Wednesday, September 11, 2019

New Release! Deadman Humour: 13 Fears of a Clown

Look guys! New book!

One of the best parts of a writing life is the opportunity to try new things. I love writing something unlike anything I've written before. That's part of why I enjoy writing for anthologies. It's a chance to explore new styles, themes, and subject matter.

So when the fabulous Dave Higgins put out a call for this anthology, asking for stories about what scares clowns, I was intrigued. Though I enjoy reading and watching horror, I'd only tried my hand at it a couple of times.

The resulting story, "The Gleewoman of Preservation," played off a news story that circulated in North Carolina a year or two ago.

Mysterious clowns were spotted all around the state, hanging out in the woods near playgrounds. No one seemed sure what they were up to: trying to entice children, just standing there being creepy?

Whatever it was, it had the kids at my middle school all atwitter.

So, as I do for many a story, I began with "what if?" What if the clowns were there to protect people from something else?

The anthology releases this Friday, Friday the 13th, of course, during the same month that the new It movie released. So, if you can't get enough horror with clowns, I hope you'll check it out! Myself, I can't wait to see what the other authors came up with.

Here's a teaser for you, a bit of the beginning of "The Gleewoman of Preservation."

“CREEPY CLOWN HAUNTS LOCAL PLAYGROUND.” The headline screamed across the page in twenty point gothic font. Maggie snorted. This codswallop was news? Honestly! Across the breakfast table, her husband looked up from his phone. “What?”

Maggie turned her newspaper so he could view the lurid headline. “A little over the top, don’t you think?” 
Her husband reached for the paper and she let him take it, picking up her coffee and taking a sip. It was still a little too hot and burned her upper lip. She touched the sore place with her fingertip. Not too bad. It probably wouldn’t even redden that much. George always did make the coffee superheated. She joked it was because his heart was just that cold. This is what it took to defrost him. 
He was back on his phone now, apparently in an active chat. She sighed, wondering why she bothered to get out of bed to have breakfast with him anymore. It wasn’t like they talked. They might as well be two strangers on the bus. Maybe it would be better when he retired too here in a couple more years. Maybe it would be worse. Time would tell. 
Suddenly, George stood. “I’m going to have to go,” he said, shoving his arms through his suit-jacket sleeves. He knocked his phone onto the floor. 
Maggie glanced at the clock as she moved to pick it up for him. It was still only six-thirty. “So early?”
George took a gulp from his still steaming mug, unfazed by the tongue-searing heat. “Things are already on fire over there.” 
Maggie held out the phone, startled to see a group chat labeled “Gleemen.” The last message said, “EMERGENCY. Here. Now.” What was the man up to? 
 George pocketed the device, leaned over and gave her kiss on the cheek, lips still warm from the coffee. “Lunch today?”
Maggie nodded, pulling her bathrobe tight around her. 
As soon as George was out of the house, Maggie went to the bedroom and pulled on her retirement uniform of yoga pants and a voluminous blouse, ran a comb through her gray and brown mop of hair, and grabbed her purse. What in the world were Gleemen? 
Crackpot theories went through her head. She’d heard stories about women her age finding out they’d been living a lie all these years, that their husbands have secret lives they’ve known nothing about. Mistresses. Gay lovers. Shady business ventures. Dark hobbies. She had to know what George was doing. It was the surest way to shut down her hyperactive imagination…

Check out the anthology for the rest of my story, and the works of the other twelve authors. Happy Spooky Season!



Barnes & Noble


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

IWSG: Where Would I Write?

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking.

If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

The awesome co-hosts for the September 4 posting of the IWSG are Gwen Gardner, Doreen McGettigan, Tyrean Martinson, Chemist Ken, and Cathrina Constantiner!

And the question: If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?
Over the years, I have learned to write anywhere. I've written in moving cars (not while driving), on the Mom couch at krav maga lessons, standing in the kitchen, sitting in bed, and hiding in a bathroom, among other more comfortable places. I'm good at blocking at distraction, too--which matters when you're trying to fit your writing life in the edges of an already full life. 

That's not to say that's what I prefer. It's just what I've adapted to. 

A few times, though, I got spoiled by getting to go on a writing retreat. I've been to the mountains and the sea, with other writers I knew and with strangers. The most valuable part for me has always been the temporary dropping of all other responsibilities and being *only* a writer for a few days in a row. The location is secondary. I feel as though a retreat almost anywhere would work for me, though it does help if there's easy access to good walking and scenic views. 

The very best such experience I ever had was the Week of Quiet and Writing through RCWMS, an experience my husband found for me as a gift one year that still ranks as one of the most wonderful gifts I have ever received: basically you pay around $100 a night for a place to stay with walking distance beach and wetland access inclusive of meals! It may sound "churchy" but I'm not an outwardly religious person, and I felt comfortable and welcomed. 

It's not fancy…in fact it feels a bit monastic: a small, plain room with only basic furnishings (bed, desk chair, dresser) and simple dining hall meals at prescribed hours. Myself, I liked that, I found it focusing, narrowing my non-writing world for a few days. The very plain simplicity of it really helped shield me from distraction. 

Pelican House is a wonderful place for focus, and sitting in the cupola there, up the spiral staircase, with the window open so I could feel the sea air and hear the waves crashing while I wrote is my writing-related happy place. I'd write there every year if I could arrange it!

How about you, readers and visitors to my blog? Where would you go to invoke your muse for your own endeavors, given your druthers? 

Monday, September 2, 2019

Submitting My Work: The September Submission Challenge

I've written a lot more things than have made it into print. I'm learning, as I work to build a writing career, that submitting your work is another part time job.

I'm working five jobs now, by my reckoning:
  • Full time middle school teaching
  • Full time mothering teenagers and a rescue dog, and running a household
    • This part is getting easier now that my girls are older; and I'm lucky in having a hands-on partner, too. 
  • Part time writing
  • Part time marketing my already published writing
  • Part time submitting my writing (or preparing it for indie publishing: I'm working on my first all-indie project now!)
Whew! Starting to wonder when I'm going to sleep. Still, I love all these jobs and I'm not-so-secretly a work-aholic, so this is a very "me" kind of schedule.

Another writer (Ray Daley) laid down a gauntlet this September, proposing a September Submission Challenge, in which you submit one piece of your writing every day this month. He even made a calendar of suggested venues to submit, too, and since he's a speculative fiction writer like me, I'll be giving a lot of these a try.

