Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Plot Peeves

There are some things I just can't stand in a story.

Plot Fart

A compelling question is raised... and ignored

Ten year-old girl was nipped by a werewolf, but manages to fight off the lycanthropy somehow. Now seventeen, she is attacked by another werewolf, and bitten again. Will lycanthropy overwhelm her this time? Is she doomed, her life as a human ruined? What will happen?

Unfortunately, nothing. None of these possibilities even occurs to the characters, because they have divine knowledge somehow that she is immune to lycanthropy. Being immune is certainly possible, but their absolute certainty that this is how it works just doesn't make sense. It's like a story-wide brain fart.

Stupidity Plot Drive 

An obvious solution could solve the problem, but the characters, by sheer force of will, do not notice.

The young heroes, riding in a coach and four, are stopped by a tree fallen across the road. A second tree blocks their retreat. They try to pull the fallen tree out of the way, but they aren't strong enough. If only there was someone stronger to help them! Like four Clydesdale draft horses! Certainly it's possible the horse couldn't do it, either. But we don't know they couldn't, because no one even thought about the possibility. Although it's a good thing they didn't think to try this, because if they had escaped, they wouldn't have been attacked in the night and the plot advanced.

This is related to the Plot Fart, but worse. After a similar fashion, an obvious question doesn't occur to the characters. In the Plot Fart, the willful oversight is just confusing and annoying. In the Stupidity Plot Drive, it is necessary to  keep the story moving. Nothing is worse than a problem that is only a problem because the characters are too stupid to solve it.

Say What?

Characters briefly do the impossible, leaving the reader wondering if this is supposed to be significant, or what?

Often this happens to me with wildlife. The girl who runs "very fast" and escapes from a mountain lion. The hunters who decide they're going to kill all the wolves in the forest, so they walk into the woods and shoot them. Question: given a 40' head start, how long can an Olympic sprinter stay ahead of a mountain lion before getting caught and eaten? Answer: 0.9 seconds. Question: how far might a wolf pack be from its den when the hunters go looking for it? Answer: up to 30 miles.

I don't like to dispute accuracy with fiction. Just let it be a story. It's okay. But it is so darn jarring. For me it's analogous to having characters in New York jump in their car and drive to Paris for the afternoon. I stop reading and try to figure out if I'm supposed to make anything out of this apparently magical power or not.

In the case of the mountain lion, I actually was--the girl was half a were-lion. If the girl had been shocked or confused by her miraculous escape, I'd have been okay. But because she doesn't notice she's done something superhuman, I'm left wondering if she did, or if the author was just confused. "Very fast" doesn't cover what you'd need to do to outrun a mountain lion. It's the fastest sprinter in the world who can last 0.9 seconds.

In the case of the wolves, no, the hunters have no super-powers, these wolves just like to sit around and wait to be hunted.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Star Wars: A Simple Comparisom


As everyone knows, Star Wars is a trilogy of trilogies. There's the Original Trilogy, from 1977. The New Trilogy, from 2015. And, of course, there's the Abomination, from somewhere in between, I'm trying not to remember.

Everybody knows how the Abomination compares to the Original, but how about OT and NT? I'm trying to make up my mind.

At the risk of making my co-workers laugh at me, I had to make a table.

Original Trilogy New Trilogy
PLUS: Heroic, Epic, Larger-than-life, classic retelling of the Hero's Tale. Deeply rooted in mythology Epic and heroic, but not the classic "Hero's Tale" (hero--Rey--is absent from the beginning of the story)
PLUS: Tight, solid plotting DING: fractured story-telling. Needlessly unresolved questions. Stellar hopscotch so fast the viewer loses track of what is happening where. Rapid-fire coincidental meetings.
DING: Lame, stilted dialogue, mildly whiny hero ("But I wanted to go to the Tashi Station and pick up some power converters!") PLUS: Strong characters, real feelings and situations. Characters drive story. Solid dialogue. A little more life-size.
PLUS: Amazing cinematography PLUS: Amazing, evocative cinematography. Better picture of poverty and oppression.
PLUS: Original, definitive. Star Wars transformed SF for the movies. DING: Death Star Redux III. A lot of parallel scenes.
DING: Cuteness. R2D2 had appeal, the Jawas were slightly creepy, but the teddy bears were over the top. Cuteness contained. BB-8 had it, and that was enough.
Improbable situations and physics, but it's all in good fun. DING: Silly physics. Silly enough to be distracting.


