Thursday, December 26, 2013

So long, 2013!

Ah, the end of yet another year.

And, yes, it's been a really good one for me. I completed a MFA in Creative Writing (yeah, not a lot of people knew I was doing that), I started teaching English to a group of 9th graders (yet another thing not a lot of people knew about), and my family and I moved to a brand new location that we love incredibly.

Oh, and one other thing, of course...

Yup, my agent sold my book back in February! (If you've been around me even for fifteen seconds, you probably knew about that one.)

And many, many other great things, some of which I hope to share in the coming months. All so cool. All so good.

It makes me happy, especially when I read this post I wrote at the end of 2012 about how it had been a year that required a lot of patience.

I am so blessed and so grateful. I am super excited about 2014. I know that great things are ahead for me and for you as well.

2014! The year of Johnny Cannon!


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Animating Comic Book Covers is My New Hobby

Yes, yes, yes, I know. I'm a novelist, which basically means I get paid to pursue my hobby. I get it.

But I've found another hobby. And this one is almost guaranteed to never make me any money! (So you know it's a pure pursuit.)

I've taken to creating animated GIFs of old Comic Book covers. Here are the ones I've done so far:

That's Adventure Comics #274, from 1960. Superboy met a monster and... Yeah. That's about it.

This is, thus far, the most popular one I've done. Superman became a merman so he could marry Lori Lemaris. Except it was all a big prank to get Lois to marry some other sap. Which didn't work. Apparently, becoming a merman just made Superman that much more attractive.

The only non-Superman cover I've done (so far). But, if I had to do a non-Superman cover, what better one to do than this classic love triangle?

Superboy lost his memories. Sad day.

And, finally, Superman kissed Mighty Maid to fool the world into thinking he had fallen in love. PLOT TWIST: Mighty Maid was actually Supergirl in disguise. You know, his cousin. And yes, they really did kiss inside this comic. Ah, the 60s.

I intend to do a LOT more of these. Hope you liked them!


PS: If you go subscribe to my tumblr, you'll see these pretty much as I finish them. And other things I make or like.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey! It's Thanksgiving time!
Yeah, you better run, Tom. Especially if you're being chased by these guys:

So, anyway, I recorded a video for this occasion...

Excelsior and Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Day My Wife Did Better At Predicting Once Upon A Time's Big Surprise.

As you might know, I'm a bit of a TV junkie.

As you may not know as well, my wife and I have been watching Once Upon A Time religiously since the first episode premiered. Through thick and thin, we've waded through frustrating reveals, amazing surprises, and all the greatness in between.

And I've usually been pretty good at predicting things (outside of August. And Frankenstein. Ok, maybe I haven't been as good as I thought.)

At any rate, for last night's episode, I wasn't nearly as good as I usually am. But my wife was, and holy cow, did she ever predict the big reveal like a boss.

So, in case you don't remember:


Peter Pan is Rumple's dad. This is fairly par for the course, I guess, considering that everybody in Storybrooke is related to everybody else about three or four different ways. Those family trees are as intertwined as a crazy horticulturalist's experiment. But, the Peter Pan reveal was probably the best of the season. And it makes the most sense, IMHO. However, if we find out that Peter somehow is also Charming's baby daddy or something, well then things will get really weird. And normal for Once.
Anyway, kudos to my wifeypoo for seeing it coming.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

And Fish Goes Blub, But What Do Other Authors Say? (Blurbs)

Hey, all! I've read many a post on other's websites about the excitement that comes with receiving blurbs for your book, but I have to say, words can't really express just how cool it is. Sure, my book is still a year away, but thankfully, some blurbs have been coming in and I'm so super flattered and excited!

First from the incredible Stuart Gibbs, author of Spy School and Belly Up (and you should really pick those books up, because they're top notch!):
"The Troubles of Johnny Cannon is a gripping novel, filled with great characters and big ideas. Johnny Cannon is a touching, fascinating hero with a wonderfully original voice, and through him, Isaiah Campbell tells an engrossing tale set against the backdrop of both the Civil Rights movement and the Bay of Pigs Invasion. I don't wish any more troubles upon poor Johnny, but I wouldn't mind reading another few novels with him, either."
 Wow, so amazing!

