Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Definition of the World 'Literally' - Virtual 'Literally' is not Illiteracy, but it is a Casual Misuse of a Word

I don’t know if the title of this post is exceptionally clever, but it is a lot of fun to say out loud. If that title made this sound good enough to read, then, like me, you’re probably someone who has a solid opinion on the proper use of the word ‘literally’. Have you ever corrected anyone who has used the word ‘literally’ to mean figuratively? God, I hope so.
I guess this is my attempt at correcting every misuse of the word ‘literally’. That’s a waste of time, I suppose, but my time is my own to waste. I’ve looked up definitions. I’ve found quotations, some more relevant than others. The first will be a quote from President Dwight David Eisenhower :
“An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows.”
I don’t know that I would have considered myself an intellectual, but by Eisenhower’s definition I’m about to become one. I’m taking the time to carry on a one sided semantic debate with myself for the world to read.
What difference does it really make? Who cares if someone wants to use ‘literally’ to mean virtually or figuratively? Granted, it annoys the hell out of me, but not nearly as much as people who talk out loud in movie theaters or drivers who don’t use their turn signals. I have plenty of pet peeves to rattle on about, so why write about this one? It’s because, much to my horror, I recently discovered that I was on the wrong side of the argument.
I hate it when the word ‘literally’ is used to mean figuratively. “You should have seen his performance! He was literally on fire!” No he wasn’t. “We literally inhaled that pizza.” No you didn’t. “The kid is literally a monster!” Well, maybe, that depends on the definition of ‘monster’ more than the definition of ‘literally’.
If I were to correct anyone using any of those mistaken sentences, they could make a great defense by referring me to a dictionary. That’s right. The dictionary agrees that the word ‘literally’ can be used to mean virtually, or it can be used to add emphasis. A dictionary on my desk right now says so. It’s a Merriam-Webster dictionary from 1991. So not only has the dictionary defined ‘literally’ to mean virtually, that happened a long time ago. Literally. Just how long ago was the definition of ‘literally’ officially expanded? I don’t know. I’m not going to look that up, but it was over twenty years ago.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Beyond the Happy Ending