For the Original Trilogy, the Heroic Tale, the mythology, and its original, transformative nature are its greatest hallmarks. The dialogue and, especially in later episodes, cuteness factor are its most famous flaws.

For the New Trilogy, the characters, their conflicts and struggles, the vision of the First Order, and the evocative places stand out. It's a shame, therefore, that the frayed plot undermines all this.

Telling the difference between what is a delicious, compelling mystery, and what is an annoying withholding of information can be a tricky call. But there are two simple, basic guidelines:
  1. Unless mystery and subterfuge is the point of the story, if the heroes know the answer, the viewer should know it. 
  2. If a character has a mysterious background, when others discover it, the viewer should discover it. 
In the case of Rey's past, the first point means that, by the end of the movie, we should know something of the circumstances of her abandonment. We shouldn't be guessing whether she was waiting for her mother, boyfriend, sister, best friend, or entire family. We shouldn't wonder whether the parting was forcible abduction, probable death, neglectful abandonment, or heroic abandonment. The memory flashes at the cantina are only a tease, not a resolution. The second rule says that when Rey and Leia meet, it should be clear whether she's thinking "Here is someone who knows what I'm feeling," or if she's squealing "Mommy!"

The ambiguities build on each other. It appears as if Rey is Ren's sister, but that raises more questions. If not, then we know nothing of her background. If so, then why doesn't she know anything about Han and Leia? It's all so completely unresolved that I even lack confidence it's worth trying to unravel. That is to say, I expect that, when the "mystery" is revealed, any evidence against the revealed truth is simply ignored. J. J. Abrams track record with Lost encourages this view.

The parallel scenes I can forgive, because they felt like tributes more than rehashes. If a funny-looking band had featured in the cantina (as in Return of the Jedi's rehash), if there had been a brawl, if the Yoda-ite had used Object-Subject-Verb word order (or some other odd speech), if the Neo-Death Star's weakness wasn't directly tied in to the uniqueness of its original weapon, this would have annoyed me much more. However, no new twist can really make Death Star Redux III okay. We need a new threat.

The silly physics aren't a bad ding, they're just annoying. They disrupt the story for anyone who thinks about what's going on. You don't need a Ph.D. in physics to wonder how a planet can survive after its sun has been sucked up by the Neo-Death Star, we learned in kindergarten how we need the sun. Anytime your viewers are scratching their heads and saying "Wait, what just happened?" you've interrupted your movie. It's bad story-telling.

The Winner: The Original Trilogy

It's a close call, and a shame, because it wouldn't have taken more than a junior story editor to fix the flaws that undercut the new movie. All the genius of the characters, dialogue, settings, and plot was badly hampered by the shoddy storytelling. Simplify the planet-hopping, make clear what is happening where. Pay attention to the questions you raise, and notice the difference between a mystery and an annoying omission. That part isn't hard. It boggles my brain that Hollywood so often skips the critical, easy parts while creating brilliant bits to flounder in the soup.

The New Trilogy is fabulous, and I am eagerly awaiting the next two episodes. I even have hope that Disney will ask JJ Abrams to remake the Abomination episodes, since they own the rights, have no shame about admitting what a disaster they were, and will make tons of money and happy fans if they do. But this movie doesn't displace the original from its iconic top spot.

At least, not yet.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Eugene Fairfield's Best Books of 2015

As last year, a book is considered "2015" if I read it in 2015. As such, the competition is highly random, pitting Adam Rex against Jerome K. Jerome. Here they are:

Best Children's Book: 

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

(See below for the many reasons this won)

Best Science Fiction:

A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias

Excellent depiction of First Contact, with all the cultural misunderstanding, a compelling alien world, and dramatic plot.

Best Epic Fantasy:

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Original, at once epic and human-scale, with a compelling heroine, well-developed and original magic system, dramatic climax, and flawless submersion in the culture.

Runner-up: Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johanssen

Queen Kelsey pulls along this tale of a teen who must assume her throne through multiple assassination plots, with a compulsion to justice that drives her to make dangerous choices.

Best Political Theme in Story Form: 


12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup

Plainly and powerfully told. Should be required reading in high school.

Runners-up: (tie) The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi & The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

Bacigalupi's no-holds-barred indictment of the corporate spin machine is powerful and timely, but Rex's allegory of the Euro-american conquest of North America is more subtle and less preachy.

