May 30, 2014


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.

A flatbed truck stopped on the side of the road had been full of men, staring at them and trying to wave them down. Steam poured from the front of the truck as Arnie Volz, truck driver and boyfriend of Edwina Olds, Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) hit the brakes of the logging truck they’d gotten into while they were trying to hitch hike from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.

Finns poured out of the truck that had pulled over to the side of the road, pointing up when they saw the boys.

Freddie Merrill and Tommy Hastings screamed, “Don’t stop! Don’t stop!”

Tommy cried, “That’s Ilmari!”

“What did you say?” Arnie asked.

“Go! Go! Those men want to kill us!”

Arnie floored the accelerator and chugged past the men. Unfortunately the semi didn’t accelerate very fast. Even so, the back was loaded with barkless logs headed for Minneapolis and there wasn’t really any place for them to latch on to the cab. One of the Finns climbed on to the running board. The window was open and he shouted,  Annamme sinulle mitään kuva!”

“What’s he talking about?” Freddie screamed.

Arnie reached under his seat and pulled out a gun, and stiff-arming Freddie and Tommy, pointed it in the man’s face.

The Finn fell off the truck and as they picked up speed, they left the men behind them. Arnie grunted and put the gun back and said, “All right, boys. Maybe you’d better start explaining what just happened.” He paused. “From the beginning, because that man just shouted, ‘We’ll give you anything for the picture!’”  

Freddie glanced at Tommy who couldn’t escape the hard look of the truck driver – looking right at him. He was as scary as Ed had been when she got mad at them. So he started at the very beginning, even though Freddie elbowed him when he told Arnie that they both lived in Minneapolis near Loring Park.

Arnie’s eyes lit up and he exclaimed, “Is Lars still there?”

Freddie turned around, looking up at Arnie’s bristly chin and deep wrinkles, and said, “Yeah, he caught Tommy smoking in the bushes.”

Tommy slugged him in the back, “You were doing the same thing!”

“Only cause you dared me!”

“No I didn’t! You brought the cigarettes from your dad!”

“Did not – you got ‘em from Earl!”

Arnie tapped on the brakes and the rig slowed down as he said, “Should I just take you back to your Finnish friends? I’ve established that you know Lars and I’m pretty sure Lars knows you...” His tone of voice told them to try and deny it, but both boys blushed to their tips of their ears. “I thought as much. So...”

Tommy took up the story, Freddie interrupting whenever there was a detail they disagreed on. They didn’t talk slowly, but they didn’t tell the story from beginning to end, either. It wasn’t long before they reached the customs station at Pigeon River. The sun had just set as they slowed and pulled up between the facing log cabins that were all there was of the international border between the US and Canada. The two countries were allies and shared the same continent with Mexico – though Canada was the biggest of the three and was the only country ever to have invaded Washington, DC and set fire to the Capitol Building.

“About five hours to Duluth, now boys. Where do you want me to drop you off?”

“I thought you were going home!” Freddie exclaimed.

Arnie laughed, “I am – but this ain’t my truck and I only go home once every three months. I gotta take the train just like everyone else.”
“Don’t you have a car?” asked Tommy. “My sister’s boyfriend’s got a keen one.”

Arnie snorted, “I make a good living, boys, but cars is for the rich. I wanna get me one, but for the time being, the trains and the trolleys are good enough for me.”

“How are we supposed to get home now?” Freddie cried.

“Same way’s you got here – hitchhike.”

“What if we meet Bonnie & Clyde and the Finnish mobsters and the witch and all of them again?”

“I think your mobster friends are stuck with a broken down truck about a hundred fifty miles back. The others are with them, most likely.”

“Why do they want us, Arnie? What’s in the picture that they want it so bad as to chase all over creation?”

Arnie scowled then said, “Only thing I can think of, boys, is that the picture shows not just your mom, but the two men shaking hands are not supposed to be friendly to each other.”

Freddie said, “You mean like one’s a socialist and ones a Communist?”

Arnie’s eyebrows went up as he said, “That’s EXACTLY what I mean, son. Exactly.”

May 25, 2014


The late, great Robert A. Heinlein once said that his only goal as a writer – indeed, he may have said the ONLY goal any writer should have – was to entertain.