This is my first work of flash fiction. I’d heard the term, and had an idea what it meant, but I had to look it up to be certain. A work of flash fiction is a story too short to be a short story. It’s an hors d'oeuvres of prose. Opinions vary about how long flash fiction can be. One thousand words or less is a limit commonly agreed on. I find it hard to put together a work that brief. I hate to think what that implies if brevity truly is the soul of wit.
Flash fiction is sometimes accused to pandering to the short attention span. I suppose there’s something to that. After all, it took the internet age to make flash fiction popular. I think there can be legitimate advantages to it though. For a reader, the advantages are obvious. Even if you have the attention span to read novels of banquet length, a bite of candy now and then isn’t such a bad thing. For a writer, it provides an opportunity. It allows me to use story ideas that I would otherwise discard. This story, for example. I don’t think I could have done any more with it than I have, but it was still worth doing.
Beyond the Happy Ending
“Honey, I don’t mind you bringing work home, but when you come to bed you’re a wife, not an editor.”
“Huhn? Oh! No, Michael, it’s not that. Look.” She handed him a page.
It was a series of numbered sentences. He read some aloud. “‘I can’t live without her.’ ‘He’s the only thing I live for.’ ‘I would do anything for her.’” He took his reading glasses back off. “What is this for?”
“They’re lines from books we’ve published. They show up all the time. You’ve read those lines again and again.”
“Not as often as you have.”
She laughed. “Not just from the stuff I have to dredge through. It’s in books and movies and everything. And it’s crap. God, I used to love that stuff. I still would if I didn’t have to read it for a living.”
“Okay.” He read a few more. “‘I can’t sleep; I can’t eat.’ You’re right. I have heard that again and again. ‘He’s the thing that gives my life meaning.’ ‘She’s my whole world.’ ‘Nothing seems real when he’s not with me.’ Did you mean to alternate these from man to woman?”
“Kind of. That’s not what’s important. You can substitute he and she in any of them.  Michael, I can do better than that.”
“You want to write now?”
“I want to write some romance that doesn’t have any of that in it. It’s not real. Look at us. Why can’t there be a romance novel that tells our story?”
“I don’t want our story in print for other people to read.”
“No, not us specifically. I mean real love. I want to write a story about a couple who’ve been together for years, not days.”
He wanted to tell her it was a bad idea, but he was too curious. “How serious are you about this?”
“You can’t tell?”
“Of course I can tell. I get it. You want to write about what happens beyond the happy ending.”
“Oh, that’d be a great title. You think it’s a good idea then?”
In the moment he needed to decide, his head tilted nervously. “You need help?”
“Are you serious? Oh yes!”
They went to work the next day, and it lasted. They made certain to spend time dismantling every cliché they could. Carol complained, “They can’t live without each other? I don’t want to write that. I want to write about love, not need.” They set the rule that the love story wouldn’t include dependence. With that, the characters started to form.
That was just a start. Carol flipped through her notes. “‘Nothing matters without her?’ Oh god. And this one, ‘There’s nothing in the world but him.’ That’s not the way it was with us. You didn’t make the rest of the world invisible, Michael. You made it more real, more important. I started feeling passion for my life.”
 “I guess I am inspiring, at that.”
She laughed, “Go ahead and make fun, smart ass, but it’s true.”
As they went on, the story felt like a reflection. They were agreed that they wouldn’t write themselves, but the relationship in the story, it was the way they felt.
Michael said, “The can’t eat, can’t sleep stuff. That’s not good either. I hate the way people talk about desperation like it’s romantic. You don’t make me a nervous wreck like that. I’m more satisfied because of you.”
Pages kept flowing and platitudes kept toppling. “You know what I hate?,” he asked. “I hate that ‘she’s all I live for’ crap. Or ‘she’s all I ever wanted’. It’s love in a microscope. The rest of the world is still there even when you’re in love.”
Carol knew it. “Mmmm. The women say that too. Who would want to live like that? Your entire life revolving around one person? Michael, you’re not the only thing I live for.”
“God, I couldn’t take that much of you, Carol.” Before she could smack him with a pillow, he offered, “Love inspired us to become more, not less. Your career. You really took off when we got together, and I love it. I love it that I’m not all you have.”
“Yes,” she said, “and that brings up another. ‘I’d do anything for you.’ Michael, would you really do anything for me?”
“Hell no. A lot of things come to mind. I’d do a lot. Not anything, though.”
She wasn’t comfortable admitting it, but, “You’ve given up more for me than I have for you.”
“Hey, I don’t keep score. You’ve done plenty too. Anyway, I’m not like the idiots in these books. I give what I have to when I have to. I don’t do it just because I can. You never asked any more than I would give.”
Now that was romance. “Mm. We can use that. Never ask for more than your lover can give.”
In the end, they had a short, but meaningful story of life faced through love. There was no insecurity, no struggle for understanding. The characters did not have to overcome doubt. They did not have to come together, because they were already there. They were not afraid of the future. Life provided challenges enough for the couple. They faced those challenges together, and that was their story.

Her boss was hardly apologetic. “I’m sorry, Carol. I just don’t think it will sell.”

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Back in my day?

