on the grounds of it being poorly built or anything like that, so once I’d perfected the insides and finished obsessing over the outsides, I turned on Leora for the first time.

Boy, did that ever go badly for the human race.

Bad Writing

[I wrote a bad example of this passage, guys, but it’s so bad that I won’t share it with you. It was abhorrent. Shudder-worthy. Yicky.]

And Now…

Well, here’s what comes next for Diana:



Stuart grinned and took his time getting his mouth pressed against Diana, who took a brief vacation from taking care of both of them in light of their captivity and turned herself over for excellent kisses, which Stuart gave her in great numbers.

“Mm, now more talking,” Diana said at last, stroking along Stuart’s chest.

“But then we can talk and snuggle after I do the dishes, right? I could hold you in bed?” Stuart asked, planting a few ‘let’s kiss more instead of talking’ sorts of overtures along her cheek with his mouth.

“Nope. I’m not sleeping with you, Stu. So how do you and your dad communicate, if you don’t talk?” Diana asked, squirming free of Stuart’s reluctant-to-let-go arms and leaning back against the table. Stuart cast a few come-hither glances at Diana, mixed together with a couple of endearing sighs, and when neither brought her back to his embrace, he grumbled and started the dishes.

“Well, he just expects things, and then I do them, and if he’s happy with me, I can tell, and if he’s mad at me, he slams things around or takes my car so I’ll be stranded. I’m not allowed to drive his, or his truck,” Stuart said.

“What things does he expect you to do?” Diana asked.

“Oh, chores. Homework for my cousins,” Stuart said, sounding as if he was prepared to go on and impart a hefty list.

“You do homework for your cousins? Why?” Diana interrupted.

“They don’t want to and my dad gets really mad if their grades drop, so he expects me to help them, but they refuse to do any of the work, so if they have significant projects or any assignments they don’t think are any fun, I do it and they turn it in,” Stuart said.

“Wow,” Diana said.

“Their homework isn’t hard, and Cynthie got serious about having money and a good job, so she does her own work now. It’s just Beamer and Jox, and they have kid stuff. My dad doesn’t care if they learn anything, because he’ll just have them join one of his roofing crews when they’re older. They’ll probably live with him until he dies, honestly, unless they get grown up and want kids or something, but even then my dad would just try to get the girlfriends or wives to move in. That’s what he intends for me,” Stuart said.

“Ew,” Diana said.

“Yeah, I know. My plan was to get out to college and then just—find a way to disappear. I hate my dad,” Stuart said.

“You said you loved him before,” Diana pointed out.

“Yeah, but that was before we talked about all this other stuff, and my mom. I’m kind of glad my mom’s dead, sometimes, because my dad never stopping coming after her. So it’s nice that she’s free,” Stuart said.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the former military man has waxed poetic about his currently long-distance girlfriend (and is telling the others about her financial genius). : ) (I’m having fun writing this part!)


So Far January Is *Phenomenal* (And I Feel Excited!)

sketch 135

Pencil sketch of a Saroyan merchant’s wastrel son for you to enjoy. My excitement is about some long-awaited developments in my personal life that are sort of thrilling. Have you ever worked on a relationship for ages and then finally turned the corner and reaped the rewards? That’s what I’m excited about right now. Boo-yah!

Good/Bad Writing Example

Good Writing About A Fantasy Murder Mystery:

My dad was scheduled for his renewal shot last week, but he didn’t take it. His housekeeper went in early in the morning and he’d taken the charm off and was lying like a piece of waxwork in his bed. She said it looked like he’d pretty much killed himself the night before, sometime in the evening, and had been gradually sinking back towards his start-age since then. I say ‘killed himself’ because it was very clear from the way the room was set up, according to the municipal investigation, that no one had taken his Lyfe4Ever charm off, and that he’d pulled it away and set it aside himself. Which sucks.

I mean, not only is my dad—was—not only was my dad my daycare replacement—and thanks for leaving me in the lurch without any warning like that, dad—but the Lyfekeepers instigated an evaluation on our entire family, to see if anyone else was in danger of—in their words—”Wasting our investment.”

So, thanks to my dad, I not only now have to pay triple rates to a last-minute nanny for two weeks until the nearest daycare slot opens up, but I have a really obnoxious gnome following me around at work, taking my emotional temperature and applying mood-evaluations every three hours. This sucks.

And—and, he didn’t even leave a note. I haven’t started crying or exhibiting grief yet, which is making my Lyfe gnome really suspicious. I’m too angry to feel sad. Maybe after things calm down, I guess, but—yeah. Right now I’m just really, really angry.

TERRIBLE, Bad Writing (Don’t read this; it’s sooo bad!)

Seriously, this is awful.

My poor, dear, wandering-minded father, in his absence of acuity, laid aside the magical charm keeping him alive past his natural due-date with the Grim reaper. I’m, like, upset about it. It’s only really a bad thing, since I assume he’s in a better place now, because, well, my kids miss dear old grandpa. It is really inconvenient that my father didn’t let me know he was likely to get absent-minded and die of lack of magic last week, because he was scheduled to babysit my little boys for two different double-shifts, but I just can’t get over how sad the whole thing is.