The statement seemed to imply that education, elucidation, insight into the Human condition, agenda, politics, religion, and anything else should take a very low priority to entertainment.

I’m not sure all writers would agree. Some seem intently focused on their message and, in my opinion, lose or have lost their stories. They keep lots of the people who read them initially looking for sheer entertainment, but those hangers-on seem to move from fans to sycophants (in case the definition of this word escapes you, try inserting “toadies, flatterers, bootlickers, brownnosers, minions, yes-men” instead and see if that clears things up). Others seem to publish the same thing over, and over, and over again and fans swipe their cards often enough to keep the writer on their leash. It seems rather like farmers who would rather be feeding the world but find it impossible to stop growing tobacco because the profit margin is so high that it would mean financial ruin to follow their convictions.

Jesus probably faced a similar dilemma. He had a message he wanted to deliver to the people of Judea, but the bald face of it – that they needed to surrender their lives to God and follow Him – would probably not pull in enough believers to perpetuate His Church. So he told stories. He told funny stories like the one about the short tax collector in a sycamore tree. He told dramatic ones like the one about the people who worked on a farm all day and the people who worked on the farm for a couple of hours all getting paid the same thing. He told knotty ones like the one about what to do at harvest time if you planted wheat and someone came in the middle of the night and planted dandelions. He told deeply profound ones that even inspired an American Law...(Hmmm, let’s see, in three parables, Jesus hit the humor market, the literary market, the mystery market. Some would say that the story about calling into a tomb and having the formerly dead occupant walk out hit the speculative fiction market (albeit the currently dead zombie market – if you’ll pardon my pun). The last became the unacknowledged basis of a law the general public expects everyone to follow.

No matter how you classify Jesus, the parables he told to the crowds and were recorded by his disciples remain embedded in more cultures than the ones occupying North America.

So who to emulate?

I have tried for  years to emulate Jesus and his parables with only a little success. My published work, while far from religious polemic, absolutely includes reference to and benchmarks of my Christian beliefs; and while some might scowl, shake their heads and mutter, “sour grapes”, I have no doubt a few of my stories were rejected because an editor didn’t approve of conservative, Christian touches. I’m also not yet good enough writer to bring a powerful idea to life, or to create a character vividly enough to be able to stand between my faith and the editors or readers; to project my beliefs while living stronger than any reader’s doubts or biases.

Some have – CS Lewis’ short stories appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; Michael Flynn’s faith pops up almost every chapter; Gene Wolfe, while acknowledged by Neil Gaiman to be the “best writer, bar none, of the 20th Century”, is a man whose deep faith in Christ shows up as metaphor and allusion in The Book of the New Sun; and Star Wars author, Kathy Tyers who also has a best-selling Christian science fiction series of books originally published by Ace Books.
What am I trying to do with my writing? I am trying to do what every Christian is called to do – CS Lewis, Michael Flynn, Gene Wolfe, Kathy Tyers – “...make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you..” Matthew 28: 19-20

May 22, 2014


The Cold War between the Kiiote and the Yown’Hoo has become a shooting war.  On Earth, there are three Triads one each in Minneapolis, Estados United; Pune, India; and Harbin, China. Protected by the Triad Corporation, they intend to integrate not only the three peoples and stop the war that threatens to break loose and slaughter Humans and devastate their world.; but to stop the war that consumes Kiiote economy and Yown’Hoo moral fiber. The Yown’Hoo know about the extra-Universe Braider, aliens whose own “civil war” mirrors the Cold War. The Braiders accidentally created a resonance wave that will destroy the Milky Way and the only way to stop it is to physically construct a sort of membrane that will produce a canceling wave – generated from the rim of the Galaxy inward. The Braiders don’t DO physical stuff on that scale – the Yown’Hoo-Kiiote-Human Triads may be their only chance of creating a solution. The merger of Human-Kiiote-Yown’Hoo into a van der Walls Society may produce a stability capable of launching incredible expansion, creativity, longevity and wealth – and building the Membrane to stop the wave.

The young experimental Triads are made up of the smallest primate tribe of Humans –two; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – a prime eleven. On nursery farms and ranches away from the TC cities, Humans have tended young Yown’Hoo and Kiiote in secret for decades, allowing the two warring people to reproduce and grow far from their home worlds. Grendl, Manitoba is one such place. No one but the Triad Company has ever heard of it and the physical plant goes by the unobtrusive name of Organic Prairie Dairy.

