Monday, July 15, 2013

I'm Ready to Beg, Folks

Unemployed for close to two years, nobody is hiring, my books aren't selling.

If you have not bought one of my publications, please consider it. I personally think The Christmas Mutiny is a good story.

For the next seven days, if you e-mail me at or text me at (541) 602-6026 to inform me that you have bought one of my stories, I will reply with 1) my personal thanks and 2) my new story "Dragons Live Forever", a 375-word flash piece which has not yet been offered to the public.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Afterword to "The Right Man"

In my alternate-history story "The Right Man", I take an historical fact, the eviction of the Bonus Army from the Washington Mall, and an historical figure, Major General Smedley Butler, and see what they might do together.

Historically, the violent eviction of the Bonus Army from Washington was an appalling crime and "worse than a crime -- a blunder". Surely a better solution could have been found than the one imposed by General Douglas MacArthur, perhaps one conceived by some other General?

I learned that another solution had indeed been depicted in the film Gabriel Over the White House, and used a variation on it. It seemed like something Smedley Butler might well have done in that position.

What if he had? How would history have proceeded from my version of July 28th, 1932? How might the country have recovered from the Depression, and how quickly? If the recovery had come faster, how might that have affected the events which preceded the outbreak of the Second World War? I really don't know. I haven't thought about it, nor made any plans for a sequel.

But if I did write a sequel,what role might General Butler play in some divergent version of the Second World War? Leading, perhaps, a League of Nations peacekeeping force in disarming Nazi Germany...?

Maybe I will write a sequel . . . .

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Afterword to "The Men Who Saved JFK"

For some reason or other, "The Men Who Saved JFK" is conspicuously the most-downloaded of the stories I have posted for download at Amazon and Google Books. My guess is that a lot of people are doing searches in which one of the terms is "JFK". I suppose what that means is that my next posted story should have been "Lincoln's Doctor's Dog" rather than "[Hansel] and [Gretel] Lost in the Bardo", but I have never been all that practical of a person. In the Fourth Grade, I had a friend who was a "good player", one who could get into character easily and play a role satisfactorily. One of his favorite subjects for play was the resurrection or rescue of President Kennedy through some exotic means. Fred Hatch, the hero of my story, is basically that boy grown up, and retaining that obsession. The title, though, and the tone and organization of my story, are taken rather directly from Alfred Bester's "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed". In that story, Bester invented a rather odd form of time travel in which altering the present is impossible, which inspired my own more conventional time travel format in which altering history is simply...difficult. That story also introduced me to the handy word "chronicide", although I have given it a different definition.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Gotta Find It, Or Gotta Write It Again

The other day I was reminded of a story I wrote but now can't find. I'm sure I have it around here somewhere on some 3.5" disk, or maybe even a 5.25" disk (boy am I old or what?). It's a story of a type which I understand is popular these days, and would probably find a ready market which it couldn't back when I wrote it: a Steampunk adventure inspired by the Airship Panic of 1897 (basically, a rash of UFO sightings, complete with close encounters of Yankee inventors/inscrutable Chinese/silent extraterrestrials). In my story, a reporter investigating airship sightings winds up joining an airship's crew and becoming an airshipwoman's lover. I was specifically reminded of a scene in which our hero (I can't recall his name -- let's call him Nelson David) witnesses a meeting between his airship and the vessel of Robur the Conqueror (a Jules Verne villain who in my story is a celebrity within the airship underground): As the Columbia passed over the ridge and Crater Lake came into view, Nelson saw that another airship was already resting on the water. Scorning the Columbia's cautious sky blue, the Albatross was midnight black, with a broad band of red along its midline. Its tail assembly was also painted red, with a yellow lightning bolt on its vertical fin. The gong sounded the fire-precautions chime, and then Nelson heard the distant hiss as hydrogen was vented from the top of the Columbia's envelope. They dropped rapidly toward the surface of the lake and set down with a jar and a splash. Nelson heard the pumps sucking lake water into the ballast tanks, felt the vibration as water flowed through a pipe beneath his feet. The lake's surface stopped slapping against the bottom of the gondola as it settled into the water. The gong sounded all-clear: enough time had passed (it was hoped) that the vented hydrogen had dispersed. The Columbia's motors started up and the props pushed them across the surface of the lake toward the Albatross. Nelson watched as they approached the Albatross. He could see, as they pulled alongside, that Robur's ship was at least half again the size of the Columbia. It was the largest airship Nelson had seen yet. He went down to the side hatch, where several other Columbians had gathered. There was a noise from the Albatross and a ramp began unfolding from its own side hatch. As Nelson watched, gutta percha bladders began to inflate, keeping the ramp on the surface. Nelson heard a murmur of approval for this device. "What does it weigh, though?" Olga asked from his elbow. He turned and smiled at his lover. "The weight of things is always on your mind, isn't it?" "I wouldn't be much of an aviatrix if it weren't. Weight, lift, drag, thrust. Always." Again he noticed that her accent seemed to lessen when she spoke with any intensity of emotion. He wondered again if she were really Russian, much less a renegade member of the Royal family. Captain Mors spoke to a crewman who opened the hatch and reached out with a billhook to seize the end of the Albatross' ramp. He quickly made it fast, and moments later a man and woman in blue silk uniforms stepped out of the Albatross and onto the ramp, followed by a large man resplendent in a red uniform with generous amounts of gold braid on the sleeves and a waist-length white cape. Robur had a bristling black beard shot with gray and eyes which seemed to take in everything around him. He looked as solid and respectable as a Navy captain or a university professor, yet he also had the daring air of an outlaw about him. The broad gold lightning bolt on the bib of his tunic pushed him over the line toward the piratical. Nelson tapped Olga on the arm and looked at her with some severity. "You never mentioned that Robur was a Negro." With an air of great dignity Olga replied, "I presumed you would be able to tell when you saw him."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Critical Spelling Errors

