Wednesday, November 30, 2011 4 comments

Writing Wibbles

Some medium-sized news this week — but first, let’s greet the new followers!
  • LynnCee Faulk — a fellow #FridayFlash’er and fellow Planet Georgia resident
  • Quinn Smythwood — “author by night” (careful, it’s the ones who don’t claim to be “mighty” you have to watch out for)
Your visitor badges, padded vests, and shock sticks are right here. The inmates may bite if you show fear, but will back off from a show of force.


Click to go to the
Amazon page
Okay, medium-sized news. After getting John Xero to look over the fixes I made one last time, on Sunday evening I decided to load Xenocide into the Launch Cannon and fire. I did do one last typo scan beforehand, which proved fruitful — reading a story backwards definitely breaks up the flow and can expose ugglies that your subconscious has managed to sweep under the rug, but does cause some eyestrain. As much as I hate typos, it was worth it.

I had several goals in mind with this launch: 1) See what it takes to get a book (even a short story) into the Kindle Store; 2) Ditto with Smashwords; 3) Find out how much effort it takes to get into Kindle Singles and Smashwords Premium; 4) Get into the Goodreads Author Program.

Note that the word “sales” didn’t appear above. This is really a practice run for when I load White Pickups into the Launch Cannon, like launching a chimp into space before launching people. Still, I do cherish the two people who actually laid down their dollar to buy it in the Kindle Store (and appreciate the three people who have previewed it at Smashwords even if they passed on buying it) as I write this on Tuesday evening. In that regard, the Xenocide launch has been a roaring success so far!

Using Scrivener for writing makes it almost trivially easy to hit the Kindle Store with the Launch Cannon, since it can “compile” a MOBI file (using Amazon’s KindleGen utility). If you’re not afraid of the command line, you could use Sigil to write your book, format to ePUB, then use KindleGen to convert that to MOBI — nearly as easy as Scrivener. The amusing part of launching into the Kindle Store was that Amazon UK had Xenocide up before the US store did! That may have had as much to do with timezones as anything else.

Putting on my publisher hat for a moment: frankly, the Smashwords setup leaves some things to be desired. The “Meatgrinder” is an impressive piece of software, taking an MS Weird file and turning it into pretty much every kind of eBook format in use, but XHTML would have (IMHO) been a better choice for an input file format. (Yes, I’m going to get technical here. Feel free to glaze over, or skip the rest of this paragraph.) Their FAQ says they used to accept HTML, but gave up on it because of the horrid non-compliant HTML they would get. But they can reject bad Weird documents, why not bad HTML? Or better yet, pass it through HTML Tidy for an automated cleanup? Or, they could take a clean ePUB (which is a collection of HTML files plus some sequencing info inside a Zip archive) and break that apart to create the other formats. XHTML (which is HTML that conforms to “well-formed” XML definitions) is very easy to parse and transform, and would eliminate the perceived need for a program I’ve learned to not trust with anything important. I ended up exporting RTF from Scrivener, reading that into OpenOffice, then (after cleaning up formats to conform to the Smashwords style guide) saved that to DOC and sent it on. [end tech stuff]

Now if all this translated to twice as many sales as the Kindle Store, it would be well worth the effort. However, early returns suggest it’s the opposite: you can expect more Kindle Store sales for less effort than getting into Smashwords. Still, Smashwords is probably worth the effort in the long run since (if you go for Premium status) it gets you into the B&N, Apple, Kobo, and Sony stores. They also issue your eBook a free ISBN number for inclusion in the Apple and Sony stores. You never know, Amazon might stumble and let one of the competitors become King of the eBook Hill.


I got the first draft of my #FridayFlash done today. It wasn’t difficult, as the story idea has been kicking around in my head since September 29 or so. I’ll explain Friday. Until then…

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 4 comments

#TuesdaySerial: Xenocide, pt 7

Previous episodes: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6



Xenocide, part 7
Paydirt

The wreck turned out to be a DUI, and there was what the sheriff was pleased to call “a shit-ton of paperwork” involved in that kind of arrest — especially since the drunk SUV driver was a regular contributor to local campaigns. As lunch rolled around, we stepped out back for a smoke break. Sheriff Carmichael was in a mood. “I already took two calls from county commissioners who would ‘consider it a personal favor’ if we went easy on the perp. Not effing likely.”

“Yeah. He nearly killed the pickup driver.” Good thing we arrived on the scene when we did — Tenesha got the guy stabilized long before the ambulance arrived, but he probably wouldn’t have lived if she hadn’t been there. I did what I could to help, but she was nearly worn out by the ordeal. It was a long time before we wrapped up, and I ended up dropping her off at her place, leaving her car at Ruth’s. She refused both taxi fare and an offer to drive her back there myself for the next morning. I did get a hug, though, and she felt exactly like I thought she would: almost athletic-firm under all the curves.

“You know what that means, right?” The sheriff took a big drag on his cig. “There’s gonna be personal injury lawsuits, and we’ll get a lot of negative publicity if we go easy on the idiot. And we’d deserve it.” He ground his butt against the brick siding and slapped it into the receptacle. “Pah. You make any headway on the alien?”

“I made a list of auto detailers in the county. Maybe we’ll get lucky. I’m gonna check ‘em out this afternoon if nothing else comes up.”

“I’ll make sure nothing else comes up.”

I wish you could have done that last night. “Not that I expect it to pan out,” I said. “If the perp had two brain cells, he’d have used a self-service car wash.”

“If he had one brain cell, he wouldn’t have dumped a body in my county,” said Carmichael. “Go check things out — like you said, you might get lucky.”


Northside Detailing, the establishment owned by Randolph Moss Sr. (Randolph Jr. went by his middle name, Jacob), was my first stop. I’d left my cellphone at my desk back at the office so the Fibs couldn’t trace my movements. Nobody had brought Moss a car that smelled like worms and burnt coffee, though. Nor did the second detailing place. But the third place, I hit paydirt.

Glisten Auto Detail was near a freeway exit, which made it a likely place for someone a long way from home to get an emergency cleanup. It was also the closest detailer to the crime scene. As with most low-paying jobs these days, the staff was mostly Hispanic immigrants. Tomas Alvarado’s English improved rapidly when he realized I spoke passable Spanish, but took pains to make sure I saw the line of pictures on the wall with everyone’s documentation.

“Yeah, I remember that smell: worms and bad coffee,” he said. “Nobody else could stand it, so I handled it myself. They just wanted the cargo area cleaned out, but ended up having a full detail done because that smell was all through their vehicle. It cost over two hundred dollars.”

“There was more than one, then? Do you remember anything about them? Names, descriptions? Anything?”

“Oh yeah. There were two of them. White guys, not much older than us. Both of them looked — trim, is that the word? They paid by credit card, so I’ve got all that on file. We can pull it up. What happened? Did they kill somebody?”

“They’re persons of interest in a case.” The sheriff was right: these guys didn’t have a single functioning brain cell between them. Not only did they leave a trail of witnesses, they left directions to one of their houses. “Great,” I said, following him into the office. “What kind of vehicle was it, anyway?”