Next up is one of my favorite authors (and maybe a cousin or something. She's from Texas too, and she spent half her academic career learning music, just like I did. So, yeah, we're related. I'm claiming it.) Claire LeGrand, author of The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and The Year of Shadows (and the super-exciting retelling of the Nutcracker coming out next year, Winterspell):
"Isaiah Campbell has given us something special with THE TROUBLES OF JOHNNY CANNON—a story of humor, mystery, and heart, of courage and friendship and what it means to be family, all told in the unforgettable voice of Johnny Cannon himself—a hero you won’t soon forget. This is a book that made me laugh and think, and had me cheering for Johnny at every turn. An ambitious and exciting read."
And finally (for now?) from KidLit MVP, Richard Peck, winner of an Edgar, the Scott O'Dell Award, and both a Newbery Honoree (for A Long Way from Chicago) and the Newbery Medalist in 2001 (for A Year Down Yonder):
"A boy with a highly original voice winces his way into the bewildering world of adults during a neglected moment in American history."
Yes, in case you were wondering, I am completely blown away and speechless. Yes, sort of like this:

Thanks to all of you and to the wonderful authors who have taken the time to read and blurb The Troubles of Johnny Cannon!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Congressional Hall of Shame

When Senator Boehner left the meeting of the House Republicans, he pumped his fist. He got the idea from 95% of Americans who have been shaking their fist at Congress for months now.
You may have heard that this 113th Congress is the least effective Congress since WW2. Which is true.

You may have also heard that they have the lowest approval rating since they started tracking it back in the 70s. Also true.

And you may have heard that this is the worst Congress we've ever had.
Yeah, as bad as this Congress is, I can tell you 10 more that are ahead of it in the Congressional Hall of Shame. Ready? OK, in chronological order:

The 2nd Congress:
It only took Congress one round of being decent before they descended into scumbagness. This is the congress that passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which deliberated the means and powers by which slaveholders might pursue and recover their escaped slaves. (Admittedly, the permission to do this was already given in the Constitution. So the Constitutional Congress might have been the first scumbags, but whatever.)

The 21st Congress:
Although the US government had already established themselves as racists, they had a long tradition of respecting the autonomous nations of the Native Americans in the southeast. Then the 21st Congress passed the Indian Removal Act and the Native tribes were forcibly removed and sent west. Why? Because they were making southern white folk uncomfortable. (You'll notice a trend here.)

The 31st Congress:
In an attempt to further appease Southerners and find a common ground, the 31st Congress passed a new Fugitive Slave Act. And this one made the first one look like Disneyland. Ok, maybe not Disneyland. But Six Flags. On a rainy day. With your disgusting cousin. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 gave even more power to the slaveowners and facilitated bounty-hunting into the north for escaped slaves. Or people who looked like escaped slaves. So basically all black people.

The 47th Congress:
So we've proven our hatred to blacks and Native Americans, right? Who else do we hate. Oh, yeah, those dadgum Chinese people. The 47th Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion act, which closed American borders to Chinese Immigrants. Admittedly, the Page Act had already done some of this work by eliminating anarchists, drug dealers, and prostitutes (read: Chinese Women), but the Chinese Exclusion act nipped the "problem" in the bud.

The 49th Congress:
Not until the 107th Congress would America see this record broken: the 49th Congress passed two acts that violated the rights of humans. The Dawes Act, which attempted to repartition and eliminate land owned by Native American tribes and open up more land to settlement, and the Edmunds-Tucker Act (which I talked more about here) Way to go, Congress!

The 52nd Congress:
Wait, why are there still Chinese people here? Let's pass another act! The Geary Act required Chinese residents to carry a resident permit at all times or risk deportation or a year of hard labor. It also took away their rights to be a witness in a trial and their rights to post bail. That'll learn them, right?

The 64th Congress:
Ok, this one is hard, because the 64th Congress passed a lot of really good acts and did a lot for the people of the Philippines and Puerto Rico. But they also passed the Immigration act of 1917 which prohibited entry to our country for: homosexuals, idiots, epileptics, all persons mentally or physically defective, and anyone illiterate over 16. Because apparently we already had enough idiots here.

The 74th Congress:
I guess we should cut these guys some slack. After all, they were still trying to recover from the Great Depression and hoped to avoid getting involved in any international conflicts. Still, the Neutrality Act of 1935 (and also of 1936) which classified both sides of the conflict between the Axis powers and their victims as "belligerents" sent a clear message to the world. Until somebody bombs us, we really don't give a-

The 104th Congress:
Thirty years without too many huge issues. Not bad! And Americans still haven't fully agreed whether or not this next act was bad or not, but the Supreme Court has decided. And the Defense of Marriage Act stands as yet another move by congress to limit human rights. And, sure, maybe you don't agree with gay marriage. But, given Congress's track record, do you really want those guys defining marriage at all? Come on, America, get your head out of your butt.