Am I that old? Is it possible that I’ve reached the point of believing that the past had more to offer? It kind of starts with the movies and then moves on to nearly everything else. I don’t go to the movies very much anymore. It all looks the same. There aren’t any movies that stand out anymore. Surely that’s just me. I have my doubts about that though. I hear it too often from other people, and not all of my own generation. Older or younger, a common complaint is that there aren’t any good movies anymore. Maybe it isn’t just me. Maybe the quality of our movies has declined.
It’s not just cinema. I don’t pay too much attention to current music. There doesn’t seem to be too much on TV worth watching. The books on bestseller lists don’t look like they have a lot of heart. I’ve even managed to walk out of my favorite comic book shop empty handed a few times. That’s the one that bothers me the most, but I’ll come back to it.
Music? I’ve always been very discriminating in my musical tastes. Eclectic, but discriminating. Even when I was in junior high I wasn’t singing the songs that the other kids were. So that hasn’t changed. It may be that American Idol has done some damage to our expectations, but it’s no worse than the days of payola that were so long before my time. In fact, the commercialism of today isn’t anywhere near as bad as it could be and has been, and I know it. So I guess I can set that aside. I’ll leave music out of it.
The movies though. When I check to see what’s come out, it’s surprising how often I decide to stay home. Sometimes it’s just that nothing at all looks interesting. Sometimes I see something that might do, since I can’t find anything else. I don’t want to settle for a movie though. I want to watch something that I can watch. It’s not that I won’t watch something that’s so bad it’s good. There are a lot of awful comedies and trite action films I’ve enjoyed. I guess that when I look now, even the films that are just light entertainment seem to lack any character. Take away the titles, and I wouldn’t know one from another. I’m not sure that it’s just me.
As I said, the worst of it is in the comic book shop. If you’re not a comic book person, bear with me for two paragraphs, because this is where I make a real point. I’ve always loved comics. I’m the kind of hard core true believer who knows that even if it isn’t real, that it damn well should be. That’s what makes it worthwhile. I know that there have always been a lot of terrible comic books written. That will never change. But I was always able to find something that sparked interest or at least curiosity. Lately, there have been times that I’ve walked away without a thing. There just doesn’t seem to be as much that I can believe in. How can that be? It’s obvious that comics haven’t changed. I have.
That’s the thing though. Comic books HAVE changed. That’s what makes this a question. I know it for a fact. Even if you’re someone who couldn’t name the members of the Fantastic Four, you probably still know that Marvel Comics and DC comics are the two big houses. I’ve given up on them both. When I do buy comic books any more it’s from the independents and smaller publishers. When I was asked recently why I don’t buy Marvel and DC anymore, I had an answer. “I tell you what. If either one of them can go six months without starting the next big cosmic-crossover, must-have miniseries event, then I’ll consider trying a few titles.” That’s what’s changed. There is always some huge story that requires you to pick up so many different titles that ordinarily, you might not. It’s a great marketing scheme, but the stories, and the art form as a whole, suffer for it. You see, they aren’t creating stories any more. They’re creating events. Big, overdone, unimaginative events that keep any ongoing series from telling its own story. These big stories are very marketable, but they don’t have the power that they should. Turning up the volume doesn’t make music better, it only makes it louder.
If that’s true, then the world has changed around me whether I’ve changed or not. I’ll admit that I’m not a modern man. I don’t use GPS. I don’t even carry a cell phone. Resisting those changes shouldn’t cause me to change my outlook on art and entertainment. And it hasn’t. Seeing what’s happened to my comic books, I know that at least one thing I have serious passion for has become something less. Could something similar have happened to the movies? To other art forms? Can it be that people are buying what’s being sold without caring about their former standards? I don’t honestly know if this is a real phenomenon or a bogeyman that I’ve conjured up. Certainly there is something to it, but is it as grand a threat as I’ve made it in my own mind?
Every generation has those who look back and bemoan the loss of their own time. I’m not doing that. I know that for certain. I was always an outsider, even then. It’s not that things were good and they’ve turned bad. It’s that things have become shallower, dimmer. Only if what I’m seeing is more true than untrue though.
It’s not that I believe the world has changed for the worse. In fact it’s the opposite. There are things that are new and terrible. Promiscuous texting might not be the original sin, but it is the latest one. Me, I’ve never texted in my life. But so much changes for the better. Most people don’t actually want to believe that, but I remember the kind of prejudices that existed twenty five years ago. We’ve progressed a great deal. Slowly, but it always happens that way. So many of our former preconceptions are losing ground. Even our technology has more to offer than to take from us. After all, I’m writing this for the internet right now. Living in the information age has changed our society for the better.

If there are some great changes though, there can easily be some that aren’t as welcome. I think that we might really be losing our stories, or at least diminishing them. That would be a tragedy. Our imagination and our dreams are precious. We can not afford to lose them or allow them to be devalued. I suppose that if there is any merit to my half hearted rant, it is to assure others. If, like me, you find fewer things worth watching, hearing, and reading, then you are not alone. Don’t buy what they’re selling. Let them earn our money and our trust by providing stories of worth or at least of character. There’s nothing wrong with living in that part of the past if there is more there for you to find.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Gerbils and Time Travel

I was at the public library the other day checking out books on gerbils. I hate gerbils. It’s not gerbils in particular that I hate. It’s rodents of all kinds. Some people are afraid of spiders or snakes. I’m not. I’m in no hurry to cuddle up to nasty critters like that, but they don’t bother me. Mice do. That’s completely irrational, and I know it. There are snakes and spiders that can do some real harm, but not mice. There is some instinctive response in my mind and body to the sight of a mouse. I can deal with it, but it isn’t any kind of fun. It’s not just mice. I hate hamsters and gerbils and anything else similar.