“A big SUV. Ford Expedition, I think. But we’ve got that on file too.” He clicked his mouse and tapped his keyboard. “Aha. Here it is. Oh, I was wrong. Ford Excursion. He said it was a bag of compost that leaked. It sort of made sense.”

I had a notepad and pen at the ready, and leaned over his shoulder to get the details. This Danny Freeman was going to get roasted and toasted.

“Oh, one more thing,” I said. “Have you had anyone else come in asking about this? FBI?” Alvarado shook his head. “Good. If they do show up, none of the local deputies have been here. Okay?”

Mi ingles no es bueno, señor.” He grinned. “If they have a warrant, they’ll find this record though.”

“That’s fine. The important thing is they don’t know we’re still working this case. You’ve been a big help, Tomas. I don’t have any ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards on me, but I owe you a favor if you need it. Hope you never do.” I wrote my new number on a blank card. “If you think of anything else, or the Feds come around, call my personal cell. You’ll get voicemail because I usually leave it turned off, but if it’s something urgent you should call 911 anyway.”

“Right.” A grimy-looking Honda, pulling into the lot, caught his attention. “Gotta get back to work. Hope you catch those guys.”


Back at the office, I texted Tenesha from my “on the books” cellphone: Bummed about last night, but what’s important is the guy’s gonna live.

Five minutes later, I got a reply: Glad you see it that way. Me too. Maybe we’ll be luckier next time.

Hope so! I added a smiley face that reflected my real one.

She responded with a winky face. Life was good.

continued…

Can’t wait to see how it ends? The whole story is available on Amazon and Smashwords!

Monday, November 28, 2011 1 comment

Debut Books

Guest post! Shannon Meyer is taking over the blog for one post. There’s a prize for the blogger who gets the most comments — that would be cool, but frankly I’m in this for the good karma. Remember to support indie authors, the creator-consumers of the publishing world…




Support Four Debut Authors and Snag $125!
Four books — Two Days — Great Prizes

With this contest, there is something for everyone and it’s SO simple to be in on the winning!

On November 28 and/or 29, purchase 1 or all 4 of the debut author’s books listed here. Then forward proof of purchase (the receipt Amazon sends you will do just fine) to motionsrider@yahoo.ca and get up to 4 entries into a draw for a $100 Amazon gift card!

It’s that easy, no reviews, no hoops to jump through. Just a great 99¢ book or two. Or three or four. AND, if the person who wins the $100 Amazon Gift Card has purchased all 4 books, an additional $25 Amazon Gift Card will be awarded to the winner!

On top of that, 2 random commenters picked from 2 of our participating blogs will receive $5 gift Amazon gift cards. So, be sure to leave a comment and let us know what you think of the promo, the books, or the authors.

Winners will be chosen randomly, one entry per person, per book.

All winners will be announced on December 7th on Wringing Out Words (http://shannonmayer.blogspot.com)


“Between” by Cyndi Tefft
It just figures that the love of Lindsey Water's life isn't alive at all, but the grim reaper, complete with a dimpled smile, and Scottish accent.

After transporting souls to heaven for the last 300 years, Aiden MacRae has all but given up on finding the one whose love will redeem him and allow him entry through the pearly gates.

Torn between her growing attraction to Aiden and heaven's siren song, Lindsey must learn the hard way whether love really can transcend all boundaries.

Link: http://www.amazon.com/Between-ebook/dp/B004XZUMBA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1322190792&sr=1-1


“Until Dawn: Last Light” by Jennifer Simas
When darkness falls, whose side will you be on?

For the past six years, Zoë has been anything but “normal.” Struggling to accept her immortality and thrown into a war that’s been waging in the shadows for over a thousand years, Zoë must now become who she was meant to be, joining the other Chosen to save what’s left of humanity. When the endless night falls over the Earth, will she be able to save the one man who reminds her of what it is to be human, or will it be too late?

Until Dawn: Last Light is a story of death and despair, love and longing, hope and hopelessness, and the ability to survive and keep going even when it seems impossible – when you want nothing more than to give up.

Link: http://www.amazon.com/Until-Dawn-Last-Light-ebook/dp/B005QUIXJY/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1322190717&sr=1-1


“The Kayson Cycle” by Jonathan D. Allen
A stranger enters a dying town and makes a desperate plea…

The Kayson Cycle introduces the Kayson Brothers, a pair of faith healers who once wowed crowds in a traveling show but went their separate ways after a night in which a healing took a dark turn. Jeffrey Kayson disappeared into the wilderness and William Kayson, wracked by guilt, moved to the failing mining town of Calico Hills to build a nice, quiet life – one that has lasted for over ten years.

His quiet, predictable life crumbles when a mysterious stranger walks into his tavern bearing a proposal to find his long-lost brother and do the one thing that William has sworn to never do again - have his brother heal a woman. William soon learns that he can’t escape his family – or his destiny.

Includes an exclusive sample chapter of The Corridors of the Dead. Please note that this is a Kindle Single, and around 6,000 words in length.

Link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Kayson-Cycle-ebook/dp/B0061FDUA0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1322190892&sr=1-1


“Sundered” by Shannon Mayer
A miracle drug, Nevermore, spreads like wildfire throughout the world allowing people to eat what they want, and still lose weight. It is everything the human population has ever dreamed of and Mara is no different. Only a simple twist of fate stops her from taking Nevermore.

As the weeks roll by, it becomes apparent that Nevermore is not the miracle it claimed. A true to life nightmare, the drug steals the very essence that makes up humanity and unleashes a new and deadly species on the world that is bent on filling its belly. Locked down within their small farm home, Mara and her husband Sebastian struggle against increasingly bad odds, fighting off marauders and monsters alike.

But Sebastian carries a dark secret, one that more than threatens to tear them apart, it threatens to destroy them both and the love they have for each other.

Now Mara must make the ultimate choice. Will she live for love, or will she live to survive?

Link: http://www.amazon.com/Sundered-Nevermore-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B005KOIVH0/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1315021535&sr=8-3



And that’s that! Leave a comment and check out the books…

Thursday, November 24, 2011 24 comments

#FridayFlash: Siren in Training

To nap, perchance to dream. To dream, perchance to wake up with a story idea…



Siren in Training

"The Siren" by John William Waterhouse.
Image is public domain in the USA.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
“You are not shy.” Lizz’s aunt pressed her lips together for a moment. “You merely fear your power.”

“What power?” Lizz huddled into herself, pressing into the cushioned back of the restaurant booth.

“The power with which you were born. The power of the Siren, to lead wicked men to their doom.” Her aunt stood. “I will be gone only a few moments. Do not fret, Lizz. Your power can only sway those unworthy of their mates.”

Lizz unfolded herself and grabbed a breadstick from the basket. She swirled it in her marinara sauce and chewed. From her fourteen-year old perspective, this whole Siren thing sucked. The only boys who would like her were those who would cheat on her anyway — and then they were doomed. What kind of love life was that?

