OK, I decided to start a project. After only one week of the #TeachersWrite Summer Writing Camp, I was already tired of not knowing what to do for the writing challenges and assignments, so I have dusted off my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel. I am going to revise it, incorporating the writing camp assignments, for “publication” for my classroom library. (I try to order novels from Create Space each year, but in 2010 and 2011, I didn’t order my own–only students’ novels.) This will be the encouragement I needed to keep modeling for my students.

Here is the beginning of my sci-fi Bible story about Queen Esther.

Sinede here, a clown in the king’s court. Everything you will read in the pages before you is true. It really happened. A story, a story, let it come, let it go—but always know, it is true, every word of it. The story starts soon, but a little background first. Have you ever heard of platform shoes? Many times in human history people have worn shoes that made them look taller. In the Earthly cultures of Asia, Europe, Latin America, and in the United States of America (that ancient self-centered and pretentious society of the second millennium) there have been several forms of the platform shoe. Sometimes they raised the back half of the foot to platform height, so the heel was up high and the toes were closer to the ground. Yes, I know it sounds strange.

Well, in my land, Visul, we don’t wear shoes—platform or otherwise. However, we do have an unusual evolutionary adaptation—the platform foot. Most humans on the scores of colonized planets in the Milky Way have developed feet similar to what folks have on Earth.

On Visul, however, we needed tall feet. You should see my country—yuck! It’s got a layer of fine dust, well, maybe I could call it “moondust” something you might know about. The visuldust is four to six inches thick! How could we ever walk around in that? We couldn’t, so our feet evolved. We have a platform of cartilage and thick skin—kind of like a giant bunion across the bottoms of our feet. No pain, though. (I don’t know if they are like bunions really. Do bunions hurt?) We walk barefoot wherever we go because our landscape is literally all the same. Dark black visuldust everywhere! Little atmosphere rests on Visul, so we get no wind. At least the dust stays in one place. The land is flat or very slightly rippled over large areas. There are no mountains, no bodies of water, nothing interesting.

Another difference in our evolution is the star shape at the base of fingernails. I think it was a smile and a shout-out from Providence to the “stars” of the galaxy. Let me tell you, my friends, we are stars! Jugglers, jokesters, singers, musicians, orators, actors, poets, puppeteers, writers. Visul is such an ugly boring planet, that we have had to make our own color. We have more than our share of talent. The stars of the universe! That’s for sure! Platform feet and star-shaped nail bases—just two of the obvious differences in our evolution—the interesting and colorful ones, as it were. I am not a scientist, but there are dozens of other traits that had to evolve for us to live on this planet.

One such evolution is our lungs. The air we breathe for instance is not 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% argon like you have on earth. (What is argon? you ask. It’s an inactive noble gas. More later, in science class.) Our lungs, however, have evolved to breathe the composition of our atmosphere, which includes oxygen, sodium, potassium, and primarily helium. (Yeah, we hear those jokes all the time about sucking helium. And, yes, our voices are a bit higher pitched than those of the humans on earth.)

One more way we, and all humans on the outer planets, are different than humans you may have heard of, or, you are, if indeed you are human yourself, is we have learned to genetically modify our population within the womb. The Visulians are a peaceful and loving people, so we have chosen modifications that enhance our artistic sides. We have also chosen to eliminate disease and other physical malformations that plagued humans for generations. Just as earlier Earthly generations took out small pox, black plague and yellow fever. Continuing in the 20th century, polio and German measles were wiped out. Now, in the 24th century, we have totally removed the cancer gene from our society; muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes—all gone from human development; and presently we are working to perfect the total elimination of obesity, which leads to massive social suffering and related heart diseases in the human condition. (I do actually love science.) I digress.

Let’s get on with the exposition.
Blakinon gave an unlikely proposition.
She said yes, and now we have a wide-eyed queen.
Would the king have picked her, had he foreseen?
We were so proud of her; Mindassa’s her name.
The joke was on Joryk who took all the blame.
Between those last two lines, comes most of the plot.
Sit back and relax, I think you’ll like it a lot.

(OK, OK, I’m not a poet, just a clown, just a clown. Don’t you dare set this book down! Oh, there I go again, making rhymes. I best get going, before I’m out of time. Maybe, I am a poet and didn’t know it.)

