the Author

Social Distancing Journal 16: Short Story: The Law of Man

Posted in Books, Cast, download, Short Stories.

Well. Today, Word­Press upgraded to 5.5. This… broke things, for the first time since 2.x, on my site. Much of the morning, in which I intended to upload the latest short story (after format­ting, proofing, etc.) was stalled by the fact that the backend of my site wasn’t really working. (Jeremy Tolbert rescued me: he told me exactly what was broken – a plug-in. It’s upgraded and working now).

And then, to top it all off, when uploading the story to kindle, I uploaded the wrong story. I noticed this when uploading to Kobo, because the cover… was the last story’s cover T_T. I have not, however, thrown my computer out the window. Barely.

This short story was published in 1997, so written in 1996. It’s inter­esting to read it now; it was, of the many short stories, tonally and linguis­ti­cally the most natural to me or my sense of voice at the time. But it is not terribly modern in either of those senses.

As usual, you can read the story for free here. Or you can purchase it from any of the usual suspects listed on the story’s page, here.

In other news: I have finished the first draft of Cast in Conflict, the next Cast novel. I am working on the next West novel — which has gone through various revi­sions and multiple chapter ones — but it is not finished yet. It’s longer than the Cast novel, but as of yet unfin­ished. The next Sagara novel I am working on — although I might take a mental health break before I start it — will be the second Severn novel.


Toronto, like much of NA, is going through discus­sions about school and kids. As both of mine are no longer chil­dren, I don’t have the diffi­cult deci­sion to make (spoiler: I would have kept them home; the youngest because of autoim­mune PTSD (his autoim­mune problem, his moth­er’s PTSD) and the oldest because he kind of hated school.

But had that not been the case, I would prob­ably have risked it for the elemen­tary school — it’s neigh­bor­hood depen­dent, and our neigh­bor­hood has seen no new cases of covid-19 for three months. Other neigh­bor­hoods have, of course, and the Teachers and staff don’t neces­sarily live in our same neighborhood.

HOWEVER, we could make this deci­sion because there have been no new covid cases in our neigh­bor­hood for three months. Were we at the conta­gion level of most of the US, there’s no way we would have sent the kids back. Zero chance. As it is, no prepa­ra­tions have been made for social distancing in the school itself; the TDSB is in theory expected to open as normal.

Which it’s not. I have strong sympathy for parents strug­gling to make this deci­sion and strong sympa­thies for the teachers who are more at risk of death.


Your non-polit­ical state­ment for the day: the USPS is being destroyed — quickly — from the inside by its new post­master. Neces­sary medica­tions and cheques are being delayed by up to two weeks; they once arrived in a couple of days. Please, please, please make as much fuss as you can — those medications/cheques/supplies are going to people of any polit­ical persua­sion, and they are becoming collat­eral damage.

13 Responses to Social Distancing Journal 16: Short Story: The Law of Man

  1. michelle says:

    … or appar­ently not. Excuse me while I try to find out why my carriage returns have disap­peared and I now have a wall of text T_T

  2. Taylor says:

    This blog post looks normal to me right now, so maybe you fixed it?

    Anyway, I am super excited about the next Cast novel! If you do not mind my asking, when is it expected to release? I thought it would be January like the last one, but I have not been able to find anything on either Amazon or Goodreads.

  3. DeDe says:

    So frus­trated at the USPS problem! Doing my best to make my voice as annoying as possible.

  4. KW McCabe says:

    Just curious: Ephod you ever consider a short story or spin off series on Nightshade??

  5. KW McCabe says:

    Sorry for the typo! Cleaned up ques­tion here:

    Just curious: Would you ever consider a short story or spin off series on Nightshade??

  6. Joyce Ronquillo says:

    So, so, so looking forward to Cast in Conflict. Please write as fast as you sanely can. 

    Had to laugh at the toss-the-computer-out-the-window comment. I have many times threat­ened to teach my computer to fly.

    Michelle, I grow envious of y’all up there in the north country. You are certainly affected by our current insanity but are, at least, safe from the petty dictator we are currently afflicted with. The USPS situ­a­tion is grim.

  7. Liza Ismail says:

    I, too, do not have to make a deci­sion to send my kids to school. They are working (I thank god they still have a job). Here masks are mandated every­where (the moment you step out of your house) and schools have just reopened here too and have masks mandated, temper­a­ture checks, stag­gered hours for different grades and social distanced classes BUT when I see them in the school buses, some have no masks, no distance, it defeats what the schools have in place. kids are kids — they forget, they get impa­tient, they get lazy, they get excited meeting their friends after so many months, they hug and hang close together. Their inno­cence and absolute belief “it won’t happen to us” is part and parcel of them being kids. Let’s hope and pray that they will all still have that at the end of this.