On the pretense of touching up her lipstick, she took the mirror out of her sequined denim purse and looked at herself. Weak chin, bumpy nose, big dark eyes that were her best feature. At least she didn’t have too much trouble with acne, and her teeth were good. As a direct matrilineal descendent of the original Sirens — who were naturally rewritten to make for a better story, or at least a story that didn’t make their “victims” look so bad — she possessed their power. And it was true, Dad had cheated on Mom but wouldn’t leave until she threw him out. He’d gotten drunk and wrapped his car around a tree not a week later. She and Mom both cried at his funeral, but not much.

“Sucks,” she whispered, and put the mirror away. Gnawing away at her breadstick, she felt eyes upon her. Glancing to her left, she caught the man in the booth across the way looking at her. He tried to redirect his gaze, but she held his eyes with her own. He was caught. It was so easy.

She could see him trying to turn away, could feel him drowning in her eyes, his mind racing round the inside of his head like a squirrel trapped in a barrel. She gave him a thin smile, and he returned it, although she could see his fear. Without letting him go, she took in the wedding ring on his hand, saw the touch of gray in his hair. Dude, she thought, you are way too old to be checking out the middle-schoolers, and turned away. She broke her breadstick in two, then dipped it deep in her sauce and let some of the red drip before chomping and tearing off a bite. In the corner of her eye, she saw her released prey slap some cash on his table then fly away. Maybe he’d live long enough to apply the lesson.

“You look relaxed, Lizz,” said her aunt, slipping into the booth again. “More than I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t making you nervous, was I?”

“No, Auntie. Not you.”

“I saw our neighbor across the way, just now. He was in a hurry to leave. Did you have anything to do with that?”

Lizz gave her an innocent smile and blinked several times. “Me? I’m just a girl!”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 3 comments

#TuesdaySerial: Xenocide, pt 6

Thanks to John Xero for looking this over and helping me clean it up. If you don’t want to wait for the ending, you should be able to get the whole story on the Kindle Store and Smashwords this week…

Previous episodes: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5



Xenocide, part 6
Out On the Town

I talked Tenesha into meeting me at Ruth’s. I wanted to catch her up, sure, but part of me just wanted to show off my new wheels. It was a perfect car for undercover work: a gold Cutlass Supreme, lowered, with oversize wheels, plenty of chrome and pinstriping, and a killer sound system. Nobody would expect an undercover cop to drive something so gaudy.

“Looks like something my cousin would drive,” said Tenesha when she saw it. “What possessed you to get a ride like that?”

I lowered my voice. “It’s not official, but I’m still on that case. I needed something the Fibs hadn’t managed to get their buggy little mitts on.”

Her eyes got big. “No shit? You’re still gonna investigate this?”

“Yeah. You didn’t hear this, but the sheriff is backing me up. He got me this car out of the impound lot.” I grinned. “So… you wanna take a drive?”

“Let’s have a drink or two first. Then we’ll see.”

We left after a couple beers and a big plate of nachos to put something on our stomachs. “Where to, copper?” she grinned.

I was tempted to say something stupid like My place, but managed to (as Moss might say) keep it real. “Oh… no place in particular. I just thought we’d cruise the strip, maybe wind it up on the freeway a little. Then come back here and see what they’ve got for dessert.”

“Sounds like a good first date!”

The temperature seemed to climb a few degrees, and I tried to recover. “The stereo’s awesome in this thing. Pick a station?”

“Nah.” She turned it off. “We’ve never had a chance to just chat.”

She had a good point there. The beers got us past the awkward teenager thing, keeping the silences short and amusing, and we ended up telling each other our life stories. “I decided to be an EMT after we got wrecked when I was a kid,” she said. “I was buckled in good in the back seat, so I was just shaken up and scared. Mom was hurt pretty bad though. I thought those guys who got us out of the car and to the hospital were heroes, and I decided I wanted to be just like them.” She sat for a moment, remembering. “What about you?” she asked at last. “What made you decide to be a cop?”

“A couple of things,” I said. “I grew up out in the country, and the cops didn’t have a good reputation. I always thought I could do a better job than that. My brother getting beat up really bad and robbed sealed the deal for me. I was in college, majoring in biology at the time. They never tried to catch the people who did it, even though he gave good descriptions of the perps. I knew I had to do something to make a difference then, so I left college and enrolled in the academy first chance I got.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, laying a hand on my arm.

I slid my own hand off the wheel and took her hand. “It’s okay,” I said. “He got over it — I don’t think it changed his life as much as mine. But I like the work. We don’t solve every crime here, but we do our best and —”

“Oh no!” Tenesha pointed. Up ahead, in the intersection, an SUV and a pickup truck had mixed it up. The pickup was on its side. I hit the emergency flashers and grabbed the portable radio; Tenesha was already out the door and running toward the scene.

That’s the thing about being a cop — or an EMT — you’re never really off-duty. And the evening had looked so promising.

continued…

Sunday, November 20, 2011 10 comments

Revolving Door

I really ought to install a revolving door at FAR Manor — M.A.E. lasted about a week at the free-range insane asylum this time. At the beginning of the week, she told us she was going to visit with Lobster for a night. One night stretched to two, three… and Lobster has a girlfriend living with him, so I don’t think it was that. However, I did get a call on my smellphone while I was at work from some guy named Jesse (I think it was). I figure she hooked up with someone on Facebook. Again.

So I was working at home Friday, because I had a meeting on Wednesday, and she came in without my noticing. I often work with the door closed to keep Mason from demanding more granddad time, so that wasn’t unusual. I also managed to miss the “discussion” she had with Mrs. Fetched, who had talked with her baby-daddy when he called earlier. So…

M.A.E. asked Mrs. Fetched, “Am I going to get Moptop this weekend?”

“No.”

“Why not?!”

“I don’t want her here this weekend.” There was the minor detail about us not being here all afternoon today, and M.A.E. almost immediately blowing off everything after she promised us she’d do anything if we let her come back, but Moptop does antagonize Mason a lot. Sure, he gives it right back, but the constant shrieking does get annoying.

So M.A.E. stomped upstairs to make some phone calls. Mrs. Fetched called up the stairs after her to bring the phone back down with her. She didn’t. This is where I first learned of M.A.E.’s presence, as she stormed back downstairs, slamming the door behind her, then out. “If you’re leaving,” Mrs. Fetched advised her, “you’d better take your stuff with you, because you’re not coming back.” M.A.E. gave no response. We found out later she went down to Big V’s with the boo-hoo routine, then got Cousin Splat to give her a ride into town (presumably to meet her current… whatever you want to call it).

• • •

Left to right: Mason, me, Skylar
The 80s song, “Me and the Boys” might be my theme song for this week, since that might be what’s coming. Since we get Thursday and Friday off, and everyone else is going to be gone anyway, I took the rest of the week as vacation (or more like staycation). Skylar is another revolving-door inmate at FAR Manor, in and out a lot, and I expect that Mrs. Fetched will find many “reasons” to leave them both with me.