So, here on Labor Day, I'm one ahead! I plan to update this post as I go as a way to track what I've done.

Sunday, September 1st: I sent my science fiction story, "The New Guy"  (3172 words) to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. According to my Duotrope stats, they have rejected six of my short stories previously, four of them with personal comments/critique. (That's a big deal, and encouraging from a larger venue like this one).

Monday, September 2nd: I sent "Gifts of the Mag-Eyes" (7577 words) to Clarkesworld, Ray's suggested venue for today. Clarkesworld has rejected five of my short stories previously; they don't generally give personal commentary, but they do have fast turn around, so they don't leave you hanging.

As a bonus, I sent "The Urgings of Ravens" (1652 words) to Lackington's special issue on Birds. I happened to run across the call in an email from Authors Publish with themed publication calls, and took that as my impetus to finish a story I started quite some time back (2015, I think).
  • Rejection: Uncanny: "Under an Orange Sky" (4980 words), submitted on August 29 (so not technically part of this challenge). 
Tuesday, September 3rd: Ray's suggested venue was Speculative City, a new one to me. I worried I didn't have a suitable story since their call is for "provocative works that are centered in a cityscape" and this month, they specifically ask for a theme of "industry." Then, I realized "The New Guy" is a good fit for that and, um, luckily? it was just rejected by F&SF today, so it's available. 
  • Rejection: F&SF: "The New Guy" submitted on September 1st. Told you these guys are fast!
  • Rejection: Clarkesworld: "The Gifts of the Mag-Eyes" submitted on September 2nd. I think I felt the breeze when that one went by. Bullet train fast. 
NOTE: The speed of rejection is actually a relief. Too often in the publishing world, your work languishes in an in-box somewhere before it even gets the first-level glance. Though it always stings to have a story rejected, I'd rather it come quickly and leave me free to try another venue!

Wednesday, September 4th: Daily Science Fiction has rejected seven of my stories in the past five years. Looking back, two of those stories weren't up to snuff. The others, I still believe in and hold out hope of placing. I've been a longtime reader of DSF, and they publish quite a variety of stories. Here's hoping "Chamber of Delights" (584 words) is the first one of mine they like enough to publish.

As a bonus submission, I also sent "Starving Artist" (222 words) to Scum, a magazine I've been interested in for a while. They're open to submissions during the first seven days of each month and I thought of them when I was looking through stories for something to send to DSF.
  • Rejection from Lackington's for "The Urgings of Ravens." Sad. They did mention that their birds theme is open until September 15 . . . (off to look through my unpublished pile for anything applicable)
Thursday, September 5th: Trouble Among the Stars is a new venue for me. I appreciated that they have an issue or two available to read for free. It helps give a feel for what kind of stories and themes they like. So, I sent them "Under an Orange Sky" (4980 words). Wish me luck!

As a bonus, I revised and expanded a story about harpies to give Lackington's another try, hoping that were intending to encourage me to submit again from the wording of their rejection earlier. "Boy Chick" (1529 words) is now under consideration. I'm feeling very pleased with it right now, but the "ink" is still fresh on it, so we'll see :-)

Friday, September 6th: The suggested venue tonight was Asimov's, a prestigious science fiction magazine that has rejected four of my stories in the past. Looking at what I have available right now, I don't think I have a story that's a good fit for them (I have the impression that they like their scifi harder than what I usually write, and they've already rejected the hardest scifi I've written thus far), so I went to my submission opportunity calendar (just a sub-calendar in my google account where I record publication opportunities I run across and have interest in) to see where I might submit instead.

I found Claw & Blossom, a magazine with a focus on the natural world. I sent them "Persistence" (232 words) a bit of flash fiction I wrote last October and haven't yet found a home for, though I think it's among the more sadly beautiful things I have written.

I also had publication news today! Dave Higgins announced the release date for Deadman Humour: 13 Fears of a Clown, appropriately enough next Friday, a Friday-the-thirteenth!

I wrote "The Gleewoman of Preservation" specifically for this call, which was for stories about what frightens clowns. The cover is quite disturbing and I'm anxious to see what the other authors included came up with!

Saturday, September 7th: It's nice to get to this earlier in the day. Hurray for weekends!

Today's proposed venue is Analog Science Fiction and Fact, a professional level magazine (SFWA qualifying) that I'd love to see my work in. Since earning membership in SFWA is one of my personal goals, I've been submitting to this tier of magazines more frequently, though I have yet to have any work accepted by them. Higher, faster, further, baby!

Analog has rejected three of my stories previously.

I sent them "Gifts of the Mag Eyes" (7577 words) today. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, September 8th: Flash Fiction Online accepts stories between 500 and 1000 words, and "She Cries in the Night" is 999 words. That's got to be a sign, right? Guess we'll find out! FFO has rejected two of my stories in the past, so maybe this is a case of "third time's a charm."

No rejections in a few days, but no acceptances either. Having so many pieces out at the same time keeps me from spending much mental energy worrying over any one of them. An odd side effect of this challenge is feeling relieved when something gets rejected, because then I have it in my list of options to resubmit later in the month. My brain is a weird place.

Monday, September 9th: Every Day Fiction has rejected one of my stories and apparently I've only tried them the one time. I sent them "Rorschach's Ceiling" (593 words). It's a little more straight literary than what I usually write, but it looks like they publish quite a variety, so we'll see what they think.
  • I must have jinxed it by saying "no rejections" yesterday. Lackington's declined "Boy Chick" today. 
Tuesday, September 10th: Interzone was today's suggested venue. I hadn't actually heard of this one, though a little research tells me I ought to have. It's got a long and prestigious history. In my reckoning of the relative quality of all of my unpublished work, "Adam of the North" (7801 words) stands out. I'm proud of it and think it has potential to "make it big" so that's what I sent them.

Though I have never submitted to Interzone, poor Adam has had a rough go of it so far. He's been rejected by six other magazines, all of them bigger, SFWA-qualifying venues. Two of those came with comments (getting a rejection with comments is quite a compliment--many places just don't do that at all, and those that do, do so sparingly and a sign that the story was an "almost"), and I have revised a bit with those in mind, so here's hoping!

