Fault Zone Uplift: My latest published Super Holly story

My short story, What Goes Up, is published in Fault Zone, a publication of the SF Peninsula branch of the California Writers Club. Super Holly Hansson saves the day several times in one day, but finds something she cannot save. I give many thanks to Laurel Anne Hill, who worked super-hard to put together this anthology, and who edited my writing into a story worthy of Fault Zone. Writers, editors are your friends.

Here is the start of “What Goes Up.”

The six-foot-tall, apricot-shaped computer on the auditorium stage glowed brighter. Was the thing about to go KA-BOOM, like old sci-fi mechanical brains computing love to the last digit? Super Holly Hansson gritted her teeth harder, tapped the console’s keyboard, and motioned toward Chris Jobz, the Apricot Computer CEO.

“Would you please hand me your tablet,” Holly said, “and get your butt behind the blast shields with your employees?” Too bad she couldn’t pitch that big yellow- orangish monster into the ocean. Too dangerous, according to Chris. “You’re not bomb- proof. I am.” So far… She swallowed hard.

Chris glanced in the direction of his staff, yet made no move to give Holly his tablet, as if he thought his lint-free black turtleneck was a supersuit. Arrogant but brave. He acted as if she could still channel superpowers into others, like she’d done to those comic book geeks months ago. She couldn’t do that anymore. Not even for a fellow geek.

“Miss Hansson, you need both hands and my help.” Chris shoved his Apricot tablet closer to Holly’s face. “You’re not an engineer.”

“I was a technical writer,” Holly said, “and this geek girl can read code.” But could she get through this in one piece? All those kids in the hospital would be so sad if she didn’t show up today. She typed faster, restraining her super-strength. Last year she’d

pulverized her favorite wireless keyboard. The shining apricot’s timer taunted her: 01:29, 01:28, 01:27…

“I know women can code. Forty percent of Apricot engineers are female,” Chris said. His eyes shot virtual daggers toward the smiling teen boy his employees restrained. “But if you don’t finish writing this Swoop code before that timer reaches zero, this Apricot will destroy the Internet.”

“Don’t you think I know that?” Holly hissed as her fingertips tingled. “I suppose it was that kid’s bright idea to build a doomsday Apricot with a super-scalding keyboard.”

“Yes. Me. Crestley Smusher, to you.” The teen’s voice was nerdy, gleeful, and dripping with condescension. “It was a science project to put my highly intelligent, brightly smiling face upon every display on the planet. Upon the exact second of my eighteenth birthday, less than a minute from now. Except my superior code merged with inferior code from lesser engineers to form a nasty virus—”

“Shut up, Crestley,” Holly and Chris shouted. Holly tapped out the last line of code and turned. Behind thick, clear, plastic bomb shields, several angry Apricot geeks held Crestley’s arms. A six-foot-six and rather wide engineer got a stranglehold on the techie, whose smug smirk vanished. Speaking of vanishing, how much time had elapsed?

…00:03, 00:02, 00:01… The timer stopped. Just like on Stellar Trek, where the countdown always stopped at one. Whew! She’d done it.

Chris examined the Apricot’s display. “The Internet is saved.” He shook Holly’s hand. “Thank you.”

Such firm fingers he had, like a writer. “You’re welcome.”

“Auto destruct in fifteen seconds,” the monster Apricot voiced in a monotone. “Fourteen. Thirteen.”

“What the hell?” Chris sputtered. He and Holly whirled to face Crestley. Crestley smirked again. “All doomsday devices need a failsafe.”
“Nine. Eight.”
A failsafe? Time for Holly’s own brand of mind over matter. Crap. This was

gonna hurt. She reached out. A telekinetic hand—big, blue and transparent—shot from her own flesh-and-blood hand and engulfed the Apricot monster.

“Seven. Six.”

She punched her free fist upward. A telekinetic fist cannonballed out of it and bashed a hole in the ceiling.

“Five. Four.”
She flew through the roof and into the bright blue sky.
The Apricot campus shrank below her.
She held the doomsday Apricot in her telekinetic hand.
Damn all arrogant nerds. Well, not all.



His Biggest Fan!

Holly and Angry BatmanI have written the 7th draft of a short story that I will submit to the California Writers Club, Redwood Branch for their Fan Fiction contest. A story I have always wanted to write: Super Holly is zapped into the DC Universe and meets her first big crush: Batman. I had to write tight to stuff it into 1500 words. Printing it a few times and crossing out and editing with pencil/pen helped me cut it down to size. Tomorrow I send it in, after I read it aloud to find last edits.

P.S. I had not expected the Joker to take over the villain role. He did. He can be pushy.

Angry Batman art by Chloe Dalquist of theangrybatman.tumblr.com.