I’m hoping that Big V will start picking up some of the slack, since she’s had cataract surgery and can see a little better now. Funny how things work: just when he’s where he’s not screaming in his sleep at night, and is starting to play a little better with Mason, they take him back.

One of the Evil Twins is here for a couple days, so I just may get a few things done while otherwise abandoned with the grandkid. Her sister is visiting some friends, and she’s getting stir-crazy.

Friday, November 18, 2011 25 comments

#FridayFlash: Wandering Mind

“Hello, Mr. Johnson,” the nurse chirped in her baby-talk voice. “Are we doing okay this morning?”

“Hi, Tammy,” I replied. “Whatever it is I’m doing, I seem to be doing it here at the moment.”

Her smile became less forced, her tone closer to — but not quite — adult-to-adult. “Oh, good. Looks like you’re having a good day, then! Do you know what year it is?”

“I’ve told you twenty-‘leven times, it’s twenty-‘leven.” The retro styling was supposed to help us Alzheimer’s patients by giving us comfortable surroundings, but it can confuse things. It didn’t help that they assumed we all liked Glenn Miller and that other big band crap — give me good old 50’s rock and roll.

Tammy laughed. “Good! Are you up to eating, then?”

“Yeah. Breakfast would be good. And some crosswords, maybe. I’d like to call the kids, if they’re around.” I paused. “How long was I gone?”

She gave me a sad look. “Three days. And you were pretty foggy the day before.”

So I’m lucid about a third of the time now. “I hope I didn’t cause trouble.”

“No. We know you weren’t yourself.” Tammy’s expression changed enough to tell me I’d been trouble. She brightened. “I’ll send your breakfast in. Anything else you need?”

A Viagra pill and you out of that uniform, I thought but did not say. Her job was hard enough. “Nope. Not unless you have a cure for this damned Alzheimer’s!”

She laughed. “If we find one, I’ll make sure you’re first in line!” She breezed out of my room, off to her next patient. God, she had a nice ass — broad and round. Not a conventional looker, but I had a few of those in my time back before I settled down. They were lousy in the sack. Hell, I might not even need a Viagra with Tammy. Never needed one with Martha, God rest her soul. I’ll see her again soon enough.


I breezed through the two easy-level crosswords, and did pretty good with the middle level. For however long it lasted, I was all the way back. The shrink’s intern came by with the usual battery of exam questions, then said, “Well, I’ve asked you my twenty questions. You have any for me?”

“Yeah. Where the hell does my mind go when it goes away? I’d like to follow the son of a bitch and drag it back here where it belongs.” I tapped my hairless skull.

He gave a nervous laugh. “That’s a question… I don’t know how to answer. Maybe that’s more metaphysical, or even spiritual, than psychological. Some medical researchers would say your mind just… shuts off.”

“But wouldn’t that kill the rest of me?”

“Not necessarily. Your conscious mind resides in the cerebral cortex, the uppermost layer of your brain. If that upper layer stops — or freezes up — the lower layers continue to do their functions. Your phrase, ‘mind goes away,’ is half-right: only your conscious mind goes away. The involuntary functions like heartbeat, respiration and digestion continue to do their work. Reflexes, too. If someone pokes your arm, you’ll move it.”

“Yeah. So what’s happening in here when I vacate the premises? I guess I wasn’t much fun to be around this last time.”

“Good question. Can you remember what you were thinking last time?”

“Kind of. I could feel it coming on, and I was furious about it. I hated what was happening to me. Still do.”

“Ah. So that anger came through — or stayed behind, rather — during that last episode. You were belligerent. The staff had to restrain you for two days.”

I rubbed my forehead. “I’m so sorry.”

“Blame the disorder, not yourself, okay?” The intern smiled. “Maybe next time you feel an episode coming on, try to calm yourself instead of letting the anger have its way. You might not be with us, but perhaps you can ‘program’ your limbic system to be less aggressive before you leave.”

“Worth a try.”


I woke up this morning in a fog. “Here we go again,” I said, but it took me a while to figure out what that meant. Worse luck, it was Tammy’s day off. The Chinese guy — Song, that’s his name, like music — stayed with me as I collected my fading wits and battled with an easy crossword.

I grew frustrated, angry, at my inability to concentrate. But I remembered what the intern said, and I focused on calming myself. Don’t be a jerk, I told myself. There was something else — something important — I needed to remember. I tried to think of what it was as I used the bathroom — one less diaper for the music guy to change — then laid down.

I hate when my mind goes away… aha. Where is it going? Can I follow it and bring it back to my brain? Why I can’t remember where I go when I’m gone?

Follow it. I reach out, take hold of my mind. You’re not going without me this time, I tell it. I feel a moment of clarity as I take hold. Together we go, into the unknown.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 5 comments

Writing Wibbles

Today, I’d like to talk a little about the story bomb. But before I do, go over to John Wiswell’s blog and read Making Ideas. Writers get asked about imagination a lot, he begins. Where do you get your ideas? It’s a really insightful post about the beginnings of the writing process.

Me, I ’m not that insightful — or at best, most of my insights don’t lend themselves well to description. I’m mostly a pantser (i.e. I write by the seat of my pants) and that really starts with the ideas. These Writing Wibbles can be difficult to write simply because I often don’t put that much thought into the process of writing; I’m too busy doing it. In the best of times, the characters are telling the story and I’m just taking dictation.

John makes an excellent point: you have to immerse yourself in good stories, in good writing, to train yourself to recognize it (and, we hope, create your own). I read a lot from the time I could read (before my fourth birthday… I cannot remember ever not being able to read) up to the time I plunged so deeply into the world of FAR Future that I was spending all my free time writing.

So where do I get my ideas? They just come. I’ve mentioned before, I believe creativity to be a reflection of the Divine, the image in which we were created. Sometimes, the idea comes in a snippet of a dream (in which I tell someone, “Dammit, you fool, I’m her father!” although she was made rather than born). Or there was the time I was driving to work and was surrounded by white pickup trucks for a half-minute. Writing prompts usually work best for me when I ask a question — what happened up to this point? — and if I ask the right question, the answer often comes in a story bomb and I’m off to the races. White Pickups was originally a flash piece, about 700 words, ending with Tina in the Saver-Mart parking lot. When I asked myself “so what happened next?” I got a 200 kiloword thermonuclear story bomb. Well, no — I didn’t get one Big One, it was more like a carpet story bombing that has kept me busy for nearly two years now. Accidental Sorcerers (and some partly-written follow-ons) came from a photo and an off-hand comment by the photographer.

What about you? Do you get ideas as a story bomb? Or do they just trickle in? Or do you just lasso an idea and drag it into the corral?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 4 comments

#TuesdaySerial: Xenocide, pt 5

Previous episodes: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4



Xenocide, part 5
The Crack House That Wasn’t

“Hey. Can I talk to you?” The Moss kid stuck his head through the window of my patrol car.

“Sure. What about?” I put a finger to my lips, then grabbed my ears and stretched them away from my skull.

