Death and Stories

I haven’t written for a while. My father died a week ago on Thursday, and I feel so tired. I don’t understand it because my dad was 86, and I’m almost 60. It’s not a shocking death. I wake up every morning from nightmares that seem to have nothing to do with my dad, and then I realize there will be no fresh stories about my dad. There will be the old stories, and that’s it.

I haven’t cried for my father. I didn’t cry for my mother either. When my father figure, Les, died, I didn’t cry either. Or when my best friend Celia died. I seem pretty stoic in the face of death, unless I am asleep and my mind explores the afterlife.

Most of the time, I don’t believe in any afterlife. (This does not mean I don’t believe in a Divine Presence.) If there’s an afterlife, we are swirling energies in the universe that — um, contribute to the Akashic records? Sing the music of the spheres? I don’t think we lived this life as humans so that we could live as humans somewhere else.

When someone close to me dies, however, I want to believe in that paradise, and I clutch to myself the imagery of a big old house and a party where all the people I have ever been fond of show up. There are joyful reunions, even between those who have never met. We fill the house with hugs and laughter.

I go to the kitchen to help cook because I feel overwhelmed by the noise and the hugs; it’s something I often do. I turn to the woman cooking — she’s tall and bountiful — and ask if I can help cook. “No, go out there. It’s your party.” As I go out, I realize that it’s everyone’s party, because this is Heaven and this is God.

I fear death. Not the inevitable emptiness itself; I worry about the knowledge just before one dies, the certainty that there will be no next minute, no stories to tell. Yet it’s the only scenario that stands up after examination, after questions of “Who gets admitted in?” and “Aren’t they going to get bored?” That and the humanized energies scenario discussed above.

We die and are returned to ash. Our stories live beyond us, until those carriers, too, die. This is what makes me cry.

Under the Weather — Time for a Free Write

Under the Weather
I’m feeling decidedly under the weather (literally — this weather is weighing on me) and uninspired. Not a good thing for a daily blog. I’m writing this because I know I have to write something or else I will fall away from writing the blog after 1000-some posts. And that will really depress me.

Free Writing
So I’m going to use this as a free writing exercise. In free writing exercises, you put your pen down on paper (or fingers on the keyboard) and you just write without editing. It’s a great way to come up with ideas.

Here goes:
Brother Coyote and Kel are returning the twins (Kira and Nala) to Ridgeway III, a restricted planet. Thus what Kel is doing is borderline illegal, just as Coyote’s leaving ridgeway III was illegal. Nonetheless, he’s going on a walkabout of sorts with Kel, offering his uncanny talent of opening wormholes to her shipping business. 

One of the interesting problems they will meet with arriving at Ridgeway III is Coyote’s mother, the Convener of the Moot (i.e. Prime Minister). Coyote’s mother is a charismatic, expansive person who thinks Coyote and Kel are a good match. Given that they’ve just met and they get along like cats and dogs, she’s sorely mistaken. Probably. 

Ridgeway III is a closed world through their own choice — they don’t want their beauty planet defiled by commerce, and they’re a bit edgy about how outsiders will take their occasional inborn talents — of which Coyote’s talents are an extreme example. But Coyote is their test case, and Kel and Coyote have to keep his talent under wraps out in space.

Note how the free writing isn’t that organized. That’s okay; it will still make a good start of a story. I hadn’t gotten these ideas hashed out on paper; now I feel more anchored to what this story will flow like. 

A Glimpse at my Novels (Literary Works)

Are you curious about what I’ve written?

I casually mention in this blog that I’ve written five novels and am working on getting an agent and getting published. I very seldom talk about what I’ve written. So here’s a list of my novels with synopses.

I will cover the ones that exist in the same universe first, in chronological order.

Gaia’s Hands
The odd couple of Jeanne Beaumont, biologist, and Josh Young, writer, follow a threat to Jeanne’s livelihood and a path of their own awakening talents. After calling forth a miracle at the collective Barn Swallows’ Dance, they must fight the conspirators who would destroy it — and possibly their lives. 


Laurel Smith, a woman without a past, works as a laborer at the ecocollective Barn Swallows’ Dance, unaware of her part in a 6000-year-old myth. Adam Lee is an immortal Archetype who holds the patterns which allow Han Chinese men to survive. He’s been sent on a mission to help Laurel find her legacy and bring her memories back.