I needed a book about gerbils anyway. I sifted through several of them, looking for the ones that would suit my purposes the best. I set a small stack of them on the desk. The guy there asked the obvious question, “Buying a gerbil?”

“No. This is research for a time travel novel.” Blank stare. “Seriously,” I said. He didn’t ask any other questions. What could he say? I was satisfied with that encounter.

It might be that you’re wondering what in the world gerbils have to do with time travel. If you built a time machine, you’d probably want to keep that secret. So would I, and so would the characters in the story I’m writing. When it comes time to test it on a living subject, would you settle into it and flip the switch to see what happens to you? I know I wouldn’t. It happens in some time travel stories. It’s not even uncommon for a scientist to just throw themselves into mystery. In defense of these stories, the kind of time machine they build doesn’t always allow for a lot of intelligent experimentation. That’s not the case in my story. So the scientists who have developed the machines run a lot of experiments to find out how they work. Eventually it becomes time to test it on a living subject. What do you use? Not yourself, surely. An animal? But what kind? Gerbils are easy to get a hold of. Unlike hamsters, gerbils are awake during the day, so that’s one question solved. These scientists don’t want to stay awake at night to keep hamster hours. Gerbils it is.

That gives me a small problem. I know nothing about the behavior of gerbils. It’s pretty easy to cover that up by avoiding it. I don’t have to describe the scientists feeding the horrid little things, so I don’t have to know about it. What happens when it’s unavoidable? What would happen if a gerbil from the near future were to meet its present self? I don’t even know how normal gerbils interact. So I have to find out. I checked out several books about gerbils as time travel research.

It’s not the strangest thing I’ve had to learn for a story. My nail gun question was a lot of fun. While writing Sleepwalker, I needed to find out how plausible night time use of a nail gun is. If you’re fixing your porch in the middle of the night, hammering away at nails, your neighbors are going to complain. It’s not the loud sound so much as the constant bursts of obnoxious rhythm. Bam bam bam bam bam! That p****s off a neighbor during the day. How much worse is it at night?

You can’t check out a book on this subject. The only way I had of getting a real answer was to ask an expert. I didn’t know any nail gun experts. The likeliest place was a hardware store. There I was in the right aisle, staring at the nail guns, waiting for the question. “Can I help you with anything, sir?”

“Yes. Do you know much about nail guns?”

“Yeah.” He said it with that tone of quiet confidence. I knew I had the right guy.

“Well, I have no intention of actually doing this, but is it possible to use a nail gun to put together porch steps at night so that the sound of hammering won’t bother the neighbors?”

He thought. He thought very seriously for a moment. “Well, the compressor would make some noise, but if you were to put it inside, you could run the hose out to the gun.”

I asked a few other hypotheticals just to cover my bases. In the end, I accepted his wisdom. He never asked why I needed to know any of that even though I made it clear I wasn’t going to use a nail gun at night. My kind of guy.

The funny thing is, I don’t describe the nail gun use in the story. It would have just cluttered up the scene. The nail gun is mentioned later on, but never in context. I just wanted to know if it was plausible.

I went to a few other places to ask if this model of indoor/outdoor nail gun use was practical. In theory, it was. I have since learned that there are cordless nail guns, but I had my answer already. I have also had a few manly types tell me that it can’t be done the way I describe. Then again, others have told me it works. I haven’t managed to start a debate amongst tool enthusiasts. Maybe some day. I look forward to it.

Friday, June 6, 2014

I have at least one devoted fan who has never read any of my books. My sister Brandy is nine years old. She is brilliant, strange and intriguing. She is a world unto herself. To know Brandy is to love her, if you can keep up with her.
She is fascinated by my writing. Obviously she hasn’t read any of it. She may be brilliant, but she is also only nine. Even the things that wouldn’t be inappropriate are outside of her experiences. But she wants to be a part of it. She had the opportunity recently. She loves to draw, especially for other people. When she asked me what would make a good drawing for Dad, I told her to draw Nick and Herman. She knew who they were because she has heard us discuss the story. She needed a few details to work with. All I told her was that Herman was shorter than Nick and he has red hair. I also told her that she had to draw their car, Nick’s Siltrenne. All I told her about it was that it was colored red and white, it was an older car and that it was fantastic. Here was the result, a picture that Dad now keeps with his copy of the manuscript.