Wednesday, September 11th: The proposed venue tonight is Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Unfortunately, they clearly ask for stories with a strong secondary world feel, and everything I have ready at this point is more "real world with a twist."

So, instead I sent two short horror stories to an anthology call I read about in a Facebook group I follow for such things (Open Call, which BTW, is also where I found Ray and his September Submission challenge). Horror for the Throne wants 500-2000 word horror stories ("toilet read" lengths). They're offering $20 for reprints, so I sent them "Contamination" (502 words) and "Michael's Miracle" (1528 words), two stories previously published in magazines.

Thursday, September 12th: Three Lobe Burning Eye Magazine has previously rejected one of my short stories. I sent them "Boy Chick" because their submissions page says, "We like voices that are full of feeling, from literary to pulpy, with styles unique and flowing, but not too experimental. All labels aside, we want tales that expand genre, that value imagination in character, narrative, and plot." Sounds like they might like it.
  • Rejection: "Adam of the North" was rejected by Interzone with a simple, but friendly form letter. Poor Adam. No one loves him like I do. At least not yet.  
Friday, September 13th: Busy busy night here at home. And I'm ahead on number of submissions, so I let tonight go. No submissions. And hey, also no rejections :-)

Saturday, September 14th: Today's proposed venue is Electric Spec. I sent them "Wonderboy's Last Flight" in late June and haven't heard back yet (their own estimates on the website say: "This can take a few days, or, up to three months."). The submission guidelines specifically ask that you only send one story at a time (which is my general policy anyway), so I can't send them anything right now.

So, I went to my own calendar of publication opportunities again and found Shenendoah. I'm intrigued by their enthusiasm to publish excerpts from novels-in-progress: "NOVEL EXCERPTS under 8,000 words will be considered with great enthusiasm. Beth plans to publish an excerpt from a novel-in-progress during each issue of Shenandoah, with a note from the author about their process and what it’s like to be in the middle of a big project. She knows writers at this stage need support, and would like Shenandoah to be a place where they can get some." I sent them some of The Architect and the Heir, my current WIP, a gothic romance novel.
  • Rejection: "She Cries in the Night" was politely declined (form letter) by Flash Fiction Online.
Sunday, September 15th: Halfway through the challenge, I sent "She Cries in the Night" to Not One of Us, a venue looking for explorations of the problem of "otherness." As of today, I've sent out 18 submissions (some of them the same story rejected and sent back out), and received six rejections.

Monday, September 16th: Today's proposed venue is Strange Horizons, a magazine which has previously rejected four of my short stories. I'd tried my longer work on them in the past and noted today that they while they accept stories up to 10,000 words, they state a preference for stories under 5,000 words. So, I decided to send them something shorter. "Moondance" (1502 words). Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 17th: The Future Fire is a new venue for me. Their submissions page "welcomes submissions of speculative fiction with progressive, inclusive and socially aware disposition. We are particularly interested in feminist, queer, postcolonial and ecological themes, and writing by under-represented voices." I sent them "Urgings of Ravens." Let's see what they think of it. 
  • Polite rejection from Horror for the Throne, salving the wound by talking about the large number of submission received. 
Wednesday, September 18th: Chrome Baby is another magazine I'd not yet encountered. I read a couple of stories as I poked around the site trying to decide what among my own work might appeal to them. My quick reconnoiter suggests that they prefer their fiction dark and angsty. I sent "Black Birds at Dawn" (696 words) a piece I ran back across when looking for something else in the past few days.

This challenge definitely has me combing through old documents seeing what I've got that I never did anything with. For that alone, I value this work, though of course I still hope that at least one of these submissions will come to fruition.

Thursday, September 19: Instead of Ray's proposed venue for tonight, I went to my personal submissions opportunity calendar and found The Furious Gazelle's Halloween contest. I'm a huge fan of Halloween (hence my 31 days of Halloween posts last year) and had a few different stories I thought might do well.

The contest allows for up to 5,000 words in whatever combination you'd like up to five pieces. I sent four flash fiction pieces: "Element of Surprise" (593 words), "The Captain's House" (249 words), "What Geraldine Saw" (1419 words), and "Cure for Pain" (266 words).

Three of those began as part of #nightmarefuel a flash fiction prompt writing event I often participate in during October. "What Geraldine Saw" had felt unfinished to me when I last revisited it, so I worked on it tonight before sending, adding about 700 words and bringing it to a much more satisfying ending place.

Friday, September 20: The proposed venue today is Syntax & Salt, a new venue for me. The tone of the submission page is maybe just a bit, well, salty. I like that, so I went digging for something to send them. I found "What I Can See" (711 words) which hopefully strikes that balance of "speculative fiction with a literary bent" they asked for.

At this point, most of my previously submitted work is back out there being considered, so I'm pushing through work that has been languishing in my Finished? folder (literally the name of the folder: where I put stories that I "finished" but haven't spent the time to work over and make publication ready, or stories I have doubts are actually finished and plan to come back to some day). So, that's a bonus for me, in that it creates more work, that at least in my own opinion, is publication ready.

Saturday, September 21: Too much life in my life today and I didn't get to submit anything at all. Luckily, I am ahead on number of submissions, so I'm still on track with my challenge.

Sunday, September 22: It's a home project heavy weekend, but I found a little time for submissions today and sent "Adam of the North" (7801 words) to AGNI. AGNI is a new venue to me.

This line from their submissions page caught my eye: "We do not publish genre romance, horror, mystery, or science fiction; however, we are open to writing that borrows elements from any of these." I take that to mean that if a story "feels" literary, it can use nonrealistic elements and be welcomed at AGNI.

I have mixed feelings about that. As a "genre writer" I do get frustrated with the literary snobbiness and how some speculative fiction is okay so long as its not categorized as speculative fiction, like it's the category and not the actual quality that matters. I read and write both, so we'll see what they make of Adam, a story that's "literary" in its origins (in Frankenstein: one of the oldest "genre" books there is, but one that gets studied in college).

  • Rejection: Claw and Blossom passed on "Persistence." 
  • Rejection: Speculative City declined "The New Guy." They use a system called Green Submissions as their submissions manager. I've submitted to a couple of other magazines that use it, and it is my least favorite of all submissions managers I've worked with so far. Even though I carefully track my passwords, Green Submissions always tells me my password is incorrect, so I had to go through a password reset process just to read my form rejection. Annoying. 


