The simple truths found in fiction

I’m currently reading, Have Space Suit-Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein for the first time.

So far, it’s very entertaining and it makes me wonder why I haven’t read more Heinlein since I enjoyed Stranger in a Strange Land some decades ago.

The protagonist is a young man, Clifford “Kip” Russell, fresh out of high school, who wants to go to the moon. He works for the moment as a soda jerk in a pharmacy (the story was published in 1958 when pharmacies still had counters where customers could order fountain drinks and sometimes burgers and hot dogs, like a tiny diner).

He has a run-in with the town bully, Ace Quiggle, who verbally abuses Kip. Kip’s boss comes over and Ace leaves.

Heinlein writes:

The boss and I were alone shortly after. He said quietly, “Kip, a reverence for life does not require a man to respect Nature’s obvious mistakes.”


“You need not serve Quiggle again. I don’t want his trade.”

“Oh, I don’t mind. He’s harmless.”

“I wonder how harmless such people are? To what extent civilization is retarded by the laughing jackasses, the empty-minded belittlers? [Emphasis mine.] Go home, you’ll want to make an early start tomorrow.”

As I read that, I was struck by how relevant that thought is today, some 60 years after it was first written.

I believe today we are seeing to what extent civilization has been retarded by those laughing jackasses and the empty-minded belittlers.

Those laughing jackasses and empty-minded belittlers have managed to elect one of their own, the biggest laughing jackass, the most empty-minded of all belittlers: trump.

Heinlein predicted the rise of the deplorables!

This is why I love fiction. Hidden within the action, the adventure, the exotic situations, while the characters are weaving their way seductively through the plot, the author sometimes inserts some very provocative philosophical points of view.

Ofttimes the message is covert and you need to do some analysis to find it, but sometimes it is overt and waves it’s little hand at you saying, “Here I am. Underline me and spend a little time thinking about what I have to say.”

Or am I the only one who reads with a pencil at hand, ready to underline any line that strikes my fancy?



Writing Wednesday

This weekend that just passed, Decades TV had their weekend binge, where they show an old television show all weekend long. This time around they showed whatever it is — 40 hours? — of Lost in Space, one of the great sci-fi television programs of all time.


There is no argument about that.


But seriously, if you grew up in the 60s, the first sci-fi space adventure television program that aired was Lost in Space. I was at the perfect age where I was mesmerized by lasers, force fields, the Jupiter 2, and of course, the greatest robot ever created, the Robot, or B9 as some of us call him.

Jupiter-2 168 10-9-11

And because I had fallen in love with the concept — a family of space pioneers setting off to colonize Alpha Centauri, who were unfortunately sent astray by a saboteur, who they then welcomed into their family with open arms — I was able to simply accept the fanciful silliness .

It’s been many years since I’ve watched it. I caught an episode now and then when MeTV was airing it several years ago, but not since they changed their lineup. When Decades aired it this past weekend, we had our television tuned to it for the duration.

And you know what? I still love that show. Even with all the pseudoscience and over-the-top fantasy elements of pirates, knights in shining armor, hillbillies, and a talking carrot, I still found the show very enjoyable to watch.

In fact, something strange happened while watching it.

I started to get the itch to write about it. I mean, if you’re a fan of Star Trek, Doctor Who, Star Wars, for example, there are tons of authorized novels out there to satisfy even the most voracious reader.

But Lost in Space? Nothing.

Well, OK, there was one book, published back in 1967 or so, which I read when I was 10.


But that’s it.

And without even consciously thinking about it, a story, a novel of Lost in Space has begun to formulate in my imagination.

Personally? I’d rather it just go away because what could I do with it? Who would buy a novel about a television show that only aired 83 episodes and went off the air in 1968?

I’d rather write something marketable.

I’d rather start the final polish on my own urban fantasy fairie tale.

Or start working on the sequel to my urban fantasy fairie tale.

Or even finish up my two weird westerns.


But so far, all I can think about is Lost in Space, and the story keeps growing and growing and at this rate, it won’t be denied.

Maybe I should write it just to make it go away.

Lost in Space is suited to my writing style, however, because it is as much fantasy as science fiction and it’s science is often somewhat fudged. In that way, Lost in Space is more akin to Star Wars than Star Trek.

