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Draconfyx Text

I’ve made the first draft of this project available for those interested in reading (see details below).

My projects are my children, and when I finish one, there’s a sense of letdown which must resemble that following childbirth.  Incidentally, such creative “labor”, as kindred spirits will agree, can in its own cerebral way be just as messy and painful.

20190708_102751Midnight Steps is done.  The suspense novel set in the 1920s that I’ve worked on for three years.  I didn’t say “finished” because it definitely is not.  It has a long way to go before I will let it out of the laboratory.  Already, since writing the denouement/final chapter, I see a ton of things that won’t work earlier in the book because they just don’t line up with the end result.  Characters need to change and harden or at least act more suspiciously.  And then there are outright asininities…for instance, the male lead, Ethan (oh, how he fought me to survive at the end!  Did he win?), is supposedly hiding out in a secluded boardinghouse from underworld enemies.  Then why does he wind up taking June, the female lead, out all the time in very public urban settings???  GAAAAAHHHH!!!!  That’s the kind of thing that authors bang their heads over, and in this case, it’s my own fault.  I didn’t know the characters as well as I thought I did before I started writing in 2016, nor was I as sure as I should have been about where the plot was headed.  Another fault I admit to is not being well-read on or familiar with the “underworld”, present or past, i.e., exactly how it works.  That’s not as big of a problem as it might have been, because I chose to keep the story’s focus more on the characters than what they do, with just an occasional glimpse of their shady activities.  Is the thing salvageable?  Of course!  These minor quibbles aside, Midnight Steps is probably the best fiction I’ve ever written…personal, at times even profound, and most of all, alive.  That doesn’t mean it’s good.  It doesn’t even mean it’s worthy of selling.  But it represents real progress as a writer, and so I unabashedly award myself a gold star for effort.  By the way…I’ve probably said this before, if not here, then somewhere else, but…it is possible to fall in love with your own fictional character(s).  I did.  Think of it as a Pygmalion/Galatea-type thing.  Or Pygmalion/statue-of-David, rather.  I’m not sure David is Greek, but…whatever, the metaphor works.

As the title to this entry indicates, after a little research on past-perfect tense–the use of product_thumbnail“had” to place an already past event further in the past–I’ve decided to revise The Horrible Hand! one last time to correct my blatant abuse of said grammatical tool.  A lot of the book is told in flashbacks, and so I have a surfeit of sentences like “…He had had to do this”, or “She had met him…he had met her…they had then gotten married and had been miserable ever after…” yada, yada, yada.  Yeah.  ANNOY-ING.  The red flag was when I was rereading a chapter and thought, This ‘had’ thing is really getting old.  So, it’s going to get another pass with the literary lawnmower.  Why?  Who cares?  I care.  Even if no one ever buys a single copy, it still matters to me that when it’s languishing out there in cyberspace, it’s right.  At least as right as I can get it without paying some ridiculously high fee for someone to tear it apart and cajole me into reconstructing it Their Way.

And then?

Well, I’m not very good at it, but I need to rest.  The Horrible Hand! and Midnight Steps were both huge projects which took years to wrap up.  I know that over the past year or so, I’ve often felt creatively tapped-out and just plain tired.  Maybe I’m getting old.  (No, I AM getting old.) In addition, maybe I’m not, after all, as creative or gifted as I was brought up to believe.  Middle age can trigger cruel self-doubts.  I never thought I would become a bestselling author, but it would be nice to know that people are taking in my point of view and acquainting with the characters and scenes I so loved creating.  Still, when I reach the end of the road on a major work like these, and I find myself wondering who I did it for, my honest answer is usually, me.  And those who inhabit the story.   Even when others do read my work and compliment it, they’re only getting that topmost tip of the creative iceberg; same as audiences who view movies and plays and paintings.  They see the finished result only, not the creative process which is the real attraction for the artists, and which is rarely shared with “consumers”, whose reaction to it frequently amounts to nothing more than the following exchange:

ME: So, did you ever finish reading that book of mine?

READER: Yeah.  We liked it.

ME: It held your interest, then?

READER: Yeah.  It was good.

ME: …Thanks.