Check back later to see how the rest of the month goes. I'll update with what I'm submitting and how it goes for me!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Wrong Time

The new season of Wording Wednesday is underway. Fellow author Andy Brokaw collects a set of prompts and puts them out there for the world to use for inspiration. This season, the theme is weather and we continue with "Snow Scene" by Eric de Kolb. You can buy copies of it at Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.

You can check out my previous posts from this season here: CloudyClearSunnyRain, Wind

Wrong Time

The three gentlemen from the Hebron Anachronist Society set out in into the snow.

"Tomás" led the way, in keeping with his role as Grand Inquisitor, followed by "Diego". "Adrian" lagged behind. He hadn't enjoyed playing Spanish Inquisition as much as the other men, and wished he could find a graceful way to bow out of this side trip into the Paper Cutter's Forest.

It was a popular tourist destination, and it was "so nearby" the Inquisition theme park. The forest did have a kind of grandeur, but he really just wanted to go home, to go back to being plain old Jeff, a mid-level accountant whom no one feared and who wore khakis and simple blue shirts to work instead of dark woolen cassocks that grew horribly heavy when the hems were dragged through snow.

He had tired of the game, and of the company of the other men, who proved far more gung-ho than he was about the whole thing. Maybe he wasn't meant for live action role playing. Perhaps he was better suited to reading about history than for trying to recreate it. It had certainly felt very real in the simulation and he hadn't liked it. Knowing about a Judas Cradle was one thing. Seeing one used…Jeff shuddered. Not an experience he'd forget soon, and he rather wished he could.

Standing still, he looked out at the landscape of beautifully sculpted, flat renditions of trees that stretched skyward. They were so very black against the stark whiteness of the snow, just as he was in the cassock and galero he'd had made for the event.

Beneath, he wore a soft light blue tee shirt that his ex-girlfriend had purchased for him. Even though she had long since moved on, he still wore the shirt whenever he needed comforting. He forgot what the material was called, but it was far nicer than anything he had ever purchased for himself and rubbing his hands across the material always soothed him. He undid a few buttons and slid his hand between to pinch the material between his fingers.

The lacy trees were placed very evenly and the view of them was an exercise in perspective. Jeff knew the exhibit couldn't be as large as it appeared and wondered about the technologies used to make it appear so endless. It really did seem to go one for miles, the trees growing smaller and smaller the further he looked.

While he'd stood contemplating the landscape, "Tomás" and "Diego" had moved on. A long string of footprints made a path leading deeper into the Paper Cutter's Forest. His companions were far enough ahead that he could no longer see them. Jeff pulled a foot out and shook it, noting the way the wet globs of snow clung to the black wool of his pants.

With one last glance at the forest, Jeff turned and followed his own tracks back to where they had started. He'd message, making some excuse about why he hadn't followed. Maybe next year, he should try another time period. He'd heard good things about the French Revolution group in Alexandria. It was only an hour or so's drive. No one knew him there. He could start again.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Wind

The new season of Wording Wednesday is underway. Fellow author Andy Brokaw collects a set of prompts and puts them out there for the world to use for inspiration. This season, the theme is weather and we continue with the "A Matter of Time" by Matt Dixon. It is part of his "Transmissions" line, which you can see more of at Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.

You can check out my previous posts from this season here: Cloudy, Clear, Sunny, Rain


Red leaves blew across the forest floor, spinning into eddies and dancing their way in and out of patches of sunlight. No one admired their graceful flight. It had been a long time since anyone had, but leaves need no audience to bring beauty to the earth.

The trees had grown tall in the undisturbed forest, their limbs strong, their branches long and reaching. They groaned when the breeze became forceful, bending gracefully in the gust, but keeping rooted deeply in the quiet earth. They would stand for quite some time yet. Trees do not find it lonely to grow side by side under an empty sky.

One of the trees had spread wider than the others, its trunk shaping itself around a small metallic man, curled there as if he slept. Of course, he didn't sleep. He was dead--at least as dead as things that were never quite alive can be. No animating power was likely to move his slender arms or light the dark holes that had invited interpretation as eyes.

The creatures that made him were long gone, and he lay cradled in the hollow space, protected from the worst of the rains, looking much as he had when he first lay down, though it had now been many seasons. He had been made of sturdy materials, dug from the earth and formed into this shape, practical for his role as servant to his creators.

Perhaps somewhere, something observed, grieving for what had been, but the trees feel no sorrow, for they have all they need.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Rain

The new season of Wording Wednesday is underway. Fellow author Andy Brokaw collects a set of prompts and puts them out there for the world to use for inspiration. This season, the theme is weather and we continue with the painting "Miss" by Wang Ling, who posts on Deviant Art as wlop.. Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.

You can check out my previous posts from this season here: Cloudy, Clear, Sunny

Kiki noticed the boy right away of course.

He was standing right in the middle of the alley, umbrella up, gaze on the ground. Unlike most people caught on the street in the downpour, he didn't seem to be trying to get anywhere or seeking additional shelter. He hadn't moved except to shift from one foot to another during the ten minutes Kiki had huddled under the canopy of the noodle shop waiting to see if the rain would break.

Between the distance and the rain, she couldn't really tell if he was handsome. Not that his beauty should have been her first consideration, but she enjoyed a pleasant view as much as anyone and his fashion-conscious clothes attracted her eye. His stillness was intriguing. He seemed neither to take pleasure in the rain, nor to resent its presence. If not for the umbrella, one might think him unaware of it.

At last the sky lightened, a pinkish glow visible at the end of the narrow street. The rain slowed a little and Kiki decided it was her moment. Her first step into the street thrust her foot into a puddle that was deeper than it had seemed, soaking her boot and splashing water up her bare legs. Though the summer rain was not cold, she shivered, thinking about how dirty the water must be, having collected in the street. She promised herself a hot bath when she got home and chose her next steps more carefully, skirting the brownish pools that filled the potholes.

Her zigzag trajectory took her near the boy and she peered at him as her shoulder passed his. He didn't react to her nearness and disappointment washed over her, even though she hadn't realized she was hoping for something--a bit of adventure maybe, or just a flirtatious exchange of smiles. It was silly. She kept walking.

In the distance, she heard voices calling. "Yoshi! Yoshi! Where are you?"

Struck by the thought that her mysterious stranger might be the Yoshi the voices sought, she turned to look back. The boy had not moved. "Yoshi?"