I had a mom, too, but she’s across the world having an adventure and she will certainly come home in time for the funeral, poor guy, there isn’t much to bury.

The guys at the Lyfe plant say his original death day was scheduled, before intervention, sometime about a couple hundred years ago, and he shouldn’t have expired for another three thousand. They’re pretty mad about the way the magic dissipated, since he left the charm unfastened after he had taken it off and let the magic dribble out on his bedstand, which also made the housekeeper really angry, too. She was mad, too, and the furniture dealer who said he’d auction the house contents for us this month, because they were all mad that the magic basically melted a big yellow hole in the bedstand, which would have been worth some money otherwise.

It was a good funeral. Everyone said nice things about him, and several among the viewing party cried tears down their faces and wore black, but not everybody because Cousin Tammy is really tacky and wore a loud sundress.

(Blerg, that was the worst bit of writing I’ve done for months or years and now I feel like I need to wash my hands or something. Yech.)

Not That You Want My Excuses, But I’ve Had Poor-to-no Internet The Last Four Days

Ergo, the temporary lack of posting. But here we are again, and now let’s find out together what happens next to Diana!


Diana’s Diagnosis

“I don’t like either of those things. I’m sure there are, like, more than two options for things being screwed up between me and my dad,” Stuart said.

“Are you suggesting that your dad has psychologically erased your gender in his treatment of you as a functional spouse?” Diana asked.

“Oh my gosh! Stop talking like that!” Stuart said, blushing wildly.

“Nope. I won’t. If you need some help getting to a place where you can ask me for help in fixing on one option or the other, you should say something like, ‘Diana, help me,’ or words in that vein. I respond well to polite appeals for assistance,” Diana said.

Stuart stared at her.

“Di, will you help me?” Stuart asked.

“Sure. How does your dad talk to you?” Diana asked.

Stuart, for the first time, started to think about this.

“Um,” he said. Diana came over to start the dishes, as Stuart was looking not at all prepared to turn on the water, and he frowned and blocked her from reaching the sink. “I’m doing them,” he said, looking quite territorial.

“You were standing there and saying ‘Um.’ If you’re going to do them, be my guest. Answer my question,” Diana said.

“Well, it’s hard to say how my dad speaks to me because we don’t really talk,” Stuart said, staring at the plates and failing to turn on the water, as he had lost himself in thought. Diana reached past him and Stuart uttered a soft noise of disapproval and started the water. “Stop pushing. I want to do the dishes,” he said, in genuinely the softest and gentlest voice she had ever heard out of him. Diana felt this tone required a reward, and pulled Stuart around to face her before snuggling in against his chest.

Stuart, who had been on the verge of snipping at Diana for getting handsy, changed in an instant into his most cuddly self and nuzzled in a hopeful manner against her cheek, as if to say, ‘May I steal a kiss, fair one?’

“Mm-hm,” Diana said, nuzzling Stuart back.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the banker is set to meet a very old friend from high school. He feels about ready to throw up with nerves.

A Mnemonic Chart for the Fresh Year (Today I Feel . . . Bubbly)


to be pneu 2

This is a mnemonic sketch I made to help me remember the punctation of that super famous Hamlet speech. You might like looking at it, because it’s like a busy map of scrawls. I’m bubbly because I’m taking risks in my personal life, and according to one of my latest fortune cookies, they will pay off. You’ve gotten great prognostications from fortune cookies before, right? : )

Good/Bad Writing Example

Good Writing

Seth was obsessed with himself, Georgia reflected with a sour and jealous heart. She’d set up a high-powered telescope in her parents’ attic and had been spying on Seth for nigh on three months now. She knew everything about him that a person could know from a view of one-fifth of Seth’s bedroom, and Georgia was determined to break through his wall of isolation and pure loneliness and get into the excellent boyfriend material she suspected hid within the pleasing exterior of Seth Mumbano.

I’m going to get you, Georgia told herself for the fifteenth time that week, peering through her telescope at Seth, who was making muscular poses at himself in the mirror.

Two weeks later, Georgia made her first move. Having commissioned the local artsy guy to compose several odes to masculine beauty and fineness of character, Georgia signed one of these pieces with her own name and dropped it inside Seth’s locker. She repeated this treatment over the course of five days, and on the sixth day, which was a Saturday, she presented herself at Seth’s front door.

“Oh, that was you?” Seth demanded, his face glowing with the positive effects five days’ worth of poetic admiration had wrought in him.

“Yes, and now I want to ask you on a date,” Georgia said, the eager glint of the entrepreneur in her eyes.

“Oh, I haven’t time for a girlfriend, Miss Eupan. I have to go on being—um, ‘as earnest in self-worship as God’s gentle lily, springing with perfections from the field.’ That’s one of my favorite lines, Miss Eupan. Keep up the excellent work. I’m sure you’ll be published someday, and I’ll come and sign all your books with you, since I’m your—ah, ‘muse of every hour, and angelic dream through every night.’ Brilliant writing, Miss Eupan. I look forward to next week’s efforts,” Seth said, and he shut the door in her face.

Georgia glowered at the door and told herself that Seth was a shallow, irritating turd.