One of the things writers and other storytellers deal with is the brutal reality that just because we were fascinated enough with our plots and characters to spend three years or so on them does not mean that anyone else will share our fascination.  I used to give copies of my books as gifts now and then–never again, and neither should you.  It is not fair to strong-arm your family and friends into reading your work when they may not be remotely interested.  That is, as I’ve stated, the reason why artists would do well to admit that their true motivations are, fundamentally, as selfish as an only child.  Which I happen to be.

That said, I’ll go on creating, if on a smaller scale for a while.  Oh!  Draconfyx is finished also, and not to blow my own bugle, but I don’t think it turned out too bad.  It was only a six-month undertaking, text and art, yet it has a sharpness, urgency, and timeliness to it that make me half-seriously regard it as “the one they’ll like best”.  That would be fine with me.









You can’t go wrong with Dracula, or even a spin-off, and a new slant on the drug war might actually be useful.  Plus God’s in it!  He’s been making cameos in a few different projects lately.  I’m toying with the idea of publishing Draconfyx for a Halloween release, but I am not sure that it will be ready this year.

Back to what’s on the agenda.  First, prewriting only for something new: writing a story/novelette in public–on Wattpad or even Facebook–while simultaneously writing it as a play…then illustrating it.  I have this craving to get back to making art, in particular dioramic setups, as of old.  More on that in a minute.  Before that, I may look at illustrating Flickers and writing more on the old memoir, What a World...  And/or, starting my own YouTube channel, which I’ve wanted to do anyway, and recording excerpts of WAW.  So…nothing too big or complicated, just enough to keep me creatively satisfied and productive.

With that said…aren’t these the absolute limit?  This is the kind of art I want to get back to doing, especially to photograph for illustrations.  I have a whole closet full–two, actually–of toys like this.  Miniatures have always intrigued me, and I’ve challenged myself to work as small as I can with this next collection.









And I’ll sign off with some random film images that have stayed with me over the years–some since childhood–and which represent recurring themes in my writing.  An eclectic selection?  You know it.  Disturbing?  Maybe.  But I believe I was meant to tell certain stories, and in order to do that, I needed certain, often very dark inspiration very early on.  And so I must have subconsciously absorbed these representative images and situations, then later incorporated them into my own personal brand of grim, ironic, yet redemptive tales.  I will admit that my endings are usually somewhat more hopeful than those found in the fiction below.  I guess that, too, is a kind of progress.  Besides, there must be shadows if there is to be light…right?















Art and Words Go Hand in Hand

This year, I decided to follow my passion, come what may; be that poverty (too late), famine, war, Judgment Day, etc.  And I’ve kept to that resolution.  Midnight Steps and What a World are both back on track, and accomplishing that was easier than I expected.  I’ve finally breached my junior high years in the memoir (latter), which I had been dreading, and I’ve entered the much darker (and faster-paced) half of the thriller (former).  Very excited about both projects, but was inspired by a recent flyer from a local art museum to submit some work for their upcoming exhibit…so, now, this temporarily will take priority over the books, as the submission deadline is July 22.

The first project is one that I created last year, an enclosed diorama which I call “Tower of Power” because it essentially represents the classic power hierarchy in the form of an expressionistic castle tower, outfitted with windows revealing the innocent, idealistic, and workaday population (bottom); the affluent  (second level); the ruling elite (third level); and at the very top, a sort of Eye of God, symbolizing the supernatural and spiritual forces beyond human comprehension which truly govern everything.  Interspersed are images and small sculptures/figurines carrying this concept further, i.e., faceless figures “behind the scenes” making things happen, and miniature chess pieces that suggest power games/political plays.



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It’s a rather highbrow, cerebral idea, but I like it, so we’ll see what happens.  I’d also like to turn the concept and visuals into a nifty little storybook, eventually.