An army assembles to kill Laurel to collect on a millennia-long vendetta. Laurel’s memory loss isn’t an accident, though, and three dangerous Archetypes more ancient than even Adam are determined to keep her in the dark. If Adam and Laurel can’t collect enough allies to stop the approaching army, they will build an army to wipe out all women on Earth, and with them, all future generations of humans.

Grace Silverstein, an eighteen-year-old viola prodigy, flies to Poland to participate in an international assembly of prodigies. However, her hosts have hidden their plans to coerce the prodigies under a flimsy mask of hospitality. Grace’s new friend and fellow prodigy Ichirou can influence people’s emotions with his computer graphics, and they figure out that his talent is what their hosts want to capture. Grace smuggles him out of the country with the help of his chaperone and her mysterious accomplice, but their escape has not gone unnoticed.

Back in the US and under pursuit, Grace discovers her own talent of manipulating emotions through her beloved music. The chase continues as both foreign agents and Homeland Security close in on Grace and her compatriots, who uncover a terrorist plot by the prodigy organization. Grace can keep herself and her friends safe if she never reveals her gift but exposing her talent could save many more lives. Making the right decision while avoiding capture may be the hardest thing Grace has ever done—and could have long-lasting effects on the entire world.

Whose Hearts are Mountains
In Whose Hearts are Mountains, Annie Smith escapes the smoking ruins of her university and heals in a remote Canadian town, where she hears stories about a fair folk who help humans and then disappear. These tales resonate with the stories her mother told her as a child, and she seizes the opportunity to research the spread of these tales – until she comes home to find that the United States has crumbled under sectarian turmoil.

Annie chases the stories through a drastically changed landscape, and begins to experience unsettling dreams and strange phenomena. The stories lead to an oasis in the middle of the desert and a people who present mysteries. Pieces click together, and Annie finds out that her identity is tied in with the tales and with a frightening act of terrorism that only they can stop.

This next one is not in the same universe as the others:
Ian Akimoto, Traveller, jumps through time from the environmental catastrophe called the Chaos to 2015 Kansas City to help Kat Pleskovich, time-jumping daredevil, solve the mystery of who wants to kill her mentor.  Soon their own lives are in danger as they piece together clues involving everything from time physics and falsified records to multiple Kats and gruesome deaths in Kat’s daredevil game Voyageurs. 
Their search reveals that a rogue time traveller broke the timeline at crucial points with a goal of winning Voyageurs with the greatest stunt of all – destroying humanity. Kat and Ian must decide whether to risk their lives toward setting the future right. 

Enjoy and give me feedback!
If you have suggestions for synopses or just want to comment on the storylines, please let me know! My email is

On My Way Back Home

I’m spending my last couple hours at Starved Rock sitting in front of the fireplace in the Great Hall, soaking up the atmosphere. It has been a good vacation despite my frustrations borne of childhood issues temporarily clouding my perception. 

I need to get back to writing. This will be easily cured by a big project in the form of my developmental edit of Whose Hearts are Mountains. The frustration, though, is that I don’t have any ideas on the back burner, neither short story nor novel. I don’t like feeling so tenuous about my attachment to writing. 

I need to have a resolution that I will write two hours a day once more. It’s been a while since I’ve spent that much time — no, I take that back; I was writing/editing four hours a day cleaning up Whose Hearts are Mountains in November.

Does anyone have any story ideas I can play around with?

Happy 56th birthday to me

Today I’m 56 years old.

This is not me. This is Belvedere the kitten, who’s 4 days old

For you younger people out there — time just chugs along and you hardly notice it until you get to one of those milestone years — 40, 50, 55. You’re too fixated on things like careers and children to wake up and think, “wow, I’m getting older.” 

The grey hairs, the wrinkles, the thickening of the body come gradually, until you look in the mirror and see someone who looks older than you remember being. 

You don’t even notice that the cultural touchstones — the music stars, the memes and jokes — flow and change around you, and you wake up one morning to find that the younger people around you don’t get your jokes anymore. 

But you’ve survived so much!  Everyday events that would panic you before — a flat tire, sleeping through the alarm — you now handle with aplomb. Your fears that you can’t handle crises have been proven wrong time after time. 

And you have stories to tell. Middle age (late middle-age?) is a great time to start writing. Or find friends who like to tell stories and swap them. 

When you’re older, you have the perspective of years, and that is your gift to the world.

