It’s in the Trees! It’s Coming!

That line is in two of my favorite items. One is Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love, the other is the 1957 British horror film Night of the Demon. Aside from its cult status, the line has always carried a certain power for me, possibly because I’ve always loved trees.

I rarely climbed trees as a child unless I was alone in a woods. Being alone in a wood was and remains a common occurrence for me. I’ve always preferred the solitude and quiet and never feared “wild” animals. I have several strong memories of sitting quietly in a wood and having creatures come up to me – raccoon, opossum, coyote, wolf, deer, skunk, woodchuck, …, not to mention various and assorted insects and arachnids. Some were shy, others not so much. Bears have been within a few feet of me but not closer. Turkeys proudly bring their chicks to me.

So it’s quite understandable that I spend my time writing these posts about The Wild. It plays quite a role in my Tales of the Woods stories and is the primary setting of Those Wings Which Tire, They Have Upheld Me.

This entry into the WildLife series deals with coaxing some of Hyacinthe’s kits (introduced last week) from the trees for some peanuts.



Usability Studies 101: Knowledgeable Interface (Re)Design

[I’m resurrecting this post – originally on iMedia from (drumroll, please) 2005 – for Terry Melia who had trouble setting up his Galaxy phone…]

You’re obsolete!
– from the original Twilight Zone episode 65, “The Obsolete Man

I attended a presentation a while back and witnessed something fascinating. There were five people speaking and the MC asked for their PPTs so he could load them onto the laptop hooked to the projector. One fellow pulled out a miniCD-RW. “Here you go,” he said. “There’s enough room for everybody to burn their presentations so you won’t need to fumble with lots of disks.” He was thanked and the CD was passed around. One panelist had a very flashy little lap..noteb…palm…something. No CD drives, no floppy drives. Incredibly fast little machine which could find any wireless network from ground level to the ISS and with enough USB ports to pilot an aircraft carrier through heavy seas. This presenter pulled out a USB drive on a keychain, copied his presentation to it, pointed to the presenters passing around the CD and said, “That’s obsolete.”
Continue reading “Usability Studies 101: Knowledgeable Interface (Re)Design”

Empty Sky Chapter 1 – The Cabin (28 Aug 2020, Audio)

The version of the chapter presented here is a far cry from the version currently in print (and I have a standing offer regarding the current version; Buy a copy, leave a review, I’ll send you a signed copy of the rewrite when it’s published). For that matter, the version presented here is a stretch from the previous versions posted on this blog (most recent here).

The version here is my reading at a Read ’em and Weep online workshop I recently attended.

Fascinating experience.

Creator and above level members can listen to the reading here.

Chapter 1 – The Cabin

Jamie reached for Shem’s tail. The big golden sat on Jamie’s bed staring out the cabin window. His coat glistened in the moonlight, his tail thumped with excitement. Peepers and crickets chirped outside. Raccoons chittered. Opossum and skunk barked. Owls hooted. Loons called. Far off a wolf howled. Another answered in the distance.

Jamie caught Shem’s tail and held it motionless. “What is it, boy?”

Shem looked back at Jamie and whined softly.

Jamie ran a delicate hand through his ginger hair. He looked past Shem to the oak, elm, and pine of the northern Michigan forest. The Moon, full and bright, illuminated the trees and the small, one-room cabin at their center.

“Do you have to pee?”

Shem jumped off the bed and scratched at the door to go out.

“Shh.” Jamie glanced at his parents, Ellie and Tom, asleep on the other side of the cabin. “You want to wake mom and dad?” He crawled out from under the covers and tip-toed to the door. Standing on a chair, he drew back the bolt and lifted the latch.

Cool winds changed rustling treetops into brooms sweeping low-hung clouds from late September skies. Dust devils spun mists where night air met day-warmed rocks. Trees bowed to the rising Moon.

Shem walked into the night. Jamie followed.

The Moon continued her ascent. The woods fell silent.


Ellie sat up in bed, her hands clenching the blanket, holding it tight against her. A cold, dank wind swirled through the cabin, lifting things slightly, inspecting them, putting them down, drawing a musk of old earths in its wake.

Moonlight entered the cabin’s single room.

Her eyes fixed on Jamie’s empty bed.

“Jamie! Shem!”

Tom rose and put his boots on in one motion. “Where are they?”

Ellie pointed at the open door.

Tom threw Ellie her coat. “They must be together. Shem won’t let Jamie out of his sight.”

“Something’s got them. Some wild animal.”

“There’s no blood anywhere, Ellie. Shem’d raise hell if something got in the cabin or near Jamie.” He grabbed an iron poker from the woodstove.

Ellie stopped at the door, a silhouette against the night. “Shh.”

Tom came up beside her. “What the…?”


“What are they doing?”

“It looks like they’re playing.”

“With whom?”

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World-Building – Process

What goes into creating a world and sharing it with the reader?

Aside from blood and sweat?

Research everything. You may not use everything you’ve learned, but your increased subject matter expertise will come through in your writing and (probably) you’ll have more confidence in what you’re writing. One of my greatest joys is having veterans and specifically helicopter gunship captains contact me after reading The Augmented Man to ask where I served and/or where I learned to fly. Anthropologists and other social scientists constantly read my work and ask if I worked with one culture or another. Such questions let me know my research paid off; when experts talk with you as if you’re an expert, you’ve done your job convincing the reader they’re in good hands reading your work.

On the other side of this, I’ve heard authors say that when they get to a point in their writing where something occurs they don’t understand or know or aren’t sure how something happens, they write “[XXX]” (or something similar) and move on, looking things up later.

Such writing shows (in my opinion).

I’m told that my work is so tightly written that it’s tough to remove stuff without throwing everything else out of whack. It’s like Story-DNA. Sure, you can switch a genome here or there, but that one genome and its placement affect the entire story. You may change hair color from chestnut to dark brown but now you’ve got three fingers that look like toes and a penis growing out of the middle of your forehead.

I stop writing when there’s a piece of something – tech, location, language, culture, anything! – in which I feel my knowledge is lacking.

And I always feel my knowledge is lacking.

Revealing the Story’s World
Reveal as the story requires. That’s the author’s job. Don’t front load, don’t back load, definitely don’t waste the reader’s time or stretch their patience, and always keep them moving forward through the story. This is something I wrote about in World-Building – Getting Readers Interested in Your World.

Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post and requires either General Membership (free) or a Subscription (various levels). Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. All posts are free to all members save certain posts in the My Work category. Enjoy!