The Triads never hear of anything they aren’t spoon fed in their luxury worlds and have heard only rumors of the farms and ranches. Surrounded by a Humanity that has degenerated into a “duck-and-cover” society as the Big Boys fight their war, the Triads don’t care about anything but their own lives. Oblivious, cocooned, manipulated, they have no idea that their privileges are about to be violently curtailed and all of their biology ransacked for the correct Membrane pattern. (update: 2/13/2014)

The lieutenant came to my door and said, “What are you doing?”

“Aren’t you going to drive?”

He swore, spat out the open door, and said, “Who’s gonna ride shotgun, kid? Someone who doesn’t know a shotgun from a nose hair scissors, or someone who can kill with a dirty look?”

I shivered down to my shoes at the look he turned on me. For a second there, I figured he’d have killed me if he was told that’s what his job was. I took a deep breath and said, “Our meeting you wasn’t chance.”

His head snapped toward me, pinning me under an intense gaze. He pursed his lips grimaced, then said, “Point, young sir.” He took a deep breath, adding, “Your escape from the Cities at this time has drawn the partisanship of more than the Human community – certain Yown’Hoo and Kiiote have taken an interest in your safety. Unfortunately, other Yown’Hoo, Kiiote and Humans have planned your kidnapping for some time.”

“Why us?”

“Because the three Triads represent both change where none is desired, and the very same Triads represent changes long sought. The Triads are a drastic shift of paradigm for the aliens. Their cultures have been locked in mutual near-destruction without a care of the damage they cause to those weaker cultures all around them for nearly a thousand years.”

“They’ve been fighting for a thousand years?”

He turned his attention back to the road and said, “Drive, boy. Now. Or you and I won’t be alive long enough of to continue this discussion.”

“Why would we wanna do that?”

He shot me another one of his glances and it felt as if my IQ had dropped seventy points. He flicked a finger out the door, “Left here and step on it.”

“This thing’s electric – it only goes so fast! Especially with Herd and Pack jammed into the rear of this thing like zoo animals.
His fist hit me in the chest so fast, I wasn’t even aware he moved, only that I slammed against the seat back and couldn’t breathe. The truck rolled to a stop and before I could get us rolling again, Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh (ret) had leaned over to me and breathed in my ears, “Don’t ever say that again. We act like animals, all of us at times. Any one of us – Human, Yown’Hoo, or Kiiote – might snap the bonds of civilization and be fit for nothing but a cage. None of any of us deserve such treatment.” I opened my mouth, but the Commander’s gaze stopped it. “There are aliens who wish for nothing but an end to this senseless war.”

“And others who would wish for nothing but the coldness of the conflict be fanned into all-out war,” I added.

He nodded, gesturing down another street. I turned the truck and the others variously cursed, yipped or whistled from in back. “Perhaps you’ve actually learned something in that gilded cage of yours.”

“I know lots of stuff...”

The end of the street we were driving down exploded in a fireball as a Human helicopter plummeted to the ground.

May 20, 2014


I’ll be taking a BRIEF break from writing a fantasy, a science fiction, and a horror novel online – to just provide you with an trope, a current even, and a shove in the right direction. The reason? I’m a school counselor and this year I am responsible for the class of 2014. As events heat up, I need to use my energy to send them off well! So, until June 5, 2014, I will be in Guidance Counselor Mode…

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.

F Trope: good versus evil
Current Event:

Khloe Garcia shook her head and said, “I don’t think there’s anything to the whole idea that there’s even such a thing as ‘good versus evil’.”

Glaring at her, Santiago Tremblay said, “You’re not serious, are you?”

“Why wouldn’t I be? Look around you. Nothing is clearly good or evil. Every single time we’ve called something ‘evil’, it’s all a matter of perspective. One side of the disagreement says they’re good and the other side’s evil. The other side…”

“What was the good side of Nazi Germany?”

She rolled her eyes, “That’s history. This is the middle of the 21st Century. Socially, we’ve evolved far away from any kind of clear demarcation of ‘good’ and evil’.”

“I’ll give you five seconds to tell me the ‘good’ side of Nine-Eleven-Oh-One.”

“History. There’s nothing comparable since the turn of the century.”