Not long after, Brandy wanted to draw something from “the book with the dolls.” After hearing me describe some of the characters, she put together a portrait of Lady Valerie and Caylee, along with Caylee’s friends, the three marionettes.

I’m currently writing a time travel story. To help with that, Brandy wanted to make some visual aids. I told her what I knew about the time machines so far. Anything sent through them is set on a platform, probably glass or transparent plastic. Of course there are dials or controls to program the machine. She drew several different versions, always from different angles. She had to redraw the best of them when I told her that the machine would likely have a computer keyboard attached to it. Here are some of her designs.


My favorite thing she has drawn for me recently is this one. She knows I love comic books and Captain America in particular. The drawing doesn’t mean as much to me as the words do though.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

An excerpt from Porcelain Society

Here are a few pages from my book Porcelain Society, just to give a taste of the world that these characters live in.


At the end of the car ride, Caylee could see the examination hall. Big and solid, it had a very simple and plain structure overlaid with the necessary ornamentation to give it the grandeur deserving a haven for the porcelain dolls. The center of the hall was a large, domed room where all of the dolls and their girls gathered and were sorted by dolls of softer cloth. As she knew to expect, Caylee and her guardian were shuffled away from the other girls they had arrived with. She was grouped with other girls her age. She had seen two of them before, but she knew none of them by name. This deliberate act of removal gave Caylee a sense of calm confidence. She could see the designs of the dollies even if she could not understand them.
Over the day she was brought before various dollies, sometimes plastic and porcelain ones. Her feeling of ambiguous anticipation eventually gave way to the typical kind of painfully edged boredom. She wanted to do well. It seemed important. It was for a different reason than it had been at these events in the past. Could she get through this and take from it what she wanted? She doubted it, and so she had to hide her concern. She was observed doing the things she had been taught. She walked across the room and sat. She spoke lines they had prepared for her. They were not the ones she had learned before, but the rhythms and sounds were similar enough to see if she could apply those lessons when needed. She saw the method of that test and it gave her an almost cocky smile when it was her turn to speak. This attracted an odd attention from the plastic doll who judged her performance.
She was questioned about mathematics, grammar and all of her practical lessons. She was questioned and drilled regarding manners. After most of her tests Mabel offered praise, even if it was guarded.
Mabel was pleasantly surprised and relieved. She had been certain Caylee’s question during the drive had been a portent of bad behavior even if it would likely have been unintentional. The odd occurrence would still have to be accounted for when Mabel spoke alone to the royals, but in the meantime there was no further danger. Caylee did nothing wrong and offered no resistance to her judges. In fact she did better than Mabel would have expected even before the unfortunate curiosity. Still, the last of Caylee’s tests was with royalty, and Mabel knew this had to be determined because news of that question had been delivered as soon as they arrived. Mabel didn’t even know what to hope for. On the one hand, she would be the safest if it went as could be predicted. Then again, if Caylee were really the special specimen Mabel felt she was, then this could be the opportunity to prove it to the royalty. Of course, that was all up to Caylee now. It was out of Mabel’s hands.
Eventually Caylee was led to a small but exquisitely furnished room where three dolls waited in fragile chairs. There were two plastic dolls, one on either side of the main seat. One had dark brown hair and a polite, almost condescending smile on her unmoving face. Caylee saw and disliked it instantly as it embodied the thing Caylee despised the most from the dollies. This was also the first moment she realized that quite often it was possible to get some idea what a dolly was like just by looking at her permanent expression. Another small piece of the mystery. Were the dolls formed by their faces? Or were the faces formed by the dolls’ minds?
That moment of recognition was noticed by all three dolls. The other plastic, a quietly wide eyed one had red hair that was not the artificial hair of the best and most revered plastic dolls, but was instead a painted mold of hair built into her plastic head. She turned her telling head toward the other two. The other plastic acknowledged the glance and knew what it indicated. This girl might indeed be different. The porcelain in the center did not move at all. She had seen, but she offered the little girl nothing, not even the slightest of movements.
Caylee remembered this. Its absence so far had made her wonder if she had gotten old enough to pass through the examination without this nonsense. It had almost seemed as if it were the most important thing to the dollies. Caylee could see nothing in it that she could be prepared for or anything the dollies could use. It had never mattered because it also seemed to be something that could not be failed.
Mabel ushered Caylee forward and then stepped back to the door. Left to her own devices, Caylee did the thing she had been trained to do. As she walked slowly and carefully forward, she did not glance back at Mabel, a good sign in the eyes of all three of the judges. At the appropriate distance, just barely a third of a step from ideal, she stopped and turned, curtseying to the red haired plastic first, then the brown haired one, then, finally to the porcelain, the highest of the royal dolls here.
In fact, this porcelain was not just any porcelain. Caylee could see the dress and the jewelery were expensive even by royal standards. She saw the expertly sculptured and beautiful features that should have been childlike but held some timeless and ageless quality. She also had thin hands, a narrow neck, more delicate and fragile features than any other porcelain Caylee had seen here today or perhaps even in the past. This doll was dressed in black. Very few dolls could do that. A symbol of her status? Caylee assumed so.
That frighteningly docile face offered a strangely cold but not intimidating voice. “Caylee.”
She did not answer, not even with the pause that might have provided the chance. It was the chance to speak but not the need, and Caylee was going to be as cautious as she could be. She felt a sense of impending danger.
