Wayland Relay for Life 2012

Following up on my Relay for Life fundraising appeal

Last year, our team goal was $2,000, and we raised around $4,100. This year, our goal was $3,000, and we raised around $5,100. We beat our total by over a thousand dollars; and the members of the Writers of the Future forum contributed $562.38 toward that goal. We lost our coordinating judge, K.D. Wentworth, to cancer this year; and in her memory and in memory and support of others in our lives, we decided to contribute to the fight against cancer. I promised luminaria for each donation. Here are pictures from Relay.

Angelica Lau Smith

Stewart dedicated a luminaria to his mother-in-law, Angelica Lau Smith.

Anita Buckowing 2

I dedicated this to my sister and team co-captain, Anita Buckowing (her other captain was Amy Fowler)…

Anita Buckowing

…and Dawn also made a generous donation in honor of Anita.


This one was in honor of my sister-in-law, Claire Shoemaker. Another one in honor of my other sister-in-law, Laura Shoemaker, caught fire before I could get a picture. Candles in paper bags… It’s a wonder that only two burned up all night!

KD - Course of Empire

Jennifer a.k.a. Greenroom dedicated one to K.D.

KD - Crucible of Empire

As did Tina.

KD - Stars Over Stars

And Steve.

KD - This Fair Land

And Austin.

KD - WotF V26

And Alistair.

KD - Wotf V27

And Jeanette.

KD - WotF V28

And Kary.

KD and EJ

Helen asked for a joint memorial: K.D. and E.J.

KD and Joseph

Amanda asked for another joint memorial for K.D. and for Joseph Zilvinskis.

KD Horse

Melanie asked for a dedication to K.D., and asked for one of my stick figures for the picture. Since K.D. loved wild horses, I thought this one was appropriate.


Dustin asked for this picture in K.D.’s memory.

Luminaria for Kathleen Brown

Marina asked for this in memory of her mentor, Kathleen Brown.

Luminaria for Mom

I dedicated this in support of my mom, diagnosed with colon cancer back in May. It’s Rodin’s Kiss. She had a small scale reproduction of this a long time ago.

Steve Poling

I dedicated this to my friend, former coworker, and fellow author Steve Poling. Anyone with an interest in the Sherlock Holmes canon should check out The Aristotelian.

Vera Bjork

Rebecca dedicated this to the memory of her grandmother, Vera Bjork.

And then I have a few random photos from the event. This is a photo of our booth:


The guy in yellow is my brother-in-law, Mark Buckowing (but everybody calls him “Buck”). Also one of my best friends for – yeesh, 34 years now! Buck reads more books than any three other people I know (unless those three are his wife and kids). I’m posting here largely because of him: when he read the opening chapter of my novel in progress, he said, “I think you should wrap that up and send it out as a short story.” So I did, and the rest is history. Oh, and that chapter? It got me to the ISDC, where I had lunch with Buzz Aldrin. So blame him for my presence here.


Anita made and sold these clay unicorns, part of her Kritters Against Cancer series.


And also these dinosaurs.

Unicorns and Dinosaurs

And here you can see more unicorns and dinosaurs.

It was a great day. We celebrated. We raised a lot of money. We fought back. And we did it with a lot of help from you. Thank you!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Evil Martin at Relay for Life!

Evil Martin at Relay for Life

Here’s a rare public sighting of Evil Martin! I let him out to play at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. There’s still time to donate!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

DC in 5 days!

All reservations and registrations are in place for the International Space Development Conference!

Posted in The Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest | 4 Comments

Reading for a good cause!

I’ve posted on this before; but since it’s for a good cause, I’m going to post on it again, and also give you an excerpt.

The Gruff Variations: Writing for Charity Anthology, Vol. 1

An anthology to benefit the Children’s Literature Association of Utah and the Future Light Orphanage in Cambodia.

