Shadow Element


A Solid Foundation for New Media

Writing a postcard is easy. But professional writing intended to either sell or teach is hard. Professional writing must be simple, clear, persuasive, and carefully tailored to its audience.

Writing a postcard is easy. But professional writing intended to either sell or teach is hard. Professional writing must be simple, clear, persuasive, and carefully tailored to its audience.
  1. Suddenly, Paris

    by Olga & Christopher Werby

    Julie Vorov thought her job was to do well in high school and stay out of trouble. She also thought her biggest problem was betraying her best friend by hooking-up with a traitorous boyfriend. But in a world where being human is just a matter of programming, everything changes.

    Suddenly, Julie finds herself allied with a scrappy group of alien scientists whose own world has already been destroyed. Together, they mount a clandestine effort to stop the Earth from also being eradicated. And Julie discovers that she’s the pivotal instability—the tipping point—in the plans of another group of aliens bent on invasion.

    As Julie battles to save everything she cares about, she uncovers secrets about her own origins that shatter the core of her beliefs. And she falls so deeply in love that the most extreme obstacles posed by loyalty, age, gender, species, and parents will have to be overcome.

    Your heart always recognizes the one you love.

    Mood Board for this book on Pinterest.

  2. Coding Peter

    by Olga & Christopher Werby

    Knowing that the world is a simulation doesn’t diminish the will to live. Even when the body is made from ones and zeros, the soul doesn’t feel any less real.

    In Coding Peter, the sequel to Suddenly, Paris, we learn more about the aliens who have altered the lives of the Vorov family. The URTs are a small band of scientists—the only survivors of a world simulation that no longer exists—who seek only to settle down quietly and unobtrusively in a new home. But contact with humans has led to accidents, misunderstandings, and deaths. A hundred years later, only a few of the alien refugees survive.

    Now Julie Orlov’s brother, ten-year-old Peter, is asked to take on the soul of a dying alien—for the good of his family, his alien ancestors, and the Earth itself. In doing so he will become more—but also, maybe less—than himself. It’s a lot to ask of a young boy, especially when the exact consequences to Peter are unknown, even by the aliens themselves.

    What Peter decides will change the fate of two civilizations—and maybe more…

    Mood Board for this book on Pinterest.

  3. Twin Time

    by Olga & Christopher Werby

    Alex and Sasha are twin sisters, physically identical down to their freckles. But the resemblance is only skin deep—Sasha is profoundly autistic, while Alex is not. Sasha can’t communicate and acts bizarrely, and the family revolves around her and her intense needs. Yet the aged, wealthy, and mysterious Aunt Nana seems to have a particular interest in both girls. Offering a helping hand, she encourages the family to move to San Francisco to be near her.

    When the young twins discover a tunnel in Nana’s tool shed, it leads them on a journey across the world and back 100 years in time. The tunnel is a pathway to the Firebird Estate, the home of their ancestors, located in rural Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century. Even more remarkable, through the effect that twisting time has on cognition, Sasha is not autistic when she’s at the Firebird Estate.

    Now, growing up in two strikingly different times and places, the twins must face their separate destinies among the ravages of the incipient Russian Revolution. Can they save their families on both sides of the tunnel? Can they simultaneously stay true to their own hearts, to each other, and to the people they left behind? Each sister must face her own personal challenge—but only together can they discover their own future within their family’s past.

    Mood Board for this book on Pinterest.

  4. Pigeon

    by Olga Werby

    Pigeon is eleven, homeless, and now an orphan. Alone and scared, he seeks to find a new family. But the past he barely remembers comes back to haunt him, endangering his newly-found friends, the Kikkert Family. Fortunately, the Kikkerts want to adopt Pigeon even if he is wanted by strange para-military DNA warriors. As they race through San Francisco to save each other, the true nature of Pigeon’s birth is revealed as well as the secret identity of Madam Toad—the matriarch of the Kikkert Family.

    What does is mean to be human? What does it take to be a family? Pigeon is willing to risk his life to learn and to love.

    Mood Board for this book on Pinterest.

  5. The FATOFF Conspiracy

    by Olga Werby

    Transdimensional Industries gave the world a technical solution to the obesity epidemic—eat more than you want, and store all the extra in their fat storage tanks conveniently located outside our set of dimensions. Complete gluttony without sacrificing beauty or health…for a price.