He smiled, lips pressed together, shaking with silent laughter, then recovered quickly. “Uh… you know there’s a crack house just up the block from here?”

I cocked one eyebrow, he shook his head. “No. What’s the address?”

“I didn’t write down the number. But I can show you where it is.”

“They’ll be watching for cop cars. Maybe you can take me on foot.”

“Yeah.” He smirked. “C’mon, I’ll show you.”

I rolled up the windows and locked the car, and we walked up the block. “They bugged you too?” he asked me, sotto voce. “That’s some serious shit. I mean, yeah, what’s a kid gonna do about it. But a cop?”

“I doubt there’s much we can do about it either,” I said. “They’ll just deny it. I was trying to figure out how to get word to you when you came by just now.”

“I saw ‘em do it.” Moss shook his head. He looked angry. “Assholes. My computer’s in the living room. That ice queen’s on the sofa, she leans down to tie her shoe, and the big jock’s at my desk. I saw him reach up underneath. I guess he figured I’d be staring at her tits or something. Yeah I did, but I didn’t exactly focus on them. They were okay, but there’s girls at school with better racks than hers. One or two I might even have a chance with.”

I laughed. “What did you do about it?”

“I downloaded that sucky Cop Killer track off a torrent, hung a speaker right next to their bug, and put the track on repeat at full volume for a couple hours. Parents were out, so I just left the house and left it running. By the time I got back I figured they got tired of it and turned it off, so I pried it loose and threw it in the garbage.”

We both laughed. “You know they probably left one or two more where they wouldn’t be so obvious. The sheriff figures they can hear everything going on in the office, so we don’t talk about it there or in our cars.”

“Damn. So you guys are still on the case?”

“Let’s just say we haven’t closed our books on it just yet.” I stopped and thought a minute. “Hey… doesn’t your dad own a car detailing place?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“If we get lucky, he just might have a lead for me.” I motioned for us to turn back. “Listen. You’re a smart kid, smarter than you let on. Stay out of trouble, and you might just surprise some people, how far you go. Okay?”

To my surprise, he laughed. “That’s what I’m plannin’ on, Ossifer Friendly.”


The senior Moss owned Northside Detailing — the name made me wonder if the kid inherited his dad’s sense of humor. There were over a dozen full-service detailers in the county, some that made house calls, and more self-serve car washes than I could count. If the perp decided to hose that alien goop out on his own, I was SOL — and that’s what I expected. But I had to run these leads down. I couldn’t do it from the office, because the Fibbies were sure to have the phones tapped on top of the mikes they left around. A visual inspection turned up four bugs, including one in the men’s room, and we hadn’t even started electronic sweeping yet. I figured my home phone and cellphone were similarly numbers of interest, so I used the old drug dealer trick of paying cash for a prepaid cell and enough minutes to deal with the situation.

On a smoke break the next morning, I let the sheriff know what I had in mind. He surprised me: “You know that Cutlass we impounded back in April? It’s still in the lot. I’ll let Sam know you need it for some undercover work. There’s some cash from the same bust, still in the safe.” He grinned. “You never know when you’re gonna need a slush fund.”

I laughed. “Man. The Fibbies really got on your bad side. I wonder if they know how bad.”

Sheriff Carmichael put the grin away. “To be honest, Adler: I’m probably taking this a little too personal. But someone dumped a body in my county, and the Fibbies bugged my office. I don’t mean to let either one just slide. There’s not a lot I can do personally, but I can give you a whole lot of leeway to pursue this.” He shook his head. “If you decide you’ve hit a dead end, though? Just let it drop. I’m probably giving you too much encouragement as it is. But I’d sure like to wipe that smug look off the Feds, you know?”

continued…

Monday, November 14, 2011 2 comments

The End is Just the Beginning

Squawking chicken
Somebody pinch me. Bonus points if you’re female and I get to pinch back.

It appears that we have outlasted the chicken houses!

Tyson’s, using their usual “company store” debt-slavery tactic, demanded some rather pricey upgrades to the chicken houses to renew the in-laws’ contract. They said “nope,” and thus the last batch was scheduled to leave around the end of March. However, since the entire paycheck goes out the furnaces during winter grow-outs, the in-laws pulled the plug after the last batch left Friday night. Permit me a brief…

WOOOOO-HOOOOOOOO!!!!

This leaves the farm with four empty chicken houses and still a small hill of debt remaining. Several possibilities have been bandied about for making the houses pay the rest of their way — some kind of greenhouse seems to be the idea that we all keep coming back to. It's actually not a bad idea; the houses have lights, water, heat, and ventilation. And fertilizer. Lots of fertilizer. If we replace some of the roofing tin with plexiglas, we can get some sunlight into the middle of the houses as well. I’m pushing for herbs (cooking, not smoking) as a primary crop, since the stores charge like two bucks for an ounce of leaves and they can grow like weeds under the right conditions. The agent at the ag coop that has the loan had several good suggestions for marketing and lining up customers. The upside is, you can go away for a weekend and not come back to a thousand dead chickens to pick up.


In less pleasant news, M.A.E. seems to be back at the manor. She can’t seem to pick friends who can handle her desired lifestyle, which is to spend the entire day on Facebook and do as little as possible to help around the house. She’s brought her daughter (Moptop is no longer a good moniker for her as her curls have gone for now) over for weekends and she and Mason have a great time antagonizing each other.

Gotta take the bad with the good, I guess.

Friday, November 11, 2011 26 comments

Let’s Go To the (Blog) Hop!

I was invited to participate in the Scribbles Blog Hop, and it sounded like a lot of fun, so here we go…

each writer is going to post pics of their writing journal/diaries/notebooks/notepads/etc and tell a little about their approach to writing, how & why they use their journals, and post links to the other bloggers participating.

I knew there was a reason I was saving all those scraps of paper…

Notebooks and notepad scraps

Everything eventually finds its way into Scrivener on my laptop, but not all of it starts there.

notebook writing sample
After I got caught out with an idea at lunch, and nothing to write it on, I got into the habit of taking a pen and either a notepad or notebook to lunch with me.

Depending on how hard something is trying to get out of my head, I’ll either eat lunch (usually at the Johnny’s Pizza on Jones Bridge in John’s Creek) or just start writing right away and keep an eye out for the server. I’ve been going there long enough that the staff knows I drink unsweet tea and usually get two pizza slices with mushrooms. Once I get started, I’ll write until whatever it is gets completely out of my head or until it just gets too late to ignore how far overtime my lunch “hour” is running.

This particular scrap of paper contains what became Episode 74 of White Pickups. You may notice scratch-outs on the paper — those happen at the time I’m writing. I can’t get out of the habit of editing as I write. I’ll edit some more as I type things in — often inserting sentences or whole paragraphs.

Moleskine
One day I was poking around in a B&N while someone (I think it was Daughter Dearest’s boyfriend at the time) was at the nearby game store, and it was there that I saw the Moleskine rack. I bought one of the pocket notebooks, and bought a second one in May after I filled up the first one.