“Phooey,” she muttered, kicking at a loose pebble on the front walk, and she went home and restored the telescope to its original home in the study before going out to the public pool to scan for a worthier target of her romantic ambitions.

Bad Writing

Georgia Eupan, who had grown up in the regular way and suffered two broken arms, though at different times, was occupied for a long time with butterflies. She collected them and pinned them to little pieces of cardboard, and when the science fair came and went, she had a blue ribbon for ‘Best Improved in Science’ for her efforts.

Georgia often went to a local roller skating rink and circled the big wooden oval with her friends, Margery and Celeste, who loved horses more than anything. Georgie also liked to go to the library. Sometimes she would spend a whole two hours sitting in the library and reading a book. She was a regular bookworm, and kept up with all the new arrivals in the young adult section of the library. She even made friends with Agatha Morise, the part-time librarian who repaired torn children’s books with that special tape for the library-edition picture books. Georgia would try to check out in Agatha’s line whenever she was able. They were good friends. Sometimes they talked about books.

When Georgia got older, her father got a new job and they moved houses. Georgia did not like her new room. It looked out on the backyard and there was a tree that cast shade in the summer and looked bare and cold in the window. Georgie did not enjoy her new bedroom one bit. It seemed less to her than her first bedroom had been in the house she’d grown up in until the point when she moved. They were still in the neighborhood, so she did not have to make new friends.

Georgia developed a crush on a boy, but he didn’t notice her at all, and when she tried to get his attention with some poetry, he was just flattered and blew her off as she tried to get his attention. Georgia didn’t like the boy at all after that, and she went swimming and looked around at the boys there. Celeste had found a boyfriend and Georgia wanted one too. She’d wanted her poetry boy, but he didn’t have time for her. Georgia didn’t want to be the kind of girl who pined after a boy who didn’t care about her at all in return, so she decided to forget him and have new adventures.

Wow, That Bad One Was Wandering All Over The Place!

That was intense! Let’s find out what happens next to Diana:


The Rest of Stuart’s Explanation

“Well, those kids, my not-siblings, are all children that my dad tried to force my mom to raise. They’re the unwanted kids my aunt had because she was too lazy or something to think about what happens after sex, and the older three, Cynthie, Beamer, and Jox, are a little younger than me. Um, I’m seventeen, and Cynthie’s sixteen now. Beamer’s fourteen, and Jox is thirteen. The last one I mentioned, baby Karen, is only eight, and her mom, aunt Sammie, got her act together a few years ago and got custody of her. Sammie started dating a dentist who has his life together and wanted a kid, so Sammie used the dentist’s money and got a lawyer, and now they have Karen,” Stuart said.

“Great. I’m glad you realized they aren’t your siblings. That’s probably nice for you,” Diana said.

“Yeah! Is that enough of an explanation?” Stuart asked, looking up at the ceiling.

George appeared.

“Your turn,” the holographic alien said, looking at Diana. Stuart let out a ‘Ha!’ of victory and squirmed in his chair. Diana lifted her eyebrows at him.

“I’m an only child,” Diana said. George nodded and vanished. Stuart’s mouth dropped open.

“That’s not fair! I want to hear about your—” Stuart protested. Diana could hear that he was about to ask about her biological father, and she cut him off.

“So, there are three things we were going to work on, remember? First, we checked in to see how you felt about your mother, and then I wanted you to decide whether or not your dad spousified you as a feminine object or in a homosexual sense,” Diana said.

“You can’t say stuff like that, Di. That’s just shocking and weird,” Stuart said, shivering as he got up and carried their dishes to the sink.

“Are you performing domestic chores, Mr. McTate?” Diana asked. Stuart paused and looked around at her, his eyes narrowing with suspicion at her mild tone.

“Yeah. I live here,” Stuart said.

“This is my house,” Diana said. Stuart set the dishes down in the sink and turned to glare fully at Diana.

“Where are you going with this, Vassel?” Stuart asked.

“Are you trying to match me? Me with my interesting and therapeutic way of speaking?” Diana asked, smirking a little. Stuart let out a fragment of a snarl and then closed his eyes and took several deep and calming breaths.

“Yeah, I was doing that, actually, Di. Are you arguing that I don’t live here right now?” Stuart asked.

“Gay or feminized, Stu? I’d really like to know,” Diana repeated, a sweet and enduring smile on her face. Stuart’s face twisted with ire, and his hands curled into fists.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current book, the hunting group is going through a nuanced exercise to prepare for the last great pursuit on a distant world.

A 2019 Doodle (And I Feel Cheerful!)

sketch 136

Airbrush doodle complete with labels just for you to look at this morning. The cheeriness going about just now is because I finished some daunting tasks. You know that pleasant sensation of having won out against chaos? Have you had that feeling before? I have it now. Hopefully it lasts for a while, ’cause it feels good. Yay!

Good/Bad Writing Example

Good Writing

The magic mirror seemed like a really good investment at the time, until I unwrapped it. Man, right away it was ‘Hang me over there,’ and ‘The light is too much in this corner,’ and ‘Boy, someone needs to shave.’ It was like owning a really talkative parrot who thought I was a loser.

The brochure talked about pleasant companionship, and this was not it. I called the customer service line and they told me to do a factory reset.