His head turned just slightly, though he still did not look at her.

She tried again, turning to face him in the street. "Yoshi?"

He spun on a heel, a graceful pirouette that ended in the same position he'd started in, but facing her now. She gasped with delight in his movement, realizing what he was at the same time: a simulacrum, probably wandered too far from its source. That's why it had stopped there. It was at the limit of its scope.

She reached out a hand. "Come, Yoshi. Let's get you back home. They're looking for you."

It lifted its head, the damp hair flipping out of its face. Kiki could see why someone would want to memorialize this boy--he'd been beautiful, with large, clear eyes set widely in an open face. If she had to guess, Kiki would say he'd been a musician or a poet, which might also explain why he'd been lost so young and why someone would have a simulacrum made.

She herself had considered it and might have done it if she'd been a richer woman--though now, after three years of grieving, she thought a simulacrum might do more to keep the pain alive than to help someone heal. It was like volunteering to be haunted. Kiki wasn't sure that it was wise, to hold onto the past so strongly, to refuse to give up the dead. But it was a popular trend, however troubling.

She wiggled the fingers she still held toward the boy and he took them. "Do you know where you live?" she asked.

It nodded and gave her the address. Its voice was indistinguishable from a human voice. She knew the street. It wasn't far from her own. "You know you can't just wander off. You have to stay near your source."

"I know," it said. "It's just…" He paused and they stood together in the rain. Kiki heard the voices calling in the distance again. The simulacrum's face--Yoshi's face--twisted into a grimace. She hadn't known their faces could be so expressive.

"It's just that I make her cry," he finished.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Summer's End

LeSigh. Can summer really already be over? I didn't get it all done again, of course. Doing *everything* I want to do every summer would require at least five women, and my cloning experiments failed (my daughters turned out to be their own women, with their own things they want to do).

Still, it was a good summer. As I start to have end-of-summer panic, I need to remind myself of that.

Longtime readers already know that I'm a middle school Spanish teacher in my day job, and that writing novels is my secret identity (which I'm trying to make less secret, so people will know I write books and maybe even buy them).

So, summer is, in part, about self-care and recovery for me. It's also my time to live life as a full time writer for a few weeks. So, I'm always trying to balance writing productivity with rest and recuperation and progress on all those life tasks that are hard to complete when I'm not available during business hours (August-June).

To feel good, I really need all three things: rest, writing, and life/project time.

As I write this, I'm at the beach, making sure that I end my time with sea salt on my skin and a brain scrubbed clean by sand. I did pretty well on the rest and recuperation angle.

I walked damn near every day with my dog, ate breakfast (a luxury I can't find time for during school), read sixteen books (and may finish another one or two this week), visited my parents for a few days, took a nap a few times (I'm terrible at napping, even when I need to), and watched more television than I watched in the entire six previous months (I finished a few shows: Good OmensWynonna EarpThe Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Black Lightning, The Boys, and, of course, Stranger Things). I started Downton Abbey, so that'll probably take me all school year to finish now :-)

Home/life productivity gets a middling score. There was one big thing I wanted to get done involving paperwork and I didn't get there, because I couldn't find all the right pieces. I admit to procrastinating on looking, and I'm mad at my past self for being so bad at sticking to ONE organizational system for important papers so you can find them when you need them. Luckily there isn't a hard deadline on that one, so I can keep looking and get it done this fall.

I did work out some financing for a home improvement project that will make a big difference to our lives, and I did get my home office several steps closer to the space I want it to be. I'm especially proud of that since everything I've done in there, I've paid for with writing money only (which is why it's all DIY and second hand, but still: I paid for it with my writing money).

Some of my home/life project energies went to my oldest daughter, helping her arrange her college monies for fall and move into her FIRST APARTMENT! (yikes, I'm old).

Writing went well. I set aside the novel I've been working on for the past year (YA dystopian romance, working title: Thursday's Children). It needs more time to simmer before I can get that dish ready to serve and I finally admitted it.

I started a new novel (gothic romance, working title: The Architect and The Heir) and made lots of progress on my first all-indie project, a collection of 13 weird tales I plan to release this Halloween, choosing and organizing the stories, self-editing, arranging for cover art and professional proofreading, and learning some new software for formatting.

My daily writing chain is now 2,144 days longs (nearly six years), and summer's work included nearly 35,000 words on the new novel. It's flowing well, which speaks to the importance of following your passion in your writing (another balance: between focus and dogged stubbornness).

I've wanted to write a gothic romance since I first read one, when I was around eleven years old. It took me a while to actually do it, but it's the most fun I've had since the first Menopausal Superhero novel.

I think I probably wrote this post primarily for myself, to look back on in a couple of weeks when I'm haranguing myself and accusing myself of having wasted my entire summer once I'm buried up to the neck in schoolwork. After all, I hold myself to very high expectations on a lot of fronts. I'm meaner to myself than I would ever be to anyone else. So, it's good to make myself admit from time to time, that I got this!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Stormy Seas

The new season of Wording Wednesday is underway. Fellow author Andy Brokaw collects a set of prompts and puts them out there for the world to use for inspiration. This season, the theme is weather and we continue with the painting Looking Out to Sea by Winslow Homer. Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.

Stormy Seas

It took a while, but I finally found her, sitting on a boulder staring out at the sea, ignoring the storm clouds threatening overhead. She didn't look up when I joined her, so I perched on the edge of the stone and looked out to sea with her. The water was gray and unfriendly, promising rough tides. The wind felt good in my face after the heat of the ovens. I raised my skirts a little to allow the wind to cool the skin on my legs.

I longed to say something she would find comforting, but we both knew that words were not my gift. Sometimes, it was for the best. Talking wouldn't bring him back, after all. No matter what we said or didn't, she would still be my brother's widow from now on. I only hoped that my being here was enough to let her know that wasn't all she was. She was my sister, too, and we'd weather this storm together.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

IWSG: Taking Myself by Surprise

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking.

If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

This month's wonderful co-hosts are Renee Scattergood, Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner! Be sure to check out their blogs, and some of the others in this blog hop after you see what I've got to say this month. 

The August 7 question - Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you'd forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

Surprise is the heart of the fun of a writing life for me. Nothing thrills me more than when a character throws a monkey wrench into the works by announcing a sudden change in what I thought was the plan. Sometimes I want to throw it right back at her--especially if it means major revisions which can be a lot of hard work--but those sudden inspirations lead to the best work and I'm always happy to see them. 

