Three Young Ones

Behold three young raccoon kits.

Whenever we see young of The Wild without adult supervision we grow concerned.

Children are a challenge to the best of us. More so in The Wild, me thinks. We have many predators in our woods and we understand evolutionary cycles and principles.


He’s a Two-Legger, but he’s okay. Don’t let him touch you, though. You don’t know where his hands have been.

Mother Raccoons we’ve fed all along are watchful of their kits around us. They tell them to stay in the trees until they see Mom interacting with us. She shows them the rules then lets them approach. As I’ve written before, you can almost hear, “He’s a Two-Legger, but he’s okay. Don’t let him touch you, though. You don’t know where his hands have been.”



Robert Newton Peck’s “Fiction is Folks”

Robert Peck’s Fiction is Folks was a difficult book for me to get through on my first read and an entertaining book on my second read. I’ll read it at least one more time before I’m satisfied I’ve sucked all the marrow from its pages (that odd phrasing is one of his suggestions. Such odd phrasings wake the reader up. You may not like that one, that’s fine, and learn the technique. Practice it. The technique useful even if my example is not).

My initial challenge was the reason I was entertained on my second read: Peck is homesy and folksy. He is direct, clear, honest. He’s a native Vermonter and it shows in both his prose and his examples.

An important point about his examples: most of them passed over me on my first read because this entire book is an example. He explains something and read his explanation again. It’s an example of what he’s explaining. Now look at the example he uses for his explanation. Yes, it’s an example and it contains a thread to the next example.

Also (and like most Writers’ Digest books I’ve read) he covers a broad range of topics well beyond character (the main item in this book). A partial list includes:

  • Blurbs
  • Plot
  • Character
  • Covers
  • Story
  • Marketing
  • Structure
  • Language
  • Exercises
  • and this doesn’t touch on the general stuff you need to know to get your work published

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“Your Writing Seems So Real”

Okay, not real so much as believable. Fiction has to be believable at some level or the reader won’t be interested. Readers tell me my characters are believable. When I ask some questions it comes out that readers feel (empathize) with the characters.

Great! Excellent! Yowza!

Ask a few more questions and readers tell me they can relate to the characters.

Again, Great! Excellent! Yowza!

I love your stories because you tell a good story.

Being a researcher, I ask more questions. Readers tell me my fiction seems real to them and it comes down to six things I didn’t realize I do:

  1. My stories are easy to understand – I write about people, not about technology. I’m not an Hard SF author (makes it easy to not write about technology). I enjoy some Hard SF, not much. Hard SF well done is basically a logic puzzle and I enjoy solving puzzles, so there you go.
    But I write about people. Technology may serve a plot point and most often I use it to reveal character than move the story forward.
    The end result is readers don’t have to be technically adept to enjoy my stories, hence they’re easy to understand.
  2. I do unexpected things in my stories – This, I admit, is one of the most fun comments I receive from readers. Even Susan (who’s been reading my stories for 40+ years) says I still catch her by surprise even though she’s use to how I write and what to expect in a given story.
    So even loyal fans get a pleasant thrill when reading my work. Some tell me they read just to get the surprise. They still finish the story, but the surprise makes it all the better. Like a box of CrackerJackTM, I guess. You finish the caramel coated popcorn and peanuts even though you took a moment to open the prize inside.
  3. My stories are simple – I use simple language (except when describing technology or expertise. Then I use jargon and buzzwords) and the story’s message (if any) is plain, obvious, easy to understand and apply to their own lives.
    When readers tell you your stories touched them, moved them, made them think, anything like that, it’s a win.
  4. My stories are always based on some truths – Thank god I hope so and yes. Simple truths. Don’t hurt people, for example. A simple truth. Be kind, another truth. To me these are truths. Evidently such truths attract a specific kind of audience.
    Would a bigger audience be better? Sure!
    But not if I have to give up truths to do it.
  5. Readers feel something reading my stories – Thank god I hope so and yes, again. I’ve said many times such is my goal. I want my readers to respond emotionally. That’s how I know they’ve shut out the world and entered into the story’s world.
    Bravo to me, there.
  6. You tell a good story – okay. This one, to me, is whimsical: I love your stories because you tell a good story.
    To me that’s kind of like saying, “I’m only eating it because it tastes so good.” Well, I certainly hope you’re not eating it because it sucks! What are you, some kind of penitent?
    Here’s to hoping I continue to tell good stories.