Lost in Space can best be described as pulp fiction style space opera. More ray guns and monsters than quarks and string theory.

So in that regard, Lost in Space is almost a perfect venture for me.

Let me mull it over some more.

Stay tuned. Same time! Same channel!


Writing Wednesday

Today is the beginning of National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo where people will attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the next 30 days. (Forget for a moment that 50k is generally thought of as a novella.)

I won’t be one of them. I’ve tried, just so I could be considered one of the in-people, but I couldn’t do it. My best NaNoWriMo produced only 15,000 words. So, instead of feeling a part of it, I came away feeling like a loser.

I don’t know how anyone can do it. November is the worst month to hold a novel writing competition.

For many of us, there are only 10 or 15 free days in which to write. The rest of the time is taken up with adulting responsibilities.

Things like raking leaves, cleaning gutters, prepping the lawn for winter, storing patio chairs, putting away Halloween decorations, shopping for and putting up a Christmas tree, decorating for Christmas, and the biggest time-consumer, cleaning the house for the holidays, planning Thanksgiving dinner, shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and entertaining family on Thanksgiving. Not to mention many of us have a full-time job, as well. (Sorry. I guess I did mention it.)

Writing? Bah. Ain’t no one got time for that. If you somehow do, more power to you.

Me, I’ve never understood why they chose November. Worst.month.ever.

Good luck to you.


Writing Wednesday

In rereading my urban fantasy fairy tale, I came across a scene that I had pulled from the trunk novel I was using for donor parts.

The scene features the MC and another character, the MC’s friend who is also the Homicide Police Captain.

My MC is called in to look at what turns out to be a magic circle, used to summon demons, because he’s an expert on the esoteric. He is often called in by the Police to identify occultish symbols or objects. Not because anyone believes in the occult, but in the hopes that by giving the item a historical context they will have a better chance of assigning motives and tracking down suspects.

Now as I said, this is an old scene, one of the original scenes from my trunk novel that I had started 15 years ago.

In the scene, my MC meets the Police Captain in a corn field and together they head toward the murder scene.

On the way, they pass the Medical Examiner, who is leaving the scene, heading back to his car. He quips a few morbid jokes and is gone. Never to appear in the story again.

At the time, I thought nothing of that meeting with the ME, nor did any of my beta readers mention it. I knew nothing about writing crime scene fiction nor had I read many police procedurals.

But this week, I started thinking about it. Something nagged at me that the scene was inadequate. But what?

It occurred to me that the ME just leaving the scene, the bodies, without so much as a “How do you do?” was a little odd.

If you’ve ever watched the television show NCIS (or any of the hyper-graphic crime shows), you know that Ducky never just leaves the scene. He and his assistant are there investigating and providing Gibbs with a running inventory of findings. Then, after they’ve done all they can at the scene, Ducky tags and bags the bodies and ensures they get to his lab for the autopsy.

My ME, on the other hand, tells a few jokes and is gone.

Because I now have a better understanding of how (fictional) MEs work, I’m going to revise the scene.

The ME will still leave, still make some jokes, but now I’ll add some more dialog. The Captain will ask a few questions, including something like “Leaving already?” And the ME can respond, “I know how to deligate.”

At the crime scene I’ll add a few ME assistants and forensic techs, even giving some pertinent dialog about the bodies to one of them.

Why did I start thinking about this scene this week? My oldest son just started interning with the local Medical Examiner’s office and I guess that made me more conscious of what was going on in this story.

A writer’s job is never done. That’s because writers are always expanding their knowledge and always applying that knowledge to improve their writing.


Friday roundup

A Friday Haiku

You can stand or kneel

Doesn’t matter which you do

But take off your hat!

Weigh-In Friday

I thought I’d get this out of the way first because the rest of this blog is political ranting. You have been warned.

My weight is up 0.4 pounds to 203.2 pounds. Way up from the beginning of August when I was down to 19i.6 pounds.

It’s frustrating to lose traction like this. I don’t believe I’m eating more, althoigh I have been eating pb&j for lunch instead of salads.

But the main problem, I believe, was my tinkering with my blood pressure meds, which caused me to bloat up to 208.

I’ll really have to crack down on all extra snacking, get motivated to exercise harder, and see where I stand next week.

It’s always so disheartening to lose ground.