The 107th Congress:
And here we have it, the second Congress that passed two acts that severely hurt the humans in their care: the US PATRIOT Act, which...I probably don't have to explain, and the No Child Left Behind act, which most teachers and educators agree has hurt schools and students far more than it's helped.

So, yeah, it's super frustrating that this Congress hasn't done very much while they've been in office. But it could be worse. They could actually try doing something.

Friday, September 13, 2013

How to Adapt Your Novel Into a Screenplay Pt. 2: Planning and Pre-Writing

Welcome back to “Hating Yourself and Everything You’ve Ever Created.” Or, if you’re just joining us, “How to Adapt Your Novel Into a Screenplay.” Yeah, those two statements are synonymous.

If you haven’t read my first post about the challenges of adapting your own work into a screenplay, you probably ought to. If for no other reason, it’ll buy my some time to finish writing this article. So go check it out!

Ok, you’re back and I’m done typing. Now, let’s prepare to do the preliminary, pre-writing work that’s necessary in adapting your own work. (Or anyone else’s work, really, but yours especially)
  1. Determine what your book is about and state it in one sentence. And your sentence ought to be able to fit this little MadLib: Set in (SETTING), (TITLE) is about a (CHARACTER DESCRIPTION) who must overcome/defeat/solve (MAJOR OBSTACLE) in order to accomplish (CHARACTER’S OVERALL GOAL). Yeah, this is pretty hard to do, but you wrote it, right? Nobody should be able to do this better than you. So do it!
  2. Read your book and mark every scene that does not meet every single facet of your sentence synopsis. So the only scenes that should be unmarked are scenes involving your protagonist fighting the obstacle to accomplish the goal. Do you need to rework your sentence a little to include a few more scenes in the beginning? That’s fine as long as you’re purposeful about it and don’t make the obstacle too vague. (Remember, the obstacle will usually be the main antagonist, so every scene should involve the protagonist struggling against the antagonist, even if the protagonist doesn’t know they’re fighting the antagonist yet.
  3. Take the remaining unmarked scenes and mark duplicate scenes. In other words, if two scenes involve similar action, or similar struggles, but they have different character development or different subplots, mark those up. You only need one of those scenes, if you need it at all.
  4. Label the remaining unmarked scenes and organize them into an outline. Now, read through your outline and see if any important steps of the story have been left out. (Check out the five plot point model and ask yourself if all five points are represented adequately in this outline) If any points are missing, or if any points are bloated, mark those points for your immediate attention.
  5. For missing plot points, return to your marked scenes and find the absolute best scene that accomplishes the goal of the missing plot point. Add that to your outline.
  6. For bloated plot points, look at the scenes in your outline that correspond to that point and pick out only the scene that best accomplishes the goal of that plot point. Eliminate the others.
  7. Finally, read through your outline and ask yourself if you have a cohesive visual story. Are there any points where the action, goals, or anything else are confusing because of missing information? The information might be missing because of one of your deleted scenes, or it might be missing because it wasn’t represented visually in your book. Make a note of these issues. You’ll have to write new scenes or new elements to scenes in order to bring clarity to your story.

All right, that’s some pretty good pre-planning  and you have a functional outline to follow as you now write these scenes into a screenplay. We’ll talk about how to do that in the next post. Link will be right here.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

How to Adapt Your Own Novel Into a Screenplay (or how to hate yourself effectively)

Considering most of us in the KidLit community view Rowling as our Apostle, preceding us all into realms of amaze-balls, it’s safe to say that we shall all be working on screenplay adaptations of our own novels in the next decade or so. (Suzanne Collins sort of beat us to the punch, I suppose. But she was a screenwriter beforehand, so she had an unfair head start.)

Good thing for me, I’ve already got you all beat. Good thing for you, I’m going to tell you how to do it.

First some background: I’ve been pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing and had a bit of a conundrum regarding my final thesis project. I’m in a different place professionally than the other students in my program (having a book on its way down the publishing pipeline does that for you), so my choice was a bit more complicated. Then my professor suggested that, if I had retained the film rights to the book (which my amazing agent made sure we did), I could write a screenplay adaptation of my book as my thesis.

Could my life be any more perfect? I mean, I’ve already written the darn thing. How hard could adapting it to a screenplay be?

Turns out, very very very hard. Very hard.

See, writing a novel is a daunting task. Writing a screenplay is a very-different-but-equally-daunting task. Adapting a novel into a screenplay is yet another very-different-but-very-daunting task. Adapting your own novel? Not a challenge I would wish on anybody.