Criticle: The smallest unit of criticism. Cridical: Like unto a crid [] Criticule: A small bag containing the most important items.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Frankenstein's World on Edublogs

I found this while searching the phrase "Frankenstein's World", because that is the title of my next book and I was wondering what else people would find when searching for it. I found the thoughts of someone reading the original novel, and a final post which expresses disappointment in the ending. My comment: "I have to say I disagree with you about the ending of the original book. I think Frankenstein dying unavenged, and the monster likewise unavenged, is entirely appropriate, since what I have known of revenge tells me that even when it is 'successful', it is almost never satisfying. "Clearly, though, many have disagreed, since I have not yet seen any dramatization or adaptation which has ended that way. The monster almost always kills Frankenstein and then dies himself, via a bolt of lightning (as in the original stage version) or in a fire (as in the 1931 Universal film) or literally fading away (as in the 1910 Edison film). The closest to the original ending that I have seen is a TV adaptation in which Frankenstein and the monster wrestle aboard Walton's ship and then fall through the ice to drown together." In my own Frankenstein's World, I don't kill off either Frankenstein or his abandoned child. But I hope readers will find it satisfying.

Friday, February 1, 2013


Miriam looked over the edge of the Abyss. It was daunting during the day. At night, it was terrifying, the darkness of its depths impenetrable even by the full Moon, and she could only think of it as the Abyss.

The tiny lantern in her hand seemed absurd. Yet somehow she really did feel better leaning over the side like this while her host family searched the ravine for the fallen boy.

He hadn't fallen over the edge at this point, of course -- there would be no hurry to look for him in that case. At sunset, he had called his father on his cell phone to say he had fallen down the ravine at its less-precipitous eastern end and had twisted his ankle. The entire family had descended at the shallow western end, leaving Miriam behind.

They had asked her to wait at the edge of the ravine with the lantern. Miriam was too little to really help with the search, she understood that. She knew that they had given her the lantern just to keep her busy.

 Even so, she stayed beside the edge and waited while the darkness deepened.

Miriam was starting to feel really tired when she finally heard the family returning. The boy was riding his big brother piggyback, both grinning at the good outcome of the search, the pleasure of being rescued and of rescuing.

Miriam didn't go into the boy's room until it was almost bedtime. She patted his shoulder and he smiled.

"I'm sorry I couldn't help to look for you."

"Weren't you up on the edge with the lantern? That's what Mama told me."

"Yes, that was me."

He grabbed her hand, hard.

"Thank you so much. All the while I was down there, I could see the lantern, and I knew you were looking for me."

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Man of Steel

STREET SCENE: JOE and JERRY walk down an otherwise-empty urban sidewalk, the camera preceding them down the sidewalk, slightly higher than eye level, so that we look slightly down on them.


JERRY has stopped. He puts out his left hand to stop JOE from moving forward, though JOE doesn’t notice at first.

JERRY LOOK . . . .

JERRY’s right hand slowly rises, index finger pointing towards something higher than our POV.