  8. michelle says:

    @Taylor: I figured out what I’d done wrong with the updated plug-in that had broken — but my first attempt was just wall of text =/

    I don’t have a pub date for the next Cast novel. The Severn novel (Emper­or’s Wolves) is an October title, I think. But having finished the first draft of Cast in Conflict, it now has to be revised, submitted, read by editor, revised, submitted again, and then it heads off into Mira, where other things have to be done. I’ll ask, but — I don’t have a date yet.

  9. michelle says:

    @Dede: Go you!

    @KW: I didn’t *intend* to write a Severn novel. I didn’t really intend to write a Severn short, either — it came up out of the pixel project charity. And then it was Too Long. I think Night­shade would be inter­esting, but — there’s way way way too much life there, and much of his early life would be absolutely nothing like the Cast novels.

    At this point, I mostly want to write the magic school (i.e. Acad­emia), because: Robin, the 2 cohort, the former Arkon as Chan­cellor and Library space). But even that is out of reach atm because I have the 2nd Severn novel (under contract), and the next Cast novel (under contract) and the first 4 novels that comprise THE BURNING CROWN.

    And I admit that my concen­tra­tion has been slowly fraying as November approaches =/. Yes, not my country, not my polit­ical system, etc., etc., but, well. Writer brain.

    @Joyce: We have our own prob­lems; Canada has its polit­ical divi­sions and disagree­ments. But at this point, even the politi­cians I strongly disagree with are… not above the law, if that makes sense. But… in the US it always seemed to me that the USPS was iconic — larger than life, one of the things you don’t touch – and certainly not publicly.

  10. michelle says:

    @Liza: Right?

    I think about what we were like as kids in school, and also what we were like as first year univer­sity students — it seems so long ago! — and … people will be people. It’s much, much harder to navi­gate by a set a rules that don’t have the visceral weight they do to … older people. There is no way people are going to stay 6 feet apart, or, say, avoid social­izing in small groups, etc. 

    It’s not possible to expect that from chil­dren, but… I don’t think it’s possible to expect it from young adults, either — not realistically. 

    So my deci­sion process would be: zero cases in our neigh­bor­hood in 3 months. Staff doesn’t neces­sarily live *in our neigh­bor­hood*. Chil­dren are going to be chil­dren. What are the odds that things work out well?

    Covid-19 in Toronto (my city) is NOT gone. We’re not Iceland or NZ. And… even in NZ right now, there are still cases that crop up. Nothing in the under­lying funda­men­tals has changed. 

    Every inter­ac­tion is a roll of the dice; at the moment, given our infec­tion rates, the bad numbers are diffi­cult to reach — but you can hit the bad number without intent. 

    In Texas or CA or FL or AZ or… many states… where the cases in various neigh­bor­hoods are nowhere near zero, that’s not a roll of dice; that’s a guarantee.

    And I keep thinking of a) the teachers & staff and b) the parents. What happens to single parent fami­lies if the kids bring home covid and the *parent* dies or is hospi­tal­ized for weeks?

    Ummm, this might not be helpful, come to think =/

  11. Liza Ismail says:

    Yes, i was young when i learned the hard way that we are not invin­cible or somehow magi­cally protected from harm and stupid deci­sions and that in the end my parents were right.

    it doesn’t have to be a single parent family. If both parents fall sick (and there have been cases where both are lost). because i have girls i worry more. i have night­mares of not being there when they need me. if my husband and i die who will look after them, even if i have a close knit extended family. their deci­sions on my girls may not be a deci­sion i would make. they do not know my girls the way i know them. i think most parents feel this way.

    it used to be just about them coming home late — where are they? why don’t they call to tell me they are going to be late, why are they are not answering my calls/texts. who they are meeting/dating — do i know them? it may sound like it but i am so not a control­ling mom. my girls have accepted that even at 30 and 27 they will ALWAYS be my child. they know i worry and i think in these days and times you are crazy not to. now on top of that a sniffle a cough a slight temper­a­ture change is enough for me to be doctor mom. even though they are going out with masks and sani­tisers, they come back bathe etc etc, you can’t control the people they get into contact with during their work hours or on the way home on public transportation.

    Sorry, did not mean to vent but your remark about a parent dying trig­gered me, i guess.

  12. michelle says:

    @Liza: It’s fine. I admit that although mine are older, it is a thing I worry about: how do your kids recover from the guilt of knowing they brought home the thing that killed you? So — I totally under­stand that.

  13. Taylor says:

    @Michelle: No worries! I just assumed that Goodreads had not been updated. I will eagerly wait. And I have Severn’s book to look forward to! I cannot believe it is less than two months away now. 

    Also, a story about the Acad­emia would be really cool!

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