Writing progress

My manuscript is coming along nicely. As mentioned last week, I’m going through my list of search words (and even added a few more, “just” and “that”), and making my sentences more concise.

And my mind stays in writing/rewriting even when I’m not in front of the computer, revising scenes in my head. Then I have to hope I remember it by the time I get to the computer. So far, I have.

One thing happened that I thought was interesting. My mind had two scenes, completely unrelated, that it was mentally revising simultaneously. Don’t ask me how that’s even possible, but it happened and I can’t explain it.

And when I made those edits to the scenes, they flowed better, were much tighter, and, I hope, will have a more visceral impact upon the reader.

The take a knee controversy

Let me tell you right off, this is much ado about nothing. As a veteran, I’m more offended by the assholes who don’t remove their hats or talk during the playing of the National Anthem then I am about how people choose to be reverent.

Let me also say, that when joining the military we take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America (as well as the Prdsident, which makes me glad I don’t serve under the orange turd).

I did not take any oath to protect and defend the flag or the National Anthem or to care one way or the other if someone is allegedly, according to said orange turd, disrespecting said flag or anthem.

Additionally, nowhere in the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights, or the Amendments to the Constitution does it mention anything about the flag or anthem.

It does, however, mention a little thing called FREEDOM OF SPEECH. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s in the First Amendment. Go read it and shut the fuck up.

And take off your goddammed hat, asshole.

Respecting the flag

No one cared about the flag until the orange turd started his tweet shitstorm against the NFL.

If people actually cared about the flag, they wouldn’t allow it in advertising. They wouldn’t use it as “wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.”

If people cared about the flag, they wouldn’t use it as decoration or have it “embroidered, printed, or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use.

But the same people up in arms about someone kneeling before the flag ignore how they themselves disrespect the flag every day.

Go read the United States Flag Code and shut the fuck up.

Are you really concerned about disrespect for our flag? Complain to advertisers when they use it. When you see a tattered and worn flag flying outside a business, call them and let them know they should replace it. If a business leaves the flag out overnight but has no special lighting on it, complain about that, too.

Archie Bunker lives

All in the Family was a sitcom that ran for nine seasons from 1971 to 1979. Created by Norman Lear, it dealt with some heavyweight issues of the day, like race, homosexuality, and other taboo subjects, and centered around the character of Archie Bunker, an ignorant racist, bigot, misogynist, homophobe, who loudly expressed his beliefs in every stereotype imaginable. He was meant to be so utterly foolish and exaggerated in those beliefs that it would allow us to see just how absurd bigotry in our society was.

Archie Bunker was never meant to be a role model, and yet, he certainly became that to an entire segment of the population known today as the deplorables. They even elected an Archie Bunker clone as President!

A clone that spouts ignorance, hatred, and prejudicial views daily from his Twitter pulpit.

The more we go forward in this country, the more the deplorables try to drag us back. Sad!

Master of Deception

Archie Bunker is, excuse me, TheRump is a master of deception and misdirection. He’s like a stage magician who distracts us with one hand while he does the actual illusion with the other hand.

In the case of the orange turd, he distracts us with tweets about silly, unimportant things, like the NFL taking a knee, in order to keep us from seeing what’s in his other hand.

In this case, he’s trying to hide the Russian investigation into collusion and influencing the election, the use of private emails by his family and Administration, the vote in Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare (which luckily we saw and it failed…again), the fact that he was going to ignore the plight of Puerto Rico (and didn’t even know they were Americans!), and the current GOP proposal to “streamline” the tax code.

The GOP doesn’t want us to take a look at their tax proposal, because if we did we’d see it is just more of the same old GOP nonsense of lowering taxes on the rich and corporations and making the middle class foot the bill.

For example, the elimination of the estate tax is being touted as a great benefit to the middle class. Bullshit. It’s going to benefit the first family, their cronies, and many serving inside that regime. The rest of us? Unless you’re expecting to inherit an estate worth more than $5.45 million, this tax will never affect us. So don’t let them bullshit you that this helps the middle class.

Another example, the current economic advisor, Gary Cohn stated that the typical American family making $100,000.00 a year would save $1,000.00 with the GOP plan. The reality is, the typical American family only makes $74,000.00, while the median American family only makes $55,000.00, half of his estimate. In other words, although they say the middle class will benefit, they don’t even know what the middle class is!