Equally highbrow and pretentious–but with a much stronger message–is the other project that I recently started.  Shelley and the Blue Vampire is a visual story modeled on those “crime boards” used by police and detectives (at least on TV) to map out exactly how a crime was committed, when, by what possible suspects, and so forth.  I’ve wanted to do an art piece around this idea for a long time, and when I thought of how I wanted to realize Shelley, a haunting little tale that I had dreamed up around Christmastime along with Bad Medicine, I found the crime board theme perfect for it.  In short, the plot will be illustrated in 3D “photographs”, inside a glass-fronted shadowbox, of each scene, with a brief narration card beneath, reading to the effect of “Shelley at nine years, when such-and-such happened to her”.  The events–bleak and dire, in the style of a delightfully morbid little Edward Gorey Gothic titled The Hapless Child–will culminate in tragedy most timely–by gunfire, in a public park, which kills two innocent people.  The “Blue Vampire” will signify the depression which runs in Shelley’s family, and he will grow in stature with each appearance along the way, in a sense feeding on her as her mental condition deteriorates.  The timeliness is abetted by the presence of bullying, a failed welfare system, and of a firearm either held by a character or visible in the background of every scene, among which will be a drug dealer’s derelict abode and a politician’s office.  I want to turn it into a storybook as well, not too far down the road.



Yes, I’m expanding my comfort zone with this one, for my stories/projects almost never venture into politics or social issues.  But again, I thought this might be a neat idea to pursue, and I’m curious to see how it will be received (if at all) by the museum.  To be honest, I don’t even remember what the prizes are for winning submissions.  It’s the trip, not the destination, right?

The other time-sensitive work that I’m looking at completing, by early September in this case, is The Horrible Hand!  The head of the writer’s group, The Write Stuff, that I belong to has fixed a showcase at a local bookstore for eight members, on September 20th.  I immediately thought of this as a chance to show off HH and its concept, and see how people react.  Plus I would just like to see it completed, formatted, and in book form.


The creative juices are flowing, if nothing else is at this time.  I even plan to start going to a local open-mike night for writers, and get this–I’m auditioning next Saturday for a local independent film about the day-to-day events in a comic book shop.  I’m kinda looking forward to it, even though I know that, should I be cast, shooting will diminish my own artistic time.  But…that’s what happens when you’re multi-talented, I guess, ha.

Oh yes…I’ve also decided to send The Blue Candle script to a theatre group I’ve worked and been acquainted with for years.  Just to get a response.  And for the same reason, I will be advertising Flickers on my local performing arts list, specifically in search of a photographer to take the shots of the characters in the “silent movie” scene fragments/illustrations throughout the book.

No one can say I’m not trying.

Everything Old is New Again


Toward the end of 2016, I completed the monumental task of realizing my ambition for The Eerie Series, with its first installment, The Horrible Hand! As a review…the concept for the ES is a lineup of novels based on grade-B horror/suspense films made in the 1950s-60s by a fictional director, Anthony Miles.  The books focus on the action both before and behind the camera, the theme of redemption which runs throughout, and the tumultuous life of Miles himself.  The books are illustrated with public domain photos of people as actors, and of settings with which they are merged digitally.

The genesis for this project was, again in review, my childhood fascination with the Crestwood House Movie Monsters storybook series, which briefly retold the classic Universal horror films, augmented by stills of scenes from them.  Over all the intervening years, I felt that there was something there that could be built upon for a more adult (and completely unique) method of storytelling.  After several false starts, I set forth to put my inspiration to work.  And now, everything old is new again.


The Horrible Hand! was written over a period of roughly two years.  I took my time with it, because I wanted it to be right; the ES project was a brain child of mine, and I felt I owed it as much time as it took to be realized.  Set in a greedy clan’s family mansion following the murder of their patriarch, the “novelized” version of the bogus title film follows the dark and stormy night after the reading of the will, which includes mysterious disappearances, vicious quarrels and ominous threats, secret skulduggery, and much soul-searching on the behalf of nearly all the characters.  Plus the phantom specter of the dead patriarch’s hacked-off hand, which terrorizes the household.

The story may not sound like much (and it isn’t), but my intent was not so much to tell a brand-new tale as to tell an old chestnut with a brand-new slant to its plot.  In this case, most likely as a reflection of my own life in recent years, I chose to bring out the theme of redemption for the characters involved.  Essentially, I saw that theme as a gift offered to each person in the story, who would then decide for themselves whether or not to accept it.  Just as we do.  And this theme, I have decided, will be the backbone of the entire Eerie Series.  It’s unusual.  It’s risky.  It may not be successful at all.  But I feel that it’s right.