My video Blab with writing coach Beth Barany!

beth-baranyI joined a chat on Blab with Beth Barany. She asked for guests to join the video, so I joined. If you want to find out what I sound and look like, (and get good editing advice from Beth), click the URL link below. I show up about 13 minutes into the video. The subject was editing your own writing.


Beth had good advice. She is a writing coach, after all. She suggests reading the story you are editing in a different format, such as on a Kindle or on paper. Or reading it out loud. Also, we writers write for ourselves, but we edit for our readers. Oh, yes, that is so true!

P.S. Harrumph, I could not embed the Blab video into my blog, but you can click the link above.


Sad Puppies? Or Eye of Argon?

Sometimes bad writing inspires me with the thought, “I can do better than THAT!” Not this time.

This year’s Hugo awards (the People’s Choice awards for science fiction) have been swamped by the sad puppies and the rabid puppies. You can check the awfulness of the short story nominees in this blog post by Andrew Hickey.

I work hard on my short stories. I craft, edit, chop up, reassemble. And then a short story with a paragraph like this gets nominated for a Hugo this year.

“Eight point nine decaseconds later, the Hermes-class corvette ATSV Swiftsure rolls onto its belly and opens fire with twin 100 mm projectile cannons at a range of ninety kilometers from its closest companion. At such range the hyper-accelerated bolts of metal shred the second ship’s hull. The second ship returns fire with a set of 12 cm lasers that cut perfectly straight swathes of armor plating from Swiftsure. Atmospheric gases spray out of the violated hull in glittering white streams.”

This sounds awfully familiar … oh yes, the worst story ever written, The Eye of Argon!

“He has slept three times and had been fed five times since his awakening in the crypt. However, when the actions of the body are restricted its needs are also affected. The need for nourishmnet and slumber are directly proportional to the functions the body has performed, meaning that when free and active Grignr may become hungry every six hours and witness the desire for sleep every fifteen hours, whereas in his present condition he may encounter the need for food every ten hours, and the want for rest every twenty hours.”

At least the Eye of Argon was consistent about spelling out numbers. Although it violates hulls in a slightly grander fashion.

“The disemboweled mercenary crumpled from his saddle and sank to the clouded sward, sprinkling the parched dust with crimson droplets of escaping life fluid.”

There’s more. The same supposedly Hugo-worthy short story has this sentence. So much wrong in so little space.

“Disabling an enemy warship is not enough; they must be crippled, damaged, destroyed.”

I’m jerked from singular to plural. My sense of opposites is assaulted: in this context, disabled is a synonym for crippled and damaged. I offer this rewrite.

“Disabling an enemy warship is not enough; it must be destroyed.”

Simple, short, and direct. Even a Dalek would smile at that. As for these puppy stories, I urge a vote of no award. In other words …



A Literary Editor Reviews My Stories

I sent the prologue (I call it Chapter Zero) of my novel, and two short stories to Zymbol editor Anne James for editing. I got this as a reward for contributing to an Indiegogo campaign last year. Yeah, took me a while to send them off, I did several rewrites.

(By the way, Zymbol is doing a Kickstarter campaign ending April 27. There are no editing perks this time. But there is Clive Barker stuff! Check it out.)


“I’m going to skip over the red pen and focus on the main areas in terms of content editing, because I can see that you’re a highly skilled writer and you don’t need any pointers in terms of proofreading!”

“The stories open in the middle of the action, which captures your reader’s attention. “Chapter Zero” is particularly effective at this, starting with an intriguing bit of dialogue: ‘Your comic book made me cry.’” (That was Katsuko “Kittygirl” Kimura.) Open with action is good advice to any author, NEVER have boring look-at-the-horizon scenes, I hate when movies do that! I did not open in the middle of a slam-bang super-heroic fight. Maybe I’ll try that sometime. Could be fun.

“Technically speaking, your writing is excellent – the sentences flow well, and I don’t have any difficulties with grammar or the usual careless errors I see in most manuscripts. You’re an attentive editor of your own writing — that’s a great skill!”

“The witty banter between characters is genuinely amusing and true-to-character. You really get a sense of who these people are from their speech.”

“Your supporting characters are truly charming. Katsuko and her mother in particular were memorable; I hope they pop up again in other stories. The description of Katsuko’s costume and her giddy excitement were easy to visualize.”


She wondered what draws Holly to Cal. Answer: the novel brings them together, and they fall head-over-heels in love. Maybe I can emphasize that more in the short stories.

She was disappointed that Chapter Zero did not show where Holly’s powers came from. That was intentional; it is revealed during the scene where Dan Mann and Cal Critbert want discuss the mystery of this superpower about to be channeled into the world, and Holly says they are NOT condescendingly explaining that to her, she already knows it (more than she likes)!