“How do I do that?” I asked. Well, the lady talked me through this really complicated spell, and I hung up and tried it. Yeah, it didn’t work. Well, it did give my magic mirror what I think is an Armenian accent and a little bit of a lisp, but it certainly didn’t cut down on the chatter or the personal remarks, and let me tell you, until you’ve heard a large oval of glass tell you in an Armenian lisp that you need to do your laundry and throw out your favorite sweater because it makes you look like a pile of fuzz a caterpillar vomited, you have not experienced truly personal remarks.

I called customer service again, and they told me the same rigamarole about a factory reset spell, which I wasn’t interested in. I’d dropped a load of money on the mirror, and the company strongly discouraged refunds, so I was dogged and loud and I worked my way up the call-center food chain until I got a manager on the phone.

“Let me hear a sample,” the manager directed. I, accordingly, took my cell phone over to the mirror, which launched into a long diatribe about my awkward way of breathing too loudly. “Is that an Armenian accent?” the manager asked, sounding somewhat awestruck.

“Yes, and there’s a lisp. This thing’s been telling me for the last two days that ‘my breath thmells like thauerkraut,’ which is ridiculous. I don’t eat sauerkraut, you see,” I told her.

“No, yes, I can see how that would be irritating. Walk away from the mirror, would you?” the manager asked.

“Yeah, gladly,” I said, beating a retreat in the face of yet another lecture from the mirror on the unsatisfactory state of my eyebrows. The magic mirror had strong opinions about personal grooming, and wanted me to pluck mine. No thank you! When I was out of earshot, I told the manager to go ahead.

“Well, have you tried threatening it?” the manager asked in a soft voice.

“Pardon?” I asked, frowning across my workshop at the mirror, which, deprived of my immediate company, had taken up a lisping Armenian folk song that sounded like a tipsy lullaby.

“You know, pick up a cleaver or a really impressive hammer and wave it about near the mirror, exclaiming about your superiority as a conscious being,” the manager explained. I blinked several times, for this sounded both savage and undignified.

“That sounds very odd,” I said.

“Well, try it, and if it doesn’t solve your problem, feel free to call the help line at any time,” the manager said, and she hung up before I could protest further.

I held out for another two days until the mirror broke me. It began to make the most uncalled-for remarks about my dear mother, and in desperation I snatched up a heavy chopping knife I kept on hand for slicing toadstools and brandished it near the surface of the mirror. I thought I looked pretty silly, but the mirror, which had been describing what it theorized my mother had gotten up to the previous evening, broke suddenly off.

The silence was so welcome that I paused in my knife shaking and looked at myself in the mirror.

“Are you finished?” I asked. To my total surprise, the mirror replied in a most clear, civil tone, without a hint of an accent or a lisp.

“I’m so sorry, sir. How can I help you?” the mirror asked.

We’ve since had a fairly productive relationship. Every once in a while, my mirror starts to develop an uppity Canadian accent—I’ve no idea why—and I casually heft a large pot or a mallet near the mirror in a vaguely threatening way. That clears up the problem, and back my mirror goes to reliable, civil behavior.

Bad Writing
(This one is really, really bad!)

Theopold is the name I have given my mirror. He’s an excellent, helpful mirror, always at hand when I require a distant look at some far off party of adventurers in the wild or if I am looking up some criminal to send a creature following in the night, which is very dark. Ah, but I recall in the olden days, last year sometime, or perhaps seven months ago, when Lucy, my magic mirror, first came to live in my magical, magic den where I work magic. It’s such a magical place. I do magic there. Did I mention that it’s like a laboratory for magic? And Lucy, my magic mirror, hangs upon the wall and looks magical.

Then, about eight months ago when I first acquired Lucy—I bought Theopold at a bazaar for clever wizard-types, and they had some awesome pocket protectors there, too.

My magical pocket protector keeps all the ink away from my shirt. Oh, I am going to mention, though—and this is a really funny story, I think—but my magical pocket protector is actually just a regular plain old piece of plastic. It isn’t magical except in the way that it keeps ink out of my shirt, so that’s hilarious. Oftentimes I’ll be introducing myself at parties and I’ll say, here is my magical pocket protector, and all the admiring people wil shout, in a chorus, ‘What does it do?’

Because of course they expect that it’s magic, right? And I string them along for a little while, saying things like, ‘Look at this,’ and ‘Wait until you see!’ and then after ten minutes I reveal that it’s actually just a piece of plastic. That always goes over well.

I’m pretty much the funniest person you’ll ever meet. Ha ha. But Lucy, my mirror, I got her at a bazaar and she was hanging up in the back, behind a whole lot of other pictures and mirrors, and I dug through every one because I hate buying anything that’s at the front of the shelf—you know, one time, I purchased milk that was at the front of the refrigerated shelf in the coffee shop that’s just by my house, and—but that’s another story that I’ll have to tell some other time.

“Ah, heck, I’ll let you know now!”

The milk was expired, and when I went back to complain at the coffee shop, the person who had put the milk in in the first place had put the freshest containers all the way at the back of the line, almost like they were trying to pawn off the older stuff on guys like me. I always choose my milk from the back of whatever stack is there, and everything else, pretty much.