But you’re here because you wish it upon yourself, right?

Ok, then here’s what we’ll do. First let’s examine what exactly the challenges are. Then, in the next blog post, we’ll examine how you go about conquering those challenges and the pre-writing tasks you have to accomplish first. Finally, we’ll cover some basic rules of screenwriting, point you in the direction of some helpful software to take care of the formatting oddities, and hopefully get you on the road to adapting your novel into the next Oscar winning screenplay.

First, what are the challenges of adapting the novel into a screenplay?

  1. Going from a literary medium to a visual medium. A novel is a multi-layered, multi-dimensional exploration of a story and of the language in which it’s written.  A movie (or television program) is a visual representation of the story in a single dimension, and only that which can be seen can be conveyed.  All that great inner monologue, those really fun turn of phrases and symbolic selection of words inside the narrative? Forget all of it. You won’t be able to use it at all. Which, in my case, meant over half of my novel was unusable.
  2. Eliminating subplots, sideplots, and rabbit trails. Your book, which might seem rather short when you look at it now that you’ve cut out so much and revised so much, is way too long for a movie. My book is 250 pages inside a word document. My screenplay (which runs a little long at the moment) is 110. Yep, that’s over half of my book sliced away. And, considering one page of screenplay is probably only worth about a half a page of prose, you need to kill two-thirds – three-quarters of the darn thing. Which means you’re going to be throwing out just about every single thing that isn’t your main plot. Those really cool character arcs you made for your supporting cast? Kill them. The scenes that function mainly as character development but don’t necessarily propel the plot? Kill them. Kill it all. Which brings us to
  3. Killing everyone’s darlings. If you thought it was hard to kill your little darlings when you were writing the book, imagine the difficulty once the book has been read and enjoyed by others and now you have to kill parts that everybody really likes. And, of course, be prepared for all those people to complain about it. And hate you for it. And throw things at you. And the person that will be the most angry with you? Yeah, you you guessed it, and that's the biggest challenge of all.
  4. Preparing to hate yourself. Seriously, you’ve been in that group of people who watch a movie and complain that something was changed from the book, right? And you’re like, “that’s not how it happened! What the crap, did they even read the book?” Yeah, you’re going to have to make those exact same sacrifices yourself. Because what works amazingly in a book probably won’t work all that well on screen. And when you start weighing the benefits of being true to your manuscript versus actually being able to sell the screenplay? Yeah, if you were going to choose your integrity, you wouldn’t have started adapting the book in the first place. Make the change, give yourself a moment of self-loathing, and then move on.

All right, that’s the first of it all. I’ll follow up with post number two in which we’ll examine how you plan and pre-write your adaptation to save yourself headaches later on. Link will probably be here.

(Image Credit: Daniel Ogren [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Real Time Story

I wrote a (very) short story today and decided to let you read it in real time (ie. as I wrote it).
Here it is:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Catching up on current events...

Wow! There's been a lot of things happening in the world recently and, sadly, I've been silent about them. So, to catch everyone up to speed, here's my take on events that have set the interwebs a-twitter.

  1. Batffleck - Ben Affleck as Batman. WHAT?!?!?!? It's funny how, just a few months ago, we were all screaming about how snubbed Ben was by the Oscars (Argo - Best Director. Anybody? No? Ok.) and now we can only remember him for Daredevil and Gigli. I mean, come on. Before Heath Ledger was the Joker he was Jacob Grimm, a role we all wish we could forget.
  2. Orson Scott Card - WHAT?!?!?!?!? I'd like to take a moment and write an open letter to Hollywood: Dear People With Money, All novelists are not crazy and most of us would actually LIKE to see a movie adaptation of our book succeed. Signed: Isaiah Campbell (ps. contact my agent for those movie rights you're obviously looking for.)
  3. The NSA - WHAT?!?!?!? Come on, guys, if you're going to throw the conspiracy theorists a bone, at least warn the writing community first. Spread the wealth, man. Now if only they'd tell us Area 51 exists.
  4. Area 51 is real - WHAT?!?!?!?!? Dang it! I don't even have a good alien story lying around to send to my agent. Come on! Advanced warning! Please!
  5. Twinkies are back - WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!? It's strange how I haven't wanted a Twinkie in at least twenty years but now I crave them every time I go to the store.
Alright, I think that about covers everything. Keep on keeping on, Internet. DFTBA. Excelsior. Stay classy. And, from all of us here at Metro News One, have a good evening.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dissect This Query...Learn From My Mistakes.