I know some writers who are heavy duty plotters, and though I've become a bit of a plantser (half-pantser, half plotter) as my career has progressed, I don't see the fun in writing if I already know where the story is going. 

I think of myself as a discovery writer--writing to learn what this story and these characters are about, what they have to say. Anything else feels too safe to me. Why would I write what I already know? 

The subconscious works in mysterious ways and it's always neat to see the groundwork my own brain has laid out in a story without telling me about it. 

In my Menopausal Superheroes series (no spoilers!), there's a character who surprised me with a love affair in book three. When I took it to my critique group in draft, I expected them to rake me over the coals for springing a romance on them out of left field. Instead, the reaction was more like, "Well, it's about time." Apparently my readers already knew, even if the characters hadn't told me yet. And sure enough, as I read back through, the breadcrumbs were there. You wouldn't think a writer could sneak up on herself like that, but, apparently, I can. 

That's also why I delight in trying new genres, styles, and types of characters in each project. I like to surprise me! And when it goes well, my readers enjoy the surprise, too. 

What kind of surprises have you enjoyed in what your reading, writing, or viewing? 

Friday, August 2, 2019

Summer Viewing: Good Omens

I'm a Neil Gaiman fan and have been for many years. The first of his novels I read was Neverwhere, and I was hooked after that. My favorite is American Gods, though I also have a soft spot for The Graveyard Book and, of course, The Sandman series of graphic novels. I try to read everything the man writes, but he is disturbingly prolific and I sometimes read other authors, so there are still a few in the TBR.

So, of course I was excited to hear that Amazon was making a miniseries of Good Omens.

Though I remember the book fondly, I only remember the broadest outlines of the plot and a few particular moments. In fact, watching the series is sending me back to re-read the book with my twelve-year-old daughter.

I hear that the adaptation is not 100% faithful to the book, but trust that since Neil Gaiman was on board with the project that the changes were appropriate. In any case, I found that it held together well and was a very satisfying show.

Visually, the series was a delight. The contrast between Aziraphale (angel: played by Michael Sheen) and Crowley (demon: played by David Tennant) is beautiful, from their looks and outlooks to their demeanors and misdemeanors. They make a lovely yin-yang/opposites-attract friendship that holds the entire story together.

Aziraphale is quiet and fond of Epicuriean pleasures and old books. Crowley is a rockstar delighting in showy moments and grand gestures. Besides their affection for each other, they share an affection for this world and do not wish to see it destroyed, so when they become entangled in the plot to bring about end times, they determine to undermine it.

The rest of the story has its moments, but for me, this series was really about watching Sheen and Tennant create an odd couple for the millennium. Well worth the investment of six hours of your viewing time.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Sky Dance

The new season of Wording Wednesday has begun. Fellow author Andy Brokaw collects a set of prompts and puts them out there for the world to use for inspiration. This season, the theme is weather and we continue in week 2 with Kissed by Starlight by Lisa Falzon. Ms Falzon's works can be found at Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.


Ashley wasn't enjoying the prom. She'd been so happy when Will had invited her--he was a handsome boy, well-liked, and having garnered his attention had made her the envy of many other girls. She hadn't experienced that very often, and there was a windy rushing sort of feeling in her brain that left her a little breathless when she considered it. He could have asked anyone, but he'd asked her and others had noticed.

Her mother, too, had surprised her with her willingness to let her spend so much on the golden confection of a dress they'd chosen. "You only have the one junior prom," she'd said, winking as she handled the clerk her credit card. The gown made her feel like a princess, as had receiving a corsage from Will and being guided to the fancy car he had borrowed from an uncle for the occasion.

But the dance itself was dull.

Will didn't want to dance, except to press her to him during slow songs, an experience that was far less romantic than she had imagined and smelled more of cologne over sweat than she'd have liked. She'd joined in a few dances with friends, but the music was not really to her liking and the noise and lights made her head hurt. Even if she and Will had known each other well enough to have something to talk about, conversing was limited to yelling short sentences over the pulsing base and smiling to cover the fact that she hadn't been able to understand what he said in return.

The hotel where the prom was being held overlooked the city and Ashley spent some time staring out the floor to ceiling windows at the lights below and the reflections of the lights behind her. Finally, she excused herself to find the bathroom, relieved to lessen the noise for a moment behind a couple of doors. When she came back out, she spotted another door in the hallway beyond the bathrooms. A small sign read "Roof access."

Ashley expected to find the door locked, but she tried it anyway and to her surprise, the handle turned in her grip. Peeking back over her shoulder and finding no witnesses, she made her escape, darting up the stairs before someone could notice and call her back. At the top, she burst out the door into the night air. Wind whipped her skirt around her legs, cooling her skin.

No strobe lights or decorations lit the roof, but she could see clearly by moon and city light. Lifting her skirt to avoid soiling it, she crept to the wall and leaned over, dizzied by the view. When she raised her gaze to the horizon, it glimmered before her eyes, the glow of the city below combining with the remnants of sunset into a colorful swirl. She spun with the joy of it, arms flung into the air.

Now, this was dancing!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Summer Viewing: Wynona Earp

During the schoolyear, I watch maybe an hour of television a week, but in summertime (when the living's easy: and I'm not teaching), I sometimes watch two or even three hours of television in a single day. It feels like I'm flying through TV shows getting to watch them at that rate!

So, here's another peek into my summer viewing: Wynona Earp, season 3. "I told that devil to take you back!"

So, this is a show you have to approach with the right attitude.

If you're a viewer who wants accuracy (or even plausibility) and insists on consistent and well explained world building…watch something else. This one isn't for you.

But if you, like me, have a taste for pulpy badass fun? Then strap in. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Your basic premise: There's a curse of the Earp clan, begun during Wyatt Earp's time which ties the fate of each generation's Earp heir to the endless battle of Revenants, demon versions of old west baddies who keep coming back every generation to fight the next heir afresh.

Wynonna is the latest heir and she's a hot mess, as in: she's hot, and she's a mess. She drinks too much, is a sexual adventurer, and is a shoot first and ask questions later fighter, all of which leads to high drama.

