Sturgeon’s Law in Action

Here’s the blurb from’s latest tweet/ad for a novel they just published (review provided, of course, by Locus Magazine):

“What if Gandalf were…a second-class science bureaucrat
anxious not to contaminate the societies he is studying?
…What if Frodo were a 16-year-old princess?”


Me to the Reviewer: “Well, I guess I’d just be goddamned confused, mostly.”

I mean—hey, who knows (I sure can’t tell from that pitch)—maybe it’s a fine book? But if I think too much about the kind of a world we live in where THAT’S how you’re supposed to sell it? That’s when I start to despair…

Time To Walk The Walk: RIP, Andrew Vachss (b. 1942) and RIP, 2021

The Universe™ really does have a way of showing you, doesn’t it?

Only a few hours ago, I was still swimming in my typical holiday/year-end blues. This year it was exaserbated by the ongoing End of the World™ (which—spoilers—turns out to be equal parts: environmental collapse, plague, and impending fascism) and I was topping it all off by fretting that I lacked the impetus to publish some kind of “2021 Wrap-up” blog post. Because, you know, the only thing better than a diary entry as self-therapy is feeling guilty for not doing one!

And, just as for many others, for me this was all amplified by the dread arrival of 2022; this is because, like the joke goes, it always looks darkest right before it goes completely black. 

Then I was forcibly refocused: I found out that one of my personal heroes, the great Andrew Vachss, had just died.

So, at least now I know my topic.

Andrew Vachss, HS Senior, 1960.

It isn’t an overstatement to say the man’s life was a study in heroism. During his formative young adult years—before becoming an attorney who represented strictly abused children—he held other front-line positions in child protection. He was a humanitarian aid activist in the Biarfran War, an U.S. Federal Investigator for STD tracking, and also a New York City social-services caseworker. He started and ran a self-help center for urban migrants in Chicago and directed a max-security prison for violent juvie offenders.

That was where he got the meat for his 1973 novel A Bomb Built in Hell. It was rejected by every publisher, one of whom described it as a “political horror story.” Others berated it for its “lack of realism”. But, get this:

…The subject matter was a child who entered his high school for the purpose of killing everyone. 

Continue reading “Time To Walk The Walk: RIP, Andrew Vachss (b. 1942) and RIP, 2021”

A Thought About OPOV

I dunno…too harsh? Naw!

Anyone in the #writingcommunity who believes that Omniscient POV within scenes—sans any commentary from the invisible narrator—(also known as, gasp, ‘head-hopping’) is inherently *bad* or archaic, should read just about any chapter (including the opening) of the novel Her Fearful Symmetry from Audrey Niffenegger (2009).*

And then, respectfully, they should STFU about it.

Per Brandon Sanderson:

“The last, and this is the hardest to do, but it is brilliant when it works. This is the Dune style. True, power omniscient, which is where you come in and say, ‘I’m going to withhold no information from the reader. I am going to show everyone’s thoughts. I am going to head hop.’ So in a given paragraph, you are limited. That’s it. Next paragraph could be another character’s viewpoint and thoughts, and jumping from person to person to person in a given scene.” (emphasis added)

Best, _Mark

*-And yes, I’m aware that Ms. Niffenegger herself describes her POV as ‘Close Third-Person, with shifting characaters’. But, that is playing semantics, in my opinion. Anytime you are telling a story by going inside the head of multiple characters, that is an omniscient narrator, since only an omniscient narrator could do that.

Consider, GRRM’s Song of Fire and Ice, which has THIRTY-TWO different point-of-view characters through five novels. Do we still call that “limited third-person”? I call bullshit.

For the record, Sanderson draws the line at changing viewpoints within a scene as being the demarcation point. If you are doing that, you are in omniscient. If it is one viewpoint per scene, it’s third-person limited.

As Second Acts Go…

Well, phase two of my life is complete. To wit:

i) (Most importantly) Both of my sons are now grown adults, firmly established in initial careers and thriving on their own.
ii) I’ve wrapped up all of my TO-DOs from my previous professional career(s); and
iii) I have also finished the initial output of my creative writing practice. In just two-and-a-half years I’ve created an indie publishing company and released two works, an epic novel and a comic.

My anthology comic, “Wondrous Stories Comics” is available on Drive-Thru Comics (, free for a limited time. If you like silver/bronze age collections of tales of the weird and fantastical, it might scratch that itch. I worked with nearly a dozen artists, who were from 5 different countries on three different continents. And one of its stories introduces my neurodivergent hero, THE PRECEPT. Here’s what one of the most respected writers in the comic industry says about my creation.

“”Not a dream, not what you’re expecting, but what you need.
The Precept is the start of something special by Mark Harbinger. Get in on it now.”
— Ron Marz (DC/Marvel/Image/Dark Horse)

The Precept

The Precept’s origin is told in my epic ‪#Fantasy novel, The Be(k)nighted—for sale wherever paperbacks are sold (NOTE: Seattle Book Review, Online Book Club, and Portland Book Review gave it 13 of 14 stars, combined).

Continue reading “As Second Acts Go…”

Epigraph #1 (the beginning of “The Becried Cycle”)

“Who can police us: we, who kill with a touch?
Do you really think you can redeem us, mad Warden?

Consider what I propose: you will be overrun by your charges.
Drowned by their desires, you will beg for death.

And when you ask me for help, I will say to you only:
Your failure becomes you—the future isn’t what it used to be.”

—The Regnant Lord, to The Precept