Ok. This is going to be embarrassing. Seriously, really embarrassing. But, because I care about you, I'm going to do it anyway.

Like a non-perfect body who poses for a life-drawing class (and, let me tell you, I've seen some interesting non-perfect bodies that have made for very perfect drawings), or like a person with a rare condition who allows his surgery to be viewed by students, so here I am presenting to you this imperfection of my own.

Eww, no. Not that.

No, I'm going to show you my first Query letter. My failed first query letter. For my failed first book. There's also a failed synopsis and the failed first ten pages. All that is below.

But, if you're going to read this and learn from it, you have to do something. Something to let me know you're using it to learn. Let me know you just might take something away from this you can use.

You have to comment and tell me what's wrong with it. Any part of it. From the query to the synopsis to the ten pages. Pick it apart. Show why it failed.

Not for my sake. I've got an awesome agent (Marietta Zacker of the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency, in case you hadn't heard) and I've sold a book to Simon & Schuster (Coming out next year from BFYR. The Troubles of Johnny Cannon). So, literally, I've got nothing to lose here.

But you have so much to gain. And do you know why?

Because it's not a terrible query letter. It's not obviously bad. In fact, it actually got a few bites from a few agents. But, in the end, it just wasn't good enough. And I'm betting that's what's been happening with your queries too. They're not bad, but they're just not good enough.

So, tear mine apart so yours can do better.

Ok? Ready?


Dear [AGENT],

I've been following you on twitter for a while, and always enjoy your insight into the publishing world. Since you are actively seeking fantasy titles, I think you'll be interested in my contemporary fantasy, INCANTO: A FAIRY TALE.

The island city of Incanto is a tourist haven for three reasons: You
can see Swan Lake performed by mermaids down at the beach; you can buy
an ounce of Pixie Dust, albeit illegally, for less than $50; and, if
you’re lucky, you can get your picture taken with Noah Emmaus, GQ’s
“Sexiest Executive of the Year,” CEO of Emmaus Petroleum.

After an Emmaus off-shore oil rig is attacked by a sea serpent, Noah
races to regain the public’s favor and the investor’s confidence in
his leadership. To do that, he’ll have to squelch an uprising of the
“Wicked Lady Cult”, led by his ex-fiancée, Melia Karnier. But then the
cult blows up all of the other rigs, the Wicked Lady herself turns up
in the basement, and the inhabitants of the city institute their own
martial law. Now Noah is forced to break an essential axiom of
business. He’s going to have to live by the sword.

INCANTO: A FAIRY TALE is an urban fantasy, complete at 85,000 words. It
is a stand-alone novel, although I have plotted out a sequel and have
ideas for a third installment. I have worked primarily as a
scriptwriter, with four plays reaching full production, and as a
freelance book and music reviewer for various magazines, most recently
OnCourse, a magazine for teenagers. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
I have inserted the synopsis and first five pages below.

Best wishes,
Isaiah Campbell


The island city of Incanto was once a hotspot for tourists, with its Leprachaun theaters, Gnome restaurants, and ever present beauty of the Merfolk dancing in the water. But with the increase of the Mixie gangs (half-breed Pixies) and the Giant mafia, along with the expansion of Emmaus Petroleum, the city has become a hellhole of corruption and violence. When an off shore oil rig is attacked by a sea serpent, the citizens can’t help but wonder if this is the catalyst for the change they need. Or, better yet, the revolution.

NOAH EMMAUS, the Dust-addicted CEO of Emmaus Petroleum, is given an ultimatum by his board, he has to figure out why their rig was attacked and regain the investors trust, or he’ll be forced to take a leave of absence and watch his family company be run by a cowboy from Houston with distaste for the city. This comes on the cusp of Noah’s big idea, expanding the company into the currently illegal Pixie Dust industry. Without full leadership and the board’s approval, Noah knows his dream may never become reality. Reluctantly, he heads off to New Orleans to end the PR nightmare and put everything back on track.

While he is dealing with the company problem, Noah’s administrative assistant and ex-fiancée, MELIA KARNIER, a Mixie who is half-Mer, finds herself in a different kind of predicament. Her new boyfriend, ALEC, is a major player in the Mixie social circles, a world that she’s never been exposed to. As she witnesses the violence and repression the Mixie’s endure, and traces much of that back to the Emmaus family itself, she feels compelled to fight for the rights of her people. When she hears whispered references to a “Wicked Lady Cult,” she decides to join them and commit to their plans, whatever they may be.

