I’m-not-dead-yet update

Hello, loyal readers (or random visitors)! Sorry for the long delay in stuff.

You’ll be gratified to know, though, that I’m only a few pages away from wrapping up Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross, and I have a few things planned for the next story. You can expect regular updates to resume for real in the middle of August.

I’ve also been using my time unproductively, and you can watch me occasionally streaming games here.

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On reading young adult fiction and the meaning of ‘literature’

I refer, of course, to this article at Slate.

I’ll keep this brief. I don’t actually have a problem with pooh-poohing young adult literature. There isn’t a lot of it I like. On the other hand, my bookshelf is about 75% genre fiction, and given this snippet…


YA endings are uniformly satisfying, whether that satisfaction comes through weeping or cheering. These endings are emblematic of the fact that the emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction—of the real world—is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction.

…I feel I ought to offer some sort of defense. What fundamental value, as a story, does an ambiguous ending have over the satisfying sort? None, really. There’s a yearning for narrative gratification embedded in the human psyche. If there wasn’t, we wouldn’t spend so much time grappling with the question, “What am I here for?”

It really comes to that. None of the points the article makes in favor of more mature literature are absent in, say, fantasy or YA fiction (unfamiliar characters, weird facts, big ideas), except that it’s less traditional to end genre fiction in a way that leaves the reader hanging. The claim that, to be mature, or literary, or worthwhile, fiction has to drearily reflect the real world, with all its frequent crappiness and messy solutions, grinds my gears. Anyone with an honest ounce of self-assessment knows we thirst for better out of the real world. How is it as flatly wrong as Ms. Graham writes to ask for more than the drudgery of day-to-day life out of our books?

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No-update update

Although I’m settled and have found writing time lately, I’m afraid that this—missing updates—is kind of going to be a thing this summer. I have a lot planned in terms of travel and whatnot, so sometimes I’ll just not get to the updates here.

At lunch today, I’m going to whip up a comment on the latest critic-says-adults-shouldn’t-read-YA kerfuffle, so you have that to look forward to.

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Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 75

Another pair of Kestrels launched. Joe’s Falcon swung gently as the deck crew moved it along the rails. Joe adjusted the shaving mirror clamped over his head until he could see Emma’s fighter, sliding onto the rails behind him. Two more Kestrels fell through the launch hatches, and the rail operators drove Joe’s Falcon to the forward hook.

Burr’s voice crackled in Joe’s headphones. “Command here. Do you read me, Joe? Over.”

“Five by five.”

“Swell. The British zep’s launching planes?—just fighters so far. Over.”

“Copy.” Joe switched his radio to the mission frequency. “Heads up, everybody. We got bandits in the air.”

In the mirror overhead, he saw Emma’s fighter rock as its arrester hook locked around the skyhook. On the deck in front of him, a crewman waved to get his attention. Joe flashed a thumbs-up. The crewman held up an open palm, then spread his fingers to count down from five. He reached zero, a closed fist, and the skyhook released Joe’s fighter. It plunged out the zep’s belly, and Joe felt himself falling until his plane hit the clear air under Inconstant. He pushed his throttle forward and pulled out of his steep dive. Behind him, Emma did likewise, coming up on his wing. Together, they climbed, regaining the altitude they’d lost in the combat launch, circling back toward the zep. It passed below Joe’s left wing, and ahead of him—behind Inconstant—he saw the British zep climbing toward them. He could just barely pick out airplanes circling above it. As he watched, three pairs broke off and climbed higher.

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Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 74

Shaking his head, Joe stowed his start-up checklist. Down on the deck, a young woman caught his eye. Tomlin, he thought, one of the latest batch. She kept out of the way as best she could, heading aft with a purposeful step. For a moment, Joe watched her weave around the deck crew, then he switched his microphone to the radio tuned to the mission frequency. “You know the game. The Tommies aren’t your common guns for hire. You beat them the same way, though: fly better, shoot straighter, stick with your wingman. Neither Albatross is flying today, so if they bring you down, you’re on your own. Get out of British territory before you send word. We’ll launch by pairs, fighters first. Good luck.”

That covered everything he hadn’t had the time for during the briefing. He patted his flying jacket and felt the reassuring packet of bank notes tucked into an inner pocket—a few hundred pounds, more than enough to get him somewhere safe if he ended up shot down.

Two Kestrels dropped from the forward and center skyhooks, while a third waited on the aft hook until the deck crew spotted his wingman to the center hook. Launching by pairs took a little longer, but it kept the air wing better organized. Joe wanted his wing pairs together as soon as they left the hangar. They were good, as pirates went, but not many of them could handle a British pair solo.

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Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 73

Joe stepped delicately from the ladder into the cockpit of his Falcon. Even so, it swung beneath his weight. Already, the other pilots were coaxing their machines to life, and the sputters as the engines turned over quickly built to a deep-throated roar.

Joe went through his own startup checklist, flipping fuel and magneto switches, then holding the starter. The propeller in front of him turned slowly, once and twice, then blurred to a uniform disc. He watched his gauges for a moment. They read normally, so he slid his canopy forward and locked it in place. He settled his leather flying helmet onto his head and plugged in his headset, and chatter instantly filled his ears.

“Keep the mission frequency clear,” he said into the mic. “Flight leaders, check in when you’re ready.”

The Falcon next to Joe’s swung on its hook. He looked over and waved at Emma as she strapped in. She gave him an insouciant salute, fumbled with her ponytail and her helmet, and spoke into her mic. “Looks like I’m on your wing today, eh?”

Joe checked his radio and spun a tuning dial. “Looks like. You missed the briefing.”

Emma shrugged and pulled her canopy closed. Smoke belched from her engine’s exhausts as her propeller spun into motion. “Shoot the Brits, stay on your wing? Anyway, it’s not hardly a fight without a shot of liquid courage, is it?”

Joe rolled his eyes. Emma must have seen the gesture from her cockpit, adding, “We’re pirates, Joe. That makes you the oddball.”

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No updates update

My move preparation is well under way. I’ll be getting on the road tomorrow, traveling for a day or two, and settling in for a week.

I did finish a character study for my next project, but otherwise it’s been slim pickings for writing time. Sorry for the drought. I’ll be back when I can.

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A little update

I know I said I’d be aiming to get updates in on Friday, but that obviously hasn’t happened.

Preparations for my move are coming along nicely; go-time is next Wednesday. By the end of May, I ought to be settled in.

I did find an hour or so for writing last night, and wrote 500 or 600 words of another character study for my next piece. I hope to have that up here sometime soon.

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