They’re awfully handy — it’s easy to see why (as the promotional literature wants you to know) the likes of Hemingway swore by them. The little pocket in the back holds note cards and other bits of not-quite-outlines that I’ll flesh out when the characters get off the dime and let me know what’s going on.

That pretty much leaves “why” — well, I’ve already explained part of it: it’s a convenience. As I wrote a couple weeks ago, writers are working when we’re staring out the window — but the downside to that is that we’re always working. So having a way to get words on paper when the ideas are coming, but the keyboard isn’t available, is crucial.

Now of course, that only works if someone (like Mason, the World’s Cutest Grandkid) doesn’t snatch the pen and Moleskine right out of your pocket:

Mason grabs the pen and Moleskine

I took this shot back in February, when he was about 18 months old. He’s 26 months now, and still likes to grab ’em when he can. Maybe once he learns to write, he’ll be writing his own stories too.

But until Mason starts sharing his stories with the world, go check out the other writers participating in the Scribbles Blog Hop:

Danielle La Paglia: http://daniellelapaglia.wordpress.com/

Anne Michaud: http://annecmichaud.wordpress.com/

Marianne Su: http://mariannesu.com/blog/

Victoria D Griesdoorn: http://www.vdgriesdoorn.com/

Ren Warom: http://renwaromsumwelt.wordpress.com/

J.A. Campbell: http://writerjacampbell.wordpress.com/

Tammy Crosby: http://tammywrites.wordpress.com/

Maria Kelly: http://mariakellyauthor.com/

Chrissey Harrison: http://chrisseysgreatescape.wordpress.com/

Natalie Westgate: http://nataliewestgate.com/

Tony Noland: http://www.tonynoland.com/

Larry Kollar: http://farmanor.blogspot.com/ (←you are here)

Thursday, November 10, 2011 No comments

Book Review: Six Moon Summer

This is the first in the “Seasons of the Moon” YA series by S.M. (Sara) Reine. A promising, even exciting, start.

Price/Length: $2.99 / 50,000 words

Synopsis: Rylie’s having the worst summer ever: her parents are divorcing, and they’ve sent her to summer camp to get her out of the crossfire. She’s a city girl in the woods, and the other girls at camp have made her their personal chew toy. Even worse, she got lost in the woods and was bitten by something, and now… she’s changing. Her vegetarian ways are giving way to a craving for raw meat, and twice a month — at the new moon and full moon — things get seriously weird. The one high point of the whole experience, the cute boy from across the lake who keeps coming to see her, only makes things more complicated.

Storytelling: ★★★★★ This is a great take on the traditional werewolf story; it stays true to the legends while introducing new wrinkles (like the new moon changes). So much of horror these days is zombies and vampires (sparkly and otherwise), and it’s almost refreshing to see a reminder that there’s more to life and unlife. As a YA novel, it walks the tightrope with aplomb — plenty of boy/girl, but avoids sex scenes. I wouldn’t have a problem giving the book to a 12-year old, or even a bright 10-year old.

Writing: ★★★★★ Sara creates characters you care about and characters you love to hate. The Mean Girls got me hoping that Rylie would chew them up and spit them out, at the same time hoping she somehow kept her humanity. Her parents made me want to rattle their cages until they get their acts together. I cringed at Rylie’s mistakes and cheered her triumphs.

Editing: ★★★★ Very good, near professional-quality editing. A few typos, nothing cringe-worthy. If I get my book out at this level, I’ll be satisfied.

Summary: I’m looking forward to reading All Hallows Moon, the next book in the series. ’Nuff said!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011 2 comments

Writing Wibbles

Whew, I made it.

I recently finished reading a book (no, not the next review, nor the one after that) where the editing… well, there’s no easy way to put this. It started out really well, a few glitches here and there, all books have those. About halfway through, it got past the “all books” benchmark. In the last fourth of the book, the editing broke down completely. I tweeted the author about it — via direct message, no need to hang dirty laundry out in public — and she was pretty cool about the whole thing. Two people had edited it, and the author hadn’t looked it over before the final went out — heck, I’d have been inclined to think that two editors would have done the job as well. But like I said, she was pretty cool about it, and plans to roll out a corrected edition next month (hooray for eBooks!). I would probably have a very public meltdown if it happened to me; I’m anal about typos to the point where I’ll fix old blog posts if I see typos in them.

So I’m expecting lots of jitters before, and immediately after, the White Pickups release. I’ll be happy if it’s completely typo-free, but I need to keep some perspective — even if there are more than a handful, I can push out a corrected edition. I wanted to release it on Sep. 14, the day the story began, but I’d rather have it out late and right. I've probably gone through the entire thing several dozen times, no exaggeration — one advantage of serializing your work, it makes you go through it to make sure the next episode doesn’t wander off into the weeds. That’s one reason I’m going to start small (literally) with Xenocide as a short eBook. I figure I’ll learn several valuable things that I can use to make the White Pickups release go smoother.

I can’t remember, did I ever link to The Were-Traveler issue where my two drabbles appeared? My entries are #2 (Hunted), and in the middle (Unseen). If you haven’t seen them, go check them out. They’re all good.

Instead of a #FridayFlash this week, I’m participating in a bloghop. I think it will be interesting — there will be verbiage about how I use my handwritten notebooks and photos of my horrible penmanship, as well as links to other participants. (I may recycle a certain photo of Mason, just for the “the cute, it burns” factor.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011 2 comments

#TuesdaySerial: Xenocide, pt 4

Previous episodes: Part 1Part 2Part 3



Xenocide, Episode 4
Doc Dix

Doc Dix was the county coroner from back before urban sprawl turned our sleepy little county into a hotbed of subdivisions, retail strips, and shopping malls. He’d adapted well to the changes; sometimes he complained about how much busier he was than twenty years ago, but he did love the work. Data he’d provided cracked more than one important case over his career.

“What brings you here?” he asked. “If it’s that thing Tenesha and Ali brought in day before yesterday, the Feds took everything. Bastards even took the instruments I used for the autopsy. You think they’ll compensate the county?”

“Probably not. But I’m here about the Jones case.” He gave me a puzzled look and I winked. “I’ve got something to show you concerning it.” I led him out back.

“What is this about?” Dix glared at me — he was pushing sixty, if it wasn’t pushing back already, and he was starting to get a little grumpy in his old age.

“A precaution. We’ve found listening devices in our offices and patrol cars, and it’s likely the Feds bugged your office too.”

He swelled up. “Bastards! What right—”

“They’ll just deny it was them if you confront ‘em. Best thing to do is let ‘em think we’re letting them handle it all on their lonesome.”

“Hm. Underhanded, I say. I didn’t vote for your boss, by the way. He’s sneaky.”

“Personally, I like working for him. But I didn’t come to talk local politics.”

“I suppose. Well, like I said, they took everything. Everything but my memories.”

“That’s really why I’m here. Do you remember a bag coming in with the body?”

“Ah. Didn’t you inspect it?” Doc Dix gave me a mocking look.