“So Humanity has evolved socially that much in forty-three years?”

“Sure. It’s possible...”

“Unlikely.” He paused then said, “So you wouldn’t have any trouble summoning a demon then? Because...”

“Demons are mythological creatures no more real than Godzilla...”

He pulled a heavy book from the backpack he’d dropped on her roommate’s bed when he came into her dorm room and set it down on her desk, letting it fall open. “So you won’t mind if I read this curse from this book. It was in the ‘Religion’ section of the old library – you know, the place they kept books before ebooks replaced everything. I bought it. Paid the librarian four thousand...”

She hesitated then said, “Read your stupid curse and we’ll see how real it is.”

He shrugged and read the words casually. He waited. She waited. Nothing happened. “See what I mean?”

He nodded slowly. “OK. I’ll just summon a demon for fun, then.” He bent over the book and when he stood up, he looked up at her, then down at the book and began to read. Not casually this time, but with a voice changed. A voice that spoke of education. Money. A voice rich in timbre and facile with the words it read.

The floor of the room began to tremble...

Names: Canada, Mexico; Mexico, Canada

May 18, 2014

WRITING ADVICE: Persist – Guy Stewart #1

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.

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!
The online dictionary says that persistence is “firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.”

My experiences in writing to get publication is the personification of those words. Maybe your experience is, too.

I wrote my first story with a pencil, on lined, loose leaf notebook paper. That was because I was a seventh grader at Osseo Junior High School in 1970. I’d just finished reading the WHITE MOUNTAINS trilogy by John Christopher. I remember the cover of that book (by the late Roger Hane, plus I just discovered he did the 1970 Collier-Macmillan cover of LION, WITCH AND THE WARDROBE ) vividly and the story even more clearly. I can say unashamedly that these books changed my life forever.

When I was done with the last book, I knew I wanted it to go on, though in some vague way, I was aware that while I desperately desired to know what happened next, John Christopher (whose real name was Samuel Youd) was the only one who could write the story.

I took a daring step in my young life.

After a late-bus ride home from school passed by a autumn dried field of harvested corn, I wrote my very first story: “The White Vines”. I remember that it had something to do with plants taking over the world and while it did not survive the 44 year trip to the present, I was clearly hooked. My second story, penciled in immature handwriting, did survive. I recently transcribed it and you can find it here: (Warning – it’s awful! But I wrote and finished it, which is what I’m talking about here.)

For the past 44 years I’ve been doing pretty much the same thing – writing stories and sending them out to publishers. At first, there was no response at all. As a slush reader for STUPEFYING STORIES, I understand now how painful reading can be. I understand in a visceral way how bad stories can be! Mine were truly bad during those years of lonely apprenticeship.

But I kept writing. I read about writing. Though I never spoke to a single person about my writing habit, I gave my English teachers my writing. Two of them took me seriously: Miss Barnes in 9th grade, and Mr. Schwandt in 12th grade. I don’t know whatever happened to Ms. Barnes, but Mr. Schwandt had novels published and though the last time he published anything was ten years ago, I wish I could track him down and tell him how much he inspired me to keep on writing.

With their encouragement; with the books on writing I read and reread, I got better. I kept writing. I sent out more and more of my writing. Though I kept “sort of” records before 1990, that was when I began to do the serious logging. Since that time, I’ve submitted over 850 manuscripts and less than ten percent have been published. Each year though, my statistics get better. Not dramatically because, as Hemingway said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master”; but I am getting better.

I currently have eleven manuscripts out; I still have an agent, and one of the writers listed above has agreed to read my current science fiction novel and make some comments.

I have been working hard at my writing for the past 44 years. Can you think of a better definition of persistence than doing the same thing with only incremental change over four decades?

Hey, who said, “Isn’t that the definition of insanity?”

Later, folks!

May 16, 2014

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 55: Stepan in the HOD

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, go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story.

Old Man Gillard threw back the hood as they entered the main room of the adobe. Built against the outer wall of Burroughs Dome and he closed a screen behind them. Stepan turned and said, “I see you’re still wearing the suit Mom made for you.”

The older man smiled faintly, tapped the thick leather and said, “I go in and out all the time. Everything thinks it’s magic. No one bothers to pay much attention to the Original Settler’s ways.” He paused. “How are you doing, Son?”