As played by Melanie Scrofano, I find her charmingly unconcerned with what anyone might think of her choices, comfortable in her skin even when she disapproves of herself, and steadfastly loyal to those she loves. She fights from the heart, relying on gut instinct and impulsive risks to save the day.

But my favorite character isn't Wynonna: it's Doc Holliday (yep: *that* Doc Holliday) conveniently immortal and recently rescued from imprisonment in time to wreak havoc on Wynonna's heart. Tim Rozon must be a man out of his own time, he plays the old fashioned Southern doctor turned gunslinger so perfectly for tone. He's as hot-headed as Wynonna herself and prone to epically bad decisions when his heart is wounded that only up the dramatic ante.

This is the kind of show where everything is blown out of proportion and the dial is turned up to eleven. I often have to pause to laugh out loud when the dialogue or situations take me by surprise. To my mind, this is perfect escapist summer viewing, satisfying and entertaining, always leaving me feeling distracted by very unrealistic troubles. Just what the Doc (Holliday) ordered.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Summer Viewing: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

My college-aged daughter has an eye for programs that don't seem like they're for me that totally turn out to be for me. It was she who got me hooked on Jane the Virgin, for example, which I never would have guessed I'd enjoy so much. So, when she suggested The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I knew it was likely to be right up my alley. I watched season 1 this spring, and season 2 this summer.

For fans of shows like Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Mad Men, or Downton Abbey, you'll get that same feeling of having been transported in time. Miss Maisel's wardrobe alone is worth watching the show for. Her worlds, among rich Jews of the Upper West Side in the 1950s and on the comedy stages of the same era alongside Lenny Bruce, are not worlds I know much about, so I love the windows into something new. 

But characters are always what keep me or lose me in a show (or a story of any kind). Like Miss Fisher (a show you should also watch if you haven't yet), Midge Maisel is a striking personality who doesn't quite fit into societal expectations for a person in her roles in that time and place. She's charismatic and I found myself rooting for her right away.

Mrs. Maisel truly is marvelous, just as the title claims. She's witty, on and off the stage. She's strong and independent, despite having been raised with expectations that she would never need to be either of those things and therefore having obtained very few practical skills. Relentlessly optimistic in the face of every setback and confident in herself at superheroic levels, but still empathetic to the plights of others. Strong female character in that true sense of personality rather than literal physical strength.

The juxtaposition of Mrs. Maisel's two worlds is the heart of the charm of this show--who would have thought that a woman of her background could make a success on the comedy stage? The culture clash between the woman whose hat collection wouldn't fit in my house and her much harder-luck manager is rife with thoughtful life lessons that don't feel like lectures. (The stage routines are hilarious as well). 

Her relationships with the other comics and the relationship arcs for herself and her husband as well as that between her parents will resonate with a lot of viewers, even if your life experience involves a lot fewer matching shoes and handbags. Recommended viewing.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Mornings with Helene

The new season of Wording Wednesday has begun. Fellow author Andy Brokaw collects a set of prompts and puts them out there for the world to use for inspiration. This season, the theme is weather and we begin with the impressionist artwork Sunlight Effect Under the Poplars by Claude Monet. Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.

I'm a fan of prompt writing. It helps me keep the fun and play in my writing life. Sometimes it leads to something I can expand upon and publish and sometimes it doesn't, but I love the freedom to play in a story I have no expectations for. Let's see where this one takes me, shall we?

These mornings with Helene were heaven on earth. Away from everyone else, if only for an hour or two, Giselle and Helene could pretend they were still just girls, free to wander open fields expecting nothing but beauty and receiving it openly. The light on the tall grasses and flowers bloomed in Giselle's chest like hope, buoying her despite her troubled mind. Helene's skin glowed, as it had when she was young and would let down her hair so the wind could ripple through it. She used to say it felt like flying.

Their lives had gone in very different directions since childhood. Always the beauty among their group of friends, Helene had married a wealthy man despite her lowly station. He had swept her away, taking her to Paris, Rome, and Ithaca, all the places they had read and dreamed about over their schoolbooks. Her letters praised the scenery and said little of the man himself, which was commentary enough for Giselle to understand.

Life had not been a fairy tale for Giselle. Her father died suddenly when she was twelve, leaving her family in desperate straights. She'd gone into service, which allowed her to earn a little money and help keep her mother and younger siblings in food and shelter. That had been the end of her schooling and any dreams she'd fostered of a better life. On bad days, she resented it bitterly. On good ones, she was thankful that she'd at least had an option to help. 

After her fifth child in as many years, Helene's health failed her. She'd never been strong, not in body, though her spirit remained robust. The doctors hoped that fresh air and exercise would enable her to recover, but anyone could see she was fading. Helene, ever a loyal friend, had taken the opportunity to bring Giselle with her as her companion, to get away from the drudgery of the city and into the light of nature again. They both knew it wouldn't last.

It wasn't right, getting her friend back just so that she could help her die. But for an hour or two, whenever the light shone, they could be girls again, pretending the future stretched bright before them. It would have to be enough.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Summer Viewing: Black Lightning

Black Lightning has been on my TBW (to be watched) list for a while now and summer finally brought me a little time for TV.

I'm an easy sell: it's a superhero story about a character I didn't already know well, and he's not twelve--he's a full adult with experience, responsibilities, and something to lose. Three for three, with a bonus point for diversity. Right up my alley.

I'll be mildly spoilery at worst in this review. I wouldn't want to ruin your enjoyment by giving too much away. I've watched two seasons as I write this.

Can I just say how much I love Jefferson Pierce as portrayed by Cress Williams? I think I actually love him more when he's being Jefferson Pierce than I do when he's being Black Lightning. This is a show about Jefferson Pierce who is also a superhero rather than the other way around.

Such a beautifully complicated character. A community leader (high school principal with a high profile), who still gets pulled over for "driving while black" and has to manage racial politics with the Freeland school board (an awfully white organization considering the racial makeup of the community it's in).

It's all about control, of the situation, and of himself. Even when he's not being superheroic, he crackles with suppressed energy and channeled righteous anger. He's working within the system in one suit, and as a vigilante going around the system in another.

He's an involved parent, who still falls back on "because I said so" and "not under my roof" in frustration when his strong willed daughters reveal that they are definitely his children. It plays all too real to this mother of stubborn and amazing daughters.