“No, the smell got to me. Funny thing for a cop to say, I know —”

“No shame there. It nearly overwhelmed me as well, and I’ve dealt with bodies in every state of decay.”

“I’m sure. So you inspected the bag?”

“Of course. But I couldn’t tell you what the contents were with any certainty. Food and technology is about the best I could tell you.”

“What about the breathing mask?”

“Ah. Now that was interesting. It resembled a portable oxygen concentrator, but it was concentrating methane.”

“Really?”

“If I’m not mistaken, and I’m quite sure I’m not. There was a canister of methane attached to the apparatus, perhaps as an emergency supply. I speculate that the creature naturally inhaled a methane-oxygen mix and exhaled good old CO2.”

“Huh. Any chance the breather was failing?”

“None whatsoever. I’ve never examined an alien lifeform before, but I’m confident in my diagnosis. Cause of death was blood — loss of whatever vital fluids it had — and organ damage from multiple double-ought buckshot wounds. I’d further speculate that the creature was lurking in the vicinity of livestock, where abundant excrement would provide sufficient methane for its needs.”

“Sounds plausible. Did you tell the Fibs all that?”

“Of course not. However, I’d made notes and they did carry those off as well.”

“What about time of death? Any thoughts there?”

“Hard to say, given the nature of the victim. Certainly no more than a day or two prior to discovery, though.”

“Thanks, Doc. I knew you’d be a big help.”

“I always try to be.”

“You always have been. If we need to phone each other about this, we can call it the ‘Jones case’ again. But details outside the office or vehicles, got it?”

“Understood. Sneaky, like your boss. But warranted, in this situation.”

I drove away, chewing on the implications. It made sense: Farmer John Doe lets fly at a perceived threat to his herd, panics over the thought of creating an interstellar incident, figures to ditch the evidence up in the mountains. The smell gets to him and his — son? hired hand? — before they can get that far, and they unload it the first place they can find.

“Could have been a sewage plant,” I almost said aloud. I didn’t know of any sewage plants that felt their security needed 12-gauge shotguns, though.

continued…

Monday, November 07, 2011 2 comments

Book Review: Checkmate and Other Stories

Icy Sedgwick is a #FridayFlash regular on Twitter (she tweets as @icypop), and Checkmate is a collection of 15 of her short pieces. It’s a good choice for a rainy weekend afternoon or plane trip.

Price/Length: $0.99 / 15,000 words

Synopsis: A collection of Icy’s flash fiction, published between 2008 and mid-2010. The stories run the gamut of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, and are arranged in chronological order of publication.

Storytelling: ★★★★★ Icy has an amazing ability to write dark fiction with an oft-humorous twist. While all of them are well-written, six of the stories stand out as particularly memorable for me:

Midas Box — a young woman’s life takes a turn when she is given a very special box.

Checkmate — in which the fate of the world is decided over a coffee shop chessboard.

My Bleeding Heart — a macabre twist on an old pun.

Bleed Them Dry — a vampire has more than one way to draw blood.

The Mirror Phase — a creepy story of a little girl fascinated with a mirror.

The Dead Do Listen — sometimes, the dead want to set the record straight!

Writing: ★★★★★ Like most #FridayFlash participants, Icy is versatile and can write well in many genres. In fact, her Western novel, The Guns of Retribution, was recently released in paperback and eBook by Pulp Press.

Editing: ★★★★ Checkmate stands out in the self/indie-published arena as having very few typos or other editing issues. I ran across maybe one or two minor issues. All books — indie or otherwise — should have this much care put into them. The only real glitch I ran across was a formatting thing: using the Kindle’s “five-way” to move between stories put the original place of publication at the top of the page, and the title at the end of the previous page. This may have been something Smashwords did.

Summary: Brief as it is, this is a steal for 99¢. If you enjoy dark fiction, you’ll find big enjoyment in these short works.

If you like Checkmate, you might be interested in some of Icy’s other work:

Sunday, November 06, 2011 6 comments

Weekend Wibbles

Writing Wibbles, Photo Wibbles, Life Wibbles, I need to start posting in the moment again.

But first, welcome to the two newest followers:

  • S.M. Reine — author, proprietor of Red Iris Books, and (as you may remember) the person who designed my White Pickups cover.
  • Carole Gill — an author whose goal, as she puts it, is to “push the boundaries of gothic romance.”

Your visitor’s badges are at the front desk — in a free-range insane asylum, you don’t want to be mistaken for an inmate!



Hallowe’en has come and gone. Mason had his first trick or treat experience, and brought home a modest bucket of loot. Now when he wants a piece of candy, he’ll say, “Trick or treat? Please?” As he loves Cars so much, Mrs. Fetched got him a pit crew uniform for his first outing.

If I had to caption this particular photo, it would be something like, “Well, they told me to make a scary face, so…” Or maybe “Caaaaandyyyyyy!”

This morning at church, he pulled a good one. He snagged a hymnal and sat down and said, “Read?” I reached for it, and he insisted, “I’m reading!”


Daughter Dearest has also been busy. She had her senior recital last weekend and it went pretty well. The preparations for the reception following were fairly intense, though. Fortunately, I was spared and and just had to keep Mason out of everyone’s hair.

We took video, and I took a few pictures:


I've learned that slightly de-saturating the photo is the best way to deal with the rather intense backdrop on the Falany Performing Arts Center stage. DD really has a gorgeous voice. I’ll link to the video somehow when Mrs. Fetched edits it down, so you won’t completely miss out.


Writing? Right. I’m definitely not doing NaNoWriMo, but cheering on anyone who is. I’ve got two people, John Xero and Chuck Allen, looking over the complete version of Xenocide so I’ll know it’s in reasonable shape. I’m using it as a “test bed” of sorts, turning it into an eBook so I’ll have an idea of what the overhead will be like for White Pickups as well.

My #FridayFlash piece from week before last (Geek vs. Zombies) pretty much confirmed a theory I came up with: if you want lots of pageviews and comments, write a zombie story. I got really close to cracking 200 pageviews, and got nearly 30 comments. Quite a spike when compared to other recent #FridayFlash stories (not to mention the #TuesdaySerial). So the big question: is it wrong to be a “zombie whore”? I don’t think so, not if you write them because you enjoy writing them. I like doing a slightly different take on the zombie apocalypse — such as scavengers on the edges of the horde, or even grass-eating zombies.

I’m working on a soundtrack for White Pickups. I’m about 40% done, and that’s just songs in my own playlists. I’ll continue looking for suitable tunes.


I happened across a site called ifttt (IF This Then That) recently. It’s really handy, the way it can tie many of your online services (and your phone) together. It doesn’t talk directly to Blogger, but does read RSS feeds, so I have it auto-tweet new blog posts and text me when someone comments. Several people have had trouble with Feedburner’s auto-tweet lately, and I pointed them to ifttt. I may expand on what I’m using it for later on. I also need to talk about Calibre, and how it can turn your Kindle (or other eReader) into an offline blog/news reader.