Stepan scanned the room. Spartan, as he had expected. He walked to the bookshelf that occupied an entire wall and touched a book. “You still take care of them?”

OM Gillard laughed and said, “They would have been yours if you’d stuck to your guns. Your mother and I raised you as philosophy-free as we could. You were supposed to...” he waved everything away. “As it is, they’ll pass into the public domain. Probably make the house a library or something after I’m dead.”

Stepan turned to his father, saying, “It didn’t have to be this...”

He grunted and said, “Once you publicly renounced the Unified Faith In Humanity – something I helped start, as you might remember – you pretty much took things out of my hands. If you’d...”

Stepan returned the gesture subconsciously. “That part of our relationship is over, Dad. I’ve come to the HOD for another reason.”

“Which is?”

“I need money to feed the poor out on the Rim.”

His father laughed, shaking his head. “What kind of trouble you got yourself into this time, Nathan?”

“I go by Stepan now.”

Dad lifted his chin, “Like the martyr Steven in your christian fairytales?”

Stepan/Nathan shrugged. “Seemed appropriate at the time. I really don’t expect to be around very long when word finally gets out that I gave up your artificial religion.”

His father sighed. “It worked for L. Ron Hubbard – and we have better reasons for creating it.”

“How is it that you…” he chopped the air. “Enough of the old argument. I’d like help to establish a sort of colony that people with money problems or in trouble with the law can come to start over. I’d like to be able to eventually create a credit pool so I can award people who are ready for it to start farms, maybe do produce items like wine and silk.”

His father snorted. “Lofty goals, boy, for someone who gave up everything – for nothing.”

Stepan/Nathan shook his head, “Not for nothing, Dad. My ideals are as strong as yours and Mom’s. They’re just different...”

“And divisive.”

“No more divisive than your Unified Faith in Humanity has become. Why are there still Five Councils after a hundred years of us living on Mars?”

His father waved away the accusation then finally went to a straight back chair and sat down with a sigh. Shaking his head, he said, “I don’t know.”

May 14, 2014


I’ll be taking a BRIEF break from writing a fantasy, a science fiction, and a horror novel online – to just provide you with an trope, a current even, and a shove in the right direction. The reason? I’m a school counselor and this year I am responsible for the class of 2014. As events heat up, I need to use my energy to send them off well! So, until June 5, 2014, I will be in Guidance Counselor Mode…

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.

SF Trope: robots

“The Serpent In Eden, Nebraska”

Caleb Ogallala stared at the hole in the ground. “‘bout wide enough for me to get my arm down. Probably to my elbow,” he said. Looking up at his sister, Isabella Pearson nee Ogallala, he said, “You probably don’t believe I saw what I said I saw.”

Isabella – who went by Bell at SolaRobotics in the far, frozen northland of Winnipeg – said, “You’re my brother and I believe you saw what you thought you saw.”

“Not the same thing. You may be all of twenty-three and all I am is seventeen, but I know what I saw. It was a robot shaped like a snake and it dug this here hole.”

Bell winced at the Plainsism. She’d barely managed to ditch the weird accent after she did her undergrad work at the University of Minnesota. She’d finally got that accent right. Now she was struggling to fit in at her newly adopted home in Canada. She nodded, then squatted, “All right then. I apologize. You saw a robot shaped like a snake go down this hole.” She looked up at her brother. He didn’t seem as happy as he used to. Mom and Dad dying from MERS while she was away at college probably hadn’t helped with the mood. Not that their family laughed much. Salt-of-the-Earth Dad had called them...She shook off the melancholy image and shielded her eyes with her hand as she said, “First question is: has the county let the prairie dogs back in?”

His lips twitched in a smile. It was the first one since he’d picked her up at the skip-port in Ogallala, sixty klicks straight north of here. He said, “Not that I know of, but people ‘round here, they don’t much trust nobody’s government, even when it’s the Accordion Party.”

She stood and straightened up, “It’s the Accord Party.”

He shrugged then said, “It had your logo on it.”

“What?” she said, suddenly intent.

“The second letter of your name the round sun with black diamond eyes. It was on the snake head.”

Unexpectedly, Bell was cold despite the heat from the late morning sun…

Names: Nebraska, Nebraska ; Nebraska, Nebraska