It didn’t start out that way.  As originally conceived, THH was to be just another old-fashioned horror story told in a fairly unique way, with the background information of the director and players added for further intrigue.  But what I found happening as I progressed along with the writing was…I started to like the characters.  And not only to like them, but to feel for them.  I saw so much of myself in them and their various personal “traps” (and how could I not, for every writer exposes his subconscious in his work?) that I softened toward them, and decided to give at least most of them another chance.  And by so doing, I believe I added a layer of depth to the work which raises it reasonably above the routine.

The writing was a pleasure throughout.  I never felt roadblocked or stymied, or as though I had written myself into a corner.  The story really wrote itself after I had worked out the details of plot and character; this is usually the case, which is why it pays to do your homework in the prewriting.  And when the book was completed, I understood somewhat the notion of post-partum depression.  I didn’t want it to be over.  I literally MISSED the people I had created more than I ever had before.  I was actually sad to let them go!  And maybe this is because of that extra layer added by the redemption theme, which humanized them, through the influence of a spiritual author far greater than me.

Who knows?  All I can say is that after the last four years, and what I’ve seen and been through, I’m willing to freely admit that anything is possible.

By the way, I’ve already had a couple of people ask me if Anthony Miles, the creator/director of the ES “films” is me.  My answer to that is, yes and no.  The best way of putting it is that Miles and I share many attitudes and character traits, but he possesses guts and ambition as I could never match, to fulfill his dreams.  His history is not, in relation to me, at all autobiographical, but in essence, he is what I would be if I could.  Get off my ass.


There is also Miles’s passing similarity to the much-celebrated Worst Director of All Time, Edward D. Wood, best known for his 1959 schlock opus Plan 9 from Outer Space.  Like Wood, Miles struggles against great odds early in his career to make his artistic vision a reality…however, unlike Wood, Miles has genuine talent and knows what he’s doing.


My goal now is to self-publish THH by mid-September, around my birthday.  After that, I plan to give it a showcasing at two local libraries and a Books A Million.  It is currently being read by a circle of friends and acquaintances, to obtain their opinion; two or three have already responded very favorably.

2016 was not a good year for me (or anybody, apparently), so having THH to distract me was extremely helpful.  But around Christmas and immediately after, I went through a very dark period where I simply could not create.  It wasn’t that I was roadblocked; I have a million ideas.  I just lacked any kind of motivation or will to see anything through.  I know that another severe depressive episode was largely responsible, but I guess it may also have been that THH had taken so much out of me that I was tired, and needed recharging.  For over two months into the new year, I just scribbled out plot scenarios, and a few of them are really good; I plan to eventually use them.  But it wasn’t until about a month ago that I came up with what I think of as my “rebound” project.

Midnight Steps is a photonovel, a term that I coined myself.  Like Flickers and the Grymwyck series, it’s a long short story, or novelette, with illustrations.  In this case, I’m going all out in making the piece a homage to silent horror/suspense films, with its plot partly borrowed from three of Hitchcock’s earliest films–The Lodger, Blackmail, and Sabotage.  

Set in an unnamed city in 1927, MS is the story of a highly dysfunctional family who run a bookshop, which is merely a front for criminal activities.  The teenage daughter, June, falls in love with the family’s new boarder, Ethan…only to find out that he may be the psychopath stalking and murdering young girls in the city.  When Ethan gets June pregnant, and hits her, causing her to lose the baby, June’s formidable mother seeks revenge by poisoning him.  June finds out…and the pivotal question is, will she simply stand by and see it happen, or try to save him despite how he has treated her?

A lot going on there.  I think it’ll be fun, especially the illustration process.  I was inspired there by, of all things, the rock bed beside my patio, because every time I go outside, I see faces in the rocks.  Strange as it sounds, I developed a yen to do something artistic with this, and so my characters’ faces will be the various rock faces that have stood out to me, photographed, given expressions through photo editing software, and connected to other photos of the characters’ bodies, which I will draw.  The complete figures will be set against appropriate backgrounds found online.  I’m going for fun and for atmosphere, even calling the project “an On-the-Rocks Production”.  My thinking is that it will be a fairly brief endeavor, and not so demanding that I can’t see it through, but demanding enough to hold my interest until it’s time to wrap up The Horrible Hand!  MS is another instance of old fascinations breeding new works, for I have always loved and been inspired by the silent era.

Future projects?  I’d like to (maybe) do another puppet storybook featuring Mr. Teeth, and/or start another major project, which will most likely be a play.  I have several interesting ideas in mind for that.