Friday, November 04, 2011 27 comments

#FridayFlash: Antibodies

This is another story idea that’s been kicking around in my head for a long time. I originally intended to make it a brief screenplay. It may happen yet.



Antibodies

The waitress departed, and something nudged Jan’s foot.

“You said you need gym clothes, da? For your health?” The bulky blonde man across the table smiled at him.

There would be no cheating, but all the same Jan pulled the gym bag into his lap, keeping it out of sight as he peeked inside. As agreed, it was stuffed with zlotys and euros. He reached inside and felt the four gold bars at the bottom.

“Just my size!” he grinned, slipping the bag under the table. “Any company logo?”

Nyet. No. No markings of any kind. I saw to it myself.”

“Ah, good. Are they made in China?”

“Likely. Or perhaps Pakistan.”

The waitress brought their supper, pierogies and borscht, and they were quiet for a while. Jan lived in a decaying industrial town in the Polish heartland, but this café was quiet and served good food. And if Jan often dined with strangers in suits? He did computer work for a firm in Warsaw, and on occasion, they needed to visit him here.

“A question, if I may,” said the visitor. “Only personal curiosity.” At Jan’s nod, he continued: “You use the alias Vector for your work. Does it indicate the mathematical meaning, or some other?”

Jan grinned. “English is a wonderful language. So ambiguous. Many words have the same meaning, yet other words have more than one meaning. In your maths, a vector has direction. Purpose, even. And in English, it may also mean the path a infectious agent takes to invade a living body.”

The other man — Jan was sure he was Russian, perhaps KGB — looked amused. “An almost poetic layering of meanings, my friend! But beware, living bodies often develop antibodies to resist such invasions.”

“Of course. Discretion is survival.”

“Very good.” The visitor rose. “Well then, you have your project and goals. I should leave you to it.” He looked at his Rolex. “I have plenty of time to catch the train back to Warsaw, but I like to arrive early. I can call the office and let them know everything is well in hand.”


At home in his flat, Jan got to work. Two wide displays, side by side, showed him the locations of thousands of computers around the world under his control. He’d come a long way in the years since he found a shabby old computer in a dumpster and brought it home, his first step to becoming Vector. He had direction, although the organisms he invaded thought he came from a different direction. Moscow wanted control of America’s satellite fleet, while making it look like a Chinese hack? A worthy challenge to be sure, but a challenge he was more than equal to.

(A relay clicks over, opening a valve. Gas hisses, pouring into the basement.)

Vector considered. His client wanted some blame to fall on Pakistan? That could be arranged. He had access to systems in Lahore and Islamabad; some were active. With a few keystrokes, his servers in China uploaded necessary software components.

(Through the apartment building, phones ring. People leave in haste, carrying what they can.)

Ignoring the commotion outside his door, he worked on. His viruses continued to infect more computers around the world. Cracking military networks was tough, but his infections gained him a toehold and opened a tunnel. What his client planned was not important —

(A surge through the power lines causes a switch to arc over in the basement, igniting the gas.)

Jan heard a thump, then the floor collapsed beneath him, dropping him and his tools into the inferno beneath. What few remains there were, were fused together in death as they never could be in life.

Living organisms develop antibodies.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011 5 comments

#TuesdaySerial: Xenocide, pt 3

In case you missed the previous two…



Xenocide, Episode 3
These Guys Bug Me

Xenocide cover
The Fibbies had names — Phillip Jobst and Sarah Plant — but I thought of them as Mulder and Scully from the get-go. Too bad they weren’t really Mulder and Scully; they both acted like they had batons rammed so far up their asses they would need surgery to get them out. Plant was kind of hot at first glance; not my type but Moss might get a little tongue-tied if she asked the questions. Jobst was the faux dumb-muscle type — acts stupid because you expect a big jock to be stupid, but you don’t get to be a Special Agent without above-average brain power. To be honest, I figured Jobst to be the smarter of the two; Plant didn’t know how (or actively refused) to work her assets to best advantage.

“You’re the responder?” Jobst grunted.

“I was. You’ve got my photos and the report, right?”

“What did you see?” Plant’s tone said we’re asking the questions here.

“It’s in the reports. And the photos. The — whatever it is — took a shotgun blast to the body at close range. It appeared to be wearing some kind of respiratory apparatus, and there was a bag under the body. I didn’t attempt to inspect any further.”

“Any suspects?”

“No. Plenty of people out there with the means, maybe some had an opportunity, but motive? We got nothin’. Besides a galloping case of arachnophobia. You got any better ideas?”

Plant huffed — I’d dared to ask them a question again. “It’ll take some time to assess the data, Adler. We’ll need your full cooperation in the meantime.”

That’s the way the interview went; like I told the kid, they asked the same questions several times and then wrapped it up. “If you think of anything else,” said Jobst, sliding a card across the table, “here’s a number you can call. We’ll be staying at the Garden Inn while we conduct the investigation.” There was a slight emphasis on the we. “We’ll be in touch.” They up and left without another word.

Sheriff Carmichael let them walk out the door, counted to three, and came in. Without a word, he leaned over to look under the table. He rolled his eyes and said, “Adler. I need a smoke. You want one?” He put a finger to his lips, then tapped his ear.

The Fibbies bugged us? I thought. Aloud I said, “Sure,” and followed him out the back door.

I don’t smoke, but the sheriff was trying to quit. Trying. I followed him out back, and he lit up and took a drag while I tried to stand upwind. “Quite the charmers, those two,” he said.

“Yeah.”

“I’d say it’s pretty likely our vehicles and phones have been given similar treatment. And anyone with a scanner can listen to our radio traffic anyway. So if we need to discuss anything further about this case, we’ll just step out for a smoke, right?”

“Sounds like a plan.” I liked working for the sheriff. He did things different.

The sheriff chuckled. “Anything you thought of that you didn’t tell our friends?”

“Yeah, one thing: just because the body was found along Cain’s Creek doesn’t mean the murder took place there — or anywhere else in the county. They probably thought of that anyway.”

“Sure. And they woulda said they’d thought of it even if they hadn’t.” We laughed. “I think I know what you’re thinking here, but what gave you that idea? About it being a body-dump.”

“The scene had the classic elements: it was near a road, wrapped in a blanket — even if it was the alien’s own blanket — and remote enough to not have anyone see them.”

“Wasn’t it on the other side of the creek from the road, though?”

“Right. So…”

“There’s at least two people involved. Good work, Adler. What else?”

“If they carried that thing in the trunk of a car, it’s gonna reek. It smelled strong, like worms and burnt coffee. They’ll either have the car cleaned or torch it.”

The sheriff puffed his cancer stick. “That might explain why they dropped it in our lap, instead of continuing north and leaving it somewhere it might never turn up. We’ll ask ‘em when the time comes.”

“So we’re going to keep investigating this?” I was surprised.

“Damn right.” He ground his cig out against the brick. “Nobody dumps bodies in my county and gets away with it, and I don’t care if the victim came from Forsyth County or Your Anus. And I got a hunch that our friends from Washington aren’t all that concerned with justice in this case.”

continued…

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