    You can be rich and buy a thin body. You can be poor and lucky enough to get government assistance with your personal fat storage—Federal Assistance with Transdimensional Offloading of Fat and Flab. Or you can win the TITS lottery—a lifetime of free blubber storage in the Transdimensional Industries’ tanks where all humanity’s fat is stored. Thin people live well, have high paying jobs, and wield all of the social and political power and prestige while consuming unlimited quantities of food as mandated by the government. Fat people? They don’t do so well.

    Mood Board for this book on Pinterest.

  6. Becoming Animals

    by Olga & Christopher Werby

    Humans have always wanted to know what goes on inside the minds of other animals. But what if humans could become animals? Toby’s father leads a team of neuroscientists directly connecting the brains of humans with those of animals. And Toby is a prodigy at throwing her mind into the animal subjects in his lab—she’s the best there is.

    But Toby suffers from cystic fibrosis and she’s not likely to live into adulthood. Could a radical plan to embed her consciousness into an animal allow Toby to survive? And what does it mean to live without a human body?

    Can Toby and her father solve the problem of fully merging two beings before she takes her last breath? Will the government succeed in stopping their efforts before they are done? It’s a race against death and into the minds of animals.

    Mood Board for this book on Pinterest.

  7. Lizard Girl & Ghost

    by Olga Werby

    A child lies dying. To save her, to preserve some of her identity, memories need to be retrieved from her avatar—Lizard Girl. Jude’s dad is using a cyber reality game to recover some of his sick girl’s memories in an attempt to restore brain function. The avatar’s personality patterns help patch the holes in Jude’s brain ravaged by the disease.

    But what becomes of a virtual mind left to roam in cyberspace after its host falls sick? The Far Cinct is a cyber city forbidden to school kids and average citizens. The Far Cinct is where rogue entities go to hide and to innovate and to die. It’s where illegal cyber enhancements and compulsions are sold to those who have the money and the connections to find them. But that’s cyberspace for you—nothing is ever what it appears to be on the surface.

    As Jude’s consciousness starts to slip, her cyber awareness gains independence. What is a girl’s avatar without her human? Can consciousness and identity be tied up in a digital world without the wet works of a human body? Jump into the world of weird and surreal, and as you journey to look for memories of a sick girl, you might accidentally discover a virtual soul of her avatar.

    Mood Board for this book on Pinterest.

  8. Harvest

    by Olga Werby

    Almost a century after the Keres Triplets asteroid impact and subsequent nuclear exchange nearly ended all human life on Earth, a strange artifact is discovered on one of the moons of Saturn. Who should be sent to the outer reaches of the solar system to initiate first contact with an alien culture?

    Dr. Varsaad Volhard, an evolutionary-socio-historian, is chosen to help the world understand the alien civilization that left an artifact some thirty thousand years ago, before humans even learned to farm, at a time when other human species still walked the earth.

    While Vars prepares for the mission, her father, Dr. Matteo Volhard, discovers nanobots among the microplastics he studies. The bots are everywhere and seem to have been created to bond with human cyber implants. Why?

    Matteo is made to keep his discovery a secret…as well as his and his daughter’s true origins. Both were donated to a Human DNA Vault as babies. Matteo was raised as a Seed before leaving with his young daughter to study ecology around the world.

    Who knows what? Who is in control? How does one communicate with non-human intelligence?

    People seem to die in gruesome ways as their cyberhumatics go haywire on Earth and on Luna and Mars colonies. Is Earth under attack or is it all just a cosmic misunderstanding?

    Vars needs to use all she knows to solve the mystery of the ancient civilization on Mimas, as her dad battles the alien nanobots at home.

    Mood Board for this book on Pinterest.

  9. God of Small Affairs

    by Olga Werby

    Jon Uolan is the grandson of First Nation tribe elder. His assignment is to bring home a god. Not the omnipresent god or the cosmological god that started the Big Bang, but rather an everyday kind of god that lives among her people, the god of small affairs, Ay-Tal Blue.

    An easy assignment turns into a nightmare when Ay-Tal gets shot and Jon becomes a suspect in a murder investigation. While Jon is in prison, a huge earthquake and tsunami wipe out his home village. His grandfather dies in the disaster. With his people scattered and living apart, the whole tribe might cease to exist. The new generation just is not interested in the old tribal ways. Ay-Tal is no longer there to help and guide them.