She pointed out I did not explain enough about why Holly and Cal are headed to the Apricot computer center to stop the theft of the A-phone. “The reader doesn’t feel too anxious for Holly and Cal to prevail if they don’t know what evil deed the Karate Queen is trying to perpetrate.” I agree, and I can have some fun by pumping up how important the A-phone could be. Also, when John Glutt enters the scene in Chapter Zero, “Can you show us more of the room? What does it look like once he shoots the web?” She’s right, this is a chance to describe a comic book shop, to geek it up!

Okay, I will not break the fourth wall! My smart nieces also said that joke does not work. She also said I could use fewer sound effects, “a peppering of sound effects gets across the comic book atmosphere.” I will still use some, like Stan Lee and Don Martin.

My time shifts and first-to-third person shifts in the barber story threw her off. So I will change the first to third person. I try to write mostly in close third: get deep into the head of the point-of-view character without saying “I”. I’ll keep the time shifts, removing them would be too much of an overhaul, and I have more stories to write.

She wondered about Holly’s powers, “Do they reveal something about her personality?” Yes. Holly gets the all-time biggest superpower of all (along with flight and super-strength/toughness): super-strong telekinesis. Remember The Great and Powerful Turtle for the Wild Cards series? Holly will be the Superman of her world, and she gets the biggest power of all. Holly hates bullies in any form.


She said Zymbol would not be the right fit for my stories. I agree. I have planned to go the Kindle self-publish path. But I will also look for other paths, maybe in the comic book geek crowd, or young female crowd, or fantasy/sci-fi. “Have you given thought to your ideal reader? Who is Holly really written for?” I never wrote for demographics, but I think Holly can find her audience.


She gave more advice, too much to list here. I will use it.

I am working on a new story due by the end of the month (Fault Zone again). It will be about a week before I implement her comments. I wish I could run more stories past her, but for now, I am pinching pennies. I think I will send my Kittygirl story her way when I give it one more polish, strictly for her enjoyment. Anne liked Katsuko and her mom, and they show up again.


Two Complete Stories!

I just posted two complete stories under the Upcoming Stories menu. I intend to have them edited, and I will touch them up. Feedback is welcome: tell me what you like, tell me what you don’t like. But most of all, read and enjoy.

Super Bad Hair Day!

The Poet and the Superspainer!


Author Dave vs. Story Bloat!

Holly’s super bad hair day story is way overdue for Kindle. And yet, I could not bring myself to push it out. Why?

It was fat. Bloated. Almost 7000 words! During the holidays, my nieces read my 1500 words Super Holly vs The Wicked Word Witch story. (These girls are smart, voracious readers.) They laughed. They liked it. Then my older niece read part of the bad hair day, and she pointed out bugs, and thought the ending was strange, and she once said, “Ew.”

In my opinion, the biggest bug is the bad hair day story got way too BIG over many months. Today, I re-outlined it from 13 action beats to 9. Then I cut, pasted, and edited. I cut out a lot:

  • Bennie the Rubber Cop (based on Law & Order’s Lennie Briscoe, who deserves a full story and should not compete with Lash the barber in this story).
  • The singing. That did not work. I could feel that as my older niece read.
  • The super comb. Too much of a god-in-the-machine thing. I substituted a wire brush and big scissors.
  • Probably I’ll cut the shampooing scene, but I still want to mention Holly’s love of strawberry shampoo.

I hope to be way under 5000 words when I am done. Small enough that I can pad this story out with another short story. I have several in the works. I want my short stories to be quick and fun, like gobbling a candy bar. Or in my case, two at a time for a buck?

I thought of story bloat after I saw the third installment of The Hobbit on New Year’s Eve. I liked it, but so much stuff was added to the original story! Sure, I like more of that cool and grand Christopher Lee! But it took Thorin FOREVER to change his mind, and what was with his silly hallucination stuff?

I also thought of Harlan Ellison: “To say more is to say less.” And Elmore Leonard: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

I thought of story bloat before today. I got serious about it today. I made good progress, and I should have a tighter and happier story when I am done. It can feel good to cut.

P.S. I agree with my friend Frank about the Hobbit part 3: the battle scenes were consuming (if a bit long), Smaug was fearsome, and anxiety was high. I will want Holly and Cal to fight dragons in a later novel. Smaug was not bloated, he was huge in the book. My dragons will need to be small enough that when they swallow a man (or a superheroine, hint hint) you can see the lump go down its gullet, yet large enough that you can saddle and ride one, and if you are fishing around for a body in the dragon’s digestive-juice-filled belly (with an air pocket at the top), it will take several scary moments to find the body. Yeah, I am writing ahead again, but this will be a GREAT scene.

P.P.S. When I said today, I meant January 1.