I got Lucy at the bazaar and she’s the best mirror. I use her all the time to find criminals or look up distant scenes for adventure groups I’m supposed to be helping from afar in my magic, magic workshop.

And Now!

The good example was a lot of fun, but wow, that mess with Lucy/Theopold made me tired! Did the inconsistency bother you? Here is what comes next for our Diana adventure:


A Useful Epiphany

“You asked for the names of people in my family, and I’ve been including way too many people, because they aren’t my siblings at all. They’re my cousins and awkward foster people that were forced on me. I’m sure I’d like them fine if we’d actually been cousins, but I pretty much hate all four of them, those three and then baby Karen. I hate what they did to my family,” Stuart said.

He glanced up at Diana, his expression darkening.

“Are you going to tell me all that crap people say about how it wasn’t their fault and they didn’t ask for it?” Stuart demanded. Diana shook her head, spearing another purple cube. “How come? Everyone says stupid garbage like that,” Stuart said, looking brooding and irritable.

“That was really disgusting of your dad to do that to your mom,” Diana commented.

“Yeah! Yeah, it was. I used to hate my dad, you know, before my mom died. Everything got kind of—twisted around, I guess, after she was gone. Just—my insides went dark, and my dad was still there, you know?” Stuart asked, wiping suddenly at his eyes, as if to keep back the hint of tears, though he wasn’t crying yet.

“I don’t mind, Stu,” Diana said.

“What?! What does that mean?” Stuart asked.

The hologram of George appeared between their plates.

“Normal circumstance, we remove the companion for violent intent,” George said, looking at Diana.

“No, he’s fine. He’s processing grief. That’s a violent emotion. He’s mad at his father, and he’s sad,” Diana told the small white figure of an alien, which nodded and disappeared.

“Are you handling them the way you’re working your way around me?” Stuart asked, sniffling a little and scrubbing a hand over his face.

“They wanted to hear about that list of people you gave me, Stu. Finish that,” Diana said. Stuart, to her surprise, nodded and let out a heavy sigh.

“Okay. Finishing things is important, I guess,” Stuart said. It was the first time he’d shown positive forward motion in an emotional sense, with the effort coming from inside his deep self, and Diana was tempted to stand up and do a little victory dance. Her heart raced with excitement and she kept her face calm as she munched on the purple fruit chunks.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current book, the unhatched man is nearing the moment of crisis (meaning he’s about to come to life).

A New Year’s Thrilling Lateral Study of Leg Muscles (I’m Very Tired Right Now!)

side leg

Pencil study for your delight and visual consumption. My tiredness is from doing a whole lot of interpersonal management at my day job. Do you ever feel like you’re running around and cleaning up after other people’s feelings? Yeesh! I feel that way just now, and I’m worn out! (yawn, stretch, etc.)

Good/Bad Writing Example

Good Writing

Uncle Rick got on my case after I turned twenty-seven. Get married, uncle Rick said. Leave me alone, I told uncle Rick, but he wouldn’t lay off. Every Thanksgiving and every Easter, there he was lowering at me like a vulture from an octogenarian nightmare, letting quips about my unrealized heirs float about the dinner table. When the little kids ran around during the egg hunt, uncle Rick would sidle over to me and drop intimations about the sorrow of an unfulfilled and lonely old age that awaited me if I didn’t get busy and find a partner to start with producing a baby. The whole thing got really tiresome, particularly when my mother started flipping her eyebrows around and making ‘Hm!’ noises to indicate that she endorsed these messages, so I got my old pal from high school, Janet, to put some temporary blue dye through her hair and get some of those joke cigarettes from a gimmick shop.

Well, Janet came with me to one Thanksgiving and one Easter, talking loudly about her plans to start a marijuana dispensary and drive a weed van over state lines to deal to desperate people where it wasn’t legal yet, along with her elaborate designs for matching full-body wedding tattoos when we eventually got married, and when I saw that uncle Rick consistently turned a faint shade of green at the very sight of Janet and her excessively loud yellow plastic purse bursting with expired bottles of milk and fake cigarettes, I held a war council with Janet and announced to my mother that we were thinking of trying for a baby.

Well, the end of the story is that uncle Rick went behind my back to pay Janet off with a bribe to go away, and she split the money with me and gleefully broke off our engagement, and now uncle Rick looks at me with actual relief when he sees that I have appeared at yet another family holiday without a partner on my arm. Score one for me, and also, my mother no longer flips her eyebrows at me in a meaningful manner. Score two for me, really.

Bad Writing

“Oh, my nephew,” Rick intoned, puffing at his favorite stinky pipe as we watched the toddlers jog over the lawn in search of brightly hued plastic eggs during the same festival egg hunt family party extravaganza shindig party we had every year, “you will, I promise, regret not getting a little family started on your own account when you’re an old man like me.”

He sighed, settling his forty-two-year-old shoulders with importance near my weedy and barely twenty-seven frame.

“Yes, yes, you’ll regret not using these early years of your life to find a woman, settle down. How many dates have you been on. My nephew, I tell you, in all my time on this green Earth I have observed by one thing, in the end, and that one thing is taht when you’re young and youth has not yet passed you completely, that springtime of your early period is the time to spring into action and look for a mate to your life, to solace you in your soon old age and weathered years, and here I see you yet again, without a date. Perfect first date, dear nephew. She could look on these fair little ones and imagine her own kids running around on this very lawn. Ah, youth,” uncle Rick said with an impressive finish.