JERRY (In an awed half-whisper) UP IN THE SKY . . . .

Ted read over the scene again, grinning. It was good. It was very good, the perfect opening scene for Superman: City of Tomorrow. It established the theme of a world whose wonders could easily be missed, ignored or taken for granted. Superman would serve as a metaphor for the marvels all around, the everyday miracles of life, science and human creativity. At the end of the film, Joe would spot a rare bird and point it out to Jerry, who would express surprise at Joe’s noticing it. Joe would grin and say, “I spend more time looking up these days.”

Okay, so he had a beginning and an ending. Now he just had to fill in a hundred or so pages. That, and find a way to get some studio person to take a look at it, and he still had small idea of how that was done. It was all so complicated, and did middle-aged men ever actually break into scriptwriting? Not in big-budget franchise pictures, he knew that much. He probably shouldn’t even be working on his Superman movie – better to concentrate on learning how to write basic scripts for low-budget pictures, the kind he might possibly get a shot at – not that he knew much about how even those kinds of films got made.

But the Superman project was what he wanted to work on. It was what fired him up. He liked Superman.

He looked down at his T-shirt, at the red “S” centered on his chest like a target. So he was a grown man who liked Superman. Big deal. Some people drank.

He saved the file, “SCOT1”, and massaged his aching wrists while the computer shut down.

It will get easier, he told himself. As with all things, it came with practice. Facility, speed and confidence would all increase, the more of it he did.

He got up, flexing his fingers the way the physical therapist had shown him. The pain in his hands reminded him that sometimes doing a lot of something for a long time could also use up your capacity to do it. He’d had a good run as a massage therapist, almost twenty years, but it was anybody’s guess how much longer he could go on doing it. Joints and tendons wore out, that was all there was to it. And as much as he enjoyed the work, there were simply too many massage therapists in town, and he had never made a grown-up living at it.

He’d already decided to become a nurse. True, there was a long waiting list for admission to the nursing school, but he could take the various prerequisite courses while he waited for his turn. He’d get in eventually, and he still had his massage practice, and in the meantime he was still working in the healing professions.

Nurse’s aide was a healing job. Sure it was. It didn’t require a lot of training, but it was a responsible job.

And it required strength. A lot of strength. That very morning, he’d gone to a patient’s home to help him get out of bed and dressed. It had taken a tremendous amount of strength and self-control to maintain a professional demeanor through all of his griping, nitpicking, rude questions and insults. This morning, the old man had for some reason pressed him for details about the kind of services he performed.

“Really, sir, I can’t say much about other clients. It’s a question of professional ethics.”

“Huh. I wouldn’t call someone who works for minimum wage a professional.”

A) "What the hell business of yours is it how much I make, you nosy bastard?"
B) "I’ll have you know I get the highest rate the agency pays."
C) "Go to Hell, why don't you?"
D) “Well, sir, to my way of thinking, even a convict on a work gang can act with professionalism. That depends on your own personal dignity.”

Choosing "D" to say out loud had taken plenty of strength. More than Ted had thought he possessed. So there you were.

Ted sighed and shook himself. He had to learn to leave garbage like that behind at the end of a shift. What was the point of letting that dickhead follow him home? Time to make supper, anyway.

He headed into the kitchen, where he found his son Jake doing homework with a girl he vaguely recognized.

“I’ll need some room to work. Could you spread out a little less?”

“Let’s just go now,” the girl said. They started packing up their papers.

“We’re gonna finish up at Carol’s place,” Jake explained. “I’ll probably stay for supper, too.”

Ted nodded. If he were going to be alone for the evening, he’d probably just cook up a ramen. His wife was at yet another board meeting for the group she was keeping afloat mainly by her own efforts. He was used to eating alone.

As the kids left, Jake stared at the “S” on Ted’s chest.

“What do you wear that thing for? You’re sure not Superman.”

Ted smiled.

“You’re wrong, Jake. I am Superman.”

Jake looked at his father without saying anything, then turned and left with his friend.

Left alone, Ted went into the living room and looked himself over in the mirror hung over the couch. Not an old man, and not an ugly one. He could find another woman, he supposed. But he loved his wife and would never leave her.

The man in the Superman shirt was nothing special to look at, it was true. But Ted smiled at him anyway, and when he did he saw in those soft brown eyes a glint of something that could never be broken.

Jake didn’t know. None of them knew. But that was all right. In fact, it was exactly as it should be. It was only appropriate that no-one should suspect that beneath that mild-mannered exterior was a man of steel.