Funniest Book: 

(tie) The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

 and Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

 How can you rank one over the other? Both hilarious and brilliantly written, yet so completely different in tone and, well, everything. On the one hand, there are eternally quotable lines from Rex: "I was told to come to the obnoxiously-colored building where people who are bad at math give away their money" "'Do you know why we've pulled you over, Miss?' 'Uh... because I'm only twelve and my car is floating?'"  On the other you've got the pinnacle of British humor.

Most Heart-Wrenching: 

(tie) Landline by Rainbow Rowell

and The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

Rainbow Rowell is a powerhouse of real life, flawed characters, and heart-wrenching scenes. But it is hard to beat the poignancy of Adam Rex's Tip, trying to drag her mother to the doctor, or standing in the snow on Christmas Eve, staring at the place where her mother was just sucked up by an alien ship.

Most Haunting: 

We Were Liars by E. Lockheart

A powerfully told story of PTSD, family drama, wealth, and, of course, lies.

Best Sequel: 

Smek for President by Adam Rex

Nearly as good as the original. Expands and builds on the previous while staying true to the story.

Continued -->

Eugene Fairfield's Best Books of 2015, continued

Most Magical: 

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

Bleak and beautiful. Suffused with awe and wonder.

Best Scientific Grounding: 

Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman

This tale of a sightless people combines the most recent neuroscience and a keen sense of culture to create great science fiction.

Best Magical System: 

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Simple yet fully developed, original, evocative, and wholly self-consistent. What more could a fantasist ask?

Best Protagonist: 

Gratuity Tucci (True Meaning of Smekday)

Smart, sassy, bold, introspective, literate, and still needs her mommy. She's  one heck of an African-Italian-American 12 year-old. 

PS. Do you know how hard it is to find an image from a book after Hollywood has made a movie out of it?

Best Villain: 

(tie) the captain (Challenger Deep) (no image available)

He's crazy. He's cruel. He's incomprehensible. And he hates that parrot.

the Gorg (True Meaning of Smekday)

All Gorg are left-handed. All Gorg like musical theater. If you were to take all the Gorg in the world, and stack them one on top of the other, the Gorg would kill you. Those who do not cooperate will be severely punched.

Best Audio Performance: 

(tie) Michael Curran-Dorsano (Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman)

Every character comes alive, you forget there is only one man reading. Total immersion in the book.

Bahni Turpin (True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex)

Not only was her Gratuity Tucci fantastic and heartfelt, but her J-Lo was definitive. The perfect voice for the alien that was at once meek, out-of-it, and yet superior to human foolishness. She'd have first place all to herself, if I could have shaken the image that the residents of Roswell were black. This could be subconscious racism--I doubt if I would be as bothered if a white reader didn't make black characters sound black--although of course some black people do sound white, while rednecks never sound black. It probably wouldn't have mattered as much to me in another context, but race mattered in this story, and in this scene the fact that the characters were white mattered, so the accent distracted me.  But, mm, (sheep noise--bubble rap--bubble rap), maybe, her J-Lo was the amazing. [that's an inside joke if you haven't read it]

Author of the Year:

Paolo Bacigalupi (The Doubt Factory, The Water Knife)

He writes for young adult, he writes for adult. He explores the future of climate change in dramatic, intelligent stories. He is bold enough to smear dozens of major corporations, accusing them of real criminal activity around real events (such as the warnings of Reyes Syndrome on aspirin, that Bayer fought to suppress or delay). He vividly displays the horror of modern warlords. And he hasn't dropped the ball once.

Runner-up: Adam Rex (The True Meaning of Smekday, Smek for President, and Fat Vampire)

The author of the Smekday toure de force ought to be the hands-down winner. But his Fat Vampire didn't hold a candle to his masterpiece. So I gave top honors to the man who never disappointed. Still. If Adam Rex never writes a good book again, he belongs in the hall of fame.

Book of the Year:

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

What else could it be? What other book can place in Funniest, Most Heart-Wrenching, and Best Political Theme? When I read this at the beginning of the year, I predicted no book would top it. I was right. I further predict it will be among the best books of the decade. If it can stand the test of time, which it may, it has a shot at placing among the best children's books of all time.