The stories and poetry in this anthology were all inspired by the legend of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. But you won’t just find goats and trolls in here. You’ll also find xenoarchaeologists hunting a legendary burial ground, a harried troll who wants nothing more than peace and quiet, star-traveling cities in search of resources, a cloaked warrior of prophecy, an honest politician, princesses on vacation, interstellar probes, superheroes (and villains), cursed princes, necromancers, fairies, bikers, aliens, violinists… the list goes on.

Contributors to this anthology include New York Times best-selling author Shannon Hale, award-winning children’s picture book author Rick Walton, Hugo Award winner (and Nebula Award nominee) Mary Robinette Kowal, Edgar Award finalist Dene Low, Nebula Award nominees Brad R. Torgersen and Nancy Fulda, and many other authors such as Kristen Landon, Lisa Mangum, Kristyn Crow, Clint Johnson, and Dean Hale. Nebula Award Winner Eric James Stone edited the anthology.

P.S. Hugo and Nebula and Campbell Award nominee Brad R. Torgersen weighs in here.

Contains my story “Gruff Riders”. When T-Roll picks on Kidd, he finds himself tangling with the smartest young goat in the city; and Kidd isn’t about to let some troll take his bicycle! With help from his skateboarding brother Billy and their motorcycle-riding big brother Gruff, they teach T-Roll a lesson… and maybe learn one for themselves as well!

And here is an excerpt:


Gruff Riders

By Martin L. Shoemaker

“Gimme your bike, kid.” The troll blocked the bike path, squatting on a motorcycle. Large, green, ugly and smelly. No, not the motorcycle, the troll. The motorcycle was sweet: a custom Indian, black with gold trim and a modified suspension to support the troll’s weight. On the gas tank in gold script was painted T-Roll. Like the troll, the T had large fangs.

“That’s me: Kidd, with two D’s.” The little goat jutted his chin out. He had no whiskers on his chin yet, nor horns on his head, but he wasn’t taking any guff from the troll. Kidd had two big brothers, so he had learned to stand up for himself. “Why should I give you my bike? You’re too big for it.”

T-Roll blinked twice and shook his head, as if he couldn’t understand anyone telling him “No.” Finally he answered, “Because I’m bigger than you, and I can beat you up and kick you into the river, and I said so.”

Kidd looked down at his sneakers and kicked at a rock, hiding his smile. He might be smaller than T-Roll, but he was sure he was smarter. “So? Yeah, you’re bigger. You’ll break the bike! And besides, you have a motorcycle. You can’t ride both of them. If you take my bike, are you going to give me your motorcycle?”

“No!” T-Roll roared, leaning over. Spittle dripped from his fangs, staining Kidd’s gray T-shirt. Some of the other animals in the park looked over at the shouting, but no one seemed eager to get involved with an angry troll.

“So, what, you’re going to tow my bike behind you?”

“No…” This time T-Roll didn’t roar.

“Are you going to carry my bike on your motorcycle?”

“Uhhh…” Kidd imagined rocks grinding in the troll’s head as he tried to think of a solution. “I’m really strong. I can carry a bike.”

“But can you steer at the same time without losing your balance and crashing? I would hate to crash such a nice motorcycle, wouldn’t you?”


Again Kidd hid his smile. He had an idea. “So you don’t want a bike, you want something smaller that you can carry!”

T-Roll squinted at Kidd, trying to understand. “Okay… Yeah, I can carry something smaller.”

“So you want…” Kidd paused as if he was thinking, but he had already figured out the first part of his plan, and maybe more. “…a skateboard!”

“Yeah! A skateboard! I could carry that!” T-Roll’s eyes lit up. “Do you have one?”

“No.” T-Roll’s glare returned. “But my brother does…”

T-Roll opened one eye wider. “Is he here?”

“No, but I can call him.” Kidd suppressed a giggle. “But I won’t.”

“Why not?”

Kidd rubbed his chin and looked T-Roll in the eye. “You said you were gonna beat me up and kick me into the river! Why should I help someone who’s gonna beat me up?”