He puffed at his pipe. The children yelled and ran, looking delightful. Time passed and uncle Rick didn’t say anything else.

I wandered away to help little Lucy find the egg that was up in a tree.

Whew, That Bad Example Stank!

Writing bad prose on purpose is highly educational, and sharpens your natural style. Have you ever tried to write badly on purpose? Try a sentence or two; it’s both fun and somewhat relieving to write garbage intentionally! And now, our journey with Diana continues in the next installment:


Stuart’s Heritage Cont’d

“So my dad said it was time we helped out, by which he really meant that my mom had just become an unwilling babysitter, since he was blocking her from getting a job and I was still at home. I’m my parents only bio-kid that they share, though my dad’s had three others now with girlfriends,” Stuart said.

“Really? I didn’t know that,” Diana said, pushing a plate heaped with cut purple fruit towards Stuart, who came and sat at the table.

“Yeah. Yeah, I haven’t actually met any of them. He always—sorry, this sounds pretty coarse, but it’s what happens. He knocks up his girlfriend of the moment by accident, he claims, and then only goes out to see the kid with the mom and plays happy families and daddy of the year a couple times a month for each of them. I’ve only seen pictures of the younger two. I’ve never seen evidence of the oldest one, but my dad—well, my mom told me that the mom is Asian and the baby looks mixed-race, and so she said my dad doesn’t want his parents to know about that kid because they’re hard-core racist about anyone from Asia. The middle one is half-Black, but my dad parades pictures of him around like nobody’s business. It’s really gross,” Stuart said.

“I’m sorry your dad sucks so much,” Diana said.

“Yeah, he’s pretty awful. Um, but he didn’t have those other three kids until later. I was explaining about aunt Sammie’s kids, and how they got absorbed into my family. So I was five, and aunt Sammie had had the first four of her kids by then. The oldest one, cousin Reynold, had been adopted pretty permanently into my grandma’s house, and she saw after him, but after Sammie had another kid,” Stuart said, sticking a fork into his purple fruit and taking a bite.

He chewed for a moment and sighed before he went on.

“When Sammie had another, and another, and another, grandma Vinnie put her foot down and said she wasn’t opening up a daycare for unwanted babies, and she wouldn’t do more than one or two stints of every-once-in-a-while babysitting for any of the other kids when they came. So the first baby, cousin Reynold, belonged to grandma Vinnie, and then the three next Sammie babies, Cynthie, Beamer, and Jox, bounced around my aunts and uncles’ houses for several years and then they all came and lived with us after my parents got divorced. My dad said we had to help, and my mom didn’t have the money to leave, or a way to take care of me, and court was taking forever for child support and all the shady crap my dad was pulling to block my mom from working, so my mom became the de facto childcare and functional mom for these three kids in addition to me, which my mom was super, super mad about. She was pissed the whole time, and didn’t hide it. She didn’t care that they were practically orphans, and she kept arguing with my dad about taking them into foster care, or dropping them off at other relatives’ houses. Basically,” Stuart said, taking another bite and chewing in a meditative way while studying his plate.

Diana was working through her own pile of purple fruit, which she had discovered was really delicious and tasted like strawberries with a touch of lime.

“So basically, those three years of my life, from when I was five to when I was eight and my mom got out, it was just a continuous fight about these kids. My dad said that it was his house, and he had the right to bring anyone he wanted into it, and my mom tried a whole bunch of things to get rid of them, but she and my dad were divorced, and she was kind of playing the long game to make sure she didn’t screw herself over when it came to custody of me. It was just a huge mess, and there was always shouting. Anyway, she got out—why am I telling you about this?” Stuart asked, frowning up at Diana, who gestured with her fork towards the ceiling. “Oh, right. I’m explaining the list of siblings you asked for. Hey! They aren’t my siblings, though. I only have three half-siblings whom I’ve never met before,” Stuart said, his expression brightening.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current book, Mitch is terrified of the group of guys his best friend is with, but has a game attitude in the interests of sticking by his buddy.

Repetitive Sketching Practice (My Mood Is Fluctuating Between Annoyance *Mherg?!* and Confusion)

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I love the anatomy term ‘mental foramen.’ Doesn’t that sound crazy? Also ‘maxilla’ sounds like a blend between Godzilla and Max the troublesome rabbit from Rosemary Wells’ books about bunnies. Do you love the illustrations in those books? I do.

I’m confused and annoyed because there are massive amounts of stress moving through my body in a productive way. Have you ever processed hard things and felt, just, drained the whole time it’s happening? That’s where I am right now. And again, mherg?!

Good/Bad Writing Example

Good Writing

Charles was a little too interested in himself, in his mother’s opinion. He was a well-grown youth of fifteen, admired by many young women of the same age and popular among the boys and yet, to his mother’s dismay, he went on ignoring the school dances that came and went like so many unreaped flowers in the metaphorical field of life.

“He’s just a late bloomer,” Charles’ father said, when Charles’ mother appealed to him to have a man-to-man chat with the child about dating.