NOTE: Unless it is cold and raining and you need a campfire lit or freeze to death, do not ask me what I thought of the Hollywood movie using characters with the same names, a rough similarity to a few plot structures, and some quotes (I would not stoop to call it an "adaptation"). I will flame.

Brief Reflection

It bears noting that I get most of my literature these days (Sabriel excepted) through  audio books, and further that the best stories coincidentally have the best narrators. The opposite also tends to be true, as I disliked the narrator of Invasion of the Tearling, a disappointing sequel. Despite reading the books (very nearly) word-for-word, I think audio books are a distinct art form. It becomes impossible to separate the performance from the story. A talented reader can elevate a book high above others that might be its peers in written form. Conversely, A poor reader can ruin a book of any quality. It is rare, but I have encountered audiobooks that were simply unlistenable. It makes me wonder how I would view these stories on the page, Still, no skill in narration can push a poor story into the ranks of the great.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Carolyn Ives Gilman and Me

I just started listening to Carolyn Ives Gilman's Dark Orbit. I was immediately struck how her set up parallels the SF saga I've been working on for years: Mischief's World (working title). Both stories feature a female protagonist with a science background in alien life who has a reputation for holding authority and official conventions at arms length. Both protagonists are compelled by a difficult circumstance, skillfully exploited, to accept a job. Both jobs put her on a journey to an unknown alien world, and both alien worlds were discovered by a message from an ancient exploratory vehicle that people had given up expecting to hear from. Both alien worlds also give a previously unseen look at alien life--the first-ever non-terrestrial life in Gilman's, the first compatible with terrestrial life (i.e. human) in mine.

The parallels end there. Dark Orbit goes off into mysterious deaths and fractal space, Mischief into mysterious passengers, a romance, power and domination, and [SPOILER DELETED]. But that's an awful lot of overlap. Although Mischief might be more light-hearted and temperamental than Gilman's Sara, they would certainly be friends if they met.

I met Carolyn once, at Readercon, years ago. I'd had the great privilege to have her read one of my short stories and offer insightful feedback, and I was pleased she remembered it some months later. At that point, Halfway Human was her only title, and she wasn't accustomed to strangers looking up at her and saying, "Oh, Carolyn's here!" At that point in time, I only had one completed novel manuscript, and, curiously, like Halfway Human it was a "Gender SF" story. Hers shook up gender roles by creating a world where exists a third, neuter gender, mine by reversing the power dynamic by eliminating 90% of the male population (on a continuing basis).  The parallel would be truly astonishing if Mischief's World were my current project, but I confess it is stalled. It has an epic scale akin to The Fellowship of the Unloved, and epic scale means an epic undertaking for me.

When I tried to look her up online, I discovered that Carolyn's better-paying job is Historian, and my paycheck is for teaching High School Social Studies (and other subjects, but that's my favorite). I've always felt a kinship with Carolyn. A little envy, too, of course. But I like it that she sent a little of the spirit of Mischief O'Malley out into the published world. She was feeling a little cramped, stuck on my hard drive all these years. I hope we will meet again some day. I wonder how she would react if she got to see the opening for my story.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Infancy of the Heron: from Honky to Indian

The original cast of the story looked a lot like the role-playing game it had come from. There was a fighter (Sister Dagmar), a wizard (Bjornsterne), a cleric (Qoyor Sube), and a thief (Hjalmar). ASIDE: If you're not familiar with role-playing culture, this "thief" is more like Bilbo Baggin's burglar, a clever and sneaky helper of the party, than a criminal. The only character who didn't really fit as a roleplayer was Rabbit. Very few role-playing systems have a character class of "peacemaker."

Part of the inspiration for Rabbit was actually Butch Cassidy. I was watching one of those "Movies with Commentary" shows in Boston ("The Movie Loft," if that means anything to anyone). The commentator remarked that Cassidy was neither the cleverest, nor the toughest, nor the best gun in the gang. Why did people follow him? "Because they liked him." Interesting, I thought. The hero who is the leader simply for his relationships with people, without force, title, or cunning.

I wrote an entire draft of the novel with the wizard and the honky Rabbit, before I realized that was wrong. I axed the wizard, ultimately, because he was too standard. I've always had trouble with the role-playing convention of having both wizards and priests, both casting spells but drawing on different power. How can there be gods who shaped the order of the universe, and a power in the universe that is other than what the gods shaped. Magic and religion have to be integrated, I've always thought.