Oh, by the way, I also played Scarlett O’Hara last fall.  No, really.


Home Again

So I’m settled in a new apartment and doing my best to begin a new life, with as much time spent writing and creating as is humanly possible.  Over the last few years, I admit that I’ve slacked off–a lot–mainly because I had so many internal and circumstantial factors to distract me from what I really wanted to do.  That’s all over now.  It’s good to be home.

In August of 2015, my play Closing Night was produced by the same local theatre group that mounted Dot’s Journey in 2013.  Everyone involved did a superior job, and the play received a very positive response.  As a spectator of some rehearsals and all performances, I was able to discern what needed to be fixed and changed before it faces an audience again.  And so, even with the problems which made themselves apparent during the run, I count the whole experience as a success.

As I begin 2016 and dive into the creative projects that I’ve outlined, I find myself taking a much more mature, serene approach to my work than I have in the past.  No longer will I apply stultifying pressure on myself to produce material that will sell, that will please others, that will solidify my reputation–even in the immediate area–as a respected man of letters.  I now do my work for myself before anyone else.  If others like it and want to buy it, that is the ultimate compliment…but not the driving momentum.  Not anymore.  I’m getting too old.

The projects that I want to pursue in the coming year are ones that I have described in much more detail in other blog postings.  Namely, I have decided to realize my long-held yen to make something out of the concept for the Eerie Series–the stories within stories about a fictional director and the films he makes, which I’ve had in the trunk for almost twelve years. The first, The Horrible Hand!, is proceeding rather well for  being the premiere project of its kind in my repertoire, calling as it does for bogus backgrounds on the people/actors involved in the film, as well as behind-the-scenes history and details of mishaps, feuds, and what-have-you.  The finished product will be a medium-sized hard-backed book (similar in design to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events) with a novelization of the “film” by the fictional director, Tony Miles, and supplemented by background information, “interviews”, and illustrations, which are a particular thrill to do, as they require me to be ultra creative in selecting backgrounds and settings against which to place public domain photographs of real people mixed with my own sketches, to create movie “stills”.  I know it’s hard to really grasp what I’m talking about in mere words, but those who actually read the book will have no problem understanding the concept.

Boo loses her composure

My other project, with which I plan to alternate intervals of working on The Horrible Hand, is What a World, What  a World, a memoir/testimony which will detail the whole arc of my life through the last few years, through the filter of a highly skeptical gay Christian sensibility.  Deep?  Nah.  Some parts might be, but essentially, the tone will be sardonic, brutally honest, and funny.  I’ve made many false starts and stabs at this volume, but I wind up reworking it every time I sit down to move it forward.  My inspiration for this writing is humorist David Sedaris, and to a greater degree, memoirist Augusten Burroughs, who knows how to season his tales with just enough laughs to alleviate the bitterness…of which I’ve got plenty, honey.

Aside from that, I’ll be hitting the blogging hard–here and in my film essay column, Recommendations by Retroman, as well as other personal, autobiographical writing which very likely will never see the light of day.  I plan to reach out to local and online writers, and share some of my work.  I also want to stay in touch (through social media) with local film writers and directors who might be interested in taking on my plays and such.

Acting?  Only God knows.

If it seems that I’m rushing along perfunctorily here, it’s because I am.  For one thing, I have been as tired as I have ever been in my whole life since the move, and am not sure why, other than that I may have just “crashed” after functioning for so long in extremely challenging circumstances on sheer force of will and adrenaline, along with a liberal shot of God’s own brand of Red Bull.

In addition, I hunger to get back to work, not to talk about it.  It’s been a very long two years, and there’s much to be done.

“Not Morbid…Intense…”

The cast of "Below the Surface", presented as a staged reading at the North Canton Playhouse Youth Theatre, February 19th

And so concludes the saga of the staged reading of Below the Surface by the North Canton Playhouse.  Last night–the night of the reading’s single performance–was both more and less than I had expected it to be.  The house was quite full and the cast performed at full throttle.  I could sense them wanting to leave their chairs and take wing as the characters they were playing.  The intensity of this admittedly dark and grim play was palpable thanks to their dedication and commitment.  I have only the best to say about them.  After twelve years of hard work, especially in the beginning, they helped BTS realize its full potential, even without staging or props or sets.  So, the experience proved a positive one, even if it wasn’t how I pictured it when NCP first told me, about a year ago, that they were interested in doing BTS as part of their 2010-2011 season.  Yes, I had visualized it as a full-scale production, complete with sweeping stairway and atmospheric lighting.  Yes, I was disappointed when the December audition failed to yield the actors necessary to pull it off (with a couple of exceptions who eventually wound up in the reading version).  But the final result was about as good as I could have hoped for.  And again, my gratitude for this is entirely with the cast.  My hope is that a full production may be in the offing within the next year or so, perhaps even with the same people as the reading; at least some of them.


It’s done…only five more to go!

The Little People

I just love little people.  Really, I do.  Figurines, action figures, models…they all fascinate me.  I remember vividly my collection of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe warriors, and their castles and vehicles.  It was a vast collection, and I recall it very fondly. 


It is packed away in a corner of my parents’ basement now, but I have plans to go through it in the near future and organize it, along with all my other scads of action figures, and my Super Powers figurines, and their ilk.  I’ve thought about putting them in the community garage sales that my parents’ neighborhood holds every August, but I honestly don’t know if I can bring myself to do it yet.  I still have an emotional attachment to those toys, and a part of me feels disloyal at passing them off to kids who probably won’t appreciate or care for them half as much as I did.  Maybe I want to go through them one more time just for the sheer pleasure of holding them in my hands again, and reliving those memories of endless afternoons of enjoyment that they gave me.

I suppose I would be remiss to explain why I am including this post in this blog, when at first glance, it doesn’t look to have anything to do with my own personal artwork and writing.  The simple fact is, it has everything to do with my own work.  My time spent playing with action figures, making up stories, working out plots and direction of sorts…this all proved to pay off as I reached adulthood and began to write plays and novels and to link my artwork with them.  I will admit that I was a real tyrant as a kid when my friends were over and we played together with my miniature empire…my main problem was that my friend(s) didn’t put any thought into the adventures we acted out.  They didn’t spend time thinking up plots, or how to use each character to his/her best advantage…they just went at it, usually so roughly that I hollered bloody murder.  I didn’t want my figures slammed into each other over and over to simulate battle; I preferred just to pose them and let the battle take place in my mind.  And anyway, these toys were my childhood friends as much as Steven, Jason or Adam.  I would not allow anyone to abuse them. 

Gradually, as was to be expected, I set aside the He-Man figures and the castles and the Super Powers and their company when I started to grow up.  But my passion for little people far from waned.  On the contrary, I became interested in creating my own miniature worlds by drawing characters I either made up, or admired from various movies or books I enjoyed.  I spent my adolescence and early youth making paper dolls rather than dating or partying or sneaking out at night to TP my neighbors’ houses with friends.  This didn’t help me then, socially, but as I look at my life now, I can see exactly how much good it did me in the long run.

Today, I am a passionate designer/sculptor of the miniature personage, and of environments for them.  Some of my best friends nowadays are Sculpy, cardboard and toothpicks.  I can literally lose hours at a time as I work to realize my vision of a character I have thought up, a set for a story I am writing. 

Figures 6

My love for the performing arts…for drama and old movies, especially thrillers and mysteries…is the thread which ties all of my creative work together.  The three-dimensional stagings are my writing brought to life, and they form a drama to be photographed and included throughout the play, novel, etc., that they represent, to enhance it.  I will admit that I’ve never yet run across any other work that is quite like what I do. 

My obsession with miniatures and tiny characters is so intense that I frequently dream of walking through a shopping mall, searching avidly for the perfect set of figurines in different hobby/novelty stores, and usually not finding them.  One dream was so vivid that I felt compelled to create a set of new miniature people based on the ones I saw in it.  That set will be featured in the photographs for my upcoming illustrated play, Closing Night, probably sometime next year.
Figures 10

This morning, I shopped on Ebay for miniature model people to use as “extras” and minor supporting characters in my dramatic dioramas.  I wound up investing in 250 little figures…two hundred unpainted…and I can’t wait for the day when I open my mailbox to find them there.  Two hundred and fifty tiny doses of inspiration are on their way to me, from China, no less.

It’s the little things in life, you know.  😉

little people