In fact, the GOP tax plan is just more trickle down voodoo Reaganomics. This gives tax breaks to the wealthy, who then go on the piss on the rest of us.

Stop being distracted!

Tha-tha-tha-that’s all folks!

And that concludes another Friday roundup. I hate that current events and a certain orange turd force me to write political rants, I’d rather write about something fun, as I’m sure you’d rather read something fun, but it is cathartic, and it is necessary we continue to resist and obstruct this white nationist regime.

So, have a great weekend and keep on fighting the good fight.

I leave you with a protest song I’ve already posted on my Facebook and Twitter feed. It should be obvious it’s NSFW. Enjoy!


Writing Wednesday with Chekhov’s gun

“One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.” — Anton Chekhov, from an 1889 letter to playwright Aleksandr Semenovich

“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” — from Gurlyand’s Reminiscences of A. P. Chekhov

“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on a wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” — Anton Chekhov, quoted by S. Shchukin, Memoirs

Anton Chekhov’s oft-quoted piece of writing advice, often referred to simply as “Chekhov’s gun,” is a literary concept that means every element introduced in a story must be necessary to the plot or it is superfluous and should be removed.

In other words, you should remove all false guns from your writing. This applies not just to physical objects and characters, but irrelevant scenes that don’t advance the story, as well.


I bring up Chekhov’s gun because as I was reading through my own manuscript, I found one. I missed it my first read-through, however, it must have made an impression upon my subconscious because while I was sitting enjoying a cup of coffee (Sumatra from CoffeeIcon. Yum!)j Saturday morning while watching an episode of Star Trek on BBC America, it popped into my head.

“The knife!”

I immediately wrote knife on a notepad and placed it on my computer to remind me.

“Well? What about the knife?” I hear you ask.

I’m getting to that. Patience, young grasshopper.

I have a scene in my manuscript where my MC, an expert in things occult, and his friend, who happens to be a captain with homicide of the local police department, are together investigating a recent gruesome murder scene when one of the investigating officers discovers an ancient obsidian knife.

The knife turns out to be evidence from an earlier murder that the MC believes was a human sacrifice in a ritual to summon a demon.

The MC takes a picture of the knife and sends it to an expert in early Mesoamerican civilizations, who is aiding the MC in the hunt for the demon, in the hopes that he can identify the artifact.

When I had introduced the knife, I had fully intended to have it serve as a significant clue and later my MC and his Mesoamerican expert would get together to discuss where the knife had originally come from.

One thought I had was the knife was an actual museum piece stolen from an Aztec museum somewhere Central or South America and it would help the police to finally identify the killer.

The thing is I never mentioned the knife again!

That’s right. I placed the knife there for the reader to see and then I completely forgot about it.

Now, however, all sorts of new scenarios are presenting themselves on how to make use of the knife, including, but not limited to, adding needed information to not only identify where the killer came from, but also to help develop the relationship between the MC and his police captain friend.

I did a quick Google search just now and found a cool Aztec ceremonial knife that would work, but unfortunately, that knife is held in the British Museum nor is it ancient enough, which means it won’t work in my story. Shame.

aztec ceremonial knife

I’ve got more research to do. Down the rabbit hole I go!


Wrap a wrap a wrap

A Friday Haiku

Another week gone

Where do they go? I don’t know

To join dryer socks?

Exercises come and go

If you’re anything like me (and if you are, I apologize), you tend to hate certain exercises and quickly get bored with others.

Running, I’m good to go, even if I sometimes take more days off between runs than I should; I still look forward to my runs and enjoy them (well, except for those first several minutes where you question your own sanity and wonder why you torture yourself so until the endorphins hit, the sun comes out, and the birds sing).

But other exercises I’ve always hated.

Stretching has always been my ultimate nemesis. I could neven touch my toes in grade school (and still can’t). So any stretching regimen I start ends quickly in pain and frustration. I don’t need such negativity in my life. I get it, I’m a failure at flexibility.

Push-ups are another. Loathe them. I don’t know what it is about them, but I really have to force myself to do them. Bench presses, on the other hand, I don’t mind and in fact, when I can feel the burn in my chest, shoulders, and triceps, I become motivated to do extra reps. But push-ups, I just collapse on the floor and give up.