In historical examples, this is always the case. Magic and the sacred are never separate realms. Granted, in medieval Europe, witches and priests were co-existent and separate. But they both drew on the same divine power. When a priest performed a miracle, it was the power of God. When a witch cast a spell, it was the power of Satan.

So how did Rabbit finally become a part of a tribal people? I think I knew he ought to be before he did. When I finally agreed that he needed to, I had to square my shoulders and take a deep breath. I'd been afraid to do it. I didn't want to be accused of co-opting Indian culture, or making a poor-Indian story, or anything of that nature. But then I realized that what I was doing instead was writing a story about white Indians, and that was worse. So... I had to do it right.

After some years of struggling with this story, and bringing it nearly into its final form, it occurred to me that maybe I shouldn't have made up a fake society. It is based in fair part on Indians of the North-east, the Iroquois Confederacy and the Abenaki, but mostly it was my invention. I deliberately did not have the children of Uliante grow corn, because that, it seemed to me, would literally brand the tribe Native American. But I was always uncomfortable that the Children of Uliante, and all their kin, were hunter-gatherers before the coming of the lowlanders, rather than the farmers of the Americas, with their own domesticated crops.

Similarly around this time, it occurred to me that I had created the Old Tongue largely by messing with Japanese as a model, although I added many non-Japanese phonemes, and maybe I should instead have worked off of Abenaki. I'd used Japanese for convenience: I know it. I experimented with Abenaki, and I even rewrote the first chapter with the new language.

Ebidzani of Uliante lay still on his pallet in the cool summer night, quieting his nerves. His night terrors came frequently these days, it was unfair to disturb his family... When he was a child little older that his grandson Zegleuna was now, there had only been a vision of flames and a feel of heat on his face and an overwhelming sense of loss. Later he had known it for a funeral pyre, later still for the pyre of his wife, W'bala. Recently, he had seen the faces of the people gathered around the pyre, seen his chief, Zokatese, strangely without his sword, his daughter Ditsala, utterly bereft, his friend Nazante wide-eyed in sorrow. He had never seen his son W'sigwa, he didn’t know why. This time he had clearly seen his grandchildren, Zegleuna and little Inasa, though he had always thought they were present.
Only W'bala, as always, W'bala, did not see it as his shame but his strength. "Se w'dô, your soul walks in fears others cannot face even in their dreams, w'dô ho? If ever you can face your dreams, se, you will be the wisest of us all."
 But finally I realized that if I used the Abenaki language, I would have to use more clearly the Abenaki culture, and that meant the Abenaki cosmology, and that meant the story fell apart. So the Indianifaction of Rabbit remained as I had made it, and that would be good.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Birth of the Heron

Now that The Heron in His Vigilance has finally hit the shelves, I thought I could write a bit about where it came from.

The seed of the story was a role-playing game. The old-fashioned kind, a bunch of friends sitting around a table with paper, dice, books, and beer. The players were the folks listed in the dedication. Mallgeir was in the names, as was King Balás, and Qutuchin, Uliante, and Celio, although the names were different. The basic plot, the struggle against Balás, was the same. The attack on Norcincó, the escape through the tunnels, and the murder of the Heir of Jan was there--although the Heir of Jan was male and the Temple of the Dust did not exist.

It was a great way to develop a story, interacting with other people, drawing from other creativity. I conceived the idea of making the story in 1998, flying from Burlington to Los Angeles for the Writers of the Future Award ceremony. You spend a lot of time in the air, between Vermont and California. That was in the days when Babylon 5 was on the air, and the notion of a television serial story (as opposed to a series of stories) was novel in America. It occurred to me that I could adapt the game into a TV serial, so I wrote up a treatment, a list of episodes, describing the development of the story.

Some changes occurred immediately. The invention of Rabbit as the central character, the addition of Sister Dagmar and Bjornsterne. The player's characters quickly transformed.The only character who is recognizable is Deb Hayes's K'Shan, who became Qoyor Sube. The backstory and the nature of her power are original to the book, but K'Shan was a shaman of the Bayan Govi.

Two non-human characters are largely gone: Tony Galbraith's Beast and Carrie Rouillard's Ithiel. Coincidentally, both are visual artists: you can find Tony's paintings and wool sculptures at, and Carrie's masks at Beast was adopted out of another novel, so I couldn't use him. Ithiel, a unicorn, survived into the TV show, but when I decided to do the novel, I decided to drop her. A unicorn is a powerful archetype. It seemed impossible to have a story with a unicorn in it without the unicorn and the nature of unicorns being central. I replaced them with Tlikkipit, who was part of the TV show all the way through.