T-Roll looked pained and confused. Finally he nodded slowly. “Okay, if you call him, I won’t beat you up and take your bike.”

“Or kick me into the river?”

“Or kick you into the river.”

“Are you sure?”

“Troll’s honor.”

“Trolls have honor?” T-Roll frowned, and Kidd decided he was going too far. It wouldn’t do for the troll to realize Kidd was playing him. “All right, all right, I’ll call him.”

Kidd pulled his cell phone from the thigh pocket of his jeans, and he dialed Billy’s number. “Hey, Billy? Yeah, it’s Kidd. I’m in the park over by the Goose Bridge. Uh-huh, yeah, Rita said ‘Hi.’ Say, I need a favor, and it’s kind of important. Could you come meet me and this guy I’ve met? Uh-huh, yeah. Thanks! And please, bring your skateboard.”

Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment

K.D. Wentworth, 1951-2012

I never met her, but she wrote some very kind things about one of my stories. And she wrote many inspiring posts, and she managed the biggest contest in science fiction. We have lost a treasure. Rest in Peace, K.D. Wentworth.

Posted in Writers of the Future | Leave a comment

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today, I had not received a call from Writers of the Future. I didn’t know The Mother Anthony had been selected as a Finalist, and that eventually Joni would tell me that Jerry Pournelle loved it.

A year ago today, I knew essentially nothing about Writers of the Future.

A year ago today, I hadn’t read Brad R. Torgersen’s post on the value of the contest, so I didn’t appreciate just how awesome the contest is.

A year ago today, I hadn’t discovered the Writers of the Future forum, so I didn’t know how awesome of a resource and a support system the forum can be. (On the other hand, a year ago I hadn’t spent time to write 1,357 forum posts…)

A year ago today, I hadn’t met Brad or Alex or Annie or Tina or Scott or Dustin or Mike or Pat or Kyle or Jeanette or Dr. Phil or Eric or Rebecca or Elinor or Steve or Bill or Thomas or Amanda or Justin or Kary or Patrick or David or Grayson or Stewart or Sean or Michael or David or George or Juliana or Stephanie or Kevin or Dantzel or Josh or Jude or Erik or Riley or Fiona or Alistair or Rich or Bard or Kevin or Dawn or David or Jennifer or Lynette or Maria or Tom or… well, a whole bunch of great forum participants, too many for me to remember even with notes.

A year ago today, “The Night We Flushed the Old Town” hadn’t been published in Therefore I Am: Digital Science Fiction Volume 2.

A year ago today, “Scramble” hadn’t been selected as an Honorable Mention in Writers of the Future.

A year ago today, “Father-Daughter Outing” hadn’t been selected as an Honorable Mention in Writers of the Future.

A year ago today, “Father-Daughter Outing” hadn’t been the cover story in Heir Apparent: Digital Science Fiction Volume 4.

A year ago today, I hadn’t self-published “The Mother Anthony” and Sense of Wonder.

A year ago today, Ulterior Motive Lounge wasn’t consistently ranking in the top 100 UML books on all of Amazon (once as high as #10!).

A year ago today, “A Most Auspicious Star” had not been selected as a Semi-Finalist in Writers of the Future.

A year ago today, “Scramble” had not won Second Place in the 2012 Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest.

A year ago today, “Gruff Riders” had not been published in The Gruff Variations: Writing for Charity Volume 1.

But as of tomorrow, it will be one year since Joni called. I will no longer be able to say “A year ago today…” on that one. It has been quite a year, for me and the whole family. Not all of it good by any means; but sometimes it helps to look back and highlight the good. It’s all too easy in the day-to-day to lose track of what has changed.

And it makes me wonder: what will I look back on a year from now? And that motivates me, because the good stuff doesn’t just happen; we have to make it happen.

Posted in Family, Writing | 9 Comments


To understand the purpose of this post and the notations in this diagram, please read the Introduction.