He's not perfect (despite those abs and that smile), but he's working hard to make the world better, and not just when he's wearing the suit (either the coat and tie or the lightning). I can see why people call him "Black Jesus."

He loves his (ex)wife enough to have given up his superheroic pursuits at her insistence, and they have a push and pull magnetism on screen: still clearly in love and attracted to one another, united in their desire to raise their daughters well, but cracking under the pressure of heroism. That inner conflict about using your gifts when they hurt you personally adds serious tension.

It's hard to love someone who is constantly in danger and on call, to see them hurt and suffering because of the sacrifices they've made for strangers. Ask any spouse of a cop or firefighter or soldier or schoolteacher or other front-lines job.

Lynn Pierce, as played by Christine Adams is amazing. She knows her limits, and even when they hurt, she sticks by them. She's a brilliant doctor and scientist (and we later find out quite a fighter herself), fierce and dignified, but loving. No wonder her children are so much trouble. They're just like her.

It's rare in a television show to see a family with teenaged and newly adult children who have a good
relationship (or any relationship at all), but the Pierces are close, despite the secret of Dad's former superheroic life having been kept from the children until the crisis that begins the television series brings him back into his lightning crested suit. (When the show begins, no one has seen Black Lightning for nine years--his daughters don't know about dad's side gig).

The first time I saw the Black Lightning suit, I wasn't sure what to think. It's pretty darn cheesy, with a bright chest panel. It made me laugh, I'll admit. The effects used for his lightning powers are on the cheesy side, too, which contrasts pretty starkly with the look and tone of the alter ego parts of the show.

Whenever Jefferson dons the costume and goes out to fight, the music shifts towards the seventies, too, with full-on swagger. I wasn't sure I liked that at first, but it's grown on me. It's a subtle way to show his origins, though if he's only been on hiatus nine years, he stopped fighting in the earlier 2000s, not the seventies. Still it resonates with shades of characters like Shaft and Luke Cage, which is probably what the designers were after.

When younger heroes (Thunder and Lightning) come onto the scene, the generational contrast is interesting: in terms of where the moral lines are as well as what to wear. I like how that contrast is used to show that younger people and older people both have things to learn from one another.

"Uncle Gambi," Jefferson's adoptive stepfather, has had quite an evolution across the two seasons as well. He's definitely more than he seems when we meet him, and he keeps getting more interesting. His relationship with the Pierces and his role in the history and the superheroics helps heal plot holes as needed.

The villains in this one are big and broad and stylized, though their overall motivations can be a bit fuzzy. Tobias Whale is a great gangster with an extra secret, though I find him a little one-note overall. He seems like a plotter with a huge overarching plan, but then those plans turn out to be kind of loose and not fully thought out when we get there. Still, the personal nature of the grudge between Tobias and Black Lightning is powerful.

Dr. Helga Jace is horrifyingly cold about any human (or metahuman) costs in her mad science work. She's a great contrast to Lynn Pierce. I'm looking forward to learning more about the mysterious and dangerous Agent Percy Odell. The secondary cast with Khalil, Grace, and police ally Bill Henderson have a lot of potential for future drama and intrigue, too.

If you're looking for a new superhero show to watch, this one has a lot to recommend it!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Orville Might Be the Best Star Trek Yet

I recently finished watching the second season of The Orville. For those unfamiliar with the show, it's a Star Trek-esque space-based episodic story with some longer arcs in which the crew of a starship encounter adventures as they explore the universe.

Similar to Star Trek in all its iterations, the crew are part of a an interstellar alliance with military rankings and rules. Their mission is both political and scientific. It's a show that gets really mixed reviews. Even people who love it don't seem to love it without criticism. I think I'm the same: I like it, but I can't quite love it.

While I have enjoyed several Star Trek series in my life (the original series, The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager, the old movies, the newer movies), I've never considered myself a deep fan. Watching Orville helped me realize that this is because I don't connect strongly with most of the characters.

They tend to be static--arriving on the scene fully realized and ending the series no significant changes to the core of who they are. The tension on your average Star Trek show is all external.

That's one way The Orville is different. Interpersonal drama is often as important or more important than external conflict in any given episode.  Throughout seasons one and two, we've watched a once-married captain and first officer figure out the parameters of their new relationship. We've watched a married couple become parents and discover deep-seated philosophical differences and cultural dissonances. We've watched several other characters foray into romance with varying results.

Fans might argue that these sorts of character arcs are seen on Star Trek as well, but for me, any such storytelling is solidly in the back seat in those shows. I like this more character-driven exploration of similar themes. These characters grow and change within the series more than I've ever seen on a Star Trek show. For me, that's the major selling point of The Orville: it's Star Trek, with more fully realized people in the roles.

I also enjoy the "ordinary Joe" feel of the characters. Among the people in my life, I can find people who are similar to Lt. Gordon Molloy, pilot and longtime friend of Captain Ed Mercer or Dr. Claire Finn, the ship's doctor who is also a single mother.

Competent and effective, but quirky, too. That's very different than giant icons like Jean-Luc Picard, who while wonderful, was too much a paragon to make stupid choices in love or leadership.

From the early days watching reruns of the original series with my mother, I've always loved the allegorical storytelling bent of Star Trek--exploring human issues with non-human characters offers contrast and comparison that an all-human cast has to work harder to achieve.

The Orville does this, too. There's emotion vs. logic in Isaac, the Kaylon emissary and science officer. There's exploration of the line between cultural respect and individual rights in the gender issues of Moclan, home world of Bortus, the second officer.

The discussion might be a little more subtle than it was when the black and white faced people of Ariannus refused to see each other's values (star bellied sneeches, anyone?), but the tactic is the same. And it's still a good one.

An aspect of The Orville I'm less fond of is the mixing of tones. Traditionally, Star Trek has had lighter toned and heavier toned episodes, but a single episode of The Orville may offer comedy and drama side by side, an effect I sometimes find jarring.

Individual episodes also suffer from inconsistencies and writer convenience sometimes (example: the fabulous warrior women who escaped Moclan to live life on their own terms and were skilled enough to do this suddenly lose all fighting and observation skills and need to be rescued by the crew of The Orville when the attack they've always anticipated finally comes).

All in all, The Orville captures much of what I love about Star Trek while shedding the baggage I didn't love as much. It's a love letter to the place the Star Trek universe holds in our hearts while also being its own creation. Worth watching.