Well, I always wondered as he stood before the firing squad if he said something like, “Well, I guess the ‘Joryk’ is on me! Har har!” Probably not. I’m the clown. He was just a pompous ass. He never would have thought of a great pun like that one. Before we get back to the story, here’s a triple shout-out to all my NaNo friends: The Roman wino, Iron Woman, ate a warm onion. What’s funny about this true story is it’s very sad and serious. It’s a story replete with violence, death, hatred, slavery, attempted genocide and terrorism. But, at the very same time, it is a comedic tale as old as life. The arrogant fool gets what’s coming to him in a whole comedy of errors. And now, our story commences.


We are writing novels this month! Here’s my synopsis…

Mindassa, a refugee from the planet Visul, was brought to Irkale when her family members were killed in a raid by the Irkalians. Unlike the other survivors who were tortured and enslaved, Min is being raised by her uncle as a normal citizen of Irkale. Min and her uncle have spent their lives on Irkale hiding their distinctive Visulian characteristics—platform feet and stars (instead of moons) at the base of their fingernails. They’ve managed to do this for years, but as the sensitive and daring Min comes to adulthood she starts to question the enslavement of her people. Mindassa is a fighter but she never thought she’d be fighting for freedom from the inside, as the Queen of Irkale.


Excerpt from “Turn Loose the Angels”

After three weeks being pain-free, Tilda had additional complaints about her stomach. She was beginning to run low-grade fevers in the evening too. Her appetite dwindled. The third day Mom became concerned when Jo told her that Tilda complained of pain when she urinated.

“Okay,” said Mom, “I’m going to take her in. It’s just a month early for her annual physical with the oncologist, but the urinary pain concerns me.”

Tilda went to the medical clinic for tests. They gave her an extensive looking over, then drew blood, took a urine sample, and took an ultrasound of her abdomen. Tilda and her mom left the clinic with no answers. The doctors were very careful not to give away any information they weren’t confident about. They decided to wait for all the test results before they told the family anything that would cause worry.

“Do you want some ice cream, Tilda?” asked Mom on the way home from the doctor.

“No, thank you, Mom. I just want to go home, please,” said Tilda.

* * * * * *

Immediately Mom’s mind wandered back to a time long ago when life was more religious for her and she just wanted to go home. She was about Tilda’s age, and she was at a three-day revival meeting. At the close of the first day, she remembers, her parents and brothers and sisters were outside the trailer, sitting around a campfire. Grandfather called her into the trailer.

“Didja pray to the Good Lord tonight, Elizabeth?” boomed her grandfather.

“I always pray, Grandfather,” said Elizabeth, obediently.

“I mean didja pray the prayer a repentance with the evangelist tonight at the meetin’?” probed Grandfather. “I din’t see ya raise yer hand when Brother Evangel asked those who prayed to show their faith by raisin’ their hand.”

“I’m not sure I understood it,” admitted Elizabeth.

“What? What could you not understand about that prayer? It was a prayer of the heart, Elizabeth. Is yer heart evil?” asked Grandfather.

Elizabeth stared silently. She also didn’t understand how to answer the questions he just asked. Grandfather reached down to take his belt off.

Elizabeth stood frozen, wanting to run away but afraid of what would happen if she did. As a tear rolled down her check, she tried to be brave. She prayed and prayed.

Her grandfather took his belt off and took Elizabeth over his knee. He swatted her three controlled “religious” beatings, using the belt as the persuader to repentance. The belt assaulted the back of her upper thighs, stinging and making her flinch and cry out in pain. Grandfather knew it was for her own good. “Beat the devil out of ya,” that’s what he was doing. When he finished, he laid his hands on her head and prayed for her, “Oh God, of our fathers, heal this girl of the demons of sin and foolishness. We pray that she will repent and be washed in the blood. Help her to hear Brother Evangel tomorra and the next day. We pray she will repent and come to be numbered in the fold. We pray that she will serve you in this world, so she can come on into your kingdom in the next world. Amen.”

“Now, Elizabeth, get to bed, so you’ll be fresh and able to understand the evangelist’s words tomorrow,” said Grandfather.

Elizabeth crawled in the sleeping bag laid out on the front seat of the pick-up truck that pulled the trailer to the meetings. There were many people who managed to sleep in that trailer, but a few family members spilled out into sleeping bags in the truck and on the ground near the fire pit.

The next day Elizabeth made sure she heard and understood the evangelist. Her hand was the first one up. Rather than pray his prayer, though, she prayed that he would quit talking soon so she could just go home.

* * * * * *

It had been decades since Elizabeth uttered a prayer. However, today on the way home from the clinic with her little girl Tilda on the seat beside her, she said another prayer. “Oh, God, please don’t let it be cancer again, please.”