Melia discovers that the Wicked Lady everyone speaks of, MEDOUSA, is being held captive in the basement of the Emmaus office building, and apparently has been for hundreds of years. She also is informed that she is Medousa’s long lost daughter. Because of this, the cult informs her of their biggest plan, a blow that will bring the Emmaus family to its knees and, hopefully, force them to release Medousa.  She cautiously agrees if they will permit her to speak with Noah first.

Noah is relishing the fact that his quest to solve the PR problem went very well. Although he did get caught doing Dust at a festival, and had to spend a few hours in jail, he was able to spread a positive message to the media and regain the trust of the investors. When Melia approaches him to discuss the issues, he’s more interested in using his successful momentum to regain her affections. Unfortunately, while they are talking, the cult decides to execute their plan: they detonate bombs planted on every Emmaus oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Noah is scrambling to find a solution to the massive oil spill that is resulting from the attack, and also tries to find who he can peg the blame on. Alec convinces both Noah and Melia that the attack was a rogue decision by the Giants, and that the Mixies had nothing to do with it. With the help of Melia, Alec convinces Noah that the best way to fix the oil spill is to release Medousa, who can then save the ocean with her powers.  After they release her, Noah takes Medousa to the site of one of the rigs, where she tries to kill him and uses an incantation to resurrect a hydra, sleeping on the ocean’s floor.

With Medousa released, it is time for the Mixies and the Wicked Lady Cult to finally come together, and Melia has been put in charge. However, her attempts at a peaceful protest are thwarted when they attack the city police and have to go into hiding, now wanted and hunted by the law.  When Medousa finally arrives, she disappoints Melia and enables the Mixies and the Cult to increase their violence and overthrow the government.

Noah is rescued from the hydra by the sea serpent and some Merfolk and taken back to the city, where he learns that Medousa can only be stopped by the Emmaus family, and the only way to stop her is to kill her. With the hydra soon approaching and the revolution rumbling, he makes his way to the place she is hiding to do his duty. He’s captured and Melia rescues him, an act which incurs the wrath of Medousa.

Finally, with Melia’s life in the balance and the hydra at the edge of the city, Noah succeeds in killing Medousa and rescuing Melia. The city, upon seeing the threat of the hydra, bands together in unity to fight. They destroy the hydra, Noah is finally hailed as the city’s hero, and Melia reveals that she is still in love with him.