“He’s too young for girls, mom. He’s practically an infant,” Charles’ older sister Susanna explained, when Charles’ mother opined about his lack of a social life over the phone.

“Just tell him you’ll take his allowance away if he won’t date,” Charles’ little brother Judd exclaimed when he overheard his mother explaining the issue to a neighbor.

Hm, Charles’ mother thought, and she put the scheme into practice that very evening.

“But mooom!” Charles complained, and within a week, he had miraculously produced a girlfriend.

Ha, Charles’ mother said to herself with a resounding sense of victory, and she restored the monetary largesse with a peaceful heart and gloried in the muted grumblings of her fifteen-year-old middle son, who was now dragged out of the house and into social outings at least three times a week by his new lady friend.

Bad Writing

Charles was a bunch like an antisocial teenager, sitting in his room and spending all his time on his gaming system. He had few dates, and his mom was so angry that she complained to the whole family and to the neighbors, and even to her best friend in Milwaukee about how Charles was probably never going to get going and pursue romance, which she was not pleased at all about, and was in fact upset about. She felt unhappy, and a dark cloud of ‘what if he never finds love’ was a constant gloomy refrain in his concerned parents’ minds, since his mom kept telling his dad that it was a problem.

Then there was a school dance and Charles went, by himself, but he went, and then his mom decided he problem wasn’t as bad as she had thought and she let go of it, and he went to college and had too many girlfriends, so his mom had the opposite problem of feeling that she’d pushed him out of the house too early and stunted his ability to connect in an authentic way, in his mother’s opinion. Then Charles’ sister got into drugs and his mom forgot all about his girl issues, because she was desperate about rehab and the expense, if they would swing it or fail.

Wow, Wasn’t That Bad Example TERRIBLE?

I thought it was horrendous. But let’s get to Diana, right? Here’s our next part of the journey:


Stuart’s Family Tree, for the Aliens

“So my dad was a kid, right, and he had a couple of sisters and a brother that were in his main family. There were more kids, but they were half-siblings. Um, I’ll just keep talking, and I guess you’ll—or they’ll ask questions, don’t you think, if they can’t follow anything I say?” Stuart asked.

“Yeah, just talk,” Diana said, sitting at the table in front of the large bouquet of wild blue flowers and continuing to cut up the square fruits that were reminiscent of a purple-centered watermelon.

“Okay. Right, yeah. So my dad’s parents had him and three others, but then they were married on and off to other people, so there’s a tangled mess of who’s connected to who, and how well they know each other. Um, but my dad had one little sister who got into trouble with drugs pretty young, and was mixed in with a really small-time gang. I think she was a whore sometimes, too, when she was in her twenties, but most people in my family avoid thinking about Sammie as much as they can, so I don’t know all the details about that,” Stuart said, beginning to pace around the small kitchen.

He shoved his hands in his pockets and glanced at Diana, who was cubing up the meat of the flavorful vegetables onto a plate. Stuart let out a hum and went to the open window to look out at the reflected view of the street visible through the thick layer of ice surrounding the house.

“So my aunt Sammie—that’s her name, is Sammie, short for Samuelle. Her parents wanted to make one of those fun, quirky names that is unique, so they took Samuel and made it into a girl’s name. Um, my aunt Sammie had a bunch of kids with different men while she was really young, and all those kids got shuffled into different households in the family, depending on who had space and was willing to take messed-up little kids, and finally great grandma Vinny had a fit and took aunt Sammie in to get her tubes tied, and there weren’t any new babies after that, but there are five or six Sammie babies in the family, and she’s never raised any of them herself except for this last one, um, baby Karen. Karen’s the youngest of the Sammie babies—and that’s what we call them, as a group, is the Sammie babies, because they’ve been a collective burden on the family, and in and out of the foster system. After my parents got divorced—oh. I should probably explain what divorce is, yeah?” Stuart asked, glancing around at Diana, who was emptying out rinds into the freshly-lined garbage.

“Yeah, Stu, explain anything that occurs to you about it,” Diana said.

“Hey, are you going to have to take a turn and talk about your family?” Stuart asked.

“Talk, darling,” Diana said, going to the silverware drawer for a fork.

“Yeah, okay. Um, so when a man and a woman—or a couple, I guess. Um, when two people are married—and that means they live together as, like, a family unit, if they get married. It’s a legal thing that means they count as one family. Uh, when a married couple doesn’t want to be family anymore, they live apart and get their legal relationship broken up with lawyers, and that’s called divorce, and my mom and dad got divorced when I was about five, I think. Five. Yeah, I was five when they split officially, but my mom was still at home for quite a while because she didn’t have anywhere to go and my dad was being an a-hole about the money he owed her. He did a lot of legal crap to keep her back and make sure she couldn’t work. Um, so they were legally divorced when I was five, but my mom didn’t get out and into her own place until I was, like, eight. Almost eight. But I was saying that, because after my parents got divorced, my dad said it was high time that our segment of the family started taking care of some Sammie babies, too, and my mom was still at home in our house, in the original marital home at that point,” Stuart said.