While good Characters are all unique in some way, Characters can largely be divided into three groups: protagonists (Characters the reader is expected to sympathize with); antagonists (Characters who oppose the protagonists); and minor characters whose role in the Story is limited to what the protagonists and antagonists see of them. Minor characters may have Motivations and face Challenges, but we don’t see that in this Story. (They may have Stories of their own somewhere else.)

Figure 4. Characters, Protagonists, and Antagonists

Here are some common types of protagonists and antagonists. These lists are by no means exhaustive. You should view these as roles, where a given Character may play multiple roles over the course of a Story. A Character may even be both protagonist and antagonist within the same Story.


Expanding on our definition above, protagonist Characters are Characters who help a main Character (theProtagonist) to face Challenges. Except for Protagonists, these all may be minor characters.


This is the main Character in all or part of the Story. This might be the hero or heroine; but in some Stories, the Protagonist isn’t very heroic. A Story may have a single Protagonist, or a group of Protagonists (sometimes called an ensemble). In some Stories, the Protagonist role may shift from one Character to another.


This is a Character who shares some of the same Motivations or faces some of the same Challenges as the Protagonist, and collaborates with him or her to overcome the Challenges.


This is a Character who helps the Protagonist to face Challenges due primarily to friendship or loyalty,


This is a Character who helps the Character because of some past debt or obligation or some prior working relationship.


This is a Character who provides information to the Protagonist.


This is a Character who teaches the Protagonist a lesson.


This is a Character who does some work or provides some service to the Protagonist.


This is a Character who listens to the Protagonist and gives him or her some advice on dealing with Challenges.


Expanding on our definition above, antagonist Characters are Characters who in some way add to the Challenges that a Protagonist faces. They may not dislike the Protagonist; perhaps they even like him or her. But in some way, they make the Protagonist’s task more difficult. Except for Antagonists, these all may be minor characters.


This is a Character who actively seeks to defeat the Protagonist, or whose Motivations create the Protagonist’s Challenges. For the Protagonist to succeed, the Antagonist must fail, and vice versa. Not all Stories will have an Antagonist. For instance, if the Protagonist’s Challenge is to survive a storm, there’s probably no Antagonist causing the storm.


This is a Character who shares the same Motivations as the Protagonist, and who wants to beat the Protagonist at the Challenges. The rivalry may be friendly or hostile.


This is a Character who may support the Protagonist in his or her Challenges, but who also contributes Challenges as a result. For instance, a Protagonist’s coworkers may (as part of their jobs) create new work for him or her.


This is a Character who hires or contracts the Protagonist to face certain Challenges, often as a way of dealing with other Challenges. For instance, if the Protagonist has a Challenge of “Needs to pay the rent,” a Client may pay him or her money to perform some job that entails new Challenges.


This is a Character who judges or evaluates the work that the Protagonist does, or who creates and enforces rules that he or she must follow. Satisfying the Official and complying with the rules (or evading them) becomes a new set of Challenges.

Romantic Interest

While it may seem odd to categorize Romantic Interest as an “antagonist”, in many Stories the Challenge is for the Protagonist to win the Romantic Interest’s affections. Thus the Romantic Interest is an integral part of the Challenge.


This is a Character who in some way, likely some innocent way, creates or amplifies a Challenge. If the Protagonist tries to chase an Antagonist through a crowd, the people in the crowd can be Impediments.


This is a Character who needs help of some sort from the Protagonist; and procuring and providing that help creates or complicates a Challenge. A parent with children may not be free to chase an Antagonist to some distant locale, as one example.