I am Eleanor,” the stately porcelain informed her. “I have heard a few interesting things about you today.”
Caylee did not think about that. She just waited another half a beat. One of the plastics asked her, “Do you prefer blue or green?”
Blue.”
It continued that way. It was always that way, a collection of questions which seemed to serve no purpose, some they had to already have the answers to. What is the name of the street you live on? Can you dance? What is your favorite lesson? Which of us has the prettiest dress? What is your favorite game to play with friends? How many prongs are on a dinner fork? What scent of soap do you prefer? Do you want to be tall one day? When did you last need a band aid? Caylee answered them all quickly and directly. There was no reason not to. The only questions that might have wrong answers were either easy or trivial. Caylee had never understood this part. Why did they ask these questions? Today it sparked her curiosity more than it had before. Did the questions in sequence reveal something to them? Was it the way she answered? Were there a few key questions couched among the meaningless ones? And even if she had all those answers, what purpose did it all serve?
Do you hug your best friend?,” the brunette plastic asked.
Not often.”
The porcelain asked, perfectly casually, “Are you afraid of us?”
Caylee did not answer. This was strange. This was a real question. That had never happened before.
When she didn’t answer, another question formed from the red haired plastic. “Do you like getting older?”
Caylee had realized that she had approached her unanswered question not so much with intimidation as with caution, also though, with curiosity. They were dealing a little more honestly with her. Was it due to her age, as this question suggested? Or was it something having to deal with her changes? How much did they really know? “I think I am afraid of you.” It was an honest answer, though she felt no fear at that moment. She almost felt a victory. The dolls were not hiding as much from her as they had.
Do you love your doll?”
Caylee did as she had before, she answered the prior question. “I do like growing. I understand more.” She realized that was more of an answer than she had to give and therefore was too much of an answer. She was off balance though from this new tactic.
Can you pretend well?”
Only sometimes.” This was a lie of course. She knew better than to tell that truth.
Do you want to ask us any questions?”
No.” She did not know what to ask. It was a missed opportunity that she already knew would nag her for the rest of the day.
Do you know why you are here?”
No.”
What flavor medicine does your doll give you when you are ill?”
Caylee felt both a sweep of relief and a sickened sensation at once with the resumption of little nothing questions. “Vanilla.” It resumed, but only briefly before she was dismissed.
Thank you,” the red haired dolly said, “You may wait outside, Caylee.”
With her final curtsey, Caylee took her first few steps backwards before she was able, by their custom, to turn and leave. It was over, but once she was outside the doors she felt a small, dread chill. Something had changed. Just as she was beginning to form an understanding of the dollies and their ways, they did something unexpected. She had already begun to wonder just how much about the dolls she understood. Now she had to consider something that felt poisonous. Just how well did the dollies understand her? Did they see that she was different?
Mabel was discussing that very thing with the venerable dolls who had questioned Caylee. “You were correct, Mabel,” Eleanor, the porcelain said. “She is something special.”
The brown haired plastic, who Mabel knew as Valerie, asked in her ever practical voice, “How long has she exhibited her suspicions?”
Suspicions?,” Mabel ventured. She did not know what they meant yet. The questioning of the little girls held nearly as much mystery for Mabel as it did for Caylee. What it all meant, what the royal dolls could glean from it, she did not understand.
Geraldine, the other plastic, explained, “Your girl Caylee, she does not trust us. Very unusual from a girl her age. Even though she admitted to fear, which would not on its own be a black mark against her, she exhibited a coolness that resisted our efforts to break through her barriers.”
Valerie continued, “She has proclivities and inclinations which are not common to the ordinary girl. Is there anything unusual about her behavior?”
She defied one of her teachers not long ago. Open defiance for no apparent reason.”
As though her defiance served itself,” Eleanor said. It was not a question.
Mabel could see that in some ways these mysterious masters of the world knew more about Caylee than she herself did. This was in part due to their understanding of the psychology of the little girls. It was also due in part, though they would not explain this, to the fact that they had already received a report about Caylee’s strange outburst during her lesson. Mabel told them, “She hums to herself sometimes. Without even knowing it, I think. What’s more, I believe it is a tune she made up herself. Her physician refused to believe that, but I still do.”
Mabel’s direct and unambiguous refutation of a doll of higher rank revealed her stance very clearly. “Does she get on well with other girls?,” Eleanor asked.
Not particularly. She has two close friends, sisters, one of them her own age. When she is with them she is very social. On her own she is not withdrawn, but she is…”
Eleanor supplied Mabel with the idea that escaped her, again with perfect precision, “Unconcerned. She does not feel any social necessity. This is also very unusual for any little girl and much more so for those as old as she is.”
There are so many little things,” Mabel said, hoping to avoid giving any other information, “so many -- nuances, I suppose. It is difficult to explain the things that make her unique.”
Unique?,” Geraldine asked. “It has been a long time since I have heard a doll boast of a unique child.”
Perhaps I overstate it.” Mabel felt a twinge of guilt. She may have inadvertently placed Caylee in some danger.
Valerie said, “I’m not certain Mabel is qualified to make that judgment, Geraldine. It was hyperbole I’m sure.”
Mabel was grateful for the defense. Even more, she was grateful Valerie seemed not only impressed by Caylee but perhaps even personally taken with the girl. The interview went on for another half hour as the plastics and the porcelain asked Mabel a succession of questions, some of which seemed relevant while others seemed trivial. At the end of their time, they came to a decision. Eleanor said with finality, “We will see this girl again. We will monitor her closely. In short time we will send summons for further review.”