And please do comment directly on the stories I share. I love receiving emails and DMs, and comments are your opportunity to let the world know what you think.

The Goatmen of Aguirra, Part 11

The Goatmen of Aguirra is one of my favorite stories and, based on comments, popular among my readers (thankee!). It appears in my self-published Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, as an individual ebook The Goatmen of Aguirra: A Tale Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, and was serialized in Piker Press in 2019.

I’m sharing it here because a friend is having some challenges using 1st Person POV, and The Goatmen of Aguirra uses 1st Person POV throughout.

Read The Goatmen of Aguirra, Part 11.

Hope you enjoy.

The Goatmen of Aguirra (Part 11)

The translator is failing so I use it sparingly. The recorder I use because I can. I will take a guess and record the date as 916015.

Funny how much lighter these units have become without The Merrimack to power them. The mists cleared. The earth is churned more than before due to the leaping and running of the young billies. Most of the elder billies have gone, as have all of the young. There is no more rumbling. I peer over the edge of the Tower and make out the bodies of those who didn’t make it.

Tenku is staring at me.

“What happened here? What was this?”

He grabs my genitals. I don’t know if that is the answer, but it is the only response I get.

He doesn’t seem surprised by them. I am surprised at the gentleness of his touch. They must seem a child’s, weak and ineffective in his hands. How did an ancient Hebrew oath right find its way here, I wonder.

Back in the village, Hepob offers me the same porridge as when I arrived. It tastes slightly different and I see scrapings of the black root in it.

After I eat, I rest.


I slept long and deeply, yet my sleep was fogged by dreams as thick as the altiplano’s Aguirran gnats. I no longer know how reliable or intelligible this redaction has become.

I remember several dreams, although only a few clearly. In one, I was back at the ship. Sanders, Galen, Tellweiller, and Nash walk through me and past me as if I don’t exist, nor can they hear me even though I scream at them. The Old Ones have advanced. The Merrimack was called home.

In one dream, I watched Galen and Tellweiller on one of Dave’s C3I monitors, then realized I was Dave watching the monitor. This wasn’t a common dream, where you know who you are and have a sense of yourself no matter what you are in the dream. Here, I was more a passenger along for the ride; not David Sanders, but able to experience his environment, thoughts, and emotions along with him. Not a pleasant journey. He seems a lonely, fearful man.

On the monitor, I watched Tom ask Bob if he’d like to join him in a little exploring. “Care to come along?” I sat with Dave in C3I as they finished lunch in the Common. Dave tapped in the commands for a two-way screen split and zoomed a separate window onto each man’s face. His eyes, always quick, looked down and over his nose at the images on the screen. They went out of focus momentarily and he “hmmed”, bridging his fingers against his mouth and nose. His eyes still out of focus, he titled his head back further, just enough so he could see the tip of his nose in the foreground of their faces. This is an unconscious habit he has when talking to people.

As the two men cleaned up their table and left the Common, Dave adjusted the Eyes to follow them out of the ship. They hadn’t travelled far when they stopped. Without even looking for any remotes or robotics, they fell into each other’s arms, laughing and giggling, pulling off their suits and, making themselves comfortable against each other, finally … finally I looked away, not so much embarrassed as wanting to afford them their privacy. My only thought was “How could they have kept this secret so long?”

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Bees at the Bar

You’ve heard about busy bees, no doubt.

Anybody ever told you about the lazy bees?

These are worker bees who’ve decided to hell with all that pollen gathering and dancing and waxing and such, we’re going out for a good drunk!

They’re normally quite friendly.

Until someone touches their watering hole…I mean, birdfeeder.

Hummingbird feeder, to be exact.

Not only loiterous, also usurping.

Or slurping.