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.



I will perform “The Sinister Soul Surfer” tomorrow!

fault zone 2015Sunday August 28 at 2pm, at the Belmont Library, 1110 Alameda de las Pulgas, Belmont, CA, the Peninsula branch of the California Writers Club is celebrating six years of the Fault Zone anthology. The authors in the latest Fault Zone (theme: Transform) will read their short stories and poems.

I will be reading/performing from my story, “The Sinister Soul Surfer!” My Batman-esque movie critic, Cal “The Intellectual” Critbert, must rescue Super Holly Hansson from the evil surfer-dude clutches of Bobby Breaker, who jumps into and possesses Holly’s superheroine body with a cry of, “I’m catching’ those curves!”

Can Cal free Holly without Bobby using Holly’s super-strength to smash him into an Intellecta-pancake? Drop by tomorrow at 2 and find out! Same Intellecta-time, same Intellecta-channel!

I will be on a Literary Winners Circle Panel!

first-placeAt the San Mateo County Fair’s Literary Stage, I will on the Winners Circle panel this Saturday, June 11, from 4:30 to 5:30. There will also be a winners reading from 4 to 4:30, and 5:30-7, but I am not sure if I will be doing any readings yet. (I think it is likely.)

I am on the panel with other winners because my Audiobook script, The Malevolent Mystery Meat, won both 1st place in the category of Digital Media Online and Honorable Mention for Science Fiction/Fantasy short story.

The panel’s theme is inspiration. A lady in my critique group had a story of kids with puppy behavior. I had written my Kittygirl story, and I wanted to write more like that. My cousin has two dogs, Tucker and Wrigley, whom I have taken care of when my cousin and his family go on vacation. He also has two boys, and I have two nephews, so I have observed young brother and doggie behavior. Hence, two puppy-powered brothers.

Then Michael Moore, in his latest movie, showed how icky American school lunches can get. Hence, the malevolent mystery meat.

The story went over very well at my open mics. I used The William Tell Overture as background music. Hi-yo, Tucker, away!

More on the San Mateo County Fair’s Literary Stage:

Wednesday, June 15, from 7:30 to 9, I will participating in the open mic readings.

Thursday June 16, from 7-8:30, I will be doing a reading from my Fault Zone story, The Sinister Soul Surfer!


I am published in Fault Zone!

fault zone 2015I blogged about this before, and now my short story, The Sinister Soul Surfer, is published in Fault Zone; you can buy one in paperback! (This edition of Fault Zone is not on Kindle yet.)

A funny thing. I usually state Holly’s Batman-esque boyfriend as Cal “The Intellectual” Critbert. But a glitch in this printing made it Cal “The Intellecta” Critbert. And you know what? I might run with that. Cal “Intellecta” Critbert has a ring to it. And it implies that Cal will not call himself by a superhero name. Just like Holly.

Thank you, Peninsula Writers Club, for doing Fault Zone. And thanks especially to Ann Foster for all her editing help.


It’s my Happy 60th Birthday!

And thanks to my Facebook posters!

20131226-154718.jpgI had promised myself that I’d have the entire first draft of my novel done today. (Keef Knight did this shirt for me.) I did not make that goal, although much is filled in, and every chapter that is not written is outlined and inserted into the current draft. So writing the outlined chapters will be a lot easier, now that I have a bunch of short stories under my belt.

To make up for the above, I have two stories coming out in two local anthologies: The Sinister Soul Surfer in Fault Zone, and The terror of the Twisted Tonguester in Scripting Change. I will post links when they are available.

I will be at the San Jose Short Film Festival this weekend. I hope to meet indie film makers. I’ll bring my Holly cards.

Blast from the past: here is my old WordPress photo with Dev-Em, and yes, I remember reading that comic as a kid.



My First Professional Rejection!

My story to Fault Zone was rejected. Harumph! Harumph! Harumph!

The Fault Zone editors gave a quick critique of my rejected story. That is much, much, MUCH better than empty silence! I hope they keep doing that. And I hope they do not mind that I critiqued their critique. I consider this my first professional rejection, and it is worth writing about.

The Hook.
Supply a hook at the start of the story? That’s good advice. I can supply a better taste of what is to come: a storyline about the irritations of mansplaining. That would be better than “The black and the blue raced to the rescue!”

We Want Information. Information. INFORMATION!
Let readers figure out on their own that this is a fruit-named computer company instead of saying it outright? That’s not so good advice, in my opinion. I want the time and location known immediately, so my first paragraph is “SEASIDE CITY, CALIFORNIA. THE APRICOT COMPUTER CAMPUS. THE PRESENTATION THEATER. A FRIDAY. 3:17 P.M.” Naturally, I will describe the location when my POV (point of view) character sees it. Alfred Hitchcock said his movies were not mysteries, which were about withholding information from the audience, but about giving information, as in there’s a bomb under the table. Also, this banner adds a comic book and cartoon flavor to my story. Others get it: at a workshop last Saturday, editor Charlotte Cook read the start of my story in the louder, slightly pompous tone that I adopt when I have read the banner-type opening of my stories at open mics. She GOT what I was doing.

Disjointed Prose.
They (or “I”) “found the prose disjointed and difficult to follow,” and then they did not say why? At Saturday’s workshop, a writer next to me read some of my story and liked it, but she pointed out exactly where she was confused about who was speaking and what was taking place. Them not giving an example of the problem made me wonder if they just did not like my style.

Sound Effects.
Forced sound effects should only be used in graphic presentations? No, I want a goofy comic book feel, an Adam West Batman sound. Sound effects words are words, why not use them in a prose story? Of course, a POW, THOOM, or SHUSH-SPLUT-SKAAAH (last one stolen from Don Martin) should not be overused, but sprinkled like a spice. And it had better be the right spice, cinnamon in spaghetti sauce would taste weird. Who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind later. But not today.

More Critique at a Writing Workshop
I printed and brought the story to a writing workshop last Saturday. Charlotte Cook, editor and former publisher, gave me some good advice when she read my story aloud to the workshop (she read several). I have been working on third person deep point of view. Charlotte mentioned close third person, and where I was not using it and thus pushing the reader away from the story. Telling instead of showing is generally a BIG NO-NO. She also pointed out my sentences that ran on too long. Readers should not gasp for air when they read. And she pointed out leading dependent clauses, which I should avoid. Like “Her red cape flapping, Holly flew over Cal and the charging ninjas.” Make the flapping cape its own sentence.

I am feeling better about my first professional rejection. I’ll wear it like a badge of honor. Or a T-shirt or underpants? I remember Isaac Asimov telling how he was with some writer friends, and he asked one of them how he handled rejection. The guy hemmed and hawed, and said he did not know, he had never had a rejection. Isaac said that it was only that this guy was a really nice guy that they did not kill him where he stood.

P.S. I still see myself as an indie author (Amazon, Smashwords, etc.), I do not ever see myself going to a New York publisher. I have thought about Sand Hill Press, or other small publishing house. I’ll see how the novel goes. For now, I get my short stories professionally polished and then I put them out for sale. Or for twisting in the wind.