Diana hadn’t ever heard this level of detail before, and she was quite enjoying the insight into Stuart’s complicated home life, as she felt it gave her a great deal more understanding for his chaotic emotional methodology. Since Diana was on the road to adjusting and correcting Stuart’s dysfunction, she found his storytelling very useful.

Stuart drew a breath and went on.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, the banker has been reunited with his old flame from his university days (and he’s so excited).

Working Sketch of Regina (And Right Now I’m Intensely Relieved)

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Another pencil sketch for your viewing pleasure. My relief is from some personal items I was afraid I was imagining, but which turned out to be substantiated by irrefutable outside circumstances. Do you ever feel slightly crazy and then validated? Because that just happened to me today. Whew!

Good/Bad Writing Example

Good Writing

Anthony was late leaving the rec center. He’d gotten pulled into an involved double game of squash with two middle-aged guys, and he’d walloped both geezers with ease. Anthony whistled as he strode along the filthy sidewalk of midtown Hallyven, his hands in his pockets and his pristine sneakers flashing white as he dodged around tar-colored puddles and the sheen of fresh vomit.

Hallyven, at least from midtown to sixty-fourth street where the businesses started, was not a stellar place to live when it came to health and safety, but it was pretty colorful in terms of a vibrant and noisy nightlife, and Anthony liked it. He felt that he fit in there, more than anywhere else he could have been, and his particular nightmare was the idea of living in some rural pastureland, with grass and empty skies, and who knows how many fields of peaceful plant life between every house. Anthony liked things hopping, and people shouting or laughing without any space to live peaceably. He found the interconnectedness of the city to be a satisfying emotional jungle gym, which he was, in his own estimation, adept at navigating.

Bad Writing *with TYPOS*
(I swear, this will make your eyes bleed)

Cities! Lights! Our young protagonist heads into the scene from a really fun time he’s been having but he hadn’t realized before the end of the evening that his late existence would change into something else. He dind’ twant to do ti. His aunt was somewhere in the country. They had pigs. There were marks on the sideewalk and he was inging as he came down the street that he would rather do anything than

With his shioes of being white and his face covered up with a smile about how good it was going to be when he got that promotion and had the girl of his dreams, then he would show them, particularly his mom, who didn’t express the kind of pride and devotion in his personhood that he felt, really, would have propelled himinto the relative success circle of store clerks at the shoe store who were for selling shoes to the customers, Which is what Anthony was when he was not in high school.

Following Which…

Did you hate that? I hated that! The bad one, I mean. Did you enjoy the good one? I had a lot of fun writing it for you. Here is what comes next in our Diana saga:


Diana’s Vanishing Trick

Stuart began to freak out, internally. He imagined Diana going into another room and asking the aliens to take her away. At this thought, which he found alarmingly plausible, Stuart panicked and ran outside to continue his search. He ran into Diana on the front porch. She was holding an armful of flowers and looked, in Stuart’s opinion, pissed.

Diana was very angry. She’d been in a very good mood up until Stuart had begun to slip back into such poor behavior, but she had told herself that she just needed to think of a new approach and realign her private goalposts to be more reasonable. He’s not going to make progress, she told herself while she twisted off several gorgeous blue and white flowers at the stem and made a bouquet. She’d gotten herself pretty calm until Stuart ran into on the porch. His face was so utterly stricken with fear that Diana got mad, but not at Stuart. For the first time, she started to feel angry with Stuart’s parents, or with his dad, at any rate.

“I thought you left me,” Stuart said.

“Nope. Give me a list of you and your siblings by name, oldest to youngest,” Diana said, forcing herself to sound cheerful as she went around Stuart to find a vase in the kitchen.

“But you know all of us, Di,” Stuart said.

“Just do it, darling,” Diana said, maintaining a level tone despite the anger raging in her heart.

“Well, there’s me,” Stuart said.

“By name, dear. I asked you to give me a list by name. Start with you,” Diana said, laying the blue flowers on the kitchen table and opening a cupboard.

“Um, okay. Stuart. Uh. Cynthie, Beamer, and Jox,” Stuart said.

“Who’s Jox? You mean Vivian?” Diana asked.

“Yeah, he goes by Jox now. He wants to get a legal name change as soon as he’s old enough to choose for himself,” Stuart said. Diana nodded, filling a glass vase with water. “So now what?” Stuart asked.

“What about baby Karen?” Diana asked.

“No, she got sent back to her mom’s with a court order. She hasn’t lived with us for ages now, for almost three years,” Stuart said.

“Huh. Do you miss her at all?” Diana asked.

“No. She was quiet. I miss being an only child, is what I miss,” Stuart said.

“Yeah. I like being an only,” Diana said.

The white, small hologram of the alien, George, appeared on the kitchen table.

“Explain what is the list of names, and the Karen and all the rest,” George said, and then he blipped away.

“Oh. Okay, yeah. Well, when I was a little kid—well, I have to back up more than that, though. So my dad has a little sister,” Stuart said, glancing at Diana and then looking around at the empty ceiling. “My dad’s little sister is my aunt, obviously. Or that’s what we call that relationship, is that she’s my aunt,” Stuart said.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and in my current novel, a young ne’er-do-well has joined the main group and suspects them all of being unnatural monsters and pestilent termites to the metaphorical tree of good society.