Chapter 1
Friday – Noah’s Penthouse Apartment – 4:45 AM
            You have to be a man of high principles to run an oil business.
            That's why Noah didn’t answer his cell the first two times it rang, because of principle. It had nothing to do with the lines of shimmering Dust he was snorting. And it had nothing to do with the old photo album he was looking through, even though every picture made him pour out a little more Dust and snort it up a little harder. No, the reason he ignored every buzz that came from his BlackBerry was his principles.
            In spite of his high standards, when the phone rang a third time, he finally looked at the caller id and answered.
            “What?” He wiped his nose and picked up one of the photos.
            “Have you seen the news?” It was Melia, his personal assistant, the face smiling at him in the photo. Once upon a time she’d also been his fiancée. That was a long, long time ago.
            “There's news at this hour? Are you sure it's not a rerun?”
            “This is serious. I hate to be the one to tell you-”
            “Then don’t. That's why they make the news, so good people like you don't have to tell me anything.”
            “No, Noah, this can’t wait. There’s been a problem with one of the rigs. The new one.” Normally this wouldn’t be news. New rigs always had problems. The fact that this was news, that was unsettling.
“What happened?” He stood up and walked over to his entertainment unit, fumbling around for the remote.
            “It’s been attacked.”
            “Greenpeace again?” He found the remote and flipped on the sixty inch TV he had on the wall. He began to scan through the channels.
            “No, it was Dennissa.”
            The Dennissa? Star of stage, screen, and children's television?”
            “And hero of her own family themed water park, yep. That's the one.” Melia paused, letting it sink in. “We don't even know yet how she got out, but she attacked the rig.”
            Noah finally found the news and watched in silence as the video of the coast guard rescuing his workers played out in front of his eyes. Then he began to laugh.
            “Noah! Are you high? This is serious.”
            He rubbed his eyes. “No, yeah, totally serious. It's just funny; I thought I was done being rejected by women. Turns out I forgot to consider the sea-faring creatures. So, why are you awake right now? I thought you’d be as wasted as I am.”
            “I … couldn’t sleep. Please, focus.”
            “Right.” He turned his television off. “Well, there’s not much we can do right now, is there? It looks like the rescuers are doing their job, which I’m sure will cost me a pretty penny. Not that it isn’t worth it, God bless our boys in blue. Or green, whatever.”
            “I’ve already gotten two calls from members of the board. They insisted on a meeting this morning, to discuss this whole thing.”
            “But it’s Friday. We have a meeting scheduled on Monday. I don’t do meetings on Fridays.” He turned his light off and lay down.
            “Here’s a surprise, you actually do have meetings on Fridays. And Jack Harper-“
            “I hate Jack.”
            “Yes, I know. He said something about ‘Young people like to sleep in.’ It’s a good thing you’re proving him wrong.”
            “Mm-hm.” His eyes were closed.
            He jolted up. “What?”
            “You need to handle this. It’s your company, and your board wants you to do your job.”
            He turned his light back on. “Fine, I’ll be there. But I must warn you. I’m going to be cranky.”
            “My heart bleeds for you. See you at eight.”
            “Thirty. Or nine. Maybe.” She had already hung up. He coaxed himself back out of his bed and went to the bathroom. He paused in front of the mirror, flexed his nearly-toned bicep, patted the three year old basketball championship tattoo on his shoulder, and jumped in the shower.
            A couple of hours later, after his morning yoga routine and a very tasty toaster pastry, he was out of his penthouse suite and driving a ’66 Jaguar through the streets of Incanto, the island city off the coast of Texas. He was merrily enjoying the downward spiral of a drug induced mood swing, and used the energy to bark into his Bluetooth and suck ferociously on a latte.
            He drove down the main strip, lined with casinos and theaters, where old country music singers and celebrity impersonators performed daily shows. These were relics of his grandfather’s days, when it was a seething pit of entertainment, fueled by the unique residents of the island. Noah could understand the appeal, after all, who wouldn’t want to see a choir of Bigs singing in their native tongue? Nevertheless, Noah did his part to clean up the area, buying blocks and blocks of decrepit theater real estate and transforming them into beautifully landscaped parking lots. Many of the remaining theaters were shutting down as the number of vacationing tourists diminished.
            Beyond that section was the city, like every other city in America. It had its gangs and drug dealers, or as Noah liked to call them, “Misplaced CEO’s.”  The Dust trade was growing, and the police force grew less interested in pursuing its players. Noah met with the Police Commissioner for golf once a month, and always reminded him that “the only difference between drugs and oil is the price per gallon.” They’d laugh together and reminisce at how time had changed the face of the community. Noah was proud that his family had pioneered that change.
            He pulled up to the front of the Emmaus Building, home to Emmaus Petroleum, the leading off-shore oil business in the US. He was used to seeing protesters lined up outside of his building, but there were more than usual today. The Mixies, the inter-racial subculture that preferred the label Pixies, were always looking for a chance to cause more trouble for his business. Most of them were gone five months out of the year working the state fairs and carnivals. When they were home, they had nothing better to do than come give him a headache. He wanted to run them over, but remembered what his mother taught him about Jesus and the Samaritans, and slowly inched through their crowd to the door.
 As they screamed their obscenities at him, he tossed his keys to the attendant and marched up to the door, wading through the sea of dirty clothes and foul language. Just to the side was Stoney, the blind Mer beggar who always sat there in a wading pool. Noah tossed a few coins into the water.
“Bless you, Mr. Emmaus. You are a saint.” Stoney’s raspy voice called after him.