Sit-ups and crunches I hate as well, and not because they sometimes hurt my back. I always need something to hook my feet under or I just sort of thrash away like a turtle on its back. In high school gym it was very embarrassing.

And that must be the reason for my dislike of certain exercises, there is some sort of psychological association with high school gym where all the other boys were towering over me, muscles rippling (think The Crusher from Bugs Bunny), and they could pound out dozens of push-ups, sit-ups, as well as the dreaded chin-up, and throw in an iron cross for good measure, while I’d struggle with my skinny spaghetti limbs trembling and flailing around, never accomplishing anything.

Now that I think about it, high school gym class was exactly like that for me.

Anyway, I meant to talk about how I start doing some exercises, but then quickly forget to do them, but I got off on a tangent on why I skipped gym all the time.

I was noticing a pain or weakness in my hamstrings and buttock the last few weeks when I step up onto something, like curbs or stairs.

Running was causing a strength imbalance and the stretches I attempted weren’t helping.

I realized I had gotten away from doing hamstring curls on my Weider Crossbow and doing rows on my CardioFit. I call them rows, but the machine is like the Tony Little Healthrider (see below).

These machines were all the rage back in the 80s, so I picked mine up at Sears after our stairstepper died (and Sears wouldn’t do anything so I wrote the CEO, then got a whiny letter from the store manager. “Why didn’t you contact me first?” Because I wanted you to squirm). The Healthrider seems more aerobic, with little resistance. My CardioFit has an adjustable piston to increase the resistence, making it more anerobic, although I’ve rarely dialed it past 2 (it goes up to a muscle- and joint-punishing 9).

Sorry, I did it again. The point is, after a week of this cross-training, my hamstrings feel much better.

And I apologize for taking forever to make that point.

Writing and editing and sex

I’d say I’m about 80 to 85% done with my first round of edits for my urban fantasy fairy tale.

This is the first time I’ve read it through. Strangely, I’m still very excited about it. That must mean it’s horrible.

Right now I’m editing for flow and continuity. I see where I called one character Bill, when his name is Benton. That’s what happens when you grab scenes from a trunk novel and don’t do a thorough read to catch things like that.

I’m back to a concern I mentioned several weeks or months ago about the relationship between two of the characters. They’ve known each other for less than a week and they’ve already fallen in love. Yes, I know such things happen in real life, if infrequently. And yes, I’ve read some urban fantasy romances and it seems the characters are jumping in the sack almost immediately. And therefore, I shouldn’t be that worried, but I am.

I’ve never written anything romantic before. I’ve never been concerned with the love lives of my characters. But beyond this being my first attempt at romance, its also my first attempt at writing a sex scene. To be honest, I haven’t even read very many sex scenes.

And this one has two so far. Scenes that, lacking any literary experience in the matter, I don’t know if they come off as hokie, or cliched, or downright boring.

I wonder if I should pass it to some beta readers to get outside reactions?

Weigh-In Friday

Despite only running on Monday, although I did do some weight training, and eating more than my fair share of my wife’s Dairy Queen ice cream birthday cake, my weight is down below 200 pounds at 199.7. Woot!

Designated Driver

For you couples out there, when you go somewhere together, who drives? The man or the woman?

I grew up in a time when men were the drivers and women were passengers.

Lately, I’ve been noticing more women driving with men as passengers and it still looks out of place to me.

Not for any sexist reasons; I certainly don’t believe gender innately makes someone a better or worse driver. Nor do I believe men are somehow ordained to rule over or control women.

In my case, I drive because for one thing, I get carsick as a passenger. For another, I drive my wife crazy because I don’t know what to do with myself as a passenger. I can’t read or play on my phone because of the motion sickness. So, I fidget, tap my feet, or drum my fingers, play with all the dials and switches, and constantly change the radio station. Being a passenger magnifies my ADHD.

So, very early in our relationship, my wife realized it was better for everyone all around if she let me drive.

Then she could read and play on her phone and ignore the fact that I wait until the very last second before applying the brakes.

Finally nearing the end

Since I spent most of this blog going off on attention deficit fueled tangents, I’ll spare you any political rants for the week.

TheRump is still an orange turd though. Never forget. Never normalize his hatred, bigotry, or incivility. Resist.

Enjoy your weekend. Here’s a song to send you off with: