August 28, 2018


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.

Yarelis Smits held up her tablet computer and shouted to the mass of people, “My foster brother has been missing since yesterday! He’s autistic and he can’t speak! A friend of his from school saw him in this neighborhood late yesterday,” she stopped shouting as the crowd had quieted. “Please remember that even though he can’t speak, Ray Cantú can hear us.”

A girl from school, a year older than Ray, who was in ninth grade, said, “This is a really bad neighborhood. What if we can’t find him?”

Yarelis’ heart felt as if it had stopped in her chest. She looked around the crowd, hoping to see Dorian. The high school police liaison officer had showed up after most of the volunteers had arrived, hanging back, supposedly separated from them all, but still part of them. No one else had noticed him yet.

She was also pretty sure no one had noticed that he was an android. The only reason Yarelis knew was because her Mom was a detective with the local peakers – peace keepers and Yarelis had stumbled across a stray text message that hinted at it. When she’d asked Mom, who never lied outside of work, she’d admitted it.

So to find her missing brother, she had a bunch of people she went to school with, and a robot cop. All she was really missing was her best friend, the mysterious, supposed reincarnation of the late Turkish singer, Selda Bağcan.

Warm breath brushed her ear as a voice mimicking a Turkish accent said, “What, you think I was going to leave you all alone with these insane muggles?”

Yarelis rolled her eyes, the whole HP phenom was so four decades ago. Jane Eyre – which was her real, actual name – was the only one Yarelis knew who still read the things. Except for her, but Yarelis only read them because Jane was her best friend. That’s what she told everyone, anyway.

The girl shouted again, “Isn’t it dangerous here?”

“Dangerous for who?” called a low, bass voice. Yarelis didn’t recognize it and stood on her tiptoes, scanning the crowd. On the edge opposite Darius, there was movement as people who had actually heard the voice turned, then parted between the speaker and Yarelis.

“You’re not from school,” she said, scowling.

“No, I’m from the neighborhood.”

“What are you doing here?”

“You might call me a vigilante.”

“What? My brother’s harmless – he’s autistic, mute. He’d never say anything to anyone!”

The man, who wore a faded, black cowboy hat, pushed up the rim then looked at her intently from under it. He said, “They say it’s the silent one’s is the most dangerous.”

“He’d never hurt anyone!”

“Then how do you explain this?” the man said and pulled his hat off. The blood mixed with his gray hair had been concealed by the back rim of the hat. “I was on my way here and he attacked me with a broken board. He...”

“You must have done something to frighten him, then!” Yarelis cried.

“He ain’t the one scared here, missy. I am.”

Names: ♀Puerto Rican, Dutch, ; ♂ Mexican

August 26, 2018

REFLECTIONS ON KOREA AND CRON #1: Communicating and Growing

NOT using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, CA in August 2018 (to which I be unable to go (until I retire from education)), I would jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. But not today.

I may  have mentioned that one of my goals is to increase my writing output, increase my publication rate, and increase the relevance of my writing. In my WRITING ADVICE column, I had started using an article my sister sent me by Lisa Cron. She has worked as a literary agent, TV producer, and story consultant for Warner Brothers, the William Morris Agency, and others. She is a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences, and a story coach for writers, educators, and journalists. I am going to fuse the advice from her book WIRED FOR STORY with my recent trip to South Korea.

Why? I made a discovery there. You’ll hear more about it in the future as I work to integrate what I’m learning from the book, the startling things I found in South Korea, and try and alter how I write in order to create characters that people will care about, characters that will speak the Truth, and characters that will clearly illustrate what I’m writing about.

I spent three weeks in South Korea, returning a week ago today.

While I was there, I had a number of profound experiences. The most disturbing was how much history I had ignored and how much current change I was ignoring.

There is a reason. In reading up on it, I found a couple of the names given to the Korean War. One was The Forgotten War, the other The Unknown War. Of course, those were names given to it by Americans. Flush with the victory of WWII and still naïve enough to think that the Russians and Chinese were our buddies and only at the beginnings of the reign of Joseph McCarthy, there was little that Americans thought that they couldn’t do.

For the South Koreans, however, standing with a token American “advisory group”, their world caved in at the end of June in 1950. White Americans were enjoying unprecedented affluence then – though they were also sowing the seeds of explosive civil unrest in the glowering 1960s followed by the death of “American dreams”, but things happening in such a far-away and exotic place as an Asian peninsula nation had nothing to do with "us".

Then the North Korean Army poured into Seoul and captured it. The elected government moved to Daegu and became a government in exile…sixteen kilometers from where I stayed in suburban Waegwan (say it Weh-gahn). Three years later, the turning point of the invasion occurred less than a kilometer from my bedroom. In 1953, the North Korean Army had taken over most of the Korean peninsula and what was left of South Korea encompassed a bit more than 8000 square miles -- smaller than the state of Vermont. The fighting had involved slaughter on a level that the US hadn’t seen since the early part of the 1860s (ironically barely less than 100 years earlier) and left the entire country in a shambles.

At any rate, you can see that I learned my history.

The history of South Korea sparked a series of ideas and in fact, it added to the foundation of a concept I’ve been writing about for a while and you can read it in my blog work-in-progress, LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION (Scroll back to Chapter One if you want the whole story: It’s the idea that the Human fear of invasion by aliens might turn into something much worse.

Earth may become a battleground and the Human race unimportant bystanders to the much more “important” clash of ideologies. The more I read about, studied, and observed the aftermath of the Forgotten War, the more I wondered about our own place in the universe. 

The more I pondered the Fermi Paradox and read up on that, the more I wondered if it was just a matter of time until a couple of alien species discovered that Earth would be the perfect proving ground for their battle of ideologies…I wanted to tell the story and to tell it well enough to engage people so that they might look at our own planetary history.

Lisa Cron’s book had created a methodology based on how our brains work. While I've been working on my story for some time (since 2013!), I can begin to apply the principles of Cron's book now. I’m a science geek, having been a science teacher for over 30 years. I like what she wrote and I especially have an innate respect for and I am drawn by her premise.

In this place, over the next few months, I’m going to forge a link between this new story I want to tell and the work she’s done that will help me create not only sympathetic characters that will form over the page in three dimensions, but also live in a story compelling enough to increase the response of editors to the stories I write.

David Eagleman, on the cover of Cron’s book writes, “Remember when Luke has to drop the bomb into the small vent on the Death Star? The story writer faces a similar challenge of penetrating the brain of the reader. This book gives the blueprints.”

That's what I want to do. Later.

August 22, 2018

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 130: Aster of Opportunity

On a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official Unified Faith In Humanity, the Councils are teetering on the verge of pogrom directed against Christians, Molesters , Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Murderers, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, Embezzlers and Artificial Humans – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right – get rid of religion and Human divisiveness on a societal level will disappear? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters and I’m sorry, but a number of them got deleted from the blog – go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (100,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

Mayor Etaraxis Ginunga-gap studied her a moment longer, “I may have to extend our contract, Dear. You’re starting to make yourself indispensable to me.”

Aster Theilen, Consort to the Mayor for Life, felt the blush on her ears, saying, “I’m doing the job you wanted me to do. I’m trying to be a good Consort.”

He sniffed then his face fell into a deadly serious, unguarded mien, saying, “You’re doing more than just being a good Consort, Aster – you’re becoming a power in the Dome.” He squinted slightly for an instant then said, “I have to think about this, send some of my own security snooping,” at her small gasp, she brushed off her concern, “No torture – actual Service footwork. I need to know clearly what’s going on.” He pursed his lips, “And you need to actually hire a Service worker – this could get much worse before it gets any better. Would your friend, FardusAH be interested in a promotion to your personal Security detachment?”

Aster hummed, nodded, and said, “I’ll ask her.”

She reached the Mayor’s office shortly before FardusAH was scheduled to go off duty. Aster was waiting for her two corridors away, near a restaurant that, while seedy, was well-known for its Old Earth menu. The Mexican-Amish-Italian fusion at Middle Of The Road was so good that both Humans and Artificial Humans ate in the same establishment – of course, not mixed together. Even Opportunity couldn’t buck Martian mores that far, but there was a bar that ran down the middle of the narrow restaurant so that friends could sit across from each other and talk. While they had to be served separately, once the food was on the bar, there was no stopping them casually sharing their meal.

“Feeling a little Middle Of The Road tonight, Fardus?”

She grimaced then said, “You know how much I hate it when you call me that.” She then smiled faintly.

“I call my friends by their names, not their titles.”


August 21, 2018


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. Regarding Fantasy, this insight was startling: “I see the fantasy genre as an ever-shifting metaphor for life in this world, an innocuous medium that allows the author to examine difficult, even controversial, subjects with impunity. Honor, religion, politics, nobility, integrity, greed—we’ve an endless list of ideals to be dissected and explored. And maybe learned from.” – Melissa McPhail.
F Trope: “jerkass gods” (CS Lewis Till We Have Faces and Neil Gaiman American Gods)

Abril Molina stood with balled fists on her hips. “They did this, you know.”

Santiago Ribeiro pursed his lips and said in a low voice, “It’s the easier answer. You know, blaming jerkass gods rather than taking responsibility for polluting the lagoon ourselves.”

Abril bristled, “You blame Humans for this?” She grunted, “I know you hate all of us who are pure blooded Humans…”

“Please! Don’t bring magism into this! I may be three fourths elf, but I can no more conjure poisons from the water than you can conjure a will-o’-the-wisp to light your way to bed!”

Abril turned to belt him. He caught her fist but was powerless to stop her words, “How dare you! I am no magist! We’ve been friends since...oh, I don’t know, since I had to change your nest litter! I am no more magist than you are thoughtful.”

Stung, he released her and returned to the side of the lagoon. Squatting, he reached out and spread his fingers, lowering his hand until it was centimeters from the surface. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and stilled himself. After a few moments, the same stillness seemed to flow from his hand and across the surface of the lagoon, traveling from shore and farther and farther into the water.

The stillness spread until the air seemed to stop gusting; even the light grew gellid, thickening until the image of near-elf and water appeared to be a painting.

After some time, dark began to creep upward from the water. Boats, barges and skiffs collecting dead animals slowed until the stopped moving. Abril felt her breath congeal in her lungs and could not breathe.

Then Santiago stood up, turned to her and said, “We are both right.”


“True war brews and this is but the first skirmish.”

“There’ve been other die offs! Twelve years of them – how do you explain that away with magic?”

“It’s the dolphins and the manatees.”


“It’s the dolphins and the...”

“No, no! I know what you said, I mean to say, ‘What have dead dolphins and manatees...”

“And the pelicans and the algae and other microscopic life,” he interjected.

She nodded, adding, “…and pelicans and phyto and zooplankton have to do with magic and pollution?”

He lifted his chin to the farthest reaches of the lagoon, the water between a barrier island complex, “There is a war brewing.”

“Between who?”

“I can’t tell, but the gods jerking the strings have stuffed each dolphin and each manatee with a spirit and they are the front line – and the manatees are losing.”

“Which side is the good side?”

Santiago turned to look at her, his gaze boring deeply into her own. Abril shuddered as he said, “In the war between these gods, their only good is their entertainment.”

Names: ♀ Uruguay, Spain; ♂ American Hispanic, Portugal