Need New Ideas for Stories

I’m writing short stories, as advised by some people at the Gateway Con who thought I’d written enough novels for now. The three short stories I have written (as opposed to the flash fiction or short essays) are from the Prodigies/Archetype universe*: “Tanabata”, “Hands”, and “Runesansu”. You can find them in these pages if you want a read. 

I want to branch out on my writing — stay within the science fiction/fantasy, I think, except that there are certain topics I would like to stay away from:
  • Vampires
  • Werewolves
  • Alpha-freaking-male ANYTHING
  • Unbridled gore
  • Gratuitous sex
  • In-jokes **
  • The Adventures of Gary Stu
  • Fan Fic ***
This either means that I have to do new world-building or write short stories that don’t require world-building. I’ve been tempted to do new world-building because I haven’t done that for a while. I miss that immersive experience of creativity.

So if you have any inspirations …


* One character connects the two sets of stories
**(see Ready Player One if you don’t know what I’m talking about)
*** I have nothing against fanfic; I just don’t write it.

Extended Metaphor

When I write the first draft of a story, I feel like I’m in the middle of a budding romance. I fall in love with the characters and I want to see what happens to them. The revelation of the story surprises and delights me.  

And then there’s editing. I re-read and find all my characters’ flaws showing in the unfiltered morning light. I find holes in their stories, having heard them so many times.

But like any good relationship, my job is to look into the flaws and the errors and the mess and find the truth, the uniqueness of their story. But to do this well, I have to remember that theirs is the same story I fell in love with.

Vacation in Horicon

I haven’t written because I am having good family time in Wisconsin, celebrating the Fourth the way I like to: bratwurst and sauerkraut, good cheese and beer.

During summer, my dad lives in a camp trailer at The Playful Goose just outside of Horicon, on the Rock River and not far from Horicon Marsh. It’s a cozy place cluttered with hobbies: woodworking tools, winemaking, a ham and bean soup in the crock pot.  

It’s a great time for family stories, with my dad and my Uncle Ron telling their adventures from childhood (and the time Uncle Ron set off illegal fireworks years ago on the lawn of the house on Beloit Avenue). Storytelling is an important part of relating in my family.

It’s much easier to be around my family since I’ve been on my mood management medications. I used to feel so much pressure to talk that it was hard for me to be there. Now I’m relaxed, and I enjoy it a lot more.

I’ll leave on Sunday with more stories and more appreciation for my family.

I’m in Camp Nano right now, and I’m trying to maintain two hours per day to keep up. My family’s accustomed to me ducking out to write. I’ll keep you posted.

A writing prompt

I woke up early (4:45 AM) and sat at my computer waiting for inspiration to strike.

It hasn’t.

What’s a writer to do? Write, of course! Here lies the value of writing prompts. These exercises limber up your mind by providing a no-pressure idea for you to write about. By no-pressure, I mean that you’re not writing on your manuscript, you’re not going to screw up your manuscript if you do poorly — it’s pure writing without motive.

So, my prompt for this morning: talk about a missed opportunity:

This is a true story. I learned this story when I was growing up. Children being what they are, my classmates started calling me “garbage truck” because my last name — Leach — was emblazoned on the front of the hopper of all the garbage trucks in town. I lamented to Dad, “I’m not related to the garbage trucks, am I?” He laughed and told me this story:

My grandfather, when he was fifteen, was sent off to work that summer. His father gave him two choices: work with his one uncle on the farm, or work with his other uncle, a bachelor who owned a factory. Grandpa chose the farm.

Had he chosen the factory, he may well have been taken in by the bachelor uncle to succeed him in the firm. As it was, the bachelor uncle died with no successor. However, you can find his name on garbage trucks everywhere — the factory now makes hoppers for garbage trucks. This, my father said, is why we’re not rich.

I already had this story, sure, but it popped up because of the prompt and not vice versa, Prompts might provoke an old story to tell, or might lead you to the kind of impromptu writing that becomes a story.

Happy writing!


My cousin Francis died
in the river he walked into;
he left behind a family
who had only wondered when.

My mother, on her deathbed,
demanded from a priest
that the Church apologize to her;
she gave it absolution.

When my grandfather died,
the children didn’t mourn him;
they laid one unspoken secret
with the casseroles at dinner

These stories are their testimony;
these stories are the flowers
I’ve laid upon their graves.