    What is Jon to do? How will a new path into the future shape the people who got mixed up with a god of small affairs?

    “God of Small Affairs” is a slightly twisted mystery tale set in the small mid-Western town of Wilkins, told from the perspective of a man who is a cultural stranger there, who learns to find comfort and give love back to people in need, both his and those that reside in Wilkins. It’s a bit of a horror story, a bit of fantastical science fiction, and a take on what the world would be like if one could talk directly to a god, even if that god was only interested in micro-management.

    Mood Board for this book on Pinterest.

  10. Good Girl

    by Olga Werby

    Spaceflight AI Aide SAIA has one main job onboard a colony mission spaceship to the Tau Ceti star system—to keep its crew alive and sane for the twenty-four lonely years it will take them to get there. She can play games, read books, carry on conversations on almost any topic and in any language. Saia is a very good girl, but something keeps happening to her charges. Was there an accident? Did somebody die? Saia can’t remember. And there are all these people who are not in the passenger manifest that keep popping up and talking with her.

    “Good Girl” is a story about hidden context buried in the meanings of words. As we teach our AIs to take on more and more difficult tasks, their algorithms become black boxes to us. What are they really learning? What are they thinking? “Good Girl” takes a peek.

    Mood Board for this book on Pinterest.

  11. Mirror Shards

    by Olga Werby

    Trapped Between Infinite Possible Realities, Hig is a disabled kid with a loving family and a doting uncle. On a trip to a county fair, the family encounters a mysterious “Mirror of Wishes” booth that leads to radical, unexplained, and sometimes tragic changes in their lives.

    Years later, Hig takes his girlfriend to another county fair, where they encounter the same booth and its proprietor. A bizarre chain of events ensues as they discover that Mistress Kismet’s booth is a portal that has been altering people’s realities and fates for many generations.

    The places he visits and the lessons he learns cause Hig to become desperate to return to his own time stream or find a new one where his family can all be together, before it’s too late and he’s blocked from switching fates.

    But can any place Hig ends up ever feel like home? Does love span multiple time streams? Does the portal offer a permanent answer to the question, “What if I could have the life of my choosing?” Or does it represent a nightmare of never-ending change?

    Mood Board for this book on Pinterest.

Exploring Low Tide in Northern California

Thumbnails of two pages from the book Exploring Low Tide in Northern California

Published by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the goal is to spark an interest in intertidal ecosystems and, perhaps, in nature as a whole. Activities are designed to get kids to look closer and see more than they otherwise might.

Exploring Low Tides in Northern California, published by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy

Sacred Spaces: 2004 Interfaith Sacred Space Design Competition

This book documented a fascinating international design competition. How does one design a physical space that can be utilized by the followers of many different religious practices?

Sacred Spaces Book Cover

Skulls Exhibit: California Academy of Sciences

These educational materials were commissioned by the California Academy of Sciences. They expand the boundaries of the physical exhibit, leveraging the museum’s existing investment. They allow visitors and teachers to use the exhibit in a variety of novel ways. These activities are made to be Xeroxed by teachers or output on black and white printers. If well-conceived and produced, these types of educational materials can be both effective and attractive. PDF 1.8 megs

Skulls Activity for the California Academy of Sciences Skulls Exhibit

Scripts: “Cook Noir” and “The Company Therapist”

Cook Noir was an edgy character-based cooking show

Pipsqueak’s associates include talented writers and editors. Our collaborative writing project, The Company Therapist, was about increasing the competence of amateur writers while creating a new kind of web entertainment. It not only features our own prose but it also hosts the carefully edited work of authors from around the world.

In addition to fiction, we’ve written books, scholarly papers, and newspaper articles. We’ve published “ Cognitive Tools for Product Designers”, a book on applying cognitive theory to product design. We’ve also written scads of technical materials and promotional copy. And we’ve written scripts for new media projects—examples of which are available for download below.

Cover page of Cook Noir Script.  Click to download in Acrobat PDF format.

This script “The Seduction Dinner” is from Cook Noir, our edgy character-based cooking show. PDF 30K

Cover page of The Company Therapist Protozoa Script.  Click to download in Acrobat PDF format.

This script from The Company Therapist was for a pilot episode of a venture with Protozoa. PDF 21K

Cook Noir's Chicken with Hat

Writing provides a solid foundation for other design elements. Before hiring a new media design company, make sure someone there can actually write.