Posted in A UML Model of Story Structure | Leave a comment

An example of overloading a term

Lunch was $5 a plate, so I filled my plate with a plate of spaghetti. After lunch, I strapped on my plate armor and went to the shipyard, where they were repairing the plates on the hull. In the warehouse, they were plating the statues. I noticed that the gold plate on one was thin, and we checked the plating bath. One of the electrode plates was corroded, so I ordered a replacement. I worried what the client would say. I checked the contract to see if this was covered, but it was strictly boiler plate. I decided to visit the client. On the way, I was pulled over for speeding. The officer checked my plates, saw my record was clean, and let me off with a warning. When I got to the client’s office, I saw they had an engraved plate commemorating their founding. While I waited in the lobby, I looked at some of their books. In one, I found a very nice plate of a woodland scene, and I wondered what sort of plate they used in printing it. When I saw the client, I showed him the statue, and we agreed on a deal for reworking them. Then we discussed his new line. He didn’t have any samples, but he did show me some photographic plates. He was so proud of these, he smiled so wide he practically lost his dental plate. I told him that selling these would be like an easy slide into home plate. Then the Earth’s plates shifted, and the earthquake left quite a mess on my plate.

(It’s a wonder anyone ever learns English…)

Posted in The Craft | 2 Comments

Story Elements: An Overview

To understand the purpose of this post and the notations in these diagrams, please read the Introduction.

A Story involves 1 or more Characters who face 1 or more Challenges. Each Character has Motivations (minor Characters may have none); and each Motivation may give that Character a reason to face some Challenges.

A simple Story has 1 Timeline consisting of 1 or more Events, with each Event potentially involving a Challenge. A more complex Story may have multiple Timelines, especially if it is a fantasy or science fiction Story involving time travel. Every Event involves at least one Character.

Figure 1. Overview of Story Elements

A Story can be structured into 1 or more Acts, which represent major divisions of the action. (A Story not formally broken into Acts can be considered a 1 Act Story.) Three classical Story structures are One Act, Three Act, and Five Act:

One Act Structure

In a short story, there may be only one brief, direct story following Characters through a small number of Events and a small number of Challenges. The Characters and Challenges are introduced through the resolution of the Events.

Three Act Structure

  • Act I:Introduce the main Characters and a major Challenge. This might be the primary Challenge, or it might be a contributing or concealing Challenge.
  • Act II:The Characters struggle to overcome the Challenges. Though they have some successes, Act II ends with them at their weakest and facing their biggest Challenge.
  • Act III: The Characters find a way to overcome their weaknesses and triumph over the Challenges. Alternatively, they fail at the Challenges, and we see the consequences.

Figure 2. Three Act Structure

Five Act Structure

  • Act I: Exposition.Introduce the main Characters and a major Challenge.
  • Act II: Rising Action.The Characters struggle to overcome the Challenges. Though they have some successes, Act II ends with them at their weakest and facing their biggest Challenge.
  • Act III: Climax (Turning Point).The Characters find a way to overcome their weaknesses and triumph over the Challenges; or they realize they’re outmatched.
  • Act IV: Falling Action.The Characters successfully deal with remaining Challenges; or the remaining Challenges overcome them, and they try to escape.
  • Act V: Denouement (Resolution). The final wrap-up of the Story.

Figure 3. Five Act Structure

A Story isn’t restricted to these classical structures; but critics, reviewers, and editors may assume the Story has some recognizable Act structure, and may disapprove if it rambles with no clear Acts. Notice also that Acts are somewhat in the eye of the beholder: different readers or viewers may not agree where the Act breaks are, and the author may have different ideas where the Act breaks are as well. (In a larger work broken into chapters, it’s very likely that the Act breaks fall on chapter breaks; but one Act may consist of multiple chapters.)

Each Act consists of 1 or more Scenes, where a Scene depicts 1 or more Events occurring at a given Location. A Scene is told from one Point of View, though the Point of View may change from Scene to Scene. Occasionally you may see the same Scene told from the Points of View of different Characters; but it’s simpler to treat each Point of View change as a new Scene. Some authors like to structure Scenes much as they do Acts: 1 Scene, 3 Scenes, 5 Scenes, etc. Others are more free-form.