Noah went into the massive lobby, a rotunda which served as a museum of Incanto history. Elaborate paintings hung on the wall, some of historical figures, others of amazing creatures. There was a statue in the center of the patron Emmaus, known affectionately as “Dad,” riding on the back of a sea serpent. The room was always a busy attraction.
This day, there were some school children on a field trip, some older tourists walking the perimeter for their health, and a few university students working on class projects. One teenage girl nudged her friend when Noah entered, recognizing him as GQ Magazine’s “Sexiest CEO of The Year.” He was yelling in his headset, loudly, so they acted like they hadn’t noticed him.
            The kindly old front desk lady, a Greenie, greeted him with her usual, “Top-o-th' mornin', Mr. Emmaus!” It was a greeting he did not return as he went directly to his private elevator and up to his office. She muttered into her newspaper, once the elevator doors had closed, “His momma never ignored an old Gnome’s greeting. What’s the world comin' to, I ask?”
            Up on the office floor, the elevator opened to a beautiful lobby, home to an exquisite aquarium, overstuffed leather couches, perfectly trimmed miniature palm trees, and where a massive desk was attended by Melia. She was a Mixie, and her petite frame and pretty face were the first things to finally distract Noah from his phone call, for the moment.
            She brushed her chocolate brown hair out of her almond brown face and offered a smile, which he couldn’t help but return. She grabbed his latte out of his hands while he resumed his tirade on the phone.
“Look, Ryan, I know your father isn't available. I've tried calling his phone five times this morning. I don't care what he’s doing; I need to talk to him!”
            Melia reached into her desk, pulled out a plastic baggie filled with glittery Dust, and put just a pinch inside his drink. Noah mouthed “thank you” to her, then took a sip of it. Instantly, his muscles relaxed.
            “All right, just give Captain Pryus a message for me. Tell him I need to know how she got out, and I need to know what he’s going to do to keep it from happening again. Got it?” He ended his call without an answer.
            Melia spoke. “You’re late. You know that’s not going to make it any easier.”
            “They’re already here?” he groaned. “Why do senior citizens do everything so early?”
            She pointed to the conference room. “They’re waiting for you. And Jack is in rare form. He mentioned sending you off to Austin for a month or so.”
            Noah smiled. “Ah, Jack. Ever the charmer. So, what else is going on today?”
            She gave him a puzzled look. “Nothing more pressing than meeting with your board about your oil rig. They’re waiting.”
            “They can wait a little longer. I need to get in the zone first. What else has happened?”
            She shrugged and looked at the sticky notes on her desk. “Karl called; he wants you to call him.”
            “Tell him to talk to Olaf.” He began to look through the e-mails on his BlackBerry.
            “He doesn't want to talk to Olaf.” She glanced at the screen of his phone. “He feels like he's getting the short end of the stick with Olaf.”
            He looked up. “That's physically impossible. We couldn't give Karl the short end of anything. He needs to deal with Olaf. Next.”
            She sighed and glanced at her computer screen. “The freshmen from Bartholomew High are coming by for a tour today. You're supposed to give them a motivational talk.”
            “You've rescheduled them three times already. It's your alma mater, your grandfather's namesake. Today's the day.”
            He paused, and then sheepishly smiled. “Ok, today's the day.” He looked back down at his phone. “Jeez, you're bossy.”
            She pushed some papers in front of him. “Sign these, for Alec.”
            He signed without looking at them. “Sure, anything for your boyfriend.”
            She fidgeted before she continued. “By the way, Jack said you were going to be making some kind of announcement today?”
            “I don’t know. What’s the announcement?”
            He shook his head, angrily. “I told Jack I didn’t want to make it until Monday. Today is premature.”
            “Jack doesn’t think so, apparently. What’s the announcement?”
“Can’t tell you. I’ve got to keep some level of romance in our relationship.” He flashed a grin. She looked away.
“Can you please go to the meeting now? And let me screen your e-mails for you. You know you’ll just get bored with it all.”
            He turned to walk toward the conference room, then stopped. “Hey, Mel, there's an email here from you.”
            Her shoulders sank, and then she tried to act nonchalant. “Oh, right, that was a mistake. Just delete it.”
            He turned back to her desk. “But it says 'Something I need to say, do not delete'.”
            She reached out and put her left hand over the screen. “Noah. Delete it. Promise me you will.”
            “Alright, I will.” He looked down at her hand and noticed a diamond ring. He looked back at her eyes.
            “Why are you wearing that?”
            She retracted her hand and covered it with her other.
            “No reason.” She said.
            “I thought you said you pawned it.” He searched her eyes for a hint of feeling. She gave him none.
            “I was going to. I never got around to it.” She began shuffling through some papers on her desk.
            “Maybe because there’s still some-“
            “Stop.” She slammed her hand on her desk. “It’s over, Noah. I’ve moved on, now you need to, too. So, hurry. Jack’s waiting.” She delivered that entire speech while staring down at her desk.
            He nodded and walked into the conference room.
            Jack was pointing at the screen behind him, speaking emphatically. “All I’m saying is, we’ve had twenty years with no problems. Now we’re gettin’ attacked by some stinkin’ endangered species. And the environmentalists are havin’ a heyday. That doesn’t seem like the vision I bought into, am I alone here?”
            The board – a couple of Bigs, a Mer, and a few Humans - was one of the most diverse groups in the city. Yet they all nodded in agreement. As Noah looked at the video looping behind Jack, he couldn't really blame them. There was something very unsettling about seeing a sea serpent tearing into an oil rig that would make anyone squeamish.
            He muttered to himself. “Another Friday, off to a fine start.”