Mabel knew this was the last of it. She did not speak a word, allowing the royal porcelain to have the last thing spoken. As Caylee had, Mabel backed away, then turned and left the room slowly. A short distance away Caylee was with one of the cloth dolls that managed the event. “Are you ready to go home?” Caylee just nodded. Something was different. Caylee could tell it. Mabel could tell that Caylee could tell. Nothing could be the same.

Friday, March 21, 2014

I've released a third story now. This one is just a short story, though you might consider it a long short story. I've always found that phrase silly, long short story. Longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel, I suppose it means that you might finish a long short story in two or more sittings but you could also finish it in one sitting if you really wanted to. Hmm. How much time to you have?

Anyway, the story is titled Sleepwalker. The main character, Arnold, starts sleepwalking. That's uncommon enough, but in Arnold's case it's something more, something seemingly magical. At night he can do things that he can't do when he is when awake. He can make anything, find anything and fix anything. Even relationships.

The only hard part of it is that he can't understand it. His night time activities raise a lot of questions. With the help of his close friends and his slacker cousin, Arnold tries to figure out just how to use the sleepwalking to it's full potential.


It's light hearted and humorous, very easy on the mental digestion. It is also, as I mentioned before, much shorter than my other works. So if you're looking for an appetizer rather than a feast, this is the place to start. It will be available for FREE Kindle download on March 24 and March 25.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Edge of the World will be available for free on Kindle, February 24 and 25. I have finally made use of the Kindle select program. In the very near future I'll also put my other novel, Porcelain Society, up for some give away days. I resisted it for a long time. It seemed strange to give these works away after putting so much time and effort into them. There it is though. If I can't find an audience, perhaps an audience can find me.


Along with this vague attempt at practicality, I continue to work towards releasing new stories. An older one, written before either of the currently released works, is Sleepwalker. It's much shorter and easier to digest than the other two, broader in appeal, I'm also hoping.