The Scenes tell the Events of the Story, but not necessarily in the order those Events occur in a Timeline. For instance, one common method to get readers interested quickly is to tell a story in media res (Latin: in the middle of things). Rather than tell the reader a lot of introductory details, you jump straight to “the good stuff”. But that may leave details that the reader will need to know later; so through flashbacks, recollections, and other techniques, you fill those details in when you need them. Thus, the Scenes may play out of order from the Timeline. Sometimes you can tell a really interesting story simply by telling the scenes completely out of order based on the timeline, perhaps even omitting scenes and just implying their Events. A Timeline can be important to the author in order to understand and organize the Story; and the reader may form a mental Timeline to help understand the Events; but the Timeline itself is typically not a part of the Story.

It’s not required for a Story to have a Theme, but it’s common. The Theme is a point or lesson the author conveys through the Story. Again, the Theme is subjective, and authors and readers may not always agree what the Theme is.

We’ll explore each of these elements in more detail in later posts.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A UML Model of Story Structure: An Introduction

This will be the first in an ongoing series of posts in which I use UML to model and explore the structure of a story. This series started with a simple question: What constitutes a science fiction story? There are many answers to this question, including one very pragmatic definition: Science fiction is any story that a science fiction editor buys.

But I wanted a definition that would guide me in writing science fiction. In particular, I wanted guidance to avoid writing hackneyed stories, especially stories that editors hate: stories which are really non-SF stories dressed up in science fiction trappings. The classic bad example of these is stories which are western stories or pirate stories or gothic horror, but set in space or the future. And yes, that describes a few science fiction classics; but it also describes a lot of dreck.

So my working definition became: A science fiction story is a story where at least one element of the story could not exist or happen outside of a science fiction setting. The element might be a character or an event. It might be a setting, but probably shouldn’t, because that takes us back to Space Westerns. It might even be a motivation: if a character’s goal is to avoid being cloned, that goal makes little sense outside of a setting where cloning exists. (Of course, cloning could be a metaphor for loss of individuality; but metaphor and theme are in some ways “above” the layer of story elements.)

I like that definition. It’s practical. If I can’t identify the elements that can only exist in science fiction, then I should rewrite the story as straight fiction (or as a western, or a pirate story, or…). But to apply that definition, I realized that I need a good, fairly exhaustive model of the elements in a story. I could then use that to analyze my ideas and look for the SF elements.

And being that I’m The UML Guy, I built that model as UML diagrams.

This is an ongoing work in progress, so it has lots of holes. And though it is influenced by my readings on the theory and construction of stories, it reflects my own idiosyncratic views of story construction as well. And since I’ve only published a couple of stories and won some small awards so far, there may be really largeholes in my model. But I’m finding it useful, so I’m sharing it with you here.

Special thanks to Curtis Gray for asking me to share it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be elaborating it this thoroughly.

Just Enough UML to Follow Along

I want to start by introducing just enough UML to help you follow along with the model.


The stick figure (an “actor”) represents someone or something that takes an active part in the model. It might be a person, an animal, a monster, a computer, a demon, a god, a ghost, etc. The important thing is that it acts (hence the name).

The rectangle (a “class”) represents a thing within the model that is used by or affects actors.

The arrow with a plain head (an “association”) means “has” or “uses”. The “0..*” means “0 or more”. So this diagram can be read as: “A Character has 0 or more Motivations.”


The arrow with the triangle head (a “generalization”) means a specific and a general case relation. So this diagram can be read as “A Book is a specific kind of a Publication.”


This “activity diagram” shows a set of steps in a process.

The black dot shows where the process starts. The “target” (black dot in a circle) shows where it ends.

The rounded rectangles (activities) show steps in the process. If the rounded rectangle has a link symbol (like Pick Up Food in this example), it is a complex step made up of sub-steps. You can show the sub-steps (as in this example) or hide them for a simpler diagram.

The arrows (“transitions”) take you from step to step.

And that’s all the UML you’ll need to know for now. I’ll introduce more as needed.

Of course, if you’d like to know more about UML, I’m happy to teach you through the world’s first UML comic strip.

Posted in A UML Model of Story Structure | 4 Comments