May 21, 2015

This series is a little bit biographical and a little bit imaginary about my dad and a road trip he took in the summer of 1946, when he turned fifteen. He and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park to Duluth, into Canada and back again. He was gone from home for a month. I was astonished and fascinated by the tale. So, I added some speculation about things I've always wondered about and this series is the result. To read earlier SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH clips, click on the label to the right, scroll down to and click OLDER ENTRIES seven or eight times. The FIRST entry is on the bottom of the last page.

Tommy Hastings and Freddie Merrill rode in silence as the oars clunked and splashed slowly back and forth for a while longer. Tommy finally said, “Thanks for saving our lives.”

Nilson shrugged then said, “Your sister’s boyfriend probably saved someone’s life.”

“Yeah,” said Tommy, not sure where Nilson was going with this.

“His brother saved three men when their boat was hit by Jap fire!” Freddie said. “You wanna hear the whole story?”
He shrugged again. Tommy and Freddie looked at each other, nodded, and kept quiet. Finally Nilson said, “Sure. Sounds exciting. Better than my brother’s story.”

“How do you know his story?” asked Tommy.

“One of his buddies wrote us after we got the telegram he was killed in action. Told us how there were bombs everywhere and a Japanese destroyer was headed their way. He scrambled from his bunk, tripped and fell. Broke his neck.”

“Oh, man,” said Freddie. The sun had dropped to the horizon and as they slid forward on the calming water, shadows from a shoreline of towering pine engulfed them

Nilson shrugged. “Because it was during a raid and he wouldn’t have been running if it hadn’t have been for the attack – thirty sailors died during it – he was considered a casualty of war, but didn’t get an award or nothing.” He kept rowing and finally said, “What’d your brother do?”

Tommy opened his mouth, then closed it, then finally said, “Nothing your brother wouldn’t have done if he’d have been there.”

 Freddie opened his mouth to protest, but Tommy’s glare shut his mouth. A few minutes later, Nilson said, “We’re just about there. Remember, don’t pick no apples. Don’t want you to give Ma any surprises.” He snickered, snorted, then pulled hard three more times. The rowboat drifted a bit longer then scraped against the rocks underneath.

Tommy and Freddie jumped out then pulled the boat to shore. Nilson set the oars so they lay on the seats then climbed to shore. “Thanks, guys.” Then he looked at Tommy and stuck out his hand, “Thanks, Tommy. Come on in, Ma’ll feed us, then I can get you some underwear, pants, and shirts.” He looked up at the sky. “Sun’ll be down soon. Probably spend the night, I think.”

“No,” said Freddie, “We can’t...”

Tommy glanced at Freddie, then at Nilson, “Can we hitch a ride here tonight?”

“I wouldn’t count on it. This town rolls up the sidewalks and turns off the air in about twenty minutes. You might get a ticket from the sheriff if you walk too fast at night here.” He shrugged, “You can try, or you can try in the morning. Lots of trucks and stuff leaving then.”

Tommy looked at Freddie and bulged his eyes. Freddie said, “Sounds good. We’ll stay. But can we be in town before sun up?”

“No problem. Ma gets up early – makes we get up early, too. To take care of the place.”


“We run an resort – the Thousand Lakes Inn.”

Tommy and Freddie looked at each other. Tommy said, “Is there anyone staying here?”

“It’s usually pretty quiet during the week and it’s still OK here – but a resort a mile back has a crazy group of guys stayin’ there. They talk funny, but Ma says it’s Finnish.”

May 19, 2015


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

Fantasy Trope: Magic Realism

Navid Daisuke shook his head, "What do you mean, 'the centaurs are coming'?"

Ngc Mirjam scowled at him then said, "The centaur objects are sort of a hybrid between an asteroid and a comet -- not all of them are bare rocks like asteroid, not all of them are pure ice like comets. One of them, called Chiron, look like asteroids but have cometary halos. They're strange objects..."

"So then why are we talking about them? We're supposed to be getting ready for the IB Alchemy exam and right now, the only thing I can see that's IB is that 'IB gettin' ready to leave.'"

Ngc sniffed and took out her wand, tapped it on the edge of the mortar and pestle and said, "Fine then. How about we conjure some of our own centaurs?"

"I can conjure a centaur with some crushed ice, gravel, and a blowtorch."

"Only blowtorch in this room is the one standing next to me." With a flourish, she tapped the edge of the mortar. There was a flash and smoke. When it cleared, nothing had changed.

Navid snorted, "So, where's your centaur?"

"Shut up."
"Wasn't this supposed to be our interdisciplinary group 4 project -- you were the Alchemistry person and I was the mythology person."

"I said, 'shut up'. The centaur I was trying for wasn't the half-horse, half-man," she gave him a sidewise glance, "You're the only half-man I want in my life. I don't need one that clomps around not crapping in the restroom. I wanted to create the composition of the Chiron so I could examine its properties pertaining to chrysopoeia, which is..."

"I'm not a moron. I know what changing base metals into gold is all about. My dad majored in transmutational engineering in college."

“So you have a good idea of what I was trying to do. Now if you’ll shut up, I want to figure out where our centaur is…”

Navid turned away in disgust and pulled out his sorcTab and touched it with a finger wand. It expanded and started scrolling through his Favorites. He tapped a screen, scowling. Then his eyes went wide and he said, his voice a whisper, “I found your centaurs.”

“What did you say?” He didn’t say a word. He just turned his sorcTab toward her, tapping it to enlarge the image. Her eyes went wide as Hubble Telescope image drew into a close up: a long asteroid, rimed by a halo of frost was falling toward Earth. Wearing a spacesuit, astride the centaur, was another centaur, this one waving wildly as it plunged toward Earth…

Names: Vietnam, Estonia; Arabic, Japan

May 12, 2015


The edits for HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES are due on Sunday, so I am otherwise engaged -- as a friend of mine says, I've been called by the goddess OTOGU (Other Things Of Greater Urgency)...

May 10, 2015

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Volunteer Writing For Fun and No Profit!
Last night I finished a project that took several months of my writing time; huge amounts recently as I raced to finish the project in order to continue my own current project.

In December, I volunteered to edit a manuscript of a colleague of mine. They had sent it to iUniverse once upon a time, and the company said that it all KINDS of potential…but it needed work.

Understatement of the CENTURY.

I volunteered to edit the memoir for the author.

There’s no denying that it’s important. There’s no denying that it was fascinating.

There’s also no denying that it was not only filled with spelling errors, context errors, misstatements of history, and numerous other flaws. It was also written as stream-of-consciousness with no particular regard for chronology.

That’s right: there endless run on sentences that would change tense, character, and time frame. The writer would go from talking about their current experiences, to those of their great, great grandmother. This was without punctuation and without any kind of warning.

Let me say here that if I didn’t think that this story was important, I would have returned the file to the author with a note that said, “I don’t think this is for me.”

As for this manuscript, I finally hit on the solution of “dating” parts as I read them. Now the manuscript ranges from “Before 1900” to “Now” or “Present”. The narrative covered some 150 years of family, personal, and world history and how the author interacted with the men, women, and children from those times.

Last night, at a cost of time spent with my wife, housework, yard work, and working on the edits of my own manuscript – which is due back to the editor at the end of THIS week – I finished.

Would I do it again?

Not if you paid me.

Besides being a subject I typically have no interest in (history), there were parts that were so intimate that they made me extremely uncomfortable; and there were opinions that were, while not directed at me personally, were directed at me nevertheless. It was often difficult to remain objective. It was difficult not to take the narrative personally.

I wish the author the best of luck, but this will have to be the end of my involvement because I have come away from the project almost entirely drained emotionally.

Should I have done it? It’s a moot point now, the project is in the author’s hands. But I was wondering what others out there thought…

May 5, 2015


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them. ? z Z

This week has been insanely busy. I’ve been editing a friend’s book and my edits just arrived or HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES…I also have two OTHER markets that will be happy to look at stories…one of them wants me to ADD more; the other wants me to take a bunch OUT…(fortunately it’s two different stories…)

Upshot here is that I’m gonna throw out an idea and let anyone who wants to, run with it.

Idea: If all Humans on Earth looked like and lived like the old version of THE ADDAMS FAMILY, what would the starship they built look like? Where would they go? How different would they be from the Robinson Family of LOST IN SPACE?

Names: ;            

May 3, 2015

WRITING ADVICE: What Went RIGHT With “UBA Scientist” (HOPSCOTCH FOR GIRLS, August/September 2011) Guy Stewart #17

In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver speak at a convention hosted by the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Since then, I have shared (with their permission) and applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda. Together they write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers. Since then, I figured I’ve got enough publications now that I can share some of the things I did “right” and I’m busy sharing that with you.

While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do all of the professional writers above...someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. When I started this blog, that was NOT true, so I may have reached a point where my own advice is reasonably good. We shall see! Hemingway’s quote to the left will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!

This one followed hot on the heels of “Simple Science”. I was intent on seeing if I could turn my science skills into writing skills.

Turns out I could.

While “Simple Science” was an iteration of a demonstration I’d done many times, “Sleeping and Sprinting” was a thought experiment to fill a need a magazine had. FUN FOR KIDZ was looking for things to do at a party. [I submitted the experiment to FFK, but they liked it enough to want to toss it into the sister publication, HFG; whose brother magazine is BOY’S QUEST; all published by Fun For Kidz Magazines.]

I’d been reading on a “real science” site about the importance of baseline data as it related to exercise. I figured that combining them and simplifying data collection as much as I could would make for an interesting experiment and prove a belief that I’ve long held: that anyone can do real science experiments anywhere. All they have to do is come up with a question, an action that will give them information they can write down, and a way to record the information.

I knew also that most young people want relevant and interesting information. Most young people are also curious. The problem is that standard science classes don’t usually teach inquiry – they teach cook book science: 1) Take this thing. 2) Take the other thing. 3) Mix them together, throw them, drop them, heat them. 4) Record what happened. 5) Isn’t this SCIENCE wonderful?

First of all, cook book “science” is not science. Let me reiterate that: cook book science is not science.

It’s training for proper laboratory practice, and there’s nothing inherently WRONG with learning lab procedures! Students need to know this in order to not set themselves on fire, create toxic gases, or make flash burns on solid surfaces. But it’s not science. By definition, science is “...the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”

All I did was give a frame work to find out something that might interest kids: “Does everybody’s pulse go up and down the same when they exercise?”

The ancillary question was if age made a difference, giving the kids a chance to ask the parents to take part in the experiment. Another thing that this did, in addition to asking questions, is to both tie an everyday subject together and ask a question that any kid in their right mind would be able to Google instantly.

A standard lab we did in the physical science classes I taught was to find the density of different solids and liquids. All of which were easily Google-able and not in any way, shape, or form “science”.

Now that I’ve worked myself into a lather though, I guess I’m feeling inspired to go write and try and sell a couple more science experiments!

Oh, one last thing – enthusiasm is essential in writing science experiments that kids will want to do!