Also, as the story evolved, it became much more humanocentric. All manner of magical creatures, trolls, man-eating bird people, banshee birds, and others were dropped. Not to mention the issue that Marion Zimmer Bradley's estate, which wouldn't have objected to her banshee birds being pulled wholesale out of her books for a role-playing adventure, would have had something to say about a published novel.

Amy Freund's Ghost lasted through the entire story in the TV version. When I wrote the novel, however, I got as far as Skowe before realizing he didn't have a role, anymore. Not coincidentally, this is when I realized Tlikkipit could not always be there. It was then left behind by the old trick of spirit creatures not crossing water.

Jeremy Freund's Ben Barak survived in Bjornsterne. Ben Barak was a Leane Si from a far northern people which I later dropped. Obviously I couldn't have another Leane Si just banging around with the party, so that had to go. But Bjornsterne's character came a lot from Ben Barak, particularly the speechifying, although I don't believe Ben was quite as obtuse as Bjornsterne.

But there was still a long way to go. For instance... the people of Uliante, and Rabbit himself... were all white.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Is a Bison not a Buffalo?

AHEM. Scientists are not the arbiters of language.

In North America, there is an indigenous animal usually called the buffalo, which is not related to the Asian and African buffalo. Therefore scientists insist on calling the NA buffalo "bison." Good for them.

Curiously, I hear much less complaint about how in North America people call elk "moose," and then call a completely different animal an elk which is not an elk but a deer.

Meanwhile, a killer whale is not a member of a whale family. It's a dolphin. Neither the sparrowhawk (falcon) or redtailed hawk (buteo) are hawks. The jackrabbit is a hare and the snowshoe hare is a rabbit.

Despite getting an enormous kick out of taxonomy, and the difference between Artiodactyla and Perrissodactyla, I use all these "wrong" names. By and large, the common name is a much more evocative name than the "correct" one. "Bison" is a species. A buffalo is the animal that thundered in great herds over the plains, the lifeblood of the Sioux, the animal the pale-face shot by the hundreds for sport as their trains rattled by. A buffalo is the spirit of the American west.

In the 19th century, we like to say, people thought whales were fish. Listening to Moby Dick, it occurred to me, that is completely wrong. People called whales "fish." They defined a "fish" as an animal that swims in the ocean, and by that definition, they were absolutely correct, a whale is a fish. It simply isn't true that they mistakenly believed whales to be fish. They understood that there were significant differences between whales and fish, like breathing air. But the medium of life in water made such demands upon creatures that the whale is, in many ways, more like a marlin or swordfish than it is like a buffalo (sorry, a bison). What happened was that the definition of what makes a fish changed, so that it no longer included whales.

Apparently, by the same standard we now use to exclude whales from the name of "fish," sharks are not fish either. Sharks are in a different order from fish, they are no closer relations than are whales. But I've never heard anyone protest that a shark is not a fish.

The notion of whales as distinct from fish is now so firmly fixed in the modern mind (and, yes, the distinction is a very good one), I don't call whales fish. But I no longer feel a need to wince listening to some old sea shanty about "chasing the whale-fish."

Current Projects

I've been away from here so long. Many apologies. What am I doing? A lot. Most current bits:

The Cracked Earth: (Working Title) A bit ago I tried the "share your story with your daughter chapter-by-chapter while you write it." Kept me on my toes to be sure each chapter made you want the next. This is an odd Middle-Grades story about  a handful of kids who haven't been eaten by the creatures who've eaten most of the people on Earth. The first draft is done.

A Time Traveler's Guide to Messing Up Your Life: (Firm Title) A Young Adult story about a high school girl who time travels, and tries to "adjust" history toward better outcomes. I thought it was all done, when I discovered Steven King had just published a story about time travelers trying to save Kennedy, so now I have to change the climax so it doesn't look like I copied him. I think I might have her go after J. Edgar Hoover instead, which will have the advantage of my hero having to fend off advances from the POTUS.

Inka Argus: (working title). A middle-grades story about a girl reporter in large and strange city similar to 1900. To be a mystery, which I haven't really done before, so we'll see. This is in early stages.